By Olusesi Isaac
The punishment is purgative. The government of the State of Osun, Nigeria, will not give sanctuary to the belligerent students in the public schools whatever is the motive for unruly behaviour. But the recent state punitive measures meted on the morally sick Ile-Ife High School students cannot go for anything far reaching. The recalcitrant dismissed students might want to strike back, perhaps by launching commando raids on Osun schools, or mount assaults on public utilities to communicate profound vengeance.
Punishment, why? The Ife delinquents in the school uniform ignited a violent outbreak of disorder in the public domain, harassed and harmed persons and damaged property. It is a crime capable of setting contra-forces in motion.
The mutinous students stormed the Osun Radio in Ile-Ife, held the staffs, gate guards and visitors hostage, hours unending; and illegally seized the serenity of the radio house by force. They inflicted harm on the crew aboard in the transmission room and threatened to cause air-piracy. They vandalized dozens of vehicles in sight, and created a violently charged climate of terrorism to topple the government status quo on a matter that concerned the riotous students.
Their kind of terrorism is the weapon of the weakest. The lawless Ife students from four(4) High Schools in the metropolis had spontaneously come together, with a degree of pseudo-cohesion baked in a common mood. But the group, not defined by rules and procedures was villainous in conduct. And they agreed to commit the lawless act, or had thought, they could accomplish a lawful end by unlawful means.
The students, oriented to some unambiguous enemy symbols, set for Osun Radio, the choice that ironically violated the public sense of security and also paradoxically gave the Ife mutineers publicity of hate and condemnation from across the global village. Not publicity that could induce the Osun government towards their cause.
The conduct of the students at the state radio house ranged from shouting obscenities to assault and vandalism that created an overwhelming fear, and sabotage to slow or halt the Rauf Aregbesola governance and administration of Osun, like an insurgent scene from the French railway riot of 1910 when workers destroyed sabots, the wooden shoes that held the rail in place.
The orgy of violence infiltrated the surroundings of the radio house, some sections of metropolitan Ile-Ife. But the attitude of the people in the vicinity to the brutish attack on the radio house was not that of indignation and hostility to the Ife mob, the common enemies of the state. The people did not act into any heroic accomplishment; they only released accumulated tension by motions, dancing, singing, and other symbolic gestures of mere emotions.
The Ife people in the communities surrounding the radio house were only in collective frenzy. Their goal was collaborative and obsessive. The people were merely expressive crowds that also failed to identify the apparent danger towards which to act. They brooked delay and dissent, perhaps from fear as collective behaviour at the news of the invasion of the Osun Radio. The criminal attack made the individuals exhibit intense panic and they fled from danger. But that could not have been the only conceivable course of action.
The Principals of the rebellious Ife schools ought to come under closer scrutiny. The conduct of the students at the radio house promptly reflected the manifests of the schools under the nose of the principals. Meaning that, the principals had unsuspectingly lost touch with value clarification, moral development, value analysis, and value inculcation a long time ago such that the attack on the state radio is just the effect of the endorsement of value deficiency, somehow by the principals who ought to always help their students learn to become responsible citizens.
The hostile students from Ife schools lacked the ability to input moral questions into their mob conduct in progress, and their principals deliberately ignored the aura of their students’ treasonable attack in its embryo that must have enveloped their schools. Neither did the principals deploy the tools of social investigation and techniques of logic into the matter for the riot.
The dismissal of the Ife villains from Osun schools by the state government is very much in order, but the dismissal should be one stanza of the penalty. The students had wanted to overrun the government by their stormy attack on the transmission room of Osun Radio to adulterate programmes on air.
The students, also as vandals ought to be sanctioned further. As though by law, students may assemble to exchange ideas or protest and demand reforms, no such right is claimed as absolute. The right of one to swing one’s hand stops at the other person’s nose. When dissent changes to disruption of public order and accompanied by violence that injures others and causes physical damage to persons and personal/public property, it is a crime, as it were at the radio house, Ile-Ife.
The conduct of the students is more a deliberately calculated crime that should be more punished by the state statutes that affix penalties and mode of treatment applicable to crimes to make the student-criminals give retribution for harm done and expiate their moral guilt. Even the civil disobedience groups considered as most privileged protesters accept willingly punishment for violating public order.
The students should not be excused on accounts of ignorance of the facts of their conduct. One, their teen ages could not be asserted in defence of the criminal charges in such a matter. Two, the conduct of the students at the radio house is actus rea, a voluntary omission, accompanied by mense rea, a guilt state of mind as their conduct is reckless. Three, the students could not be said to be fatigued, symptomatic of irritability, upset, and inhibition to rationalize.
Four, the students were not drunk when the offence was committed as that could even aggravate their culpability; and they did not display any discernible mental disorder as to deprive them of substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of their conduct.
Five, the conduct is obviously dangerous and immoral, a menace requiring police apprehension and prosecution of the lawless students, at least to put them away from the society for a period of time so that they can no longer attack public property. Incarcerating them for, say three (3) months in the least will deprive them of their freedom as a way of making them pay a debt to the society they had tortured by their conduct at the radio house.
Six, the incapacitation and retribution will deter them from future crime. And the society and public property will be protected from dangerous elements. And seven the correctional centres that hold offenders under the age of 18 will keep the Ife High School students from further contact with bad influence and will offer them counselling education, behavior re-training, skills in art works, and recreation activities to boost their health.
Criminal damage to the public and private property is punishable by fine or imprisonment. Describing the attack by the rascally Ife student on the radio house as a war by proxy would not be an over-statement. The aggressive students as mercenaries, carried out the invasion of such gravity in the inviolable premises of the Osun Radio, a neutral territory, out of bound to the belligerents and they were substantially motivated and paid, or so, it seemed.
The students had mentors and spies. The spy had acted in disguise in the zone of the invasion, obtained information and passed same to the student-rebels. While the spy provided the protesters a false sense of self-consciousness, their mentors gave them a pseudo-sense of power and conviction. But the protesters could not even earn the ‘prisoner-of-war’ status; they should be treated as a traue-tireur, unprivileged belligerents to be severely punished.
The spy from within the radio house, and mentors, within their schools and outside should be prosecuted and fined or be put away in prison for some time. The student-protesters are the coauter, the authors, ones who committed the act ‘’with their own hands,’’ the principals in the first degree; while the spy, though expectedly might not be present when the attack on the radio house occurred, is the principal in the second degree, the complicite par aide et assistsnce.
The mentor, in the context is ‘the accessory before the fact.’ And the parents of the student-protesters are ‘’the accessory after the fact’’ in the fourth and last degree of participation in the crime. Any of the parents who might refuse to pay for the damage should be prosecuted and fined for obstructing justice or as a warning to potential saboteur.
The conduct of the students is not just a misdemenour, a less severe deed like drunkenness, vagrancy, non-forced sex offences, gambling and drug addiction punishable by fines only. Not conventional crimes comprising robbery, burglary and similar offences. Rather, it is a political crime in the class of treason, mutiny, sedition, espionage, sedition, sabotage and various protests defined as criminal.
What was left of the naughty, nasty, haughty Ife students to do in the Osun Radio transmission room was to announce by force the sack of the government of Osun and secession of Ile-Ife from Osun. It is a mutiny, a revolt against constituted authority. It implies a conspiracy, an offence held as insubordination. If the Ife High School rascals were to be soldiers in a military government, then they would have all been dead by now after martial trial.
Socio-psychologically, the Ife students’ conduct is antithetical to social rules and common understanding. The society prohibit the conduct, it is fearful and potentially harmful to its structure. Speaking on the matter, Ebenezer Deji Akinsola, a chartered account and chieftain of All Progressives Congress said, “The use of violence to achieve the most desirable goals is condemnable and punishable, to assure the security of individuals and the survival of Osun at all times.” And Onibokun Abimbola, Secretary General Nigeria Urban Forum noted, “Violence cannot be an alternative to peaceful resolution. Students must restrain themselves from destroying our common heritage as a means of settling scores.”
Nothing stopped the Nigeria Police from using tear gas that initiates eye pains, burn sensation in the nose and excessive flow of tears to incapacitate the Ife mob at the radio house. But such routine police action could have aggravated the riot.
I think the Osun Combined Security Team (OCST) should now be more sensitive to the growing pluralism in the state secondary schools to deter criminals and assure citizens and public utilities including schools of safety. The OCST should base their tactics on crime prevention in schools by conspicuous foot patrol, to compliment the security patrol vehicles provided by Osun government that move randomly and quickly in the city streets in the night.
Both the foot and vehicle patrols around High Schools in the state, with the OCST deploying their intimate knowledge of Osun communities and placing themselves at the hub of activities in Osun schools and environs will create feelings of OCST omnipresence to spot and intercept crimes in progress.
Although such preventive OCST patrols will elicit hostility from the likes of the Ife spies and mentors who worked for the Ife school rascals, the anti-crime potentials of such patrols are so great.
There must be systemic searches on staff and visitors to sensitive public places like the state radio house. The use of magnetometer, an electronic device to detect metal object; the low –pulse x-ray machines to search carry-on baggies and other belongings; and stationing personnel of the OCST at search points to the state media houses and other vital public properties will beef up security for our commonwealth.
The look of the Ife rebels, now dismissed from Osun schools is the look of children who live in crowded, run-down buildings in socially isolated areas, and walk to schools with undone home-works and unprepared for classes for the day. Such children have a set of values that only reflects the poverty of reasonability, sensibility, responsibility, sensitivity and sanity that betrays Osun government efforts on education.
The efforts, so crucial to national identity and survival, include vital issues such as providing equal education opportunity to the disadvantaged Osun children of the slum or low-income families who daily exhibit frustration and hopelessness.
Osun education is antiseptically administered to remove obstacles to achieving egalitarianism in the state school system that assures democratic governance in the state.
Osun education is a fundamental tool.
OLUSESI is Assistant Director, Directorate of Publicity, Research & Strategy All Progressives Congress (APC), State of Osun.
By Olusesi Isaac