ighting for a just cause vis-à-vis freedom fighting, comes with its peril. On the side of the people, he is a hero, a liberator and a God sent messiah. But, on the side of the government, he is clearly seen as an enemy, adversary of the state, and worst of all, his life would be at stake. This type of journey is a path of no return once embarked upon because, if you decide to back down by not pursuing such cause anymore due to any circumstances whatsoever, you would be forever hated by the same people you supposedly was fighting a cause for from the onset. But, if you see it through to the end, your name would be forever engraved in the heart of the people. And, even after your demise, you would be forever martyred in the history of that reformed nation.
In a selfish world as ours where a man’s birthright could be easily bought over with ‘bread’, it seems so hard to find an upright person with selfless interest who could come out, stand, fight for, and defend the right of his fellow countrymen.
Be that as it may, the man who has been a pain in the administration’s flesh since its beginning, Nnamdi Kanu, was recently re-arrested.
He had already skipped bail and vanished after alleging threats to his life. Perhaps because neither his stalking nor his arrest corresponded entirely with international regulations, neither the place nor the manner of his arrest had been made clear.
People have assumed he was abducted or kidnapped, to use a coarser but popular term in this part of the world, because of the lack of clarity.
Kanu’s breach of his bail conditions was criminal in and of itself. Few governments would put up with such a legal slap in their face. If he had remained silent after casting his vote with his feet, the authorities could have looked the other way. However, he continued to mock the authorities and disparage the country. Now that he is back in Nigeria to “face justice,” as government spokesmen put it, it is hoped that the rule of law prevails and that his rights as a global citizen will be protected. As offensive as it is to me, I am unaware that taunting your government or disparaging your country is a crime. Many prisons across the continent would be overcrowded if that were the case.
Encouraged by Kanu’s success, the authorities adopted a similar strategy with Sunday Igboho, a tamer Yoruba version of Nnamdi Kanu. His house was besieged. In a display of force that should humiliate us as a country, a handful of individuals were supposedly slain and a few hostages were allegedly seized.
Obviously, no search warrant was issued. By our standards, that would be preposterous. Needless to say, the State Governor, who serves as the state’s Chief Security Officer, was not notified, much less consulted. That, too, would be excessive by our standards. Our definitions of the rule of law and Federalism are neither rigid nor flexible. As proof of his hatred and subversion, we understand that cats and idols were taken away. Those in charge of the invasion should be embarrassed by this.
Sunday Igboho constitutes the strength behind the agitations by the Oduduwa. He had staged separatist rallies in several Yoruba cities and was on his way to Lagos. Rallies and protests were neither prohibited nor is a crime the last time I checked, and the President had participated in a few himself. They serve as a means of informing authorities of all stripes that certain developments have angered their constituents.
They are also used to determine citizens’ levels of liberty. Several past Igboho rallies have been rather peaceful. Separatist movements have long existed in the country. As recently as Jonathan’s administration, there were occasional protests from the north. No one pursued the agitators. After Buhari’s government, there will still be some protests. And, most likely, the next government that would come after would not be assured of a zero protest either. Good, inclusive government is the ultimate remedy. Agitations and protests will not be put down by force or by the damage of homes.
I am not in favour of a divided Nigeria today, and possibly in the nearest future. The benefits of a unified Nigeria, in my opinion, outweigh the negatives, which are receding. Furthermore, I do not believe that simply breaking apart will cure the basic problem that plagues our development, which is poor management at all levels. Even if I were in favour of breaking up rather than pulling together in order to allow for competition and better resource management, I would not accept Kanu or Igboho’s methods. They appear to be more sentimental than tactical. Neither has laid out how power would be distributed if their purported nations were to form. Or will we start deliberating on that once we arrive there? A more shrewd and advance government would have seen the inconsistencies in these two people’s dispositions and actions and devised measures to balance them out. Instead, the two guys are gaining sympathy and support by the day as a result of this regime’s actions and inactions.
It is informative that the authority’s use of force against Kanu and Igboho did not generate good momentum among the people; and, the government has been criticized heavily by stakeholders of the nation. The country has more important concerns than the intimidation and detention of two people who, in their own unique way, are mobilizing their people against perceived injustice. Poverty, for example, is a threat to every household as a result of poor governance.
The government ignores and brushes under the rug issues like ISWAP and Boko Haram in the north, as well as herders and bandits in the middle belt and the south of Nigeria. The quickness with which IPOB was declared a terrorist organization and outlawed, while Boko Haram and ISWAP were treated with kid gloves and allowed to fester at the outset, has not escaped the notice of astute observers. Fulani herdsmen would be treated as terrorists in most other countries, but in Nigeria, the opposite is true. They have killed more people than several so-called terrorist groups around the world, and they are the world’s fourth deadliest terrorist group. Yet, they are a well-established, and fully registered organization in Nigeria with a license to operate; oh! I mean, license to kill, instead.
Nonetheless, some northern officials engage with them and try to rationalize their animosity toward the country, while no one takes the time to truly comprehend the pain of adolescents and separatist organizations in order to resolve it. Despite their occasionally incendiary words and their direct and indirect supervision of armed herdsmen, Miyetti Allah leaders till this day have not been officially warned, as far as I know. To some, Miyetti Allah is simply defending its people’s culture and rights. Indeed, an antagonist(a terrorist) in one person’s eyes appears to be a protagonist(liberation fighter) in another’s eyes.
The crops of these two secessionists and the groups they represent are symptoms, not causes, of discontent. Insecurity and its causes, poverty and its causes, and selective justice and its causes are some of the root causes. There are accusations of robbing one region to pay another, as well as perceived lopsidedness in government. Separatist movements will be deprived of oxygen if we can handle these concerns in a true, nonpartisan manner. Sadly, rather than suffocating these movements, current efforts are nourishing them.
In a rare speech about unity two weeks ago, the President recalled his earlier misfortunes at the hands of his fellow northerners, and how, in some cases, southerners helped him out. Many of us in Nigeria have had similar experiences when we were helped by people from outside our tribe.
What a difference it would have made to Nigeria’s political and economic environment if he had acted on his recollected experience and seen the country through the current conflicts rather than via ethnic and religious lenses.