I wanted to speak with someone before I wrote this piece. I wanted to bounce off my position before I put pen to paper. So, I called my friend Stan and had a very robust conversation on the matter. Our discussions were very deep and incisive and at the end of the day strengthened my position on the matter.
So, veteran Actor Chiwetalu Agu adorned a costume with Biafran colors and posted the image on social media. As a result, we have seen reports of him being allegedly manhandled by the Army throwing up public consternation and further deepening the crevasses that seem to be dividing our nation.
As one not prone to emotive discussions, I needed to discuss with some one that would see the facts away from the complexities brought upon us by a lack of national clarity on issues like this. Stan fit my bill and thankfully, he saw the facts despite one or two disagreements.
What are the facts? There is an ongoing violent insurrection in the South-East. This insurrection is claiming lives and property, and attacks on institutionalized symbols of a federal system like Police stations, INEC offices are being raised down. The insurrection is pushing for a dismemberment of the federation and the choice of vehicle is violence as we speak today.
The justification for the insurrection, as strong as it is, does not support the ongoing violence. The Igbos have been severally marginalized in the federation. They have suffered untold injustices but so is every other tribe. But some of them have said they should leave and others have said they should stay but fight for their rights within the federation.
As we speak, there is no evidence to show which side has the majority of the people, but what we see are the tell-tale sign of humongous violence that does not seem to differentiate who is who.
So, this gentleman, a major pillar of the society by virtue of his positioning in Nollywood, a vehicle of mass mobilization, decides to adorn the costume with the colors of the violent agitation and positions himself in the geographical ‘theatre of war”, thereby sending a very strong signal that would be read differently from all sides.
To the violent agitators, this is a very strong message of support. To the peaceful agitators, this is also a very strong message of support. To those who want to remain, this is a very stupid statement and to the rest of Nigeria it will throw up a different connotation.
But one thing is clear, that symbol can never be ignored. So, the Army moves in. Now, listen carefully. The Army has the constitutional right to protect the territorial integrity of the country and as such will view this as a symbol of the violent insurrection aimed at dismembering the system and as such will move.
Now, whether his rights will be respected is another argument. I think when you rub yourself with honey and stand Infront of a beehive, you cannot determine for the bees how they will engage you.
The Army is not trained to engage in civil matters but will move on matters that affect the territorial sanctity of the nation and this is where this matter seats squarely.
But that said, the Army has the first option of movement but they must quickly investigate and establish that there is no link to the violent agitation especially against federal institutions or its dismemberment and where this has been established, Citizen Agu MUST be let free and even apologized to.
But where he is found culpable, he must be handed over to civil authorities to take him through the defined processes of justice. He cannot be court-martialed or anything like that.
That said, Citizen Agu retains his rights- freedom of speech and freedom of association but these rights must align to the overall public good and not be used and deployed irresponsibly.
I have not said that this is what he has done, but a thorough investigation by appropriate authorities will throw that up and, in any case, he must be accorded all his rights as a citizen.
Now, like I told Stan, there are two faces to the insurrection- the peaceful and the violent. The peaceful is what I strongly subscribe to and that is what the British did with BREXIT and the Scottish did with the UK.
Take the message to the people and ask a simple question – do you want to remain in Nigeria or not? The answer will determine the next course of action. If the overwhelming majority want out, you take the result to court and force an official referendum supervised by legitimate bodies. If the answer comes out in favour, there are due processes where we can achieve this without all these carnage.
The challenge here is that this peaceful one may not throw the required answer for our violent agitators and even if it did will take ‘forever’ and our agitators do not seem to have that time, hence the resort to violence which is seen as a quick fix.
I think Citizen Agu, if he is for the dismemberment which is his right, should use his position to push for the peaceful achievement of their position. He should use his position to renounce violence because what we are seeing now in the South-East and, indeed, the whole of the country is fear because violence does not discriminate. It takes everybody out.
So, my brother Stan, thank you for this morning. I really do wish that most Nigerians would have the patience to see these issues the way you have seen them. Life will truly be saner for us all.
AUTHOR: Joseph Edgar
Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.
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