Dear Mr Emeka Rollas,
You may wish to recall that on Thursday, October 7, one of your distinguished colleagues, Mr Chiwetalu Agu was violently arrested, assaulted, thoroughly humiliated and detained by some lawless soldiers for wearing an attire they believed dictator Buhari wouldn’t like, and which they claimed represented Biafra. To start with, is Biafra a criminal offence in Nigeria? But that is not my point at this juncture, we will get to that shortly.
My gripe is that you addressed a press conference in the wake of the illegal arrest of Mr Agu, but curiously, rather than calling out the tyrannical regime for his arbitrary arrest and public humiliation, you excoriated the actor instead for wearing an attire that projected no sign of violence in whatever sense. You aligned with a tyrant who is bound and determined to shrink the civic space and who in no time may consider the imposition of uniforms on Nigerians if he continues to enjoy the support of people like you.
That you refrained from defending the fundamental human rights of your colleague who was humiliated before the whole world without the slightest respect, remains incomprehensible to me.
The truth is that what happened to Mr Chiwetalu Agu could have happened to anybody, including you, Emeka Rollas. How, you may ask. You do not have to wear a Biafran regalia to be arrested or harassed by this dictator. When tyranny is sufficiently empowered and defended the way you did at your ill-conceived press conference, the tyrant becomes emboldened and picks up people for “offences” like defecating inside their own toilets. You remember DSS’s criminal invasion of Sunday Igboho’s residence and the extrajudicial execution of two innocent people that night of July 1, 2021? As you may recall, that incident didn’t occur on the street.
But here lies the fundamental problem of electing reactionary leaders like you to head an orgnisation as huge as the Actors Guild of Nigeria [AGN]. People who cannot say it the way it is because they fear a dictator who behaves as though he owns Nigeria but whose time in office is very much predictable, whether or not he likes it.
If you were not an unrepentant reactionary, you would have mobilised your colleagues at Actors Guild of Nigeria by now to storm the streets wearing Biafran colours in a gesture of solidarity with Mr Chiwetalu Agu whose fundamental rights have been raped by the Buhari dictatorship. You would have also been in court by now to file for the enforcement of his rights which are being recklessly abused by dictator Buhari.
Whilst reacting to Mr Chiwetalu Agu’s illegal arrest, you even said that you were making efforts to ensure his release. How exactly? By mortgaging his fundamental rights to freedom of expression in exchange for his release?
In part, you were quoted as saying:
“I don’t know why he put on Biafra regalia. The State is hot and he knows this. We are in talk with the military officials to ensure he is released. We will do our best.”
Apparently the veteran actor and not the lawless soldiers was to blame? What is the name of the Law that criminalises the combination of the following colours anywhere in Nigeria: black, green, red and yellow? Assuming without conceding that the actor had indeed committed an offence, is the military empowered by any Nigerian Law to arrest a civilian in the manner in which Mr Agu was arrested? That you saw nothing wrong with the militarisation of the civic space by soldiers who have failed to conquer Boko Haram terrorists after more than ten years, is disturbing.
Consequently, your comments to newsmen only succeeded in empowering and emboldening the draconian regime led by dictator Buhari – because you expressly said that the oppressor should be exonerated and his victim chided for exercising his own rights.
Your blunt refusal to chastise the Buhari dictatorship in what has been a cruel violation of Mr Chiwetalu Agu’s rights continues to invoke in my head Bishop Desmond Tutu’s immortal lines:
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
Dear Mr Emeka, at your press conference, you exonerated the elephant and nailed the mouse. It’s a tragedy.
You should not be “negotiating” for the release of a man who should never have been arrested in the first place. In such circumstances, you DEMAND for their release, you do not negotiate for it, especially when it involves a dictator.
Now he has been kidnapped by the Department of State Services [DSS]. Are you also going to “negotiate” with Nigeria’s most lawless security agency? Are you going to “negotiate” with a security outfit notorious for violating, crushing and defecating on the judiciary? Are you going to “negotiate” with a lawless organisation that has notoriously violated every piece of extant legislation in Nigeria and has no modicum of respect for our judges?
Your position as President of Actors Guild of Nigeria is beyond enjoying the title and the numerous benefits that come with it. It also involves you defending the fundamental human rights of your members, especially in the face of tyranny – like dictator Buhari’s fascist regime.
As I round off, I am constrained to ask this crucial question: you remember the young protesters who were massacred by Nigerian soldiers at the Lekki Tollgate on the evening of Tuesday, October 20, 2020? They were shot and killed in a peaceful protest despite singing the national anthem and waving the national flag as a symbol of patriotism. You may have seen an image of a viral bloodstained Nigerian flag on social media and elsewhere. Did you see a single Biafran flag at that protest? Why were the peaceful protesters shot and killed despite waving Nigeria’s national flag? These are the things that happen when a country is under the jackboot of an unrepentant dictator. Defence or neutrality in favour of the draconian regime is not a cure for tyranny.
Your decision to tacitly exonerate Mr Chiwetalu Agu’s brutal captors who assaulted, humiliated and had him arbitrarily detained for committing no offence, amounts to betrayal. If you cannot put the wheels of legitimate resistance in motion to protect Mr Chiwetalu Agu’s fundamental rights, then you have to resign, now, and pave way for another who considers the fundamental rights of members of that organisation a serious affair.
Author, essayist, citizen journalist, permanent enemy of oppressors