Let the Rising Sun fly
The Federal Government scored a massive own-goal when soldiers operating under Nigerian Army’s operation “Golden Dawn” arrested veteran Nollywood actor Chiwetalu Agu in full public glare, on allegations that he had-on colours emblematic of Biafra and the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). Detained overnight by the Nigerian Army, the actor was shown in a few video clips pleading his innocence and insisting that his garb was nothing more than the “rising sun”. He asserted that all he was doing at time of his arrest was distribute bread to hungry people. He was rearrested by the State Security Services immediately upon his release from military holding.
Since after his arrest and brief release by the military and, his subsequent rearrest by the SSS, the legal jury has been out on the propriety and legality (or otherwise) of Mr. Agu’s arrest. Did Chiwetalu Agu commit any offence known to law by dressing in Biafra colours? Was his arrest and detention justified? What aim did the Army seek to achieve pulling such stunt on a public figure of the “ekwensu e romansie Mammi-water” stature? Was it a wise move? Could they have simply admonished him and let him go without much drama.
Section 16 of the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act of 2013 which punishes associating with proscribed organisations or aiding their activities has been cited in support of argument which jusyify and validate his arrest. On the other hand, constitutional rights of free speech and of expression have been cited in defence of the veteran actor. I am more inclined to the latter view.
I agree that Chief Agu acted within constitutional rights to have dressed as he did. For whatever it is worth, wearing Biafran colours does not without more, establish that he was either a member of the proscribed IPOB (or any other) group or that he was promoting their activities. Those who argue in the line of thought that Mr. Agu committed an offence by the way he dressed erroneously infer the “Biafra” colours as inuring exclusively to IPOB. But they are wrong. There are a dozen other legally existing organisations for which the Biafra colours are descriptive.
Organizations such as the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB); Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM); Biafra Independence Movement (BIM); Biafra Liberation in Exile (BILIE) etc all use those symbols. Even the popular “Hero” beer by International Breweries uses the Rising Sun logo.
Whatever Nigeria’s history with Biafra, the law is not a thing as is amenable to emotions, biases or even popular opinion. The law is the Law only when it is enacted. As at today, there is not, to the best of my knowledge, any law in existence in Nigeria which either expressly or by inference prohibits or penalises use of the Biafra colours or the Rising (Half-of-a-Yellow) Sun symbol loosely adopted by Nigeria’s Igbo as a mark of identity. There also appears nothing apparently illegal therein, should States adopt same as State flag within contemplation of S. 3 (b) of the Flags and Coat of Arms Act. On either view, I stand to be corrected.
Whatever the goal was in arresting Chiwetalu Agu, it failed. The soldiers who arrested him knew or ought to have known that arresting such a popular person, under such circumstances would only give publicity to the IPOB, draw public sympathy towards their cause while further inflaming the embers of discontent in the South East. Whatever victory they felt was scored by their move is at best pyrrhic. The ramifications of that single action may become manifest in a few days when Nigeria’s military and security apparatus come to realise that they unwittingly let loose a new mark of defiance against State authority. IPOB and its cult of sympathisers are likely to milk the situation, instigating thousands into wearing those colours in a move a move of pride and as a dare against the Nigeria military to do their worst. Perchance, Chiwetalu Agu is alive because he is a known figure but then, IPOB may however convince itself as to how many the Nigeria Military could arrest or ice for adorning the ‘prohibited’ garb.
The action by the Military involving Chiwetalu Agu also risks spreading defiant consciousness into other parts of the country like the South West where the Yoruba Nation are on the ready, baying for agitations against the State. How many can Nigeria’s military arrest when the Yoruba Nation takes hint from the South East to deciding to wear Oduduwa colours? What will Nigeria’s security do when in Ogoni Land, activists decide to wear their national colours as a mark of defiance against the Nigerian State? Will they be repressed as the Rising Sun has been in the East or will the standards be different?
Nigeria has come to that point in her national life where State policy must, as a matter of urgency, awaken to Nigeria’s reality as a nation of Nations. Nigeria must accept that she is nothing without the various ethnic people whose lands comprise her territory. She must accord to those ethnic nationalities the due recognition they deserve.
Pseudo patriots must cease forthwith, their sanctimonious attempts at forging a Nigerian nationhood built upon faux patriotism which posit that Nigeria’s unity is beyond negotiation. Denying the existence of Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities is staid and outdated. Those have failed. The old must give way to the new. Nigeria must take advantage of these times to evolve for herself a new order founded upon a union of ethnic nationalities who agree among themselves to be bound together on negotiated terms which are fair and just.
Allow the Rising Sun