Protesters as terrorists by Casmir Igbokwe

Nigeria is a conundrum. It is a country where white can be called black, where leaders promise citizens fish but give them scorpions, where terrorists are pampered and given amnesty and peaceful protesters declared terrorists. Events of the past few days have confirmed beyond reasonable doubts that our redemption is far. Or how do you explain that, a few days after the end of the #EndSARS protests, the promoters who should be celebrated are harassed and harangued. Imagine the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) declaring #EndSARS promoters terrorists and freezing their accounts. The most annoying thing is that it had even frozen their accounts before going to the Federal High Court, Abuja, to accuse them of terrorism financing.

This is strange. What prompted the #EndSARS protest is very clear. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the police had been a thorn in the flesh of many Nigerians, especially the youth. For years, they engaged in the torture, extortion, and harassment of innocent citizens. For four years, the Federal Government promised to reform the outfit. That yielded little or no dividend. Then last month, they reportedly killed someone in Delta State. The video of the killing went viral and spurred the youth in different parts of the country to hit the streets in protests.

The youth made some demands. They included the disbanding of SARS, psychological examination of the operatives, increase in the salary of the police, justice for the deceased victims of police brutality and compensation for the victims’ families.

Many Nigerians identified with the demands of the protesters. The Federal Government even granted most of their requests. The Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, for instance, disbanded SARS and replaced it with Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team. President Muhammadu Buhari added that the youth had a right to protest peacefully. He invited them to a dialogue with the Federal Government and promised that his government would not lift a hand to stop or suppress them. It is surprising then that the same youth are being haunted and hounded today.

This harassment started after some northern leaders claimed the #EndSARS protests were aimed at overthrowing the government of President Buhari. Some hoodlums had hijacked the protests and vandalised many private and public properties. No doubt, the destruction is quite massive. But do you have to visit the sin of the criminals on the peaceful and harmless protesters? It is nothing but a grand display of primitivism. The civilised thing to do is to look for the vandals, prosecute them and make them pay for their actions according to the laws of the land.

In the United States, the Gas Mask Fund for Black activists in Minneapolis similarly funded the purchase of gas masks to protect protesters against tear gas. This followed unrests arising from the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, in Minneapolis last May. The American government did not go after the financiers.  

But the Nigerian government knows what it is doing. Recently, it granted amnesty to some so-called repentant Boko Haram terrorists. These people had committed the worst of atrocities against God and humanity. They killed over 35,000 people and rendered over two million others homeless. They kidnapped many citizens and maimed many others. Rather than deal with them according to the laws of the land, we sewed immaculate white uniforms for them, camped them in a serene place and even reportedly planned to recruit some of them into the army and police.

There is this other group they call Fulani militia or herdsmen. In 2014, the Global Terrorism Index named them the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world. Like Boko Haram, they are experts in killing and maiming. But what have we seen here? They pontificate and issue statements disparaging whoever challenges their impunity or collective interests. The government has indulged them but proscribed and declared as a terrorist group the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) whose weapon lies essentially in the mouth of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.

We must be very careful, else we succumb to the lure of dictatorship. The writing is on the wall. The other day, the National Broadcasting Commission slammed a N9 million fine on three broadcast stations for their role in the reporting of the #EndSARS protests. This same NBC had imposed a N5 million fine on a Lagos-based radio station, Nigeria Info 99.3 FM, for lending its platform to a former deputy governor of the CBN, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, to air his views. Mailafia had claimed in a live interview with the station last August that a certain northern governor was the commander of Boko Haram.

Besides, the government is threatening to mute or gag the social media with the proposed Social Media Bill. But no matter how hard they try, they will fail because it is against Sections 22 and 39 of the Constitution of Nigeria, which uphold the rights of every Nigerian to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. It is against Article 19 (1&2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects people’s right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through any media.        

Come to think of it, Nigerians are not difficult people to govern, if the leaders are sincere and selfless. But all around us, bad governance walks on all fours. Do we talk about the executive that some have baptised ‘executhieves’? Do we mention the legislators, also known as ‘legislooters’? Or do we discuss the judiciary that has been bastardised and seriously compromised? All the youth want is good governance. All they crave for are political inclusiveness and access to health and educational facilities.

If care is not taken, they may return to the streets. Senate President Ahmed Lawan has given that warning too. According to him, if youth unemployment is not tackled, the possibility of a fresh protest is high. Another factor is the continued closure of our higher institutions. If the government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) do not resolve their differences soon and reopen our universities, we may not have seen the end of this protest. And how it will turn out, we can’t really predict.

Meanwhile, I have a feeling that the CBN is acting the script of some powers that be. I pity the governor, Godwin Emefiele. He looks every inch a gentleman. But they want to rubbish him with this terrorism finance nonsense. He should guard his reputation now and withdraw that so-called terrorism financing suit before it is too late.

Re: Wike and Oyigbo killings

Thank you once again for standing on the side of truth and light. It is pitiable the level our country has sunken most especially our civilian rulers’ resort to extreme actions at the least events. But we thank God for the windmill of the gods, no matter how slowly it grinds. The real revelation of the Oyigbo pogrom is the painful reality about the dearth of true leaders in Igbo land; there is no leader currently within the Igbo nation. What we have are masqueraders feeding on the plight of the people. Whether in Ohanaeze or among the elected hypocrites, they are all the same. None has the interest of Ndigbo at heart.

– Taagbo Ezechukwu, 08024789875

A million thanks for hitting the nail on the head. Igbo are endangered species, even in Igboland. Perhaps, you have not heard that soldiers are still searching for and killing Igbo youths in Orlu, Imo State, and the Uzodinma government isn’t perturbed. Owerri-Orlu Road is abandoned because soldiers are still opening fire on commuters while they invade nearby villages and kill any youth in sight. Sir, you are one of the caring Igbo mouthpieces! Kindly investigate and draw public attention to it with a view to stop the menace. May God continue to guide and guard you!

– Echefu Burman, Esq.  +2347036844613

These must be difficult times for Barr. Nyesom Wike, the popular, ebullient, performing governor of Rivers State, with the loving sobriquet, “Mr Projects”. Recently, the social media unintentionally did him a world of good by showing Gov. Wike as human, in tears, at the burial of his sister, allegedly killed by the amalgam of #EndSARS protesters, hoodlums, thieves, knaves, touts, hooligans, etc, who took over the protest, as we all settled to enjoy it. The massive reprisals against the Igbo in Oyigbo or Obigbo, PHC, following the killing of soldiers and policemen by whoever, all provide gory spectacles, because it is an anathema and abomination to shed innocent blood, whether you are of Ikwere or Igbo stock.

– Dr. Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt, +2348085914645

Casmir, the prevalence of ethnic politics in Nigeria is a great challenge to our collective development. Wike, just like Sanwo-Olu, believed that the Igbo were causing mayhem and applied brutal force to silence the protesters. And in a society where brutal action elicits brutal reactions, that led to what we witnessed in Lagos and Rivers.

– Pharm Okwuchukwu Njike, +234 803 885 4922

I savoured your piece on the above title. Honestly you did justice to the issue at hand. Your mental prowess shows you have been following issues in the country. I must say that Nigeria is the worst British creation in history. The North and South are just discordant in all ramifications. My take is, “The fowls must come home to roost one day!”

– Henry Uche, 08032741427

Dear Casy, permit me to remark that power is sweet but transient. That is why the wise power-wielder is always circumspect, while the power-drunk pay for it in the long run. In the case of Oyigbo pogrom, those behind it should note that those painful screams from the victims were noted by God and He is waiting for them with RETRIBUTION at a time their murderous acts of today would have been buried in oblivion. Again, those behind Igbo suppression should note that the fate of the Igboman can be likened to the fate of the biblical Joseph who, filled with God’s grace, not only survived all intrigues and elimination attempts but God visited his plotters with afflictions.

– Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731

Dear Casmir, the Igbo should use any subterfuge available to avoid being fingered as target. The pogrom of 1966 would have been directed at Westerners, if the Nzeogwu team had said openly that their mission was to install Awolowo. Religious and electoral violence in the North are targeted at Igbo. Enough is enough.

– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

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