How do we create a culture that rejects every appearance of violence via the media, our politics, and across religious and traditional institutions? One in which people who harm others are swiftly tried and punished, where justice is not just done, but seen to be done? How do we create a culture in which our institutions and political leaders are held accountable…


A few nights ago, I watched in horror as a woman, the mother of two young children, wailed on national television. Her husband, a Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) officer, Ochigbo Ogah, had been brutally murdered by policemen for violating traffic rules in Abuja, the nation’s capital. According to her story and its corroboration by onlookers, the man had been beaten with a baton repeatedly, and then dragged on the ground for about a kilometre to the police station, where he died.

All of this violence was enacted in front of Ogah’s children. Two young children on their way to school watched their father gruesomely beaten to death. For a traffic violation. Just like that. They had probably had breakfast in their house that morning, more realistically rushed down cups of tea and headed out to beat the traffic that flows out of the suburbs and into the city centre on workdays. The children were headed to school, the parents were off to work, and I imagine the daily admonition of “Be good children, listen to your teachers, finish your food” had been echoed and promises around exceptional behaviour had been made.

“See you later” for that family was thwarted by two police officers, however, who were so incensed with whatever traffic violation this father had committed that they beat him to death. The destiny of that family was rewritten that morning because two people with a little ‘power’ were angry. Just like that.

Nigeria has cultivated a reputation for being a violence-laden, violence-spewing country. Our drug cartels pit us against those of Mexico and Colombia, our oil conflicts mirror Iraq’s, and we’ve been compared to Afghanistan, Syria, and Mali, no thanks to the activities of insurgents and herdsmen in the North-East. This excludes the random agents of violence perpetually triggered and the violence that gets activated at the same time, as the default reaction to situations they do not like.

Take this election season for instance; a joint report from SBM Intelligence and Gatefield states that between November 16, 2018 and March 10, 2019, more than 565 people lost their lives from causes ranging from political violence; the attacks of marauding herdsmen on communities, which were worsened by the political season; assassinations of political actors, etc. Shamefully, a lot of the election violence – from Kwara, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, to the supplementary poll in Kano, was state sanctioned at worst, and permitted at best.

My heart breaks for the children who are now fatherless, and for the wife who is now a widow. It is one death too many. How does Nigeria tell Ochigbo Ogah’s two boys that we’re sorry about their daddy, and his death marks a turning point in the way the country treats its citizens, and the way citizens treat each other?


The report does not include road killings, wanton murders (including that of a young woman who was tracked to her hotel room and murdered), inter-security agency fatalities, domestic violence, etc. It also doesn’t include victims of armed robbers, kidnappers, cultists, insurgents, and Boko Haram. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that triple or quadruple the number of Nigerians quoted by SBM Intelligence actually lost their lives within that six-month period.

Little wonder that IFRANigeria published a paper debunking 10 myths about violence in Nigeria, especially around its causative factors, because there’s more to be said about our everyday violent tendencies and expressions than can be pinned on the yuletide or political seasons.

It’s in the impatience as we drive, the normalcy of the speed to strip offenders of their clothes and dignity, the intolerance of opinions we do not agree with, the typecasts we create and perpetuate about citizens from different ethnic groups or religions than ours, the bigotry of our thought, and the injustice in our judgements. These seemingly offhand activities contribute to the perpetuity and intensity of violence that express as mob actions, arson, all the way to murder.

From Bosnia to Rwanda, Haiti to Sudan, and other countries, we’ve seen that fatalities were first conceived in the mind and propagated in speech, way before they were brought to life, as the horrors some experienced and others read about. Why do we think we are exempt?

Chris Hedges said, “violence is a disease, a disease that corrupts all who use it regardless of the cause.” This disease has become our default response to everything; and it is destroying us. Nigeria is crumbling, brick by brick, under the weight of violence that is not being accorded the urgency of address that it deserves. The data to show the enormity of the problem is either unavailable, poorly documented, and/or insufficient to force a coordinated response that curbs repeat incidents, gives justice to victims, and caters to the roots of the various drivers.

Is education, “the vaccine for violence” according to Edward James Oimos, our salvation? How do we encourage a commitment to peace beyond rhetoric and stakeholder meetings that produce per diems and fancy stationery, but little else?


For instance, what are the cultural and social norms that shape our behaviour and encourage violence as a response? How do we undo them? Do we go the route of national re-orientation, enlisting religious and traditional leaders as allies? Do we need to go all the way back to child rearing? Sweden in the 70s enacted legislation that abolished the physical punishment of children to establish a new culture that physical retribution was reprehensible, and disabuse the minds of its citizens that corporal punishment was an option. Amongst other glowing indices, Sweden ranks highly on the quality of life and safety.

Do we start there? Is education, “the vaccine for violence” according to Edward James Oimos, our salvation? How do we encourage a commitment to peace beyond rhetoric and stakeholder meetings that produce per diems and fancy stationery, but little else?

How do we create a culture that rejects every appearance of violence via the media, our politics, and across religious and traditional institutions? One in which people who harm others are swiftly tried and punished, where justice is not just done, but seen to be done? How do we create a culture in which our institutions and political leaders are held accountable, not just for their actions/inactions but the things they say? The state must halt consistent violence against its citizens, and model good behaviour if we are going to reverse the desensitisation that currently holds sway.

My heart breaks for the children who are now fatherless, and for the wife who is now a widow. It is one death too many. How does Nigeria tell Ochigbo Ogah’s two boys that we’re sorry about their daddy, and his death marks a turning point in the way the country treats its citizens, and the way citizens treat each other?

Chioma Agwuegbo, a communication strategist, is founder of TechHerNG, a community of learning, support, and collaboration for women in technology.