eneral Buhari’s first term as a military dictator saw him deploy state kidnapping and torture to deal with those whom his administration deemed to be “adversaries of the state.” In his second term as President, he is employing the same state-sanctioned violence against people whom his administration labels as “adversary of our state.” It is like deja vu all over again!
The similarities are startling. Consider the 1984 attempted kidnapping of Umaru Dikko in London and the 2021 kidnapping of Nnamdi Kanu in Kenya. Consider Fela Kuti’s imprisonment for alleged currency violations in 1984, the death of three Nigerians for illicit narcotics possession in 1985, and the horrific night-raid on Sunday Igboho’s home in 2021.
When it comes to kidnapping “wanted” Nigerians overseas and torturing troublemakers at home, President Buhari has a track record. Buhari has long admired Joseph Stalin’s autocratic and violent handling of “adversary of the people” as someone who, in his own words, “cut his political teeth as a student of the old Soviet Union.” Nothing is off the table once Buhari declares someone an “adversary of the state.” Extrajudicial measures, international law violations, state kidnapping, state torture — you name it; they are all “legal” tools.
In a democracy, however, a civilian President, regardless of his military background, cannot act as if he is in charge of a military administration. Yet, there is little difference between Buhari, the military Ruler, and Buhari, the civilian President, for the most part.
Indeed, President Buhari stated at the Nigerian Bar Association’s National Conference in 2018 that “the primacy of the nation’s security must be subordinated to the rule of law.” With that perspective, it is not surprising that he commended the security forces’ “professional manner” in which they seized Nnamdi Kanu, the head of the separatist IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra), and stormed the home of Sunday Igboho, a Yoruba rights activist. “The achievements of our security agencies must be commended,” Buhari says, adding that “this level of professionalism must be maintained.”It is 1984 and 1985 all over again, as I have previously stated.
Umaru Dikko, a politician wanted for alleged corruption, was kidnapped in London in July 1984 on the orders of the Buhari dictatorship, drugged, and imprisoned in a big box labeled “diplomatic luggage,” awaiting abduction to Nigeria. A British customs officer foiled the scheme.
The episode sparked a diplomatic storm and resulted in the severance of ties between the United Kingdom and Nigeria. The incarceration of Fela Kuti for supposed currency violations and the death of three Nigerians for drug possession were further examples of official cruelty during that time. The element of today’s state violence includes the abuse and ill-treatment of Kanu and Igboho!
To be clear, I do not agree with Nnamdi Kanu or Sunday Igboho. I am not a separatist, and I do not believe in their cause. What I advocate for is a Nigeria that is drastically reorganized, with strong, autonomous regional administrations operating within a federal union. Nigerians, rather than secession, should continue to advocate for restructuring and devolution of power, in my opinion. President Buhari, on the other hand, is bolstering separatist ranks by repressing separatist agitations harshly and without regard for the rule of law.
Consider the instance of Igboho. He is not a terrorist in the least. He is a rabble-rouser at worst. His “Yoruba Nation” rallies were held in a peaceful manner. So why did security personnel raid his home late at night, murdering several individuals and arresting 13 others, as well as pets – yes, cats? Separatist agitators exist in every multi-ethnic country, and some of them are outright thugs. Civilized administrations, on the other hand, do not treat them with the ugliness with which Buhari’s government treated Igboho.
But, under international law, Igboho has the right to demand self-determination for his people, as long as he does so in a nonviolent manner, which he does. President Buhari, on the other hand, considers Igboho to be more dangerous than Boko Haram groups, ISWAP, kidnappers, bandits, and Fulani herders, whose members have destroyed countless villages, killed thousands of Nigerians, and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.
By contrast, the former military governor of Kaduna State,Abubakar Umar (retd), is correct: Boko Haram, killer herdsmen, and bandits are more dangerous than separatist organizations. Unfortunately, President Buhari, whom Colonel Umar correctly criticized of “mismanaging Nigeria’s diversity,” believes that self-determination activists are Nigeria’s greatest security risks. Well,he is completely wrong, to be sure!
This leads us to Kanu’s kidnapping. According to the Federal Government, he is a fugitive who skipped bail and should be tried in Nigeria for terrorism and treasonable criminal charges. That is fine, but that is why international law has extradition requirements. When Alberta’s Minister of Justice and Solicitor-General, Kelechi Madu, denounced Kanu’s kidnapping as “arbitrary violations of international law,” Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, retorted that Kanu was extradited in a “internationally accepted manner.” If I may ask,how?
Surely, if the Kenyan government played no official part in Kanu’s extradition, as the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) apparently stated, he was not extradited in a formal manner. Kanu was not given the opportunity to contest his extradition in Kenyan court because no official extradition request was lodged.
Simply put, what occurred constituted a kidnapping, or extraordinary rendition in international law terms. “The kidnapping of a person from a foreign country for the purpose of rendition to justice is prohibited under international law,” an international lawyer told the British Guardian newspaper.
Despite the fact that it is illegal, authoritarian authorities such as Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, and Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko have recently utilized extraordinary rendition to kidnap opponents or dissidents from abroad. President Buhari is a member of the authoritarian leadership club. Nigeria is deserving of a better treat!