Ahmed Isah: Thin Line Between Civility and Jungle Justice

Ahmed Isah, a popular TV host also known as ordinary President, has come under public scrutiny following his physical attack on a lady in a video circulated by BBC.

The BBC Africa Eye documentary showed Isah assaulting the woman who was accused of setting her brother’s six-year-old child on fire for alleged witchcraft.

The woman was said to have tied the victim’s hands and legs, poured kerosene on her head, and set her on fire.

The Brekete Family host in the video asked the suspect how she confirmed the girl was a witch.
In response, she said, “Nobody. I don’t know what came over me. Please, I’m begging for forgiveness.”

Isah repeated his question, demanding that she tells him what happened one last time but the woman insisted she didn’t know what came over her. The human rights activist became livid and landed her two resounding slaps before the video was cut short.

The details of this incident have attracted mixed reactions between those who reason it was understandable for Ahmed Isah to have landed the lady in question a slap and those who think otherwise.

Some who have linked human rights abuse to the issue insists that for a promoter of human rights, Ahmed Isah who is the owner of Human Rights Radio ought not to have reacted the way he did.

Another commentator also pointed out that the viral video is an addition to the series of reports showing the lack of self-restraint characteristic of most Nigerian public personalities. In his words, “no matter the pretext, it is only right that we condemn it.”

In the same way, a few others have raised the tempo to a crescendo by citing gender-based violence on the whole incident. In the words of a public commentator, “This is a clear case of assault. We witnessed live the physical violence. This has been going on for eons. Women have always been victims of physical violence by men. For those who are saying Ahmed Isah didn’t do much wrong. He just brought the fact that women have always been violated to the public glare and we thank him for exposing this.”

But many others who firmly stand against the reference to gender question the fact that will Ahmed Isah have reacted the same way if the accused was a man? Will it have generated the same outcry if she was smacked by a fellow woman? According to one Twitter user, “For slapping a woman who set a child ablaze, he was supposed to hug her and buy her lunch? We all agreed on the fact that Baba Ijesha and Uduak should be hit with whatever force necessary, but because this is a woman, she should be treated nicely. Very what? Very good.”

While it is only right that self-restraint is paramount for individuals with Isah’s public standing, his wrongdoing following his smack attack on the lady does not justify her actions.

The hot takes on the issue have obliterated what brought about that particular scene in the first instance. As earlier mentioned, the woman tied the hands and legs of a six-year-old child, poured kerosene on her head, and set it on fire.

The little girl cried and screamed until the fire almost consumed her to the skull to the alert of neighbours. But is this enough to warrant the sort of assault BBC portrayed with the documentary on the Berekete TV host?

Conversely, good numbers of people think that the attack was deserving. They commend Ahmed Isa whom they say if he ran the affairs of the country would ensure justice for victims and their families rather than politicising everything and glamorising crime as is the current misnomer. In other words, the lady in question deserved everything that came her way, and it is only right that the human rights activist reacted the way he did.

While it may not be exact, this brings to the fore the topical issue of jungle justice. The question has always been about whether it is right to mete out punishment on a particular offender or suspect (be it in any form) without making them go through the judicial process, even if their crime is deserving of such punishment? To put it more succinctly, do hardened criminals have a right?

In the words of a legal practitioner, Jefferson Uwoghiren “any society that tolerates such barbaric conduct shows clearly the level of its judicial development and that is very clear evidence of a failed state.

“No amount of loss of faith in the judicial process should encourage and tolerate or empower any person to take the laws into his hands. If there is anybody who is a suspect and alleged to have been involved in a criminal act, the proper thing to do is to ensure that the police arrest such person, carry out a diligent investigation, and ensure that they are charged to the court that day.”

Moreover, Ahmed Isa has been changing lives and doing far more for Nigerians for years and no one recognises his efforts until now that he is being dragged all over. His show, Berekete Family, helps Nigerians redress wrongs which the ordinary President opined was born out of frustration in a legal system riddled by bureaucracy and mismanagement.

Even though Berekete Family does not release figures of its teeming followers, the crowd that is always waiting outside the gates of the Human Rights Radio station is proof of their established audience.

“One who has nobody has God, and one who has God has everything” is a reference to the program’s resolve to fight for the rights of the common man. The show puts its callers in touch with government departments.

On several occasions, it has published the names of public officials, as well as the phone numbers of government functionaries and asked its audience to bombard them with calls whenever there is a need for a response.

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has equally suspended the license of Human Rights Radio over recurring unprofessional conduct of Ahmad Isah, the owner of the radio station. This is a lesson to every public personality of the need to exercise self-restraint.

Categories: Features, Politics

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