•Abuja expected to flaunt economic muscle
By Yinka Ajayi
A retired top diplomat itemizes the factors that will play in favour and against Sunday Adeyemo (Sunday Igboho) in the ongoing legal battle to extradite him back to Nigeria from Benin Republic.
Igboho had been arrested by Benin security authorities on Tuesday as he was fleeing to Germany through the West African country.
One of the arrowheads of the campaign for the Yoruba nation to secede from Nigeria on the grounds of the alleged injustice the South-West region of Nigeria is facing in the hands of the federal authorities headed by a northerner, President Muhammadu Buhari, Igboho’s Ibadan home was raided by security forces a couple of weeks ago during which some of his aides were killed and others arrested. He narrowly escaped being arrested during the raid only to surface in Benin last week.
READ ALSO: Igboho not abandoned, Yoruba leaders working behind the scenes for his release – Sanwo-Olu
Only last Friday, an Abuja court ordered the Nigerian secret police to produce before it the 12 aides of the activist arrested and taken into custody during the raid on Igboho’s house. In this piece, a retired top diplomat of Nigerian origin who served in Thailand, and chose to remain anonymous, speaks on the chances of Igboho on the moves by the Federal Government to extradite him to Nigeria.
Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho’s ongoing quagmire in Cotonou, Republic of Benin is an intriguing case in which many factors come into play with important implications for the case.
Firstly, the subsisting Extradition Treaty between Nigeria and Benin Republic (regrettably, I don’t have a ready access to the text) I recall, excludes “political fugitives” from extradition. So, Sunday Igboho is adequately covered by this as he and his lawyers can legitimately argue that he is not a criminal but a political fugitive being hounded (his house was raided and people killed) by Nigerian authorities for championing protection and self-determination for his Yoruba people. The concept of “self determination” is guaranteed under the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights to which Nigeria is a party.
Secondly is the “Ajase” factor. Ethnic Yoruba in Benin Republic in particular in the Porto Novo and Cotonou axis hold their language, cultural and family ties with their kiths and kins in Nigeria very fondly and deeply. Besides, this group represents an important political and economic segment in the Beninoise system. This group is keenly aware of the “persecution” in Nigeria of Sunday Igboho (their kinsman, whose ancestral home is just across the border from central Benin Republic). Consequently, this group will mount pressure on their authorities not to extradite Sunday Igboho.
Thirdly is the French factor. Although Igboho is not a French citizen, the Republic of Benin is an ex-French colony. As a national principle, France does not extradite any of her nationals. Also, France does not support extradition on political grounds. Needless to state that France has huge influence on her ex-colonies. Benin Republic will handle this case with due deference to the French thinking on the matter which is most likely to be against extradition. Apart from the facts already outlined, it should be borne in mind that France is a western country hinged on observance of universal fundamental human rights and freedoms and will protect these values anywhere and anytime.
Finally, we should take Nigeria/Benin relations into consideration. Nigeria/Benin relations are important and strategic. Nigeria virtually holds the lifeline to Republic of Benin’s survival. Nigeria wields huge economic muscle against Benin Republic and this will ultimately weigh in on how Igboho’s extradition issue is handled. I don’t see Benin Republic blatantly defying Nigeria over Igboho. At the same time, Benin is a sovereign country that respects the rule of law coupled with the other pressures I have earlier outlined.
In the final analysis, I envisage both Nigeria and Benin Republic devising a face-saving formula and arriving at a compromise whereby Sunday Igboho may be handed back only after a brokered, iron-cast agreement that he won’t be prosecuted or incarcerated or allowed exile in Benin Republic and after tempers cool eased back to Nigeria.