The Nigerian state appears to be desperate to contain those it thinks are plotting against the unity and corporate existence of the nation.
On June 17, news filtered in that the Nigerian Government has ‘intercepted’ and brought back to Nigeria the eccentric leader of the secessionist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu, who fled the country in 2017 while facing charges bordering on terrorism and incitement to violence.
The Nigerian Government has so far refused to disclose the country where it intercepted Kanu and the Kenya where he was allegedly arrested with the connivance of the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, has denied any involvement in the repatriation of the separatist leader.
Kanu, who holds British citizenship at the time of his arrest, has been offered ‘consular’ assistance by the British Government, which also requested some clarification and explanations from the Nigerian Government over circumstances leading to the arrest of their citizen and demanded a fair trial, especially as it appeared that the Nigerian government does not wish to comply with the consular services extended to Kanu as disclosed recently by his lawyer.
Then on Monday, July 5, Nigerians were once again awash with the news that another separatist leader of the Yoruba nation, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, was arrested in Benin Republic where he is facing trial in a Beninois court for allegedly attempting to travel to Germany with documents of Benin Republic even though he is not a citizen of that country. Igboho was also trying to flee Nigeria after being declared wanted by the Department of State Services (DSS) for allegedly stockpiling illegal arms and threatening the nation with violence and secession.
The Nigerian government is reportedly making efforts to repatriate Igboho but it faces big hurdles as it was reported that Nigeria does not have bilateral extradition treaty with Benin Republic.
Igboho’s lawyer, Ibrahim Salami, told the Ilana Omo Oodua, IOO, a group championing the cause of Yoruba nation that Igboho’s case was adjourned till Monday 26th July to allow the Federal Government bring up whatever evidence they may have to prove the allegations against him.
The group’s Communications Manager, Mr Maxwell Adeleye, in a statement however said, “The lawyers handling the case reported after the proceedings that Chief Sunday Adeyemo Igboho cannot be extradited to Nigeria for two principal reasons:
“That contrary to insinuations, Nigeria and Benin have no Extradition Agreement. That Nigeria has not been able to come up with charges that could lead the court to order Igboho’s extradition to Nigeria.
“What Federal Government came up with were mere allegations against Ighoho such as trafficking in arms and inciting violence that could result in the social disturbance without evidence which the Government of Benin Republic considered spurious, untenable, and insufficient to warrant extradition.’’
Experts in international relations have however, warned the Nigerian government to apply caution in the way they handle the Igboho saga to avoid a tribal conflict that might engulf the country even if the government succeeds in repatriating the separatist agitator.
International affairs analyst and columnist, Majeed Dahiru, said that Nigeria might leverage on its influence over Benin to bring back Igboho but that will not augur well for Nigeria because what gave rise to Igboho was the failure of the Nigerian state to contain the killer- Fulani herdsmen wreaking havoc on Igboho’s Yoruba land of Oyo state in the South West which he stood up to oppose.
“The issue of Igboho should be handled with care because what gave rise to Igboho in the first instance was actually the failure of government to enforce law and order and contain the marauding activities of killer-herdsmen around Igboho’s native land of Igagan and Ibarapa areas in Oyo state.
“Nigeria has a lot of leverage on this matter because Benin is actually dependent on Nigeria and Nigeria’s concessions for its own survival and I don’t think Benin is ready to risk that kind of relationship that is very beneficial to its economy because of Igboho. So, as we speak, the whole situation is likely going to be that the government will pressure Benin to do its bidding but is it in the interest of national security to embark on such diplomatic voyage just to bring back one Sunday Igboho and leave the problem that threw up Igboho unattended to?
“The government would have used its own hands to purposely walk us into a major crisis if it goes ahead to get Igboho repatriated and detained. It might trigger a tribal warfare that might spill out of control because the south west is already volatile,” he warned.
He said further that to leave the issue at the root of the Igboho saga which is the unabated, the uncontrolled killing spree by killer herdsmen to now go after the symptom of this problem by trying to bring Igboho forcefully into the country and to get him to face the wrath of the law, suggests that the federal government might be acting on behalf of the killer herdsmen.
Majeed wondered why the bandits that have graduated from abducting unarmed citizens to attacking police stations and killing police officers and soldiers to now bringing down a jet fighter of the Nigerian Airforce should not be the priority of government rather it is Igboho, who has not killed a single soul.
He advised the government to nurture peace, unity, social justice, fairness and equity and make move towards national reconciliation and healing and not opening wounds by going after Igboho in foreign land.
A former Nigeria’s Acting Ambassador To Singapore, Ogbole Amedu Odey told LEADERSHIP in an interview that from the government perspective it might be necessary for Nigeria to leverage on its relationship with Benin to bring back Igboho to face charges if they are criminal in nature.
He said however, that Nigerian might run into difficulties if Igboho is adjudged to be persecuted for political reasons as Nigeria has entered into several international conventions on the protection of people persecuted politically.
“If it is for political reasons, then going to by the conventions that we have entered into willfully, the federal government intentions might run into some stormy weather because if he is adjudged to be running away from political persecution then he is covered by such international conventions that we have entered into about human rights of people running away from religious or and cultural persecution,” he said.
Odey also advised the government to look beyond Igboho and tackle the far more serious threat of Boko Haram terrorists and bandits.
“Boko haram is there challenging the very existence of the Nigerian state , it wants to overthrow the Nigerian state and replace it with a fundamental Islamic state based on the sharia and the struggle with Boko Haram is over a decade now and we have not brought it to any meaningful conclusion.
“Now, see the issue of bandits that have gone beyond kidnapping and killing, to shooting down an Airforce plane and they are still being called bandits and we have clerics that have gone to their hideout to discuss with them.”
He said the government must also show more determination to arrest the bandits and terrorists operating within Nigeria’s borders the way separatists are being arrested across its borders.