VANGUARD of October 10, 2005
Almost nine years ago, at the
commemoration of the assassination of my valued friend and acknowledged brother,
Alfred Rewane, I issued a statement hued "Victim of Selective Extermination." I
would like to begin my address today by reading that statement.
i) "A year ago this month, a prominent leader of the pro-democracy community in
Nigeria and an outstanding son of Itsekiriland, Alfred Ogbeyiwa Rewane, was
laid to rest in his home town of Warri. He had been assassinated in his
residence in Lagos by operatives of the Military Regime's blood-thirsty State
ii) "It will be recalled that a few days after this political killing, given the
information available to his family and friends, information including the
gruesome autopsy report, we issued a public statement demanding that the Central
Intelligence Agency of America (CIA), the United States Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI), the United Kingdom's famous Scotland Yard, as well as
Interpol, be brought for the investigation of the murder, if the Military Regime
had nothing to hide.
iii) "The Regime's spokesmen and apologists replied that the Police were
competent to solve the crime, and the Police declared themselves determined to
unmask the killers. But our reaction was that the Police were confronted not
merely by a challenge to their competence regarding which there was considerable
doubt, but even more by a test of their will and by a burden of dispassionate
and fearless investigation which the involvement of State Security agents in
the crime would render very difficult, if not impossible, for them to
discharge. Could the Nigeria CID or FIB be trusted to effectively investigate a
killing perpetrated by State Security assassins any more or any better than an
armed robber would be expected to investigate an armed robbery by his own gang?
iv) "To prove us wrong, the Police rounded up Alfred Rewane's domestic staff and
announced cynically that the killers had been apprehended and would shortly be
charged to court. But reports reaching us later were that some members of
Rewane's family were made aware that the arrests were partly a public relations
exercise and partly a ploy to lure the actual assassins into the open. A whole
year later, this is how matters still stand, as we had feared from the very
beginning would be the case.
v) "It is clear now that the tactics of the State Security Service are based on
three calculations: first, that the family and friends of Alfred Rewane would be
frightened into silence and inaction; second, that the people and their
leaders, with the fatalism ingrained in them by armed and brutal oppression
through the years, would as usual only shake their heads in hopeless grief and
commit the matter to the will of an avenging God; third, that the Military
Regime would continue to cover the killers, and when the Regime goes eventually,
as it assuredly will, that the issue would be too long dead to be resurrected
and the Regime's surrogate successors would be too committed to their own
survival to concern themselves with crimes and injustices long past. Time alone
will tell how valid these calculations and expectations may be.
vi) "By the time Alfred Rewane was killed, he had no more personal ambitions in
the political scheme of things, but he still fervently shared our common dream
of a new order in Nigeria, based on a respectable existence for its component
nationalities, including his own beloved Itsekiriland, and a democratic and more
beautiful life for the people. That is why he became one of the pillars of the
pro-democracy struggle, which is why he was assassinated, and that is what is at
issue fundamentally between the Military Regime and the pro-democracy community.
vii) "We believe that the nationalities of Nigeria are entitled, as their
inalienable right, to enjoy a meaningful individualism within the Nigerian
family and that the generality of our people are entitled, as of right, to an
abundant life for which nature's generous endowments of human talent and
material resources more than qualify them. The Military Regime's empire -
building formula, by contrast, is to crush and grind the nationalities into
submission and hold the populace down. Hence the planned dismemberment of the
subject nationalities, hence the decimation of Ogoniland, hence the
pauperization of the democratic middle class, hence the planned killing of
outstanding resistance by political figures, and hence vast human rights abuses
by the regime.
viii) "Alfred Rewane's killing was a landmark in the context of this grand
He was quite simply a victim of selective extermination by State terrorism. But
if they have killed Alfred Rewane, they have not killed the people's dream of
democratic self determination and a better way of life. Someday, the people's
will to be free and democratic, to live their own lives within the Nigerian
family free from oppression and domestic imperialism, will triumph, and the
Alfred Rewanes, the Ken Saro-Wiwas, the Kudirat Abiolas and so many other heroes
and heroines will not have died in vain.
2) Sadly, today, as far as investigation and prosecution are concerned, matters
still stand as they were ten years ago. May the soul of my friend and brother,
Alfred Ogbeyiwa Rewane, continue to rest in peace.
3) Ladies and gentlemen, life goes on and many live issues in Alfred Rewane's
time are still live issues today. One of them, one which he was very fond of
discussing with me, was the issue of federalism in Nigeria.
4) Having examined this issue quite often, having spoken on it often and
considering how devoted Alfred Rewane was to examination and discussion of the
issue, I thought it appropriate that on an occasion like today, at an event in
commemoration of his life, my speech should be based on that issue.
5) Many years ago, at a conference in Texas in the USA, I spoke to a crowd of
Nigerians at some length on this matter, using Yorubaland as a test case.
6) If there is anybody in the audience here today who was present on that
occasion. I apologise for inflicting on him or her what I said on the occasion.
Again I quote:
i) "I will not bore you with a recapitulation of the history of our part of the
African continent before the advent of European colonialism. You know it as well
as I do our different nations with their separate identities, histories,
languages, religions, cultures and stages of civilization, and some with their
own established empires. You know the countries - the combinations and
amalgamations - later created, contrived or arranged in Africa by European
nations to serve their own interests, and the subsequent emergence of new
nation-states and civilizations on the basis of these new countries and
amalgamations. You know the endorsement of these creations by the Organisation
of African Unity (OAU) in the nineteen sixties, and the consequent absurdity, as
we can now see it, of seeking to construct and develop new nation-states and
civilizations on the basis of the destruction of the indigenous languages,
political cultures and national identities which in some cases had existed and
flourished for a thousand years and more.
ii) "The grave implications of this history and process for the sub-Saharan
African are of continental dimensions and even world-wide dimensions, given the
existence of a diaspora of millions of black Africans on the American, European
and Asian continents. I see your presence here today therefore as part of
Africa's common continental search for answers and for a way forward which can
protect our identities and advance our peoples with the same indigenous
motivations and generations as have served the nations of Europe and now Asia
with such resounding success.
iii) "The new nationalities to have referred, embraced whole nations within new
and some quite irrational state boundaries. In the case of Nigeria, the most
irrational were those which split the Yoruba nation in Western Nigeria and the
Hausa nation in Northern Nigeria. The new Nigerian nationalism accepted this
entity as the framework of a new existence seeking to catch up with the Western
world, a framework within which to advance three struggles: the struggle for the
recovery of the sovereignty and self-determination of which our fathers had been
robbed, the struggle for democracy, and the struggle for modernisation.
iv) "The struggle for independence in Nigeria lasted in the main twenty-five
years 1935 to 1960. 1 was myself involved in the struggle for seventeen years.
Independence was achieved comparatively easily, given the experiences and
precedents in Asia and other parts of Africa. The companion struggles for
democracy and modernization have already lasted much longer - thirty seven years
from 1960 to date - and have already proved far more costly in terms of human
lives and suffering and the dissipation of natural resources.
v) "In the course of these struggles, there have been crisis points -notably,
the 1953 independence motion crisis and the resulting threat of secession by
leaders in some parts of the country; the 1959 federal elections and the wasted
opportunity to install a radical government led by veterans of the nationalist
struggle, which would have been comparable with the nationalist successes in
India and Ghana; the 1966 military coup and assassinations and the massacres of
civilians leading to the 1967-1970 Civil War, and the effort at secession in
some areas striving to take unwilling neighbouring nationalities with them; and
the 1993-1997 presidential election annulment crisis, which had particular
impact on Yoruba psyche and its implications for democracy and internationality
relations generally in the country.
vi) "One manifest strain runs through these crises and that is the requirement
to moderate international political relationships in the country. Partly in
recognition of this critical requirement, the British government had at one time
proposed to postpone the granting of independence to Nigeria until they could
deal with the issue, but the nationalists suspected this as a ploy to postpone
vii) "There were also some broad economic particularities, exigencies and
pressures in some areas which coincided with ethnic boundaries - insufficiencies
in some areas, which to this day breed fears of economic insecurity there; land
hunger in some areas, which still dictates a crowding demand for lebensraum,
resulting in massive emigration; relative self-sufficiency in some areas, which
engenders within them emotions of inner strength; and consciousness in the
minority areas of wealth-generating resources but inability to control, develop
and apply this potential, which evokes among them self-pitying apprehension of
economic, political, and if it came to the point perhaps even military, exposure
bordering on defencelessness.
viii) "There have also been socio-cultural peculiarities at work in the Nigerian
situation. Take religion. Islam is predominant in some parts of the country
broadly bordering on the Sahara. Christianity is paramount broadly in the
Atlantic coastal areas. There is a wide intervening swathe between them where
the two religious intermingle with animist religions. Or take language. Nigeria
exists, or subsists, on the suppression of indigenous languages, in consequence
of which public life and commerce are controlled and conducted through elitist
communication in English. Take politics. Some of our nations and nationalities
are monarchical, with a demi-democratic selection process among ruling families,
like the Yorubas. Some have monarchies based on primogeniture, like my people
the Edos. Some were broadly republican, as in parts of the Igbo and Middle Belt
areas, and some were unabashedly republican gerontocracies.
ix) "Given these national, historical, economic, religious, political and
socio-economic complexities, there are no grounds to believe that the country
now called Nigeria would have come into existence peacefully, if the British had
not intervened in our affairs towards the end of the 19th century. Whether this
would in itself have been a loss and deprivation to humanity is open to
question. Realistically, the only conceivable process by which the State now
called Nigeria might have emerged from our wars of the 18th and 19th centuries
would have been if the Dan Fodio armed adventure had succeeded in overcoming all
of Yorubaland, all of Edoland, all of Igboland, all of the Tiv-Ogoja-Efik-Ibibio
corridor, and then swept the Ijaws into the Atlantic. This would have been a
tall order. But let us leave such improbable conjectures to military minds and
x) "Having now found ourselves as one country named Nigeria by the inventiveness
of the spouse of a British military adventurer, Col. Lugard, and interacting in
a foreign language and an alien political culture, our founding fathers
nevertheless proceeded to make the best they could of the situation. They agreed
on a Federation of Nigeria composed of geographical regions structured on
compatibility rather than on the false protestations of uniformity which we now
have, and based furthermore on recognition and validation of the essentiality of
equity among our various nationalities. They further agreed on provisions for
the future creation of new regions by democratic process to avoid domination of
minority nationalities by majority nationalities. Sadly and foolishly,
successive military regimes have swept all this away.