Afeez Olalere
Afeez Olalere

Like a tale out of a fantasy playbook, the Nigerian media is awash  with tales and reports of a very baffling form of villainy that is fast spreading across large swathes of the country. It is the phenomenon of ritual killing, which in its current explosion involves many young people casting all decency to the winds and engaging in gory acts of debauchery, murder and villainy. It is sad. 

The classic expression of this act of criminality involves the bizarre. Young men  and in some cases children, women and girls, brainwashed into believing that human body parts of victims would either attract good financial returns for them if they sell them to willing reprobate buyers or if they are used by unscrupulous spiritualists to prepare charms for them are the chief culprits. Either way it cuts, the tally of missing people across the length and breadth of the country continues to rise at the same time as the discovery of mutilated human bodies in different inconvenient spots all around us. It is plainly unconscionable. 

While many commentators randomly finger the collapse of the family unit, decline in sound parenting practices, unbridled urbanisation and the rise and seeming ascendancy of ‘the untempered cult of the individual’ in the midst of an exploding get-rich-quick mania, there is also the fact that in more recent years, escalating rates of poverty, unemployment and poor governance have generally led to a situation where many a citizen has indeed been pushed far below the threshold of the unbearable. 

There is also the rise of a merchant class of shamans even as the large-scale failure of governance amidst the corresponding ascent of impunity, bigotry and narrow and clannish agendas in high places has also engendered the currently widespread festering of evil and loss of hope overall. 

Clearly, Nigeria is in a terrible hole that it is very difficult to pull out of. But with the right will and resolve, even this most debilitating scourge can be tamed. 

In the sights of this newspaper, a combination of short, medium and long term initiatives are needed. And it would require honest tackling across many levels. 

First there must be an open, public and  frontal admission at the highest levels that leadership overall has failed the people and in a sense then is not to be exculpated from the vast sense of vacuousness that pervades the land today and which is a first fuel for many of the ills afflicting the populace, including of course the current despicable epidemic of ritual killing.
This done, there must follow a corresponding demonstration of zero tolerance for the practice of ritual killing no matter who is involved. This is more so when it is street talk that politicians massively engage in ritual activities during election seasons as we have presently entered in the country at the moment. The security services must be fully engaged to effectively and expeditiously address all cases and incidents in this regard.

 But this would not be enough and so the campaign must be deeper. Communities, faith based organisations, youth associations, women’s groups, parents, schools, everyone must roll their sleeves and be involved. 
On a broader level of engagement, this is a wake up call for leaders in the country to get away from their business as usual modes. We have a crisis on our hand that if not carefully handled could lead to even more perplexing complications of an unimaginable nature. A cannibal riot may be stirring us in the face if we do not act strongly and comprehensively now.
 The crisis is tearing at the fabric of society. It is undermining trust, good sense and social stability. Everything that we have must be thrown into fighting and taming it. More so when it is considered that young people do not only constitute the biggest chunk of our demographic distribution, they are also the reservoir of the productive workforce that sustains the overall society. 

Still on taming the scourge, while the young people are at the moment, sadly and most unfortunately, the seeming foot soldiers of this current practice, the reality is that there clearly also would be not-exactly-that-young drivers and promoters of these acts of perfidy that are operating behind the scenes and around the corners, and who pack considerable clout and heft in the society and from which they provide the bulwark of the operational and structural supports that keep the heinous practices going on. Broken down, we are saying that some of our so called elders and ‘big men’ in society are not innocent of the blood of victims. The battle must therefore be taken to their door steps too. That is the way to discourage the practice and nip it in the bud. We must tame the foot soldiers and direct culprits but also find and prosecute ‘the big fish.’ And the law must take its course. This is the way to win.

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