By Uche John Madu
A few days back, I almost broke down into tears, when I watched the absurd drama in Afraukwu Umuahia the country home of the loathsome leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu. His supporters, some spotted in the black-coloured regalia of the “Biafra Security Service”, blocked the thoroughfare of soldiers on the “Operation Python Dance II”, of the Nigerian Army. And these Biafran youths pelted objects, hurled stones and sticks at an Armoured Personnel Carrier, APC propelled by soldiers.
The video as released online had background noises of war-like chants from the youths. The soldiers displayed a lot of restraint as they made a detour and took another route. But the glaringly unprovoked attack on soldiers by the Biafran youths injured a female passerby and a soldier.
That is the extent of our indulgence into extremity. The Biafran youths who launch the unwarranted attacks on soldiers, were perhaps, brainwashed by their leaders about certain “human rights” in “their native land” and they became bolstered and excited by the prospect of a wailing world, had the soldiers reacted in the commensurate manner they were tempted.
Nigerians indiscernibly assume democratic liberties are limitless and do not discern when actions constitute a crime against individuals and the state. But we are profoundly excited because democracy allows certain liberties.
This mentality has rudely invaded our minds and psyche on issues of human rights abuses too. We are only conscious of our personal human rights, prone to abuse, but joyfully forget the human rights of others gleefully abused by our actions or inactions. We stir the trouble and spread its tentacles, abusing everything sane to humanity. When repercussions come, we shout loudest about human rights violations and the fissure of other connected rights. These cursed souls and voices in aberration, flourish more under democracies. And security agents are often the targets of these bitter attacks.
Today, Nigerian democracy is experiencing a barrage of unjustified criticisms of the Nigerian security architecture . It surfaces anytime personnel are deployed for civil engagements on salvage mission. And it springs from some of the same elements they seek to protect.
I cannot be a friend of the military; I cannot even be a fan of soldiers. But let truth be told, Nigerians have a daring spirit and sometimes, they overstretch the boundaries. Provocation of soldiers or other security agents is done deliberately because there are a litany of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) or an array of human rights organisations to rise in defence, in the event of an unavoidable confrontation. Then, the voices of “crusaders” of human rights violations pierce the air. And in Nigeria, Amnesty International (AI) is usually the most vocal voice, making counterfeited allegations of human rights abuses.
But Nigeria is not the only country in the world which loves its citizens. Like in other parts of the world, we are living with different strands of budding terrorism in the country. I do know that some of these sects have not concealed affiliations with international terrorists sects. But we show little concern about this festering heist on our souls and nation. We are more interested in protecting the human rights of human rights violators.
Straightforwardly, I sensed a lot of wisdom in British Prime Minister, Mrs. Theresa May’s proposal in June 2017 to tinker with human rights laws of Britain, after the May 22nd and June 3rd 2017 multiple London terrorists attacks. She was emphatic about tinkering with laws “if they get in the way” of Britain’s battles against terrorism.
America is a super country in the world. I never heard the rest of the world scream blue murder, when former President Barack Obama deployed drones of the Naval SEAL, which extra-judicially sniffed life out of Al Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden and others in an Abbottabad cave in Pakistan. Even world leaders have read and interpreted the monster of terrorism as unworthy of clothing in liberal human rights laws on the path of the fight against it. Nigeria cannot continue to live in denial of the embryonic reality of terror sects.
Unarguably, the Nigerian Army led by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai has proven overtime that he is presiding over a personnel imbued with a new orientation, discipline, and the ideals of civil/military relations and professionalism. The establishment of the Human Rights Desk at the Army headquarters, Abuja is further proof of the institution to eagerly checkmate the excesses of erring officers, without external prompting. It has earned it enviable reputation around the world from its numerous engagements in local conflicts and taming of insurgencies in Nigeria. But some forces are bent on damaging this hard earned reputation.
It is reason Gen. Buratai constituted the seven-man Nigerian Army Special Board of Inquiry, chaired by Maj. Gen. Ahmed Jibrin to probe the overtly spurious allegations of human rights abuses leveled against its personnel, by some international Human Rights Organizations like AI and the Human Rights Watch with vested interests in promoting terror sects in the country. The Army came out unblemished.
More aberrant voices canvassed for a Presidential Panel, as they brushed aside the Army Panel’s report even as the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) again responded to these outcries. And while President Muhammadu Buhari was on medical vacation in London, the then Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo constituted and inaugurated a Seven -member Presidential Panel on the same probe on August 11th 2017. Chaired by Justice Biobele Georgewill of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, it has 90 days to submit its report.
As unusual with us, as soon as the Presidential Panel publicized the call for memorandum from the public, fresh criticisms and objections greeted its composition, as lacking independence and doubting its outcome. Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) declined appearance like they have always done.
One is perplexed at the volley of rejections by interested parties in the incidents under probe. But to demonstrate a deliberate obfuscation of a lawful process and the preference of the triumph of terrorism against a helpless Nigeria, the Shiites in Nigeria sect (IMN) in a public statement signed by Professor Abdullahi Danladi disparaged the panel and shockingly claimed; “It would appear that the setting up of this panel may be related to a quick attempt at convincing (or deceiving) the United States (U.S.) government into selling weapons to the military”.
But America far more sophisticated in discreetly prying into the affairs of other nations has sold the weapons to Nigeria to tackle terrorism. It means, America’s surreptitiously independent inquest has found nothing against Nigerian Army on human rights violations. But this mindset by IMN is representative of the real intentions of the series of objections and refusals to accept previous recommendations exonerating the Nigerian Army of any culpability by these groups.
I have strong suspicions that these groups, which have indefensibly taken the Nigerian Army to the slaughter slab, are angry with soldiers of Nigeria today for courageously dealing a hard blow on terrorism in the country. I am not convinced of the breach of any human rights by soldiers yet, but the only official instrument at their disposal is the straw of human rights abuses. It is crafted to weaken the resolve and dampen the morale of soldiers in confronting terrorists, by instigating the international community to cry foul. The intent of these protests is clearly discerned now.
The compliance with human rights obligations and rules of engagement is very necessary and Nigerians have ranked the Army high in the observance of these creeds in the asymmetric terrorism campaigns.
Soldiers go the extra-mile most times to demonstrate their humanity. We have seen Nigerian troops in battle with terrorists conveying wounded Boko Haram terrorists to the hospital in the Northeast. A heart steeped in cruelty about humanity cannot condescend to this humanitarianism. Nigerian soldiers offer free Medicare to the sick in the Southeast and extend Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to host communities throughout the nation. These are not undertakings of hearts soaked with the vinegar of vengeance and inhumanity.
They ought to be celebrated as patriots and heroes, as against the present vilification for no just cause. To seek to rubbish the professional integrity and dignity of the institution of the Nigerian Army as currently prosecuted by these groups amounts to persecution, which all men of conscience should resent.
I keep saying, soldiers are also human beings, who have feelings and entitled to some professional rights in the line of duty. We have over time pleasured in abusing everything which confers any vestige of humanity on soldiers. We insult, denigrate, abuse, lampoon and fabricate all sorts of lies on their souls and that of other security agents. Hoodlums and armed miscreants without reason, attack our security agents on the line of duty and gruesomely murder security agents.
Unfortunately, those who lament loudly the failure of the prompt response of security agents to threatening security situations are those who have rendered themselves to the services of criminal elements to blackmail our security agencies and smear their image. We easily forget the patriotism and the sacrifices they make on our behest, in taming these criminal monsters, including paying the supreme price of death. But these are men and women who have devoted their lives to save humanity. The only appreciation they get from some elements in the society is cruelty and condemnation, by raising platforms for their senseless persecution.
Certainly, our nation-state and its constitution is on trial, if we continue this way. So, when we delight in persecuting soldiers and other security agents for protecting humanity, we are consciously digging the pit for chaos, anarchy and complete breakdown of public law and order.
I ask, where is our own sense of humanity and commitment to the liberation of our country from evil forces, when all we do, is think of manufacturing or doctoring videos and pictures in crisis situations where soldiers are drafted to maintain peace? And thereafter, we present these video tapes as evidence of human rights violations against our officers? We must reflect on our common humanity now and know that what is good for the goose is good for gander.
Madu writes from the Badagry Leadership Institute, Lagos.