Akwa Ibom State,
To The President,
Grand Commander of The Armed Forces,
Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Dear Mr. President,
I don’t want to ramble about the fact that you don’t know me. I know that you don’t know me. So, let me introduce myself. My name is Christopher Chidi Okoro Arua. I’m a Nigerian(who has suddenly begun to question his nationality). I live in Nigeria –don’t fret yourself about the prospect of me writing this from the safe havens of foreign lands.
There is a reason why we are Nigerians. Allow me to paint a picture for you. Like you may have noticed, there is a ‘Christopher’ before my widely known name. It is not there because I imagine the concept of four names to be sexy. No, it’s not meant to satisfy my shenanigans. That is not the reason. ‘Christopher’ is meant to tell people about who I am –a Christian. I took that name on the day I was baptized. It symbolizes my commitment to the religion I choose to practice.
Like you already know, Nigerians are extremely religious people. That means: everything starts and ends with God. He controls everything for us; economy, infrastructure building, food, jobs, schools, and everything we need as a people. Our God also controls the security of citizens.
Dear Mr. President, I am certain that you are a religious man too. But I want to believe that it hasn’t taken away your sense of relaxation. So, Mr. President, I want to ask you a question: do you watch movies at your leisure time? If you do, have you ever watched Hotel Rwanda? If you haven’t, allow me to tell you a brief story. Oh, Mr. President, I forgot to mention that I’m a storyteller. Yes, I tell stories. Some people find it entertaining. Some think I’m miserable at it. Others simply don’t have the luxury to read –or listen to my stories. As for you, Mr. President, I don’t know what you think about storytelling and how well storytellers go about their craft. So, I will just tell you about the above mentioned movie and let you decide if I tell stories well, or not.
Hotel Rwanda is about Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu hotel manager. His wife, Tatiana –a very beautiful woman –is a Tutsi. Well, their marriage was a huge source of discord with Paul’s tribesmen, notably, Georges Rutaganda. There is something about Rutaganda that strikes me. He wakes me from my slumber of refusing to notice how tribe can divide a people. Even though Rutaganda was a friendly supplier at Paul’s hotel, he was still displeased by the fact that his tribesman had married a Tutsi. There was tension between the two tribes. Accusations and counteraccusations. Before one could say damn, Paul began to notice killings that were being fueled by ethnic affiliations. Bits by bits, it spiraled into a full war –a genocidal war. Well, to cut it short, it became what is now known as the Rwanda Genocide.
You may not have been impressed with the manner with which I told the story. I rushed it. Well, that is not my story. I can’t tell it better than its original owners. But Mr. President, I have another question for you. Please, let my dear President not be displeased with me. Have you ever seen a man die? I can hear you laughing at this question, seeing that you have been in the army. I have seen a man die –killed by a mob. We both know that I shouldn’t be seeing such things, right?
I was 17, and it was also my final year in Secondary School –nothing beats Secondary School. That was four years ago. I saw them. They were many, very many, my dear President. Wherever they took the man from, a very young man I guessed, they never stopped beating him as they moved along the dusty street, triumphantly. They didn’t stop until they had snuffed life out of him. As if to say to onlookers this is our spoil from the hunt! I saw people giggling as they watched the inglorious, painful death of a human. By the time he was dragged (yes, he was being dragged on the ground) nearer to where I was standing, he was no longer a recognizable human. My legs were shaking in trepidation. I began to withdraw from the scene but something compelled me to look back.
I saw a man run into the crowd with a machete. People gave way and he gained access to the already dead man(I guessed) and delivered a big blow. The half dead man wriggled in pain and the crowd cheered. When he raised his machete to deliver a second blow, I looked away. I had never been so afraid in my entire life.
Then, they decided to cap their victory by playing their last cards. I saw them, yes, Mr. President, I saw them pour a liquid on him, after half a dozen tyres had emerged from nowhere to become his death companions. What followed that liquid, Mr. President, was fire and lots of smoke. Yes, dear President, he was set ablaze!
Since that great day of horror, for me, nothing has come near to matching that sight. It took me weeks before I stopped seeing the scene in my dreams. But one thing keeps baffling me till date. Where was the Police? That act of savagery took more than an hour and the Police didn’t fucking show up!
Yes, the Police didn’t show. The same way they didn’t show up when the Aluu4 were killed. When Southern Corp members were slaughtered in the North. When Herdsmen plundered Agatu, and also laid waste to an Enugu community. They never ever show up when killings are going on. The killers have never been made to face the law. And because we are Nigerians, we leave everything to God.
This is why I am baffled by the Army’s ‘quick response’ whenever there is a peaceful pro-Biafran protest. See, Mr. President, I am not a secessionist. I know you won’t believe me –it’s very hard to be objective in this country. Nevertheless, I will still go ahead and tell you why I took the pain of putting words across to you.
Monday, May 30, 2016, your forces –the Nigerian Army –shot at peaceful pro-Biafran marchers in Onitsha, killing many. Mr. President, that was the height of insensitivity and lack of respect for human rights. I know you love Nigeria. I do, too. But we can’t force people who don’t want to belong here to remain in the union against their wish. Under the United Nations’ laws, people have the right to agitate for a sovereign state. This explains why the Spanish government hasn’t gone on a killing spree of the Catalans. For the love of God, Catalonia even owns a national football team that has even played an international friendly match against Nigeria!
Trampling on the rights of pro-Biafrans is not even the biggest thing that frets me, my dear President. I’m a common man. This means that I’m exposed to street opinions on daily basis. There is a suspicion on the streets about an alleged ethnic cleansing agenda. Are you aware of this, dear President? People are saying that your tribesmen –Fulanis –are bent on killing people of other tribe. It is very hard for anyone to think otherwise; seeing that the herdsmen have not directed their killings to farmers in the north. Mr. President, are there no farmers in the north? It’s not like I want them to be killed. I’m only trying to raise a point. And then the loud silence that emanates from you each time such killings occur goes a long to clear any doubt about such conspiracy theories. None of these herdsmen was shot by the Army but their bullets were ripe for Biafran agitators.
What you should know, Mr. President, is that each time a soldier kills one of these peaceful protesters, their struggle becomes popular. They gain more local and international sympathy, and it’s bad for the unity we so desire. There are concerns of reprisals. Concerns of ethnic clashes. This is why I asked if you have ever watched Hotel Rwanda.
Another thing that worries me are my nightmares. I haven’t had such nightmares since I stopped seeing the man being killed many times in my dreams. Now when I sleep, I dream of blood –lots of blood. Mr. President, I’m afraid of what I see. Like I said earlier, I’m a Christian and that means: I don’t take dreams lightly. I feel that God is talking to me. That is why I am writing this. To tell you that there might be ethnic clashes. There might be blood, like the one I see in my dreams. I’m afraid that one day, the white man will do another movie –using black people as puns –similar to Hotel Rwanda to tell a Nigerian sad story. I’m afraid that we might wake one day and discover that our homes are gone, and worst, our loved ones maybe gone too. I am afraid that someone might shoot me because my name is Chidi and I have the nose of an Igbo boy. The other day, on hearing my name, someone called me a “bloody Biafran!”
Dear Mr. President, before you came to power, you promised to solve our security issues. But under your watch, ethnic tensions are beginning to rise. This is not the country I want. I want a country where a Southern Corp member would be posted to the North and such assignment would be taken without the fear of death. I want a country where people won’t look at me with suspicions because I bear a different tribe name. I want a country I can call my own. We need to stop killing each other, Mr. President.
The unity of our country has a lot to do with how you manage the things that seem little. As we continue to find the perfect way of co-existing together as a country, may God, who controls everything for us, continue to guide you as you lead us –hopefully– to our promise land.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Christopher Chidi Okoro Arua.