They did not speak out

Opinion

By Gbemiga Ogunleyeo

They first came for M. K.O, they did not speak out because they must be seen to be opposed to the revalidation of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election; they did not speak out because they had been appointed ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and with the way they carried on, it was as if their opposition to M.K.O was a precondition for their appointment.

They did not speak out because freedom for M.K.O and coming to terms with the reality of the annulled June 12 election, would rob them of their new status as the movers and shakers of the society. After all, with their new roles, fabulous wealth was guaranteed for them, their cronies, their families and their friends.

They did not speak out because they took active part in a grand collaboration with the gap-toothed dictator in rubbishing M.K.O’s mandate.

They did not speak out because they see in M.K.O’s travails, an opportunity for them to realise their dreams of becoming governors, president, legislators, chairmen of boards and corporations, etc.

They did not speak out because, for them, government is business and an M.K.O government, they feared, could be a threat to their living on government.

When they came for General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) and Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (rtd), they did not speak out. Even though Yar’Adua was “captured” at his Apo village quarters, none of his colleagues at the defunct Constitutional Conference could speak out.

They did not speak out because they had sold their conscience; they did not speak out because they found it very profitable to side with evil; they did not speak out because those arrested were soldiers, after all they were not soldiers; they did not speak out because Obasanjo and Yar’Adua had been at the top of the mountain and so, why should they care if fate now decides to throw them to the valley; they did not speak out because they were spineless; they did not speak out because the man had died in them.

Then they came for the media, yet they did not speak out. In one fell swoop, they shut the doors of the country’s vibrant press. Not satisfied, they rolled out decrees, proscribing The Punch, The Guardian and the National Concord.

They did not speak out because they must not offend them; they did not speak out because their livelihood depended on contracts and patronage; they did not speak out because they didn’t want to be tagged an enemy; they did not speak out because they were not journalists; they did not speak out because they were not publishers; they did not speak out because they were not their friends.

Then they came for Alfred Rewane. In the comfort of his bedroom, they shot him dead. They did not speak out because they were not members of NADECO; they did not speak out because they were not Itsekiri; they did not speak out because the Osibakoro was not their friend.

Then they came for Ken Saro-Wiwa. They did not speak out because they were not Ogoni; they did not speak out because they were not minority rights activists; they did not speak out because they didn’t know what it is to be sitting on fabulous wealth, yet be draped in abject poverty; they didn’t speak out because they didn’t share in the agony of having oil everywhere around them, yet not having a litre to use in their cars.

When they came for Kudirat, as usual, they did not speak out. The fact that the amazon of the pro-democracy struggle was shot dead in broad daylight on a Lagos highway was not strong enough to arouse their senses of propriety.

Their silence was embarrassingly loud; the fact that the meek and gentle, woman was fighting for justice on behalf of her husband and for a conquered nation meant nothing to them.

They did not speak out.
The children the woman left behind didn’t arouse their sympathy; the fact that dying wasn’t one of the woman’s plans, was not strong enough to compel them to speak out.
They didn’t speak out.

Then they came for Adesanya, Onasanya and Adebanjo, leading lights of the opposition. They crammed them in detention, accused of the murder of Kudirat. Not surprisingly, they didn’t speak out in defence of these senior citizens.

When the assassins’ guns shattered Adesanya’s windscreen, missing the dogged fighter by inches, they didn’t speak out. The old man deserved what he got, they seemed to say. Didn’t he have grand children? Shouldn’t he be enjoying the winter of his life with them? Why is he bothering himself?

Then they came for Olu Falae, Olabiyi Durojaiye and Frederick Fasheun.
Yet, they refused to speak out, afraid of their daily bread, claiming they were not politicians.

When they came for Abubakar Rimi and Sule Lamido, their silence was deafening.

They would not speak out.

By the time they came for Bola Ige, Ola Oni, Lam Adesina, Ayo Opadokun, Olisa Agbakoba, and Segun Maiyegun, there was nobody left to speak for them.

This article, read on the 60th birthday of Mr Ogunleye January 5, this year first appeared in the May 12 issue of The Punch.

The Guardian

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