By Senator Magnus Abe,
I feel pained that I was not physically present at the first ever memorial lecture in honour of my late friend and brother Ken Atsuwete Esq.
In the murder of Ken, evil made a powerful, and poignant statement that it has power over us and it can terminate our live, cut short our dreams, grind us to dust , and silence us at will.
In the senseless murder of Ken Asuwete and so many others across our country, that message has been sent loud , clear and unequivocal, that those who have the guns and are prepared to use them, have the ultimate power over us, and in this society they can silence us and crush any vision of which they do not approve. In the murder of Ken they reloaded their message and fired it again: “Try us and see. We will silence you forever and nothing will happen”. And indeed, nothing has happened.
Sadly our recent history in Rivers State is loaded with proof. From Monday Eleanya, Vincent Eebee, etc., I can go on ad infinitum to name men and women, some prominent and some not so prominent in the eyes of society but no less loved, missed, and mourned by those who knew and loved them. Their voices in the eyes of their muderers forever silent, and nothing has happened.
At ken Atsuwete’s memorial lecture I was ably represented by my friend and brother, another erudite and learned gentleman Worgu Boms Esq, the lecture was delivered by my dear sister Ibim seminatari. There is no word I could possibly add to what Boms said on my behalf. The only thing I would have done which I could not in good conscience have asked Boms to do on my behalf was the decision I made that if I was at that event I would not observe any minute of silence.
I would rather observe a minute of speaking my mind. A minute when I would have said publicly those things that people seem to believe that we should never say. I would have protested by my conduct that silence has no place in the memory of a brother who lost his life because he refused to be silent in the face of evil.
If Ken had agreed to observe silence perhaps he will be alive today. When you have decided to speak in a country where having an “unapproved ” opinion can set you against the powers that be , observing even a minute of silence can seem like an act of surrender, and to whom do we surrender, and why?
Sometimes it is difficult to say who hurts us the most. Is it your enemies who terminate your life, cut short your dreams, and try to grind you to dust or your friends who insist on your silence even in death or try to force your voice to sing only an approved tune as a condition for friendship?
If you can’t say what you think, or if you must think one thing and say something else in order to please men, then who are you? And if men are only pleased when you hide your true self from them, by saying only what they want to hear, then, who are they?
That is the question that everyone must answer in the mirror before his God. It was the same question that Socrates was forced to answer when Crito in good conscience offered him the option to escape from prison and death, Socrates asked Crito : ” will you then flee from well ordered cities and virtuous men? And is existence worth having on these terms ——- or will you go to them without shame and talk to them Socrates?
And what shall you say to them? What you say here about virtue, and justice and laws and institutions being the best of things amongst men? Surely not —– Will there be no one to remind you that in your old age you were not ashamed to violate the most sacred laws out of a miserable desire for a little more life? —- These dear Crito are the voices I seem to hear murmuring in my ears like the sound of a flute in the ears of a mystic”.
Socrates like Ken chose to stay true to himself. I think of Ken, I think of all the other voices that are forever silent. We betray them if we loose our voice, we kill them a second time if allow evil to prevail. There can be no moment of silence while this state continues to bleed, we will neither keep quiet nor sing any pre-approved tune. We will speak our mind clearly, calmly but persistently. We will not say yes when clearly the answer is No.
Yes, they killed Ken Atsuwete, yes, they cut short his life, but no, his voice can still be heard strong and defiant in our own determination to speak our mind.
It was the determination to be Ken Atsuwete that kept Ken going even when it was clear that his life was in danger. In times of great trials and great temptation every one of us must listen to that voice that mummers to the heart. We not only die but we kill our society when we keep silence in the face of evil, wether we do it out of fear of our enemies or ” respect ” for our friends, the end result is the same. Silence.
And silence even for a minute can be dangerous to a society in grave danger.
By gathering in Ken’s memory to speak, indeed by speaking up when you need to, you make the point that as long as you are alive, a voice against oppression, a voice against evil shall be heard because you are here . When finally you die as Ken has died, you can Rest In Peace in the knowledge that you are part of an unbroken chain across the centuries of men and women who chose honour at any cost over silence at any benefit.
That is the decision that I have made and I hope you will make too. The certainty of the ultimate triumph of good over evil lie in the number that take the stand. Make no mistake good has always triumphed over evil, just as Atsuwete in the end will triumph over his enemies, and his voice will ring out loud and clear in this land.
While we remember Ken and mourn him, we must also remember the promises we made to his family, and we must find the voice to confront the evil in our society that has made this possible . There will be no minute of silence in the face of oppression. Our tears are not enough, our voices must be heard.
Sen. Magnus Abe