By Sonnie Ekwowusi
Last week, precisely on the 13th of July 2021, some Nigerian soldiers in a shameless display of putrid military barbarism, swooped on the defenceless Igbo spare parts dealers at the popular Ladipo Market, Mushin Lagos and pointedly shot five Igbo traders there dead on the spot on the unfancied allegation that they (soldiers) bought a fake car engine from one of the traders at the Market a year ago and had come to the Market to have it replaced. While the soldiers were mowing down the traders they were spontaneously and intermittently shouting, “now that you want to go as Biafrans we will kill you before you go”.
Eye-witnesses corroborating accounts unanimously affirm that as soon the visibly-angry and trigger-happy soldiers arrived at the ever-busy Ladipo Market, they jumped out of their vehicle and started complaining aloud that the engine which they bought from the market a year ago was a fake engine and therefore needed to be replaced. The next thing they did to the rude shock of everybody at the Market at that material time was to open fire on the defenceless traders and kill five of them on the spot including the PRO of the Ladipo Market fondly known and addressed by his trader colleagues as “scatter”. No provocation prompted the murder. No exchange of words between the traders and the killer soldiers prior to the murder.
Addressing the visibly-befuddled traders and sympathizers who had gathered together shortly after the dastardly murder, a spokesman of the traders was heard lamenting in tears, “Please, all who are on Social Media, or, wherever you are, all over the world, hear me. This is Ladipo, Mushin, Lagos, where the Igbo traders sell motor spare parts. The soldiers came here on the allegation that the engine they bought from one of us last year should be replaced, and then, before we knew it, they started shooting sporadically at us saying that now that we want Biafra we shall go to Biafra with our own blood.
We have wronged nobody…we are just ordinary traders peacefully carrying out our lawful trade inside the Market when the soldiers descended on us and started killing us. We are not in government. They are in government and we said they should keep the government but that notwithstanding they have come here today in search of us to kill us for nothing…we have wronged nobody. Now that they have done this to us, the battle line is drawn; in a short time we will meet the Fulani soldiers in the battle ground”
This barbaric murder is unacceptable. It is one murder to many. It is a despicable murder that cries to high heaven for justice. The Ladipo Market murder is not the first of its kind neither shall it be the last. The Nigerian soldiers under the watch of President Buhari have consistently been killing unarmed innocent civilians and Buhari does nothing to curtail the carnage let alone stop it entirely. Therefore beyond condemnation, this murder should be avenged with justice. Look, allow me tell you one truth which you may find interesting. No peace without justice because peace grows in the crannies of justice.
Those who think otherwise are gravely mistaken. Fiat justicia ruat coelom. Justice being taken away, said St. Augustine, all are nothing but open robberies. This is why Justice Chukwudifu Oputa (of the blessed memory) once stated, “Injustice breeds intolerance, violence and social disorder in the same way justice brings along with it the blessings of peace and mutual understanding. There will be no peace in a society where justice is denied or defeated. Where there is wrong it is only justice that can right the wrong and thus restore the balance”.
Oputa was right. You cannot hypocritically be going about and preaching “One Nigeria” when you are always killing the same people and marginalizing the same people. It is nauseating that the Nigerian soldiers who should be killing Boko Haram insurgents, bandits, gun-men, hired assassins and kidnappers are turning round to be killing unarmed innocent civilians. Prior to the murder last week, the traders did not insult the soldiers. They did not refuse to replace the alleged fake car engine as demanded by the soldiers. No altercation or quarrel between the soldiers and traders prior to the murder. So, why open fire on unarmed and defenceless traders without any provocation?
But even if the traders insulted the soldiers or refused to replace the alleged fake car engine still the soldiers were not justified in opening fire on the traders. In all civilized societies, all manner of disagreements are settled through due process of the law. Recourse to violence, self-help or any form of brutality or extra judicial means in settling personal quarrels or disputes is not only an invitation to mayhem or breach of public peace, but evidence that we are still occupying the lowest rung of the ladder of human civilization. Whatever allegations the killer soldiers leveled against the traders last week should have been resolved through due process without murdering the traders.
More importantly, why the “Biafra” profiling? Why fan the ember of secession and in the process kill innocent traders? At the risk of repetition, eeverything in Nigeria has fallen apart under this Buhari government. A few days ago the American Congress lampooned President Buhari for enthroning what it dubbed the Fulani ethno-religious supremacy in Nigeria. Let me repeat this here once more, we have come to a point of no return in Nigeria. Those who doubt this are still living in a fool’s paradise. Why should a group of soldiers storm a market and open fire on innocent defenceless civilians whom they contemptuously label “Biafrians”? You will recall that a few months ago the Chair of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Danladi Umar (when will this man be sacked?) was caught fighting in public under the pretext that the small boys whom he was fighting against were “Biafrans”. Can you see how low we have sunk in this country?
A judge descending so low to be fighting small boys whom he branded as “Biafrans” in public for that matter. Therefore, it is high time Nigerians came together and agreed on concrete terms on how to live together as one people under one nation. It is either we restructure, or we perish. We must give Nigeria a second birth. Old things must pass away. We need a born-again Nigeria.
As I was saying here a few Wednesdays ago, “it is obvious that the Nigerian people are looking for an opportunity to discuss how they want to live together as a people in one country. Call that opportunity anything; the fact remains that the Nigerian people are looking for an opportunity or a forum to express their views about the goings on in the country. Whether we like it or not, this meeting of minds of the people of Nigeria shall come to pass one day. It is not possible to force people with pent-up grouses about the injustices meted out against them to live together without giving them an outlet or opportunity to express their anger and views.
As regards the Igbo traders gruesomely murdered by the soldiers last week, the authorities must quickly wade into this matter and immediately order the arrest of the killer soldiers and bring them to justice. Maintaining ominous silence on the murder or a denial of it or distortion of it will likely engender reprisal killings leading to more spilling of blood.
No matter the hatred spewed out against the Igbos, the rules forbid murdering defenceless and harmless traders who were peacefully doing their business in the market. If we claim that we are practising Presidential democracy, then we must allow the rule of law to reigns supreme in Nigeria. Under the rule of law, the judiciary occupies a unique place as a bastion of justice. Such regard for the rule of law, in contrast to the rule of force, is the bedrock upon which our country ought to lay claim to civilization.