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Jungle Justice

The noise from the next street drew their attention. They saw people running towards the direction of where the noise was coming from. Pandemonium had broken out.  People of all ages –  ladies, men, young boys and old women were heading that way. Smith and Kola looked at each other. Adrian wondered if they were safe. They had been in the country for two months now. They had been doing mostly road trips by public transport. Smith wanted to have a feel of what it looked like to live in Africa and the country he chose to experience this was Nigeria.

He had heard so many things about Nigeria, good, bad, ugly, beautiful. One thing that struck him the most about Nigerians in diaspora was their intelligence. They were all doing so well academically. They were entrepreneurs. They were well driven to succeed. They worked two to three jobs. He often wondered why the drive and craze for so much education and success. Couldn’t life be a little better with just the right kind of education than all these masters’, Ph.Ds’ and so forth? A lot of Nigerians were in the top league universities and they were also one of the best in the engineering, computing, medical and legal fields. Of course just like you had a genuine dollar, there were also bogus dollars. You had some Nigerians who had chosen to use their intelligence to make a living and you also had other Nigerians who chose to make a living, in a not so honest way as well. This intrigue led him to decide to visit Nigeria, the most populous black nation on earth. He also did tell Isip  that he had traced his genealogy to West Africa and most likely Nigeria. He changed his name to Kola in a bid to identify with his ancestry and roots.

They first arrived Lagos through the international airport. They spent two weeks in Lagos and then travelled to Abuja by road stopping by in different locations enroute to catch a glimpse of the local culture. They travelled to Jos in Plataeu State and visited Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State. They even went to the renowned Simbisa forest where the famous Chibook girls were held hostage. They went to Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State. They visited  the ancient cities of Benin and Oyo. They also went to the palaces of the monarchs. Diverse cultures in one country. What a strength. They toured Obudu Cattle ranch and over a two months period, they had clocked a total of fifteen thousand kilometres.  They  visited priests and diviners, churches and mosques, witches and wizards, babalawos and shrines. They had fantastic and not so good experiences as well.

Kola cherished every bit of his experience. He was always snapping photos. His camera was his hallmark. One time he lost his wallet. The wallet was strapped to his waist and inside his baggy pants. Thank goodness, it was empty. Nothing inside except pieces of paper with telephone numbers of dodgy people they met. The ladies all cringed around him and he took tons of photos with them. They went to nice hotels in posh areas and Isip also took him to the slums like Ajegunle, Mushin and the marshlands. Kola was aghast at the level of disparity between the opulence in the highbrow areas and the ghettos.

“Gosh, the disparity is huge” Kola commented.

“Just like you have in the States” lsip added.

“It’s kinda different, if you see whatta mean. At least everybody has access to power and roads and different infrastructure. The infrastructures in the hoods may not be as sophisticated as the ones in the middle class areas. But here, the disparity is huge” he lamented.

“Welcome home. You will do your little best to help improve the infrastructure here” Isip concluded.

Kola saw names of churches that flabbergasted him. Names like Mount Transfiguration Church, Temple of Deliverance Ministries,  Cast The Devil Out Church, Holiness Regime Church, Change Your Life Today Church, Banish Poverty Church, Goodbye Sadness Church,  etc. He thought this was quite fascinating. They went to a street that had a church after every two houses in Anambra state.

A music tune came to Isip’s mind, “catch am catch am” from the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti. It was like everybody was chasing after something. They all ran in the same direction as well till they came to the centre of the pandemonium. They squeezed through the crowd and came face to face with a slim middle aged man who had bruises all over his body. They were pelting him and stripping him naked. His pendulum dangled before everybody and somebody dashed a brick at his head. “Ouch” Kola exclaimed.  And the girl next to them extolled what a fine piece of instrument the naked man had. Isip turned back in shock to look at this girl and she had her phone focused there.

That tune came back to Isip “ you be thief, I no be thief, you be robber, I no be robber, you be armed robber, I no be armed robber..”

An argument was on. There was a mixture of Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Ibibio, Pidgin English and other languages being spoken. In the plethora of these languages, it was difficult to decipher the genesis of the problem.

Somebody appeared from somewhere with an old tyre, hung it on the man’s neck.

Somebody had a little jerry can of petrol next to the man who was carrying the old tyre.

“What are they going to do to him?” Kola asked.

“Burn him” Isip said.

“They can’t do that” Kola protested.

“That is what they are about to do” Isip reiterated.

“We gotta stop them” Kola cried.

“You and who?” Isip asked.

“Oh no, they can’t do that” Kola carried on.

Someone from the crowd yelled, “who get petrol here?” Another person shouted back  “I get petrol here” and another screamed “I get lighter here”.

The man cried “I no do am o, I no do am o.”

“Shut up” someone from the crowd yelled and kicked him at the belly.

“Arrrghhhhhhh” the man squirmed in pain.

He fell down and the rest of the people trampled on him.

The continuation of that tune came back “Argument argument argue, argument argument argue, everybody them argue, argument about stealing, somebody don take something wey belong to another person… then you go hear you be thief, I no be thief, you be rouge, I no be rouge, you be armed robber, I no be armed robber…”

Strong and able bodied people held the man down, tied his foot and hands. More tyres were brought down. They heaped the tyres on the man. Petrol was poured on the heap and a lighter ignited. The man was burnt before everybody’s very eyes.

Kola turned around to Isip in tears and said “what does ole mean?”

Isip replied “thief”.

“What did the man steal?” Kola inquired further.

“He stole a young boy’s innocence. That’s what the people said he did. He was caught red handed” Isip declared.

“Is that why he was killed in such a gruesome way?” Kola asked.

“Well, we call it jungle justice, we don’t wait for any policeman or justice system. The people deal with it right there. Period”.

“I want to go back home” Kola said.

“No, Kola, this is home. This is your home. You are better off here, as a good man. Back in the States, you might get shot for doing nothing wrong. Here you have fine culinary delights, people respect you. People love you. People want to be with you. Here, you have plenty churches and mosques, here you have a life. Back in the States, you don’t have a life. Welcome home Kola” Isip told him.

“But what of all the big men who have stolen the money of the land, the politicians and the top government aides, what sort of justice do we have for them? He asked Isip.

“That is the point brother. What justice do we have for them?” as they watched the crowd disperse.

“Jungle justice, jungle justice is the prescription!”

That tune changed suddenly to “abeg commot make I pass.”


The song lyrics is taken from the tune ‘Authority Stealing’ by Fela Anikulapo Kuti.


Uwem Mbot Umana©2018


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