By Muyiwa Adetiba
Nnamdi Kanu, the man who has been a thorn in the flesh of this administration from its inception was re-arrested a couple of weeks ago.
He had earlier jumped bail claiming threats to his life and disappeared. Neither the place nor the manner of his arrest had been made clear; perhaps because neither his stalking nor his arrest complied fully with international laws.
This lack of clarity has led people to believe he was abducted – or kidnapped to use a cruder but more common word in our part of the world.
Kanu’s violation of his bail conditions was itself illegal. Few governments would tolerate that slap on its judicial face. Perhaps the government would have looked the other way had he kept quiet after he voted with his feet. But he continued to taunt government and denigrate the country. Now that he is home to ‘face justice’ as government spokesmen would say, it is hoped that the rule of law will apply and his rights as a citizen of the world will be respected. As distasteful as it is to me personally, I am not aware it is a crime to taunt your government or denigrate your country. If it was, many jails in the world would be full.
Buoyed by the success of Kanu, government tried the same play book on Sunday Igboho, the milder, Yoruba version of Kanu. A siege was laid at his house. A couple of people were allegedly killed and a few hostages were taken in a show of force that should leave us embarrassed as a nation.
Needless to say, there was no search warrant. That would be ridiculous by our standard. Needless to say, the State Governor as the Chief Security Officer of the State was not informed let alone consulted. That again by our standard, would be superfluous. Our definition of the rule of law is not that rigid nor of Federalism that flexible. We understand cats and idols were carted away as evidence of his hostility and subversion. That should embarrass those who gave orders for the invasion.
Igboho represents the brawn of the Oduduwa agitations. He had taken his separatist’s rallies to some Yoruba cities and was heading for Lagos. The last time I checked, rallies and protests were not illegal -the President had taken part in a couple himself in the past. They serve as a way of letting authorities of whatever hue know that their stakeholders are not happy with certain developments.
They also serve to gauge the level of freedom of citizens. Many of Igboho’s previous rallies had been relatively peaceful. Separatist agitations are not new to the country. There were some agitations from the north as recently as Jonathan’s government. The agitators were not hounded. There will still be some agitations after Buhari’s government. And probably the ones after his. The ultimate panacea is good, inclusive governance. Neither force nor destruction of homes will make them disappear.
As at today and perhaps for the foreseeable future, I am not in support of a balkanised Nigeria. For me, the advantages –dwindling I must admit – of a united Nigeria, outweigh the disadvantages. Besides, I do not believe that the fundamental issue bedevilling our development which is bad managementat all levels, can be solved simply by breaking up. But even if I was in support of breaking up as opposed to pulling apart to allow for competition and better management of resources, I would not be a fan of the methods of either Kanu or Igboho. They look more emotive than strategic. And neither has outlined how power would be shared should the nations come into being. Or is it the case of crossing the bridge when we get there? A more astute and mature government would have noticed the contradictions in the personalities and methods of these two people and found ways to neutralise them. Instead, the two men are gaining more sympathies and support by the day through actions and inactions of government.
It is instructive that government’s strong arm tactics against Kanu and Igboho did not elicit positive energy on the part of the populace. If government expected a pat on the back, it did not get it. The country has more pressing things to worry about than the arrest and intimidation of two people who are mobilising their people against perceived injustice in their own way. Things like poverty which is threatening every home as a result of blinked governance.
Things like ISWAP and Boko Haram in the north and herdsmen and bandits in the south and middle belt. The speed with which IPOB was outlawed and banned as a terrorist organisation while Boko Haram and ISWAP were treated with kid gloves and allowed to fester at the beginning has not escaped discerning minds. Elsewhere, Fulani herdsmen would have been treated as a terrorist organisation. They have killed more people than some so called terrorist organisations around the world and are listed as the fourth deadliest terrorist organisation in the world.
Yet some northern leaders negotiate with them and seek to justify their angst against the country while nobody is taking time to really understand the angst of youths and separatist organisations with a view to solving them. Miyetti Allah leaders have not been officially cautioned to the best of my knowledge despite their sometimes inflammatory remarks; despite their direct and indirect control of armed herdsmen. To some, Miyetti Allah is merely fighting for the rights and culture of its people. One man’s terrorist seems to be another man’s liberation fighter.
Kanu, Igboho and the organisations they lead are symptoms of disaffection rather than the root causes of disaffection. The root causes include insecurity and the reasons for it; poverty and the reasons for it; selective justice and the reasons for it. They include perceived lop-sidedness in governance and the allegations of robbing Peter to pay Paul. If we can address these issues in a genuine, non-partisan way, the separatist movements will be denied of oxygen. The present actions are unfortunately nurturing rather than killing these movements. In a rare speech about unity, the President recounted two weeks ago about his past travails in the hands of fellow northerners and how southerners in some cases bailed him out. That has been the experience of many of us in Nigeria where we have been helped by people outside our clan.
How different the political and economic landscape of Nigeria would have looked if he had acted according to his recounted experience and seen Nigeria with the current conflicts,outside ethnic and religious prisms.