On the 15th September 2016, one year ago today, I wrote the following.
“You bathed in the blood of Biafrans, you crushed their bones and stripped away their dignity and self-respect just to keep Nigeria one.
Now you say their children have no right to ask for self-determination simply because you killed their fathers and mothers during the war and shattered their dreams.
Shame on you. If Nigeria was a normal country by now you would have been at the International Criminal Court (ICC) answering charges of genocide and crimes against humanity at the Hague instead of being President.
If you want the Igbo or any other southerner to stay and if you want Nigeria to remain one then treat us all as equals, offer our children and our people equal opportunities and a public apology and pay full compensation for all the atrocities that you, your people and your forefathers have committed against the people of the south and the northern minorities over the last two hundred years.
In addition to that you must defeat, destroy and dismantle Boko Haram, decommission your Fulani militias and herdsmen and put a stop to the marginalisation, threats, genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass murder of our people.
It is after you have done all these things that you can make an appeal to us for the continued unity of Nigeria.
Outside of that the Nigerian baby you are carrying and saying that you killed and died for during the civil war is already dead. It is only waiting to be buried”.
These words, written one year ago, remain relevant and true till today. What we are witnessing in the east in the name of Operation Python is barbaric and unacceptable. It ought to be condemned by every self-respecting person.
The behaviour of the military against a defenceless and unarmed civilian population in Abia state particularly is simply reprehensible.
What has Nnamdi Kanu or indeed the Igbo people done to warrant this primitive show of barbarism and force? We are on the brink of a total breakdown of law and order and a prolonged and bloody armed conflict.
I urge restraint on all sides and I call on President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the army from the east and leave Nnamdi Kanu alone.
Terrorising your own people with soldiers is not the act of a courageous man but rather the act of a tyrant, a coward and a bully.
We call on the international community to bear witness to what is unfolding in eastern Nigeria and we hold Buhari responsible and accountable for the premeditated and tragic loss of life.
The slaughter of innocent civilians by soldiers must stop. Yesterday it was the Shiite Muslims. Today it is the Igbo. Tomorrow it could be you.
Anyone that believes that a separatist movement or the quest for self-determination can be stopped by the force of arms alone has no knowledge of world history.
The more people you torture and kill, the more the agitation will blossom and grow. The shedding of innocent blood energises, spreads and fortifies the cause for which it was shed.
This is a spiritual principle with practical consequences. It is a deep and mystical truism. The blood of martyrs is never shed in vain.
It cries to God in heaven for vengeance and it haunts and torments those that shed it from generation to generation.
The following questions must be answered. Who is fanning embers of hate if not the Buhari administration? Who is killing and locking up innocent people if not them? Who hates Christians, Middle Belters and southerners if not them?
And nothing reflects the murderous and homicidal disposition of those in power today more than the words of President Buhari’s spokesman, Mr. Shehu Garba, who in response to Mrs. Oby Ezekwezile’s laudable though belated observation that Buhari is nothing but a tribal leader who has been unfair to the people of the east, said the following:
“there is a deliberate sinister agenda by IPOB to provoke the soldiers into killing innocent people in retaliation so that Nnamdi Kanu would use the pictures of the victims for international propaganda by accusing the government of ethnic cleansing against the Igbos with the sole purpose of gaining sympathy”.
The question is this: why should the Buhari government feel provoked to murder anyone simply because they say that they want a referendum to determine their own future and simply because they want their own country? Is Nigeria a giant prison that no-one must question or dare to break out of? Did the British Army slaughter the Scots when they asked for a referendum?
Did the Spanish army butcher the people of Catalan for asking for their own country? What is wrong with our President and our government? Why should we be saddled with a murderous regime who are shamelesss enough to admit that they are easily provoked to slaughtering their own citizens?
I do not think it is right or proper for innocent souls to be killed simply because they are exercising their right of free speech. No sane or civilised person should remain silent when such wickedness is unleashed on others.
When our soldiers force young men to bury their faces in pools of muddy water and drink it we know that we are dealing with animals and barbarians. When they shoot these young men in the back of the head and line up their bodies on the side of the road we know that this is not OUR army but rather Buhari’s army of occupation which seeks to dehumanise, humiliate, murder, subjugate and enslave our people.
I watched that horrific video and I cried for Nigeria. And after the tears came rage. Is this what our nation has been turned into in the last two years by this aling tyrant and his murderous security forces? What a shame and what a tragedy. If it had been your child that was subjected to such indignity and treated in this way how would you have felt?
There is only one side to this ugly story. Torture is torture. Murder is murder. Children are children. Blood is blood. And it is God’s will that we condemn evil and refuse to tolerate it.
Permit me to conclude this contribution with the following observatons about the abomination called the python dance from a handful of insightful and courageous commentators.
Adetilewa Adetomiwa wrote:
“You see young Igbo men standing in front of military tanks with stone, bottle and sticks. You are calling them stupid people because they are not afraid.
They are not stupid, you just don’t know what is going on.
When u see human standing firm in front of a greater power, it’s not stupidity, but a psychological state of mind that is very dangerous to any society.
It’s a state of mind that represent hopelessness and all or nothing attitude. It is the same state of mind that ensured there is no peace in Middle East today. It’s a fanatical state of mind than can’t be conquered by any amount of military operations.
As it is today, only dialogue can settle the war created by buhari in Igbo land. Else the rest of Nigeria will not have peace.
The earlier we prevent total breakdown of law and order with restructuring, the better”.
Again Chika Udenkwo wrote:
“A Country’s Unity is not determined by guns, sticks, wires, hate speech or restructuring. It is determined by a collective will of the people to forge a future that is beneficial to ALL”.
Again Aniefom Udoabasi wrote:
“Boko haram is deadly. They are armed to the teeth. They have killed military men in their hundreds. They have killed civilians in their tens of thousands. They have burned down houses and villages. They have burned down churches and mosques. They have threatened to blow up Nigeria. They even blew up the United Nations building in Abuja.
Yet northern elders/leaders, including Buhari, opposed any attempt by the military to invade any Northern community as a result of boko haram’s presence. Northern elders,again and again, asked the government to withdraw the army from Borno ,the headquarters of Boko Haram.
In fact, Buhari publicly said that it was wrong for the military to move against boko haram. He specifically said that any attack against boko haram should be viewed as an attack against the North as a whole. I’m not talking about a century or even a decade ago. I am talking about a few years ago.
Also Lai Mohammed, speaking for APC, Buhari’s party, said that it was wrong for the government to label boko haram as an unlawful organisation. This was immediately after the Nigerian government had declared boko haram an unlawful organization. APC said that declaring boko haram an unlawful organization in Nigeria is unconstitutional .
I also remember that when the United States government wanted to declare boko haram a terrorist organisation, the North vehemently opposed it. The Sultan of Sokoto led the opposition. He openly canvassed that the USA should not label boko haram a terrorist organisation.
Only CAN ,as led by Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor ,canvassed for the United States to pencil boko haram down as a terrorist organisation. I remember that when pastor Ayo traveled to the United States to lobby its government to declare boko haram a terrorist organisation, he was ridiculed by Northern leaders for daring to cause their boko haram to be called a terrorist organisation.
The point is this: if an organization as murderous and satanic like boko haram could have northern leaders and APC leaders, including Buhari, as open supporters, why should the unarmed and harmless civilians in the south East not be supported and protected? Why are southern leaders acting dumb? Why are south East governors behaving like house boys?
Nnamdi Kanu, hate him or love him, has not killed a single soul. You may be irritated by the conduct of some of his followers ,but the fact remains that they are not armed.
They have not burned communities, have not blown up mosques or churches. They are just a group armed with social media and a radio station.
And yet you say that the army should clamp down ,attack and kill them. Same you who said that boko haram should not be attacked because that would mean an attack against the North!
Same you who said that boko haram should not be declared an unlawful organization by the Nigerian government!
Same you who pleaded that boko haram should not be declared a terrorist organisation by the United States government! Shame on you!”
Finally Jude Ndukwe wrote:
“Boko Haram killed UNIMAID lecturers, NNPC Geologists, soldiers, students, market men and women recently; just last week, Fulani herdsmen killed about 30 people in Plateau State with their killing of farmers and raping of even old women causing demonstrations in Ondo State, you said nothing, there was no outrage from you. But your preoccupation is an IPOB that has never killed or kidnapped or taken up arms against anyone except that their only weapon is their usual massive PEACEFUL rallies which makes you convulse out of jealousy.
While you are busy clapping for the military for their misplaced priority in the so called “show of force” against Nnamdi Kanu, the herdsmen are busy killing your fathers and raping your mothers freely, unchallenged and unhindered over two years or more now.
Common sense should tell you to focus your energy on telling the military to leave the peaceful south east alone and focus on your real enemies”.
I could not have put it better than any of these distinguished and respected individuals and I commend them for their courage, foresight, compassion, humanity and sense of decency.
They have spoken the minds of millions.
Finally let me end with the words of two of the greatest writers and literary icons that have ever lived.
Professor Wole Soyina wrote , “the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny” whilst Franz Fanon wrote:
“The future will have no pity for those men who, possessing the exceptional privilege of being able to speak words of truth to their oppressors, have instead, taken refuge in an attitude of passivity, of mute indifference, and sometimes, of cold complicity. We are nothing on earth if we are not slaves to a cause, the cause of the people and the cause of justice, liberty and free ideas that are made available to all. Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”
The Nigerian people have much to learn from these famous words. May the souls of all those that were ruthlessly butchered and martyred by the army in Abia state rest in peace.
Femi Fani-Kayode is a former Minister of Aviation.