Killing of 150 Pro-Biafra activists
In a report widely published by the media on November 24, the Federal Government through the auspices of the military was reported to have killed a whopping 150 pro-Biafra activists. This report did not come to me as a shock. But what was shocking was the huge numbers. And in their characteristic mode of denial, the army has said the Amnesty International, which documented the incidences of the killings has a “heinous intent” of ridiculing the nation’s security forces as it has become characteristic of it to seek to tarnish the image of the army. But what the Nigerian State had wished to sweep under the carpet has resurfaced. And as usual, government and the army will not admit culpability, not even when human life is involved. All Nigerians were witnesses to the cold-blooded murders that followed the protesters’ blockade of the Niger Bridge.
It is rather baffling that the Nigerian State is dastardly in its handling of such internal political issues such as the Biafran case. To unleash maximum violence on political protesters is unconscionable of any government. Considering that the protest was an anniversary of the people’s history of their war experience, there was no way that could have led to an all-out war by the people. That history cannot be wiped out by the killing of another million, even though the State does not want the reminder. Internationally, that epoch in Nigeria’s political threshold is widely acknowledged. So, how much harm would come the way of the Federal Government if the people decide to mark it? How has the killings benefited the State on account of such protests? Did the protesters make any attempt at the seat of power? Is peaceful protest outlawed in democratic governance? I do not think that is the best way to retain power. That duty to maintain peace and order was not that of the army but the Police. So, the killings were in this wise premeditated by the Federal Government, knowing very well that the army has no such training in handling of civil protest. The police in that circumstance would have shown enormous restraint: they would have deployed cloned weapons such as rubber bullets, water, etc, which would not have led to loss of lives of protesters.
The Amnesty’s report was systematically generated. This report covered the period between August 2015 and August 2016, with 87 video evidences, as well as, 122 photographs and 146 witnesses. Every living Nigerian at the time witnessed the unbridled assault of the Federal Government in an attempt to turn the people of the East to cowards who cannot stand up for their rights in the Nigerian State. The deployment of blind terror by the government was accentuated by the increased activities of the IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who was then arrested and detained (of course he has been in detention till date). In Enugu, the DSS has severally taken over venues of events associated with Biafra, and stopped outright such events not minding that eminent Nigerians that were in attendance. The Federal Government’s calculation is to obliterate the idea from the minds of the people of East. The involvement of the army with a blind fury in an internal political protest, which is the democratic right of the people was a well-crafted reaction of the Federal Government to put an end to a penchant of the IPOB and MASSOB to stand up and ask for the rights of the people of the East. This crafting to deploy maximum force was done to perpetrate a heavy damage such that nobody or platform would ever rise again in the East to call for a protest against the Federal Government. And this came amidst the Federal Government’s calculation of the challenges facing it in the Niger Delta, where the Avengers were giving it headache even as it had not achieved its objective of bringing Boko Haram to extinction.
But quite perturbing is the silence of Eastern governors who are supposed to protect lives and property in their domain.
This silence has become second nature of Eastern governors. There is hardly an occasion involving the collective interest of Igbo in the Nigerian project where they would speak up to the Federal Government. Their disposition is that of the proverbial “being more Catholic than the pope”. They pretend to be more concerned about the unity of Nigeria even more than the Federal Government, and therefore would not brook any threat to that unity by any Igbo man or platform.
It is this scenario that has played out in the incidences of the onslaught of herdsmen against communities in the east. There is no governor in the East that can stand for the people like the Ekiti State governor. Not that they would be asked to pick up arms against herdsmen, but just to even come up with laws that will run counter to that of the Federal Government in the face of the bloodletting herdsmen. This is amidst the glaring nonchalance of the Federal Government to deploy equal violence against the herdsmen. The best we could get was a weeping governor of Enugu State whose community was sacked repeatedly. The story is just like this in all the states where the governors have proved to be grossly incompetent Chief Security Officers.
They will not support or speak out for the people because they want to remain in the good book of the Federal Government. They will not speak in favour of IPOB or MASSOB because they don’t want to be seen as supporting the dismemberment of federation. They will not speak out against the violence and cheating disposition of the Federal Government against a whole political bloc. They will go to the Federal Government and say that their people were being misled. They will reassure the Federal Government that there is nothing to worry about. They will even confer with the Federal Government on how to keep the people in perpetual servitude. That is why they will not make any statement about the report released by Amnesty International. They dare not because they already know the report is true and anything they say in the contrary will expose them.
This government must be held responsible because the killings were premeditated, rehearsed and executed in keeping with the philosophy of maximum violence for exemplary damage struck on the altar of Marchiavellian politics of statecraft. Unleashing the army in a civil protest shows the mindset of the government in the use of violence. These killings are indeed sad.
• Ifeanyi writes from Lagos
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