The most heartbreaking spectacle out of Zaria Massacre is not the heap of human corpses some trigger-happy soldiers of the Nigerian Army made out of the ‘’Shiites’’. It is the anomalous reaction of the immediate neighborhood. The hosts of the tragedy mobbed the dead bodies and stripped them of all their material possessions!
According to an eyewitness and a member of the Ibraheem El-Zakazakky-led Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Abdulmumin Giwa, the killings precipitated an instant gold rush. ‘’They were fighting over the money, mobile phones and other valuables stolen from the corpses of their fellow Muslim brothers and sisters…’’
I watched a video recording of the ghoulish plunder on Youtube. The clip burns a haunting obscenity into the memory. A riotous crowd of human beings trampling on the dead, frisking and spoiling them!
The looters were a boisterous lot. They struggled in a shambolic scramble. They were animated by the consciousness that they had a narrow window of opportunity. They had to rob the dead while the dead still had scrap value. They must despoil the slain before the dead bodies grow cold and stiff!
The bathos was horrifying. The looting had the flurry and ferment of a bonanza. The nimble competed with the aggressive : They stooped down low, tearing into the pockets of the dead!
The looters weren’t petrified by the gore and the blood. They weren’t horrified by the sprawling abattoir. They weren’t numbed by the glut of the grim harvest. They didn’t have a grimace of shock on their faces.
The looters weren’t outraged. The dump of fresh human flesh did not stir the uprush of anger in them. They were not scandalized to bear witness to the human waste. They weren’t saddened by the expiration imposed on the humans lying in the dust. They felt nothing against the mass murderers.
They felt no pity for the dead. The casualties were their neighbors and fellow compatriots. But they felt neither the devastation of bereavement nor the arrest of grief.
They surveyed the field of human corpses –bodies of our fellow citizens killed in cold blood –and felt their legitimate obligation to dead was to abase the dead!
So they ran over the dead. Disrobed the dead. Dispossessed the dead.
The looters of the dead were not satisfied that the casualties of the carnage had suffered the ultimate robbery: The robbery of life. The looters reasoned that the dead would be amenable to one more robbery: The robbery of worldly goods.
The air suffused with euphoria. The human scavengers celebrated their finds of trifles. They evinced delight that, in the very least, would suffice as ratification of the massacre that consumed the victims.
Pondering this scene time and again, one sooner begins to wrestle with the riddle of how it may have begun.
Was there a first-footer? Did a daredevil’s solo adventurism galvanize other onlookers to challenge his monopoly over the items of the dead?
Or did the stampede stem from groupthink? Did the massacre telegraph an invitation to the community loot the open morgue?
The nature of the absurdity also raises a question about the context.
Was it all about facile acquisition? Did they just rush in to cash in? Did materialism sidestep their humanity?
And the madness, you would also wonder whether there was a method it. Did the looters ransack the corpses at random; ‘praying’ that the one they chose, in split-second decision making, would yield naira notes or an iphone?
Or did they have the presence of mind, in the heat of the un-refereed fight for ‘insufficient’ corpses, to formulate a strategy that would enhance their luck?
Did they, for example, screen their candidate corpses –with a sweeping glance of reconnaissance –based on some indicators of wealth…like the quality of the blood-stained dress of the corpses?
The easiest thing to do is to echo the simplistic trope that deprivation unleashed the necrophiliac looters in the same way that greed propels the rapacity of the Nigerian political class. But if we are a serious country, if we are not desensitized to shame, we would be interrogating our deterioration to a country where a massacre produces looters instead of mourners!
The vandalism of the dead, in broad daylight, speaks to the collapse of the moral infrastructure of the Nigerian society. We have come to a point where we can’t wait for the darkness of the night to give us the requisite anonymity to perpetrate evil. We can satiate our basest fleshly urge under the glaze of the sun –without being hedged by embarrassment!
We can’t honor the dead. We can’t permit an encounter with our common mortality to tame our penchant for frivolities. We can’t comport ourselves as if we were likewise perishable.
No, we would swamp the bodies of the dead. We would crush them underneath our feet. We would rob them and walk away – feeling richer with the stolen freebies!
The looting of the dead was not a chance event. It was an inevitable coming-out-of-the-closet incident. The outing of an identity that had thrived in the dark. The assertion of an authentic communal self that, for long, hibernated in secrecy.
The Nigerian people are wont to prescribe a purge of the political class as the solution to state corruption. We aver that the politicians are the sole, irreparable problem. The politicians are the traitors who loot the commonwealth and pauperize their fellow citizens.
That call for class extermination has grown more strident following the confessions of ex-National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki. The popular clamor is that Dasuki and others who lavished the Nigerian defense budget on incestuous crony philanthropy while pretending to be resourcing the war on terror should be tried for war crimes.
The looting of the Zaria dead, however, illustrates that corruption is pervasive and endemic in Nigeria. It is not some elite plague. The entire society is steeped in it. And the leadership of Nigeria and the followership of Nigeria have attained an osmotic balance. The rot of the fish head is as serious as that of the rest of the body.
Dasuki appears to be the most egregious specimen of a kleptocrat to emerge since 1960 because he abused his appointed place in the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. Dasuki starved the Nigerian troops of arms and made them cheap meat for Boko Haram.
But the sights and sounds of the looting of the dead in Zaria shows that Dasuki is not an uncommon phenomenon. He is not infected with an exotic strain of avarice. He is merely a typical thieving Nigerian politician. His only distinction lies in the profile of his looting. He had the privilege of proximity to the national treasury: And he looted proportional to the enormity of the inexhaustible opportunity!
Chances are excellent that if Dasuki had missed being cast as NSA in that epic looting drama, another person in that role would have perpetrated a comparable atrocity. Because the vulture taste that drove the folks in Zaria to swoop on the massacre victims on their street and loot their remains clean is the same complex that made Dasuki and his cult cut and serve themselves the elephant carcass of Nigerian defense budget with an assortment of private cutlery.
The rape of the dead in Zaria is a bestiality that ought to agitate our minds. The fact that that Faustian desecration happened, its incredible popularity as evidenced by the mammoth crowd that participated in it, should engage us in communal soul searching.
A tragedy should naturally unite neighbors and strangers into a family of solidarity. A tragedy should liberate our charity. This Zaria carnage, a genocide-magnitude slaughterfest, did not. It released our predatory instinct.
The mob who raided the pile of dead bodies didn’t stoop to check if they could find one person who still had a pulse. They didn’t try on the off-chance that they might find an individual with a non-lethal bullet wound. They were in a hurry –to divest the dead!
Here’s an all-important factoid : The looters of the dead were predominantly youths!
You can read the ineluctable fate of Nigeria off the attitude of those youths. They would do no better than this Wasted Generation when they invade all tiers of government.
On the contrary, they will surpass their forebears in infamy. Their fingers will be thicker than their father’s loins. They will chastise with scorpions where their fathers had used a whip.
And we are close to that apocalyptic dawn. The proof is that the conspiracy to steal public money is now thicker than water. Fathers and sons are answering to charges of synergistic money laundering.
Former governor Murtala Nyako and his son, Abdulazeez. Former governor Sule Lamido and his sons, Aminu and Mustapha. Former governor Martin Elechi and his son, Nnana. Former governor Attahiru Bafarawa and his son, Sagir. Former Minister of Defence Haliru Bello and his son, Abbah.
When the sons eventually overrun the polity, these youths that are impatiently showing their paces, we would wistfully recall Dasuki and hanker after the spirit of his age.
Nigeria will survive politicians who rob the living. But its undertakers will be this generation of youths who have no qualms about robbing the dead!
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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