I’ve been avoiding the video of how a Lastma officer, Mr Bakare, was battered to death by some young men said to be protesting the reckless manslaughter of one of them by a group of Lastma officials on duty around Apapa some days ago. Around 4 am this morning, I steeled myself and made some effort to watch the video. I didn’t make much progress. From the little I saw before my resolve caved in, the man, helpless and dying in the gutter, was faintly trying to hold on to life.
You see the limping limbs move slowly, as if in an appeal to the last grain of humanity in his assailants. He merely aroused their barbarity to a new height, as they pelted him further, apparently to extinguish any hope of survival on his part. He sank deeper into the narrow pool of dirt. I had seen enough.
The calm, cold brutality of the young men who killed the officer even as they recorded the tragedy will be in my memory for a long time to come. It was bestiality at its worst. But how did we get here? Granted that we now make a song of the increasing erosion of values in our society, at what point did we lose it all, to the point of staging a theatrical and tragic execution of a public officer by mob action?
Is this the failure of governance, the school, or the family as the first institution of learning? What kind of values enables a spontaneous but coldly executed the murder of a fellow human being by members of a generation expected, hopefully, to end the cycle of ignorance, backwardness and deprivation on this side of the globe?
The young man who reportedly died as a result of the overzealous officers’ conduct was also failed by the society. He is dead because we have so many people in public service who do not understand that their duty lies in enhancing the dignity of their fellow citizens collectively, through a problem-solving approach to service.
The cycle of lawlessness, inefficient, sometimes corrupt public service, disdain for state institutions, and lack of faith in the society to do justice have combined in this instance to claim two lives suddenly and violently. But they are not the only victims. The circumstances of their death expose further the gradual but steady death of decency, dignity and mutual empathy in our polity.
We have seen the worry being expressed in certain quarters in the aftermath of the US elections about the increasing irrelevance of knowledge and the rising role of sentiment and emotion in popular judgement. They say it signposts the post-truth era. But when our emotions die or become transformed from a spring that waters solidarity and shared a sense of responsibility into a steaming cauldron of hate, wickedness, slothfulness and barbarity, we may just have lost, irretrievably, the moral compass we need at such a critical period for national rebirth. It’s a plunge into the post-value era.