One December evening in the city of Montgomery, a 42 year old woman headed home after an exhausting day at work. Her feet ached, and she wanted nothing more than to experience some comfort without disturbance. She boarded a bus for home, and as the bus became crowded, she was told to give up her seat for a white passenger. The woman remained seated. Not the threats of being arrested; not the insults hauled at her; not the fear of what life would be after such blatant disregard to some ridiculous segregation laws would deter her. She stood her grounds; apparently she wasn’t only tired physically, but was tired of the lesser life she was forced to live because of the colour of her skin. A new struggle was born because one woman dared to fight back a system that was inhuman.
Her name was Rosa Parks.
53 years later, the atrocity lives on, and we suffer; not only for being black, but for having to live amongst power-drunken, ill-tempered, low-class military authorities with no respect or regard for human dignity. Apparently we are lesser beings compared to the armed authorities in Nigeria; or how do we begin to describe the incredulous act of November 5, 2008, when Uzoma Okereke was attacked, dragged, beaten, with clothes ripped off her back because the young lady who, just like Rosa Parks, was coming from work exhausted, wanted nothing more but to experience some comfort without hindrance, only to be brutally disturbed by the whips and guns of Nigerian Navy men. Just one woman, locked in the typical Lagos traffic, molested by six armed men.
What was her crime? She wouldn’t move her vehicle off the road for a certain Rear Admiral Harry Olufemi Arogundade’s personal Navy saloon car and his pilot truck to blast past an impossible traffic jam. Yes, that is the crime; and like the crazy white fellows on board a bus on Montgomery in 1955, these Navy men with such deft ripped a woman of her dignity and right as a human being to live and let live. Where is our pride as a nation when we disregard simple principles of life that makes us not just mere animals roaming senselessly in the jungle? Why should we condone such cruelty in the wake of our democracy?
Miss Okereke’s saga is the tale of many Nigerians – men and women badly treated by the same authorities that should protect them. And we keep quiet. Oh, the curse of a nation! We keep quiet because we are afraid of what the consequences might be if we should speak out, and fight for justice.
Uzoma did not keep quiet. As she was dragged, pushed, and beaten on the streets of Victoria Island, she fought back like a valiant woman, and went a step further to sue the men for trying to take her liberty. The case will be heard at Lagos High Court. We salute her courage, and also applaud Governor Fashola – whose veracity and uprightness is needed for a time as this. The governor’s aid towards her hospital and legal bills is heart-warming.
As we look forward to the hearing, eagerly awaiting verdict, I ask that we all learn to fight for our right. Silence isn’t always golden. For the sake of our children let this barbaric acts by armed authorities be put to stop – once and for all.