It was yet another tale of the kind of abysmal atrocities perpetrated by teenage Nigerians when, penultimate week, the Adamawa State Police Command arrested an 18-year-old man, Volamu Kalbes, for the murder, by drowning, of a 36-year-old nursing mother, Talatu Usman, and her one year old child in Sabon Layi village of Lamurde Local Government Area of the state, following a complaint by the victim’s husband, Alhaji Usman Abdul. Police investigations revealed that the suspect had attacked the deceased by the riverside in an attempt to rape her when she had gone to take her bath alongside her child.
The resistance put up to the rape attempt by Usman apparently infuriated the suspect who, overpowering her, pressed her down into the water until she died. He followed this up with the no less heartless act of also forcing the child, who was crying uncontrollably, under the water till he also died. This incident, which occurred in rural Adamawa, would on the face of it appear to have been motivated by the desperate urge by the teenager to satisfy what can only be described as his insane lust.
But it is not an isolated mindless act. Rather, reports of the most dastardly crimes by teenagers in both rural and urban areas across Nigeria have inundated the media in recent times.
For instance, on March 5, Kano State Police Command was reported to have arrested an 18-year-old boy, Abdullahi Suleiman, along with a 17-year-old accomplice, Muazzam Lawan, for the alleged murder of a housewife, Rukayya Jamily, aged 21 years. A no less gory crime was committed on January 29, 2022, when three teenage boys were caught in the Oke Aregba area of Abeokuta, Ogun State, burning the head of the girlfriend of one of them, Rofiat, in a pot. And on April 14, operatives of the Amotekun security outfit in Ondo State apprehended three juveniles, Timilehin Femi (12), Ojo Sunday (16) and Odeyemi Ayodele (20) who allegedly specialised in armed robbery, at Ijare in Ifedore Local Government Area of the state. Interestingly, the three boys had adopted as nicknames, names of notorious armed robbers of the past, Anini, Oyenusi and Osunbor, who were obviously their heroes.
All these signpost a colossal collapse of societal values. But then, are these teenagers not a product of the society whose prevailing decadent moral values motivate and shape the character of the younger ones? Parental guidance and control have collapsed in most homes as parents have little time for the proper upbringing of their children, as they are also mostly absorbed not just in the legitimate quest to earn a living but also the rat race for quick enrichment, irrespective of the means. Some parents have been known, for instance, to aid their children in engaging in examination malpractices while others traffic their daughters into prostitution for money.
There appears to be little hope for salvation from religious leaders and institutions, the supposed moral and spiritual exemplars of society. Here, dubious and criminal elements are routinely canonised once they are wealthy and the prosperity gospel in Pentecostal circles epitomises the glorification of materialism. Popular culture, particularly music, film, television and even literature celebrate hedonism, an anarchic lifestyle and mindless pursuit of money.
Neither does political leadership offer much redemptive hope, as the massive corruption by political office holders and the excessive monetisation of political processes such as party primaries and general elections show. But this is also a fundamental cause of the high rate of poverty in society, which in turn feeds the pervasive materialism. Yet, the situation is fast assuming the proportion of an epidemic and can only be left unaddressed to our collective peril.
There is the urgent imperative to overhaul our societal values and redirect the energies, abilities, dreams and aspirations, especially of our youth. How to most effectively achieve this ought to be the focus of an intense, exhaustive and sincere national dialogue involving all stakeholders.