By Wale Odunsi
“So soldiers killed four undergraduates and over 24 hours later, Education Minister maintains a deafening silence. No one has resigned; no one thinks it is appropriate to apologize…Who says Nigeria is not a jungle.” – My father, a septuagenarian and civil war survivor, asked rhetorically a day after the gruesome murder of NSUK students.
For decades, the Nigerian Military have never failed to remind us that we are in a country where the amount of respect for bloody civilians can barely buy a loaf of ‘Agege’ bread or a bag of ‘pure water’.
The intolerance, arrogance and zero-decorum they display when handling civil matters is best seen than heard and when we complain, the top echelon claim that the subordinate officers who carry out despicable acts are the “bad eggs”. But have the bad eggs taken over the basket?
Personally, I think it’s high time the National Assembly pass into law a bill legalizing extra-judicial killings. That way, we will at least know beforehand, that those who derive pleasure in cutting short the lives of defenseless citizens have no case to answer.
On Monday February 25, 2013, Nasarawa State University Keffi, NSUK, had its share of severe batter from the usual suspects. Reports say soldiers had been invited to the school by the state government, the school authority – or both. Their mission was to quell a peaceful but tensed rally by learners of the institution, protesting recurrent water scarcity in and around the campus. The students had barricaded the inter-state road stretching through the façade of the school main gate.
I got wind of the crisis at exactly noon from a friend studying Accounting. The Jambite was in a confused state of mind as we spoke over the phone and I could tell. He was jittery, narrating in an unbalanced voice what initially sounded like a film trailer. According to him, the men in khaki fired directly at the crowd after taking strategic positions in a way that suggests they were facing the enemy. By the time they were done, no fewer than three students had lost their lives, a few more with gunshot injuries and many others badly bruised. The soldiers then moved from one hostel to the other, flogging the helpless ones who escaped unhurt. Haba, broad daylight slavery in one’s country!
Moments later, I called two other friends; the story was same. At this point I became extremely worried. To stay abreast of the situation with their safety in mind, I kept in touch hourly with all three till the end of that day. If I had been that attached, one can imagine the trauma of the parents/guardians in their homes, shops, and offices while the sad event lasted. Some might have in fact experienced a heart attack.
But for how long will this ugly trend persist, till doomsday? As we have always advocated, the attitude of military personnel and other law enforcers must be thoroughly scrutinized on a regular basis. Deploying armed troops to deal with internal issues of tertiary institutions is unacceptable and stand condemned. The actions of whoever sent out the invitation, the Oga who gave the order and the soldiers themselves will go down as another senseless killing of promising future leaders. These occasional youth-cleansing attacks are crime against humanity and I urge the United Nations Human Rights Council, UNHRC, to investigate this recent incident. Lest we forget, an exact scenario almost played out late last year at the University of Abuja.
Only a week before the NSUK disaster, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa whose articles I find interesting, wrote on “Media – Military Relationship In Nigeria” (see http://saharareporters.com/article/improving-media-military-relationship-nigeria-lt-col-sagir-musa). In paragraph two, the brilliant officer wrote: “The military is increasingly concerned about its image and reputation mainly on its professional disposition and the civil-military relations that could improve its relationship with the media. The media – military relationship in Nigeria in most cases has been insalubrious and often contemptuous. The basic explanation is that the history, natures and cultures of the two institutions are however fundamentally adversative… The military however is hierarchical, regimental with great inner pride and loyalties. It is non-democratic, action oriented, audacious, intolerant and impatient to outside interference – all these are tendentious, and must be so if it is to be effective in exercising its constitutional responsibilities.” Although I totally understand the context of which he was arguing, his colleagues may well put that the strength to successfully achieve such enormous responsibilities into warfare and defense of the nation, not the poor masses!
If Nigeria was a state where people regard value, the press should have been inundated with resignation letters of Nasarawa State government officials, Commandant of the Keffi Army Barracks and especially, the Vice-Chancellor the school, Prof. Shamsudeen Onyilokwu Onche.
Now that the news has generated national and international uproar, those indicted will as usual deny; the rest in positions of authority will force out of their mouths lame emotional speeches and condolence statements. Lobatan! End of story.
I wish that the spirits of the dead will not let the murderers rest. Their souls have protested and their voices have reached the Most High God who has sent a statement in which I find solace.
“Verily I say unto all in Nigeria permitted to carry firearms: By this, I mean the Military, Police and State Security Service, ye shall not count yourselves worthy of eternal rest yet. From up here, I see how excited ye get whenever ye brandish the barrels of your guns at my people. Continue to kill them, ye need not halt. Too many damage ye hath done, but remember, judgement is mine.
Woe I say woe unto ye corrupt leaders: By this, I mean both elected and appointed public officials; serving and retired. Have thou heard that the cry of the students killed was scarcity of water? If ye hath judiciously used the abundant wealth I deposited in thine land; if ye hath put in place necessary infrastructure which are visible even in less-endowed countries; if ye hath ensured provision of basic amenities – decent road and rail network, uninterrupted electricity supply, quality health care service, grants for the poor, the aged and the jobless, many late souls from thine country would not have passed away so soon.
I eagerly anticipate all that fall in the categories mentioned. A special prosecution awaits thy souls. I advise, be fully prepared to argue thy briefs. Ye have a lot of explanations to give me thy God. For it shall come to pass, all man shall give account, every single account of thy time on earth”.