Public conscience versus the oppressors’ ‘mascots’


SIR: Oftentimes, society degenerates not because there are no laws, norms and values governing it but because citizens fail to collectively stand up for one another against crime, oppression and injustices. This public inertia over vices that should draw strong indignation is usually a product of ignorance, indifference, parochialism, fear and other negative social inclinations such as racism, ethnicism, religious intolerance, extremism, irresponsibility, unpatriotism, etc.

However, as remote these dispositions may appear, they are more causative of the degenerative ailment of society than the vices that they permit. In many cases, societal vices and crimes are symptomatic of public inertia which emboldens criminals and villains in their atrocities. Apparently, the people are ‘complicit’ in the recurrence of crime and oppression, for non-expression of public conscience through mass actions or behaviour which would have instigated the enactment, strengthening and enforcement of laws and norms.

More complicit and malicious are citizens who come in defence of oppression, crime and their perpetrators. They are social and political ‘mascots’ who cheer on and embolden oppressors of the masses and villains of society. They are out on the streets, social/conventional media and at other public arenas, justifying such atrocities as rape, genocide, racial and extra-judicial killings, etc. They are at political quarters adorning their political principals and idols with halos where horns have sprouted for oppressive leadership and poor performance; they are in counter-protests defending obvious wrongs done by their silhouetted sponsors; they are at sectional and tribal quarters welcoming looters and ex-convicts as they return home with their booty – public resources which were diverted en route to the masses; they are also at some religious quarters finding no wrong with their brethren who come short of civility in dealing with their fellow citizens, etc. Their activities contribute immensely to the numbing of public conscience and propagation of crime, oppression and various injustices.

But the people must not allow their collective conscience to be stifled, if they desire a fair, just and safe society. It is public conscience that triggered the mass action in the USA over the cold-blooded killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota – an all-race populated protest, which has spread across the globe, against unjust killing of Blacks.

It is taking place not in spite of the laws and norms of that land but to assert and salvage an avowed national and global value – racial equality – which has unfortunately come under serious threat and violation over time. It is this public conscience that is, at this juncture, being stimulated in the Nigerian citizenry for outward expression of indignation in the face of injustice, marginalisation, victimisation, intimidation, highhandedness, racial discrimination, rape, domestic violence, kidnap, genocide and other crimes against fellow citizens and humanity, such that: anti-rape protests in Nigeria will henceforth be as well populated by men as their female counterparts.

Until that ‘shadow pandemic’ is neutralised and perpetrators are made to face the full wrath of the law; unpopular and obnoxious bills do not creep past the legislature into the constitution; bad leaders are boycotted and cannot return to crucial elective offices; abductees of insurgents and kidnappers are fully accounted for and given justice; a black book is opened to shame villains and oppressors who bruise the very soul of society and humanity; the nation becomes near crime and oppression free; prisoners of conscience forever walk the streets of justice and freedom; equity and equality before the law are demonstrated as the hallmark of socio-political co-existence in the country; etc.

This struggle must not be abandoned to only the victims of crime, oppression and injustice but taken up as a collective public responsibility, knowing that ‘‘an injury to one is an injury to all.’’ Public conscience is handicapped when it is confined in the hearts of individual citizens but comes into authoritative force when it is collectively expressed for public good, in defence and propagation of the law, norms and values of society. In that active form, not even the worst of criminals and oppressors can withstand it; not even the most insensitive leadership can ignore it.

In this article:
Emmanuel Ikechukwu
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