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Tribute to Aturu, Ubani and other comrades, By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

By News Express on 22/06/2019

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 •Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
•Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

Part of the irony of life is that villains appropriate the glories of the exploits of brave men. Even when these men fight wars so that there will be no wars, and shed their blood so that there will be no further blood-shed afterwards, little or nothing is heard about them. And, as time progresses, their contributions to achieve the emancipation of the oppressed are forgotten, and only the voices of those military apologists, who were wining and dining with the junta are heard, and so loud, too. This is a huge irony and joke.

The democracy we are witnessing today, though there’s nothing to show for it, could not have been a reality if not for the sacrifices some young Nigerians made. Space is a serious constraint here to begin to highlight the contributions of Nigerians. But let this serve as a posthumous tribute to few of these Nigerians who gave their all, in some instance their lives, to ensure that the protracted suppression of the Nigerian masses was abated.

Bamidele Aturu, BF, as he was fondly called, was elected President of the Nigerian Students Union, and he emerged as one of the leading young voices against military rule in Nigeria at a time when it was dangerous to do such things. Yet, in 1987, he came out with a first-class degree and best graduating student. Armed with this qualification, BF undertook the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), as a physics teacher at the Federal Government College, Minna, Niger State, where he earned a reputation as an exceptionally able, committed, and caring teacher. The management of the NYSC adjudged him as the best member of the NYSC 1987/88 set in Niger State. This assessment was considered worthy of recognition by the then military administration. During the passing out parade, he was called out for recognition from the military administrator, Lawan Gwadabe. But he declined to shake hands with the Milad in demonstration of his opposition to military rule.

As a result, he was penalised by the management of the National Youth Service, which refused to issue him with a discharge certificate. Without the discharge certificate, it was not easy for him to secure any employment. This compelled him to seek admission in 1989 as a law student, at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Again, BF graduated from the law programme as the best student in International Law and one of the best students overall. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1995. Aturu was one of the leading forces that resisted the regime of the late dictator, Gen Sani Abacha, through the instrumentality of United Action for Democracy (UAD).

He was one of the activists that contributed to the coalition of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) in 1989, and the Constitutional Rights Project (CRP) in 1991 to form the Campaign for Democracy (CD).

The world was treated to a rude shock when the death of Comrade Chima Enyinnaya Ubani was announced on 21st September, 2005. Ubani, the generalissimo of the struggle until his demise, was the Executive Director (ED) of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO).

 Ubani, and a photo journalist with Vanguard Newspapers, Tunji Oyeleru, lost their lives in a ghastly auto crash along Yobe-Pokistum road. The circumstances surrounding the crash is still shrouded in controversy, because we were told that there were other occupants of the Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) whose identities were never disclosed.

Due to the ant-people policies of the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime, including incessant hikes in fuel prices, the labour movement and civil society groups coalesced to form what was then known as Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO).

LASCO was undertaking rallies across the six geo-political zones in the country, protesting the fuel price hike, and had just concluded the North-east geo-political zone at Maiduguri. Ubani was to travel by air, but under circumstances which are also not still clear, he was reported to have opted to travel by land. The grand finale of rallies was scheduled to hold at Abuja, the seat of power, which LASCO would have occupied for days.

Chima Ubani, a former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, died at the age of 42. He was son of a Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) pastor, late Friday Okoro Ubani and Mrs Eunice Nnem Ubani of Obete-Umuoha in Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State. Ubani, like Aturu, demonstrated high intellectual capability. He was a students’ union leader at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), where he graduated in crop science in 1988. He took an MA in Mass Communication from the Leicester University in 2002. He joined the Civil Liberties Organisation in 1990 as a researcher. 

Ubani demonstrated activism traits early in life, as he was said to have opposed a punishment from one of his seniors in secondary school, while he was in form two. The activism trait in Ubani attained its climax when in 1993 the military regime of Gen Ibrahim Babangida annulled a presidential election that was to return Nigeria to civilian rule. He helped to bring various human right organisations together under one umbrella, the Campaign for Democracy. He also joined the campaign against oil companies in the Niger Delta, supporting such activists as the Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed in 1995.

In February 1994, Ubani’s house and office were raided by security agents, and a report on women and children in Nigerian prisons which he had co-authored was confiscated. He went on the run, but was arrested and imprisoned in 1995, after which his case was taken up by Amnesty International.

The following year, he was released. He immediately went to Britain for medical treatment. After the death of General Sani Abacha in 1998, Ubani worked to ensure a return to civilian rule. But he refused to accept the election of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 as a genuine return to democracy, as he lampooned what he saw as a corrupt government which disregarded human rights.

In July 2000, in a case he brought against the Nigerian Police, he was instrumental to the abrogation of a decree that allowed state security agents to detain people indefinitely. He also campaigned against extra-judicial killings by the Nigerian Police and the use of capital punishment. At the time of his inexplicable death, he was campaigning against fuel increases.

Worthy to mention here is that during the burial of Ubani in October 2005, the then Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, who was represented by his deputy, Dr Chima Nwafor, promised Ubani’s family some cash and to rename a street within Ehere Road area of Ogbor-Hill, Aba, after Chima Ubani. But these promises have not yet been fulfilled. Ubani was a worthy citizen and patriotic Nigerian who died in active service of his fatherland. He deserves more.

Finally, as the duo of Aturu and Ubani and other comrades continue their journey to eternity, it is unfortunate that the lot of the common man has even deteriorated, as the economy is in a very bad shape. The welfare of the masses these comrades fought for have degenerated from bad to worse. Nigerians are currently passing through excruciating experiences.

•Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu, a public policy analyst, writes from Aba, via keshiafrica@gmail.com

Source News Express

Posted 22/06/2019 1:28:30 PM

 

 

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