Being the keynote dddress by Ide Owodiong-Idemeko, Nas Cap’n, National Association Of Seadogs [Pyrates Confraternity], At The Umalokun Massacre Memorial Lecture, December 15, 2012
28 years this month, six of our brothers, Kester Aghogho Sobotie, Joseph Uloho, Victor Oyailo, Anthony Teddy Omakor, Bernard Obi and Princely Otegho Otaye, were cut down in their prime through the recklessness of the Nigerian Police Force in the early hours of December 27, 1983. For this period of time, the National Association of Seadogs (NAS or Pyrates Confraternity) has continued to mourn the loss of these six young men who without an iota of doubt were destined for greatness. As a way of memorializing their names, we instituted this annual lecture series some years back and also intended that the lecture series would provide a platform to draw the attention of the Nigerian State and the public to the twin problems of police recklessness and extra judicial killings. Since then, we have diligently enacted this ritual of assembling annually to mourn the loss of our brothers and speak truth to power in various ways.
Many years on, the problems that we set out to confront have not abated but have continued to dot the landscape of our dear country in several dimensions. The recent singular killing of the newly wed Ugochukwu Ozuah for no obvious reason by men in police uniform and driving in a police vehicle reveals a stark picture of both the level of security in the nation and the consequential cost placed on human life in current day Nigeria. Similar conclusions can be reached with the recent killing of male and female students of the University of Mubi in Adamawa State during the 52nd Independence celebrations, as well as the case of The Aluu 4, the most dastardly and barbaric example of extra judicial killing of our recent history, in which 4 young boys on a dangerous misadventure, faced an instant mob execution by a Nigerian public maddened by previous tales of the inefficiency of the Nigerian Police at providing them protection against several cases of armed robbery, burglary and petty stealing. Ironically, in this particular incident, the Nigerian Police was invited for the singular purpose of handing over the 4 young men to them for appropriate handling but rather, they chose to recommend to the agitated public to proceed with the extra judicial killing of these young Nigerians. Regardless of what those boys were up to that fateful day, nothing can ever justify the tragic, brutal, most cruel and horrific murder we all watched on YouTube. NAS roundly condemned in its entirety the events remote and immediate that led up to the murder of The Aluu 4.
The situation described above could have happened to anyone of us in our stormy youthful days. Recall for a minute, the events of December 27, 1983 which has prompted our gathering here today. On that fateful day, when Seadogs started to gather for what promised to be a memorable sayle, little did they know that a major disaster was lurking in the corner and waiting to occur. The sayle was billed to kick off at zero – zero hours, the language of Seadogs for 12 AM. A fair number of Seadogs had arrived the venue before the time. Kick – off, however, was delayed because the requisite materials – drums, drinks, the bon-fire, etc. were not yet in place. Instead, what happened next was visitation of mayhem, brimstone and fire on the unsuspecting Seadogs present. At the end of it all, the six Seadogs in whose memory we are holding this lecture lay dead, a seventh was mortally wounded, shot through the chest but later survived. That was the sobering story of our Country then that has continued to be the sobering story of our Country today.
This year’s memorial lecture has dual themes. The first topic is titled, “Extra Judicial Killings: Challenges before the Nigeria Police” while the second topic is titled, “Getting our Value Systems Right: A Tool for National Development”. Both topics are quite apt for a country in desperate search for meaning. I am definite that the speakers at this year’s event are eminently qualified and capable of doing justice to the topics. I do not therefore intend to waste your time pretending to address these topics. I will leave that to the Speakers. However, I will digress to discuss several other issues which have occurred recently and which speak directly to our flawed value system in a number of ways. I will do this in sweeping broad strokes.
Let me start this digression by pointing out that the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) takes copious note of two events that transpired in the month of August, 2012; first, despite normal difficulties of logistics, planning and management, the World gathered in London, United Kingdom to celebrate and participate in the 30th Olympiad Games. The second event of no less importance to the Nigerian State is that the two predominant Religions practised in the country celebrated the end of the Ramadan season for Muslims and regular Sunday worship for Christians on the same day. There was no known report of violence based on either sectarian loyalty or fanatical religious belief.
The reference to the London 2012 Olympic Games is deliberate. The total cost of the games for the United Kingdom as a host nation was approximately £10.8 billion; but the accruing income from the successful outing in the areas of tourism, business investment, and an awareness of a country’s capability to deliver on the global stage as was showcased is as of to date yet to be quantified. Suffice to say that the London 2012 Olympics were an overall success for the United Kingdom as a nation and continue in the tradition and excellence set by China four years before. The event symbolizes a setting of a bar of standard of excellence that aspiring host nations can utilize as a matrix of what should obtain when charged with a responsibility. It should also be noted that Team GB representing the host nation hauled in a total of 29 Gold, 17 Silver and 19 Bronze medals making it the best sports outing for the United Kingdom since the inception of its participation in any Olympics event.
Nigeria is said to have expended a sum of approximately N20billion (equivalent to £79.3 million). This figure is equated on the basis of Federal spending for the most part and does not cater thoroughly for spending by State Governors, Legislators and their retinue of spouses, staff and other hangers-on. For a nation that likes to tag itself as the “Giant of Africa”, our efforts and spending resulted in the remarkable sum total of absolutely no medals to show for our participation. While NAS commends the efforts of all the athletes that carried the Flag for Nigeria during the London 2012 event and values their service to their fatherland, it is important to distinguish their efforts which merits praise despite the result from the efforts of those in Government charged with providing an enabling environment for our athletes to succeed to the best of their ability among the comity of nations. That the efforts of Government at all levels in relation to sports development have been self-serving, opportunistic and retrogressive casts a wider picture of the state of Nigeria.
The potential for greatness in the opinion of NAS is also buttressed by the possibility of peaceful co-existence among its diverse people in an atmosphere of harmony, devoid of violence where Government satisfies its fundamental duty to its citizens to provide security for life, property, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. This remains an issue that NAS will not sit by idly without serving as a catalytic force for the achievement of those basic expectations. Dangerously, the nation is teetering on the verge of uncertainty with the lack of acceptable peace and security. Varying sections of the country are clamouring for a break up of Nigeria as we know it today while in some areas, it is for more autonomy for its component geographical parts. The absence of full blown fratricidal strife does not signify the existence of Security; rather the truth is that Nigeria is drifting when it should be taking strides. NAS cannot but continue to stress that a nation where security is taken as the highest priority it deserves is a nation where every other developmental indices can flourish.
It is unfortunate that those in positions of authority have taken the malaise of corruption and self-enrichment to levels of absurdity never seen in the history of our beloved nation. This absurdity cannot be excluded from indices that continue to suggest that the responsibility of Government to its people is misplaced in how priorities and goals are being set and executed, and the overall ethos and ethics of Government. These misplaced priorities are evidenced by a stalled economic growth, poor development and maintenance culture for infrastructure, wide spread poverty among majority of people, a comatose educational system and a dilapidated Health Care delivery system, etc.
Over time NAS has rendered commentary and provided solutions to the myriad of issues and missed opportunities affecting Nigeria; however, the current state of affairs clearly suggests a nation that is adrift. Our aim has always been to ensure that successive Nigerian governments live up to their obligations to its citizenry. The aforementioned misguided spending culture and decline in sports development and infrastructure is the same picture cast in other fundamentals of the Nigerian fabric.
Enough for my digression, which was intended to serve as food for thought for the audience gathered here today to contemplate the myriad of problems that the Nigerian State has to grapple with beyond the inefficiency and extra judicial killings by the Nigeria Police Force. In the light of this, NAS is committed to engaging Government in a constructive manner where the need arises, using the Freedom of Information Act as a veritable tool for the betterment of the Nigerian State. We are also committed to working collaboratively with other Civil Society Organisations to advocate continuously to keep in the national consciousness pertinent issues like the menace of corruption, good governance and its impact on the Nigerian State. Furthermore, NAS believes that all Nigerians and friends of the country have a primary stake in ensuring that the Country is restored to its pride of place at home and abroad and to the highest levels of its corporate potential as a country.
Thanks for listening and enjoy the lectures.