Charlie C. Chikezie, New Jersey-based lawyer and contributor to the opinion page of USAfricaonline.com since 1998. This commentary is published, exclusively, by USAfrica
The challenges which the Igbo of south eastern Nigeria struggle and contend with are many. Some of them may be explained possibly understood within the trajectory of history. World history, that is.
Whether the debate is about the propriety or impropriety of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) “sit-at-home” pronouncement or about the neo-revisionary history of the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-1970, in attempts to cast the victims as the villain to create a baseless “justification” and excuse for the pogrom and subsequent genocide against the Igbo by the Nigerian State.
I believe that the challenge is how to couch the issues and debates in the parlance of a free market place of ideas. Consequently, in every ideological struggle, the biggest challenge has always been the ability to focus on the real issue without resorting to blackmail in order to edge out the ideological opponent. Let’s go back to history.
In 399 BC, Socrates, after being found guilty of impiety and corrupting the youths of Athens by Athenians who feared his influence, was forced to carry out his own execution by drinking a deadly potion of the poisonous plant, Hemlock.
The trial of Jesus Christ before the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate, and His consequent crucifixion at Golgotha was because the Jewish leaders who accused Him of blasphemy found his statement that He is the son of God insulting and unsettling.
In 1716, Voltaire was exiled to Tulle for mocking the Duke of Orléans (the duc d’Orleans), Monsieur Philippe I, and upon his return to Paris in 1717, he was arrested and exiled to the Bastille for a year on charges of writing libelous poetry.
It was at the backdrop of this ideological challenge that Voltaire, who is credited as the architect of the French Revolution of May 5, 1789 to November 9, 1799, even though he died eleven years earlier in 1778, with the saying, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.” His beliefs on freedom and reason through his crusade against superstition, ignorance and attack on traditional beliefs led to the French Revolution, the United States Bill of Rights and the decrease in the power of the Catholic Church.
According to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., former Associate Justice of the United State Supreme Court, “marketplace of ideas” metaphor presumes that “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition on the market.”
Also, Dean Rodney Smolla of University of Richmond School of Law, the “marketplace of ideas” metaphor does not posit that truth will emerge from the free trade in ideas, at least not instantly, but that free trade in ideas is the best test of truth, in the same way that those who believe in laissez-faire economic theory argue that over the long haul free economic markets are superior to command-and-control economies.
In concurring with Justice Holmes, Justice Louis Brandeis, wrote that “Free speech is an indispensable tool of self-governance in a democratic society”, and that the “freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth.” Brandeis further averred that “the fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of free speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears. To justify suppression of free speech, there must be reasonable ground to fear that serious evil will result if free speech is practiced. There must be reasonable ground to believe that the danger apprehended is imminent. There must be reasonable ground to believe that the evil to be prevented is a serious one.”
Today, those who question the incubation of a regimen of terror in Igbo land, that if not contained or reformed at the very least will bedevil the Igbo polity with the worst kind of fascism, are being accused of “sympathizing with or romancing the enemy”, even by those who openly campaigned and voted for Mohammadu Buhari to become President of Nigeria in 2015. To them, anyone who is not chanting their chorus line is blackmailed an Igbo “saboteur.”
To those who contend that the use of brute force and intimidation to coerce compliance with the IPOB sit-at-home directive is consistent with civil non-violent protests, I say that while you are entitled to your opinion, you are not entitled to your own set of facts.
Civil disobedience or passive resistance is the voluntary non violent refusal to obey a law, regulation or power, deemed unjust in a peaceful manner.
Gandhian civil disobedience originated in 1906, in South Africa, as part of his campaign for the defense of the civil rights of the disenfranchised Indian immigrants. On his return to India in 1915, he made civil disobedience the primary moral force behind his leadership of the Indian nationalist movement.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Improvement Association and the American Civil Rights movement adopted the Ghandian Civil Disobedience
model, and organized the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, and succeeded in disrupting the circular flow of the economy, and prevented the City of Montgomery, Alabama from gaining money from public transportation because African Americans were the main people doing the boycott, and 75% of people who rode the buses were African Americans, and the boycott was 100% voluntary, not by compulsion because the organizers educated the African American masses on why they should buy into the bus boycott.
Precisely, the current spate of madness where fellow ndi Igbo are torched and dismembered by fellow ndi Igbo in the name of enforcing a “stay-at-home” pronouncement, no matter how many high fives and spot-on signs you give yourselves, is anything, but civil dis
obedience, because civil disobedience is not by compulsion, but by voluntariness.