By Emeka Alex Duru
The excitement in the presidency following the arrest of Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho in neighbouring Benin Republic, is palpable. And understandable! It is a major feat and calls for celebration, Aso Rock foot soldiers, enthuse.
In the estimation of the government, getting Sunday Igboho, is another measure of its grand success in tackling the security challenges that have assumed upscale proportions in the last couple of years. The first in the sting operations, was the re-arrest (or kidnap, as some argue) and repatriation of leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, some weeks back.
Kanu’s arrest, in particular, saw the President and his entire kitchen cabinet in wild ululation. While the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, made a mountain of how the IPOB leader was nabbed and parceled home, it was obvious that he was in high mood.
He gushed; “we saw the enhanced collaboration of Nigerian law enforcement agencies, as they executed with great synchronisation arrests of individuals who had inflicted pain and hardships on fellow citizens.
“The subversive leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, a group known for its murderous actions and virulent messaging, was detained as a result of cross-border cooperation.
“This international operation was executed in a closely coordinated fashion, following which he was handed over to our National Intelligence Agency, NIA, and then returned to Nigeria to face the Law”.
For effect, Shehu added, “By this singular action of our security forces, sanity, calm and peace has been restored to our communities which previously lived in constant fear of these misguided elements. The successes of our security agencies must be commended as they have demonstrated significant deftness, guile and secrecy in carrying out these missions”.
His elation was a follow-up to an earlier advertisement of euphoria by the Attorney General and minister of Justice, Ibrahim Malami on the matter.
That feeling of actualization is again in the air over Igboho. As in the arrest of Kanu, it is as if the country has won a major offensive against an enemy state. But that is sadly, the level we have reduced governance in Nigeria, by gloating over developments that ordinarily, should make our leaders bury their heads in shame, if they take time to reflect on who these captives being flaunted as major trophies were and how they metamorphosed to forces giving senior officials of the government sleepless nights.
Now, certain points need to be stressed in this dialogue. We are not in any way advocating dismemberment of the country, especially by violent means. You may also fault the intellectual endowments or strategies of Kanu and Igboho in seeking their demands but certainly not the content of their agenda. To heap the entirety of the security challenges in the country on them, is taking tomfoolery to its lowest level. As a matter of fact, their impact is even, negligible, ordinarily.
Certain frightening developments since the arrest of Kanu, mock the assertion by the presidency that by nabbing him, sanity, calm and peace has been restored to communities which previously lived in constant fear of his actions. The uncertain manifestations rather indicate that the hallucination in Abuja over Kanu, was largely misplaced. If anything, the security index either in the East and other parts of the country, remains disturbing. For instance, more than 100 Nigerians have been slaughtered in Kaduna, Zamfara and other trouble spots ever since. To underline the seriousness of the situation, a military jet was brought down few days ago by bandits in Zamfara with the Pilot making a narrow escape. As we write, Fulani herdsmen are still holding over 200 students captive in the forests and asking for 60 million as ransom, with the government offering no tangible answer. Boko Haram operatives continue to run riot in the North East, making light of our security agencies. Nigeria continues to share odious slots with Iraq and Afghanistan as the third most terrorized country in the world in four consecutive years. There is ethnic tension in many parts of the country. Kanu and Igboho are not responsible for these ugly tales.
The likes of Kanu and Igboho, should not have mattered but have been made heroes of sorts by the failure of leadership at all levels of the government. They simply exploit the climate of despondency in the land and galvanise the views of the traumatized Nigerians. As it is, in a popularity contest, few of the elected or appointed officials can come near them in reputation and acceptance by the people. It is that bad!
Rather than wasting resources going after them, the task before the government should be to find out why these rootless messiahs are gaining traction among the people. If such individuals that are easily dismissed as without pedigree and elevated content can easily arouse Nigerians of different classes, there is a lot in their messages about the hopelessness in the land. The people are completely disappointed with the system, truth be told. But perhaps, at no point has this feeling of alienation been more pronounced as in the current administration. The president, in fact, failed most. On coming to office, he had pledged to belong to all and to none in particular but has steadily shrunk to a Northern/Muslim/Fulani godfather in his policies and actions.
There are more problems in the land than going after Kanu, Igboho and their ilk. If anything, the government must exercise extreme care in handling them. Any mismanagement of their captivity resulting to death, may see them being held as martyrs by their followers who in turn, may begin to welcome death as convenient escape from the frustrations of the Nigerian society. Such a scary situation is better imagined. That has been the driving force behind the festering Boko Haram insurgency following the poor handling of Mohammed Yusuf, its facilitator by the police.
Government cannot continue pandering to the Fulani Muslim North and expect that the clamour for self-determination by the other excluded component units of the federation will easily be hushed out by the force of arms or prison walls. There is a limit to which it can push the propaganda of the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria’s unity without regards to justice and equity. It has got to the point where Nigeria must be negotiated.
As long as the government fails to take matters of governance seriously, the specter of insecurity and insurgency will continue to lurk around. In same vein, by excluding some parts of the country, it will continue to encourage the emergence of more Nnamdi Kanus and Sunday Igbohos. After all, it was the legendary American President, John F Kennedy, who in 1962, observed that; “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”.
*DURU is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos