The arrest and detention of the women, aged between 20 and 70 years, is a wound too deep to contemplate or ignore
It is inexplicable why Nigeria loves courting the limelight of infamy. It is quite bizarre when security operatives bare their fangs against innocent citizens but cringe at the sound of criminal noises. In fact, more often than not, they work in cahoots with criminal elements against the people they are paid to protect but easily become brave whenever it comes to abusing the rights of the citizens.
Of course, the work of securing Nigeria is arduous and operatives need to be appreciated for their sacrifice. Unfortunately, they spoil the broth themselves by colluding with evil forces to trample down the people. Sometimes too they act alone, using the instrumentality of force, against internationally established standards, to cow and club the people into submission.
Only last week, over 100 ‘Biafran’ women were arrested in Owerri, Imo State capital, for no reason other than a peaceful protest demanding to know the whereabouts of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Independent People of Biafra, IPOB. The poor women were tear-gassed and quarantined for about a week until a high court ordered their unconditional release.
Kanu has not appeared in public since last year when Nigeria Army’s crocodiles danced dangerously in Igbo land and confronted him in his Afaraukwu, Umuahia home, prompting the protest. The women reportedly marched through the streets, chanting, dancing and displaying different placards, demanding to know the whereabouts of Kanu and a date for Biafran referendum. But the Imo State Police Command, apparently acting on ‘orders from above’, swooped on the hapless, harmless women for allegedly conducting an unlawful assembly. They were later charged to court and remanded in prison, thus doing incalculable damage to the democratic credentials of the government, as the action of the women did not constitute an illegal assembly and holding an unlawful protest. The arrest and detention of the women, aged between 20 and 70 years, therefore, is a wound too deep to contemplate or ignore; an inerasable stain on the conscience of this monolith called Nigeria.
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It must be understood that the women were well within their fundamental human right to protest. They bore no arms apart from the fact that most of them appeared semi-nude, which in itself might have been interpreted to be a volatile weapon against an oppressive lecherous male society, who found the temptation too much to bear and so vented its spleen on the women to let off bottled libido.
But this write up is not about IPOB, its leader or the propriety of their struggle but about abuse of the women, Igbo women for no just cause.
Expectedly, the mistreatment of the women sparked off wide outcry and condemnation, showcasing the underbelly of a nation whose leaders are increasingly intolerant of criticism. This was definitely bad public relations for the country, especially because it involved our wives and mothers. It was the shame of the odious act that compelled the filing of nolle prosequi, by the Imo State Attorney General, leading to the women’s release, as the shamefaced police was not even in court to oppose their bail application. Forget all the excuses and stories flying around, the highly embarrassed government was only too glad to let the women off the hook and grateful to the Imo judge for bailing them out of the backlash of its uncouth conduct.
Strangely, but for a few brave hearts, many of the garrulous ‘Igbo leaders’ were tongue tied, as the women were being abused. They were rather busy defending their slave masters, positioning themselves in readiness for next year’s elections instead of speaking out against the atrocious manhandling of their sisters, wives and mothers. Stranger still is the politicisation of the release of these women, as many people are now claiming credit for that ‘feat’.
The women’s arrest, detention and eventual arrest is a discredit to the government. Regardless of the correctness or otherwise of their protest, it is their constitutional right to so gather and protest provided they comported themselves peaceably, which they did. And even if Kanu were a villain, people deserve to know his whereabouts and condition. It is ominous that security operatives invaded his house and he disappeared into thin air for almost a year now and nobody has been able to investigate and come out with authentic information about him.
Ironically, for as long as his whereabouts remains a myth, Kanu’s clout is increasing by the day despite his absence. The government again is making him a cult hero, the same mistake that brought him into limelight when they refused to release him from detention, which catapulted the then obscure character to who he has become. This coupled with the unjust profiling and proscription of his group and now the harassment of the women has accentuated the struggle for Biafra and the fire burns fiercer by the day.
Talking about Biafra, it is delusory to think that such red herring can kill the dream. No, it invigorates it. If you want to kill Biafra, first kill the malicious hatred of the Igbo. No, not just the Igbo but all acts of impunity against the people whereby some section is more Nigerian than the others. Biafra is not really an igbo affair anymore. It has grown to represent anti-repressive movement everywhere in the country; only justice, fairness and equity can tame it. The more this is delayed, the nearer the precipice Nigeria is drawn.
It rankles that killer herdsmen are all over the place, killing and maiming people in open daredevilry but the government ‘deliberately’ looks the other way, giving lame excuses. The Miyetti Allah brazenly castigates the people in unabashed defence of the macabre slaughter across the land but they are neither arrested nor cautioned whereas armless, harmless women dancing on the street are seen to constitute security risk.
Government’s tardiness more than anything else constitutes the gravest risk to the continued existence of this country. It has every reason to thank the eminent High Court judge in Owerri for releasing those women, which could have snowballed into another Aba Women Riot (1929) but Nigeria, of course, hates history and never learns from it.