March 11, 2016

Will shooting unarmed Igbo protesters solve the problem?

THERE is a lot of trepidation in the nation since July 2015. Those who would normally speak up against wrong moves or decisions by government are more careful for many reasons; Some kept quiet because all it takes is for someone to craft a petition against any one perceived to be anti-government, to either the police, EFCC or the DSS alleging one thing or the other, and the vultures will be released to swoop and make a mess of that victim.

Some look the other way, because they live in glass houses, and will not throw stones, while many are still bemused, and confused, hoping that what we are seeing today is not true. But people don’t stop to drive their vehicles because there was an accident, just like the Igbos say that they won’t reject eating the cocoyam because it causes some discomfort in the buttocks.

The question therefore is; When will this government speak out against shooting at un-armed peaceful protesters? Or better put, Why do they shoot at and kill unarmed protesters or agitators under this government ?

Towards the end of last year, a clash between the Shiite Muslim group and the entourage of the Chief Of Army Staff in Kaduna, left several members of the sect dead, and till date they accuse government or the army of burying many of their members in a mass grave.

Early this year in Aba, some security personnel comprising the police and military shot at  unarmed protesters and killed a good number of them, and a civil society group has alleged that some 13 persons were buried in a shallow mass grave along Aba Port Harcourt Road.

The group called on Abia State government to investigate the matter, and do something about those decomposed corpses.

Some may reason that their call is more like giving the head a hard knock, when it was the buttocks that fowled the air.

In other words, why should poor Abia State government clean up the mess of the Federal Government.

The fact remains that these are the bodies of Igbo sons and daughters who were gunned down because they were protesting or agitating for Biafra, and it is the responsibility of Abia State government to look into the matter, obtain the records of these bodies and give them a decent mass burial, after all we say in Igbo land, that what the living owes the dead is to give it a decent burial.

Such a mass grave will likely serve three purposes namely, the government will have the record of those killed, and buried there, the mass grave will serve as a reminder for Igbo youths not to expose themselves to be killed by their haters in the future, and it will provide the relations of such victims the answers they seek, and help their healing processes.

President Mohammadu Buhari announced in Qatar last week, that the Federal Government will not tolerate Biafra, which is a known fact, but who knows tomorrow, these  ones may become the heroes of Biafra, if God says so.

The Federal and state governments and their officials are not God, neither are they in the future, thus, Ndigbo  must keep records of all atrocities by government forces.

If someone told General Buhari in 1984, that he would be President 31 years after, he would not have believed, but that is God for you. This very Biafra that we are toying with today, may come to pass, because no one knows the mind of God and tomorrow.

If Biafra is indeed an idea, no amount of shooting and killing will be able to stop it.

In Igbo land, we say that when a man shares gift among his people, you will know whom he hates.

Since July 2015, newspapers have reported that over 200  Igbo youths have been mowed down between Onitsha, Aba, and Port Harcourt, by direct bullets from the military and police forces, and from stampedes that followed poor crowd management, that is typical of our forces in Nigeria.

These are people who are trained, clothed, paid and maintained from the tax of Nigerians including those that have been killed, to protect their lives and the territorial integrity of Nigeria. The disheartening aspect is that these governments, depend majorly on money from oil which is  found mostly in the South South and South East, Igbo Land, yet they find pleasure in shooting at unarmed youths because they are protesting or agitating.

A protest is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a strong and formal objection, especially one by a group, or a collective gesture of disapproval. While it described an act of agitation as the excitement of public feeling by discussion, debate etc., and so, whether we call it agitation or protest, the purpose is to elicit public discussion and debate.

If the purpose of the agitations is to elicit discussion and debate on the issue of Biafra, should those youths be shot at and killed, for exercising their constitutional right of freedom of expression?

If in this country, the future lies in the hands of the youth, should our youth be killed in this manner, and nothing is done to prevent such occurrence by punishing the culprits?

If the President, the Military hierarchy and Police, have sworn to uphold the constitution of Nigeria, should the unconstitutional extra judicial killings in Onitsha, Aba and Port Harcourt not be investigated and the culprits brought to book? What message is the Federal Government passing on to Ndigbo by reeling out warnings of how they will deal with agitators without doing anything to stem the rise in the agitation?

Can anyone be taller than one person, and at the same be shorter than the same person?

We need caution about this country we call Nigeria, because until the rotten tooth is pulled out, the mouth must chew with caution. When we change the way we look at Biafra , then we look at proper change.

The fear of being different should not prevent President Buhari from seeking new ways to solve the problems of Biafra.

Mr  Clement Udegbe, a lawyer, can be reached at  [email protected].