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Opinions of Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Columnist: E.K. Oduro

Jungle justice

For two days, I’ve been searching hard for the right words and emotions to express my thoughts.

My mind is clouded with a desire for vengeance and my heart is saddened. For these reasons, I ask to be forgiven for any incoherence. Describing my true feelings is a daunting task.

How can one truly describe such an inhumane, barbaric and primitive act? Are Ghanaians and for that matter Africans inherently violent? Are we not done evolving? It’s 2017 for Pete’s sake. Why would ordinary peace-loving Ghanaians in a moment of rage turn into a blood lusting bunch of hardcore murderers devoid of any hint of humanity?

It was 1995 and I was in the sixth grade in Kumasi. After getting dropped off, we saw a crowd gathered by the street right by Kumasi Polytechnic. We saw a man being lynched with over a dozen willing participants. This man was accused of stealing some foodstuff.

By lunchtime, the naked corpse of the alleged thief was still lying on the streets exposed to school pupils, hawkers and civil servants in suits. How many amongst us have not witnessed or heard of such lynching? What does our silence say of us? Have we just come to accept such jungle justice as a substitute for our inadequate policing?

Maxwell Adams Mahama’s death will forever remain a stain on our collective conscience. His murder is emblematic of a nation saddled with corruption, police incompetence, absolute hypocrisy and a general non-functioning civil service. We tout ourselves as being a religious people.

We spend the vast majority of our lives at church services convincing ourselves of how Christian we are. Why do such things keep occurring in a peaceful nation like Ghana. From what’s being described, it’s kind of hard distinguishing these village gangsters from the savage of ISIS.

Vigilantism and mob justice has been part of the Ghanaian story for far too long. Citizens don’t trust the authorities. Police is stained with the perception of corruption and incompetence.

When was the last time anyone saw a Ghanaian police officer offer CPR to save a life in distress? When was the last time we saw the police investigate and arrest “area boys” involved in lynching an alleged thief? Our police have been reduced to taking 5 cedi notes and cleaning up after the fact.

Go report a case to the police and you would be asked to go back and bring the alleged perpetrator. This by no means licenses these idiots to take the law into their hands. To quote Howard Zinn, “There is no flag big enough to cover the shame of killing an innocent person”. Can we see a silver lining underneath this atrocity? Maybe the sacrifice of this young man’s life might finally awaken our social conscience.

Maybe we can start taking chances on our police and hold our law enforcement to count. Maybe it’s time to be citizens and not spectators as demanded of us by our president.

I for once have not gathered the courage to watch the gruesome video. This is not out of any moral superiority but a personal choice. Maxwell was more than just the few minutes of his life. From what’s said of him, he was a gentle soul, a kind young man whose ambition could not be tamed. He was a loving father of two and a husband to a young wife. He was a son, brother, friend to many and most importantly, a very productive son of Ghana. People who deemed it fit to be judges, jury and executioners snatched his life from him.

This might sound controversial but any of us who found it entertaining to disseminate this gruesome video must also admit some culpability. What is the point of sharing this video? Is it to draw awareness or for entertainment? Social media is gradually morphing us into insensitive and passive participants in such horrific acts. Lets take a breather and imagine Maxwell as a brother, husband or son.

Is this how we would want him to be remembered? Wont we prefer him be remembered for those happy days at his graduation? The pictures of him playing with his kids? Pictures of his wedding? I get it. Social media is the beast that broke out and cant be caged again. But as humans, we have the power of control. Lets control our urges and avoid contributing to these animalistic acts. We all can discuss what happened without necessarily going for the shock value.

Nothing can assuage the pain of the family who’s loved one was robbed from them. We pray that Maxwell’s wife can find peace and forgiveness in her heart. We pray that Maxwell’s kids can find some goodness in humanity and not grow up to be bitter.

I do see light at the end of this tunnel. Let us all in good faith celebrate his accomplishments and in all lets seek Justice and live up to our creed, “Freedom and Justice”. Maxwell Damrifa Due. Due ne amenehunu