It was my young daughter, who is in her first year in the university studying law, that called my attention to the very negative way and manner some Nigerian lawyers she used to hold in very high esteem are behaving these days. She showed me a news item wherein a lawyer to Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was asking the government of England’s to DIRECT Nigeria (emphasis mine) to release the man whose actions has led to the killings of hundreds of innocent compatriots, some of who are Igbo, for the reason that he holds a British passport as a citizen.
The young woman then asked: “Can a sovereign state like Nigeria be directed by another country to release someone in its custody, just because he is a citizen of that country? What of thousands of Nigerians holding Nigerian passports that are in jail in Britain? Can we direct England to simply release them to Nigeria, without facing trial for crimes they have committed there?”
We had not finished that topic when, all of a sudden, Sunday Adeyemo (better known as Sunday Igboho), a self-styled agitator for self-determination for the Yoruba, was arrested by the security officials of Benin Republic. She also showed me a publication in which one of the lawyers holding brief for Igboho asked the government of Benin to release the man he represents and allow him continue on his intended trip to Germany, for the ridiculous reason that Igboho has submitted a case against Nigeria in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
I did not realise when I exploded in anger when I saw the news item. When did lawyers in Nigeria start reducing themselves to the ridiculous level where one of them, a senior one at that, could make such very cheap, very unfortunate claims? So why won’t all criminals in Nigeria, or those charged for committing heinous crimes against the Nigerian state, engage lawyers and ask them to write petitions to the ICC and use that as immunity against prosecution? Should the Nigerian Bar Association allow this kind of crass ignorance of international law to continue in the name of law practice?
To their sympathizers, both Kanu and Igboho are not criminals, since all they are clamoring for is a separate nation for their people. But the question any sensible person should ask is whether Nigeria can be dismembered on the violent terms being enunciated by Kanu and Igboho. This country concluded a bitter civil war 51 years ago, and the end did not justify the means. The country reportedly lost about a million citizens, with homungos resources that have not yet been fullly quantified.
So, since the purpose of history is not just to tell us about our past but also to guide us as to our future, how do we allow one or two individuals to keep misleading us into thinking this country can be balkanized in the unfortunate way and manner they envisage? Even if we want to go our separate ways, as Igboho and Kanu desperately want, it cannot by their methods that encourage violence and defiance against law and order. We have lived together as a nation for over 100 years, with intermarriages and other deep, almost permanent, connections.
Curiously, the two guys agitating for dismemberment of this country have solid second addresses. Kanu holds British citizenship and has the resources to live permanently in peace and luxury there. Whereas Igboho is a Nigerian, he is said to be married to a German citizen, on the basis of which he also can run to that country and live in peace and luxury there. What of you and I whose emotions they stirred to hate and kill each other? Can we run even to Cotonou, as Igboho did? Just ask yourself that simple question.
And what of the average Igbo businessman who was born in Kano and has lived all his life there and has benefitted from a peaceful and prosperous atmosphere that has made him the owner of massive properties all over the place? Does Kanu or Igboho realise he stands to be a loser if this country is suddenly dismembered without due consideration for his situation? I know of countless Igbomen who have never stepped anywhere in the South East, and have been integrated as members of the northern society that they have been part and parcel of all their lives. Several have served (and are still serving) as members of the state executive council of those states, determining the fate of the natives and doing their very best for those societies.
Little wonder that foremost Yoruba leader Chief Gani Adams has been telling all those who care to listen that Igboho has been going about his campaign in a very wrong way, and that he must change his ways for the Yoruba, a sophisticated race, to derive any benefit from One Nigeria, or even a different country of their own.
The words ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom,’ or their aggregate meanings, have been enshrined in the constitution of any sovereign country. But what a lot of people have chosen to turn a blind eye to is the fact that freedom was never envisaged to be unfettered or unlimited. The law is there to serve as a limit to any form of freedom. And it is for that reason one cannot invoke freedom to deprive another of his or her legitimate means.
The way and manner some Nigerian lawyers deploy ‘freedom’ or ‘liberty’ to defend their clients with criminal tendencies in this country, very soon armed robbers and killers will start invoking the same things to defend themselves and justify their actions.
What many supporters of Igboho do not know is that, by the offense of forging travel documents or getting them through illegal means that their hero has committed, he stands to be jailed in Benin for 20 years. So, if truly justice that they claim he cannot get in Nigeria is what they want for the man, this is the justice he is going to get, if the government of Benin Republic does not release him to Nigeria. This is not my opinion. Let their lawyers find out.
I wonder how keeping Igboho in Benin Republic to answer for the high immigration crime he has committed there can be of any benefit to the man. Twenty years in jail is not a joke. By the time he is released, if his wish for Nigeria to be dismembered succeeds, it will take him time to establish which among the small countries that this country might be divided to is his. With the way we are sensitizing Nigerians about self-determination, I assure you that this country could end up splitting into over a hundred small, inconsequential nations.
Even Chief Edwin Clarke has openly said last week that it is a joke to expect the South-South to fall under Biafra. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, as well as Senator Diri of Bayelsa, and indeed many leaders have also made similar statements.
Which means the major ethnic groups angling to appropriate the smaller ones close to them are going to be in for a major surprise. Those small ethnic nationalities are not fools. They also will want self-determination and, if care is not taken, every clan in this country could end up having a country of its own.
As I wrote on these pages penultimate week, if the whole agitation is about Buhari or his style of governance, why can’t we unite and ensure the person succeeding him as the next president is someone who can hold this country together and ensure a just and egalitarian society for all of us its citizens? And if all of that no longer make any sense, and the determination is that we must part ways and go our different paths, why can’t we go about it peacefully?
BRASS TACKS joins millions of well-meaning Nigerians who are busy congratulating former Army Chief Ambassador General Tukur Yusufu Buratai for the excellent leadership he has shown that has led to the arrest of Sunday Igboho. Though he is from Borno State and most Boko Haram members are from the same State as him, Buratai is on record to have risked his life in singular efforts to rid Nigerian of terrorism and banditry. He is on record to have continued staying in the trenches with our gallant soldiers, fighting the nation’s enemies and subduing them to the level where they could no longer hold any part of the country’s territory, which they were freely doing before his appointment as Army Chief. This he did even when his beloved mother died while he was in the battlefield.
If anything, this feat achieved for Nigeria by Buratai has gone a long way to also vindicate President Buhari that he did not make a mistake when he appointed the former service chiefs as ambassadors, and posted all of them to our neighboring countries, as the best way for Nigeria to drive immense benefit from their invaluable experience in the security and intelligence sectors.
With this feat now, Nigeria can brace up to far more achievements in the diplomatic and national security fronts, and as for Sunday Igboho, whether he gets repatriated back to Nigeria or not, law and order are the winners here, as the man is going to face the consequences of his action whether in Cotonou or in Abuja. In fact, He stands to gain a better deal here, in his country of birth, where the next government forming in less than two years time can use it as a campaign chip, and perhaps get him released after a few years in prison. The same cannot be obtained in Benin Republic that is reputed to be harder than Nigeria in application of law and order. And that law and order is specific about twenty years being the minimum for the type of crime committed by Igboho. And you know what? However long it might take, Igboho must be retuned to Nigeria to face the double jeopardy of facing crimes committed here, which include gun-running, violence and terrorism. So it is in his best interest to have it all here in a shorter period.
In concluding this piece, one drives great pleasure in the reality that whereas we have rogue lawyers who are ready to do anything for money or in promotion of ethnic and narrow objectives, majority of lawyers in Nigeria are men and women of honour and integrity who will never encourage outlaws or breach of law and order. Of course we are all free to express our wishes regarding the future of this country. But we have the law as our limit, as lawlessness and might can never be allowed to be right.
Using the unfortunate activities of murderous Fulani herdsmen as an excuse to kill or attack innocent Fulanis or northerners living in the south and ejecting them forcefully from their homes cannot be allowed by any country worth the name. Some of these same Fulanis are the very ones that have turned themselves to bandits wrecking all kinds of havoc especially in the northwest.
While we find it convenient to open our mouths and make the illogical comment that government has not been doing anything to contain their nefarious activities, what happened last week where a Nigerian fighter pilot reportedly killed over a hundred of them on the border of Kaduna and Zamfara states before being shot down by the outlaws is an indication that serious action is being taken by government, and these enemies of state, whether operating in the southeast or the southwest or any other part of Nigeria are going to be defeated hands down. And this is going to be achieved quicker if we all cooperate with the government in terms of providing credible and actionable intelligence to our gallant troops busy sacrificing their today for our tomorrow.