By Abdullah Abdulganiy
Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, at the tail of last week, had its taste of the spectre of heartless mass looting that had hit some sections of the country in recent times. It was a mob action perpetrated under the guise of the EndSARS protests. We saw same in Lagos, Osun, Edo and a host of other states.
Devilish as the mindless theft was, it is so disturbing that some persons and groups invented a justification for it. The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is on this table for clearly partisan reasons. ‘It’s our money. We only went to get our share of the national cake. Why would the government hoard palliatives?’ they chorused and queried. But the truth is that there’s no justification whatsoever for the criminal act. People who partook in the looting spree are who they are: ‘Barawo banza’ — the Hausa word for an unrepentant thief.
If the government had even intentionally hoarded the palliatives, is invading the facilities where they are kept the next line of action as civil and right thinking beings? What has happened to due processes? How many persons have taken their time to hear the government’s side of the story? No excuse, in my view, was enough for the evil violation of the facilities.
Let’s get a background of how we got here.
In the wee hours of Friday, October 23, the state government had announced, banking on the intelligence available to it, that some individuals were plotting to inroad and breach public facilities in the state capital. Harriet Afolabi-Oshatimehin, Commissioner for Communications, who released the statement said security agencies had been placed on a high alert to quell the sinister mission.
True to the intelligence report, we later got news of a very daring mob invading some public facilities to loot relief packages meant for the poorest of the poor badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sooner, they extended their tentacles to Agro Mall where palliatives meant for rainstorm victims were stored. Not content, they headed to the Customs Office. In what appears to be a total deviation, they also went after private businesses, carted away valuables and goods people had garnered from years, if not decades, of struggle and hustle.
I have some observations on the ignoble development, and I will present some of them here as space may permit. One is that the looting we witnessed is, no doubt, a function of greed and avarice. It’s not wholly about hunger as some people want to make it seem. There were many persons who joined the fray that are well-to-do. Reports even had it that some took exotic cars to the various venues, carting away cartons of noodles, bags of rice among others. For what? Suffice it to say that hunger does not excuse stealing. It’s better to beg than steal.
In summary, it was not about hunger. Greed and callousness dictated the ungodly act. And of course, the open opportunity fuelled it. This is exactly the position of the Broken Window Theory. It states that people only need an open window (read: opportunity) to partake in criminal acts. Once the window is open, crime becomes easier. The theory, therefore, concludes that no window should be open for heinous elements to prey on in crime prevention and control.
Two, the security agencies might have tacitly emboldened the mob by looking away and even supervising the looting spree. Some beer palour gists had it that they acted so on the orders of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq who told them not to quell the rampaging mob. That was a big time misfire, for me. That singular reckless abandon made the looters to soldier on since there was no consequence for their action. They ransacked the Cargo Terminal. No consequence. It encouraged them to move to Agro Mall. Then to Custom Office where they were heavily repelled, and took to their heels.
In my own view, if the arsonists had been foiled at the very first attempt, they would not have probably been so emboldened to carry on. Many would have scampered for safety, and the looting would have probably been at a minimal rate. I’m not of the school of thought that security agencies should not shoot at a deviant, violent and criminal mob, especially one engaging in robbery. They own the weapons for a purpose. These attackers have expressed willingness to die. They should have got just that. And this is me being frank. I don’t have sympathy for a daredevil robber.
Of course, many theft and anarchy apologists or better still, confused persons would cry wolf. But does that really count in as much as public security is guaranteed? Public security comes first. The weakness of the ‘looking away’ approach deployed is evident in the fact that it did not quite stop the mob from their sinister. It most likely motivated them to continue as they saw weakness in the security agencies.
Three is that the Friday/Saturday’s looting pictures a deep-seated ignorance and lack of civic orientation. Our values have degenerated significantly. We heard of how some parents took their kids along to loot goods in lawful custodies. What does that tell you? There were also other parents who gave cover to their children who brought stolen items home. All these show a deterioration of the African, nay Ilorin cultural values.
Many people do not even know that with their devilish behavior, their kinsmen and neighbors risk disengagement from work, a development whose consequences would tell on themselves in the nearest future. It’s a show of unbridled ignorance. It’s a similitude of killing one’s future to attend to present needs. Mean!
Moving forward, there is the need to resuscitate our cultural and religious ideals. No religion or culture preaches theft, especially a daylight one that goes with temerity. Elders, religious leaders and teachers should step up and set the tone for this agenda. They should serve as role models to the upcoming ones. It gladdens my heart that some of the culprits are being caught. We can do more by reporting these few bad eggs to the law enforcement agencies. And the law enforcement agencies should play to the rule of anonymity and confidentiality. Essentially, the family, which is the basic unit of the society, should pass through some reconfiguration.
In the final analysis, the Ilorin looting galore lends a teeth to an assertion I’ve always held dearly. That our leadership in Nigeria is only a reflection of the larger followership. The difference between both parties perhaps lies in the fact that the former wields power and commands influence. Many people who boast and pontificate to high heavens about governance would probably do worse when given the chance. We have very few persons who can still serve Nigeria with heart and might.
I should also commend the timely declaration of curfew by the state governor. It was a masterstroke that brought relative peace and restored sanity to the metropolis. The yesterday’s review is also a step in the right direction. People cannot continue to stay at home amid a crippling economy. In fact, the ripple effect of the recent two-day total curfew on some small and medium enterprises cannot be quantified. I hope the government would also see to their own travails too apart from those whose businesses were looted billed to benefit from the 500 million naira support fund.
In the same vein, I hope those who vilified us for saying that the ovation was loudest for the EndSARS protests can now see beyond their noses. There was no name they did not call us. They thought they were more patriotic than us. The results of the rudderless, confused and irrational EndSARS protests they egged on are out: mass looting, rape, anarchy, arson, killings and lots more.