Justice Mary Odili, who stepped down from the Supreme Court yesterday, asked the Federal Government to pay attention to cries for the country to be restructured, warning that some of the events that sparked the civil war were being re-enacted.
Justice Odili, who had reached the obligatory retirement age of 70, spoke during a special valedictory session hosted by the Supreme Court in her honor.
She stated that her choice to utilize the occasion to draw attention to the millions of lives lost during Nigeria’s civil war was not to incite animosity or bad sentiments, but rather to “raise to mind of all and sundry, the critical situation which currently threatens our nation.”
“It, therefore, behooves on me, the duty to speak with the platform open to me today as a retired justice of the Supreme Court.
“I intend to do so with the concept of taking the option of ‘dying on my feet than living on my knees’. A postulation of Emilo Zapata Salazar, the Mexican leader in the Revolution of 1910-1920.
“In the spirit of one who has lived through a lot of experiences and accosted by knowledge, good and bad, I will talk to my country men, women and children loud and clear.
“As I had earlier mentioned, I lived through the Nigerian civil war, which was precursed by the January 15, 1966, army coup and later the July 1966 pogrom as it was referred to.
“In the July incident, I saw men running in their underpants with or without singlets from the Ikeja Army Cantonment, which presentation made us leave our home at Ikeja GRA as the killings moved from the Igbo soldiers in the barracks to civilian population of Igbo and we had to take refuge in a room in Surulere and later to the East and the follow up war that incepted in 1967.
“During the war, we survived the air raids with the bombers and fighters as low as the height of fruit trees with me catching the eyes of one of the pilots on an occasion.
“I am bringing this period up not to whip up animosities or negative feelings, but to call to the mind of all and sundry, the emergency situation which now faces our nation.
“Some of the actions or speeches that propelled the unfortunate war, which took the lives of millions of our people are being re-enacted at this time, hence the necessity for this reminder.
“I am delving into this area of our national life in the light of the saying that while one ought not to hold on to the past but must move forward, the lessons of the past should not be dispatched to the dustbins of history but utilised positively to navigate the present and future.“