The burden of violent extremism

On May 12, 2022, Deborah Samuel was beaten and burnt to death for alleged blasphemy. In a voice note that she sent to her class group chat, she spoke against the posting of religious content since the group chat was meant for the dissemination of information and assignments. One might question why she was killed because of what she said. However, a more pressing and urgent question is why and how those who killed Deborah had the boldness and audacity to make a video admitting to the lynching. Murderers don’t usually go around making videos admitting to the crime committed. When abnormality occurs, there is a huge problem, and the public should be worried. There is cause for alarm; all should be concerned. These are scary times especially for all reasonable people living in the North. This murder happened in a college of education. This is to show that the killers are most likely educated and not illiterates as some people may think. They do not think they have committed a crime, and that to me is the most frightening part.

This is not the first time religious extremists have unleashed their barbarity on the innocent. Many people have paid the supreme price for such absurdity and madness. We live in a society that has scant regard for human life. Sadly in Nigeria, those killed in extrajudicial circumstances never get justice.

Violent extremism has been described as a form of extremism that condones and enacts violence with ideological or deliberate intent, such as religious or political violence. Violent extremist views can manifest in connection with a range of issues, including politics, religion and gender relations. Though “radicalization” is a contentious term, its general use has come to regard the process by which an individual or group adopts violence as a desirable and legitimate means of action. Extremist thought that does not condone the exercise of violence may be accepted within society, and be promoted by groups working within the boundaries of legally permitted activity.

The role of education in preventing violent extremism and deradicalising young people has only recently gained global acceptance. An important step in this direction was the launch, in December 2015, of the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism which recognises the importance of quality education to address the drivers of this phenomenon.

The United Nations Security Council also emphasized this point in its Resolutions 2178 and 2250, which notably highlights the need for “quality education for peace that equips youth with the ability to engage constructively in civic structures and inclusive political processes” and called on “all relevant actors to consider instituting mechanisms to promote a culture of peace, tolerance, intercultural and interreligious dialogue that involve youth and discourage their participation in acts of violence, terrorism, xenophobia, and all forms of discrimination.”

When the video of Deborah being killed surfaced online, there were a lot of comments praising and endorsing her murder.  One might question the sanity of these persons; even inquire if they are real.  Islam is a religion of peace, but there are many unguided individuals who through their actions soil the harmonious precepts of the religion. The endorsers of Deborah’s death and those who killed her all seem to believe that they did the right thing and they would be rewarded for their action. Some Islamic scholars and leaders have condemned her murder. Any sane person would know that if you kill someone especially for no right reason, it would result into punishment by the law. Nobody is above the law. So, why do these extremists seem to act otherwise? Why do they believe that instead of being punished they would be rewarded? Islam is regarded as a religion of peace, why would they think that their violence would be rewarded?  How are they allowed to operate above the law? Nigeria is governed by laws and any contravention should be punished. Government, at all levels, should do the needful. It is the duty of any democratically elected government to protect lives and property. When it fails in that responsibility, then it has failed in its primary assignment.

Deborah’s gruesome murder was not a fiction; this is reality.  Some Sokoto youths embarked on a protest because some of the suspected killers of Deborah were arrested. While the protest lasted, many people were chased from their shops. It is high time the relevant security agencies provided the needed security in ensuring that no life is lost forthwith. The law must take its full course. For the accused who have been brought to court, I charge the court to ensure that justice is done. The college of education has been shut down. The Commissioner for Information regarded the incident as “unfortunate”. Atiku Abubakar deleted a post accredited to his social media handle condemning Deborah’s death. These responses are worrisome and reflect how little regard that we attach to human life.

The Nigerian government needs to stop ignoring this issue and wake up from its slumber.  The 2023 presidential election is almost here, and some of the foremost aspirants are trying to be calculative and careful with their responses. Even without the elections, those who are victims of extrajudicial killings never get justice.  Mrs. Bridget Chioma Agbahime was gruesomely murdered in Kano State for alleged blasphemy in 2016. The public is yet to ascertain if her killers were served justice. A deaconess, Eunice Elisha of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, was murdered by unnamed suspects while she was preaching in Kubwa. This is just a few among the many others that have been killed by extremists. This is sad and such trend should be stopped.

Again, these are scary times and there is cause for concern. Innocent lives are daily lost to extremism. The records are scary and it is incumbent on the relevant government agencies to be up and doing. Aside Nigeria, many countries have paid dearly to religious fundamentalism. Economies have been destroyed; opportunities have been wasted and such nations have not recovered from the tragedy. The time to end this is now and all hands must be on deck to ensure this.

Sobande is a 400-level Mass Communication Student of the Babcock University, Ilishan Remo, Ogun State.


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