If you have some time today, please read up on ‘The Central Park 5’ or watch Ava DuVernay’s new film ‘When They See Us’.
Stayed up all night reading about the incidents in 1989 that changed five innocent boys’ (aged 14 to 16 at the time) lives forever. It’s the kind of tragedy you won’t wish on your worst enemy.
Stories like this highlight systemic failures and put pressure on authorities to do things right. I worry that in my country, Nigeria, there are cases like this, too numerous to count, that no one is talking about. Too many people suffering for nothing, damaged, living ruined lives, with no hopes for any intervention.
A Wyclef song brought Ahmadou Diallo to global attention in 2003 four years after four officers shot him 41 times (they were charged for second-degree murder but, you guessed right, acquitted at trial). The authorities would love to forget. But the people – advocates, activists, artists – made sure Diallo is engraved on our collective conscience forever
Who’s going to force Adewura Bello down our throats in such a way that the government will be forced to make sure it never happens again? How about Fatai Odeniyi, the Lagos worker who died in 2012, after falling off a moving lift on the eighth floor of the 12-storey building of WAEC? How about the many innocent, helpless boys that end up in Kirikiri for crimes they didn’t commit and no one to bail them? And the many girls for whom police harassment has become a way of life?
Look around you. These stories are there. Why’s no one telling them?
I don’t think it’s in the nature of governments to always do the right thing. But when they destroy the people they should protect, as in the case of the Central Park 5; and as is daily happening in Nigeria, then we, the storytellers must use everything we have to make sure that these stories are told in the best ways possible. We owe it to the victims. We owe it to society. Of course, it’ll make the government uncomfortable and it’ll never really be convenient. But, as Teju Cole said in his Harvard commencement speech just this week, ‘the destination is freedom. What can you do to free others?