By Adewale Sanyaolu Despite being a country with the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, Nigeria, according to Foraminifera, a marketing and research firm, spends about N2 billion yearly on importation of asphalt, a derivative of bitumen. The occurrence of bitumen deposits in Nigeria is twice the amount of existing reserves of crude…
This is a joke and yet a very serious development about which everybody is unwary or pretends not to notice. Worse still, nobody seems to bother even though we passed through this way before only to find ourselves in political disaster. By the way, there is no contradiction between the joke and serious development as will be proved, unless those concerned retrace their steps and learn from history.
On the other hand, relevant pressure groups must be alerted (if they are not yet alert) to this potential for political tension in the country. For now, such pressure groups, Nigeria Bar Association, human rights groups, the media and even politicians, seem to have gone asleep or, like ostriches, are hiding their heads in the sand. Such possible complicity never escapes the verdict of history, which is eventual collective regret.
January 20, 2017, was, in the political history of the United States, the day of swearing in a newly-elected President, this time, controversial Donald Trump. Campaigns leading to his election attracted world attention to the fear and, at a stage, disbelief at all that the man was offering the electorate and the world, if elected. The general impression was that Americas would never endorse such a rabble-rouser. Everybody except Donald Trump and his key supporters got it wrong, as Trump won the election in an unusual landslide.
There was, therefore, no surprise that Trump’s swearing-in on January 20 as a successor to President Barack Obama was marked by protests not only in the country’s capital, Washington, District of Columbia, as well as scores of U.S. cities but also in many foreign countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
In such a situation, Nigeria could not be an exception, as demonstrators in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on the platform of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), protested in support of Trump in exercise of their right to hold different views. As usual in Nigeria, that legitimate demonstration was violently disrupted by the police on the routine excuse that the demonstrators did not obtain police permit. That is laughable. Otherwise, even the police force must obey judicial pronouncement(s) in the land.
Today, even appellate courts’ rulings are that Nigerians don’t need police permit for lawful assembly. Demonstration in support of President Trump cannot on that account be unlawful even if tainted with agitation for secession. In the aftermath of that violent disruption, Biafran protesters claimed some of their members were killed. There was no way of confirming the fatal shootings but, as usual, the police denied it. That was not different from such denials of massacre of demonstrators at Onitsha, even when attested to and documented by Amnesty International.
The police denial of fatal shootings at the Port Harcourt demonstration of support for Trump by self-proclaimed Biafrans was followed by the police charge of treason and treasonable felony against the Biafrans. Do these people know the gravity of the charges against demonstrators even if agitating for secession? A charge of overawing President Muhammadu Buhari. Has Buhari complained that he is overawed? The demonstration in Port Harcourt on January 20, 2017, was no more than Nigeria’s version of demonstrations against President Trump in different parts of the world, including the U.S. Nigeria is the only country involved in such protests where the protesters were, as a result, charged for treason and treasonable felony.
Yes, the demonstrators displayed Biafran flags. So what? Till today, confederalists in southern United States proudly display their flags, even on public buildings, separate from the U.S. flag. Why has the Federal Bureau of Investigation never charged the confederalists for treason?
How about the sincerity of the police? Quite unusually, the alleged treason felons (Biafran agitators) were arraigned at a magistrates court at 6pm. Was that normal? Even if at the end of the day’s proceedings, the accused were granted bail, how could they formalise their bail conditions? Since no such was intended for the accused, the magistrate adjourned the case for a long time, contrary to the provisions of the so-called new Criminal Justice Act. And the boys were clamped into prison till the next date of hearing.
Do the present generation of police know anything about Nigeria’s political history? Do they know anything about the 1962 treason trial in Nigeria and the outcome for the country? They had better find out. Briefly, the 1962 treason trial laid the foundation for subsequent political upheavals, which led to the civil war. Despite serious warnings, there is this conscious or unconscious penchant for drumbeats of a repeat civil war.
The differences between civilisation and primitiveness are irreconcilable. Agitation for secession is not limited to Nigeria or even Africa. Scotland is still hell-bent on seceding from the United Kingdom. No British government or law enforcement agency has ever dared arraign the agitators for treason.
When did it become treason to demonstrate or agitate against even a sitting President in Nigeria? And everybody is keeping quiet? Agitation for secession is a political view guaranteed under the Nigerian Constitution. Is such political view limited to Nigeria? Agitation for secession is a political right against actions of those in government. New America President, Trump, issued executive orders for banning and/or deporting Muslims, ordinary Americas and even many state governments openly disagreed and refused to enforce deportations.
To that end, almost 50 per cent of Californians have expressed their wish to secede from the U.S. Why has the FBI not arrested or charged them for treason and treasonable felony?
A charge as grave as treason must necessarily obtain the consent of the Attorney-General of the Federation. Did Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation, consent to this trial after mere public agitation in Port Harcourt?
The media have a duty to fully highlight this treason trial, if any such charge exists in the circumstances. There are laws for treason offences but such must not be manipulated to blackmail and intimidate society into outright timidity.
By the time this purported treason trial becomes fully blown (and the media must ensure this) the negative implications on Nigeria’s sagging economy as well as its political future will dawn on those concerned.
The media must not be complicit in this blackout. From the next hearing of the treason trial, the public must be comprehensively informed on the entire proceedings or history will condemn today’s journalists.