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It was 5:40am, it had rained heavily the previous night and it drizzled still. The air was unusually wet perhaps due to the heavy rains and the early morning mist caused by the lush green plantation of cassava and plantain in the surrounding. It had been Independent Day few days back and the entire community went agog as people from RON (Reach out Nigeria) team of the Believers Love World ministry had stormed the town. They dressed in various costumes ranging from the terribly intriguing to the utterly outrageous and the artistically simple. They had come in droves of hundreds sharing the daily devotional “Rhapsody of Realities” or “messenger angel” as some termed it.  RON had become an integral part of the Independence celebration in recent years that even those who weren’t members of Believers Love World partook in it with great enthusiasm.  They relish the opportunity to be cladded in the national colours of green white green which matched with the leafy green of the environment.

Reynolds tapped on Ago’s door several times to wake him up; they had agreed previously to go to Chisom’s house to collect the money he owed them. Chisom had refused paying and they had decided that he must pay up by any means possible.

“Are you still asleep?” Reynolds barked as he continued banging on Ago’s door. He heard footsteps from inside the house and he knew his cousin was already awake.

“Is it morning yet?” Ago asked wearily, scratching his eyes with his fingers as he stood at the half open door. He wore a blue Chelsea jersey tucked in a blue flora bed sheet tied around his waist.

“No sleepy head, it’s still yesterday. Remove this thing from your waist and let us go get our money.” said Reynolds as he forced his way inside.

“Boss so things go drop shebi?” Chika, Ago’s roommate asked. He was already up and he seemed ready to go.

“Yes na!” Reynolds said. “The more the merrier,” he added as he dialed a number on his phone.

“We are coming to your house now, we need to track him before he leaves house this morning,” Reynolds said immediately the guy on the other side of the phone answered his call.

“Let’s go, Floppy said he is waiting” Ago said and the three of them stepped out of the house, heading first to see Floppy whom Reynolds has just called.

On their way they met Teekay who joined them and later the five boys set out for Chisom’s house.

“Go to the back of the house he might try running through the back on seeing us” Ago told Reynolds on getting to Chisom’s place. It was a small bungalow with walls stained by dust  and bordered by a cassava farm. Reynolds tactically left with one of the boys as Ago had ordered, while the other three made for the front.

“Open!” yelled Ago several times as he continued knocking on Chisom’s door.

“We know you are inside” he added. “Just come out give me my money so we can go,” he added as he continued knocking heavily.

After few minutes, the door creaked open as Chisom stepped out without an inch of smile on his face.

“So you think you can bring people to intimidate me?”  He asked Ago.

“I have told you before; I am not giving you anything. Forget it.” Chisom added.

“Don’t talk like that,” Floppy broke in as he reached to hold Chisom’s wrist to stop him from going back inside his room. Chisom tried to force his hands off Floppy’s grip and as they struggled the to boys stumbled inside. Ago and the others followed.

“You must pay up” Ago barked. “How long do you want us to bear? We don’t want any stories,” he added.

“I am not giving you anything,” Chisom argued as their voices rose higher and higher. As they argued Chika reached for Chisom’s laptop that was lying on top of his bed and grabbed the phone lying beside it too.

“Either you pay us the money or you forget your phone and system,” he said.

“So you want to steal them right?” Chisom asked.

“You want to steal my phone and Laptop right?”

“You should have said so, that you are the thieves troubling us in recent times. If you don’t drop them I will call the community boys to descend on you guys,” Chisom fired back as he dragged the bag containing the Laptop and phone with Ago who had collected the stuffs from Chika and kept them in the bag he had brought.  Unknown to them, as they argued, their loud voices had attracted the attention of the local vigilante. They had been wrongly informed by an informant that the armed robbers who had stormed the area earlier in the morning were still around and operating. As the boys argued out of the house, they ran into a small group of Vigilante patrol who had already rounded up Teekay and Reynolds whom they had instructed to keep watch at the back.

They were amazed as Chisom quickly changed the story and denied he knew any of them. According to Chisom they had attacked him and had already taken his phone and laptop which was in the bag Ago carried.  He asked they check Ago’s bag to confirm his story. On sensing what was happening and perceiving the possible outcome, Floppy who had come with a gun unknown to the others brought it out and fired two shots into the air to distract the crowd. With that wind of opportunity he immediately whisked into a nearby bush Teekay and Reynolds who were too shock as to the turn of event were glued to their feet while Chisom and Ago took to their heels in opposite directions.

The vigilante followed both boys as they yelled “Thief! Ole! Thief!” Calling on others to join them chase the miscreant that had been terrorizing them. Soon the little crowd grew, the two runners were apprehended and the angry mobbed lashed on them with sticks and canes.

They dragged them back to an open field where they had Teekay and Reynolds stripped naked and already beaten to pulp. Indeed they knew their end was nigh and only had a glimmer of hope when they saw a policeman among the crowd. But to their greatest dismay, the officer vanished into thin air leaving them at the mercy of an angry mob.  A mob greatly traumatized by the incessant threat of daredevil robbers who had been terrorizing their once peaceful community for months without any help from the police.  The crowd yelled “torch em! Burn em!” Swift decisions were made despite constant appeals from the boys that they were innocent. That all they wanted was to collect money from a debtor who had refused to pay up.  Soon tyres, fuel and matches where fetched. In few minutes the stench of burning flesh filled the air and five young men became ashes. As this became another case of jungle justice.

NOTE: The above story is a fictitious account of the event that occurred on October 5th 2012 at Omuokiri-Aluu, where four students of the University of Port Harcourt whose names are Biringa  Chiadika Lordson, Mike Lloyd Toku, Tekena Erikena and Ugona Kelechi Obuzor.  The circumstances surrounding their death still remain a mystery and justice is still yet to be done. There was a massive outcry after the incident as the boys were famously called the Aluu Four, but after that what next? Do jungle justice still occur in several part of the country? Do host communities still harass, oppress and intimidate students who were fortunate or rather unfortunate enough to school in their terrain? Do the police play their part to nip crime in the bud? How long shall we wait before justice is done? How long will the families and love ones of the brutally murdered young boys wait to see the perpetrators of that heinous crime punished? How long shall we continue to strive in brutality and lawlessness? How long shall we continue to remain silent in the face of injustice? How long shall we continue to turn and look at the other side for fake peace to remain? How long shall we just shout and cry when injustice occurs for a while then we keep silent and things go on as usual? How long shall we continue our suffering and smiling mentality? How long shall we continue to remain silent and play the dummy? How long shall we wait to get the true and detailed accounts of events that occurred? How long? These and many more questions beg to be answered. One year on and we still seek justice that seems to be like an illusion. Should we remain silent and pretend it never happened? Though I do not know any of them personally, my heart still aches when I see such and countless injustice occur. In the words of Samsung in his song MY SOUL SHALL SOAR HIGHER “though my head is bowed down in shame and defeat, make no mistake about it, cause am only scheming a comeback plan,” we never should give up for if we do, “In the end we remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” Martin Luther King, Jr.

In solemn memory of THE ALUU FOUR, I leave you with the lyrics of MI’s song “ASHES”  written in memory of the tragic event and ask “have we forgotten?”

Image

 (“We were down a sandy beach, all night talking to your mouth’s words.

Tell me where you would like to be.

Tonight don’t be afraid to dream.

Lean on the fire for a while cause in the morning

it’ll all just be ashes on the ground.)

Yeah Instead it be them, let it be me.

                                   Since I will die inevitably,                                   

Then let it be, that it be said

When I am dead: some other was free, some other was fed

Some other, not me, was able to see that as long as we live inside of a country where no one is safe, No one is safe.

We only evade, try to escape the imminent doom

But closer the date looms.

It comes for all if we must go, then at least, when we fall.

When we’re all ashes,

If I am slain, let them forever remember the name.

Some other should gain.

When we’re all ashes

Because of my pain,

because of my tears because of my scars some other should gain.

When we’re all ashes

The reason I’m gone. Let it be told, let it be known, and turned into song.

When we’re all ashes,

If I die alone, let it be more than dying alone, the reason I’m gone.

The reason I’m gone.

Instead it be sleep, let it be hate, let it degrade, let it be deep.

Some other should weep

Some other should keep

The memory of the way that I died

Maybe a change, some other can try

At least we can lie. At least we can hope, at least we can say

Tomorrow is better, it won’t be today.

Some other can pray, some other can fight

The wrong done to me some other can right.

Then maybe my death can save some other life

For then I would gladly give another life

When we’re all ashes,

Let it be worth, let it be so some other can live. Let it be birth.

When we’re all ashes…

As I am hurt

As I pass, let it be last, let it be first

When we’re all ashes…

Don’t let them forget

The only regret is that we relent. We all should repent.

When we’re all ashes

If I die alone, let it be more than dying alone. The reason I’m gone

The reason I’m gone.

(Feels like I stood there watching, the pain and the brutal torture

And added my silence to the violent screams

Of: Burn and torch em.

How do you earn misfortune?

Or does it come unbidden?

If life’s a painted portrait,

Who puts dark colors in them?

If there’s a God in heaven, surely he’s weeping now.

As all the blood is shedding as all His people drown.

God help us all.

Rest in peace Chidi Rest in peace Lloyd

Rest in Peace Tekena

Rest in Peace Ugonna

Rest in peace to the Students murdered in state, Rest in peace to those two young girls.)

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