The Run Away Republic of Nigeria

Ogunsakin Mustapha
8 Min Read
Owei Lakemfa

By Owei Lakemfa

The cumulative 29-year military rule left the country in ruins. In the Civil War alone which was triggered by military coups, over two million Nigerians lost their lives. In the post-war era, thousands more were killed by military regimes including by way of seasonal purges in the name of coups, attempted coups and coup plans.

In the anti-Structural Adjustment Programme protests, many were killed. In the protests against the military annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential elections, hundreds were murdered by the military, including 118 Nigerians on July 6. 1993.

Today, twenty four years later, the country continues to suffocate under the culture of impunity developed by the military regimes.

So, you can imagine the tension in the media when news went out that some fifteen armed men, with at least two in military uniform, had barged into the Lagos home of FirstNews Editor, Segun Olatunji.

The nightmare began at dusk on Friday March 15, 2013 when the Editor was watching television with his 7-year old son. Suddenly, armed men barged into his home with his wife and one year old son who had earlier been abducted. The abductors had forced Mrs Olatunji at gun point to take them to her home.

The panic in the media was not just because it was not uncommon for armed bandits dorning military uniforms to abduct people. But also, under military regimes, journalists had been abducted and simply disappeared. The most prominent case was that of Bagauda Kaltho, abducted without trace, three decades ago. He was being hunted by the military gestapo and had fled his Kaduna home. I had met him in a safe house in Lagos and with another journalist, Dapo Olorunyomi who was also on the run, we had agreed that his plan to go underground in Abuja was a brilliant one. We thought the military gestapo would be out looking for him in Kaduna, his Billiri, Gombe State hometown and Lagos, not right under their noses in Abuja.

So, when Olatunji was abducted and disappeared without trace, there was palpable fear.
The thought of his abductors being bandits was virtually ruled out. First, the abductors had been patient enough to allow Olatunji, who was in his boxers, to go into his bedroom, to pick a trouser and a shirt. Usually, bandits do not display such patience or civility. But the second and main reason was that bandits call relatives to demand ransom. But in Olatunji’s case, his abductors made no such demand.

However, this also raised other fears. Since the Presidency, the office of the National Security Adviser, the State Security Services, Military Defence, Army, the Police and security services denied holding him, could his abductors have been hired assassins?

After the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa and, the Chief of Defence Intelligence, Major General Emmanuel Undiandeye had denied holding the journalist, the Nigerian Chapter of the International Press Institute, IPI gathered irrefutable evidence that they were holding the Editor.
The IPI held a press conference, not just directly accusing the Defence Chiefs of holding Olatunji, but also demanding that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should instruct the duo to set the journalist free. The IPI and other media bodies announced that they would hold a more comprehensive press conference the next day to provide further evidence.

The Defence Chiefs were clearly rattled. They did not know how the media bodies got such exact information, and were not sure what further information the media bodies had on the case. They reached out to the Honourable Minister of Information Mohammed Idris to confess they were holding the journalist and promised to release him immediately.
This was twelve days into the abduction. Next day, a journalist, Yomi Odunnuga, received a phone call to come for Olatunji. Mr Odunnuga, accompanied by Dr. Iyobosa Uwaghiren, the General Secretary of the Guild of Editors, set out to receive the Editor. This was not without the Defence Intelligence service playing ‘James Bond’ by directing the journalists around Abuja before finally handing over their victim at a bridge in the city.
Mr Olatunji had been tortured with his right hand and leg, numb.
He said after his abduction, he was detained at the Air Force Base in Lagos before being flown to Abuja where he was tortured, interrogated and his phone scanned for sources of his information.

So, what do we do about men who abducted a citizen and committed the national and international crime of torture? What do we do about public officers who so blatantly violated the constitution which guarantees the right to movement and the the duty of the journalist to hold government accountable to the people?
What do we do about generals in uniform who lied that that they were not holding the Editor and deprived him of his constitutional right to defend himself in court? What do we do about serving military chiefs who illegally incarcerated a Nigerian citizen depriving him his right to family life and endangering his life? Do we pretend nothing has happened, go on in the normal way until the next victim is thrown up?
I think we can collectively ensure that all those involved in these crimes are put under international watch so that if they are above our laws, we can ensure their arrest and prosecution any time or day they step outside our shores.

The press can also boycott their activities and programmes any of them is featured.
We should not bother ourselves so much by the inaction of the National Assembly; the country can survive without its assistance.

Those who condone or rationalize the criminality of the Military top brass are like a man riding on the back of a tiger; he may end up in its stomach.

Welcome to the Run Away Republic of Nigeria where might is right and impunity thrives. However, Iam confident that the conscientious can put a stop to all things that keep us backward and under developed people.

Dear readers, we really need your support to keep on serving you with authoritative, truthful, and juicy stories everyday. For your support, please reach out to the editor

Share This Article