NO! IT IS NOT!
“An eye for an eye only makes the world blind” – Mahatma Gandhi
The idea of jungle justice has never been an uncommon phenomenon in human history. Even if the term is not familiar, its practical instances do not evade one’s attention. Prior to the era of enlightenment, before man built a modern world with the bricks of civilisation, it was the norm to take law into one’s own hands. After all, in a state of lawlessness, anything goes. But as time went on and the intelligence of humanity developed, jungle justice was increasingly seen through the lens of negativity. Despite this, it is still prevalent in Africa. There have been efforts to curb this and reduce the occurrence by well-meaning individuals to almost no avail. Sadly, the University of Ibadan, supposedly Nigeria’s leading institution in terms of grooming law-abiding youths, has fallen prey to this too, albeit on a smaller scale. Repeatedly, we have had cases of students meting out punishment to other students as they see fit. The reason is quite understandable, though not necessarily justified.
Distrust in the existing legal system and thirst for vengeance motivate actions that constitute jungle justice on campus. A rather disturbing video, which is still fresh in our memories, was released in 2012. It featured four students of the University of Port-Harcourt being stoned and scorched by their colleagues. As the blood flowed out of their body, fresh with the glow of death’s call, we saw as life drained away from them. Anyone with a soul would be emotionally affected by that traumatising clip.
Now, it is clear that this campus has not done anything that extreme yet. But that is how it starts: the rage, the adrenaline, the irrational urge to administer unconstitutional justice that transforms intellectuals into beasts of emotion. The line that has been drawn between “normal” jungle justice and the extreme sort grows fainter day by day. Let us not even get into the case of the student that was stripped and paraded all around this campus as a perverted form of justice. My lords, if we do not caution ourselves now, we will soon cross that line and before we know it, the mentality that permitted the situation in UNIPORT may creep past our unsuspecting guard!
One must admit, it can be annoying when a thief, for example, is set free from the shackles of punishment by the school administration. Naturally, one feels the impulse to hurt the criminal. But if this is to be the order of the day, there will be chaos. If we are truly the future of tomorrow, where is the sense in being vigilantes? As official students of this institution, we have given up a lot of our rights to ensure peace – including the right to deal with criminals as we personally wish. The philosopher, Immanuel Kant once said, “act that your principle of action may safely be made a law for the whole world.” Why should we encourage this to go on? If the whole society were to be run this way, no one would be safe. We are supposed to be role models.
Here’s a scenario: someone steals my money and I catch a suspect. Instead of handing him over to the authorities and demanding the return of my money, I beat him blue-black and invite others, who have nothing to do with the issue at all, to join in beating him to stupor. This scenario leads to an unspoken endorsement of jungle justice on my part. Others will most likely emulate me and then, everyone sees this as the right thing to do. I hope you can see where this is going. This will enthrone anti-intellectualism in the palace of our minds and plunge us into a world of anarchy. An argument might be that the culprit deserves to be severely brutalised. It could be incredibly painful to lose a possession of yours. Trust me, I’ve been there. However, we must all remember that anger has no IQ. If we do not let the authorities deal with the issue and trust them to judge the case appropriately, then of what usefulness is our education? What makes us different from barbaric illiterates? My lords, jungle justice is never a good thing in an orderly society. Jungle justice, to be or not to be? It is not to be!
YES, YES AND YES!
[Sometimes] it may be necessary to use methods other than constitutional ones ~ Robert Mugabe
It gives me great pleasure to once again make an appearance before you MeLords. Today, I feel compelled to come to the defence of an unpopular, and often abused, client – immediate retribution (alias jungle justice or ‘maximum shi shi’ as our Ife brothers like to put it) especially as it applies to campus life. I am sure the incident that transpired on the 20th of July is still as fresh in our memory as the just-released book of life. Then, a 200L student from the Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall was caught stealing around 02:30am when his mates had their heads buried either in pillows or books. In reaction to this, the ever-vibrant Zikites stripped him naked to the skin and paraded him, with his dangling personhood, around campus. Many, under the influence of intellectual intoxication, seized their browsing devices and posted on the social media in protest to the treatment. MeLords, I beg to disagree with their bias as I pitch my tent with the contention that jungle justice is not all devoid of efficacy.
First, it must be noted that in a land where there exists no city justice, the people of the jungle must inevitably bear the responsibility of administering justice in the manner they best deem fit. In other words, when the ideal is not available, the available becomes ideal. The ideal situation is for all criminal suspects to be arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction and then given their due as may be commensurate with the apparent facts. However, this is far from what is obtainable in our dear country, and by implication, university too. When students go on break, they come back to discover their properties undiscoverable. Who even knows whether it is these same porters and khaki-donning pensioners who connive to orchestrate the looting. If that is not the case, it is at least happening under their salaried watch. They therefore cannot be trusted and we must seek viable alternatives. We must seek alternatives lest our society becomes a colony where the logic of the crook reigns supreme. We must seek alternatives I say, since the criminal justice system is not ready to give justice to criminals in the system. An orphaned calf, the Kenyans have pointed out, has no choice but to lick its own back.
In addendum, permit me to quickly borrow from the proverbial Wisdom of Solomon who may have written in the book of Ecclesiastes that whenever a sentence for a crime is not carried out swiftly, the human mind becomes determined to commit evil (ISV). This tells us that punishment will only be effective if meted out with alacrity, adequacy and in sincerity. If God were to strike men with thunder as soon as they steal, they would rather go without limbs. In fact, make party nomination forms free of charge and you will still need to beg people before they get them. Thus, if we always have to wait for the over-protective school management, the morally-flexible Nigerian police and the technically pedantic trial courts, then we are sending a message to potential robbers that they have enough time to get off the hook of karma.
I hope my adversary is not seeing this matter from the same prism as our home-grown politicians who will not repair a road until their family encounters misfortune from the developmental lacuna. And that’s why if Nigerians desire the instant repair of a road, all they need do is pray that a Senator’s kin should die or be seriously injured from an accident there the next day. And whoala! If their prayer is answered, magical and radical transformation is bound to ensue. Similarly, the man who hitherto shouts NO TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT will think twice if he finds his darling wife being raped with a rifle within reach. Also, an opponent of jungle justice will easily forget there is due process when his laptop is lifted with the only copy of his just-completed final year project. Put yourself in the victim’s shoes and you will find that they are tighter than they seem.
MeLords, please do not get me wrong. I am in no way advocating for lawlessness and arbitrary infringements on human rights. I am not saying we should hunt for petrol and tyre every time we hear the cry of ole, ole, ole (thief, thief, thief)! I am only saying it is in the best interest of the people, at this point in time, not to always leave the city justice system to the business of curbing anti-social conducts. The traffic jam in the city is overwhelming and pro-crime. Sometimes it is necessary to immediately show a person, caught in flagrante delicto in the commission of a felony, the wages of his sin – especially if he has a history in the art. Show him and let the whole world learn that crime does not pay. But while showing him, maintain temperance and orderliness. Even William Gladstone seems to agree when he postulated that justice delayed is justice denied. I rest my case.
CONCLUSION: This column is about you, it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the judge in this courtroom.
JUNGLE JUSTICE ON CAMPUS: AN INDISPENSABLE NECESSITY?
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