IF the story sounds insane, it is precisely because insanity increasingly inheres different spheres of Nigeria’s social life. Ibrahim Muhammadu, a native of Gadawaliwol in Jabbi Lamba, Girei Local Government Area of Adamawa State, was arrested by the state police command for allegedly setting ablaze a newly married couple because the wife jilted him. Muhammadu, a married man who has four children, reportedly fell in love with the deceased and spent about N150, 000 on her after she had given a nod to his proposal. But things turned awry when the deceased had a change of mind and got married to another suitor. Affronted by the rejection, Muhammadu reportedly suborned one Ibrahim Savannah who, on September 6, barely two weeks after the couple’s wedding, stormed their house armed with petrol and matches, and set the couple’s room alight after managing to lock them in.
Sadly, although neighbours made valiant efforts, the woman died due to the severe burns she sustained while her husband was taken to hospital for treatment. If this act is perplexing, so is Savannah’s hire: N5,000 and four measures of rice. The arsonist is on the run, but Muhammadu is in police custody. According to the Police Public Relations Officer in Adamawa State, SP Suleiman Nguroje, the case is being handled by the Criminal Investigation Department of the command, and the suspect will have his day in court. Nguroje assured that the suspect would be duly investigated and prosecuted, advising the public to desist from taking the law into their own hands.
If this story illustrates anything, it is the fact that many Nigerians increasingly have no value for life. To be sure, rejection, any kind of rejection, can be painful, but society also has inbuilt mechanisms for coping with rejection. In any case, there are legal mechanisms to explore if one feels hard done by anyone over marital or other issues. The courts are open to litigants intending to show how they have been mentally and emotionally affected by an aborted promise of marriage, especially when they have made substantial commitments to such proposed unions.
Mr. Muhammadu could have approached the court of law to show that he had been promised marriage and had made financial commitments to the now deceased woman based on that promise. What the law, and in fact the society, does not permit is taking the law into one’s own hands to redress a wrong, and it is in this regard, in particular, that citizen Muhammadu, if the allegation against him is proved, deserves the severest sanctions provided by law. Whatever wrongdoing he had suffered has now been overridden by his callous reaction in killing the woman in question. Killing a person for rejecting your proposal is patently illegal: there is no excuse for murder.
Indeed, in retrospect, it is evident that the rejection upon which he allegedly took his precipitate, thoughtless horrendous action was based on solid ground. There is the real possibility that the deceased lover, if his lover she ever was, saw aspects of his character that she felt were too grievous for her to ignore and go ahead with the relationship. In that case, she was right in her refusal to marry him. After all, as they say, a broken relationship is better than a broken marriage. Why commit murder over a broken relationship? Besides, the fact that many men in the Nigerian society have been raised in the mistaken belief that they “own” women merely by the fact of a proposal cannot escape mention. It must be stated, and very clearly too, that women own their bodies and have a right to determine who they allow access to it in accordance with personal preferences, social conventions and the laws of the land. Executing swift judgment on women simply because of their emotional preferences is an infernal tactic.
It cannot be a thing of joy that increasingly in the Nigerian society, many people, perhaps because of the shoddy handling of many cases by the prosecutors, are taking the law into their own hands, executing judgment by fiat on people who have wronged them. If society permits this situation to fester, the result will be anarchy at a much more advanced stage than is currently being witnessed in several parts of the country. That would not be an attractive state of affairs.
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