By Rudolf Okonkwo and Chido Onumah
Dear Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Jideofor Onyeama,
We chose to write you instead of President Muhammadu Buhari because it is apparent from the president’s two most recent media outings that his cognitive impairment has greatly deteriorated, even though that is no justification for his murderous and genocidal rhetoric. From his utterances, the gap between things his innermost mind conjures and what his mouth utters has been completely erased. We also chose to write you because you are the most senior Biafran in Buhari’s government. We know that in your world, Biafra is the worst tag that anyone could put on you. Unfortunately, the people you work with, in and around Aso Rock, see you as a Biafran. You can keep running away from it, but in the deepest corners of their eyes, Biafra is like a shell on you. And like a snail, you cannot cast it off.
Over the last six years, we are aware of your hard work on the international stage to rescue this government’s reputation. As this government squandered both at home and abroad the enormous goodwill it received in 2015, you have worked hard to reassure the international community that the wheel of the Nigerian vessel had not come off and would not come off. Based on recent events, you do not need a soothsayer or us to tell you that the wheels came off a long time ago. What the international community was telling you in private weeks ago, they have made a tiny bit of it public following the debacle that is Buhari’s reaction to Twitter’s sanction of his genocidal tweet against the people of the South-East.
Clearly, the government that you champion abroad is set to re-enact at home another genocide against the people of South-East Nigeria which had its opening act during the unfortunate Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970. We think we should have you and the international community on notice. Even your late father, the great Justice Charles Dadi Umeha Onyeama, who was a judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, would have told you that in this unfolding moral crisis, you are not just going to be an accomplice in the killing of your own people, already in progress in several parts of South-East Nigeria, you are going to be remembered by history as a man who played a supervisory role in the senseless carnage.
As the blood of young men and women who knew nothing about the activities of a few Biafran activists seep into the red soils where your forefathers are buried, President Buhari would send you abroad to crisscross the world and lie for him. You would be lying that there were no killings of innocent young men and women in the South-East by security agencies. Your talking point would be that the security agencies were quelling the violence perpetrated by Biafran activists. You probably can sell it to the world, but you cannot sell it to your conscience or to the memories of your forefathers who have sacrificed enough for Nigeria.
At this juncture, maybe we should peep through the course of the Nigerian Civil War, a repeat of the genocidal memory of which your boss, Muhammadu Buhari, now threatens the Igbo population of Southeastern Nigeria with. A retrospective view of that war crime should point you to the frightening possibilities of poetic justice for the soul-destroying lying mission you are about to be sent abroad to whitewash. As the world reacted with anger to the massacre of able-bodied Asaba men and boys in October 1967 while their wives, mothers, and sisters, were forced to dance for the sadistic pleasure of trigger-happy soldiers who carried out the slaughter, General Yakubu Gowon, then head of Nigeria’s military junta, sent his spin doctors abroad for a lying offensive.
Among the propaganda team sent abroad was Philip Asiodu, an Asaba indigene and a Permanent Secretary in the Gowon regime. Asiodu was reported to have told a press conference in Germany that reconciliation was the irrefutable goal of the Gowon administration. He was quoted as saying inter alia, “there is no question of massacring Ibos in the captured areas.’’ At the time of the morally reprehensible propaganda mission, Asiodu had no idea that his younger brother, Sydney Asiodu, an Olympic athlete, was one of the victims of anti-Igbo massacre he had finished lying to an international audience did not happen. On his return to Nigeria, instead of savoring the satisfaction of a successful lying mission, he was faced with the mourning of his younger brother, killed by the agents of the same government he had gone abroad to lie for.
As we write this, you are aware that the hordes of Nigerian security agents shipped to the South-East are taking their cue from President Muhammadu Buhari’s often-expressed odium for the people of that region. They are reading the president’s body language that calls for maximum force “in the language they understand.” Knowing the history of Nigeria’s military in Asaba during the Civil War, and later in Odi, Bayelsa State, in 1999, Zaki-Biam in Benue State, in 2001, and in Zaria, Kaduna State, in 2015, where they massacred civilians in their hundreds, and carried out a litany of human rights abuses, nobody would be surprised at the news of young people being massacred after enduring torture in the hands of security agents in the South-East.