By Rev Fr Angelo Chidi Unegbu (written on 26.10.2020)
1) My dear gallant fallen youths; you went out to peacefully march on the streets in order to sooth the scars of your wounded Nation. Carrying nothing in your hands but placards and the flag of the Nation you loved so much. You carried out the most successful, organised and civilised protest in the history of mankind. Thus, you were able to attract the attention of youths, celebrities, older Nigerians and so many men and women of good conscience across the globe.
2) For two weeks you sacrificed your precious time, resources, and energy, with your placards as your only armor. Poor you! You believed that peaceful protest is your fundamental right recognised by your Nation’s Constitution, and thus you had nothing to worry about. Thus, you even danced, staged drama, partied, and prayed all night without any atom of worry because you felt you were in your Fatherland.
3) Even though the Governor had announced a curfew, you were confident that nothing evil would happen to you. Even when you heard the footsteps of the soldiers as they flagged off their Operation Crocodile Smile, you were amused at such coinage: a smiling crocodile. You were calm. After all, the primary duty of the soldiers is to protect your lives. Besides, you were unarmed. To assure them that you are bona fide citizens, you held the flags of your beloved Nation in your hands. You even sang the National Anthem to remind them who you are: a citizen and fellow compatriot.
4) When you saw them pointing the guns at you, you must have thought that it was only an attempt to scare you. Until the eyes began to close, never to open again; until the lips that sang went numb and would never talk again; until the ears stopped hearing and your nostrils stopped flaring; till the legs that marched for two weeks grew numb and you collapsed under the weight of their brutality, but still holding the flag of your Nation you loved so much. You did not die – but they did!
5) One would have expected them to bring your murderers to account but they denied your deaths. One could have expected them to console the loved ones you left behind, but they told them that you are alive. Even when your bodies, wrecked by bullets, were picked up, they insisted that you were alive. Many of us including the international community lent our voices in condemning the heinous atrocity, but we were told to stop saying what we do not know – that you are alive. What an insult to our sensibilities!
6) Indeed, you are alive because the mission you set out to accomplish: a better Nigeria free of intimidation, corruption, ineptitude, joblessness, infrastructural decay, is still alive. You are alive in Nigerians especially the youth who will continue from where you left. Your voices are still alive in our hearts. The flags that you held tight even after death we shall continue to raise; to tell the leaders that power belongs to the people, to tell them that the country belongs to us. We will take it back we assure you!
7) You will never die because you will forever live in the hearts of Nigerians, especially in the persecuted, impoverished, abandoned and unemployed citizens. You will forever live in our unborn children’s hearts. You are still alive because we cannot stop hearing your voices and cries as you said: they are coming close to us, they have switched off the lights, they have removed the CCTV, they are pointing guns at us, they are shooting. We cannot stop hearing those voices that were calling for help from the same people that were committing the murder. We cannot stop hearing those voices that continued to shout for justice even when life had been snuffed out of them.
We still hear your voices. We still see you dancing. We still see you praying. Yes, we see now that you are not dancing to the conscious music of Fela or to Davido’s FEM, but with the choirs of Heaven. We see that you no longer hold the flag of a Nation that supervised your execution, but clinging to the flag of victory, the flag of resurrection, the flag of the exulted. You are now at peace. You are now in a place where the Heavenly soldiers will never shoot you. Continue to be at peace until we meet you there. Pray for us, who are still in the dungeon of death surrounded not only by crocodiles but the hyenas and lions. Pray for us, who are still hearing the sound of bullets. Pray for us, who still depend on your murderers for security. Pray for us, because the crocodiles are still smiling. The lions are still roaring, and the hyena’s appetite has grown.
9) We ask one thing of you: forgive us. We hold our collective guilt. We murdered you because we are the ones who institutionalised the culture of impunity and state-organised killing, through our fear and abhorrent silence in the face of evil. When the members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) were marching on the streets, the same army came up with Operation Python Dance and murdered those youths. Rather than condemning it, many of us blamed the victims. When the Shiite Muslims were massacred by the same military, we went about our normal business. That was how we legalised and institutionalised the culture of state-organised massacres as a way of addressing agitations and protests. Please, forgive us.
10) “Arise oh compatriots!” Those were the first words of the song on your lips when you were taking your glorious exit. We still hear you telling us: arise oh compatriots from the tomb of fear and silence of the darkness. Arise oh comrades from the bondage of ethnic bigotry and disunity created by the enemy to scavenge on your dismembered carcasses! Arise and defend the rights of the defenseless! Arise oh fellow Nigerians and take back your country from the hands of political vultures and scavengers! Arise and put an end to neo-colonialism which is the backbone of corrupt leadership in Nigeria!
We heard you loud and clear.
We shall arise. We promise.
Rest in peace, beloved worthy compatriots!