Learn From Consequences Of 1966 Coup, Civil War – Onaiyekan

Cardinal Onaiyekan
Cardinal Onaiyekan

Ahead of the February 16 presidential and National Assembly elections in the country, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Sunday, warned Nigerians to learn from the lessons and consequences of the 1966 coup and civil war.

Cardinal Onaiyekan, who gave the warning during the Interdenominational Church Service for the 2019 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration at the National Christian Center, Abuja, advised the security agencies to be neutral in the elections.

He said the blood of every Nigerian was precious and should not spill even as the February general elections draw nearer.

He said: “Today, we cannot forget that so many have died in our series of self-inflicted killings, in the shameful chain of coups and counter coups.

”This seems to be the case of the untenable morale that might is right. In the logic of these often gory events, those who succeed rule, and grab the highest national honours.

“Those who fail face the firing squad, after secret trials. The issue of right or wrong intentions is conveniently swept aside. We hope we have by now learned our lesson and that we will no longer allow such misuse of our Armed Forces and our military resources.

“I do not know why January 15th has been chosen as the Armed Forces Remembrance Day. But to many people like me, it brings strong memories of that critical day, January 15, 1966. We must learn lessons from that historic event which marked the beginning of military rule in our country.

“We are still to fully assess, judge and comprehend its deep meaning and consequences for our nation. It started a chain of dramatic events, including the three years civil war which wasted the lives of millions of Nigerians, combatants and non-combatants, men, women and children.

“January 15th should remind us of many pertinent lessons for our present and for our future. Perhaps, the greatest of these lessons is that morally, the end does not justify a wrong means. A good end must be pursued by a good means.

“We cannot undertake a national revolution by murdering unarmed persons in their beds at night. We cannot successfully prosecute a ‘war against indiscipline’ by locking up innocent people for months in dungeons without legal recourse.

“For the same reason, we cannot hope to win the ‘war against corruption’ by ignoring or bye passing basic human rights to the rule of law.

“Furthermore, we must imbibe the lessons of the instability of injustice, the futility of violence, and the imperative of personal conversion and social moral revolution.”

Onaiyekan also warned the security agencies not to support any form of injustices and bad governance, especially during the elections, stressing that the responsibility of the Armed Forces was to protect the nation and not to attack anybody.

He said keeping an army was not the best defense for any nation, but maintaining good governance and justice.

“Our Armed Forces are under the Ministry of Defence. It is important to note that our Armed Forces are not under the Ministry of Aggression. Therefore, our soldiers have volunteered to defend the nation and not to attack anyone or oppress anybody,” he said.
On the death of gallant soldiers as a result of the resurgence of insecurity, especially in the North East, Onaiyekan called on the Federal Government not to sweep the causes of the killings of soldiers in the war against Boko Haram under the carpet.

He said: “We remember especially those who have died in the present on-going conflict in the north east, whether they perished in combat or in a ambush, or as a result of alleged inadequate arms or culpable poor military tactics.

“Complaints in this regard are rife, and they should not be silenced or swept under the carpet. Rather all such complaints ought to be properly investigated and everyone found responsible held accountable, no matter how high up in rank and position. The blood of every Nigerian is precious and must not be carelessly wasted.”

Noting that Nigerian Armed Forces had been actively involved in promoting world peace, Onaiyekan said Nigeria’s responsibility for world peace should start from ‘around us.”

The Catholic Archbishop further called for good remuneration for the Armed Forces, so that they can perform their responsibilities better.

He also urged the government to timely pay the full pensions of retired security personnel, adding that the failure to pay the pensions of the security personnel, was a national shame that should never have been allowed to occur.