US Based International Human Rights Lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe commemorated the 24TH anniversary of his abduction, torture and detention by Nigerian dictator Gen. Abacha with solidarity marches with the Black Lives Matter movement in Washington. Ogebe also featured on a radio show in the US Capital where he discussed Nigeria and the US situation.
June 6 – Report of Black Lives Matter March Maryland to Virginia
The bridge not too far
Two weeks ago, George Floyd went to buy a cigarette. This simple errand ended with him dying not of lung cancer or COVID19 but police brutality.
After I saw that a white friend I knew from church decades ago had gone to protest on the hill, I felt I shouldn’t sit home while others advocate for me. I posted on Facebook for any white friend who was going to protest to go with me. Am not new to protesting, as a human rights lawyer for a quarter century but in the cold harsh world of being black in America this was a necessary precaution. I don’t take neighborhood walks without family in tow.
On Saturday, a white sister from my current church texted she was going for a protest. I scrambled to eat and get dressed for the March on Woodrow Wilson Bridge between the states of Maryland and Virginia.
I met her and a white friend of hers and as we stopped to ask a stranger for directions, learnt that he was on his way to DC for a protest. He changed his mind and joined us so we were now a merry band of four – three whites and a black guy – in search for the magical wizard of Oz.
It was then my church friend, counselor and granny no less, warned that since we were marching on a bridge,”there’s nowhere to run if we’re hemmed in on both sides by the police.” Oh, boy…
We began marching, the solitary four on the bridge, with our signs and no other protestors in sight. Occasionally passing cars would honk in support.
Finally we saw a cop on a motorbike riding towards us. If we were going to be charged for something, we’d be tried in multiple jurisdictions, we joked. The cop rode past us and said nothing.
At the Maryland end of the bridge, we saw the throng of protestors coming to join us and we began the march back with hundreds of people we didn’t know right atop the bridge.
The chants energized my already weary body and before I knew it, I was handed the megaphone and asked to lead it, “No Justice, No Peace.”
When we got back to the Virginia side, I handed the megaphone back and tried to lean against a pole – winded. Moments later, I blacked out and I heard the voice of a lady say to me, “ let me take you to sit down, sir.”
There was a cemetery beside us and I sprawled on the ground beside it.
A short while later I regained consciousness and texted my church sis. My three white Amigos came to my aid providing water and calling a medic when it was clear I was in no shape to walk to my car.
The medic saw me but couldn’t get an ambulance through the crowd so they loaded me on a cart of sorts and drove me under the bridge where a staging area for medical emergencies was.
A white paramedic took my vitals. We chatted nicely and he provided water to hydrate me and cooled me in the Ambulance’s AC. It may have been heat exhaustion or it may have been a phenomenon I experienced when I was tortured as a young human rights lawyer till I passed out…
When I was better, we posed for a selfie together.
One of my three white Amigos drove down to locate me with the help of the police and took me to where my car was parked. As I was leaving, I saw the protestors being shuttled in a police bus, escorted with a cop car in front and behind, not to jail but back to Maryland where they had parked their cars.
One of the things that struck me was not just the police who we were protesting about providing us with transportation FROM the protest, or two of my new white compadres helping me in my throes, or the cars on the bridge honking solidarity but a white lady who’d been riding on her bike who stopped on the bridge, took out water from lunch bag and gave it to the marchers.
It was a random act of kindness and senseless beauty. She needed hydration too!
As I sat under a shade waiting for my pick up after my ambulance care, two black ladies from across the street saw me and walked over. “Do you need water?”
Indeed I did. They didn’t know whether I had been at the protest. “It looked like your bottle was empty so I just thought to share.”
We may not be as invested as the Good Samaritan who took a wounded person he saw lying by the road to hospital.
But like Jesus asked after this parable – who is thy neighbor?
To me, it was the white lady and the black ladies who, unasked, offered water to strangers.
Love in any language was a bottle of water ? to a thirsty soul. The bridge to racial reconstruction is not too far to cross. It might look like a mighty division as big as the Red Sea but it’s crossed with a tiny step as little as drops of water to the thirsting soul!
The irony of the day’s events was not lost on me. Many years back, some missionaries from the US came to my home in Nigeria to tell me that a civil rights activist had been murdered. I broke down in tears for this mother who had been assassinated although I did not know her personally.
I went to my law office and issued a press statement asking for an investigation into her death. I was subsequently abducted, tortured and imprisoned by the brutal military dictator who had her killed.
The anniversary was this weekend and that was what led to my coming to America for safety 23 years ago.
It is really ironic that I survived a brutal military regime but George Floyd didn’t survive a fake $20 bill in the freest country on earth.
All Lives Water – we need water to live and our eyes shed water when we grieve. We don’t cry white or black tears and we need to realize that.
A few years ago, I was invited to an interfaith meeting in Nigeria where there’s great persecution of Christians by Muslims. At that event, I ran into the military officer who had ordered my abduction, imprisonment and torture.
I introduced myself as a former captive of his. He gave me his number and we posed for a photograph together.
The bridge for reconciliation is not too far.
Click for more pictures of the protest
2. June 8 Rush Transcript of Radio Interview on WAVA with Don Kroah
Don: I’ve asked a long-time friend (Emmanuel Ogebe), special counsel with justice for Jos project and he’s with the US- Nigerian Law group based here in DC but also very much involved even in (inaudible) well in the sorrows and pain of his own native country of Nigeria. We’ve talked about that great country a number of times, we need to continue to do that; and I’ve asked him to talk about that, but also I want his insights and sort of a person to me but another culture and country to come in, and what is he seeing in this beloved country of America. So, as always; Emmanuel great to have you on this show. Thanks for joining me.
Emmanuel Ogebe: Hey Don! It’s always a pleasure to be with you, thanks so much for having me. And I want to say how thankful I am, for your consistent voice over the years. Don, I don’t know if you can remember this but I do, in 2003 when Senator Trent Lott made a terrible statement that was racist. You came on your show and called him “loose lips Trent”. Did you remember that?
Don: No, am sorry, I told my kids that my memory is still impeccable but becoming short through the years.
Emmanuel Ogebe: Well, I never forgot that; you have consistently spoken out when something was done wrong and the last time I was here on the show, I believe we are marking the anniversary of Leah’s captivity.
Emmanuel Ogebe: The 14year old Christian girl who was abducted by terrorists in Nigeria and kept back because she wouldn’t deny Christ. The quick update on that is, she’s been there now over 2years and unfortunately, she was announced of having a baby, that means this evil men have now raped her and she has now given birth. But, like you said Don, my heart goes out to America today and I want us to look at the situation here and not what’s going on back in Nigeria.
Don: But before we do that we’ll take a break for a moment and come back to your thoughts regarding this country that I know you love greatly and serve as well. But I do want an update as to even more immediate stuffs, I have some dear friends, you know some area far more than I will but I have dear Pastor friend that I’m walking with both in Adamawa State, but also where we built a hospital and in Kaduna State; this week I was in touch with a dear friend and Pastor in Kaduna State, I was texting him and he said, him and his family with the Church are 40minutes away from the most recent killings, last week in Kaduna State. So, what can you tell us about, on how the people who can pray or advocate, more informed more effectively?
Emmanuel Ogebe: Yes Don, in the last two weeks, there was almost half a dozen attacks in Nigeria and we have had a situation where at the last count, a little over sixty Christians have been killed. Don, the situation is so bad, little children, babies with matchetee cuts to their heads with bullets. One of the babies I saw in a photograph was dead, another survived. So, it was really Islamist attacks against Christians in Nigeria this couple of week.
Don: I know you carry this heavy on your heart, we’ve written about it, we talked about it. What is it about this Buhari’s administration, they can’t deal with this situation or they are not ready or they are not capable of addressing this situation, to bring this stuff to an end? We from distance are watching saying why aren’t they doing something all this years? Not knowing that you have the answers and am sure you have some thoughts.
Emmanuel Ogebe: Well, the thing is, you know; when we had a Christian president before Buhari the killing of Christians was so much, was so bad that even when General Buhari lost elections to President Goodluck Jonathan, his followers went and killed Christians in over a dozen States. So, Christians decided to let him have the seat in order to stop those killings. So, he came to power in 2015 but still the killing hasn’t stopped. The worse of it, is that he seems to support the killings, because these are people who have killed on his behalf before, they’re of his tribe; which is a jihadist tribe. So, there clearly seems to be conflict of interest, someone who rose to power claiming to be a military general and a war hero he has failed spectacularly in protecting the people of Nigeria and it comes both from a lack of will and honesty in the process.
Don: Does the United States officially as a country, have any real leverage on Nigeria in that regard? Is there anything that this our government can do or say to this administration of Buhari that will began to incentivise them to change their way?
Emmanuel Ogebe: Absolutely, I mean; the Nigerian military dictator who imprisoned me in Nigeria 24years ago this week actually he stole billions from Nigeria and guess where he stashed them, he put them here in banks in the West including in America. And guess what? in February, this administration sent back to the Nigerian government over $300 million.
Emmanuel Ogebe: It lasted over a decade. This is leverage and they sent it right back to them.
Don: Yeah! The kind of what we did to the money we sent back to Iran in the last few years.
I know that we can spend the whole hour talking about this, let’s take a break and come back because I know you have a heavy burden on your heart of what’s happening in your country, and I know you bring a perspective certainly different from mine, because you’re not only seeing it from the internal views but both in and out.
Coming back with Emmanuel Ogebe!
Don: Emmanuel Ogebe special counsel with justice for Jos project and he’s with the US- Nigerian Law group but also very much involved concerning issues here in the United States, he and his family are residence here in Virginia along with rest of us who live in this side of the river and others across the river, we care about this country greatly. Emmanuel, we want to give you a chance to share your thoughts according to your own perspective which I’ve already said, is different from mine as a native of America. What are some of the things you have in your heart regarding what happened and what’s even happening right now?
Emmanuel Ogebe: Yeah Don! The first thing I want to say, I strongly believe that America’s greatest strength is America’s diversity, and America’s greatest weakness is America’s diversity. I’ve not seen a country that has a wealth of talent and people of all nations combined in this powerful force and dream that is America. And remember Don, that in the Bible, even God said that when the people are united like when they’re building the tower of Babel, they are unstoppable and so when we mismanage diversity, it diminishes America, it diminishes the power of unity that we have, that God gives us opportunity to use. Now, I wanted to point out that even God in the book of Acts, he worked so strongly to end the earthly exclusivity of the people of Israel, the Holy Spirit telling Peter not “to call what I called clean ‘unclean’ “ and how God went out aggressively to make sure that the gospel is made open to all of us gentiles.
So, with that perspective it break my heart that, 24years ago this week I was captured by a brutal military dictatorship, tortured and imprisoned, I survived and came to stay in America. But a guy went out to buy a cigarette and he didn’t make it back home; so the irony of that whole situation really breaks my heart. And Don let me say this, remember African-Americans were people who where taken from Africa against their will and brought here. So whatever African-America is today, is what America made of it.
So Don, what I was trying to say is, there’s a huge opportunity to turn this people who came here against their will to be Christians to grow and to be successful, but certain things happened that kept them down and we need as people of faith to address this situation, so that the tide of democracy raises all of us together, not one segment over the other.
So Don, I know this is controversial but my heart really breaks when I see what is happening in America today.
It wasn’t the Russians, it wasn’t the Chinese who did this to us; we did this to us! And I hope my Christian brethren listening to us today don’t think that we’re stoking or fighting anyone. There’s a reason why people around the world are protesting unanimously protesting about what they saw. Because we failed humanity that day, someone snuffed the very breath of life that God gave us, out of a human being and we watched it all. It was a crime!
There was no doubt in my mind that there’s no one who can watch and come away not knowing that this was wrong and shouldn’t have happened. But some of the excuses we hear from people who are Christians, is very very disconcerting. How can you say, “we love Christians who’re persecuted abroad, if we can’t love fellow Americans who are black?” God was very clear in the Bible when He said, “you can’t love God whom you have not seen when you don’t love your fellow man” who’s right there next door to you.
So, I think Don this is a real wake-up call for Christians who are in America to ask, “where did we get it wrong and how can we get it right”?
I will say something which people might consider controversial but it come from the right place, there’re Africa-Americans who are now Muslims because they can’t reconcile the Christian faith with the people who pushed them down, who set dogs on them, who called water hoses on them and who imprisoned them. And for me coming to this society it’s very interesting in my experience. The African-Americans wanted to greet me in Islam but I said “I am a Christian.” They were shocked because they have the impression that the religion in Africa is Islam. They are in Islam because they saw that the Christians mistreated them. I have to tell them that there are Muslims in Africa and there are Christians and I am with my choice.
Don: But, I have to interrupt you, because I want to get your thoughts. Bob Wudson, of course a key civil rights leader, whom I interviewed before you came on. He argued that the problem of the African-Americans lies in the hands of their other black leaders who have misused their privileges and priorities in control. He says, for example Eric Holder US attorney to DC, Bob said, a lot of black Police shooting black kids but no one was prosecuted and no public outcry, as long as illegality or evil ways of black face. It seems to me there are lots of such things happening years ago but I think there’re some, they called them progressive black leaders, I think that’s a wrong mannequin, who have really chance to rectify things on behalf of their people but they failed to do. What do you think?
Emmanuel Ogebe: Well, I have to tell you that there’re many multiple competing argument about this situation, but we can all agree that if it was an Asian a white man who’s life is snuffed out like the way it happened two weeks ago, I will be upset, you will be upset. Now, one thing I can tell you is, many years ago. I’ll simply say this at this point, we should be glad that what African-Americans want is equality and not revenge, that should help us get the perspective on what the situation is.
Don: As always my friend good to talk to you, we’ll do it again. Am sorry, the Clock is not on our side you know.
Emmanuel Ogebe: Yeah!
Don: Thanks so much, we’ll talk soon. Emmanuel Ogebe, so interesting having time with him as we continue to bring you info about the happenings in Nigeria from his on perspective from someone coming to this country from completely outside for some years past. Certainly very much American man.