Conviction of Derek Chauvin: Lessons for Society

Nigeria’s former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has said Nigeria and other countries of the world could learn some useful lessons from George Floyd murder trial. Jonathan who said this in a statement titled ‘May The Verdict in The George Floyd Trial Be The Healing Balm The World Needs’, urged world leaders “to be inspired by this verdict to take steps to ensure that policing is done with a human face”. His words:

“I received the verdict in the George Floyd murder trial with a sense of relief. The relief is that a family and a community, and indeed the whole world, can now have a sense of closure that allows for healing.

“The guilty verdict entered against Derek Chauvin may not bring George Floyd back to life. However, it does achieve something: a victory for the cause to make every life matter before the law and officers of the law.”

The former president added that “Nations around the world must see this as a turning point. Every country ought to be inspired by this verdict to take steps to ensure that policing is done with a human face.

“Law and order can coexist with respect for the dignity of human life. And to engender this, we must ensure that those who enforce the law must respect those for whom the law was made.

The world witnessed live on 25 May 2021, the gruesome murder of a black American by a white police officer. No thanks to technology that captured live the event of that fateful day and in broad daylight! The temerity with which Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Flyod for more than nine minutes, with both hands in his pocket, while he took the life of another man who kept saying “I can’t breathe” sheds light on human conscience in our world.

Chauvin was found guilty on three count charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. His bail was immediately revoked and, he has since been placed in custody.

BBC reports that although Chauvin is expected to appeal against the verdict, sentencing is likely to happen in two months, which could see the police officer spend the rest of his life in jail.

In Minnesota, second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Third-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Second-degree manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

While justice has taken its due course following the conviction of Chauvin for the knee slaughter of George Floyd, blacks across the world have joined their brothers in America to commemorate the historic judgment. As much as it is a time to celebrate, it is a moment to genuflect.

It is really a sad testimony that in spite of the years, racism has continued to domicile all aspects of the global world from sports to the smallest details of everyday life. But far from the issue of racism, the killing of George Floyd was a clear case of murder. It was a man taking the life of another man without recourse to his plea that was taken for whining.

The keynote however is that we often use man-made categories like race, tribe, and religion to colour situations. It is convenient to say a black man was murdered by a white man but the reality is that it was carried out by a man on a fellow man. The moment one begins to see this, one discovers where the problem lies.

Racism is one part of a bigger problem. The word racism is deceptive as it may be seen as something that accrues to the whites alone. The truth is that racism is a global phenomenon, and applies to every human being. The umbrella term however would be the word, discrimination.

While one cannot remove racism from the George Floyd case, doing so will help us see and appreciate other discriminatory issues it raises such as ethnic bigotry, xenophobia, intolerance, as well as man’s inhumanity to man, among others.

In the case of Nigeria, one is tempted to ask, how many lives have been lost as a result of ethnic and religious clashes. Even so, how many people have been denied opportunities because they were from another tribe? How many Nigerians have lost their hard-earned money to fellow Nigerians?

For instance, the issue of human trafficking, an aspect of man’s inhumanity to man which George Floyd’s case sheds light on, is still prevalent in today’s world. A recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) jointly with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) shows that children represent more than 75% of trafficked victims detected in West Africa.

According to NAPTIP Director-General, Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, “Trafficking in persons is one of the most lucrative criminal markets globally. Nigeria is an origin, transit and destination country and is affected by both domestic and cross-border trafficking.”

The reports also noted that in spite of an increasing number of Sub-Saharan Africa countries introducing a specific offence against trafficking in persons in line with the United Nations definition (38 in 2020 compared to 2 in 2003), the conviction rate in the region remains lower than in other parts of the world.

More so, Africa remains one of the poorest continents in the world. The major bane has been corrupt officials who keep amassing wealth for themselves and their future generations to the detriment of the masses.

Another case study is some of the atrocities tied to the defunct Special Anti Robbery Squad, before the national protest that led the Federal Government to disband the unit. One particular case that stands out was that of Ifeoma Abugu who was arrested and whisked away from her fiance’s apartment at Wumba village, Lokogoma, Abuja, on 10 September 2020, by SARS personnel, only to be reported dead the following day. Reports had it that she was sexually assaulted before her death by personnel of the defunct unit who attempted to frame her up with allegations that they found cocaine with her. As sad as it is, the story is the same with different characters.

Conversely, a few days ago a video of a man assaulting two armed police officers took the internet by storm. It was a shameless show as the officers were treated with disdain and impunity by the two erring miscreants. The less than three-minute footage showed the driver assaulting two armed police officers. The driver was seen pushing one of the police officers at the scene, while attempting to shove him on the ground.

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In the same video, another man who had accompanied the driver inside the car was heard shouting that they were stopped because they passed one-way traffic, asking if the offence was enough for the police officers to stop their car.

Despite the efforts of passers-by to restrain the driver from assaulting the policeman, he kept pushing one of the police officers by his chest. Surprisingly, the said police officer who was holding a rifle didn’t react. As observers noted, the level of professionalism exhibited by the two police officers captured in the video in handling the situation is not something common with police officers in the country.

Although the assaulted officers have received national commendation and even a “governorship handshake” from Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, there are countless other people who have been humiliated, betrayed, and even killed by their fellow nationals, tribesmen, and religious bigots. So when one rushes to talk about racism and white’s inhumanity to blacks, it is imperative to remember that discrimination is a global phenomenon and we have a duty to expunge it.

The George Floyd case, far from the issue of race, is a lesson for every human being. It is a lesson never to fail in the ideals of love, understanding, tolerance, inclusiveness, and oneness, among others. As it is often said, charity begins at home. We have a duty to set the pace, but we can only begin from our environment.