The political option for Igboho, Kanu
The reported willingness of the Federal Government to consider options other than the court to resolve the matter between the authorities on the one hand, and Chief Sunday Adeyemo Igboho and Mazi Nnamdi Kanu on the other, is worthy of being explored. An introspect of the saga of the duo point tenaciously to citizens frustrated with failure of government to redress deep injustice embedded in the society, and consequent resolve on their part to seek alternative government. Within this context, the message of Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), when he spoke with journalists recently, can be appreciated. He said: “Generally speaking, as far as governance and administration is concerned you cannot rule out all possibilities,’ hinting that if an ‘approach’ is made to the government with ‘authenticity’ and ‘good intention associated with it,’ the administration would ‘bring out considerable factors relating to negotiation or otherwise’. This is wise counsel seemingly guiding decision in government circle. The two persons in issue are agitating essentially for a better way to govern Nigeria than obtains at present. And it is gratifying that, as reported in the media, Igboho’s lawyer, Yomi Aliyu (SAN), has expressed his client’s readiness for dialogue ostensibly toward a political solution. Similarly, Alloy Ejimakor, lawyer to Kanu noted that his client has always been agreeable to a political solution explaining that ‘in early September 2017, Nnamdi Kanu was in dialogue with the South-East governors with the tacit blessings of the Federal Government.
The subject matter was a political solution to the (IPOD) agitation.’’
Fundamentally, both Igboho and Kanu embody their people’s resentment and struggle against the bad governance that has been inflicted upon their country by successive governments. The agitation to be out of Nigeria is only the inevitable extreme demand of a people pushed to the extreme of their tolerance. No one would reasonably want to jump out of a big, justly and well governed stable polity with a well-managed and flourishing economy. But, on the other hand, only persons with a slave mentality will be content to merely eke out a living under slave-like conditions in a corrupt and comprehensively dysfunctional state. This is the sensible reading to the agitation by Igboho and Kanu.
The citizen’s entitlement to basic freedoms, equitable treatment and ‘a feeling of belonging,’ to security and welfare, to political, social, economic and other fundamental rights are clearly spelt out in the Constitution that is the guiding document to governance in Nigeria. Indeed, these are covered by the magisterially magniloquent title ‘‘Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.’’ It is hard to recall when government in Nigeria, including the Buhari government, has lived up to its constitutional purpose in the specific respects. The tragic consequence of government failure to live up to its constitutional responsibilities is the emergence of the Igbohos, the Kanus and before them the Niger Delta militia and even the Boko Haram insurgents. Lately, terrorists operating as kidnappers, rapists, cattle rustlers and more, have been emboldened by the inaction of a weak state leadership.
Clearly, the glaring incapability of Nigeria’s leadership to save the country from the downward spiral is driving many sections of the country to ‘‘take their destiny in their hands’’: some to resort to self-help in forms of civilian security formations and vigilante groups, some to visit immediate jungle justice upon suspected criminals. As the sitting government fails in its ‘primary purpose’ to the people as stated in Section 14(2)(b) the State that it governs fails, as a direct consequence, to fulfill the political, social, economic and other objectives for the citizens.
Additionally, the right of Igboho and Kanu to demand self-determination is granted by international law to which Nigeria subscribes. If the authorities disagree, the ideal thing is to meet them at the discussion table. That is where all disagreements and conflicts end up being resolved. A former president of Nigeria brought patience and wisdom to bear on the problem of the Niger Delta.
Another reason is that a government purporting to serve the highest good of the greatest number of the people cannot afford to kill a fly with a sledge hammer in order ostensibly to prove its power. No. Government exists to douse tensions where they exist, encourage discussion to resolve conflicts and pursue at all times, measures that strengthen stability and peace, as well as further development and progress in its area of jurisdiction. Under the law as stated in the extant constitution, these objectives constitute together, ‘‘the primary purpose of government.’’ With this overarching end in mind, the Federal Government should explore the political option through the back channel. It is a method of conflict resolution employed by states big and small. Secondly, the APC manifesto promised to ‘‘establish a Conflict Resolution Commission to help prevent, mitigate and resolve conflict within the polity.’’ Now is the time, more than ever before, the commission should be birthed, do its work and be seen to so do.
Furthermore, if the Muhammadu Buhari government is disposed to grant ‘amnesty’ to common criminals who kidnapped, murdered, raped, maimed and robbed innocent citizen and even ‘rehabilitate’ them with all sorts of material incentive, there is absolutely no reason that this government should not open discussion with persons whose alleged offences are political in nature. All political conflicts are resolved politically if the problems are not to linger. Ejimakor had noted correctly, that the Federal Government should first discontinue the detention of Igboho, Kanu and their associates. “It is unnatural to (seek to) negotiate with a man in chains.’’ In truth, only a free man can negotiate freely.
All said, the point cannot be too strongly made that only good governance nurtured by true federalism can douse the rising tension in the land and save Nigeria from a clear and present danger. The task lies squarely upon the government of the day.