How Deborah Samuel was misunderstood

The general outcry, condemnation and grief that trail the gruesome killing of Miss Deborah Samuel, a Christian 200-level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, may not abate so easily. Deborah was reported to have been killed for blaspheming Prophet Muhammad (SAW); she was beaten and burnt to death by her school mates. The late Deborah was accused of carrying out the act in a voice-note she dropped on her class’ WhatsApp platform. To say the least, the killing was barbaric, unwarranted and highly provocative.

It is difficult to really pinpoint why the innocent girl’s life should be cut short. If the narration was indeed correct, what is wrong in her advising her colleagues to desist from posting irrelevant information to a WhatsApp platform meant for academic purposes? This gross act of indiscipline is not new. There is hardly any day that users of social media platform have not experienced such an abuse. It has almost become the norm for people to post things that are irrelevant and junk to what is put in place to help members access useful information to aid their coming together ab initio.

What we see is that those that are disgusted with such practices, but would rather prefer not to join issues, usually exit the group while others remain and keep mute and tolerate all manners of posts. This is where the protesters got it wrong. It has nothing to do with their religious beliefs. The poor girl was just tired of an alert detraction. What I am saying is her attackers misunderstood her. For instance, when you are expecting a payment alert for a certain amount of money badly needed, a frequent checking of one’s phone would be done until the payment alert is received. Anything else that comes into the phone in the form of alert would certainly be irritating and not appreciated.

To react to such unsolicited message could be aggressive simply because of the suspense. This is what I think happened in the unfortunate scenario. Deborah simply wanted information concerning her studies, not a religious post, product promo, or political jingle sent to her phone. This is where her killing without any protection from the school authorities was sad and unacceptable. It is nothing, but symbolic of the religious intolerance that we daily experience in Nigeria. Deborah was simply venting an anger not abusive. Therefore, what her audience should have been concerned with is what formed the basis of her anger and not what they perceive or insinuate her to mean or could be saying. What happened was purely blatant disregard for human life, jungle justice and miscarriage of justice.

It is hoped that the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari mandating the ministries of information and culture, police affairs, communications and digital economy to collaborate with mobile telephone providers to contain the spread of false, unsolicited and inflammatory information through social media should be implemented. The painful death of Deborah should not be in vain. Rather, it should afford all of us another opportunity to look at our problems that divide us as a nation. The truth is that many people continue to question whether we are indeed a nation or not. Why would a part of the country be too hostile to others on the basis of religion and primordial matters? That is why I find it curious to hear that some youths in Sokoto have called on the state government and security agencies to release those arrested in connection with the killing. To release them?

To create further destruction, it was reported that at the St. Backita Catholic Secretariat, which accommodates the office of the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev. Matthew Kukah, the protesting youths allegedly burnt the security post, a vehicle on the premises and attacked traders around the area and made attempts to attack the palace of the Sultan and other places too. The attitude of the rampaging youths simply shows that they do not seem to understand current realities at the expense of religious sentiment and fanaticism. It has also been observed that many top Nigerian politicians that are promising to address the many complex problems facing the nation appear to have distanced themselves from commenting on this burning issue.

They are simply evasive and do not want to offend the same people that crave for quality leadership to help them move away from parochial thinking. For them, saying what should be said in clear terms now would jeopardise their chances in the forthcoming general elections. As long as we continue to play primitive politics with everything in this country, we may never get it right. In the coming weeks, Nigerians would want to see that all those that are involved in the dastardly act are brought to book. Not only that, religious leaders fanning the embers of discord through wrong indoctrination should desist from such because the negative seeds they are sowing may consume them too. For now, what we badly need in the land is peace, tolerance and open-mindedness.