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Saved from instant injustice

Captain Mahama Captain Maxwell Mahama, murndered by residents of Denkyira-Obuasi

Sat, 3 Jun 2017 Source: Isaac Kyei Andoh

On one Saturday in the year 2008, I went out to have fun like I always did on Saturdays at the time.

Unfortunately, it was one of those days you will feel the vibes outside a club, pay gate fee, enter and find about 15 boys 5 girls in there. It was boring to hell so I left for other places and the result was same.

Around 3 am, tired and disappointed, I decided to go home because it didn't look like it was going to be my night.

Due to paying two gate fees despite budgeting for one, I had just enough money to pick trotro home

I picked a trotro heading to Lapaz in front of Vienna City and sat by a woman who appeared to be in her early fifties. Few minutes after joining the trotro, I slept off. The woman had to alert me to pay my fare and did same for me to take my change. When we got to Lapaz, she was the one who drew my attention.

I crossed the now N 1 road which used to be N1/2 at time and so I didn't struggle to cross it despite dosing half way through

Right in front of Las Pamas Restaurant, I was confronted by 3 guys who accused me of being part of a group of guys who attacked a guy and his girlfriend and jolted with their belongings a couple of hours ago. They tried searching my pocket for something but found nothing except for a 2 Cedi note and some coins. I didn't go out with my phone that day (The very first time I went out without my phone) and had very little money on me

I was very expensively dressed so they presumed I had some valuables on me. I suspect that was their trick to take my stuffs from me. When it backfired, they start pushing and shoving me and got more vocal with their accusation. I got a couple of slaps. One of the guys stained my top with blood to support their claim that I was indeed one of the boys who fought the guy and his lady, injured them and stole their belongings. Apparently, that accident had taken place that day.

At this stage, I was being pushed all over the place and people were taking interest in the issue. It dragged on to the taxi station.

The drivers took interest and listened to the story of the guys. They didn't believe my side of the story.

Trust me, you run out of words to defend yourself when you find yourself in these situations.

For some strange reason, aside the two slaps, No one hit me with any external object: it was just shoving and what have you.

One reason I suspect that made people a bit careful to touch me was how well I was dressed with the only dent being the blood in my Gorilla Unit T'Shirt which looked a bit unreal with a careful look.

The drivers who showed level headedness gave up on me after more people corroborated the accusation against me. The next thing was for the beating to start.

My heart missed a beat when one driver asked for petrol. This is because a couple of weeks prior, a young guy was burnt to ashes for stealing a mobile phone in the area and stabbing a school boy who exposed him in broad day light.

Honestly, I was in a hurry to wake up from the dream but it was real and I was on the verge of death.

From one of the taxis, I heard a woman shouting on top of her voice and it was the woman I sat by in the trotro, she came out to hug me and asked about the incident and inquired why I has blood in my top

The drivers told her what has been alleged.

She told them how she met me and the fact that it couldn't have been me because there was no blood on my attire when we sat in the trotro about 20 minutes prior

After her testimony, the drivers stepped in and vowed that they wouldn't let anyone touch me.

It became a struggle between the drivers and the guys. To be honest, I was smuggled away from the fracas that ensued in one of the taxis.

I'd have kept it to myself but the news got to the people I lived with because I couldn't pay for the dropping so the driver had to come home later in the day for the money. Before I could say jack, he had narrated everything to them

On that day, even though I had never laid a figure on a thief prior, I vowed never to even insult an alleged thief let alone touch him because when you are falsely accused in that manner, you don't find the right words to defend yourself

So many innocent people have been killed through instant justice.

In my case, I believe the hand of the people who accused me and those who believed them were held by the Lord. I had so much time that is unreal at Lapaz. Just when they were convinced to strike, the woman intervened

That woman to me was God sent. I have no idea what would have happened. I only knew at the time that people rarely survived on suspicion of robbery at Lapaz during that time.

To make it worse, in my mind, I was going to hell.

When your life comes under threats, you can think of things that can fill a 200 paged book in a second.

It is impossible to defend yourself when you are caught up in the midst of mob action. Even if you are given the chance to speak, you can't put the right words together.

You have yourself surrounded by more than ten people calling for your blood who have taken an entrenched position that anything you say is a lie.

Lapaz is to an extent the Capital Town of people who live around Tabora and it’s environs. The daily lives and movement of people revolve around it and therefore impossible to live at Tabora and avoid Lapaz

Lapaz became my scarecrow for sometime

It was a momentary experience of hell for me and imagining what Captain Mahama went through breaks me.

No human has the right to take the life of another person.

In the case of our late brother Maxwell Mahama though, it doesn't look like mob action against a suspected robber to me (to me). It looks organised (to me)

Watching the detailed video on his murder, I must admit that even though I have seen a number of mob actions against suspected thieves and have escaped one, none comes close to this one by way of brutality.

I have never seen a mob so eager to finish a 'suspected robber' like this one.

In most genuine cases of instant justice against suspected robbers, they beat the suspect to a point, ask him questions before proceeding to kill him or hand him over to the police

Strangely, of all the people around during the incident, no one was reasonable enough to ask questions like: What was he trying to rob, whose house and with whom did he embark on the operation?

More so when it was in broad day light, ordinary mob would have sought for clarification

This is the first mob against a suspected robber that weren't eager to listen to a word from the suspect

From the word go, their only intention was to kill him and nothing more.

This is why I suspect that there's more to his death than just a mere incident of instant justice against a suspect armed robber. Who kills an armed robber without at least finding out where he's from? This is common with instant justice.

Even when he made effort to speak, the people attacking him didn't want him heard.

The effort to silence him and the eagerness to kill him so quickly speaks volume.

That said, this is where we are now.

This is the result of our collective silence over this treacherous act that has become a norm in this country

There are so many areas in Accra where suspected thieves never go scot free. Even in the East Legon and Cantonments where we think are largely made up of educated and refined people, suspected thieves don't get to the police station without being beaten to pulp.

Go to Universities in this country and find out how suspected thieves are dealt with and it will become clear that the people of Denkyira are at best the worse form of our bad self or perhaps a perfect picture of 21st century Ghana.

Most people are angry because it has been clearly proven that our brother Mahama was on duty to serve the nation. We would have treated it with contempt if our brother was an ordinary person and unknown to people who could prove his innocence.

As long as we deem it okay for thieves to be killed, innocent people won’t be free. Instant justice is equally the reason why many armed robbers kill the people they rob in this country.

No one is safe if this continues.

In instant justice, those who beat the suspect, those who stand by without intervening and those who walk past it as one of those things are equally guilty. In short, most of us, including myself have had a hand in one instant justice at least on one occasion directly or indirectly.

The people arrested in association with our brother should be dealt with ruthlessly within the space of the law and their fate must be made known to the public to send a strong message against this anomaly.

Sadly, after the Denkyira Obuasi issue, a man has been killed in the Central Region for stealing a goat, a 67 year old woman has been stoned to death for allegedly being a witch in the Northern Region and two lynched to death in Kumasi for stealing mobile phone.

‘People’ won’t change until the whip is cracked and a strong stance is taken against instant justice regardless of the profile of the victim

Captain Mahama should go down in history as the sacrificial lamb whose death made instant justice unattractive in this country. He shouldn’t die in vain because the man is a good person

Any other military man with a gun would have at least killed one person. His gun was returned with bullets in it after the few warning shots yielded no result. He is our hero and must be remembered as such by posterity with attitudinal change.

Instant justice is rushed injustice: it is never a better option to the slow wheel of proper justice.

Columnist: Isaac Kyei Andoh