The ongoing trial of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and Yoruba nation activist, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho, should be handled with great caution. To the Federal Government, Kanu and Adeyemo are seen as fugitives. To their numerous followers and supporters, they are heroes fighting for the liberation of their people. This is why their current trial has attracted national and international attention. Therefore, the government must avoid taking actions that could amount to perversion of justice.
Kanu was arrested abroad and brought to Nigeria on June 27, 2021 to continue facing trial after he disappeared while on bail. The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who announced Kanu’s rearrest and repatriation, did not give details on how or where he was intercepted. He simply said he was rearrested through the collaborative efforts of the Nigerian intelligence and security services. Various reports have, however, revealed that he was arrested in Kenya.
Last Monday, the trial of Kanu at the Federal High Court in Abuja resumed. What transpired there was unsavoury. The Court accredited only 10 media houses to cover the trial. Thus, security operatives prevented a good number of journalists and even lawyers from entering the courtroom. This is not right. Curiously, the Department of State Services (DSS) did not bring the IPOB leader to court, prompting the adjournment of the case to October 21. Among others, Kanu is charged with terrorism, treasonable felony and illegal possession of firearms.
Similarly, Igboho is on trial in Cotonou, Benin Republic. He was on his way to Germany when he was arrested in Cotonou. The DSS had earlier invaded his residence in Soka, Ibadan, and arrested 13 of his associates. Two people were said to have been killed in the raid.
Already, perceptions are rife that the government was mishandling the cases involving these two men. The apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, recently said the manner the Federal Government was handling the issues was akin to pursuing peace without justice. According to Ohanaeze, the cause of the agitations is the obvious injustice in federal public policies. It said the only way for peace to reign in a society was for justice to be seen to be served to all.
Besides, in a recent open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, former military governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar (retd.), lambasted the government for paying undue attention to separatist movements while neglecting the bigger threats posed by bandits, kidnappers and terrorists in the North West, North East and some parts of North Central. Referring to the abduction of over 1,000 schoolchildren in the past eight months and the routine rape of women and girls by criminals, Umar expressed regret that “the Buhari administration has so far exhibited poor skills in its management of our diversity.” We agree with Ohanaeze and Umar. The majority of Nigerians do not wish for the dismemberment of the country, but what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. Government cannot be celebrating the arrest of people who are asking for justice, equity and fairness and at the same time negotiating with bandits kidnapping students and other innocent citizens.
Moreover, there are criminal Fulani herdsmen who have terrorised and continued to terrorise innocent citizens. In Benue, Kaduna, Taraba and many other parts of Nigeria, they destroy people’s farms and invade communities that try to resist their heartless acts. With impunity, some of them move about with AK-47 rifles and have constituted themselves into terror gangs that also kidnap people for ransom. Why security agents have not moved against them leaves much to be desired.
Government has to be seen as government for all, not for a section of the country. There should not be two separate laws for the country. President Buhari said at his inauguration in 2015 that he belonged to nobody and to everybody. It is time to walk his talk. Let’s bear in mind that the Nigerian situation goes beyond Igboho and Kanu. We must learn from what the poor handling of Boko Haram in the early stages of its insurgency in 2009 cost the nation. Soon after the killing of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, the group transformed into the monster it has become today. Similarly, if anything happens to Igboho and Kanu, their followers will see them as martyrs. And this could worsen the situation.
It is imperative to note that Igboho and Kanu are products of the Nigerian bad system. Instead of harassing them, government should hold dialogue with them and the tendencies they represent, just as the Musa Yar’Adua’s government did with the Niger Delta militants at the peak of their agitation for resource control. This brought relative peace to that region.
To ensure enduring peace in Nigeria, there is need to convoke a national conference to resolve the national question. Many Nigerians had called for this conference, but the present government seems unwilling to organise it. Council of states has a role to play in all this. Nigeria’s past Heads of State and leaders should also intervene to douse the palpable tension. What the nation needs now to maintain unity and peace is equity, justice and fairness in the scheme of things. These can only come about by restructuring the country. Without it, the trial of Igboho and Kanu will be in vain.