It appears that the laws in the world are couched with the ultimate indendment, or at least it’s proximate impulsion, to protect the rights of humans, especially fundamental human rights, the most important of which is the right to life. This fancified fallacy is founded on the presupposition or rather, presumption, that “all humans are born equal” and its treacherous twin sister, that ‘law is made to serve the people,’ and not the maker; a romanticized mendacity gifted to us by social contract theory. Those beliefs founded on such lies are unfounded.
Granted, this appearance ought to be reality. But Machiavelli, in The Prince, said that ‘the distinction between what is and what ought to be is so wide that whoever leaves what is to what ought to be tilts towards self-destruction rather than self-preservation.’ It is true. Therefore, the truth is that it is a lie. The makers of laws draft them with such crafty elegance that, when they are interpreted, they aid the draftman. But where the law fails to bend to the whims of men in authority, they break it. Which begs the question, which has bothered men of good will and which is: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Juvenal still asks that question from his grave. We will ask for it. ‘who will guard the guard?’ or “Who will watch the watchman?”
This question has continually begged for an answer. We must answer it. The desideratum of concerted effort in the interrogation of the existentialism of our being is at its paroxysm, moreso in this century, where government has acquired means of mass destruction and we, the masses, merely collateral damage, in the eyes of powermongers and men of authority, who are bent on the balance of power among political blocks, where there fail to achieve monopoly of madness. This century, the balance of power has shifted governmental belligerence from against nations to against citizens, reducing the concept of fundamental human rights to, at best, laughable legal fiction, nude of any modicum of meaning. And men die because of their nation, which is born because of them.
We shall interrogate this disturbing reality, starting with Jamal Khashoggi, an activist who met his ultimate departure on this day, October 2, 2018, in his country’s consulate in Istanbul, where he went to obtain a Saudi document stating that he was divorced so that he could be legally free to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz; a death that was designed for him by his own government.
Jamal Khashoggi, an activist and journalist, was born into a wealthy and well-connected Khashoggi family in Medina, Saudi Arabia, on October 13, 1958. His grandfather, Mohammad Khashoggi, was the personal physician of King Abdul Aziz, the founder of the kingdom. His uncle was Adnan Khashoggi. That arms dealer billionaire celebrity!
Khashoggi was very close to the Saudi crown. In fact, he was a special adviser to the deposed crown prince, Muhammad bin Nayef, who was supplanted by Mohammed bin Salman, the seventh son of King Salman of Saudi Arabia, in 2017. That was the beginning of his sad end.
Jamal Khashoggi went into self-imposed exile in the United States. Therefrom, he wrote criticism against the tyranny of the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. That act made Mohammed bin Salman believe that he was a refuse, due for disposal. He ordered it. Jamal Khashoggi was killed in his own consulate! His own crown prince lied to the world that he had left the consulate. He had not. Never will. He was assassinated and his body was dismembered in the butchery house of his consulate, a place to die or expect death. This was in flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention, which Saudi Arabia ratified and is legally bound to obey.
The international instruments notwithstanding, Saudi Arabia received no punishment for the manifest order for the assassination and the concomitant assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. Rather, the United States of America’s Trump, albeit ignominiously, exculpated the crown prince of every offense, most bewilderingly, even in contradiction of the CIA’s findings that implicated the crown prince in the death of Khashogg. Macron said that France would not stop its arms trade with Saudi Arabia simply because of the assassination. Other members of the European Union made feeble comments, ostensibly in condemnation of the callous act of killing. No one cared. The Arab world patted Saudi Arabia at the back with a jar of assurance, bottling their support.
And one wonders why human life becomes so cheap that a powerful man will order the killing of an ordinary citizen, whom he is supposed to protect, and the world will watch silently while he dies. The answer is simple: citizens have become seimic accidents in the forging of power, reserved only as a means to an end and never an end for any means; a mere collateral damage of smothering wick in the fire of political interest, to be extinguished at will. Why this asseveration?
Iran has posed itself as a threat to international peace, understandably, from the propaganda of the west. To curtail this purported maneuver, the United States has to align with Saudi Arabia so that, with the strength of Saudi Arabian power, the strength of Iran will be countervailed and, therefore, balanced. Shall the United States, considering what it stands to lose if Saudi Arabia becomes weak, punish Muhammed bin Salman, the de facto king of Saudi Arabia and its power house, for an infinitesimal act of goodness—the removal of a nuisance of a man, Jamal Khashoggi, who, through his vexatious writings, had caused dissatisfaction against the crown? Never! Should Mohammed bin Salman be punished for this act that is in the interest of maintaining the status quo? Never! He cannot be punished for punishing treason. Men of power, Mohammed bin Salman included, have the means to cause death. They must use it for the advancement of their interests.
And what does this historical didactics teach us? One thing: no human rights exist anywhere. Just lies are concocted to beguile the gullible into believing that they are a part of a system—a part of that which is larger than life, which is outside itself. So let Khashoggi’s fate vibrate in the memory. Let the well of restiveness collect the blood of Khashoggi, as well as the blood of all those whose lives have been khashoggied and churned into relics of the statue of remember, forewarning us, rebels, that we are not worth more than the sea that had been mellowed and swallowed up by the stream of power. Let restiveness attenuate docility. First, by ledger posting.
Jamal Khashoggi is a symbol. But, of what? people who are dead because they advocated for a change, because they dare to turn in a direction of possibilities, away from the shore of nothingness. Those who refuse to relax when their heads are made public latrines, onto which the powerful deficiency
Consequently, as we remember Jamal Khashoggi today, we also remember people who have made these ultimate sacrifices, a sacrifice that may also become ours, either by will or by acquisition. Not only those who are dead, but we must remember ourselves, who are the living dead. Death is the ultimate end, sometimes a salvation. No place is as blissful as the palace of oblivion, the tomb. And we, who die every day by installment, are well aware of this. So let us remember them all. We start with the dead, the imprisoned, and then we, who are both dead and imprisoned. Let us speak about Navid Afkari.
Navid Afkari was a 27-year-old Iranian professional wrestler who was murdered by Iran for a cooked-up allegation of the murder of Hasan Turkman, a security guard. He pleaded innocent. Video footage of the scene of the crime purportedly implicated him. Afkari prayed to the court for the tape to be played in court. Justice Mehrdad Tahmtam, the head judge, who presided over the mock trial that sentenced him, refused. He denied Navid his right to life. No evidence was proffered against him. All witnesses who testified against him ended up in confession as to whether their testimony was coerced or fictitious, having not seen Navid Afkari before. All we could make out of his murder was that he committed the treason of protesting against Iran. No one has the right to complain about oppression. This, too, is a revolution. His to siblings, Vahid and Habib, for the same fiction, are sentenced to 54 and 27 years, respectively.
While Navid Afkari was in prison, he protested until he exhausted his breath. Hear him. “My audience is made up of noble people who have a bit of honor in them. Your complacency means rooting for oppression and the oppressor. It means supporting the execution of an innocent. It means I will be getting closer, step-by-step, to the hanging platform.” No one paid attention. He lingered:
“People! It is only logical that I will fight for my life, and as per the evidence, all the clues are an affirmation of my innocence. All the evidence that we have collected and everything that I am saying right now is only here to let you know that if I ever get executed, in the 21st century and with all the human rights organizations, the UN, the security council, or whatever else, an innocent human being, who had tried to the best of his might and fought to have his voice heard, was hanged.” No international body did anything. No one cared. Navid eventually died. We all died. Even we, who are living, will be victims of tomorrow’s execution. Enough of those who are killed in foreign land. We have our brothers to mention later. Now, about the imprisoned.
The imprisonment of Omar and Sarah Aljabri for the crime of being born by Saad Aljabri, the Saudi Arabian spy giant who is now a refugee for his fallout with Mohammed bin Salman That crime deserves severe punishment. Therefore, let Omar and Sarah Aljabri be punished for being born by the wrong person. There are not the only people who suffer from this. We, from this side of hell, also bear the death-dealing blow for our crime: being born Nigerians!
Just in October 2022, Judge Timothy Kelly dismissed a suit filed by Saad Aljabri against Muhammed bin Salman, alleging a plot to kill him. The honorable judge held that the United States court has no jurisdiction to hear the matter, as that is pitching two sovereign states against each other. He said, ‘Inferring that he tried to kill Aljabri specifically to impact the US intelligence community is a bridge too far’. Saad Aljabri has suffered wrong. He has no remedy. He may be the next to be Khashoggi by Mohammed bin Salman.
We would not mention the imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, lest we be accused of the crime of exuding buried history. Let the persecution of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe be history. We, therefore, historify it. But why focus on the Arab world? Has the West and Africa been a haven for human rights?
The United States, with its shameless strategy, has had its share in this butchery of human rights. Remember Guantánamo Bay detention camp, a United States detention facility in Cuba? Bush told the world that those detained in the facility are not protected under the Geneva Convention as the facility is not in the United States and as the detainees are enemies! We all listened in awe.
Or, is it not also in the United States that George Floyd wailed, ‘I can’t breathe?” He died because he could not breathe. United States citizens, especially those of color, still die today from lack of breath. And who speaks about human rights where a citizen is more likely to die by the hand of his gun-bearing compatriots and by security agencies than by diseases? Let us return to Africa.
Among our biggest concerns is the derogation of the rights of conscientious objectors, men who must die because they refuse to kill. Paulos Eyasu, Isaac Mogos, and Negede Teklemariam come to mind. What does Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea expect them to do with their lives after languishing in jail for 26 years, which have already been ruined? Let us pulse. Nigeria is our bigger problem.
Nigeria prides itself on being a giant of inconsequence. It has an inimitable prowess for it and an ineffable proclivity for violation of rights. It rewards robbery and punishes purity. In fact, the best means to climb the ladder of political relevance is to fail in the former position. The only red line is: ‘never fail to loot!’ And being the descendants of the accursed “Ham”, we “Canaan” must live with the execution.
Where do we start? How do we speak about human rights violations in Nigeria without being liable for treason? We will talk, notwithstanding, for we will still be killed, even if we decide not to talk.
But, it will be a waste of time to recount how many people are being killed daily by the security agencies, especially, the Police, in Nigeria. No one is called to order. No one is being questioned. These words, in Nigeria, become a Police mantra, hear: ‘I we kill you and nothing will happen.’ They always killed and nothing ever happened! No one minded the garrulous TY Danjuma, when he cried: “The armed forces are not neutral; they collude with the armed bandits that kill people, kill Nigerians. They facilitate their movement. They cover them. If you are depending on the Armed Forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one.” Such a “nonentity” who was just a former Chief of Army staff should not be listened to. No one did.
We still live with the shock of Apo Six murder; why the police officer, Ibrahim Danjuma, who killed them in cold blood, to show others how dangerous it is to reject his sexual advances, that they must submit, not just their fiancees, but their wives, to his amorous gratification, parades freely. In fact, for the job well done, he is promoted to the rank of ASP!
We will not speak of the pogrom against the Shiites by General Buratai, under the watchful eyes of Gen. Buhari. He killed, to follow the report of my Lord Justice Mohammed Garba, JCA (as he then was), at least 384 Shia Muslims, just to show them that he had been appointed Army Chief of Staff. The carnage endured from December 12 to 14. And no one has been questioned for this crime against humanity. But, Gen. Buratai was, instead, compensated with ambassadorial job, when he finished as Army Chief of Staff.
Killing of unarmed Nigerians is not a new phenomenon. Our political class has crass reputation for that. Ask Gen. Obasanjo. He will pride himself with the Odi Massacre. In short, the tell of his reign is the tell of penchant for blood bath. Or ask “president” Tinubu. He will tell how he employed hoodlums, who, empowered by the government and with government vehicles, disrupted the peaceful protest of Nigerian youths against SARS brutality, and in a summersault, colluded with the Army, who came and shot the protesters dead. We remember Pelumi, an only son of a widowed mother, who was led away by the police, even when he was identified as a journalist. Pelumi never returned.
No one cares speak about the humiliations the beleaguered south-easterners go through in the hand of the military men, who block all eastern roads in pretext to curtail insecurities and, in stead, order every passenger of every vehicle down so as to show them that there are captives of war in their own land. No one dares say or write anything against such opprobrious madness. They will be killed by the military men. Even our so-called leader keeps quiet. They must leave their bedrooms. We, too, will neither say nor write.
But, while we remember the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, we also remember millions who have been khashoggi into non-existence by their government, those whom they employed and paid with the taxpayers’ money.
Having seen what humans pass through, albeit the alleged existence of so-called human rights, we are bold to state that the law does not, in any way, protect human rights against the powers of tyrants. We can only complain and be killed, keep quiet and be killed revolt and be killed or, unimaginably, force our oppressors to respect our rights.
May the death of Jamal Khashoggi reiterate our precarious existentialist condition—we who are but byproducts of cataclysmic chaos.
This Article Was Written By: Ude Ogbodo Okereke is a philosopher, poet, political analyst, religious humanist, human rights activist, and currently a 400L law student.