Of Snipers, Unresolved Murders, and All That, By Adeolu Ademoyo

Adeolu Ademoyo

After former Nigerian president-Mr. Oluṣẹgun Ọbasanjọ- made the allegation that the government of President Jonathan keeps snipers and has a list of 1000 Nigerians under watch, the Nigerian Human Rights Commission announced its preparedness to investigate state sponsored assassinations in the country.

While this is welcome, a successful outcome of the Commission’s work depends on many unresolved questions. These will make anyone to be skeptical of what the Commission can achieve.

 Shortly after the gruesome murder of Bọla Ige, Professor Wọle Ṣoyinka observed that the PDP keeps a nest of killers.  Mr. Oluṣẹgun Ọbasanjọ was then the head of state.

Though, Bọla Ige’s death has not been resolved, there are allegations which are yet to be proved that some known politician in the western part of the country, who later became a PDP Senator, may have information on the circumstances of Bọla Ige’s death.

That same Senator is now embedded in one of the Afẹnifẹre groups, which recently paid a solidarity visit to President Jonathan to show support for his national conference.

So with respect to Mr. Ọbasanjọ’s allegation of snipers, and Ṣoyinka’s observation that PDP has a nest of killers, it is up to Ọbasanjọ to inform us what he and his PDP know about Bọla Ige’s death particularly this PDP Senator.

Nigeria runs an informal state where documentation and quantification are deliberately made fuzzy by state operatives to entrench abuses and to make it impossible to detect them when they occur.  This is why many cases of corruption fizzle out immediately the whistle blower exposes them.

Given this informal nature of the Nigerian state, most important decisions and actions that affect the people are done informally. And that includes the deployment of assassins after political opponents. These are stealthy, covert, infernal and deadly operations that become sophisticated when backed by the might of the Nigerian state.

So formally, we may not know about Bọla Ige’s death. But informally, given the informal nature of the Nigerian state, somebody knows, because it happened under the watch of Mr. Ọbasanjọ as president and a known PDP politician in the western part of the country was allegedly involved.

This mode of reasoning is further strengthened because of Mr. Obasanjo’s letter to President Goodluck Ebelo Azikiwe Jonathan, the current head of state. In the letter Mr. Ọbasanjọ made two allegations.

One, that President Jonathan keeps snipers. Second, that President Jonathan has placed about 1000 Nigerians on a political watch list. Many Nigerians have asked for evidence. The issue of hard-wired evidence in a Nigerian state that operates informally is where the work of the Dr. Chidi Odinkalu National Human Rights Commission becomes complicated.

This informality of the Nigerian state that does not quantify nor document anything makes the kind of work the Human Rights Commission is embarking on very difficult. Nigeria,  is notorious for skirting around things. It is a feature of the informality of the Nigerian state and our lives.

And more importantly, the conceptualization of state sponsored killing, as a human rights issue by the Nigerian Human Rights Commission is helpful but limiting. The sponsored killings and assassination by the Nigerian state goes beyond human rights violation, it is a moral and political failure of the Nigerian state.

So the work can proceed as a human rights issue, for the reason stated, but it cannot end as a human rights issue. It is about the political and moral nature of the Nigerian state.

To proceed in a conventional manner, as the Commission is likely to, will limit the work of the Commission. First, cold, deadly, stealthy, covert, and infernal operations are never documented. Second, documentation is a formal exercise. No one documents anything in Nigeria for Nigeria by nature is an informal state.

Good examples abound. Check the corruption cases in Nigeria and how obvious culprits are difficult to prosecute. The most recent and most celebrated is when the Nigerian Supreme Court declared Mr. Bọde George not guilt of corruption in a case of obvious abuse of office.

Take another example of a PDP Mr. Dauda Birma who openly confessed that President Jonathan, Bamanga Tukur former PDP chairman and the structure of PDP were involved in the judicial freedom of the suspected assassin Major Hamzat Al Mustapha.

To ask for documentation in these cases beyond the obvious and patently clear is to speak to Mountain Kilimanjaro-a dead wall.  Nigeria runs an informal state, which does not document anything.

This is why the Human Rights Commission and we need to see a trend in political killings and the similarity in Mr. Soyinka’s claim that the PDP keeps a nest of killers and Mr. Ọbasanjọ’s claim that Mr. Jonathan has snipers.

Those who know these gentlemen –Ṣoyinka and Ọbasanjọ-know that they are not particularly warm to one another. So they could not have sat down over a cup of coffee to coordinate their revelations about nest of killers and snipers in the corridor of power of the Nigerian state.

More importantly, they made the same allegations at different times in the history of the country. And in a historical manner both hold fundamentally different political and moral views. They are just not the same persons yet their views coincide from different aisles of the political spectrum on the nature of the PDP run Nigerian state.

So, even when the National Commission for human Rights is investigating Mr. Ọbasanjọ’s claim, the investigation may be dead on arrival. The reason is the informal nature of the Nigerian state. The National Commission On Human Rights needs to recognize this nature.

In informal states, you see the consequences of actions. From the consequences of actions one can trace back the cause.

This is the best one can get from an informal state whose informal nature does not dispose it to any written form of cold objectivity the Human Rights Commission may be looking for. An informal state like Nigeria is a shadowy state, stealthy but deadly.

Hence, consequences are the best testimonies and justification of Mr. Ṣoyinka’s nest of killers, which is embedded in PDP, and the nest, which has resurrected as snipers in Mr. Ọbasanjọ’s letter to president Jonathan.

The death of Bọla Ige, Senator Abe’s narrow escape of death, and the deadly disruption of the Save Rivers Movement rally in Bori Rivers state where two persons were shot by suspected militants show the existence of nest of killers and snipers in the PDP run Nigerian state.

So if the National Commission On Human Rights is looking for hard evidence of snipers it should proceed this way. In order for it to be efficient and be not illusory, it must accept that it is dealing with an informal state. You will not get any hard-wired paper-documented evidence.

However, in the case of Senator Magnus Abe which is still fresh (unlike the case of Bọla Ige) the Human Rights Commission must ask the Rivers state commissioner of police Mr. Mbu to inform on what it knows about the attack on Senator Abe, Mr. Tony Okocha, Governor Chubuike Amaechi’s Chief of staff, and the deadly attack on two persons during the disruption of the SRM rally in Bori.

 Snipers and nest of killers are not registered as companies either as business organizations or as NGOs. They do not have registration papers or known fixed addresses. Nest of killers and snipers are shadowy, stealthy, covert and secretive. They merge with the environment where they operate.

If the National Commission On Human Rights takes its task seriously, it must recognize this reality in order to know the kind of evidence it will look for and gather.

The Nigerian state, run by the PDP, may be that nest of killers and core snipers. Scrutinize the effects and consequences and you will get the causes. What do you think?

Adeolu Ademọyọ aaa54@cornell.edu is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.


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