Blogger's Note: Recently the Nigerian government under the leadership of Olusegun Obasanjo charged Ralph Uwazurike and other leaders of MASSOB with treason. This has become a major cause for concern to many Nigerians, the Igbo people in particular whose sons now face the serious charge and possible murder by the government of that country.
It is diabolical that this should happen around the time the world is celebrating the murder also by an ealier Nigerian government of Ken Saro-Wiwa who aided the same Obasanjo and the Nigerian forces to crush Biafra. Never a fan of Saro-Wiwa myself, I have always maintained that no human being deserves to die the way he died, no matter what he did. I hate to imagine that unless people speak up now, 10 years from now, we might be celebrating 20 years of the judicial murder of Saro-Wiwa and 10 years of the judicial murder of Uwazurike.
It is disturbing that the Nigerian government does not wish to dialogue with MASSOB. This charge of treason against people who just wish to say their name is also a kind of treason. This is why I find the article by Okey Ndibe exciting to read, because it highlights all levels of treasonable acts committed by the Nigerian government.
Degrees of treason
By Okey Ndibe
An administration whose trademark is treasonous conduct has found a new hobby in prosecuting some of its victims on charges of treason. First it was Asari Dokubo. Now it is Ralph Uwazurike, the founder and leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra. President Olusegun Obasanjo's government seems bent on squelching any voice that loudly proclaims the illogicality of the Nigerian nation.
Obasanjo's repressive stance is bound for futility. If it is treason to declare that Nigeria, as currently constituted, is a hollow idea, a territorial space devoid of meaning, a fictional construct, a false notion, an alleged nation, then count me among the majority of Nigerians who think along those lines. For many Nigerians, their nation is an illusion that cannot long be sustained. It is an endangered promise, a stunted, malformed entity. A nation cannot survive when it is founded on injustice, iniquity and fraud. It cannot command the loyalty of citizens.
Nigeria's hedonistic "leaders," men and women too obsessed with lucre to embrace the task of founding a truly coherent community, have squandered the nation's promise. Nigeria is today a shell, a cornucopia of broken, shattered dreams. And the Obasanjo administration is as guilty as any of its predecessors in this vitiation of national potential. The administration lacks the patriotic credential or moral capital to charge anybody with treason. This government has wallowed, and wallows, in treasonable behaviour.
It would be nigh impossible, given space constraints, to enumerate all of this administration's crimes, but a partial list would suffice to make the point. Treason is what happened in Odi, Bayelsa state, in 1999. Odi has entered the Nigerian lexicon as a metaphor for genocide. It is an account of this administration's infliction of death on hundreds of innocent citizens made to pay the ultimate price for the sins of a few exuberant youths. A government that would massacre its own citizens as if they were enemy combatants is a government steeped in treason. As if Odi was not horrifying enough, the Obasanjo government then executed another heinous crime in Zaki Biam, wiping out any moving thing in several villages. It was a case of domestic "shock and awe" before George W. Bush borrowed the phrase.
Treason is the impunity that went by the name of the 2003 general elections. Flush with the arrogance of incumbency, the president and his notoriously misnamed Peoples Democratic Party went about grabbing any state that suited their fancy, any seat or gubernatorial position they desired. It was brazen in the president's home state of Ogun where more "voters" turned out than were in the electoral register. Did ghosts emerge from graves to vote along with people?
In Anambra state, a young political "godfather" wielded both wealth and influence to veto the votes of millions of voters.
Treason is what Chris Uba and other acolytes of the president did in July 2003, abducting Anambra's Governor Chris Ngige and forging his resignation letter. The governor's offence was his refusal to permit Uba to freely dip filthy hands into the state treasury. Treason? Treason is the president's decision to shield the perpetrators of the governor's abduction from prosecution. Treason is the president's failure to call in the police after he allegedly heard a confession from the duo of Uba and Governor Ngige that the 2003 polls in Anambra had been rigged.
Treason is the connivance of the government in a plot to create lawlessness in Anambra state in order to prepare the ground for the president's imposition of a state of emergency in the state. Treason is the wholesale burning of public facilities in Anambra by hoodlums whose "fundamental right to arson" was dutifully, fastidiously protected by officers of the Nigerian Police Force. For three days in November of 2004, these arsonists, often escorted by police, swept through Anambra state, setting fire to radio and television stations, sundry government buildings as well as government-owned buses and cars. The president's response? Obasanjo summoned the governor of the assaulted state and ordered him to negotiate with the masterminds of the conflagration. The conclusion is inescapable: the mayhem had presidential imprimatur.
Treason is when the government empowers Chris Uba with an oil block, thus proving that crime pays in Nigeria. The ruling party, after feigning Uba's expulsion (the mildest rebuke, given the enormity of his crimes), has officially re-admitted him to the fold of party "thieftains." The PDP has unveiled an outrageous plan to install him as a member of the party's board of trustees. Do we not see, then, that the real villains and felons inhabit the inner rooms of power in Abuja?
Treason is a government unable (more likely unwilling) to discharge the most elementary function of governance, namely, the provision of security, the protection of all citizens' lives and property. Treason is a government that slumbered while assassins killed Bola Ige, its own Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. Treason is a government that then proceeded to bungle the investigation of the crime and the prosecution of arrested suspects. Treason is the ruling party's bizarre decision to field the most visible suspect, a man who was then in detention, as one of its senatorial candidates.
Treason is when a government turns a fight against corruption into a selective hounding of those "disloyal" to the president, those hostile to Obasanjo's untoward political schemes. Why has no known ally of the president faced embarrassment or prosecution for corruption? Does this president with an imperial cast of mind believe that only men close to Atiku Abubakar, his estranged vice president, are corrupt? Why does Mr. Obasanjo behave as if his own pals are exemplars of virtue and probity, untainted by graft? Treason is when a leader tailors public policy to serve his narrow interests or those of his small coterie.
Treason is the president's systematic emasculation of the National Assembly, his frequent employment of monetary inducement to determine the legislators' principal officers or to quiet the legislators' several attempts to hold him to account, to impeach him. Treason is when a leadership conducts the nation's affairs with little or no accountability to the people.
The rising secessionist rhetoric in Nigeria is an effect of betrayal by this government as well as past regimes. If Ralph Uwazurike's vision of a re-born Biafra resonates with many Igbo youths, it is precisely because this government, like those before it, has slain hope and deepened despair. This government's record of unconstitutional conduct, its anthology of illegal acts, its cynical attitude to accountability, its hypocritical posture on corruption and its wholesale abandonment of ethics fuel the view that Nigeria is emptied of hope, is headed for the terrible abyss.
©Okey Ndibe 2005. All rights reserved. This article was first published in The Guardian online, November 17, 2005. Published at www.nnoromazuonye.com with the author’s permission.