Published On: Thu, Apr 18th, 2019

Forgive sinners, but punish crime

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THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu

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“When lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom”, Shakespeare wrote, “it is the gentler gamester that is the soonest winner”. Nigeria, it appears, is fast becoming a self-harming, ‘lenient’ but ‘cruel’ society whose softness on crimes hardens the hearts of outlaws. A law-governed society, ironically seems more adept at toasting rather than roasting its gangsters. By the wanton let of the many, the few have unleashed life-threatening crimes and misdemeanors. The wrongs that now menace our societies are no longer the analogue, ‘your-life-or-your-money’ kinds of crime. Now we have sadistic, bloodletting daredevils, so obsessed with killing that they give their victims no option: it is now ‘your life and your money’! The nation is now littered with trigger-happy killer-zealots, of a religious, ethnic or merchantilic type: from the free-reigning, ransom-taking killer-kidnappers who are now so bold they knock on the doors of their victims, to the murderous, gold-digging Zamfara bandits with senses numbed by tramadol and other classes of across-the-counter, mind-bending stuff, to the notorious, optionally-radicalizing killer-machine, the boko-haram. And that is not to mention the huge army of cattle-rustling rogue communities of the middle belt whose un-assuageable taste for others’ belongings feeds the army of would-be killer herdsmen and kidnappers.
These murderous classes of criminals we allow to get away with murder. A principle of law warns that no one should be allowed to profit from their own wrongdoing. But we allow criminals to do more than just profit from their own wrongdoing. We let them profit even from the proceeds of their wrongdoing. When a criminal escapes the rigors of the law and is not punished he has already profited from his wrong doing. But when he also gets to keep the proceed of his crime, he even profits more. A nation that regales in wanton lawlessness cannot hope for salvation even from the bounty of her own gratuity. Letting criminals get away with murder does not curb crime. It encourages it. Forgiveness of sin has its place only in religion; and punishment for wrong, in the body of man-made laws. Yet rather than punish wrong, we self-righteously make a self-harming virtue of forgiving wrong doers. We want looters not only to be forgiven, but we want them to keep the loot. In fact as proof that we have forgiven them, we even want them back into political office to misgovern us again. If we have our way, Evans the kidnapper should be pardoned. The Dubai five and the numerous Saudi drug peddlers on death row, should too.
When the law will do no right, Shakespeare wrote, “let it be lawful that the law bars no wrong”. If the law will not punish offenders the law has no business criminalizing offences. Because people affrighted by wrong doers are always bound to take the law into their hands when they know that the law that should affright all, will not take them into its protective sanctuary. And so when a nation foolishly makes a ‘scarecrow’ of its laws, like we do, letting it stay mute in statute when it should be brute in action, the birds of prey that the dummy should scare, may soon make the law their idle perch and not their terror. When evil deeds have their permissive pass and not their strict punishment, a breakdown of normative values ensues and a nation is said to be in a season of anomie to everyone then, his own statute.
We murder while we smile. Yet we frame our faces to each mournful occasion –wetting our cheeks with artificial tears. We are so villainous we deceive easier than Ulysses could –Ulysses, the Greek legend who sold to Troy the dummy of the Trojan Horse, to win a crucial war for the fatherland. But the Ulyssess of our own nation today are not those who plot for the nation. They are dissembling bigots in plots to harm the fatherland. The so called patriots are those who array their cunnings to deny the nation a Trojan victory, preferring instead, to put her through an Athenian defeat. These false ‘patriots’ are bent on drowning the nation in the flood of her own blood. Enemies of state, obdurate at heart, malevolent in intent, motivated only by personal gains, are now up in arms against one and all. We are assailed on the one hand by deviants engaged daily in high crimes and misdemeanor, and on the other, by traitors bent on making capital out of everyday criminality.
Tribes and tongues now take the law into their hands, because the law being mute in statute and lame in action, does no right. The army of venal politicians, making the law their perch and not their terror, now freely stoke the fire of mischief. The sectionalized public is reduced to schismatic mutual self-loathing –debating what ‘grievous wrong’ shamelessly to defend or what ‘noble right’ wickedly to debase. And the question is asked: ‘is this at last the sullen presage of our nation’s final decay?’ -that we are now condemned foolishly to array our might against ourselves; or that we are now determined make a shameful conquest of ourselves! Our so called men of God happily now are prophets of a new calling –of gloom and of doom. They speak no longer of peace because they have themselves become the harsh and boisterous tongue of woe. Woe betides every subject that they lay their evil tongues on! Our so called men of God have now turned the ‘word’ to ‘sword’, their ink to blood, their pens to piercing lances and their mouths to trumpets and beagle of war.
If we persist in taking no heed, then the blood of innocents shall continue to manure the ground; and future ages will bear the brunt of our inaction. We must not allow our grief minister unto our reason -as it is evident now it does- making us seek always to heal the inveterate canker of one wound by making many. Our fault must not be our folly. We must not afford always to find out ‘right’ with ‘wrong’. Because two wrongs, as every Jack should know, will not make a right! And to all and sundry, it should be said: sheath thee thy swords. He that steeps his safety in blood shall find but bloody safety in return. Just as he who lives by the sword, shall die by the sword. For there is no sure foundation set on blood; no certain life achieved by others’ death. In a false quarrel there is no true valor. But in peace there is victory for all. For peace, they say is of the nature of a conquest; for then both parties nobly are subdued and no party loser. Pray, no more the thirsty entrance of this soil should daub her lips with her own children’s blood. No more should trenching war channel her fields, nor bruise her flowers with the armed hoofs of hostile rebellion.
President Buhari must not spare the instruments of chastisement; lest his power, like to a fangless lion, is disdained and disregarded. He must be great in act as we know him to be in thought. He must stir with the times and be fire for fire! To gain the popular mood, he has to threaten the threatener and must outface the brow of bragging horror. Mr. President has to put on the dauntless spirit of resolution. He has to glister like the god of war when he intends to become the field! He must not allow our dreadful laws to be slighted or the dignity of our state so wantonly profaned. Buhari has to break some bones! Yes, advantage, as they say, is a better soldier than rashness. But even as the President is right to be ‘slow and steady’, it is expedient that he makes haste to keep us merry. It may be great that he does not have the scholar’s melancholy, but it is unacceptable that he should not have the jauntiness of a soldier.
Yes, let’s be gratuitous with forgiveness of sins; but we must be severe in punishing wrong!

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