Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nigeria should abolish death penalty, really?

What wouldn’t these oyibo people force down our throat? They keep asking us to do the absurd. They brought all manner of ideas alien to our culture and tradition to us. They form pressure groups in the name of non-governmental organisations to advocate for the good, the bad and the ugly. The white men brought Christianity to us. We largely accepted. Then, some of their folk told us to legalise abortion, legalise gay marriage, devalue our currency, sack our workers in the name of right-sizing, use condom, space child-bearing, embrace family planning, immunise our children against polio and other major killer diseases, hold elections according to their supposed “international best practices”, and so on and so forth. Their latest campaign is that we should abolish death penalty. Abomination!
Aren’t they familiar with our history, culture and tradition? From the time of our forebears, it is an established norm that whosoever kills another human being unjustly must lose his or her life in return. Remember, we have our own judicial system that predates the British legal and judicial system currently in use. Our monarchs and their council of chiefs and elders have been dispensing justice from the days of yore. It is a simple law of retributive justice that if you kill recklessly you too must die. How many times have we heard or seen armed robbers kill innocent commuters or residents during their nefarious operations? How many times have kidnappers killed their hostages after collecting ransom? What about the growing list of persons cut down in their prime by the assassins’ bullets?
Now, should any of these murderers be caught, why shouldn’t they be killed according to law? If we shouldn’t engage in jungle justice, then shouldn’t our judges sentence such killers to death by whatever means? What are our governors waiting for by not signing the death warrant of people on death rows? Should anyone have sympathy or mercy for 21-year-old Tolani Ajayi, for instance, who on July 3 this year murdered his father, Charles Ajayi, at their house at the Redemption Camp? Even the bible the white men brought to us via Christianity is very clear in Ezekiel 18 verse 20 that, “The soul who sins shall die.” Jesus Christ himself admonished in Matthew 26 verse 52 that, “For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Period! These used to be my thoughts, until recently when I started reading and listening to the advocacy of those who are against death penalty.
Last Friday, October 10 was the World Day against the Death Penalty. The brains behind the UN recognition of that day as such are a group known as the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, an alliance of NGOs, bar associations, local bodies and unions whose aim is to strengthen the international dimension of the fight against the death penalty. It was established in Rome on May 13, 2002 and has 158 member organisations as of August 2014.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon was at his persuasive best last Friday in a video message he issued from the UN Office in Geneva in commemoration of the International Day against Death Penalty. The UN scribe said the continuing application of the death penalty is a “cruel practice” that undermines human dignity. He urged member states to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights” and impose moratoriums on executions. The death penalty, Ki-Moon said, does not deter crimes more than any other punishment and its abolition or moratorium can contribute “to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights. The taking of life is too irreversible for one human being to inflict it on another. We must continue to argue strongly that the death penalty is unjust and incompatible with fundamental human rights.”
The same day, the Swiss President, Didier Burhalter, together with 11 foreign ministers from around the world called on Nigeria and other countries to remove death penalty from their statute books. According to the release published in Thisday of Saturday, October 11, “Forty years ago, only 14 countries had fully abolished capital punishment. That number now stands at about 100 and is set to increase further. If the number of countries that haven’t carried out executions for at least 10 years is added, there are now nearly 160 death penalty-free countries.”
There are several reasons that have been advanced by those canvassing against death penalty. According to Amnesty International, “The death penalty legitimises an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims. As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.”Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty said, “Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the United States in 1976, 138 innocent men and women have been released from death row, including some who came within minutes of execution.” Such is the story of Henry McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46, published in The PUNCH of September 3, 2014. The half-brothers were convicted in 1984 of raping and killing an 11-year-old girl in North Carolina, USA. However, recently analysed DNA evidence from the crime scene implicated another man, who is in prison for a similar crime. A county judge had ordered their immediate release. Shocking, isn’t it!
According to America magazine: The National Catholic Review, there are 10 reasons to oppose the death penalty. These include: No way to remedy the occasional mistakes; racial and economic discrimination in application of the death penalty; application of the death penalty tends to be arbitrary and capricious; for similar crimes, some are sentenced to death while others are not; the death penalty gives some of the worst offenders publicity that they do not deserve; the death penalty involves medical doctors, who are sworn to preserve life, in the act of killing; executions have a corrupting effect on the public; there are strong religious reasons for many to oppose the death penalty; and, even the guilty have a right to life.
In explaining the opposition to death penalty on religious ground, The Catholic Review said some find compelling the thought that Cain, the first murderer in the Bible, was not executed but was marked with a special sign and made a wanderer upon the face of the earth. (Genesis 4 verse 15). God was also quoted to have said in Ezekiel 18 verse 32 that, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” There was also the New Testament story about the adulterous woman who faced execution by stoning in John 8 verses 3 – 11 wherein Jesus said in verse 7 that: “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone”. Also, God was said to have handed down as one of the 10 commandments that, “‘Thou shalt not kill’ (Exodus 20 verse 13). Interesting debate, isn’t it? But, what’s your take? Should Nigeria join over 100 other countries of the world to abolish death penalty?
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