Sunday 13 August 2006

A dead man dishonoured

Still a murder most horrid

As it happened, the murdered Lagos State gubernatorial aspirant – Funso Williams was laid to rest on Friday, that event was not without controversy, a twist in a tale that looks a bit far from resolution.

Ayoke’s Exodus did reference a link with comments from the Inspector General of Police (IGP) suggesting the murder might not be political but the political dimension does offer a possible smokescreen to other motives – they are however, they are keeping an open mind – I would hope so too. Ayoke however touched on the amount of bloodshed in Nigeria, I am concerned issues this death reveals about Nigeria.

In the same light we were informed that 10,000 men would be deployed to keep the peace at the burial of the dead man.

There was a funeral mass and some other service in which the presiding priests had a lot to say, a good bit was true, one should not speak evil of the dead, it does not also mean that the facts should be distorted to help the grieving process, though burial services do present the opportunity for bold sharp talk.

A questionable legacy

So, in the midst of 10,000 deployed policemen for Operation Total Peace, the grieving family and the people who gathered to see off the man; there was a plan to have the man lie in state; extracting the coffin from the hearse would normally be the just of the undertakers or people selected by the undertakers to provide that service from the hearse to the catafalque.

A group of hoodlums called the Young Vanguard who are supposedly supporters of the peaceful dead man thwarted the “lying-in-state” plan by refusing to allow the professionals – the undertakers – to perform that service, arguing that this function should be their exclusive preserve. In the end, the man did not lie in state.

Now, one would surmise that consider that there could have been an amicable arrangement that would have fulfilled the primary purpose of letting the man lie in state, but if the people who supported him in life could not find the level of respect and deference to allow such an important last act to be performed in honour of their leader, one does wonder if the legacy he bequeathed was really that of peace and conciliation as we have been told all through.

A truthful assessment

Back to the funeral, the priest did highlight a few things that fetch true, the sense of security being so appalling that people cannot feel safe in their homes; the sense that so little premium is paid to the value of life that the country is becoming very much like the disorderliness of the animal kingdom.

The priest also mentioned the lamentable fact that we have required forensic expertise from the Scotland Yard to help solve the murder, though the IGP indicated that the investigation is purely a Nigerian one with backup from Scotland Yard. Well, backup could either mean substitute or support; a skeptic would probably plump for the former because the Nigerian Police does not have the best track record for resolving high profile murders.

One does need to ask what the function of bodyguards and orderlies are, that killers could gain assess to the victim’s home and commit a murder when they have conveniently gone to eat. One would think when sentry-keeping that post is never left unattended – this looks like a systemic issue of proper police discipline and understanding of responsibilities.

The praise that then went on to compare Mr. Williams to Jesus Christ was probably a bit off the script.

Obviously, the question of who the suspects are still looms as it appears the other gubernatorial aspirants are still in custody having voluntarily visited the police and then gotten detained since then without charge – that is small issue about rights which do get violated a lot in Nigeria.

Still unfinished business

The IGP also made reference to the murder investigation of the Minister for Justice – Bola Ige who was assassinated in 2001. The IGP did say the suspects were arraigned before the court but the whole case for the prosecution unraveled as witnesses recanted their testimonies that Bola Ige’s wife who had long served as a senior judge in Nigeria succumbed as the incredulity of it all finally left the suspects literally implicated of nothing.

Then, the excuse that the police cannot appeal is offered – I disagree, the police should have lawyers who liaise with some public prosecution department if the police believe they have a compelling case and they should either appeal or retry the case.

To buttress the case for a non-political motive, the IGP cited another case where the previously assumed motive became one where it appears family members and compromised guards colluded to kill the victim – hopefully, the case has been fully investigated that no innocent people are behind bars for that murder.

No Double Jeopardy

Besides, I am of the opinion that the Nigeria Crime-Justice-Punishment system is not mature enough for the double jeopardy rule, furthermore, as our criminal investigation methods are not exhaustive enough requiring outside assistance, to have acquitted someone of a serious crime of a bungled investigation and prosecution and then not be able to charge the person again on new and more sophisticated evidence would be a miscarriage of justice in itself.

Finally, the priest in sanguine reflection says 2007 might have delivered Lagos State to Mr. Williams but in his death he has gained world renown being mentioned on CNN and the BBC – Nigerians sometimes have a concept of grieving that could be interesting, but I’ll rather be a living man with little than a dead man talking.


Ehindero: Williams’ Killing May Not Be Political

Williams Buried, Cleric Berates FG

Williams: Detention of PDP Aspirants Faulted

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