Written by Dele Momodu
I still imagine till this day what it takes to be a killer. We were told soldiers were regularly injected with special drugs that makes it impossible for them to have the milk of human kindness in them. But with time, I saw and met many soft-hearted soldiers. I used to tease them about what we were told as kids. I must say I became one of their fans and good friends. I visited our soldiers in Sierra Leone and Liberia and gave them my humble support and they were very appreciative of my modest contribution and inspiration.
The reason for my preamble must be obvious to you all. I was seriously angry after seeing a video purportedly showing how our soldiers were brutalising fellow Nigerians and subjecting them to the worst indignities known to mankind. I’ve been praying that the videos were shot in outer space and not anywhere near Nigeria. But if what I saw very vividly actually took place on our planet and in this our dear beloved nation, then we’ve truly missed the road. I did not see any sign of weapons with these hapless victims of oppression and repression.
Let me stretch the argument a bit further. Whose idea was it to draft the soldiers onto the streets to intimidate Nigerians in areas where there was no war? How can anyone send soldiers to threaten a people who already feel marginalised and are saying so very resoundingly? What is wrong with empowering members of the Nigeria Police Force and especially the anti-riot police squad to tackle cases of hooliganism and even terrorism. Soldiers are meant to come out in open battle only in extreme cases where there is total chaos and mayhem. President Muhammadu Buhari has wittingly or inadvertently walked into the trap cleverly set for him by the Biafra secessionists. Kanu and company have read the President well knowing his proclivity for no-nonsense and high-handedness.
If truth must be told, this is the height of intolerance on the part of the Nigerian State. I have not seen any Lawyer who believes in the legality of what our soldiers have done. Kanu may be reckless and irresponsible by promoting internecine wars and heating up our country unnecessarily but no one can deny him the right of expressing himself and agitating for his beliefs. What could have been done to him was very simple; send the police after him and get him rearrested for flouting his bail conditions. Some of his hard core loyalists and acolytes could be easily identified and kept out of circulation. For the past few months, Kanu has been raking and ranting but he has not fired a bullet.
I’m aware that our President is a retired Major General, a man well known for his taciturnity, who packs his punches and loves to take on known and imaginary enemies. But we supported him because we believed Baba had transfigured into a born again democrat. The Buhari we supported was not the man who ruled with draconian Decrees from 1983-85 and was forced out of power and his detractors rejoiced openly and widely. The same Nigerians who praised you for beating your child would soon turn around to castigate you and ask why you’re so wicked. That is the reality of Nigeria.
Our President should be told in very clear terms that the world has changed drastically in the last three decades. No leader can order his troops out in the streets to kill and destroy wantonly. We should not over-stretch our luck. Nigeria cannot afford a second civil war. Our economy is already in shambles. We should prosecute how to return to economic recovery urgently and resist the temptation of wasting our scarce resources on persecuting our fellow citizens. The videos in circulation tend to portray us as barbarians who belong in the prehistoric age. We’ve suffered enough negativity and should not invite the wrath of the world upon ourselves.
I’m not a supporter of Biafra. I don’t have to be. I love and prefer a bigger, stronger and more prosperous Nigeria. But there are reasons for many Nigerians to detest Nigeria, today. They feel they have been horribly marginalised and treated like second class citizens in their own country. Their perception is that they believe all or most of the following things. Their children no longer attend the good schools for which the Igbos have become well known. The goods, some of which they even make themselves in Aba, have become only available for the rich.
Infrastructure is sorely lacking for the most part. Where they exist, they are decaying and nobody is really attending to them. There are no new jobs and the few old jobs are being lost in droves. The state of healthcare is almost hopeless. Federal character has become a total charade. We can go on, ad infinitum, reeling out the litany of woes that our brothers and sisters in the South East believe is responsible for the unusually strident agitation that we are now witnessing.
In the name of God, the omnipotent and merciful, everyone should beg our Federal Government to end this self-immolating war of attrition. We have nothing to gain. In fact, we have more to lose.