The arrest, detention and release of Mr. Elendu of Elendu Reports.com presented Nigerians in Diaspora with a great chance to make a difference and to affect the nation we call motherland in a positive way. Based on the comments written on the list services that I read, Diaspora Nigerians rose up to the challenge BUT crushed under the same weight that makes ruling in Nigeria such a challenge.
On the rising UP to the challenge section I record the many positive articles written by Nigerians of all ethnic nationalities in favor of immediate release or charge to court if a crime was established. In this case the writers noted that the freedom of speech was enshrined in our existing constitution and an arrest must be followed by a presentation to a judge in an open court of the arrested and charges entered against the defendant. And that the defendant's attorney and families would have access to him/her. When this does not happen a writ of habeas corpus would be allowed. These were the most popular positions held. This school of thought also held that Diaspora Nigerians owes a duty to Nigeria to press for his release.
Then there were positions held by others that Elendu was held because he is of Igbo heritage and that his arrest had nothing to do with his journalism. This school sighted examples of others who have written essentially in Elendu's vein but have escaped arrest. This view promoted initially by some Igbo's was waning towards the end of the debate. I post this view on the positive side of rising up to the challenge. It is positive in the sense that all Igbo's or Nigerians need not have the same point of view. This group also felt that something needs to be done to free Elendu.
The third positive thing that the Elendu's case brought to light was the need for Diaspora Nigerians to be able to act in concert over common Nigerian interest. This incident made it glaringly clear that Nigerians in Diaspora do have interests that transcend our usual differences and can best be solved by linkage of resources. It is therefore fair to say that the arrest, detention and release of Elendu did have some silver linings.
Like all things in life this incident also brought out some of the reasons why the labors of Zik, Awo, Abubakar, et al seem some times to me as labors lost. It highlights why after almost fifty years as an independent nation Nigeria has not moved far from its humble beginnings. The issue is ethnic commotion. We kind of generally agreed that Elendu deserved our attention, and effort for a united action collapsed under the mechanism to achieve it. Some people suggested that NIDOA was the instrument to accomplish this. But some NIDOA members led by Igietsmene argued that NIDOA was NOT the vehicle because the charter is only or primarily economic and that it is in coalition with the government and cannot work "against" the government, Mr. Igietsmene suggested that Nigeria lawyers association take the lead.
The matter while it has some import to the legal profession is an affair that concerns Nigerians of all works of life. The services of lawyers were likely to be needed, but the championing of the course of freedom of the speech goes beyond lawyers. Then came Igbo Defense League apparently an affiliate of CISA. This organization came under fire because it was an Igbo organization and was perceived to inject ethnic element into it. So in the end the Diaspora Nigerians did not do anything. But fortunately Mr. Elendu gained his freedom and that should be the end of it.
But should it? I hope not. We have seen a need, but have not solved the road blocks that caused us to fail or rise fully to an opportunity that arose. If we do nothing, we will be exactly where we ended with the Elendu crisis as toothless bulldogs or what some like Moa Tse Tong called a giant with feet of clay or paper tiger or most appropriately "the giant of Africa ." Mr. Clayton's call for Diaspora Nigerians to join NIDOA to strengthen it seems to be a step forward. But Igietsemene' s objection on the grounds that the charter prohibits it from doing political work remains. NIDOA's dependence on government also provides limitations to its ability to oppose government actions. What shall we do? This should be the subject of further discussions in this forum.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
October 29, 2008