Deborah: Victim of WhatsApp Rules Violators, by Azu Ishiekwene

She dared to protest to other students for sharing irrelevant messages in their academic WhatsApp group. It started small, but left behind a pool of blood and the cries of dogs who, unsatisfied with the bestiality, set about burning the remains of the dead! This is why we need to question our actions and their unintended consequences.

Parents, students and indeed anyone with a conscience are still shocked by the murder of Deborah Yakubu in Sokoto over allegations of blasphemy.

The abrupt end to the life of a promising young Nigerian in a school, will pass again with laments and condemnations as has become the norm, but most likely, without the consolation of justice being served.

By turning this page and moving forward, we would most likely forget the real issue that led to this tragedy. The small cause, the small stain, which produced a great effect, an explosion and other unforeseen consequences.

Despite the curfew imposed by the Sokoto State government, many residents and their properties and businesses – which had nothing to do with the alleged blasphemy – were attacked with the potential to escalate far beyond borders of the caliphate.

All of these issues are due to embarrassing indiscretions and abuse of social media platforms. Virtually everyone in a WhatsApp group must have come across a set of rules devised by an unknown Samaritan about what to and what not to post in a group chat.

Some groups even develop their own set of domesticated rules and observances – often applying penalties for violations. But fanatics live on higher moral precepts. They have their own standards and claim to want to impose salvation by fire by force – the attitude that leads to invading group discussions with content unrelated to the subject of the group.

In blatant disregard of other members’ sensitivities, some members appropriate chat rooms for their businesses, for religious purposes, to spread fake news, sensations, and even to share violent or horrific content without advising the discretion of viewers.

Trivial as it may sound, it is so serious that the psychic shock and trauma inflicted on individuals have been witnessed simply by viewing gruesome images or videos carelessly shared in group chats.

Interestingly, the culprits so generous with such disturbing and often inappropriate content are often the least open with ideas and contributions regarding the group’s goals.

Deborah Yakubu has become the unfortunate victim of challenging such gross infractions and invading group chat rooms with unrelated content. She was hounded, not by strangers, but by her own countrymen, classmates, and band members for calling on them to do the right thing – or stop doing the wrong thing – deliberately.

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The summary execution of Deborah is not the first of its kind in our culture of religious intolerance and impunity, but it is the first in recent times to have been caused by people appropriating the platforms of social media for purposes other than the original purposes and objectives.

He can be heard in a voice note telling one of his classmates that the group was created for academic purposes such as homework, lessons and not the foreign subjects they chose to post. If she had resisted the bait of further exchanges with the culprits beyond this point, perhaps the tragedy could have been avoided.

The word in the air is “blasphemy”. But the prelude is not referenced there. Deborah’s killers were the first to cross a red line by abusing a group platform, and that should come as a warning at this time – a red flag in other WhatsApp groups.

If we remain flippant about it, as we are used to being as a people – taking others for granted and displaying that cheeky audacity of Okada man and his keke counterpart, then a new frontier of tragedies may have just been opened to us by social networks.

For the sake of clarity, let’s explicitly say that an issue that started with a disagreement in a WhatsApp chat group is what led to the unfortunate and brutal murder of Deborah Yakubu, a student at Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto.

She dared to protest to other students for sharing irrelevant messages in their academic WhatsApp group. It started small, but left behind a pool of blood and the cries of dogs who, unsatisfied with the bestiality, set about burning the remains of the dead! This is why we need to question our actions and their unintended consequences.

In all things, moderation is the best advice for all citizens of a multi-religious country and a secular state. Without moderation, many will die victims of impunity, the murderers being emboldened by the nonchalance of the state.

The summary execution of Deborah is not the first of its kind in our culture of religious intolerance and impunity, but it is the first in recent times to have been caused by people appropriating the platforms of social media for purposes other than the original purposes and objectives.

As in the movies, we are plagued by a mania – callous disregard for the sanctity of human lives. Except for fanatics, Deborah’s murder still sent shivers down the spine of many.

The Nigerian Bar Association which had scheduled its NBA-SPIDEL (NBA Section on Public Sector and Development Law) 2022 conference in Sokoto had to cancel it with a statement reflecting the dangerous situation there.

The opening paragraph of their statement is excerpted in full: “The past week, like many before it, has been filled with unfortunate developments that have trivialized the sanctity of human lives, exposed the weakness of our security architecture, tested our collective resolve as a people. , and posed a serious threat to the unity of Nigeria as a nation.

Deborah invoked “the fire of the Holy Spirit” and her executioners invoked the greatness of the Creator. But the earth is soaked in blood as the three levels of our government make illusory motions without moving. The next occupants of the government houses are on the campaign trail and cannot be bothered by the murder of an unimportant student.

“In the Southeast, there have been reports of horrific killings of security personnel by now notorious ‘unknown gunmen’ and other non-state actors; in Lagos, a young man (simply identified as David) was allegedly lynched by commercial motorcyclists around Lekki; and in Sokoto, there is the unfortunate and heartbreaking murder of Miss Deborah Yakubu, a Level 200 student at Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto by some of her classmates for alleged blasphemy”.

It is the tragedy of our nation that our constitution, our security spending and our state institutions are nothing but statues of warriors – imposing, intimidating and menacing, but which just take up space and have no value practice.

Even the NBA knows this, as stated in paragraph 4 of its statement: “While Nigerians and the international community expect the culprits to be brought promptly to justice for the appropriate offences, the demand for the release of the suspects by some young protesters coupled with assaults on innocent citizens, the burning of places of worship and the destruction of property has added an entirely new and disturbing dimension to this unfortunate incident. It is clearly a test of the will state to fully enforce its laws and promote the rule of law.

Deborah invoked “the fire of the Holy Spirit” and her executioners invoked the greatness of the Creator. But the earth is soaked in blood as the three levels of our government make illusory motions without moving. The next occupants of the government houses are on the campaign trail and cannot be bothered by the murder of an unimportant student.

It is quite complicated, and even considered odious in some societies, to choose what to die for; but choosing what to kill for is quite another matter. People were burned at the stake on charges of witchcraft, which at the time meant believing or teaching religious ideas other than those of the Catholic Church. We look back at that time and wonder how this happened?

Well, the disgusting trail of senseless murders linked to blasphemy allegations, including that of Deborah, does not suggest that Nigeria has moved an inch since the Middle Ages.

Yet if we extend this thing called blasphemy, as Professor Farooq Kperogi brilliantly argued in his article, we would find that Muslims blaspheme the Christian God and vice versa and these Abrahamic clerics are no less guilty of systematically blaspheming Judaism and believers in traditional African religions. or atheists!

And doesn’t it break your heart and break your humanity that we have become so accustomed to shedding innocent blood, so accustomed to needless tragedy and so indifferent to the impotence of government, that the state would go to court and frame Deborah Yakubu’s gruesome murder simply as “a breach of the public peace?”

This accusation, I think, is a blasphemy against decency – it’s much worse than Deborah’s variety!

Azu Ishiekwene is editor-in-chief of LEADERSHIP.

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