Monday 25th September, 2017
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IPOB, Biafra and Amnesty Report: A Damning Indictment of the Nigerian Army

IPOB, Biafra and Amnesty Report: A Damning Indictment of the Nigerian Army

One week after, I am yet to recover from watch­ing the gruesome vide­os published by Amnesty Inter­national in a damning report that implicated Buhari and the Nige­rian army in the cold blooded murder of hundreds of peace­ful pro-Biafra/IPOB protesters. I have been haunted and trau­matised by a video that was both macabre and chilling. In scale and scope, the video evidence repre­sents the greatest possible consti­tutional abdication by the Buhari administration. It is also evidence of the utmost inhumanity and decadence of the infamous Nige­ria army. And this is happening in a supposed democracy. Without question, the cold blooded ex­tra judicial execution of peace­ful protesters is a moral obscen­ity that assaults the very concept of our common humanity. It is for all intents and purposes a crime against humanity that violates not only the most fundamental dictates of the Nigerian constitu­tion but also the United Nations Charter and the African Charter on Human and people’s rights. 

It is exactly for such heinous, unconscionable, reprobate and dastardly crimes that the Inter­national Criminal Court (ICC) was established. What kind of an army would relish the killing of its own unarmed citizens for ex­ercising their constitutional right to dissent and peaceful protests? What kind of a democracy would utilise the army to suppress by le­thal force the right to differenc­es of opinion expressed through peaceful assembly and protests when that underpins the very essence of democracy? What kind of a nation, leadership and army would chose to address the grievances of its citizens by kill­ing them? What kind of a cow­ardly and barbaric army, trained and paid by the citizens to pro­tect their fundamental right to life would turn around and take so much pleasure in killing the same citizens? Why would the peace­ful and democratic demand for the right to self-determination: a right recognised by the UN and African Charters and the same right with which we got inde­pendence from British Colonial masters without a fight be a rea­son to kill your own citizens? 

In 1995, Quebec settled their demand for independence from Canada through a democratic referendum. In 2014 Scotland settled their demand for a right to self-determination from Brit­ain through a democratic refer­endum. In 2015 Britain settled their demand to exit the Europe­an Union/ federation through the “Brexit” referendum. Neither the Canadian government, the Brit­ish government nor the Europe­an Union with some of the most powerful armies in the world re­sorted to killing its own citizens to stop those who sought inde­pendence or self-determination. The right to self-determination must be understood by Buhari and the Nigerian army for what it is. It is a fundamental as well as a democratic right for all peoples as enshrined in the UN and Af­rican Charters. Nigeria is signa­tory to these conventions of in­ternational law and is bound by them even much more than she is bound by local laws. All over the world, lawful and civilised socie­ties use democratic instruments, nation building and good gov­ernance to resolve issues of self-determination. 

Killing your own citizens as Buhari and the Nigerian army is disposed to do as a means of sup­pressing dissent and the right to self-determination is not only a crime against humanity—such methods have never worked an­ywhere. If anything, such meth­ods; the sense of injustice and al­ienation that it engenders will only harden the resolve of those who seek a separate state, at­tract more sympathy and bring in more recruits for them. More often than not, history teaches us that repression leads to armed re­volt. The continuing mishandling of IPOB separatists will assured­ly only lead to more crises. Were force of arms alone enough to stop secessionist movements, we wouldn’t have IPOB, MASSOB, Niger Delta Avengers, MEND and other such self-determination groups in the aftermath of the Biafra-Nigeria war. This is a fundamental lesson Buhari and the Nigerian army is yet to learn. No nation can ultimately succeed or enjoy enduring peace when the state is run as a colonial or Apart­heid state where nationhood sub­ject to injustice, inequality, 2nd class citizenship and other forms of discrimination is by force. 

Nations endure and succeed by nation building, justice, equality, the rule of law and more impor­tantly on the basis of fundamen­tal democratic freedoms which includes the free and unfettered right to self-determination. It is not an accident that nations where all fundamental rights are given rarely if ever disintegrate. This is because most citizens would have no need to separate from a state where justice, equali­ty and all basic freedoms are guar­anteed and where grievances are addressed through dialogue. On the contrary, practically all states where conflicts, separatist groups and general violence are preva­lent are states where the instru­ments of state, i.e. the army and police are used to violently sup­press dissent or any agitation for self-determination. Consequent­ly such nations get locked in end­less conflict, most often becoming failed states and most often end­ing up in disintegration. The lat­ter, is the same no win route Bu­hari and the Nigerian army has chosen to travel. By choosing to so callously deny its own citizens the most fundamental right to peaceful protests and the inalien­able right to life, the Nigerian state has constituted itself into a colo­nial state and in its worst form an Apartheid state. 

Colonialism and Apartheid is the only fitting description for a regime that so callously kills its own citizens for espousing dif­ferent opinions. When in June 1976; the South African Apart­heid regime unleashed its po­lice on protesters killing many in Soweto; a shocked and outraged world condemned it. Incidental­ly Nigeria was one of the coun­tries that voiced its criticism of the Soweto massacres. The Sowe­to brutality went on to become famous, emerging as one of the most important galvanisers of the global anti-Apartheid move­ment. Similarly the 1929 Aba women’s riot and the 1949 mas­sacre of 21 coal miners in Enugu by the British colonial authorities was condemned by all. Both in­cidents represent the most nota­ble casualties of the anti-colonial struggle and like the Soweto crisis helped to galvanise the anti-colo­nial movement. 

But today; the Nigerian army in a supposed free state can kill hundreds of peaceful IPOB pro­testers in cold blood, kill hun­dreds of peaceful Shiites in cold blood, hold Nnamdi Kanu, El Zakzaky and other peaceful ag­itators in detention against court orders and practically act as it deems fit. Of what purpose did independence from British co­lonialists serve if the supposed Free State has turned out to be more repressive and murderous than the colonial authorities we sought freedom from? The sa­distic killing spree of the Nige­rian state under Buhari has be­come worse than a colonial and Apartheid state put together. It is a tragedy of limitless propor­tions that in the 21st century and in a supposed post-colonial state, Nigeria has a leader and an army that relishes the wanton killing of its own citizens. This is a no win route that will lead nowhere other than to the sure and further bal­kanization of the nation.