I haven’t cried in months, maybe years even. I am not one to cry, but as I watched the video clips of the Nigerian Army shooting live rounds of ammunition at unarmed protesters who were sitting, waving the Nigerian flag and singing the national anthems, I felt something within me come loose.
I closed my eyes when I couldn’t take it anymore, and thankfully, exhaustion led me into what would be a restless sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about how the Nigerian Government had deployed the Army at peaceful protesters.
I was awake some minutes to 5, without an alarm or any prompting, I didn’t have to wonder much what woke me. I was back on Twitter to view the videos and updates again, and that was when the water works began.
It is 10am, and in that time, I have oscillated between being angry, to heartbroken, to sad, to weeping, to despondent, to feeling extreme rage and now helpless.
In one of the videos, an officer of the Nigerian Army had stood behind an automatic machine gun; the one that was the toast of the action movies that I watched growing up, because it keeps firing in such quick succession until its rounds that go into sometimes 20-30 rounds get exhausted and then it starts again. He kept screaming “fire” as the sounds of different gunshots pierced the air.
Interestingly, I didn’t hear any screams or shouts, which points to the fact that these guns were being shot at protesters from a distance.
One of the statements by Dominic Toretto played by Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 8- Fate of the Furious that I really admire is when he had told Colonel Rhodes, “I don’t choose a target from a mile away, I look them dead in the eye.” The Nigerian Army didn’t have the decency to look peaceful protesters dead in the eye as they gunned them down for demanding a better country, they shot at them, us, from a distance.
In the time of the tragic night and for the few days since the protests began, I have decried all of my learning and training as a lawyer in this country. As a student of International Law and International Humanitarian Law, I took such pleasure from learning the Rules of Engagement. The binding tenets on how armed conflicts must be fought.
I remember how the mantra “even in war, there are rules” was our everyday song then. How we relished the Rules of “never shooting at an unarmed soldier, never shooting at a soldier whose hands are raised in surrender, never shooting at unarmed civilians, never shooting indiscriminately, the rules of proportionate force and all of the likes that we filled our heads with.
How I loved the Geneva Conventions, I would cite them with such pride. I made A’s in those courses.
Nothing could have prepared my mind for the fact that I would be here in 2020, live rounds of ammunition being shot at peaceful protesters waving the nation’s flag by the Nigerian Army, no less. There isn’t a war in the land, no enemy combatant in sight, no arms in sight, yet the Nigerian Government is killing her citizens.
No sane government declares war on its own people. Yet when have our Government being sane. I am crestfallen about how the purported self-appointed world police and the self-appointed custodian of world peace have had nothing substantial to say about this, till now.
I remember Cipher’s obsession with being ” the crocodile in the watering hole” in Fast and Furious 8, and not that I ever thought that the day would come when I would side up to or connect with the villain, but I understand now, I understand Cipher’s ambition now. Being the crocodile in the watering hole saves one from helplessness, puts one in place to demand accountability, and gives one the power to enforce obedience.
I wish I am the crocodile in the watering hole; maybe I would have been able to call the Nigerian Government to account. Alas, I am not. We are, you and I, the people. We are the crocodiles in the watering hole. We are the only one who can call this Government to account. Why do I know that? Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria, not the Government that derives her legitimacy. We are the Sovereign state of Nigeria, we the people of Nigeria. Not some oligarchy, not some elected few who have gone rogue on us. We are Nigeria!
One of the shortcomings of democracy, as argued by a lot of philosophers, is that it is the “government of the mob”; it can easily be taken over by the majority. That shortcoming may today be our saving grace; guess who are the majority?
It is time for us to launch into and harness the strength of the mob, the strength of the majority. The Government surely is made up of a few of us elected to represents our interest, and when they fail to represent that and start killing us, we must take away our legitimacy.
We must denounce them! We denounce them all! Each and every one of them! And then we must come together and see an end to this menace. Nigeria just plunged into the deepest recesses of the abyss, what would determine whether she would raise again from the ashes like a Phoenix is what you and I do now.
Our generation calls upon us now, posterity calls upon us now, history looks upon us to create a definitive story for our country now, may we not fail.
Remember, evil triumphs when good men do nothing – Edward Burke.
May the hottest part of hell be reserved for they who, when their country was going through turmoil, failed to do anything, they who stood by and watched.