Sunday, November 1, 2020 8:15 am
By Festus Adedayo
The Yoruba anticipate the fate of Mrs. Aishat Mohammed. Aftermath the murders, horrendous plunder and arson on the city of Lagos about two weeks ago, Mohammed was one of the captives of the law. Or lawlessness. Gagged like sardines in a can among about 500 persons paraded and labeled culprits of the spillover from that notorious Black Tuesday, Mrs. Mohammed’s tale was gripping, grisly but a Nigerian everyday encounter. From her narrative, the, at a guess 40-year old woman, had stepped out of her Alpha Beach home to the Jakande area of Lagos to purchase some food items for her four children, in the thick of the Lagos State-imposed curfew. All of a sudden, soldiers rounded her and some others up and promptly shoveled them into their van.
All explanations that Mrs. Mohammed went out to buy food for her family fell on the soldiers’ deaf ears. Assertive, believable and logical in her submission, Mohammed’s defiant spirit in the face of tyranny was unbendable. In her narration, she even veered into the ethnic colouration of the soldiers’ raid. Some girls were equally arrested, Mrs. Mohammed said. However, upon speaking to the rampaging soldiers in Hausa, like long lost kin shielded from evil, they were left to disappear into the dark embrace of the curfew. The soldiers then pounced on her and other hapless ones of unfortunate languages and ethnicities. For six days thereafter, Mohammed was subjected to gross inhumanity, dehumanizing treatments.
Such iniquitous justice system which deliberately makes a broth of the just and unjust was anticipated by even traditional African societies. Expressed in the phrase Ori yeye ni Mogun, ipin aise lo po – if you behold countless heads at Mogun shrine, heads of the just constitute its sizeable portion – it speaks to the fact that the Nigerian justice system didn’t become a citadel of injustice today. Miscarriage of justice had always been part and parcel of our judicial system.
In ancient times, Mogun was said to be where criminal elements were kept, the modern day gaol. The ones found guilty were beheaded. Like the soldiers and police of Lekki who didn’t think twice in dispersing their victims to their deaths, men in a joint race for the hearts of their lovers willingly incriminated the other. They heaved corpses to their courtyards. In cahoots with criminal native criminal justice elements, such a lover is arrested for murder and as recompense for this crime, beheaded.
Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, has been in the eye of the storm since that Black Tuesday. His crime was that, on October 20, 2020, he allegedly turned the Lagos Tollgate in Lekki to a modern Mogun shrine. Therein, goes this cacophony of allegations, Buratai shed innocent and harmless young protesters’ blood to help elongate a regime of tyranny against youths seeking betterment in their hopeless existence.
In August last year, the highly respected World Street Journal (WSJ) had alleged that 1000 Nigerian soldiers were secretly buried in Maimalari barracks cemetery under the watch of Buratai. WSJ had written: “The sprawling secret graveyard in Maiduguri and an official cemetery at the base, the operational command for the north-eastern front in Borno State, now hold the bodies of at least 1,000 soldiers killed since the terror groups began an offensive last summer.” The newspaper quoted soldiers, diplomats and senior government officials who said that soldiers’ corpses were surreptitiously transported in trucks from a local mortuary at the dead of the night and hurled into “trenches dug by infantrymen or local villagers paid a few dollars per shift…(at the) Maimalari barracks.” Buratai said it was a lie concocted by Lucifer himself.
The Mogun shrine is a symbol of barefaced tyranny, injustice and an all-time low that lack of institutionalization of justice or acknowledgement of the sacredness of the temple of justice can bring on a people. It is an unjust system predicated on the whims, caprices of a despot and outright disregard for the sanctity of human lives.
Even when arrows of harangues from within and outside Nigeria, in the form of uproar, flew right, left and centre, Buratai kept quiet. With multiple reports of rounds of gunshots shot at #EndSARS protesters, the Nigerian Army was forced, through its official Twitter handle, to post screenshots of the reports and allegations, tagging them “FAKE NEWS.”
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was the first to tear the shroud of lies hovering over the Lekki killings by Nigerian soldiers. Top Army authorities deployed the killer troops, he alleged, even on CNN. As a riposte, the military, while admitting that it wasn’t ghosts in military uniforms who shot those fatal bullets that killed unsubstantiated number of harmless youths at the Lekki tollgate, attempted to rebound the guilt the way of Sanwo-Olu. The governor demanded their deployment, the military claimed. A perplexed country is further lost. Does a governor now have the power to deploy troops, outside of the Commander-in-Chief? Didn’t Sanwo-Olu say that he wasn’t able to get across to C-in-C in the thick of the shootings? So whodunit, as the Americans would say?
Then, stupefied that the cries had not subsided, the Army, through its Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Sagir Musa, tacitly owning up, claimed that “Detractors, both local and international, have mischievously and deliberately misrepresented troops’ efforts to ensure compliance with the curfew imposed by legitimate civil authorities in Lagos and other states.”
However, Buratai could not continue to pretend. Comments from foreign bodies and agencies which affirmed human rights abuses in Lekki drenched his opaque military uniform. And he had to speak. The military had no hand in the deployment of soldiers, the Number One soldier in Nigeria told the world. Rascally arrogant in their conviction, the narratives from abroad didn’t change. Amnesty International, for example, stuck to its guns. Pellets of threats to drag the General by his balls to Hague in the Netherland were shot, which ostensibly hit the Lt. General badly. Hague is the headquarters of the International Criminal Court (ICC) where men who have no regards for human lives are sequestered. It is home to defiant men like Buratai – Hissene Habre and Charles Taylor – who are currently behind bars, in whose veins raw paraffin but blood flows. These were men who equally misinterpreted their positions and the guns in their hands, for licence to inflict maniacal stabs on defenceless citizens. They faced charges of crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes.
Buratai’s defence against allegation of murdering those youths was to go ad-hominem. While holding a conference of some army commanders in Abuja last Monday, the Lt. General blamed some unnamed international organizations and “some criminal elements,” for threatening him and other military officers with travel ban. He situated the allegations of human rights abuses against the military as manifestations of “grand design by the sponsors of the protests to draw (the army) into the crisis,” maintaining that “we are not worried because we must remain in this country to make it better.”
Buratai then dropped the ballistic: “The first time I travelled outside of this country, I was already 50 years and a General, so I don’t mind if I live the rest of my life here.” It was a statement that was encrusted with barefaced defiance and even mockery of the international justice system. Upon forensic analysis of the claim, however, it was reasoned that, that admission of none foreign military exposure by Buratai, even as a General, was a major indictment of the Nigerian military operational architecture. If the country’s Number One soldier only travelled out of the country for the first time, especially for further military trainings, some fifteen or so years ago, only when he had become a General, then there is a very serious systemic problem. Journalist and Twitter influencer, Chuks Akunna, nevertheless put a lie to this grandstanding. He had twitted: “In 1986, 26-year old Lt. TY Buratai was Military Observer, UN Mission in Angola, aside trips as a young officer to Asia and Canada.” If Akunna is to be believed, was the Lt. General telling lie? Why can’t he be held accountable for this statement? General Buratai should be told that his “I don’t mind if I live the rest of my life here” must also have been flaunted by Taylor and Habre while they reigned like a Trojan.
Obdurate like a man in possession of unimpeachable evidence, Amnesty International wouldn’t allow Buratai place surly shroud on the blood of youths wantonly killed like rams during Sallah. Not only did it put specifics on the number of people killed by Nigerian soldiers – 10 at Lekki and two at Alausa protest venues, last Tuesday – the highly respected organization released a new timeline of how the Nigerian military began its journey to the shooting of the #EndSARS protesters. The timeline showed the soldiers’ departure from Bonny Camp to the Lekki toll gate and how they shot at the protesters. It signed off the timeline with an ominous warning: “Nigerian authorities must end their attempts to cover up the Lekki Toll Gate massacre.”
As they say in bust criminal cases, Buratai and his men should raise their hands up in surrender as the game is up. And the Nigerian presidency too. Rather than owning up, the Muhammadu Buhari government has been oscillating between tacit acceptance of guilt in the murder of harmless protesters to ensuring that the protest does not ensue again. It asked ministers to go back to their respective bases to curtail the spread of the youths’ angst and thereafter asked for reports. It is akin to beginning a journey from the end.
No thanks to good journalism from the stable of inimitable Premium Times, criminal elements in Nigerian soldiers and police uniforms who starred in the grisly Lekki multiple murders may be having dinner with Taylor and Habre very soon. With irrebuttable evidence, in its October 31 report on the Lekki debacle, the medium peered heavy searchlight on the October 20 horrendous murder and its dramatis personae which included policemen and soldiers, even affixing names to it.
The only way systemic purity can be guaranteed in Nigeria is for the country to bring to justice ravaging murderous elements, in and out of office, of the last few years. The various Panels of Inquiries in the states decreed into existence by the Buhari government should be immediately converted to a Truth and Reconciliation Committee. In the history of panels of such colour in Nigeria, there has never been peace or justice. While trying to explain the chain reactions of spillage of innocent blood, Jews profoundly explain it as pain and horror that come with man’s inhumanity to man. They illustrate this with the story of Abel’s murder by his brother, Cain and God frowning at it, saying “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”
Since its amalgamation in 1914, multiple innocent bloods have been ceaselessly shed in Nigeria. The Oriyeye ni Mogun anecdote exemplifies this. In recent history, many innocent people have been killed, allegedly by the state or with tacit connivance of the state, as the case may be. Several innocent Mrs. Mohammeds have either been killed or made to serve jail terms they never deserved. Dele Giwa, Bola Ige, Bisoye Tejuoso, Suliat Adedeji, my friend, Eddie Ayo-Ojo and many others are in this category. SARS offices in virtually everywhere in Nigeria are alleged to be killing fields where innocent Nigerians had their blood spilled aimlessly to cover crime tracks and ensure blood money flow into the pockets of police officers. A notorious case in point is said to be the Awkuzu, Awka, Anambra State SARS office. Could these spilt bloods be responsible for how Nigeria gropes in darkness on the same spot?
If you place the story of Nigeria’s military killing Nigerian youths at random, side by side the story of valour and patriotism displayed by the United States on Nigerian soil during the weekend, the urgency of the need to heal Nigeria of all that ails her will be manifest. America had deployed its Naval Special Warfare group, known as SEAL Team Six, to rescue her citizen, 27-year-old Philip Walton, who was held hostage in Nigeria by some ransom-seeking bandits. Walton had been kidnapped in Niger but rescued in Nigeria by America’s elite commandos. U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, as if directly indicting the Nigerian government which seems to take delight in killing its own people on own soil, had praised the SEAL Team Six profusely, maintaining that, “The United States is committed to the safe return of all U.S. citizens… (as) some of our bravest and most skilled warriors (italics mine) rescued a U.S. citizen after a group of armed men took him hostage across the border in Niger.”
Our own military warriors are not only peremptorily decimated by alleged rag-tag bandits and Boko Haram insurgents, the ones quartered in military barracks seem to be specially trained on exerting their brawns, bravado and gun pellets on defenceless protesters.
If Buhari indeed wants redemption for the country he superintends over, he must begin the process of purification. This he must begin forthwith and the first step should be letting loose the sharks of the International Criminal Justice on those who shot and killed our defenceless children in Lekki on that bloody Tuesday. It is obvious that the blood of these youths killed by Nigerian soldiers and police is crying to God from the ground, asking for justice.
Oloye Lekan Alabi at 70
In this age and time where we witness the collapse of all things bright and beautiful, nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum places some nuggets at our beck and call. It reinforces the arguments against the absolutism school of philosophy. Absolutists say that reality, truth, or morality is absolute and the same for everybody, everywhere and that truths are always true.
Oloye Lekan Alabi, the Ekefa Olubadan of Ibadan, is one person who personifies the argument against the absolutism of a total collapse of age-old morals, values, culture and language in Nigeria. Veteran journalist, culture ambassador and Press Secretary to four military governors of old Oyo State, Oloye Alabi clocked 70 years on earth last week. He put together a memoir to document his 70 years strides entitled An unbelievable Life, which he graciously asked me to review.
Oloye wears on his lapel his identity as a Yoruba man and one who is unapologetic about the profundity of Yoruba culture and language. He speaks his impeccable Yoruba without minding whose ox is gored and garnishes it with dips into history, culture and rich axioms. Blessed with an elephant-like power of recall, Oloye Alabi personifies the wealth of Yoruba nation mindlessly burgled by the advent of colonial intervention.
Here is wishing the culture ambassador very many years in the service of the Yoruba nation.
-Dr. Festus Adedayo, journalist, lawyer and public affairs analyst, writes from Ibadan