Taking the Wind Out of IPOB’S Sails

RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale, yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 08054699539 (text only)

Ring true BY Yemi Adebowale yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com  Phone 08054699539

A verboten non-state actor decreed a stay at home in the South-east to mark 54th anniversary of Biafra and it was a success. That was what the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) achieved last Monday. The entire South-east was grounded. Genuine stakeholders in the Nigerian project should be worried about this. Is it that virtually everybody in the South-east supports IPOB’s secession agenda? I doubt this. I don’t think the average Igbo man wants a break up of Nigeria. For me, they simply want respect, justice, equity and all that they are legally entitled to in the Nigerian federation. So, were they cowed to sit at home last Monday by IPOB militants? I also doubt this. The average Igbo man only found a rallying point in IPOB to express dissatisfaction with the manner they are currently being treated by the Nigerian state, largely exacerbated by the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government.

Clearly, the spirit of Biafra in the average Igbo man is different from the IPOB extremism. Ongoing killings and arson in the South-east, perpetrated by IPOB terrorists, is not a reflection of what the average Igbo man stands for.Killing citizens, policemen and soldiers; burning INEC offices, prisons and public infrastructure are clearly not in tandem with the spirit of Biafra. Former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, was apt when she pointed out that “it is wrong and dangerous to confuse the South-east with IPOB as they are not the same.”

The people of South-east are furious, and defensibly so, because of the coldblooded maginalisation of the region by the Buhari government in terms of appointments and development. Another factor responsible for the anger in this region against the Nigerian state is the unrestrained killings by criminal herders in many Igbo communities. Of course, there are the age-long flaws in the Nigerian Constitution inhibiting true federalism and the urge for a radical change. The need to have unabridged federalism in full force with resource control are central here. So, the necessity to uproot the injustices rooted in the rudiments of the union of Nigeria becomes pertinent.

For me, the challenges in the South-east are very easy to solve. We should always remember that there was very little tension and agitations until Buhari emerged President in 2015. He came with a horrible agenda and openly stated that he won’t treat those who gave him 5 per cent equally with those that gave him 95 per cent. I am not sorry to say that Buhari must be held responsible for the tension, agitations and killings in the South-east.
What is the way forward? In the short run, running an inclusive federal government and ensuring that the sensibilities of all Nigerians are respected and reflected in federal appointments, will reduce the tension in the South-east. The carnage being perpetrated by criminal herders in this region and beyond must also be halted. These will also take the wind out of IPOB’s sails. This is what Buhari must swiftly do. Unfortunately, he is indifferent.

President Buhari is the only one unaware that Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-religion and multi-cultural country and that everybody must be given a sense of belonging with appointments to head federal departments and agencies. Skewed appointments have created a loss of a sense of belonging in many parts of the country, hence the constant cries of marginalisation, agitation for secession and calls for restructuring. How do you explain a situation whereby virtually all heads of military and paramilitary agencies are from a section of this country? Why should most of the key federal government departments and agencies be headed by people from a section of this country? I am talking about big agencies like Customs, NPA, Pencom, NNPC, DPR, FIRS, NCC, NBC, TETFund, SEC, CAC, UBEC, NIMASA, NPHCDA, FAAN, NDIC, AMCON and NUC.

Not even one of Nigeria’s military and paramilitary agencies is headed by a South-east indigene and states in this zone are supposed to be federating units of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is incomprehensible. It is unjust and unfair to sideline any federating unit of Nigeria in the security architecture of the country. Injustice promotes insecurity. No part of Nigeria should be an observer in the affairs of this country.
It is bad enough that the heads of virtually all military and paramilitary agencies are from the core north. It is even worse that they are all Muslims. In a country where religion remains an issue, concentrating the security apparatus in the hands of one tribe and one religion is a betrayal of the trust of other tribes and an affront on the Nigerian Constitution.

President Buhari fully understands the importance of Chapter 2, Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), and has chosen to persistently mock it. As a reminder, this section states that “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”

In the medium term, the Nigerian Constitution must be amended to allow unabridged federalism. IPOB will fizzle if this is attained. The main goal of federalism is to create a balance of power, so that neither the federal government nor the federating units can get too commanding. Many Americans did not like the thought that people far away from them could make rules about their lives. That was what they sorted out with unabridged federalism. As a result, you won’t find any part of the United States agitating for secession. Nigeria also has to get this well worked out because this country’s current Constitution has failed to create a balance of power between the federal government and the states.

As a consequence, the federal government has become too powerful and chokes the federating units. What we have in our 1999 Constitution is pseudo-federalism. The states are not even constitutionally allowed to establish police force despite the ineptitude of the centrally-controlled one. A lot of items on the Exclusive Legislative List of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution are absolutely unnecessary and have turned the federal government into a monster snake, piercing the federating units. It is natural for people to resist a government that is far away controlling local issues, as being seen in Nigeria today.Nigeria needs to amend its Constitution to allow full implementation of Federalism. So, let’s put pressure on our lawmakers to do the needful.

I am for a restructured one united Nigeria, where there is justice, equity and swimming in unabridged federalism. Secession has never been the solution to issues of corruption, marginalisation, poverty, insecurity, conflicts and bad government anywhere in this world. We are better together as one in a restructured country. The United States is a model in this regard. We are better together as one for the sake of our families living in different parts of the country. We are better together as one for the sake of our businesses that have become intertwined. The whole Nigeria is home to many of us. Let’s fight for all our homes in a restructured Nigeria to ensure our lives have dignity and worth wherever we live. Those advocating a breakup of Nigeria are only selling dreams that will disappear in a jiffy in different regions if actualised. We don’t have to rip Nigeria apart to get the change we want. Let’s avoid drawing new lines on the beautiful map of Nigeria. We are a family of nations in one country. Buhari’s incongruity won’t last forever. It will be history in less than two years. Let’s not lose faith in Nigeria.

We are better together as one in a restructured country. We are better together as one for the sake of our families living in different parts of the country. The whole Nigeria is home to many of us. Those advocating a breakup of Nigeria are only selling dreams that will disappear in a jiffy in different regions if actualised. We don’t have to rip Nigeria apart to get the change we want. Let’s avoid drawing new lines on the beautiful map of Nigeria. We are a family of nations in one country. Buhari’s incongruity won’t last forever. It will be history in less than two years. Let’s not lose faith in Nigeria

The Spirit of Bishop Kukah
I often wonder how those running governments at all levels in beloved Nigeria manage to sleep amid killings, kidnappings and arson in this country. If they really care about traumatised Nigerians, these leaders will spend sleepless nights working to end this raging madness called insecurity. We evidently have too many coldblooded people in government. The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, concurs, saying the level of insecurity in the country shows that Nigerian leaders have no blood in their hearts.

The clergyman dwelt extensively on these cruel leaders in his recent homily at the burial of Reverend Father Alphosus Yasshim Bello at Our Lady of Apostles Catholic Church, Kaduna. Father Bello was kidnapped and murdered by bandits in Katsina State on May 21.

My take away from Bishop Kukah’s latest homily are: “There is nowhere in the whole world with the barbarity and killings manifested in Nigeria of today. There is nowhere citizens can be slaughtered in the whole world without the government showing empathy and concern. The continuous barbaric slaughter and murder of our people suggest that our beautiful Presidential Villa, National Assembly and government houses are not evidence of civilization.
“How did Nigeria come to this tragic situation? We know who they are, who they believed in and where their inspiration comes from. There is no ambiguity about those who are killing our people and why they are doing so and where their inspiration comes from. We hear and live with stories of complicity at the highest level.
“Is it possible that you have a country where people have sworn with Qur’an and Bible to uphold the principle of governance, that they will do everything within their power to protect and defend the integrity of Nigerians and suddenly we are where we are today? I think the President and governors of Nigeria should address Nigerians and say, ‘fellow Nigerians, I have sworn that I will not protect you from foreign invaders, kidnappers and being killed.”
Kukah’s points are valid. Regrettably, the government at the centre that controls all the security agencies is in tatters.

All the Lies about Price of Petrol
The rejection of the proposal to increase the price of petrol to between N385 and N400 per litre is just for June. Anything can happen next month. Nigerian governors want more money. As a result, they are pushing for full deregulation of the petroleum industry and removal of petrol subsidy. But the truth is that honest and full deregulation should not lead to petrol selling at a high of between N385 and N400 per litre as being proposed. The lucid example here should be that of diesel and kerosene. These two were fully deregulated years back and the prices have never risen beyond N270 per litre. Both the NNPC and private sector players import diesel and kerosene. As at yesterday, these two petroleum products were selling for N265 per litre in Lagos. This shows that with petrol, Nigerians have all along been paying for the corruption and inefficiency of the NNPC.
If petrol importation is fully deregulated and the private players get involved, the price, based on current market rate of crude, will definitely not be anything near N385 per litre. NNPC’s opaque crude-for-fuel swap, now known as Direct Sale, Direct Purchase (DSDP) is clearly skewed against hapless Nigerians. It is incapable of delivering a fair and competitive petrol price to Nigerians. It must be stopped.