The Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ife Massacre - Open Letter to Nigerian Students II

Gentlemen of the Press.

You are all aware of the dastardly act of members of some criminal gangs who invaded Obafemi Awolowo University in the night of July 10 and slaughtered eight innocent, defenceless students in cold blood and wounded several others in their sleep. We are deeply shocked by this cowardly and callous act and condemn it in all its ramification.

We mourn the loss of those innocent students and join millions of well meaning Nigerians in praying that the Almighty gives their families the strength to bear the irreparable loss. Our condolences go to the entire Obafemi Awolowo University community, as well as the parents and relations of the victims of this senseless act that violated the sacredness of one our citadels of learning. Professor Wole Soyinka sends his condolences and has instructed we take some specific steps to help in providing relief to the families of the victims.

We call on the authorities to leave no stone unturned in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime that has traumatised the nation at this crucial stage of our national rebirth. Those who committed the crime are murderers of the first degree and they should be so treated. Government must put the entire national security apparatus on the trail of these criminals to ensure they are speedily brought to book. There must be no sacred cows. All those who contributed in one way or the other to this crime and the others in Abraka and Ekpoma must be brought speedily to justice for the souls of the departed to rest in peace.

We have watched with dismay over the years the near lukewarm attitude of our various governments to deal with this phenomenon of violence in our higher institutions of learning perhaps because most of the perpetrators were children of the vagabonds that found themselves in positions of authority. We all as a people kept mute in near-criminal silence as violence was planted in our national psyche. The first major salvo was fired on October 19, 1987 through the letter bomb that saw Dele Giwa despatched in cold-blooded murder to the great beyond. We all expressed harmless outrage and that was it.

Our various governments committed series of state-sponsored murders with no finger raised. Ken Saro Wiwa and his compatriots were hanged, and as if it that were not enough, the state poured acid on their bodies. Nothing happened. Our own government planted bombs all over the place and had the temerity to accuse innocent people of being the brains behind it. People's houses were firebombed and we failed as a nation to rise in unison to rid our society of the evil of those times. Have we all forgotten the "Kill and Go" mentality of the Sunday Adewusi era as Inspector General of Police? Regrettably, we may all be paying the very expensive price of our silence in the face of tyranny.

Our expectation was that students would be the very last group of people in our society to imbibe this culture of violence. Regrettably, this was not to be by the very presence of some criminal elements amongst them who have chosen to inherit the demon that we all thought we had successfully exorcised out of our national life on June 8, 1998. These gangsters have chosen to murder sleep and we must all ensure they sleep no more.

We will like to appeal to the media and the general public to stop according these hoodlums the notion of modern day Robin Hood by labelling them other than who they are, criminals. When we call them cultists or cult members, we inadvertently boost their vain ego and offer them the platform to perpetrate their sinister acts. They are a violent criminal gang that must be uprooted out of society, pure and simple.

Some pertinent questions must be asked. Who is supplying these students their weapons and ammunitions? Where do they receive their training in weapon handling? Surely it could not have been on the campuses. After all, if submachine guns are that easy to handle, we reckon there would have been no need for any extensive training in weaponry for our soldiers. Who is funding them? Who are their godfathers? What is the extent of their network? They must have one to have moved with such ease from Abraka to Ekpoma to Ife. Where are they going next?

Our security forces certainly have a lot to do to unearth the mystery surrounding these faceless criminal groups and expose them all. Enough is enough. Government must rise fully to the occasion this time around. We are painfully aware of the crisis of morality playing out in the most disgraceful drama in Abuja. This drama most unfortunately is diverting attention away from the more serious, more fundamental tragedy in OAU. We are again planting another seed of vanity in our national psyche. We call on our elected representatives, supposedly honourable men and women, to dispose of the Buhari issue with despatch so that we can face the OAU issue squarely. That house in Abuja we all look forward to for leadership, honour and national symbol of value and integrity must not be allowed to become a house of shame.

Some publications reported that one of the perpetrators arrested and detained by the students mentioned "seadogs" and "pyrates" as the people behind the OAU tragedy. I have met media executives on several occasions during which I made it clear that the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) does not exist on any Campus. Members of the media present during our last meeting in May would recall that you threw the challenge at us to do something about the phenomenon in order to terminate the violence. We accepted the challenge and in fact told you we have already started putting our programmes together.

I like to assure you once again that we do not operate on any campus and there could never have been any member of the Pyrates Confraternity involved in any of these activities. I am absolutely certain of this and will request that you use all your investigative capability to ascertain or debunk this claim. The Pyrates Confraternity is not a cult neither is it a secret society. Members are not faceless and we have nothing to hide.

For nearly a year, we have been debating among ourselves ways and means to deal with the violent phenomenon overtaking our higher institutions. We have had to revisit our 1990 recommendations. Instead of continuing dissociation, we painfully accepted the reality that so long as these gangs have a free hand to terrorise innocent students, so long we shall continue to answer questions about them and their activities. We decided to confront the crisis head on and have resolved to use all means at our disposal to free the students and the campus communities from these bandits. We started making informal contacts with officials in government to listen to us and do something about the crisis long before the OAU tragedy. ItÕs a pity the machinery of state can be painfully slow at times.

Contrary to what this scoundrel in Ife, one Efosa, has been parroting, Professor Omole is not and has never been a member of the Pyrates Confraternity. I am saying this categorically. We should not allow the escapist ranting of this coward to trivialise the issue at hand and divert attention away from the real culprits. What we really should be asking Professor Omole is how those expelled for their antisocial behaviour on campus as alleged by the student union leadership found their way back without undergoing a reform programme that would have guaranteed their harmony with civilised existence.

We are informed some three people have been charged to court. If press accounts of the charges are correct, then we see some flaws already in the air. We are not aware they have been charged for inflicting bodily arm on other students. What of their wilful damage to public property, and their illegal possession of firearms? What of the general peace of the community they shattered? Please, we want to hear more real charges against them, not the trivial ones of membership of some group and then they will come to court and hide under freedom of association. The law must move swiftly, reaching out far and wide. The long arm of the law must come to play.

We like to call again on government to move fast with a programme to disarm the student populace. Education must now be given top priority to ensure our higher institutions of learning regain their lost glory and cease being breeding grounds for terrorists, rapists, drug addicts and armed robbers. Improved funding and autonomy are very vital to these goals. Higher education in Nigeria is currently in a state of emergency and must be so recognised and treated by government. We have a programme to sanitise the campuses and rid them of these hoodlums. We believe within a maximum of two years, full sanity can be restored. But Government must show a willingness to tackle the problem as some state institutions are vital to the success of any programme. Time to act is now.

Signed:


Ben Oguntuase
NAS Capone
National Association of Seadogs (NAS)

22nd July 1999