Sense of Justice — Why We Became Barbarians

Those of you that don’t take public transport — you’re always cruising around in your cars — you’re missing. Sometimes I just join public transport and once that opportunity comes, I grab it with both hands. I always listen to the conversations and have the feel of what ordinary Nigerians think about issues. Call it a real-life version of Facebook if you will.

One day, I was in the public transport and my fellow passengers were talking about justice. And the issue of the politicians came up. I asked them what they would do to a corrupt politician that lives in their neighbourhood. They said they would’ve wanted the thieving politicians to be tried and jailed but they quickly expressed dismay about that alternative. Immediately they chipped in ‘God’s judgement.’

‘Well, we can only deliver those wicked politicians into God’s court for judgement’, they chorused. I asked them what God’s judgment meant. They told me assuredly that it was God’s judgement that fell upon Sani Abacha. And immediately I made my first conclusion.

Conclusion I

  • God exists as a punishment only in the minds of folks who can’t mete out punishment to those who have wronged them. God is for the powerless, not the powerful.

Then I told them the story of a military officer who beat up a commercial bus driver on the highway. The driver wasn’t really guilty of any offence but he ended up being beaten to a pulp. I asked then what the driver should do. Once again, they said he should just hand over the military man into God’s hands for severe judgement. They were sure that God’s judgement is more effective and harsher than man’s judgement. Immediately, I made another conclusion.

Conclusion II

  • Same as conclusion 1.

Then I gave them the third scenario. I narrated the story of an anonymous guy who stole into a petti-trader’s shop and disappeared with ₦5,000. I asked them what they would do if they caught him. They said they would beat him to a pulp, perhaps to death. ₦5,000 was a lot of money that would require lots of sweat for them to make. It was essentially equal to their lives. So if someone stole it from them, he should be killed.

Then I asked them what if they called the police and handed him over. They expressed dismay about the criminal system — police might not come, you might have to spend more than ₦40,000 to successfully put behind bars the thief that stole ₦5,000, blah, blah, blah. Then I made the 3rd conclusion.

Conclusion III

  1. Humans take care of business when it’s within their powers. God’s judgement is only for cases when they can’t take care of business.
  2. They would take the law into their hands because those in whose hands the law lies are irresponsible.



Our barbarism is a product of prolonged misrule coupled with our background warped mentality. Ours is a sorry case. We’re very terrible barbarians.

Way Forward 

It’s important to note that the whole humanity passed through this phase. Thousands of women were burnt at the stake for witchcraft allegations in old Europe. They were once barbarians too. But their mentality started changing as the leaders started showing the way in civility.

Reports of a young man who got burnt alive for allegedly stealing garri filtered in earlier today

Reports of a young man who got burnt alive in Lagos for allegedly stealing garri filtered in earlier today and confirm that we’re barbarians

We need a reorientation which can only come from the top. Our leaders need to stop living with impunity. The law enforcement agencies and the judiciary need to stop the comedy they’re performing right now. The government and the law enforcement organs of the society should stop blatant abuse of human rights — extrajudicial killings, unlawful detention, etc. The government should also lead by example to teach the citizens that the life of every citizen counts. Prolonged years of military barbarism and violence are yet to be washed away by civilian civility. Only if we start doing these can the trait of barbarism in us begin to disappear gradually and completely. One day, we will become sophisticated enough to not roast a fellow human being alive for any reason.

Thank you.

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