By Ugochukwu Anieto
December 9th, 2008
Nigeria’s integrity as a country that respects the fundamental human rights of her citizens has once again been brought to question as a result of the brutality meted out to Miss Uzoma Okere by some irresponsible naval ratings and there irresponsive boss. Time and again, we have witnessed unnecessary brute force being used on defenceless citizens by brutes in military uniforms; occasionally we have witnessed death of innocent people as a result of the over zealousness of uniformed personnel. It is sad that this is happening in a country that has practiced democracy consistently for the last nine years. It is disheartening to note that the perpetrators of this heinous crime are people who belong to uniformed services who as a matter of fact should be the most disciplined, the most restrained and the most responsible. Several times the reason for the aggression has always been trivial issues such as not moving fast enough for them to pass or moving to fast as to overtake them, stopping in front of there gates or territory, having an issue including relationship matters with there members etc. It is deeply regrettably that the military authorities have allowed this injustice to continue from year to year. Granted some culprits may have received there punishment in the past but reoccurring of this same ugly situation is a definite proof that the generality of its members are yet uninformed on how to relate to members of the public.
I have it on good authority, that Miss Uzoma Okere; an innocent full fledged lady was using the road about the same time a certain Rear Admiral Arogundade’s convoy was passing by. We all know that the ratings who serve as bodyguards to this Rear Admiral felt slighted that Uzoma did not move fast enough for there god to pass and then they descended on her with full force. I am still struggling to accept the fact that the pride of womanhood was thrown to the dogs on that day as the animals in human skin (apologies to Fela Anikulapo Kuti) debased her by stripping her half naked all to impress a man whom they deify. Shame! While this act of wickedness continued I understand the Rear Admiral, the owner of the Nigerian Navy and the supreme commander of all roads watched in silence, failing to use the authority bestowed on him by virtue of his rank to restrain his irresponsible subordinates. Another crying shame. At the end of it all, they drove on having emerged victorious in a fierce battle on the high seas with a female pirate- Uzoma Okere. Come to think of it, these are the same people whom hard working Nigerians clothe, provide weapons for and train using tax payer’s money. The only gratitude that they can show is to beat people up, believing that they are untouchables. We all know the case of the innocent young man from Imo state who came back from the United States and was shot dead a day after by trigger happy soldiers claiming that he was a thief. What can we say about the okada rider who was shot in the mouth and killed by a naval officer sometime in 2005? This kind of thing keeps happening from year to year and now even our women and the girl child are now the beneficiaries of this corporate irresponsibility.
I still will like to know the reason why Rear Admiral Arogundade should/must use sirens while moving on the road. If Arogundade must get somewhere in time, he should like the rest of us make conscious effort to leave earlier, we cannot guarantee him that we will pay for his official cars and all peaks of office and still vacate the roads for him . Lagos nay Nigerian roads belong to all of us. No one should consider himself to have exclusive right to use the road at anytime and then molest the weak whilst trying to enforce this kangaroo rights and privileges. I understand that Uzoma was not allowed to testify in the panel that was supposed to hear her case and the report has been forwarded to the presidency. As far as I am concerned, the report is null and void before the peoples’ court and can only be validated when Uzoma is allowed her fundamental rights- free speech. I understand someone whether the very important Admiral or his lieutenants asserted that Uzoma’s father a retired naval officer telephoned the Rear Admiral to apologise on behalf of her daughter. This assertion is the height of stupidity if not idiocy. Uzoma is a full fledged adult. She has her own opinion and so it does and should not count even if her father went and knelt down before the Rear Admiral on behalf of Uzoma. Other technicalities like the Admiral’s car being several miles away from the point where his men exhibited the wild animal tendencies is being introduced into the entire issue, the question is what right has he to use the sirens? Must we allow this injustice to stand? I refuse. Uzoma I understand is a graduate of one of our universities and so it is right to assume that if Uzoma had chosen to pursue a career in the Navy, there is the likelihood that she will be a superior officer to the naval ratings that molested her. This fact should also come to mind when dealing with civilians. That one chose a career in the military does not make him or her superior to others in any way likewise erudition does make one lord and master over those who are not as privileged educationally. It is all a matter of choice which every one of us if free to make. These overzealous ratings of the Nigerian navy, an organization that is largely ceremonial than functional should instead of beating and stripping women naked ask to be deployed to the troubled waters of Niger delta to go and take care of the increasing militancy in that region. If the Niger Delta cannot contain their strength, then why would they not volunteer to police the dangerous waters off Somalia? This would certainly save Ship owners the agony presently being experienced there.
I would not take this assault lying down. Just as Nigeria is beginning to be appreciated as a nation that respects the fundamental human right of its citizen, these callous people have once again told the world its all about a big pretence. I refuse to accept this! A slap on Uzoma is a slap on the girl child, a slap on womanhood and a slap on our nation. A slap on Nigeria is a dirty slap on me. To tear off a woman’s cloth is the height of barbarism; unfortunately this is coming from a sector where discipline should be paramount. As Nigerians and the world await the outcome of the panel, let us not for any reason allow this injustice to stand by keeping silent, we must shout abomination from the roof tops until we obtain justice. Do not say it does not concern you, what happened to her could happen to anyone tomorrow if we all refuse to say no. I am dead certain that Arogundade and the ratings must have wives, sisters and possibly daughters whom they would not treat like animals the way they treated Uzoma. I am tired of being looked down upon simply for being a Nigerian, because people assume I am from a jungle instead of a civilized nation. This situation is fuelled by such irresponsible acts as beating up women on the streets, flogging motorists for just one man, an employee of the Nigerian Navy. Some people must be used as examples to what it means to respect people’s dignity. There is no special ability required to join the armed forces and so let no one think he is extraordinary for belonging to the armed forces. We all can be Rear Admirals. I searched for Arogundade’ name through Google, yahoo, msn and wikipedia search engines and the result kept coming as NO RESULT SEEN. Let us assume this man to be Barrack Obama of the United States, what would his aids do to women? Strip them naked and hang them thereafter. I am calling on the presidency to take drastic action to redress this injustice crying to high heavens. This struggle is my life.
Newcastle Upon Tyne