By Bola Bolawole
According to Wikipedia, the Nuremberg trials were a series of military tribunals held after World War II (1939 – 1945) after the defeat of Germany’s Adolf Hitler and his Axis Alliance (Germany, Japan and Italy) by the Allied Powers (Britain, France, USSR and the United States) under international law and the laws of war. The trials were most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, judicial, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany, who planned, carried out, or otherwise participated in the Holocaust and other war crimes. The trials were held in Nuremberg, Germany, and their decisions marked a turning point between classical and contemporary international law.
The first and best known of the trials was that of the major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT). It was described as “the greatest trial in history” by Sir Norman Birkett, one of the British judges present throughout. Held between 20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946, the Tribunal was given the task of trying 24 of the most important political and military leaders of the Third Reich. Martin Bormann had, unknown to the Allies, died in May 1945 and was tried in absentia. Another defendant, Robert Ley, committed suicide within a week of the trial’s commencement.
Adolf Hitler (on April 30, 1945) and Joseph Goebbels (24 hours later, together with his wife and six children) had both committed suicide to avoid capture. Heinrich Himmler attempted to commit suicide, but was captured before he could succeed; he committed suicide one day after being arrested by British forces. Heinrich Müller disappeared the day after Hitler’s suicide, the most senior figure of the Nazi regime whose fate remains unknown. Reinhard Heydrich had been assassinated by Czech partisans in 1942. Josef Terboven killed himself with dynamite in Norway in 1945. Adolf Eichmann fled to Argentina to avoid capture but was apprehended by Israel’s intelligence service (Mossad) and hanged in 1962. Hermann Göring was sentenced to death but, in defiance of his captors, committed suicide by swallowing cyanide the night before his execution.
Primarily treated here is the first trial, conducted by the International Military Tribunal. Further trials of lesser war criminals were conducted under Control Council Law No. 10 at the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunal (NMT), which included the Doctors’ trial and the Judges’ Trial.
The categorization of the crimes and the constitution of the court represented a juridical advance that would be followed afterward by the United Nations for the development of an international jurisprudence in matters of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and wars of aggression, and led to the creation of the International Criminal Court. For the first time in international law, the Nuremberg indictments also mentioned genocide (war crimes) particularly against Jews, Poles, Gypsies and others)”
We can see from the above that Nuremberg, the German city where Ike Ekweremadu’s own “trial” took place last Saturday, is not an ordinary city; it was where leaders of Nazi Germany accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity were tried at the end of the Second World War after the Allied Powers had defeated the Axis Powers. What were Ekweremadu’s own “crimes”? He was accused by his attackers of, among other things, crimes against Biafra, duplicity, and complicity with the Nigerian nation and State apparatus. He was harassed, beaten, and prevented from speaking to the crowd he had come to address and attending the yam festival he had travelled all the way from Nigeria to attend. In the end, he could not eat the yam he had savored to eat! He had to be whisked away Gestapo-style or else… Whereas he had arrived at the venue in high spirit gallivanting with a prepared speech possibly tucked somewhere in his well-iron traditional Igbo dress called isi-agu, he scampered out of the place disheveled and wondering what had hit him. Thank God he survived to tell the story by himself!
War crimes and crimes against humanity brought Hitler and his henchmen to Nuremberg. According to information pieced together from Ekweremadu’s own accounts and those of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), which claimed responsibility for the attack, the still serving Senator was accused of being IPOB’s persona non grata and an adversary of its cause of an independent state of Biafra. He was accused of being instrumental to the branding of IPOB as a terrorist organization and its subsequent proscription by the governors of the South-East states; he was held accountable for the deployment of “Operation Python Dance” to the South-East by the Muhammadu Buhari administration and the many atrocities allegedly committed by the military in the region in general and specifically against IPOB members and its sympathizers; that the isi-agu worn by Ekweremadu to the occasion had the Nigerian coat-of-arm, which is the insignia or symbol of authority of the Nigeria State, which the attackers saw as insensitivity and effrontery on Ekweremadu’s part and an affront to a people reeling from the oft-touted marginalization from the same Nigeria State and victimization of its leaders (e.g. Nnamdi Kadu) as well as its aspirations ( e.g. actualization of Biafra); and that Ekweremadu, as one of the foremost Igbo leaders, have not done enough to address the atrocities of Fulani herdsmen in Igboland.
These, no doubt, are weighty allegations. In his defence, Ekweremadu has described himself as, perhaps, one of the best friends of Ndigbo and its cause. He said he had often spoken out in defence of Ndigbo, regardless whose ox is gored and not minding placing his neck even on the chopping block. He related the role he played in getting IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, the bail that got him out of Buhari’s gulag. He had also been a veritable mouth-piece of Ndigbo in the Senate as well as in the corridors of powers. It is doubtful if anyone, including IPOB, will deny that Ekweremadu has done all of that but it would appear as if the outrage in the land, as a result of the atrocities of those who wear impunity as a badge and who use their exalted offices to serve tribal and religious causes, have become so exacting that the people’s anger draws no limit and makes no distinction any more. So, Ekweremadu became guilty by association. He is seen pure and simple as a member of the oppressive ruling class. He is one of the cabal. He is also seen as a member of the ineffectual and docile class of Southern or Igbo leaders who, because of their privileged position, are unable to adequately stand up for their own people against the atrocities being visited on them from outside. In other words, the contributions being flagged by Ekweremadu are seen as mere tokenism, which are not far-reaching enough to address the critical situations at hand. Ndigbo expects Ekweremadu and his likes to have done more. In Nuremberg, Ndigbo gave a clear message to Ekweremadu and his likes to henceforth begin to do more or else…
“There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or the eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall likewise perish” – Luke 13: 1 – 5. Suppose ye that Ekweremadu is the greatest offender amongst fawning and compromising Igbo leaders? Nay; not at all! His Nuremberg travail, unfortunate as it is, is a signal to other Igbo leaders; nay, all compromising and genuflecting leaders down South; who are too timid and selfish to stand up for the defence of their own people. Yet, once the oppressors have finished using them, they dump them. Witness Kemi Adeosun, erstwhile Finance Minister; and witness ex-CJN Walter Onnoghen! They are already preparing Fowler (Federal Internal Revenue Service) and Oyo-Ita (Head of Federal Civil Service) for the slaughter. You would think only southerners have issues!
Good, that Ekweremadu has accepted his fate and has moved on; his Nuremberg trial should not discourage him from doing more for Ndigbo; in fact, he should, more than ever before, re-dedicate himself to the cause of his people; so also other Ndigbo leaders, especially the governors. The ruling class outcry against IPOB as a result of Nuremberg is understandable. As our people would say, the death that kills your contemporary is telling you to get ready. The positive in Ekweremadu’s unsavory experience, however, is that more of our leaders will now sit at home instead of squandering our riches on needless foreign trips!