First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
– Martin Niemöller
Just how many people are murdered on Nigerian streets through so-called mob justice is not known. But it is a phenomenon every Nigerian is aware of, and the vast majority are horrified by, as was apparent in the public outrage following the lynching of the “Port Harcourt 4” in October last year. Yet these acts of murder all happen because good people stand aside – and don’t attempt to stop them.
The discovery of a harrowing video of a twelve year old boy called Samuel being lynched has led to a group of Nigerians launching a new online campaign aimed at all Nigerians called “Don’t Walk Away”. What is so special about this film is that it is shot by a professional film maker Abimbola Ogunsanya who came across the incident by chance in a Lagos street several years ago. The subsequent film has hardly been seen in Nigeria, but when discovered recently it was seen to be so unique and important that is was deemed essential to release it to stimulate a national discussion.
What has made an impression on “Don’t Walk Away” supporters such as Femi Kuti is not so much the horror of Samuel’s ghastly death, as the extraordinary dignity of the little boy who managed to tell his life story in a two-minute interview while surrounded by a mob baying for his blood. His articulate account of how he found himself begging on the streets of Lagos shows him to have been both intelligent and almost certainly innocent of the crime of “baby stealing” he was killed for.
When members of the mob were interviewed before the murder they were unable to give specifics of what Samuel was accused of. One commented that “They said he wanted to kidnap a child at a school” and was unable to say exactly where. The fact that he knew nothing about the accusation did not stop him being a main perpetrator of the crime, pouring petrol onto Samuel before he was ignited.
Samuel’s story is a vivid example of the gross injustice and horrific cruelty of mob killing. “Don’t Walk Away” campaigners hope it will touch the hearts of millions when it is released on the internet. The campaign leaders believe this will launch a national debate on mob violence – or ‘jungle justice’ – and how people can be motivated to intervene and prevent future lynching.
On Wednesday 3rd July “Don’t Walk Away” was launched at The New Unity Centre, Isaac John Street, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos at 10.30am. The film will be shown and follow up activities announced. A website www.dontwalkaway.org.ng is up and running, and after the 3rd of July the film will be online.
“We want people to go online, watch the film and post their reactions on the comments box” commented “Don’t Walk Away’s” media coordinator, Charles Urhoboghara. “And we want them to take a pledge to not walk away if an accusation is made, and say no to mob justice”. The campaign aims to gather a million supporters and is asking supporters to post photos of themselves raising their hand to say no to mob justice.
Abimbola Ogunsanya has not shown the video of Samuel’s death until now, because he wanted to be sure that its release would lead to something positive emerging from this tragedy. “What I saw, had a big impact on me. I could do nothing to help at the time but now I hope that the horror of what happened to Samuel will give people who are around when similar events start the courage they need not to stand by but to unite to stop it”.