By Njoku Chima Emmanuel
The continuous absence of President Muhammadu Buhari due to his medical follow up in London has continued to raise dust in several quarters. People have complained that things are no more moving in the right direction. Many stories have made headlines which, under normal circumstances, would not have been given a major headline spot. Other events, however, have taken twists and turns and are currently getting out of hand.
Some individuals have started calling for the resignation of the president. The president’s continuous absence is capable of destabilising the country.
Nigerians have continuously been told that the President is sick. However, one question that has kept bugging us is ‘what is the president suffering from?’ This has been kept a secret and Nigerians are perpetually in the dark. Countless trips have been made to Abuja House in London but the report keeps being the same: he is recuperating fast.
Even governors have decided to keep mute after their visits to Buhari in London. Of course, President Buhari is very much alive, and we know that he is very sick. Being sick is not a crime, the crime is the unusual secrecy around the sickness. Buhari has an anti-corruption stance. But corruption is not only looting public treasury. Stealing valuable time, opportunity and misrepresentation of the masses is also corruption.
It should be recalled that two days after the late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua was flown to Saudi Arabia for urgent medical attention on November 23, 2009, his ailment was made known to the nation. In Buhari’s case, however, after his first medical leave on January 9 and his current medical follow up, Nigerians are still ignorant of his ailment.
From the time the president left the shores of the country, different events have been going on. The issue of ethnic agitations and quit notice have continued to create tension and the eyes of many Nigerians are fixed on the deadline. The October 1 deadline given to the Igbo people by Arewa Youth Consultative Forum on June 6, 2017, to vacate the northern part of the country has elicited various reactions from many quarters.
It should be noted that this quit notice spurred from many things among which is the successful sit-at-home order given by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on May 30, 2017 to mark 50 years of Biafra agitation since the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War that lasted from 1967 to 1970.
Calls for referendum have increased and more recently, the Niger Delta Avengers have added to the list by calling for the return of oil blocs in the possession of Northerners. The clamour for restructuring has reached new heights. The agitation for the sovereignty of Biafra added more flesh recently after a Federal High Court sitting in Owerri ruled in its favour.
Not too long ago, the Bilie Human Rights Initiative (BHRI), in its quest to achieve the restoration of the independence of Biafra through judicial processes, recorded a plus for itself as the Federal High Court sitting in Owerri struck out the preliminary objections of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The Federal Government of Nigeria had in 2013 protested the suit filed by BHRI on behalf of the Supreme Council of Elders of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Sweeping pronouncements have been made by IPOB, perhaps, due to the support it gets from people across the globe and the obedience of the people during the sit-at-home-orders. One of such pronouncements made recently by the group is that the gubernatorial elections in Anambra State scheduled for November 2017 should be boycotted.
This was met with support from Niger Delta militants who cited perennial injustice on Southerners as reason for their support. Also, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) declared “no restructuring, no Nigeria” as a result of the rejection of devolution of power by the National Assembly. It threatened to resume attacks on oil pipelines if its demands are not met. It also went ahead to give the government November 1, 2017 as ultimatum to meet its demands.
Lately, Biafra agitation added another feather to its cap with a tour of South- Eastern states embarked upon by the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu. These tours paralysed vehicular and human movement in the states he toured.
In Ebonyi state, more than 100,000 supporters of IPOB gathered at the border town between Ebonyi and Enugu, before he was led into the state where more than 20,000 more joined him. There was a massive turn out of supporters wherever he went.
The cries for the restructuring of Nigeria have gained momentum. Calls have come from different sections of the country to implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. Prominent Nigerians have joined the campaign for a restructured Nigeria. Nigeria’s problems are many.
We have the continuous absence of the president, persistence in the agitation for Biafra, the quit notice by Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, call for restructuring, the Yoruba Assembly’s opinion that there should be a referendum on self-determination, and the Niger Delta Avengers’ call for oil blocks. We also have the recently admitted headaches on the list, among which are the Yoruba Liberation Command (YOLICOMM)’s declaration of Oduduwa Republic and hoisting of the Oduduwa flag on July 27, 2017, the November 1 ultimatum by PANDEF, and the rejection of devolution of power by the National Assembly on the ongoing constitution amendment.
All these leave the nation in a chasm of confusion. The word ‘restructuring’ has replaced ‘change’ as the most popular word in the streets. Secession and ultimatums are now the anthems we sing. Nigeria now has two ultimatums to worry about.
While I am concerned about the president’s health, I am also convinced that his continued absence from the country will further damage an already bad situation.
Emmanuel writes from Department of Political Science/Mass Communication, Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (FUNAI), Ebonyi State.