Justice for Obi Wali.By Okachikwu Dibia
It was on the 26 th April 1993 , at about 8pm , when the Ikwerre spokesman, Senator Obi Wali was murdered, butchered and dismembered in his bedroom. Parts of his body were found littered in the room in thick pool of cold blood. Those who killed him cut him unti l no part of his body had any semblance of life. Thus Obi Wali died a death that was so painful, inhuman, shameful and disgraceful. He had since been buried on the 24 th February 1994 .
We recall that Obi Wali was a native of Rumuigbo, headquarters of Apara Kingdom , one of the clans in the Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality in Rivers State . He was a lecturer at the University of Nigeria Nsuka, one of the founding fathers of the old Rivers State, a member of the first executive council of the state, a member of the 1978 Constituent Assembly, a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee that drafted the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the Second Republic and a leader of the Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality in Nigeria. Come 26 th April 2011 when Rivers people will be voting for the executive and legislative arms of government in the state, this heinous and shameful death will mark eighteen years, yet nobody has been successfully prosecuted for the murder.
Since then, rumour had it that he deserved to die even that way because he was championing the creation of Port Harcourt State (PHS) out of the old Rivers State for his Ikwerre people. He was also accused of working together with the leadership of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) for the dismemberment of Nigeria thereby incurring the anger of the then Federal Military Government. Finally it was also alleged that he was killed by some of his own people of Apara who did not like his emerging towering political relevance in Apara. As an Ikwerre, like Obi Wali, I have every right to comment on these allegations because they are political ( of public interest) and also concerns my people of Ikwerre.
Considering the first allegation, I do not think it is a crime against the Nigerian State for him to demand for a state for his thoroughly marginalized and oppressed people of Ikwerre in Rivers State . His argument may have been (since I did not discuss with him on this) that given the domineering politics of the Ijaw in Rivers State, the creation of PHS would have afforded the Ikwerre some enhanced level of political freedom and development rights within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In any federal state like Nigeria , the demand for state creation by the composite units is a constant and therefore tenable and justified. Second, given his supposed perspective on the creation of PHS as indicated above, and considering the truth that MOSOP had never argued for the dismemberment of Nigeria , it therefore is not correct to hold that Obi Wali and MOSOP were planning to truncate the unity of Nigeria . Third, in the politics of Apara Kingdom , like in any other Ikwerre clan, Obi Wali probably believed that it is always proper for the direct descendants of the progenitor(s) of Apara to lead the Kingdom. This of course did not find consent amongst those who may be on the other side of his thinking. So, this group now being desperate, would have been ready to support any move to eliminate Obi Wali. What probably may have happened was that this group found a willing ally in the government who now used them to execute the chicken-like killing of Obi Wali. Otherwise, how could a personality like Obi Wali die in such a disgraceful manner and neither the Federal Government of Nigeria nor the Rivers State government has shown decent and sincere interest in ensuring justice for his death. As at when Obi Wali was slaughtered, Chief Rufus Ada George was the governor of Rivers State and Dr Peter Odili was his deputy. After his murder by unknown persons, the state government made some unimpressive efforts to resolve the killing. That attempt was so much in a hurry and shabbily executed under the then Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Adokiye Amiesimaka, that it left much to be desired and a sour taste in the mouth of the Ikwerre in Rivers State . One cardinal social responsibility of the state is to protect the lives of its citizens. So, if Rivers State could not protect and give justice to Obi Wali, who will and who else can it protect? When the case was hurriedly discharged in a manner that can best be described as despicable, very unconvincing, insincere, lazy and unprofessional, some Ikwerre did asked: if Dappa Briye were to be the one butchered in such a manner, would the state have treated it the way they did? This shabby treatment of the death of Obi Wali by the Rivers State government had been interpreted by the Ikwerre and other ethnic groups in the state as too unfair. As a result, one would have expected that now an Ikwerreman is in the 'brick house' (the old name for the Rivers State Government House), the issue should have been revisited with some high sense of responsibility and sincerity so that at the end, people will be satisfied that reasonable effort has been made. This would have rekindled and strengthened the relationship between the government and the Ikwerre because this death and the way it was hurriedly thrown out of the court smell a rat.
As long as those who murdered Obi Wali in his bedroom are humans, the state government can find them. Not finding them and abandoning the matter the way it is now will not only deny justice to Obi Wali but will continue to be recorded in history as very unfair and negligent on the part of the Rivers State government. The earlier the state began to ensure justice for such crime, the better so that the state will begin to enjoy citizen's confidence and appreciation in the protection of lives under its care. Otherwise, a socially careless state is not worth being a state. For once, let the state prove that it can meet its most important social responsibility instead of too much emphasis on the provision of infrastructure as if that is the most important duty of the state. Indeed security of life is the most critical responsibility of the state, without which the millions, billions and trillions spent on roads, water projects, electricity, schools, hospitals and health centers etc are mere significant waste.
On the part of his people of Ikwerre, one is speechless that they are not interested in seeking for justice for their illustrious son who staked his life to work and die for them. The best Ikwerre had done in this regard was to organize, through their umbrella socio-cultural organization, Ogbakor Ikwerre Convention, yearly memorial lectures in the honour of Obi Wali. Obi Wali deserves far more than that. He deserves justice. Anything less than this is injustice and his death will continue to hunt the Ikwerre whom he served and gave his best. It is indeed shameful, disheartening and disgusting to see Ikwerre abandon and neglect Obi Wali even in death. Truly, if the Rivers State government failed to seek for justice for Obi Wali, his last hope and resort should be his people of Ikwerre, instead some of us have decided to act like god meaning: Obi Wali was wrong, but we were right and should continue to enjoy the effects of his struggles for Ikwerre. They forget that what goes round comes around.
This Ikwerre attitude to the death of Obi Wali had demoralized others who would have loved to work for the interest of Ikwerre. Many of us I had discussed with concerning Ikwerre issues were so quick to remind me that it does not worth the effort to work for the interest of Ikwerre, so it is better to work for their private interests at all times. In fact one of them told me that there is nothing like Ikwerre project or problems deserving his attention. After all, what has Ikwerre done to ensure justice for Obi Wali? This indeed is a very sad, disingenuous and dangerous thinking that is horning in a trend that will always compromise Ikwerre's collective interests in favour of the individual's interest. But we forget that in Sociology (the great science of society), there is what they call common good or common interest or public good or public interest and that this is different from individual interest. That is why we have social justice and individual justice. Sociology warns that at all times; people should first aspire for the common good to guarantee social justice before considering the individual good that can guarantee individual justice. This thinking has divine support because Jesus Christ insisted on human beings to worship God first and love their neighbors as themselves. In the word JOY, it is translated that 'J' stands for Jesus; 'O' stands for others and 'Y' stands for you and the Bible was fond of using the word often. So the philosophy of JOY enjoins people to relate with society in that order. This order placed common good before individual good. So it is proper that Ikwerre interest must supersede individual interest when both are to be considered simultaneously. It is the absence of this attitude to Ikwerre that has led to a lot of failures of Ikwerre in her affairs. Seeking for justice for Obi Wali is for the common good of Ikwerre.
If anybody deserves justice when killed the way Obi Wali was killed, it is our own quintessential late Chief Senator Dr Obi Wali. I therefore call on the Ikwerre people as represented by the Ogbakor Ikwerre Convention, Ikwerre's local government councils, Ikwerre Development Association, National Union of Ikwerre Students, Okpo Ikwerre, Ekere Ikwerre, Ogbakor Ikwerre Lagos, Ogbakor Ikwerre Abuja, Ogbakor Ikwerre London, Ogbakor Ikwerre USA etc to take up this challenge and seek for justice for our illustrious son who stood by and for us throughout his life on earth. The Rivers State government is expected to challenge the demeaning death of Obi Wali in the highest court in the land. Obi Wali's death remains a very sad end in the existence of Rivers State on the one hand and its relationship with the Ikwerre on the other hand. Therefore I implore the Rivers State government to live up to its social responsibility of seeking for justice for one of the founding fathers of the state, thereby rekindling true hope that citizens residing in the state can be safe.