Beyond Hanifa's Horrific Killing, Saidu Ibrahim Emirokpa

This essay was initially titled Beyond the Telephone Conversation but was retitled in memory of Hanifa's brutal murder. On Thursday last week several different videos went viral online, with each depicting two unperturbed suspects captured by the operatives of Kano State Department of State Service, after some weeks of seemingly fruitless search. The videos which sparked off an outrage surfaced after the tragic incident of Sylvester Omoroni, a twelve-year old student of Dowen College in Lagos, who was bullied and tortured to death by his fellow students in December last year, for refusing to join their cult activities.

Still grappling with these intermittent horrors, the nation was thronged yet again into what seems the most horrific killing in recent memories, incomparable with what Shekau's men and other bloodspilling groups have unleashed on innocent Nigerians. The videos depict unperturbed confessions of the gruesome murder of Hanifa Abubakar, a five-year old pupil of Noble Kids Academy in Kano, one of the most religious cities in Africa. One can hardly imagine what's "noble" in this private school whose proprietor cruelly snuffed out the life of an innocent child in quest of knowledge. As admitted by the prime suspect, Hanifa was abducted en route Islamiyya school in Kano metropolis, like Omoroni, late December last year.

At every kidnap incident in Nigeria, whether the victims were ruthlessly killed or rescued through cutthroat ransoms, our memories narrowly cast back at a gang of terror bandits hidden somewhere in Sambisa or Zamfara forests. But that may be a gross misrepresentation of the current reality, one that must be quickly dismissed as too pedestrian for a behemothian nation that glorifies people with questionable characters. Recent incidences and evidences have proven that our enemies aren't far from us, and Hanifa's gruesome murder is one of these long walks to redemption path.

Abdulmalik Mohammed Tanko, who poisoned little Hanifa, watched her die slowly and then gave her the most worthless burial by putting her in a shallow grave, happened to be her teacher and proprietor of Noble Kids Academy, the school Hanifa bandied about for her parents and contemporaries at home. This revelation alarmed even the prayer warriors in Kano and challenged protagonists of girl-child education in the north who, despite opposing propositions championed by antagonists of western education, ignore these temptations and enrol their female wards in schools.

One fact we must not dismiss in this path to anarchy is that this diabolical act wasn't a mistake nor was it the handiwork of the unfairly-maligned "shaytan" as often popularised by some dominant moral artistes in the north. Malam Tanko was driven purely by unrestrained greed, and that's the root of man's greatest undoings on earth, the inability to say no to our excesses and summon the mindset to neutralise our obsessions to worldly temptations. The northern region has had power for many years and yet remains the most educationally backward region that's become subject of scandalising scrutiny.

It's tragic that this horrific killing happened in a region that's in quest of psychological redemptions, fighting off nagging insecurity horrors and neutralising declared abhorrence to western education and the endless promotion of it. This is a region with millions of out-of-school children and rising spate of teenaged pregnancies and abject poverty. But this horrific act isn't the lame excuse of "financial crisis" or the hit of "economic meltdown" as Malam Tanko seemed to portray in that heart-rending media grilling. Like the videos of some cutthroats online who chant "Allahu' Akbar" while slitting the throats of innocent people, Tanko's was a confession where, without a pint of guilt, denounced the perceived "money ritual" notions and revealed the step-by-step tactics he deployed to end the life of a pupil to whom he served as a role model.

Expressing shock at the sight of Hanifa's dazzling images online, my six-year old daughter had asked, "daddy, they've killed this little girl?," a question that daddy couldn't answer, is enough to weep for myself and, of course, for any child raised under a terrible environment like ours. The sight of that gory scene, the exhuming of the almost a month old corpse from a shallow grave, with every vestige of the flesh gone from the bones, and the decayed images of that dazzling beauty is testimony that the nation is possessed by demons.

But Tanko isn't the only familiar monster in our midst, there are many of his ilk who ride on the threshold of "financial crisis" to commit atrocities but are yet to meet their Waterloo. Nigeria's enmeshed in a series of complicated tragedies that its next episode is unpredictable, this is the hard reality Tanko's barbarity has exposed. In saner climes Tanko would only spend few days to get appropriate justice but ours is a lame judicial system where justices are unnecessarily delayed and, more often than not, incredibly politicised. Which is why Tanko's crocodile tears and unapologetic "sorry" to the bereaved family may be the only poetic justice for his infanticidal crime.

My initial title as explained at the beginning of this piece wasn't a review of the creativity of that famous Nigerian writer and Africa's first Nobel Prize for Literature winner Professor Wole Soyinka. It was far more telephonic, and probably more creative, than an idolised collection of words strung together and handed down to a nation in quest of moral redemption. We've set a path to ruination and the vulnerable groups in the society have begun to draw inspirations from it. This could only explain the reason for what I witnessed some days ago.

I was walking around the neighbourhood and I overheard a telephone conversation between a group of children "learning" under the shade of a mango tree. "We go give you N1 million," begged the one with a toy handset held tightly to her ear. "No. Bring N10 million or wee kill them now," burst the one with a toy gun at the other end. Apparently he had held some children captives, and asking for a ransom. "Abeg, no kill them. We go pay." Amused, they all burst into laughter after the wonderful drama. If children, below the ages of 10, could come up with such an amazing work of art that depicts our horrible way of life then we've had a bigger challenge ahead, and that includes the fight of not sustaining the growth of that creativity but of the urgent need to completely destroy it.

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