The Voice of Reason Lecture Series are dedicated to the memory of the late Arole Olagoke Omisore, businessman and scion of one of the great aristocratic families from Ile-Ife. He passed away on 7 October 2018, age 69. I never had the privilege of meeting Arole on this earth plane. But his reputation went far and wide as a patriot and man of culture; the quintessential Omoluabi that is widely celebrated in the humane ideals of Yoruba civilisation. May his soul rest in peace!
The German-Jewish political philosopher Hannah Arendt was one of the most gifted women of her generation. She had to flee Germany to escape the holocaust. She was one of those who kept hope alive even as fellow Jewish intellectuals like the remarkable Walter Benjamin succumbed to despair and suicide.
In her book, Men in Dark Times (Harcourt Brace 1968), Arendt underlined the importance of keeping hope alive even in the darkest hour: “even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination…from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span that was given to them”.
The war drums are out. The dogs of war are howling. The hyenas are baying for blood. The vultures of history are hovering over an overcast sky
Our duty as watchmen in these days of blood and iron is to read the signs, the times and the season– to stand sentry against the barbarians at the gates. Things have never been so bad. The only thing worse was our bitter civil war in which an estimated two to three million perished.
In a manner of speaking, we have been at war for the past decade; a low-intensity civil war waged on our people by Boko Haram, herdsmen militias, Islamic Jihad and the lot. A war of conquest and hegemony deploying the weapons of kidnapping, rape, rapine, beheadings and land dispossession.
We have spent something like a quarter of our national budget on defence and security, with nothing to show for it. Insecurity is big business. A cartel of civilians and military is game-theoretically profiteering from the cauldron. A sordid gravy-train. Many times, the weapons from our military end up in the hands of the terrorists; many of whom are also adorned in our army and police uniforms. Those detained are later set free. Some of the killers have allegedly be inducted into our armed forces while others have been given overseas scholarships. It is the mystery of iniquity.
The allegations of a sinister agenda of “Islamisation and Fulanisation” by former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo might not be that far-fetched after all. This is reinforced by the body-language, hermeneutics and gestalt of this administration; by the crass nepotism that characterizes the regime at all levels.
There is also the silence of the Northern intelligentsia. A silence that speaks louder than words. The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who faced up to Adolf and the Nazis and paid the supreme price for his courage and daring, declared that, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah’s Christmas homilies drew a lot of ire in the expected quarters. But his key message resonated with most Nigerians — that “Ours has become a house of horror, with fear stalking our homes, highways, cities, hamlets and entire communities”.
But words are not enough. Those who are about to die reserve the right to fight back. It is a sacred duty. The right to life is guaranteed in our constitution. Nigeria is also a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Law of Nations since Hugo Grotius, Natural Justice, Equity, and Universal Global Ethics prescribe that communities that face an existential threat to their very survival have not only a right but also a bounden duty and moral obligation, to resort to self-help if the state is unable and/or unwilling to protect them.
General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (rtd) said as much during a Convocation Lecture he delivered in his home state of Taraba in August 2018: “our armed forces are not neutral. They collude with the bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians. If you are depending on the armed forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one.”
Amotekun and Eastern Security Network (ESN) are justified by law, universal ethics and the doctrine of necessity. Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akerodolu was well within his rights to order the flushing out of terrorists illegally occupying the forest reserves within his jurisdiction; alien herdsmen that have been killing, raping and kidnapping innocent citizens. Sunday Igboho is a brave hero of his people.
The war drums are out. The dogs of war are howling. The hyenas are baying for blood. The vultures of history are hovering over an overcast sky.
Not too long ago, I raised the alarm about some evil people that were planning to plunge our country into civil war. For speaking out, I was hounded and persecuted. A ransom was paid for my head. My former colleagues on the Editorial Board of the Daily Trust newspapers treated my testimony with unbelievable venom and contumely. They ridiculed my academic qualifications and poured scorn on my person. It was the ultimate betrayal by people I once regarded as friends.
Today, I am feeling vindicated. The respected cleric Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi came out recently to say that “Mailafia was right”. God knows, I did not speak out of malice or spite. I spoke out of a deep sense of moral conscience and responsibility. If millions are to perish because of the diabolical wickedness of a few politicians, it shall be my duty to stop them. The philosopher Immanuel Kant noted that “We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.” I can do without a lot. I am a humanist, a philosopher, and a servant of the Most High. I fear only the Lord. The enemies of liberty are my enemies forever.
(Being the Text of the Second Goke Omisore Voice of Reason Annual Lecture, Delivered by Zoom on Friday 19 February, 2021)