Crime in UK and Nigeria: Lessons from a Buddhist monk

 Published in THE PUNCH on 31 December 2006

Casmir Igbokwe

Last month, a Buddhist monk reportedly cut off his penis with a machete in Thailand. Reason? He had an erection during meditation even when he had renounced all earthly things. The man, 35, allowed doctors at Maharaj Hospital in Bangkok to dress his wound, but refused reattachment of the organ. This action may seem stupid, but there is a great lesson to learn from it.


 For instance, earlier this month, a serial killer murdered five prostitutes in Ipswich, United Kingdom. The five girls: Gemma Adams, 25, Anneli Alderton, 24, Tania Nicol, 19, Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29, died because they came out in the night to trade with their bodies. Had they and their assailant adopted the monk’s style, this tragic incident could not have happened.


Elsewhere in Britain, we have heard of other killings. Last October, for instance, one Mark Goldstraw was prosecuted for allegedly killing four members of the same family in an arson attack in Cheddleton, Staffordshire in March. The man, 31, was said to have taken this action in revenge against his 16-year-old former girlfriend, Samantha Carter, who had earlier jilted him. Samantha and her siblings – Patricia, 10, Marcus, seven, and her mother’s partner, Roderick Hine, 44 – died in the attack. The alleged killer is an unrepentant convict, having been jailed in 2001 for killing his married lover, Deborah Wheatley, for refusing to leave her husband.


Apart from this jealous-lovers type of killings, and perhaps, terrorist attacks, crime rate in the UK, especially in Cardiff where I live, is relatively lower than what we witness in Nigeria. In the university environment here, there is no Black Cat, no Black Beret, and no Pirate Confraternity. You can almost leave your door open and sleep with your two eyes closed.


In the larger society, it is the same thing. Most shops and supermarkets have no iron doors and burglarproofs. What I have seen mainly are glass doors and glass windows. Even in the night when the shops are locked, you can see all the goods on display from outside. But I have not seen or heard that armed robbers broke into any of those supermarkets.


I have also not seen high compound walls with iron-cast security gates, capped with barbed wires, nails and broken bottles in Cardiff. In fact, almost all the houses I have seen so far have no fences.  Smartly dressed policemen go about their normal duties without harassing or extorting money from anybody. They only come your way if you fall foul of the law. And whenever you hear their siren, you are sure it must be something very serious, not the bullion van menace we witness in Nigeria.


Recently, I had a four-hour journey from Cardiff to Gatwick. It was between 2am and 6am. Between these two cities, I saw no police checkpoint on the road. No policeman threatened commuters with any gun. No fear of armed robbery attack. No pothole laid any ambush for our vehicle. No anxiety of any kind.


In my own country, life is so cheap. This December alone, so many innocent souls perished in the hands of armed robbers. On Friday, December 22, the Editorial Board Chairman of ThisDay Newspapers, Mr. Godwin Agbroko, joined this growing list.


People cage themselves in houses surrounded by Berlin wall-like fences. Some, in addition, wear odeshi (bullet-proof charm). Some others make private security arrangements. But, these are no guarantees for the safety of lives. Some four years ago or so, Bola Ige was killed in spite of tight security around him. Till today, there is no clue on who his killers are. Instead, the police have reportedly told us that the enquiry into his murder case was closed. Marshal Harry and Funso Williams were also killed. And so was Aminasoari Dikibo.


Till date, the black uniformed men have not solved the riddle behind the identity of their killers. They move about with heavy weapons. Call them agile MOPOL, they feel proud and happy. Yet, there is no agility in the way they fight armed robbers and assassins. Their cleverness lies in easily detecting who can grease their palms more.


What is really wrong with us? Some say it is poverty. Maybe. But I think it goes beyond that. One can be poor and still maintain one’s dignity. Our problem is selfishness. It is avarice. It is the celebration of wrong values. That is why some of us still sing praises of advance fee fraudsters. That is why we give chieftaincy titles to known criminals. And that is why no amount of Federal Government’s Heart of Africa detergent alone will cleanse the soiled image of Nigeria.


It is not that ours is the only country that harbours crime and criminals. As I had earlier stated here, Britain has its own share of evildoers. And so are other countries. The only difference between them and us is that they have workable laws that take care of criminal tendencies. And the police are alive to their responsibilities.


For instance, soon after the killing of the five prostitutes in Ipswich, the police launched an extensive manhunt for the killers. The man who allegedly killed them, Mr. Steven Wright, 48, was arrested and remanded in custody until January 2, 2007 when he will appear at Ipswich Crown Court. In my own country, the police have not even protected themselves not to talk of protecting the entire citizens. The murderers continue to stalk the land without detection, without prosecution.  


My heart bleeds for my country. These incidents happen in spite of our claim to religiosity. Almost all the streets in Nigeria have churches and mosques. But, it seems the more we pray and bind demons and their cohorts, the more they come to us. Lord, why have you forsaken us?


The scriptures say if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off for it is better to enter the kingdom of God with one hand than suffer eternal damnation. In the same token, if your sexual organs cause you to sin, please cut them off. If it is greed, or jealousy, or hard heartedness, that pushes you to commit crime, eliminate it. That is the example of the Buddhist monk. May the souls of all those who lost their lives to criminals in Nigeria rest in peace.




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