Last Monday, May 30, was supposed to be a happy day for Nigerians, being a day set aside to celebrate the nation's democracy which actually should have been celebrated the previous day which was a Sunday. But it was the day agitators of a Biafran State elected to celebrate the anniversary of the defunct Biafran Republic, as well as to remember their dead in the war that followed thereafter. The celebration took place in parts of Anambra, Rivers, Delta and Imo.
As expected, such a celebration was bound to turn violent, given the events that trailed such celebrations in the immediate past. At the end, lives were lost and property destroyed, while a blame game followed.
As at the time of going to press, the number of casualties in the Anambra sector of the protests was neither given by the police nor by the state government. This was even as the police in Delta State disclosed the death of five persons, including two police men, in Delta State.
Back to Anambra, reports of casualties came in conflicting figures, just like the media reports. While one of the Pro-Biafra groups put the figure of the dead at 40, a national daily reported that it was 52 in a banner headline that read, ''Biafra Anniversary Turns Bloody, 52 Feared Killed''.
The police, according to the Anambra State Government at a press conference, said 26 people were arrested, all from outside Anambra. This, revelation, the Anambra State Government pointed out, proved that the ''miscreants'' were not Anambra people.
The commissioner for Information, Culture and Communication Strategy, Ogbuefi Tony Nnacheta, frowned at what he called attempts by some people to rubbish the celebrated peace in the state, warning that the government would not tolerate any such attempt. This was even as he denied the purported directive by the state government for security agents to shoot the protesters on sight.
Indeed, the members of the public for their part, believed that the security agents purposely shot at the protesters without provocation, seeing it as part of a plot to decimate the Igbo Nation by the Federal Government.
We see all this as part of the on-going blame game that erupted after the protests. However, it is our submission that the events of last Monday would have been prevented. Indeed, the moment it was learnt that the protests would take place, many people had known what would follow.
In recent events in the past, the protesters, be they real members of the Biafra groups or infiltrators, had always lost control of the situation, leading to injuries and deaths. Besides that, the protesters had each time invariably played into the hands of the security agencies who seemed and still seem eager to deal with anything Biafra, but less willing to tackle other more dangerous groups like the Fulani herdsmen.
All over the free world, people are free to go on protests. What happens is that such protests are monitored by the police to guard against any untoward development. Even in cases where protesters go beyond their bounds, the security agencies are hesitant to apply maximum force. But can the same be said of the Nigerian security agencies in this last protest?
It seemed as though the security agents were praying for an opportunity to deal with the protesters, hence the reported cases of shooting and tear gassing of the protesters at the slightest provocation. That is not how it should be.
Thus while we blame the protesters for embarking on what was clearly unnecessary, given the fact that the state government had earlier organised an adequate mourning for the fallen Biafrans, we also blame the federal government for killing this ant with a sledgehammer.
We say this because, while the security agents wanted clearance from the presidency before moving to protect the massacred community of Nimbo in Uzowani LGA, Enugu State, the same security agents did not wait for the same clearance from the presidency before shooting at last Monday's protesters. That is clearly applying different rules for different people; a clear case of double standard.
But there is no use crying over spilt milk except to collectively ensure that this growing bloodletting is halted for the interest of everybody.
We appeal to the leaders of the Biafra groups to henceforth cut out the celebrations, at least openly, since the results are dire. Also since they cannot guard against infiltration by outsiders or overzealousness from their members, they should stop any form of public protest or celebration. The civil war has come and gone and no one who witnessed it would want it repeated.
We in the same token appeal to the Federal Government to deal gently with protesters as we are in a democratic setting where people are free to ventilate their grievances. Applying brutal force against aggrieved people will not solve the problem but will only aggravate it.
It is only in Nigeria that the blood of citizens mean nothing. It should not be allowed to continue as that is one sure way of further causing ethnic animosities. The federal government should treat all Nigerians as one if it wants all Nigerians to trust it.
These killings are mindless and must stop and all stakeholders must help in making it stop.