Like a scene from one of Hollywood’s blockbuster movies, Nnamdi Kanu, was whisked back to Nigeria recently by security operatives having jumped bail and fled the country in 2017. He is facing an 11-count charge of treason, treasonable felony, terrorism and illegal possession of firearms among others. The likes of James Cameron, Stephen Spielberg and other A-list Hollywood directors will be green with envy as security operatives re-enacted a script in real life from their playbook.
Kanu’s handcuffed images with a disheveled look certainly sent shock waves across social media and the country. Strikingly, he looked like a shadow of himself. The leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) customary defiant look, which erstwhile exudes confidence was amiss. Even his Fendi designer clothes did little to hide his tousled look and apprehensive gaze. The images of the feeble looking Kanu, would surely douse the morale of even his staunchest supporters.
The Federal Government of Nigeria says security operatives were on his trail for over two-years before he was re-arrested. One can only imagine the amount of secrecy, painstakingness, effort and manpower that must have been expended that led to his re-arrest. With the myriad of security challenges facing the country, one is sure nobody expected that the government could accomplish such a feat. One must commend our security and intelligence agencies for their professionalism and diligence to pull off the arrest.
In another related development, security operatives also stormed the home of the leader of a “Yoruba separatist group”, Sunday Adeyemo a.k.a Sunday Igboho in a bid to effect his arrest. While this wasn’t achieved, several arms and ammunitions were found in his home and confiscated as well as several associates arrested. The self-proclaimed activist and one of the vanguards of the Yoruba Nation agitators is widely known as a proponent for the “Oduduwa Republic”.
Apparently there seems to be a concerted crackdown of leaders of “separatist movements” who seem to employ the use of violence in actualizing their agenda. No doubt, there is a feeling of exclusion and perceived sense of injustice among various ethnicities in the country that has led to alienation, suspicion and apprehension. Over time, different groups have pursued separatist ambitions. In fact our history as a nation has been fraught with separatist’s calls for secession. However, pursuing separatist agitation through violent means is not the way to go.
It is a widely known fact that IPOB through its military wing the Eastern Security Network (ESN) has been perpetuating acts of violence, destroying public buildings and attacking security personnel. Between late last year and mid-2021, there was a wave of attacks on police stations and public infrastructure across the Southeast by the ESN. With the alleged weapons found in the possession of the leader of the Yoruba separatist group, apparently the government is trying forestall a similar occurrence of violence in the Southwest.
While one is not opposed to any group seeking secession, one is opposed to them using violence to achieve their aim. Rather employing violence, exploring dialogue should be the viable option. Many secessionists it seems are unfortunately of the opinion that the best way to go about secession is to destroy lives and property or take the Boko Haram approach. However, taking an extremist approach by destroying lives and property and committing all manners of crime and criminality in the name of agitating for secession is a defeatist attitude.
Many of these supposed agitators are simply masquerading as ethnic champions and taking advantage of the present challenges and ethnic cleavages in our societies. Such approach, rather than bringing succour, could fuel further agitations. There are also some unscrupulous elements that are not making the Nigerian project to succeed hence these agitations. As a people, we need to come together, shelving our togas of ethnicity and religion towards forging a stronger political system that would bring the citizenry together and assuage their feelings.
Contrary to popular believe, Kanu is facing charges for criminal acts he was charged for before he jumped bail and not for his agitation for self-determination. Under Nigerian and international laws, agitation for self-determination is not criminalized. However, when an organization begins to commit unlawful actions, it becomes unlawful in the eyes of the law and must face the consequences of their acts.
Many of the secession movement also have ethnic connotations, with many screaming marginalization by other ethnic groups as the major source of their underdevelopment. Many are thus clamouring for the Presidency as a prerequisite to assuage them. However, there is no proof that a president from a particular region translates to development of that region. Since the return to democratic rule in 1999, we have had 4-presidents from 3-different regions and ethnicities. But, these regions are not necessarily more developed than others. In fact, many in these regions are still screaming marginalization hitherto.
No doubt, Nigeria’s Federal system is a creation of British colonial era from the 1914 amalgamation. But as a nation we can decide to have our home grown democracy that will favour us. Over the years the US has developed a form of democracy where the Electoral College determines the country’s president not necessarily by populist vote. This system is working for them. Many countries around the world have adapted home grown democratic system that is working for them. We should continue to aspire to that.
According to a Hausa proverb, “quantity makes the cotton draw a stone.” In other words, unity is strength. And like ants, one believes that our unity is our strength. Ants work in groups and achieve their goal in unity. They gather their food in group in unity. Though the ants are tiny, but together they are a great army. Every individual ant may be weak, but together they are strong. If a grain is too heavy for one ant to pull alone, quickly others join it to pull together. Learning and adopting this from these tiny animals, there is nothing that we can’t achieve as a nation, regardless of our ethnic cleavages.
Like Chido Onumah postulates in his book “we are all Biafrans”, the agitations of Biafra should represent a metaphor as all ethnic groups in Nigeria are victims of marginalization and decades of misrule, and thus desire a change in their material conditions. Every region is literally at par in terms of infrastructural deficit, high rates of unemployment, pervasive corruption and insecurity among others. However, hope is on the horizon only if we come together as a people and forge a way that will uplift all and sundry. Secession or breaking Nigeria into fragments is not the answer. Rather we need to be pro-active, treat the country as one nation and fashion out a system that will ensure round pegs are placed in round holes.