This discourse was slated for last Sunday. It is commonly said that one should strike when the iron is hot. It is at that moment that the metal can be bent or molded into various shapes to serve different purposes. This can be applied to human society. When evil is left in perpetuality, the elders have told us, it becomes a norm, and leaves the society worse off. One could have allowed this matter die down and perhaps gradually fizzle out, in the typical Nigeria way. However, one well documented experience that took place in Germany under the dictatorship of Hitler has left the world with so much lessons.
6 We too must take in this lesson or be ready to face far greater consequences the Germans had.
Hitler in his induced madness first began changing institutions, particularly the face of government.He assumed unusual powers. In an atmosphere of democracy, nobody bothered. He went ahead to dissolve, by fiat, the structures of the political party that brought him to power and disingenuously reformed the party in his image. He raised propaganda and lies to unprecedented heights. Citizens both the enlightened and the not very educated saw it, and what is more, passed it for great ingenuity; afterall, they thought, a “New Germany” primed to rule the world was in the offing. So, the vast majority became cheerleaders and cheered on. They got to the point they even allowed him introduce into the system a unique salute style and national song.
These became a matter of national identity such that if you didn›t give the salute or the song you were a stranger in the class of something akin to unidentified flying object, you could be killed without question. It went like that and nobody or institution raised a voice in criticism, let alone oppose the emerging unholy order. Passive conspiracy emboldened Hitler and his cohorts to elevate their game of infamy. There followed the reign of ethnic superiority and cleansing. Hitler taught something funny, “we all are whites but some whites are more white than the others.” Bigotry, sociologists will call it. To Hitler, the Aryan race was the thing, the most superior race, the born to rule group. The key distinquishing feature of the Aryan race was “blue eyeballs” popularly known in this area as pussy’ eyes.
Those who didn›t have it were not worthy to live, let alone work to earn a living. To entrench this warped philosophy, the government under Hitler began to deal ruthlessly with non-whites, particularly the Jews who dominated technology, commerce, academia and the arts. They were branded subhumans, then traitors who were responsible for everything bad in Germany including the dwindling economy. They were also passed off as the trouble with the world. It wasn’t long before the government began to arrest and kill them one by one; people thought it was a momentary reflex that would vanish very soon, but there they were when before their eyes what they ignored as a non-issue turned out a big monster that consumed over six million Jews, their sympathizers among the Germans and then got much higher to the extent it provoked the second World War in which millions of lives were lost.
Except in few instances, madness usually starts in fits. The deranged feels ugly sensation in the head, gradually it moves to misrepresentation of simple matters and mumbling of words, soon it grows into removal of clothes and walking around naked, not ashamed of current state, and before anyone could ask what is it that is actually happening, the last gear is engaged which is violence of all kinds. Just as above, that is how tyranny starts little by little and grows in intensity. Before the people comprehend what they are up against, it would have been too late to reverse. The gasoline of tyranny is noble intentions. Tyrants would hold on to good causes without details and in the bid to execute this, perpetuate all manner of human rights abuses including the inglorious task of reconfiguring the state into their image.
Take the case of anti-corruption. I have told friends and fellow intellectuals that you don›t fight societal ills. Fighting is presumptive of two strong, distinct but opposing groups of equal strength squaring against each other for all that is very negative. So maximum force is applied to obliterate or permanently disable. Solving, on the other hand, has this acknowledgement of shared affinity as well as the understanding that circumstances could create deviants who shouldn›t be be destroyed but rather brought back to their senses for their good and progress of the larger society. So, acting from this standpoint true leadership creates structures that promote the triumph of superior principles over the inferior. Isn’t it amazing that successive presidents and governors are unable to pick lieutenants for public offices who will cherish good name, far above pilfering of public funds for acquisition of material possessions?
The electoral body is another example. It wants hundreds of billions of funds to conduct credible elections, as we saw from the just concluded Anambra State governorship poll. The body is buying up all manner of new computer software yet elections have remained problematic, and the question is why. The answer is in the fact we do more fighting electoral malfeasances and little to solve the challenges. If the choice was to solve and not assist in veiled manner to subvert, the option would have been to go for the human element (his mindset) and work for its renewal, then take a critical look at prevailing principles. One can bet lasting results will emerge to get things properly done without humiliating citizens or infringing on their rights in anyway at all. In the Anambra State governorship election just concluded, the Bishop Mathew Kukah Peace Committee efforts alongside other underground constructive peace engagements may have brought much needed gains than what was realized from the battalions of security personnel ferried to the state at huge cost to the people.
How does this relate to the storming of Justice Mary Odili’s house, a reader may ask? Simple: they told us some yet to be identified gunmen went to her residence after they got a report of wrong doing going on in the place. Case adduced is very clear and can be summarized in few words, “security breach.” If greetings turn to shove on this matter no one will be surprised to hear our leaders tell us our forces were working in the interest of the overall good of the state. We are likely to hear they chose to enter a lady’s room so that our country could be spared from bigger troubles. So they were proactive since it is commonly said, a stitch in time will save nine. Isn’t this noble? Let’s ask ourselves what kind of crime would Justice Odili have committed that would warrant the Nigerian state opting to storm her residence? Nobody is above the law. Yes! Couldn’t an invitation have served better purposes? At least such an approach would be decent and a citizen’s right upheld.
Now it happened and everything turned soured, as is peculiar to a dictatorial state, nobody knows who authorized the “operation” even when clear pointers tell the world state officials were into the mix. All arms of security set up claim they were not involved, including the police even when their officers are clearly said to have gone on this dirty errand. A magistrate who we guess read law in one of our universities to the surprise of many citizens has confessed: “I own up, it is a terrible job I undertook, officials from Ministry of Justice misled me.” Yet three weeks after the dastardly event authorities who should be scandalized and go about the matter with some degree of urgency and clinical efficiency tell us they don’t know where to start. This is reminiscent of events in states under tyranny. It is called “kill, hide and go.”
It is a tool for «taking away obstacles», the style is very potent in the art of “intimidation and scaring away.” It is just that in the case under review the objective was purely to eliminate and thereafter pass it off as one of the fallouts of the climate of insecurity hovering over the federal capital recently. Justice Mary Odili in our thinking escaped assassination. It is not over. She is second and next to the Chief Justice of Nigeria in the ranking of Supreme Court justices. Those who think they have us in their pocket have left us with clear evidence they are averse to working with Nigerians from other parts. Some of us don’t see the Chief Justice lasting through the next election, so in their thinking the “war” against the enemies of their people must start, the earlier the better.
Is Justice Mary free? No, what we have seen is botched execution, so the mission remains. Stephen Covey says if correct principles exist it will guide everyone, leaders inclusive, to always act right but as it is now right principles have long been thrown overboard in our clime and replaced by all that is bad and evidence abounds that there is no inclusiveness. Nepotism and ethnicity are now state policy. Those it favors do not see anything wrong in shaming, dislodging, disgracing and killing people from other tribes. A South-South was shoved aside from becoming Head of Department of State Security, nothing happened; same for Chief Justice ONOGHEN from same region. On Justice Mary’s case, northern elders that are quick to talk about how better it is to stay together haven’t raised a voice on the assault against a Justice of the Supreme Court from South South. The Chief Justice is mute even though Supreme Court as an institution has condemned the act but is not pushing the case.
Nigeria Bar Association has reacted but could do far better especially in the area of urgency. What has happened should not be allowed to turn full circle, otherwise something more grievous will take place and something we don›t know now will finally give in at some point and it will be disastrous. By now it is elementary lesson to teach that what brings countries down is not hunger and deprivation or poor state, Rather what does is abridgment of rights. When states respect rights of people its capacity to treat citizens with decency will be very high.
A scholar, Milton Friedman, gave out a lesson which I know will be very useful to us. He said: “Those societies that place so much premium on equality above freedom stand a huge chance of missing both but those who give emphasis to freedom, will gain both.” Justice Mary Odili deserves to live and to do so in comfort. It is her inalienable right. It is her right to pursue career and to see it through. Those who make orderliness impossible risk violence which like fire hardly knows boundaries. Justice Mary Odili should not be harassed again, let alone killed. Those who keep saying nothing will happen should go an recheck rich lessons offered by history.