By Obi Nwakanma
Last week, I felt nauseous just watching “our own WS” stand at a podium talking-up the Buhari gesture of naming June 12 “Democracy Day” and awarding the GCFR to the late Moshood Abiola. It was a dog-shit fare clothed in damask. I half hoped that Soyinka would not be part of this hollow ritual; but in the end Soyinka’s presence there served to remind us all that Nigeria is a circus; and the relationship between circus masters, puppeteers, and the circus animals is that they are all there to entertain us. And Nigerians were properly entertained in what I still regard as the hollow ritual of forgetting.
Every time, this government and its mind-warpers try to turn us all into amnesiacs, so that we will forget for instance, that Muhammadu Buhari himself was not only a key beneficiary and supporter of the abrogation of June 12, he himself led a military coup that overthrew a properly elected civilian government on the last day of 1983. Nigeria began to slide radically down the order of things from that very coup. Now, what we tend to hear is the “patriotic intentions” of the coups, not the fact of their real missions, to forcefully appropriate the power of the republic through violence.
We must start our review of the past from the coups of January 15, 1966, and right the course of justice, and the memory of the nation. In historical terms, “June 12” was a mere flashpoint in the history of Nigeria. The overthrow of the elected government of President Shagari was a far weightier event, given that the president was already sworn in, and had a mandate from the people, some of whom were already in court to challenge, and seek legal recourse to all outstanding electoral issues as was provided by the 1979 constitution.
As a participant and chief beneficiary of that coup, Muhammadu Buhari ought not seek to be president of Nigeria. But he is president. And now that he is President, by the votes of ignorant and amnesiac Nigerians, who have been turned into circus beings, we must measure him now by the achievements of the Shagari government he led the Army to overthrow in the wee hours of December 31, 1983.
If Nigerians are honest, they will certainly affirm that in spite of all the criticism levelled against him, President Shagari achieved far more in economic and infrastructural terms and with far less resources in the one term that he was president than the government of Muhammadu Buhari, both as a military dictator and a democratically elected president. So, where is the outrage? Why did Buhari overthrow Shagari? Now that we are making peace with June 12, Muhammadu Buhari and his entire military junta, or what remains of them, must be compelled to publicly tender a full, unreserved apology to Shagari and Ekwueme, and the government they led, which these soldiers of fortune had violently overthrown.
They must make restitution with Nigerians, and since we are also talking about posthumous honors, we shall also begin to think about stripping people of their privileges posthumously for conducts that have led to the vast injustices in Nigeria. This must be the achievements of the Buhari presidency: that he began posthumous honors and righting the wrongs of unjust victimizations of an individual by the forces that take over predatory power, and setting the stage therefore, of historical reviews of our national events.
In future, Nigerians must equally put to the prisms of history, those who (a) subverted the anti-colonial nationalist movement and aligned with imperial forces to prevent the nationalist party to organize the government of Nigeria according to their vision of African liberation, (b) who overthrew legitimately elected or established governments by force. For instance, time has come for us to open the books of the January 15, coup. Start with publishing the Ifeajuna Memoirs which the Federal government has suppressed since 1967, when the manuscripts were found among the debris of the Station Road offices of the CITADEL press, the publishing house set up by the Poet Christopher Okigbo and the novelist Chinua Achebe in Enugu, and handed to Obafemi Awolowo.
We must return to the July 29 coup, and the massacre of innocent, unarmed Igbo officers in the barracks of the Nigerian Army, and the killing of General Ironsi and Colonel Fajuyi. Who killed Ironsi, the Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Army and first Military Head of State, who was properly mandated by the rump of the Executive Council to take over power and restore Nigeria to peace? Ironsi was killed in Ibadan, while touring for peace. His great crime was that he was trying to unify Nigeria. Ironsi must receive his proper place in Nigeria, and the Aso Rock Villa must be renamed the Ironsi House in honour of his place as Nigeria’s first military General and Supreme Commander of her forces, and Head of State, whose mission of peace and peace-building was the cause of his assassination by forces that wanted war and division. We must return to the site of the great genocides, starting with Asaba, during the civil war, where soldiers led by Nigerians massacred innocent civilians, and killed off, by an act of genocide, the male lines of 90% of Asaba.
We must in fact return to the pogroms of the Igbo in the North and the genocidal war that was levied, that destroyed Igbo land, and that has led to the alienation of the Igbo by deliberate acts of official discrimination against the program of “reconciliation” agreed upon as the condition for the end of the war. We must examine who among the generation of Buhari’s military were the hawks that crafted the policies that have discriminated against the Igbo in Nigeria and turned such policies to law. This is where last week’s ceremony of June 12 will begin to make sense, otherwise, it will remain a hollow ritual.
It in fact rings hollow even then, because, an executive order cannot simply bestow posthumous honors to Abiola and make a GCON of Kingibe, whose honors remain the most audacious form of infamy, given his roles in the destruction of Moshood Abiola and the abrogation of the results of the June 12 elections. It will have to be backed by an act of parliament for it to carry the weight of law. I will not say more of this, because I already made it clear last week. But above all, since Buhari is making peace now with ghosts, there is the need therefore to complete the ritual, and it has to be that his administration must account for those killed in the East, and the whereabouts of Nnamdi Kanu, the young, leader of the new Biafra secessionist movement.
Since the invasion of his home in Afara-Ukwu by soldiers ordered to do the “python-dance” in the East by the Chief of Army, Buratai, neither Nnamdi Kanu nor his parents have been seen, nor been heard from. There is cold silence, both around them, and about them, and it is becoming uncomfortable. The governor of Abia state must address this question: where is Nnamdi Kanu? He must, with President Muhammadu Buhari address the question of whether Nnamdi Kanu and his parents were killed in that military invasion of their homes, and if they have been killed, where is their burial ground? It is scary that after what happened to Ken Saro-Wiwa and his “Ogoni-Nine” under the Abacha dictatorship, who executed them, and mass buried their bodies, and put acid on them, that this prospect, and that tactic is feared used to erase Nnamdi Kanu and his parents.
But at least, the Ogoni did not stay quiet. They shouted and reacted to this travesty. There again, Buhari must yet again act to give justice to Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni with a public apology, and full honors, the GCFR too for Wiwa, who died campaigning for, not only justice for the Ogoni, but for a clean environment in the entire Niger Delta. And justice thus demands that like Abiola and Wiwa, Buhari must fully account for the whereabouts of Nnamdi Kanu. This question cannot be avoided for too long, nor must it rest on the fraudulent oars of the Buhari government’s propaganda, that government does not know. Government knows everything. So, yes, bring him out, bound hand and feet if you must, but Kanu must not be killed, and if he has been killed must not be erased. Buhari’s peace moves with June 12 is only one step. The next step is to try all those in proper court who made it happen. Reconciliation must have consequence, and history is such a bitch.