By Muyiwa Adetiba
There was this story among the popular folklore in the South Western part of the country. It was a story of the tortoise and his In-law. For some strange reasons, many of the stories in the ancient folk-lore were woven around the tortoise. Some depicted him as very clever, some had him as very stupid; he was dubious in some and very greedy in some others. But they all invariably taught lessons about character and life. This particular story depicted him as a thief who was caught red-handed by his In-law. As the story went, the In-law tied him to a tree very early in the morning and started caning him. The villagers saw the spectacle on their way to the farm and wondered why his In-law was publicly humiliating him.
After explaining the atrocity tortoise had committed and pointing to the tubers of yam by the tree, the villagers assisted in abusing the shameless tortoise for stealing from his In-law. Some even joined in caning him. But when by sunset, the villagers on their way back from the farm, were surprised to see the tortoise still tied to the tree. They all shouted at the in-law. Was it because of a few tuber of yam that he wanted to kill the husband of his only daughter and deny his own grandchildren the joys of fatherhood? How could he be so uncaring and unfeeling?
It was a castigated and thoroughly shame-faced In-law that untied the tortoise. A saying that was attached to this story is ‘going to the farm (first stage) belongs to the In-law, coming from the farm (second stage) belongs to the tortoise.’ It was a story on moderation; and on punishment fitting the crime.
1.Two years ago, one Nnamdi Kanu came on the Nigerian scene. What was initially a benign and harmless dissent by a small group of people, gained traction perhaps because of the perceived enormity of the Jonathan electoral loss among the Igbos. Kanu’s rhetoric fed the emotions of those who felt economic power, held vicariously through the co-ordinating Minister Ngozi Okoji-Iweala and Secretary to the Federal Government Pius Anyim, had seeped through their hands.
The sense of inclusiveness and nationalism among many Igbo brothers has been fragile at best since the Civil War and the emerging APC government did not help matters. The careless talk and body language of some of APC leaders was to leave a large body of people feeling unwanted. Kanu’s fiery rhetoric therefore found a home. But his words were intemperate at best. Every other tribe was alluded to in derogatory terms.
Nigeria, the land of birth and home to almost two hundred million people was described as a zoo. He excised many nationalities from Nigeria without their say so and the map of Biafra ascribed to him—there are many maps— was more idealistic and opportunistic than practical. By the time he was arrested, his arrest was a question of when not if. But the government incarcerated him for so long that he began to gain the sympathy of even those who initially felt his action was reckless and unacceptable. By the time he was released on bail just three weeks ago, he had become a political rallying point of sorts among the Igbo politicians.
The ease with which he was able to meet what was supposed to be a stringent bail term attests to his rising profile. He has become a prisoner of conscience. As in my story, the first stage belonged to the Government, the second stage belonged to Kanu. The lesson here for the country is that there will always be a Kanu for as long as there is a feeling of persecution and marginalisation among an ethnic group.
The Shiite sect has been accused of impunity and taking laws into its hands. About a year and half ago, some of its members pushed their luck a little too far when they allegedly blocked the passage of a high ranking military officer. What ensued was a battle royale between the sect members and the military. It ended with many of its members dead or wounded. It also ended with its leader Ibrahim Zakzaky and a few of its key members in detention. They have since been refused bail. There have been more than a few skirmishes since.
Each skirmish ended with casualties in the form of burnt houses, injuries and deaths. Alas, each day, each skirmish gains sympathy for the sect; especially when it is beginning to look like the government is not exactly an impartial arbiter. It is instructive to note that Kaduna State has not suddenly become peaceful with Zakzaky out of the way. It is also safe to say that there will be more break-outs from time to time for as long as Zakzaky is held in detention while hoping in the meantime, that nothing sinister happens to him in Government’s custody. My advice is for Government to release him on bail while the courts deal with the criminal aspects of the case. Keeping Zakzaky and other leading members locked up is not going to make the sect disappear into oblivion. And the longer the leaders stay in detention the more the sympathy the sect gets from non-committal observers. It is time to give Zakzaky his freedom. He has become a prisoner of conscience.
I never thought I would be among those who would plead for the release of Sambo Dasuki given the size of the funds traced to him and the uses the money was dispersed for. It is even more galling that our soldiers were made to die like rats on the battle field because of obsolete equipment and because money earmarked for the purchase of equipment did not reach them.
But it has emerged that he did not pocket the money himself. It is also obvious someone higher up authorised him. The person who authorised him has not been apprehended and those who received various sums of money are walking free today under different arrangements. Besides, it is almost two years now since he was arrested; more than enough time for a properly constituted case to have been completed. In any case, he can be given stringent bail conditions which he would be required to meet in order to reclaim his freedom. Or is there more to his detention? He is fast becoming a prisoner of conscience. As is the case with these three examples, justice delayed is always justice denied.