By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (October 28th 2020)
Far Too Little, Far Too Late
On behalf of The Fitted-In Project it is my duty to stand with Nigeria’s demonstrators against police brutality – the notorious SARS. The demonstrations in Nigeria started over this weeks ago.
Last week the situation degenerated as demonstrators were targeted by the army and murdered in cold blood. President Muhammadu Buhari fiddled while Lagos burned.
His belated and weak responses to deplorable crimes against Nigerian citizens will not be forgiven or forgotten.
Events in Nigeria were appalling. They are getting worse. Nigeria has had a sad history of military dictatorship. Few can forget the crimes of the late military dictator Sani Abacha, but before Abacha there was a long list of shame – military dictators.
That included Buhari. On New Year’s Eve 1983 a military coup ousted the democratically elected government of Shehu Shagari and installed Buhari. He led a right-wing military dictatorship until 1985.
Buhari claimed to have learned from the errors of his past, claiming to be a ‘converted democrat’ when he contested and won the Presidency of Nigeria in 2015. His predecessor may not have been a great President, but he has a legacy that Nigerians appreciate and respect. Goodluck Jonathan accepted the result and peacefully handed over power – a first!
Jonathan has a legacy. Buhari, the converted democrat, is no democrat, converted or otherwise.
Last year he won another four years. His opponent Atiku Abubaker wanted an intervention from the USA and EU, warning the future of Nigerian democracy was at stake. It didn’t happen even though Buhari had flouted the Constitution by dismissing the country’s top judge, Walter Onnoghen, weeks before the election.
No doubt it was a coincidence that this was judge who headed the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court was responsible for resolving electoral issues. Buhari won re-election, but look at his record.
Today we stand with Nigerian demonstrators. These people request our help. “Our government is killing us,” they say. “Tell the world.”
They also say they have never seen anything like this. Sadly, just two years ago Buhari showed that he had reformed in words not deeds.
The irony of seeing football players take a knee for Black Lives Matter – a protest movement that started due to outrageous and excessive killing of black people by law enforcement officers in the USA with little or no consequences – is not lost on us.
Where are the sports stars taking a knee for Nigeria’s victims of police and armed forces brutality?
Faced with this, we cannot and will not stay silent. #WeStandWithNigerianDemonstratorsToo. #WeKneelForNigerianDemonstratorsToo.
This is not the first time Nigerian police have used brutality on Buhari’s watch. This is not the first time peaceful demonstrators have been shot and killed on Buhari’s watch. This is not the first time that innocent demonstrators were blamed by lies – victim-blaming at its worst. The ‘investigations’ into these crimes followed a time-honoured practice – sweeping them under the carpet.
The killings of October 2018 followed this pattern. Vote-rigging is almost an accepted practice. Buhari’s opponents such as Atiku are far from squeaky clean. When in government vote-rigging was not stamped out – it thrived. Buhari, too, thrives on his critics having skeletons in the closet, so much so that he can openly move the goalposts and get away with it.
He has done that before as well. Last year, he won another four-year term.
No Justice, No Peace
The failure to investigate these crimes and misdemeanours adequately over a long period of time encourages the perpetrators. Why would they fear being brought to justice when history – even in Buhari’s ‘democratic’ regime – showed that there would be no consequences? And for some, the tables have turned – the vote-riggers of yesterday are today’s victims.
How can they complain credibly? Being purer than Cæsar’s wife is hardly a recommendation if the Cæsar’s wife was Messalina Valeria.
There cannot be peace in Nigeria without justice – something Nigerians still await. Instead of peace and justice, Buhari has brought discord and injustice. His government has harassed journalists and opponents alike.
Three media were fined a total of 9m Naira ($23,566.38) by the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission for reporting the SARS protests. And this is the reformed democrat?
I’m old enough to remember seeing a documentary over 20 years ago. It included a small segment of Nigerian TV. The presenter had to say a word – one that had nothing to do with the programme or journalism. The word she had to say enthusiastically was ‘Abacha!’
How long before Nigeria’s media have to enthusiastically say another word, ‘Buhari!’
Silence speaks loudly. It is not diplomatic to remain silent in the face of injustice – it is cowardice. Nigeria needs a statesman – a leader who defends the rights of his country’s citizens. Nigeria does not need mealy-mouthed pleas for understanding and calm – there’s no understanding of the indefensible. Nigeria needs peace and justice. You cannot have peace without justice.
Mr Dictator in the making, you are no President!