Peter Viereck once defined barbarism as “blindness to the standards of conduct which civilization has over eon imposed on human nature”. Civilization is less about scientific inventions and technological advancement and their concomitant enhancement of the quality of life for the generality of humanity. It is more about what the ancient Greek writers called, “taming of the savageness of man and making gentle the life of this world”. The savageness of man is tamed by moral and ethical restraints found on the concept of justice, individual worth and personal equality. Any behavior not restrained by these ideals is barbarism.
So, barbarism does not mean lack of knowledge, wealth or material efficiency. It is psychological, ethical and moral. Therefore, it is possible to strut around in Western tailored designer suit or expensive, exquisitely, tailored agbada and spout the Queen’s English, and still, be a barbarian. You can have academic degrees and professional honors and prance around the corridors of power and the hallowed chambers of law making, and remain a barbarian. Some travel in planes, own personal jets (like some Nigerian governors), and actually, pilot the jets themselves but are barbarians. You can hold sway from the pulpit of a sprawling church and enthrall thousands with your insightful oration on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be a barbarian.
In Lagos State, officials of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) Brigade and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) posture as roving disciplinarians and experts in traffic control, respectively. Yet, despite their colorful uniforms and pretensions, their ranks are teeming with barbarians.
To go about the city of Lagos trying to “enforce discipline” is a pointless act. And to brutalize innocent and hapless individuals in the name of enforcing discipline is criminal. Without knowing it, the masses behave like their role models - the leaders. By their own behaviors, the power elite dictate the behavior of the masses. Nigerians are generally lawless, corrupt and greedy because our leaders are lawless, corrupt and greedy. To ignore the lawlessness and indiscipline of the Lagos State power elite (elected and appointed government officials and those in the highest echelon of the state bureaucracy) and then, unleash KAI officials to impose discipline on the masses is unvarnished hypocrisy. In their barbarism: cruelty, brutality, and viciousness, KAI officials behave as though they are yet to realize that the era of slavery is over.
LASTMA officials, like the officials of other government agencies, abuse their powers. They accuse motorists falsely, intimidate them and extort money from them. In addition, they have, shown lamentable disdain for human lives. They have, on a number of occasions, killed motorists for minor traffic offenses.
For example, on the 24 of December 2012, two LATSMA officials beat a 54 year old commercial bus driver, Isaac Popoola, to death. The two officials stopped Popoola’s bus, and ordered him to come down from his bus. He refused, demanding to know his offense. They refused to tell him his offense. And, evidently, incensed by his refusal to obey their order to step down from the bus, they “started beating him on the head with the iron of the seat belt and hitting his head against the steering and the door frame till he died”.
Again, at Motorways bus stop, along Lagos-Ibadan expressway, a bus conductor, popularly known as “Ilorin” was killed by LATSMA officials. The bus conductor was hanging at the door of the bus. In an attempt to stop the bus driver, a LASTMA official threw a metal object (wrench) at the bus. Unfortunately, the object missed the bus and hit the conductor, knocking him off the bus. As he fell off the bus to the road, a LASTMA pick-up van, which was trailing the commercial bus very closely, crushed him. The conductor died on the spot.
There have been other instances of LATSMA officials killing motorists. Extra judicial killing is deplorable under any circumstance. It may be excusable in very dangerous situations where law enforcement agents, in combating armed and dangerous criminals, are confronted with making on the spot decisions in defense of their own lives. But to kill an unarmed motorist for whatever reason is unpardonable. It is an egregious case of contempt for the human life – an unparalleled act of barbarism.
Please, Governor Fashola rein-in these barbarians. KAI officials should be reminded that the era of slavery is over. And as such, Nigerians citizens, though, poor, powerless and voiceless are not slaves and should, therefore, not be treated as such. They should know that assault is a criminal offense and that, as they go about beating up people, they are breaking the law. They should be taught to enforce the law without punching people in the face and kicking them in the stomach and groin and destroying their wares and stealing their money and goods. In other words, that, in their “enforcement of the law”, they should endeavor to treat Nigerians with respect and decency.
LASTMA officials should be taught to respect the sacrosanctity of the human life. It is thoughtlessness bordering on dementedness for a LATSMA official to think that due to his uniform, insignia and government assigned roles in traffic control that he can trifle with human lives. They should learn that no one life is superior to another. Every man “is a special thought of the Creator’s mind”. The life of a LATSMA official, Commissioner of Transportation and even, the state governor is not superior to that of a bus driver or a bus conductor. For any individual to feel superior to another is fantastic absurdity. And what ever it is that fuels that false feeling of superiority can only be rubbish, or at the very best, useless embellishment. Essentially, we are all equals assigned different roles in accordance to the will of God.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters