Deborah is the latest to suffer this horrific fate in Nigeria. In three decades of such lynchings in northern Nigeria, no one has been brought to justice. There’s no reason to believe that Deborah’s case will turn out any different. Indeed, the police conveniently claim that the leader of the mob that killed her is not from or within Nigeria.
Cordelia Ego Ejiofor died like no one should, beaten to death by her employer. His corpse was never found. Around December 3, 1972, Alhaji Rauph Gaji, a senior lawyer from Kaduna beat Cordelia to death in his home. He drove her remains to the outskirts of town and dumped her at a spot along Kachia Road, where, months later, rare human remains were found after Alhaji Rauph led police to where he said he got rid of his body.
Mamman Nasir, like Alhaji Rauph, a Muslim, pursued the case to the end, obtaining a conviction for manslaughter, which the The Supreme Court upheld Friday, May 23, 1975.
If this case had happened today, Cordelia’s killer would never have been brought to justice. His meager remains would not have attracted attention. Cordelia’s murder would hardly have deserved the attention of justice and Mamman Nasir would have been under unbearable pressure not to prosecute a fellow Muslim for this murder.
For a country whose coat of arms has “Unity and Faith…”. as a motto, it is a certain distance traveled.
In one of fate’s most unfair ironies, the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, the school named after a pioneering Nigerian teacher who became the country’s president and one of its most emollient public figures, could be destined to become etched in the public imagination. as the funeral pyre of the coat of arms of Nigeria. This is where, in the daylight of May 12, a mob of male students attacked one of their colleagues, stoned her to death and burned her remains.
This school is the site of Deborah Yakubu’s public self-immolation.
Deborah’s life ended at the age of 22. She didn’t die and wasn’t just killed. Deborah suffered a fate reserved for savages in an era that exists largely in pre-civilization apocrypha.
first nigerian newspaper, The Guardian reports that “Deborah allegedly had an argument with other students online and the Muslims among them claimed that she had blasphemed… The interaction allegedly took place during the Muslim moon of Ramadan when the College was on break. When they saw her at school today, all available Muslim students surrounded her and started stoning her. They continued until she fell. They made sure she would die and subsequently set fire to her body.
Nigeria Police spokesperson in the state, Sanusi Abubakar, is said to have claims that “students forcibly removed the victim from the security room where she was hidden by school authorities, killed her and set fire to the building”.
Explaining why the police did not show up until it was far too late, Mr Abubakar added that the students “gathered with disbelievers” to block the road leading to the school. This would suggest that there was a pre-meditation to this savagery. It fails as a mitigation plea by the police.
45 days after Bridget’s lynching, Eunice Elisha, pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, was stabbed to death in Kubwa, a suburb of Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital, after leaders of a nearby mosque warned her to stop it from opening the aerial preaching. His killers were never apprehended and no one was brought to justice.
Deborah was a 200-level home economics student at Shehu Shagari College of Education, where she was also known as Sisters Coordinator for the Christian Student Association. She came from Tugan Magajia in the Rijau Local Government Area of Niger State in the North Central Region of Nigeria and worshiped as a member of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), a leading denomination local Christian.
There were credible reportsnot exactly denied at the time of writing, that “she had rejected the advances of a Muslim student, who later made the allegation”.
Deborah is the latest to suffer this horrific fate in Nigeria. In three decades of such lynchings in northern Nigeria, no one has been brought to justice. There’s no reason to believe that Deborah’s case will turn out any different. Indeed, the police conveniently complaint that the leader of the mob who killed her is not from or within Nigeria.
Around June 2, 2016, a mob lynched a 74-year-old man Brigitte Agbahime outside his shop in the Kofar Wambai market in Kano, northwestern Nigeria. She reportedly asked a Muslim man not to perform ablutions outside her store, a request that would otherwise make sense, if only for health and hygiene reasons. This was his last earthly request. Confronted, the man accused her of blasphemy, called a mob and they beat her to death.
President Muhammadu Buhari then issued a statement describing Bridget’s lynching as “sad and regrettable”, promising that justice would be served. The Sultan of Sokoto and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs of Nigeria have also done the same. The Kano state government quickly announced the arrest and indictment of five men in connection with Bridget’s lynching: Dauda Ahmed, Abdullahi Mustapha, Zubairu Abubakar, Abdullahi Abubakar and Musa Abdullahi. Just five months after Bridget’s murder, the Kano state government itself dropped the charges against the five suspects. Like Bridget, this case died, never to be resurrected.
45 days after the lynching of Brigitte, Eunice Elisha, pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, was stabbed to death in Kubwa, on the outskirts of Nigeria’s federal capital Abuja, after leaders of a nearby mosque warned her to stop his open-air preaching. His killers were never apprehended and no one was brought to justice.
In August 1995, a young Christian trader from southeastern Nigeria, Gideon Akaluka was again beheaded in Kano on unverified allegations of blasphemy. A few high-profile arrests followed but, as in the case of Bridget Agbahime more than two decades later, the suspects have never been brought to justice.
Moments after Deborah’s immolation, the Sultan of Sokoto, as he did in the case of Bridget Agbahime, quickly published A declaration calling him “unfortunate”.
The question is clearly not whether the stoning to death of Deborah Yakubu is a religious matter, but whether Nigerian leaders, both inside and outside government, have the power to give Nigerians reason to confidence in the country. Based on current evidence, there is only one answerr.
President Buhari followed the next day, describing that the News of the murder of the young woman by classmates was cause for concern. It would have been much better if he had persisted in the eloquence of his complicit silence. If his words are to be believed, the president was not worried about the murder but about the news about him. One reading of this unfortunate sentence, crafted with the benefit of over 36 hours of thought, is that it would have been better if the writers had simply wasted Deborah.
The president could not even pretend to find the slightest feeling of indignation in this matter. It was just a matter of concern. Forgetting that he is the guarantor of human safety and security under Nigeria’s constitution, President Buhari contented himself with “demanding an impartial and thorough investigation into everything that happened before and during the incident”. Oddly enough, he didn’t direct this request to anyone in particular, probably because he thinks no one should follow up on it.
In the same statement, however, the same president “also directed the Ministries of Information and Culture, Police Affairs and Communications and Digital Economy to work with mobile phone providers and technology companies to help contain the spread of false and inflammatory information through social media. The man is consistent: his concern is not the murder but rather the cameras that captured him for social media. He lost his voice on the issue of accountability but found it in time to lead social media censorship, even when social media had nothing to do with this self-immolation.
Following the president’s example, other prominent politicians across the country have lost their voices and moral compass. Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, after issuing a statement initially condemning Deborah’s plight, proceeded to remove the statement from his social media handles. before explaining that he had nothing to do with the statement, to begin with. Self-proclaimed leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and one of its top presidential contenders, Bola Ahmed Tinubufaded away.
Deborah Yakubu was killed exactly 10 days before the Practice Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) held a widely publicized conference in Sokoto, the site of Deborah’s last earthly moments. In the aftermath of his horrible fate, while smoke still smoldered from his funeral pyre, Monday UbaniSPIDEL’s president, issued a statement denouncing those who called on him to reconsider holding the conference as planned as “no place”.
Mr. Ubani’s statement is such a gratuitous insult to everyone as the line that the stoning to death of Deborah “is not a religious issue”. If blasphemy is not a matter of religion, can someone please explain what it is? Determined to deny this, on May 14, crowds obsess over some Christian places of worship in Sokoto, forcing the state government to declare a curfew.
The question is clearly not whether the stoning to death of Deborah Yakubu is a religious matter, but whether Nigerian leaders, both inside and outside government, have the power to give Nigerians reason to confidence in the country. Based on current evidence, there is only one answer.
Chidi Anselme Odinkalulawyer and teacher, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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