Two days ago, on Monday, November 3rd, 2008, 6 armed naval officials attached to a Rear Admiral, identified as Harry Arogundade, severely beat and publicly disgraced a young woman, identified as an employee of Price Waterhouse Coopers. Uzoma Okere was assaulted for not moving over quickly enough for the navy convoy as it tried to tear through traffic on Muri Okunola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
During the course of the violent public confrontation, she was beaten with gun butts and horsewhips, ripping off her clothing. When the navy men were done dealing with the young woman, they "forcibly handcuffed and dragged" her into a private residence on the street. She was left with "a battered face, blood-shot eyes and bruises all over her body" and later on admitted to a hospital nearby.
The Nigerian Navy has tried to shift responsibility for the actions of its officials by assigning blame to the victim, who they say provoked the incident. This official response accused the victim of making up stories to "embarrass" the Admiral.
(The information above has largely been drawn from an article published by Punch newspaper today, Wednesday, November 5th, 2008.)
I heard about this incident today, on the same day that the world's most powerful nation elected it's first black President. Throughout today, i have heard people echo the slogan, "Yes We Can," over and over again because they have been inspired and believe that Nigeria can grow and develop into a strong democratic nation with a booming economy. Many have talked, argued and debated over the possibility of attaining Vision 2020 - a vision that sees Nigeria as one of the top 20 leading economies in the world by the year 2020.
Most of us stayed up throughout the night to witness history in the making and as a result are more convinced that "yes we can" reach Vision 2020. However, having seen the video of this incidence, I question whether our country can progress if the civil liberties of citizens such as Uzoma Okere can be publicly violated in such a manner. How can we boast to be a democratic nation if public officials can publicly commit such an act and remain unpunished. Over the past few years, we have talked about corruption and hoped that institutions such as the EFCC will clean up our society. However, we are still waiting. This incidence proves that little has been done. If our leaders are unable to act appropriately and responsibly, we must take matters into our own hands.
Please take a look at the link below and join me by lending your voice to this note so that we can raise awareness and draw the attention of those who are in the position to do something about this.