In Nigeria, more so in the last thirty years, killing has become a way of life. Depending on the regime in power, killings can either be a past time or a trade. The government and or some elements within the Nigerian State, has been killing those they hate, envy or are tired of. For instance, when the Nigerian government didn’t know what to do with Dele Giwa they blew him up. When they didn’t know what
to with Ken Saro-Wiwa, they cooked up phony charges and then hanged him. When Alfred Rewane was becoming a thorn on their flesh, they silenced him. Along with these eminent citizens are dozens of unsung Nigerians who were also murdered by the state or by individuals within the state.
Nigeria is probably the only country in Sub-Sahara Africa were human life means nothing; it is perhaps the only country were humans are slaughtered the way chickens are slaughtered. Humans are swatted the way one would a housefly. Killing is done without feelings, without regards and without remorse. For a buck — for a lousy buck — you could lose your life. You may lose your life if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time. Instead of legal actions in the court of law, people resort to extralegal actions. Instead of justice, there is jungle-justice. The level of intolerance is such that unknowingly stepping on toes could cost one his or her life. Living is so expensive; life has become cheap.
Three years after Jerry Agbeyegbe was killed, the police have yet to successfully resolve his murder. In their murky attempt to resolve his murder, they almost soiled his reputation. Today the case remains an unresolved homicide. Who killed Sunday Ugwu, Momoh Lawal, Odunayo Olagbaju and Janet Oladapo? Who killed them? Who killed Ahmed Pategi and his police orderly? And who killed Victor Nwankwo, the younger brother of Arthur Nwankwo? I wonder if any murder case has ever been conclusively and satisfactorily resolved in Nigeria.
I have wondered in the past: how many Nigerians have to lose their lives before this government comes to the realization that something is terribly wrong with our security and legal system? Why do we have a government — when government cannot assure us of our safety? Beyond the obvious, this is a sad commentary on us as a nation because, even in peace time, Nigeria is like a country in perpetual war mode. Only in times of war do people lose their lives. Only in times of war, do parents bury their children. Only in times of war does the populace live in unending fear. Only in times of war and political instability does anarchy reign supreme. But not so in Nigeria.
There are several ways to be killed in Nigeria including but not limited to firing squad, parcel-bombing, hanging, tea or food poisoning, armed-robbery style killing, staged vehicular accidents, and deliberate road-side shooting. Sadly, this is the situation in today’s Nigeria. It is one thing to be known as a nation of the parasitically corrupt; but quite another to be known as a nation of callous and cold-blooded murderers.
Harry Marshall’s death is still unresolved even though the evidence seems to points to the River State government house. Who killed Kudirat Abiola, John Nunu, Funsho Williams, Chimere Ikoku, Ayodeji Daramola, Dele Arojo and Isyaku Muhammad? With the passing of each month the list grows longer and longer and longer. Who killed Udo Marcus Akpan, Ogbonnaya Uche, Theodore Agwatu, and Emily Omope? And who can forget the killing of Abigail and Barnabas Igwe — the husband and wife team who devoted their lives to the betterment of humanity. And does anyone know who killed Bala Mohammed? In a very positive manner Bala was amongst the very first who caught my young and impressionable political mind.
No man’s life is cheap. No man’s life or death should go unheralded. Even so the murder of Chief Bola Ige stands out as the saddest commentary about Nigeria. Ige was the chief law enforcement officer of the nation, he was the attorney general; a man who was supposed to be one of the most well guarded. Yet, his security was breached and then killed in his own home. Almost five years later, his killers has not been found and brought to justice. What kind of a country is Nigeria?
Only in Nigeria could a serving Attorney General be killed and those suspected of the dastardly act roam free and go about their daily business. Only in Nigeria and under President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Allegations of moral and financial improprieties aside, the murder of Chief Bola Ige under Obasanjo’s watch will forever remain a big blot on his conscience and on his record. Even if the president did not sanction the killing of Ige, he certainly knows who gave the orders; he knows who signed the contract. However, if the president did not sanction the killing and does not know who gave the orders, then he, Obasanjo, is blameworthy for not doing enough to resolve the case. If the Attorney General of the country is not safe and secured, then the president himself is not safe. He must not feel safe now and in the future.
In the case of Dele Giwa, I have yet to meet a Nigerian who does not think that IBBs finger prints or shadow were not on the parcel bomb. You cannot think of killings in Nigeria and not think of this pairing: Babangida for Dele Giwa; Abacha for Kudirat Abiola; and Obasanjo for Bola Ige. They may not have pulled the trigger, but they know or should have known and then brought justice to bear on the murderers. And because they failed or refused to resolve the matter, Nigerians hold them responsible for the loss of these and other lives.
One of the central functions of government is to provide political goods and services, i.e., human and personal security. If government fails or colludes with groups outside of government to kill and or maim its citizens, then the government has failed its people, and has no moral or constitutional claim to authority. The man or woman who heads such a government becomes nothing but a Mafioso Boss, a colluder.
With the coming 2007 Elections, the political tempo will increase, giving rise to reprehensible machinations, intolerance, and the need to maim, destroy or kill opponents and critics. Friedrich Nietzache it was who said “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” We therefore must be understanding and be tolerant of other people’s views. The pursuit of money and power must not blind us to honor and decency.
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
This essay was first published in the spring of 2007. It is being republished on account of the recent assassination of the 2007 AC candidate in Ogun State, Mr. Dipo Dina. Since this essay was published, more than three dozen political assassinations and an estimated six dozen homicides have taken place. Most of these extra-legalities have remained unresolved. It seems Nigeria does not have the capacity or the political will to investigate, arrest, prosecute and to punish those who engage in such horrendous acts.