The word martyr connotes a religious icon who attains the lofty height by virtue of the person’s insistence on sticking to the truth as revealed by his/her religion and by so doing pays the supreme price.
A Martyr as defined by www.biblestudytools.com is very simple and straightforward thus: “someone who bears witness of the truth, and suffers death in the cause of Christ” Acts 22:20; Revelation 2:13; 17:6). Six hundred or so years after organized Christianity emerged, Islamic religion came on board. Islam also recognizes the place of martyrs.
However, our intervention today is not theological nor is it an essay about those iconic figures in the organized religions of Christianity and Islam going by the fact that all religions recognize the place of a Martyr in their historical contexts.
But we are talking of some Nigerians who were gruesomely killed during the just conducted general elections in all parts of Nigeria with very specific focus on Rivers state which is the epicentre of the election related killings.
Rivers is also an interesting area of focus because of two heavy weights belonging to the two heavyweight political parties of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
These figures have large amount of political followerships that cut across the political space known as Rivers state, just as these are the former and current governors of Rivers in the persons of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the respected learned gentleman known as Nyesom Wike.
The 2019 elections in Rivers State were anything but peaceful especially because of the contending forces who wrestled for the control of the politics of Rivers state even as the unclear role of the armed security forces has become a pivotal thematic area of interesting national and global conversations.
In this instance, those who were killed were not necessarily limited to politicians but even from amongst soldiers, some fine soldiers suffered casualties of these violent episodes that characterized the exercise to an extent that the electoral commission has openly indicted the Army of disrupting the governorship poll in Rivers state.
However, of utmost interest is the violent and criminal conspiracy of the police operatives under the notorious appendage of FSARS which is an offshoot of the widely rejected special Armed Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police Force which was recently abolished following widespread outcry about their misconducts. Remember that SARS were accused of harbouring mostly hardened armed robbers.
Already, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State has called on the Acting Inspector General of Police, Abubakar Adamu, to institute a probe into the alleged involvement of the Commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in the state, Akin Fakorede, and operatives of the squad, in the killing and harassment of agents of the party during the suspended governorship and state House of Assembly elections in the state. This writer suffered two nights of nightmares after watching the verified video of how an agent of the Rivers State governor was felled and killed gruesomely by these policemen.
This is coming as the party has commended the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, for instituting a panel to probe the alleged invasion of polling units and collation centres by soldiers in the state and the plot to assassinate the state Governor, Nyesom Wike.
The state Chairman of PDP, Felix Obuah, while addressing journalists in Port Harcourt, said one of the victims of the alleged attack by SARS operatives, Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, has died while several others who were critically wounded are battling for their lives in hospitals.
Obuah said: “We also commend the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Yusuf Tukur Buratai for inaugurating the Major General TA Gagariga-led committee to probe the allegations of misconduct, including the assassination attempt on our Governor, His Excellency Nyesom Ezenwo Wike by soldiers during the 2019 general election.
“We wish to assure the Chief of Army Staff that the PDP will appear, present and prove before the committee with facts and evidence of the atrocities committed by his soldiers against the electoral process and the people of Rivers State before, during and after the 2019 general election.
“In the same vein, we wish to call on the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Abubakar Mohammed Adamu to institute a similar panel to probe the brazen involvement of the Rivers State Commander of F-SARS, Mr. Akin Fakorode and his gang of police operatives in the organized invasion of polling units, collation centres, abduction of electoral officers and the shooting and killing of innocent persons during the general election at Khana, Gokana, Ikwerre, Eleme, Tai, Oyigbo and Ogu/Bolo LGAs of the State.
“As we speak, one of the victims of Akin Fakorode’s assault, Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, a senior lecturer at the Ken Saro Wiwa Polytechnic has died of gunshot wounds, while Mr. Marvin Lezor Kpea-ue, Raymond Ledogo and several persons are presently battling with life-threatening injuries inflicted on them by Akin Fakorode and his murderous gang.
“We wish to reiterate that Mr. Akin Fakorede has over the years become a recurrent obstacle to the peaceful conduct of general election in Rivers State; and he does so with provocative bravado and criminality.
“It is on record that Mr. Akin Fakorode was copiously indicted by INEC’s investigative panel for direct interference and involvement in the violence and rigging that characterized the December 10, 2016 and August 18, 2018 legislative houses re-run elections in Rivers State.
“Unfortunately and to the consternation of law abiding citizens, because nothing has been done to bring him to justice, Mr. Akin Fakorode continues to revel in his criminally culpable assault against our electoral system and the people of Rivers State and getting away with willful assault, murder and criminal violence as if he is above the law.
“This time around, it is our hope and prayer that Akin Fakorode must not escape justice for his numerous crimes against the electoral system and the people of Rivers State, which can only happen with his arrest, investigation and trial as the law demands. Otherwise, such acts of impunity and disregard for the laws of our country will not stop.”
This writer is therefore calling for an independent inquiry of all these dastardly criminal acts of the men in uniform.
Relatedly, the Nigerian Army said it lost an officer to the election violence in Rivers State, adding that six other persons were shot dead during an ambush of troops by alleged assailants in Abonema, Akuku Toru LGA.
The deaths, which occurred during the presidential and National Assembly elections in the state, have drawn the ire of the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, who has vowed to seek justice for those killed.
The United States Consul-General to Nigeria, Mr. John Bray, has, however, called for an end to the violent conflicts in the state.
The army, which denied allegations that it planned to assassinate Wike, accused the governor of offering the GOC 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Jamil Sarham, millions of dollars in bribe, also charged the Chairman of Akuku Toru LGA, Mr. Rowland Sekibo, of masterminding the attack on troops.
An army statement signed by its spokesman, Col. Sagir Musa, said: “The pre-planned attack occurred in between Charles and Bob-Manuel’s compounds in Abonema Town about 1.00 pm on February 23, 2019″
“The attackers barricaded a major road into the town and laid an ambush in the adjoining built-up areas from where they opened fire on our unsuspecting troops when they attempted to remove the barricade.
“The gallant troops fought their way through the siege and in the process killed six of the assailants. However, we lost a lieutenant and two soldiers were wounded in the encounter.
“Preliminary investigation indicated that one Roland Sekibo, – the Chairman, Akuku Toru LGA, Omodo; the CSO Akuku Toru LGA and Kenneth Kula, currently at large, were the masterminds of the unexpected and unprovoked attack.
“To this end, the Nigerian Army strongly hereby states that perpetrators of this ambush will be made to face the full wrath of the law.”
Meanwhile, the army in another statement, accused Wike of making offers of millions of dollars in bribe to which Sarham rejected, maintaining that his assassination claim was unsubstantiated.
It said: “Some of his rancorous claims were that the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Maj. Gen. Jamil Sarham, purportedly sent troops to cordon off his residence prior to the rescheduled general elections on February 15, 2019.
“The governor further went on to allege an assassination attempt on his life, which he claimed was orchestrated by the GOC 6 Division.
“The Nigerian Army is appalled that a governor who should epitomize leadership and good example in all senses could descend so low to employ smear campaign against the person of a GOC whose only responsibility amongst other things is about the safety and security of lives and property in his area of responsibility.”
But responding to the allegations, the Special Assistant to Wike on Electronic Media, Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu, said they were not only false, but a diversionary tactic to exonerate the GOC and his men from the atrocities they committed in the state.
Nwakaudu stressed that by his actions, Sarham showed that he has no respect for human lives, democracy and the rule of law.
He added that the lies are aimed at enabling them to hatch more false allegations to justify their killing of innocent people of the state in the next elections.
“In the coming days, the GOC and other criminal elements will hatch more false allegations to justify their unpatriotic killing of innocent Rivers people for the political advantage of their sponsors,” he said.
The United Kingdom has indicted the Army of violent conducts during the polls.
Meanwhile, the United States Consul-General to Nigeria, Mr. John Bray, has called for an end to violence in the state.
Addressing journalists at the Government House, Port Harcourt after a meeting with Wike, the diplomat decried the violence that greeted the polls in some parts of the state.
The American envoy told journalists: “I am here as an international observer. We have been watching elections in Rivers State.
“I am not here to grade elections or anything like that. I am just here to say that there has been enough violence.
“Enough people have died. I am here today to speak with all the different candidates and party leaders.”
Also addressing journalists later in Port Harcourt, Wike declared that the state government would pursue justice for all those murdered in cold blood by soldiers of the Nigerian Army, allegedly recruited by the APC to unleash mayhem on PDP members in Abonema and other towns during presidential and National Assembly elections.
The governor said all those involved in the cold blooded murder of innocent Rivers people to feather the presidential ambition of their benefactor would not go unpunished.
He particularly berated the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi; the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Jamil Sarham; and the Federal Special Anti-robbery Squad (FSARs) Commander, Mr. Akin Fakorede, for their roles in the murder of Rivers people during the elections.
He said: “Let it be known that those who masterminded the murderous assault on Abonema and other communities in Rivers State last Saturday have bloodstains on their hands, for which they are all answerable before the Almighty God.
“I wish to assure all and sundry that we shall as a government pursue justice for the families of the victims against the perpetrators of the mayhem, killings and destructions in Abonema, Buguma, Degema and other places no matter how powerful they may seem and how long it may take.”
Wike called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately direct the army to pull out of Abonema, so that the people can resume their normal lives.
The army has continued the lock down of Abonema Community in Akuku Toru LGA following the death of a soldier and six others in the community.
An ad hoc electoral officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Ms. Ibisiki Amachree, has been reportedly killed by a stray bullet in River State.
The Commission did not elaborate on the incident which it described as “serious fatality in Rivers State,” saying it happened on Saturday during the presidential and National Assembly polls, however, another INEC employee was arrested by security agencies over alleged infractions in the presidential and National Assembly elections held on Saturday.
The Commission promised to review the performance of security agencies after the elections and see how to improve on its security architecture.
The chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this during a press briefing held at the National Collation Centre in Abuja.
According to him, voting has either started or has been concluded today (Sunday) in some places in Abia, Bayelsa, Benue, Bayelsa and Gombe states where there had been malfunctioning of smart card readers.
“We are also awaiting reports from Imo, and some parts of Lagos, particularly Okota; and also Osun state and we have lodged a complaint with security agencies.
“We have recorded serious fatality in Rivers State and one of our ad hoc staff (Ms. Ibisiki Amachree) was killed by alleged stray bullet.
“This is not the right time for postmortem. This is not the right time to assess institutions and security agencies. We will review the situations after the elections and see how to improve on our security architecture.”
Few hours back INEC named the Army as being responsible for disrupting the governorship poll in Rivers State. I call on the Army to fish out the armed operatives who committed these atrocities and prosecute them. This is not a conflict between the Army and governor Wike because Wike is law abiding. He recognizes the Army as a professional institution. Also those who killed the Army operatives must be arrested and prosecuted. FSARS operatives who were captured killing the agent in Rivers state should be punished.
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko is the head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.