The Twin Evils Of Criminalising Dreadlocks And Ethnicizing Crime By Emeka Oparah - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Twin Evils Of Criminalising Dreadlocks And Ethnicizing Crime By Emeka Oparah

How did we get here, please?

I was very sad yesterday. Yes, I was sad, not only because of the flu which is threatening to spoil an important show for me tomorrow (God forbid!), but by two unrelated issues namely 1) the indiscriminate arrest of young people for tattoos and dreadlocks by the Police Anti-Cultism Unit and 2) the seeming ethnic pugilism between Igbos and Yorubas over the list of apprehended criminals dragging the image of Nigeria in the mud abroad. Let me quickly dispose that of dreadlocks and tattoos before dealing with the more serious issue of ethnicity and the attendant bigotry.

Look here, guys, especially the Nigeria Police, if I had hair left on my head, I would be sporting dreadlocks today-and you mean to say you would have arrested me? Are you kidding me? Now that’s extremely ludicrous, if not very stupid. Why would you profile someone as a criminal or cultist, as the case may be, simply because he wears dreadlocks or bears a tattoo?

Now, I blame my maternal grandfather from whose lineage I contracted alopecia without which I would have been a proud exponent of dreadlocks. Nothing spoil, though. Tito’s hair is full and long. In his four years, he’s never had a haircut and so dreadlocks are loading. Come and catch him. As for tattoos, I’m going to get me one big one to celebrate my 53rd birthday-and I’ll be posting the photos for the police to see. 

Isn’t this preposterous? Which law or official proclamation proscribes dreadlocks and tattoos? The IGP should immediately call his men to order. This is a very serious matter and must handled with the seriousness it deserves. Innocent young men are being messed up, some killed, just because of this imbecility. This nonsense MUST stop immediately. Or else the police or any other security apparatus, including even Halogen, will start arresting people for being tall or short or too black or too light-skinned or whatever. Are we gradually descending into lawlessness? Are we?

Then to the issue of international criminals of Nigerian origin. I don’t know how we got here. And I mean I don’t know how we attained this level of ethnic bigotry so much so that everything is now viewed with ethnically jaundiced eyeglasses. Five Nigerians were caught in Dubai for robbing a Bureau de Change and heavens are let loose, understandability. Then, someone said “but wait a minute, they are all of Igbo extraction”. Then, the Igbos respond to say “but your people are being executed in Saudi Arabia for drug trafficking”. Then, Abike Dabiri of the Diaspora Commission is accused of singling out the Igbos while shielding her Yoruba folks. Oh...My...God!!!

Now, I don’t know when crime or criminality became a citizen of any country or ethnic group. Criminals come from everywhere. If in doubt visit the courts or take a look at those being arraigned and prosecuted for looting public funds or their counterparts, the kidnappers and armed robbers. They are from every part of the country. What’s bad’s bad. Needless ethnicizing or politicizing the issue. Both those who called out the Igbos and those who reacted by calling out the Yorubas miss the point. And if Abike had a complete list but elected to publish a part of it, then she too missed the point. We sure do have a problem.

My former boss, Dr. Christopher Kolade, one of the few great minds of the old and honorable order left on our shores, said something remarkable when he was Nigeria’s High Commissioner at the Court of St. James. He said and I paraphrase him: “There are probably 1m Advance Fees Fraudsters in Nigeria out of a population of 150m. I don’t see why 149m good men and women should allow the nefarious activities of 1m criminals to define them.” Now, that’s epic. 

I think we should come together and call a spade by it’s real name. There is absolutely no need to resort to name-calling or ethnic sentiments or racial profiling when the issue at hand is more pressing. I have been attacked twice by armed robbers and I can affirm here that the gang was “multinational” in composition. Robbers or criminals do not ask for nationality before starting their operations. In actual fact, it is in the interest of the gang to have every ethnic group represented so they can be more effective. 

I hear the UAE has reduced the number of days on visas to Nigerians with Nigerian passports to a maximum of 30 days from 90. Now, did they mention Igbos or Yorubas or Hausa or Fulanis or Idomas or Igalas or Itsekiris or any ethnic groups? We, Nigerians, are in this together. So, why fight the wrong battle or the wrong people?

Please, please, please, my dear friends, let us STOP this malady. Some of my friends, some I grew up with, have become ethnic jingoists  and warlords. They are ceaselessly cooking and spreading ethnic sentiments and promoting bigotry and hatred. One thing is for sure: I will never allow the bad behavior of anybody to affect me to the point of making me want to be bad! Never. The Great Architect of the Universe has, in His wisdom, laid out the rules before He gave us life. We must not depart from His ways lest we miss eternity.

For those who think eternity is too far, let us even consider the here and now. How does it make it you feel when you are propagating negative ethnic and or religious sentiments. Do you feel good, proud, noble? I think the way to go is to help make a change. Preach and practice peace and tolerance. Do something about your people and for your people. If we sort out our various ethnic groups, the country will be sorted.

So, to the question how did we get here, it has been like this but not to this extent, this proportion. Many people have long harbored these divisive primordial sentiments but didn’t have the platform to ventilate them. Back in the day, you must be a very good writer and a lucky one at that for your opinion article or letter to the editor to be published by any newspaper. Today, everyone is a publisher no thanks to social media and telecommunications. The democratization of ICT has meant that the once voiceless now has a voice-and only God can save us all as the cacophony of voices override the basic tenets of decency, ethics and the law. The 2015 elections marked a watershed in the life of Nigeria as bigotry became a regular fare on social media due essentially to politics. I hope we recover from it.

Again, I call on people to control their emotions. I call on the authorities too to control these emotions by “consequence management”. Anyone who goes against the rules or laws must be punished to serve as a deterrent to others. Facebook recently called on governments to help in controlling freedom of expression. Any society where there are no limits to what people can do or say, by commission or omission, is finished.

- Emeka Oparah Is A PR Practitioner

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