Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sharpeville, Nigeria

By Chuks Iloegbunam
There are two stories to jump off from:
1) Sharpeville, South Africa; March 21, 1960.
A group of between 5,000 and 10,000 people converged on the local police station in the township of Sharpeville, offering themselves up for arrest for not carrying their passbooks. The Sharpeville police were not completely unprepared for the demonstration, as they had already been forced to drive smaller groups of more militant activists away the previous night.

By 10:00, a large crowd had gathered, and the atmosphere was initially peaceful and festive. Fewer than 20 police officers were present in the station at the start of the protest. Later the crowd grew to about 20,000, and the mood was described as “ugly”, prompting about 130 police reinforcements, supported by four Saracen armoured personnel carriers. The police were armed with firearms, including Sten submachine guns and Lee-Enfield rifles. There was no evidence that anyone in the gathering was armed with anything other than rocks.

F-86 Sabre jets and Harvard Trainers approached to within a hundred feet of the ground, flying low over the crowd in an attempt to scatter it. The protestors responded by hurling a few stones and menacing the police barricades. Tear gas proved ineffectual, and policemen elected to repel these advances with their batons. At about 13:00 the police tried to arrest a protestor, resulting in a scuffle, and the crowd surged forward. The shooting began shortly thereafter. The official figure is that 69 people were killed, including 8 women and 10 children, and 180 injured, including 31 women and 19 children. Many were shot in the back as they turned to flee.” (Quoted from Wikipedia.)
*Herbert Ekwe-ekwe 
2) Onitsha; Aba, Nigeria; December 2015 – February 2016.
“The current orgy of massacres of Biafrans by the Nigerian occupation genocidist military, begun on Wednesday 2 December 2015 in Onicha, has continued unabated. On Wednesday 9 February 2016, the genocidists positioned in Aba, commercial city in southeast Biafra, shot dead 10 Biafrans attending a prayer session at the National High School, Aba, for the release of Nnamdi Kanu, freedom broadcaster of Radio Biafra and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Vanguard, Lagos, Friday 12 February 2016), illegally detained by the Nigerian regime in a secret police facility in Abuja since mid-October. Scores of other demonstrators were seriously wounded in the slaughter and several others seized and taken away by the genocidists. This massacre is the second within three weeks in Aba. On Monday 18 January 2016, another marauding genocidist corps gunned down eight peaceful Biafrans demonstrating for Nnamdi Kanu’s release and the restoration of Biafran independence (Vanguard, Lagos, Tuesday 19 January 2016).”

This writer’s perspective, to be unambiguous from the onset, is from the viewpoint of Nigeria as one corporate entity. That point made, there are a few known facts that require restating nonetheless. First, in the apartheid South Africa, it was white supremacists gunning down Blacks they generally considered to be less than human. In 2016 Nigeria, it is the bullets from the country’s military and Police felling the citizens.

Secondly, reactions to the two developments mentioned above vary starkly. Black South Africans were so outraged by Sharpeville that “the following week saw demonstrations, protest marches, strikes, and riots around the country. On 30 March 1960, the government declared a state of emergency, detaining more than 18,000 people, including prominent anti-apartheid activists… A storm of international protest followed the Sharpeville shootings, including sympathetic demonstrations in many countries and condemnation by the United Nations. Sharpeville marked a turning point in South Africa’s history; the country found itself increasingly isolated in the international community. The event also played a role in South Africa’s departure from the Commonwealth of Nations.”
 
*Pro-Biafra protester killed by Nigerian security officers in Onitsha
In the recent Nigerian massacres, whether of Biafran agitators or of Shia’a adherents in Zaria, the response has remained a deafening silence. It raises critical questions: Is the United Nations moving forward or going backwards? Are Nigerians pretending not to notice because when the coffin of another’s child is being taken to the cemetery, it looks like what is being conveyed is a log?
I have continued to examine these questions. My changeless attitude is that the shooting of non-violent demonstrators would sooner exacerbate than solve identified problems. Does Nigeria realize that those commanded, as a matter of course, to shoot to kill and maim unarmed Biafran agitators today are being compelled to inculcate a habit almost impossible to shake off even after there are no more Biafran agitators to shoot dead or cripple?

I sat down and carefully thought through this dispensation’s grotesqueries. I invite my fellow countrymen and women to also sit down and critically analyze them. I am far from convinced that trigger-happiness is a rationale way of tackling the challenges of democratic experiment. It will be fantastic to listen to, or read up, a disquisition in contradistinction to this postulation.
 
*President Buhari
This was Head of State Yakubu Gowon in October 1966, at the height of the anti-Igbo pogrom that ultimately consumed 50,000 innocent lives: “I receive complaints daily that up till now Easterners living in the North are being killed and molested, and their property looted. I am very unhappy about this. We should put a stop to it. It appears it is going beyond reason and is now at a point of recklessness and irresponsibility.”

It appears the fingers that ought to pelt the anti-massacre drums prefer to dawdle until the recklessness of an Odi or a Zaki Biam or a Shia’a Zaria is inflicted on the Igbo country, all in the name of stemming the tide of Biafran agitation. As someone who knew Chinua Achebe, I aver that were he alive today, he would long have fired this injunction in the general direction of Abuja: “Stop massacring my people!” I know that Ndigbo abound everywhere who have attained international distinction in various walks of life. What remains incomprehensible is why the thought of dissuading those romancing the guilt of bloodshed has yet to occur to them. How could people who felt abominated because Olisa Metuh, a politician, arrived for court hearings in handcuffs fasten their lips in the face of the repeated massacres of their kith and kin?

When the previous administration escalated the fight against Boko Haram, a certain presidential aspirant charged that it amounted to a declaration of war against the North. When Chief Olu Falae was recently kidnapped, allegedly by Fulani herdsmen, the Yoruba threatened secession. Yet Ndigbo are routinely being shot and killed and maimed in the name of Rules of Engagement, and there apparently are no prominent Igbo voices at home and in the Diaspora outraged enough to execrate the sanguinary Rules?

One more time, Professor Ekwe-Ekwe: “Every Biafran murdered or wounded or “disappeared” in this trail of murders by the genocidists is meticulously documented and archived. Each genocidist unit involved in these murders, including command and control personnel, is meticulously documented and archived. Everyone must now know that no one or institution involved in these murders will escape justice in court for committing the crime of genocide. This crime, it couldn’t be overstressed, has no statute of limitations in international law.”
**Mr. Chuks Iloegbunam, an eminent essayist, journalist and author of several books, writes column on the back page of The Authority newspaper every Tuesday.


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