Those security officers who were charged for attempted murder, an offence committed more than 10 years ago and yet to be released are the former chief of army staff, General Ishaya Bamayi; former Security Officer to Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha; former Commissioner of Police, Mr. James Danbaba; former military administrator Colonel Jubrin Bala Yakubu and former Chief Superintendent of Police, Mohammed Rabo Lawal. They were officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and whose actions, as security personnel, could have been officially sanctioned by the State through directives from their superiors. Probably, in the spirit of popular military parlance “obey-before-complain,” they could have been excessive and overzealous in their duties.
The charges against some of the ethnic militia, who have been hailed by some of their people, revolve around serious criminality like extortion, abduction, political gangsterism, treason, inciting secession, kidnapping, hostage-taking, killing and possession of sophisticated fire-arms in the name of struggles for self-actualization. They are so loved by their people that after their release, they have been accorded heroic reception, bestowed with chieftaincy titles and honour and in some cases hosted by the government for rendezvous even when their cases are yet to be dispensed with in the court.
While we keep on commending the judiciary for some of its actions so far, the pressure groups and the media play significant roles in persuading public perception, which by an extent could influence legal decisions with further evidence. It is noteworthy the political sagacity of members of legislature and executive arms from other geopolitical zones in the country who stoutly stand and defend their own even if they don’t believe in the approach of their wards. Unfortunately the Northerners are not sophisticated in the game of political lobbying, invention of pressure groups and deployment of aggressive media campaign to draw attention to the sorry plights of those officers.
Unlike other regions in the country that are associated with particular languages and religions, the Northern Nigeria is an amalgamation of different religions and languages beyond Hausa-Fulanis who cherish their cultural value and distinctive political heritage. For instance while Al-Mustafha and Rabo are Muslims, Bamaiyi and Danbaba are Christians.
While some Nigerians still believe in ethnic chauvinism, like the recent harshest criticisms over effort of Mubarak Muhammad Abdullahi, a young undergraduate of Bayero University who was reported by foreign media for fabricating a helicopter, it is interesting to note that some patriotic Nigerians from other sections of the country, especially the detribalized Igbos recently mounted a campaign on the internet for the freedom of those detained officers. This is indeed a worthy cause that reinforces the uniqueness of Nigeria as an indivisible entity no matter our differences.
While President Yar’Adua may be cautious of intervention in the cases involving political detainees from his geopolitical zones, there is nothing wrong if the administration allows, not directs, its counsels (lawyers) in charge of the cases to toe the line of similar cases that give the militant leaders their freedom. No matter the offence of the Al-Mustafha, Bamaiyi, Danbaba and co, the unnecessary politicization of their cases gives a sinister impression in the minds of average Nigerians.
We should not deceive ourselves that the silence of the Northerners is a sign of satisfaction with the incarceration of their kith and kin, they believe in the total obedience to the rule of law. But a situation where the law has preferential disposition to some suspects on the basis of pressure from their people, it creates worrisome and agonizing feelings to others. Since the justification for the release of the militant ethnic leaders were for medical treatments and to mourn their families, most of the incarcerated security officers too have developed serious ailments, injuries and lost their beloved ones and therefore deserved to be set free. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
We cannot deny the callousness and atrocities committed by the ethinic militia in their struggles and also some of those security officers in their duties, we may need to forgive the past misdeed and work towards genuine reconciliation in promoting national unity. We must unite in the campaign for the freedom or amnesty for those security officers and all unjustly detained suspects on prolong trials even if our politicians, our legislators, our youths and our traditional rulers cannot make incessant noise to draw attention to their plights.
I feel pained having to make allusion to the North and South in this piece, but what could have been a better case for consideration of a concerned Nigerian over this seeming selective justice? Like my concerned Igbo brother, Hank Eso said: “Since they were arrested (Al-Mustafha and Co) they have essentially remained untried, un-sentenced, un-bailed, un-convicted, un-acquitted, and un-vindicated.”
While we commend concerned Nigerians for voicing out, my question to sectional jingoists is: Were we to come from other parts of the country can we stand by some of the parochial arguments and ethnic sentiments? I believe even among the devils, the lesser evil deserves some compassion.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in New Nigerian October 30, Weekly Trust November 3, Leadership November 5, Vanguard November 13, Triumph November13, Daily Sun November 14, Sunday Tribune November 18 and Thisday December 2, 2007