Two Wrongs at a Time


Michael West

In an interview on Aljazeera recently, President Muhammadu Buhari did not hide his rage, and outright abhorrence for anything that has to do with the agitation for the Independent People of Biafra, IPOB, and its chief mover, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. Like he betrayed his emotion on national television during his presidential media chat in January 2016, the only one so far, Buhari’s countenance did not reflect that of a true pan-Nigerian leader who was intent on keeping the nation together, rather, it portrayed more of a potentate who detested anyone that tended to dare him. There is a clear difference between the action of a nationalist and that of a maximum ruler in the garb of a democrat; and it is best known by the naked show of power using the ‘protection of our sovereignty as a nation’ as an alibi.

On the Presidential media chat, a national newspaper in its editorial took a swipe at Buhari for his reactions on Nnamdi Kanu and the refusal of the federal government to honour court rulings that granted him bail. The newspaper wrote: “We hasten to point out, however, that the President is yet to come to terms with the change in his standing. He is still struggling with realising that he is no longer General Muhammadu Buhari who could freely express a personal opinion on any issue. As President, in which capacity he was being interviewed, he was expected to be more circumspect in considering and volunteering information. On the arrest, detention, arraignment and trial of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu for treasonable felony, for example, the President could hardly contain his annoyance. He referred to the campaigner for resuscitation of Biafra as “that one you call Kanu”. He did not deny having a preference for continued detention of the man, despite a bail order by the court, thus giving the impression that he has no respect for the judiciary and its decisions.

“President Buhari should note that no arm of government is necessarily superior to the other. Under the Rule of Law that should prevail in a democracy, supremacy of the executive is a strange doctrine. No man or institution of state has the right to be complainant and judge in its own case.” That comment by The Nation in its January 7, 2016 editorial basically gave a forensic prognosis to the harsh response from Buhari’s administration to Biafra agitation and its proponents as duly expressed in the deployment of soldiers to lay siege on Abia State.

Two wrongs can never make a right, people do say but President Buhari, being an erstwhile military dictator does not share that opinion. I think it is more of a military trait than his civil person. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo wiped out Odi town in a similar show of power during his tenure of office. It is in their character to ignore court orders and detest any person or group or institution that dares to challenge their authority. They have zero tolerance for democratic nuances. They are frenetic and short-tempered when ‘bloody civilians’ go to court to challenge their authority. It is provocative, annoying, and insulting to them!

Buhari’s detestable disposition towards ‘rebellious’ agitation against wise and strategic counsel to ignore Kanu’s ranting and effect his release as pronounced by the courts ostensibly catapulted the nonentity to a ‘superstar’ ethnic interests campaigner. For Kanu’s prolonged bail denial, agitation for Biafra became an issue presented to the global community as ‘Biafrans’ in Diaspora internationalised the campaign with processions on the streets of many Western nations’ capital cities as well as embassies. If Buhari had allowed political solution to prevail, we won’t be where we are now.

There had been a flurry of disapproval and criticisms of the Python Dance operation in Abia State, Umuahia in particular ostensibly because of Nnamdi Kanu. It is a show meant to intimidate as well as instill fear into the agitators and their leader, Kanu. The entire Eastern region was under military siege for three weeks running. The President is still unyielding, rebuffing suggestions that he dialogue with Biafra agitators. The anchor of the Aljazeera interview asked Buhari to invite them for dialogue, he blurted: “Why should we invite them?” Further explanation by the anchor couldn’t make sense enough to our President to shift ground. Obasanjo also joined the league of those asking the President to invite the Nnamdi Kanu-led agitators for dialogue as military ‘jackboot’ approach won’t solve the problem. According to Obasanjo, it isn’t that the military option won’t just work; it also will aggravate an already tensed situation. Senate Deputy President, Ike Ekweremadu, in his letter to the President, reminded him that rebuffing pleas for Kanu’s release while he was in detention had shot the guy to the limelight. He still persuaded our President to be calm and toe the line of reason by dialoguing with the agitators in the company of eminent Igbo leaders, including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo.

Social media platforms are smoking with divergent views, pro and con analyses, as well as hateful and baleful expressions by intemperate commentators, many of who are hauling insults at one another. Both real and ‘adopted’ videos of purported arrest, torture and killing of the ‘Biafrans’ are in wide circulation. All these further heightened the tension in the country, especially in the South Eastern region. Fear of a possible outbreak of civil unrest pervaded the air. Thank goodness for frantic efforts of Igbo leaders, Governors, politicians, and well-meaning Nigerians across the country and beyond who intervened to stem the tide from snowballing into another bloody civil upheaval.

In my opinion, President Buhari laid the foundation for this needless crisis. His abrasive attitude to the feelings and opinions of other sections of the country as demonstrated by his lop-sided appointments further fueled the IPOB agitation. Nigeria has always had issues with imbalance on many fronts, which has now placed the restructuring card on the table as a prelude to attaining a true federal system of government. This agitation was stridently enunciated by the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Bashorun M. K. O. Abiola. To be candid, Nigeria has never been this divided; and official response to these legitimate demands has left much to be desired. Rather than respond to the issues by employing diplomatic and political solution, this government prefers to roll out barrels of lies and propaganda as well as employ the use of security forces to intimidate and coerce agitators.

In all the key security appointments, despite giving 95 per cent to the North, none went to the South East. A couple of few weeks ago, another round of restructuring took place at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC; as usual, the North has 10 out of 15 positions but none went to the South East. In the appointment of heads of educational bodies, I doubt if the South East has any slot. This is in addition to the inherited imbalance of the region having only five states while others have six states each. Like I noted earlier, other regions, including the North Central, have genuine issues against the system that requires immediate attention, most of which restructuring the polity will peacefully address.

Let our President be man enough to adjust his apparent ethnic jingoistic, religious preferential and nepotistic tendencies through equitable and fair treatment of all composite regional blocs of this country; things will naturally fall in place and tension will ease off immediately.

The second wrong, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is a colossal failure! He mobilised to a point he could fully attain a good bargain for the Igbo Nation but inadvertently blew up the chance. From all available facts, he was recalcitrant to wise counsel. He rebuffed every contribution and chose to be Solomonic in wisdom. It’s a mission impossible to single-handedly lead unarmed agitation to taunt the security might of a sovereign nation like Nigeria. Kanu was carried away with hero worship and self-adulation. Simply because he had the sympathy of the human rights campaigners, some legal opinion leaders and a section of the political class over his continued detention since he was granted bail by the court, Kanu got swollen-headed, arrogant and equated himself with, even greater than, Odumegu Ojukwu. His utterances were so immature, daring, militant, and uncouth. Too bad that he lost the game!
*Michael West is a public affairs analyst