Nnamdi Kanu and other matters
The Federal Government of Nigeria has requested the Federal High Court, Abuja, presided over by Justice Binta Nyako to revoke the bail granted to the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu because he has violated the conditions for which he was admitted to bail. Notwithstanding the validity of this claim, that is not the way to go. The Federal Government should drop the idea and seek a political solution to what may be termed ‘the Kanu –IPOB matter.’ The simple reason is that, there are too many crisis points in the country. Rather than ‘war-war’ and later to ‘jaw-jaw’, it is only sensible to pursue the option that reduces tension, assuage anger, and encourage mature and objective discussion of grievances in order to achieve a more just and equitable polity.
It may be admitted that, to adhere strictly to the law of the land, the offence of conspiracy to commit an act of treason and other related offences for which he is on trial is indeed grave and it is not one for which bail is normally granted. Kanu, also, has indeed broken the terms upon which he was released on the strength of his failing health because, in the words of the presiding judge, ‘it is only the living that can stand trial.’ Indeed, the court refused bail to three others standing trial with Kanu. He was released to receive treatment subject to 12 conditions that include submitting to the court monthly, reports on the progress of his health and treatment, not granting interviews or being present in a group of more than 10 persons.
Besides, Kanu was to provide three sureties in the sum of N100 million each, one of them being a senior, highly placed person of Igbo extraction such as a senator. One must be – and this is most strange in a sovereign nation – a highly respected Jewish leader since Mr. Kanu claims his religion is Judaism, and one must be a highly respected person who owns landed property and is resident in Abuja. The state, as represented by the Federal Government now avers, and truly too, in its application to the court that ‘rather than observing all of the conditions (of his bail), Kanu, in flagrant disobedience to the court order, flouted all the conditions of the bail.’
The first and most important point to make about the Kanu matter is that his agitation for segregation is a symptom of a much larger discontent in this polity. It is a component of a widespread and comprehensive dissatisfaction with the structure, the composition, and the working of Nigeria’s political, economic and other systems. Against the background of Nigeria’s history, and the experience of the people he claims to fight for, no right-thinking person really believes that Kanu’s extreme separatist demand is realisable or even desirable. But, of course, the art of negotiation tends to begin with all contending parties starting with the utmost demand possible, regardless of how untenable or how ridiculous. Kanu is not therefore foolish in this respect. Like a man possessed beyond reason of the validity of his demand, he has challenged constituted authority to test its popularity through a referendum even as it is clear that not a few among the group he purports to represent disagree with either his position or his tactic, or both.
The appropriateness of the way Nnamdi Kanu has pursued his goal is a matter of opinion, but its socially disruptive impact cannot be denied. It has triggered reactions that are unhelpful to peace, stability and unity of Nigeria.
It is noteworthy, however, that the claim of marginalisation, inequitable generation and distribution of national resources, and other forms of disaffection with Nigeria as presently constituted, is not at all unique to Kanu and his group. Most geopolitical zones at present exhibit, in varying degrees of severity, certain dissatisfaction with what may be termed ‘the Nigerian system.’ Taken altogether, these constitute an absolutely unwholesome ‘Nigerian condition’ that, should worry every patriot, apart from the government which constitutionally is obligated to keep the country secure and livable for its citizens.
The legal aspect of the Kanu nuisance, his violation of bail conditions, may not be in doubt, but like other loci of disaffection in the polity, it is essentially a political issue that must be handled with political tact. At other times, government has indeed sought political solutions to incidents that were either even more socially disruptive or were threatening to national stability. During the presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the declaration of Sharia law by some states was handled by federal authorities with the appropriate level of maturity that kept this country together. The incumbent government of Muhammadu Buhari has –wisely- secured the release of some of the Chibok girls through negotiation, and it has stated its readiness to talk with a demonstrably wicked Boko Haram leadership. Only on the condition that such a leadership is the authentic one.
A second point to make is that the seething and spreading discontent at different levels, segments and territories of this federal republic can be ascribed to a country not collectively and freely agreed to by its federating units. There is little – if any at all – meeting of minds among the leadership. There are hardly shared values among the component nations of Nigeria; there are hardly any core values that may be identified as irreducible minimum national values.
If a Nigerian nation is work in progress, as some would optimistically claim, it stands to reason that, judging by the problems that beset the country more than a hundred years after it was cobbled together, and six decades into self-governance, this most desirable goal remains, still, too far in the horizon to see.
For Kanu to attain this current level of threatening prominence, however, speaks for an abject failure of elders and leaders to guide him, manage him, and rein him in. No. But it is not too late for these elders and leaders to work with the Federal Government and every well-meaning segment of the country, to pursue a political solution to not only the Kanu demand, but indeed the grievances of other peoples in this multi-ethnic country.
Truth be told, this federation is not working because its managers are not true to the spirit and the letters of it. So, all discussions for a peaceful, stable, and developed and progressive Nigeria must begin and end with all federating units agreeing freely on the terms and conditions of the federation. This is the fundamental political solution that Nigeria’s leaders must implement at this trying time. And it is the only way to end the Kanu matter or other such matters.