I am not a member of the proscribed separatist group, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) nor do I subscribe to the emotions and logics of some IPOB members as they continue their peaceful agitation for self-determination through referendum. Particularly, I am averse to the summary repudiation of respectable elites and professionals even within the envisaged republic whose support or pieces of advice would have ordinarily served as enhancement fillips in the course of the arduous journey which self-determination in Nigeria, nay Africa, has become.
I do not also belong to the Nigerian elite cabal represented by the political class which has allegedly been pulling the strings of both the Nigerian judiciary and the Nigerian security system against what has been the most peaceful and non-violent agitation. However, the story of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s continued incarceration is the story of injustice, inequality and executive recklessness in Nigeria; and it calls to question the mantras of rule of law and national unity in Nigeria as well as the commitment and loyalty of the Nigerian leadership, including President Bola Tinubu’s administration, to the Nigerian constitution.
IPOB was formed in July 2012 as a separatist group with the sole agenda of restoring the defunct Republic of Biafra. IPOB premised her agitation on the refusal of the post-civil war Nigerian administration’s to integrate the indigenous peoples of Biafra into Nigeria decades after the civil war. It is the relegation of the indigenous peoples of Biafra to the status of second-class citizens in career progression, postings, enlistments into security agencies and other choice opportunities and siting of developmental projects that triggered the agitation.
It suffices to say that since the end of the civil war, several administrations have violated the federal character provisions of the Nigerian constitution against the indigenous peoples of the defunct Republic of Biafra. That the oil which Nigerian economy significantly thrives upon is mainly sourced from areas within the defunct Biafra has not mattered to post war successive administrations in the country. Among all the post-civil war administrations in Nigeria, the Muhammadu Buhari administration was the most tribalistic. During Buhari’s government, virtually all choice and sensitive positions were occupied by the Fulani. Corruption, impunity and violence were high and rife among them as they were treated as sacred cows.
While the roads and other infrastructures in the Southern parts of the country were ignored until they totally collapsed, the infrastructure of states of Northern Nigeria as well as those of countries like Niger Republic which have boundaries with Northern Nigeria received prompt and priority attention from the Buhari administration. The infiltration of violent Fulani herders from other countries and their open and unrestrained siege on local farmers and indigenous people of Nigeria while the Fulani dominated security apparatchik looked elsewhere was most disturbing.
The gloats of the Miyetti Allah which followed every violent attack of the Fulani herders on indigenous Nigerians during the Buhari administration were disheartening. These aberrations of the anomalous Buhari administration led to proliferation of separatist groups in Nigeria. The Yoruba nation agitators led by Sunday Igboho as well as many others sprang up. For inexplicable reasons, the Buhari administration designed maximum aggressive response protocols for the non-violent IPOB.
These responses ranged from full kinetic actions through arrest and detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and other IPOB leaders to arrest of people like veteran actor Chiwetalu Agu, who had the rising sun printed on their clothes. While those things happened, another group of non- state actors alleged to be foreigners swooped on the south- east, unleashing assassinations, kidnapping, arson etc. on the people while security operatives and IPOB traded blames. Buhari refused to obey court rulings ordering the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu whom PMB accused of treasonable felony.
This was the same PMB whose administration openly dined with known bandits and felons in Katsina, Zamfara and elsewhere! When Kanu was admitted to bail, a band of security operatives allegedly attacked him in his Umuahia home. He escaped into exile where he continued his advocacy for Biafra till July 11, 2021 when he was arrested and brought back. Since then, Kanu has been in prison because the Buhari administration ignored several court rulings order- ing his freedom as well as entreaties of well-meaning groups and elders urging compliance with such orders.
When Tinubu assumed office, hopes were high that being a civilian and former chieftain of the pro-democracy pressure group, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the new president would order the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. However, to the shock of many, President Tinubu has so far failed to release Mazi Kanu. Entreaties for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu have been made from all corners of the globe to President Tinubu who, like PMB, has been transferring choice positions to his Yoruba kinsmen. Mazi Kanu’s continued detention in spite of court orders has made many Nigerians to query President Tinubu’s commitment to the constitution which he swore to protect.
Tinubu is hereby called upon to listen to the voices of people and douse security tension in the South- east by releasing Nnamdi Kanu as consistently ordered by the courts. Nigeria’s unity, even though a product of fiat, can no longer be sustained by fiat. Constitutionalism will suffice!