Nigeria might not be experiencing the worst of natural disasters like the hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Katia and Jose but it appears a seeming human disaster tagged ‘Hurricane Nnamdi Kanu’ spinning in the South-east might tear the country apart in the face of President Buhari in no distant time.
In the latest season of the endless political drama tilted ‘Nigeria’, President Muhammadu Buhari and the leader of the Independent People of Biafra, IPOB – Mazi Nnamdi Kanu have taken dominant roles of the antagonist and the protagonist with their parts alternating depending on where you stand tribally.
The audience is being tortuously and distractingly entertained with a show of influence between both parties. Buhari is staging the cultural Operation Python Dance II right beside the compound of Nnamdi Kanu’s father’s house at Afaraukwu Ibeku – Umuahia in Abia State. The dance isn’t by beautiful ladies and energetic men in colourful native attires showing the flexibility of their body structures while people wine and dine as we are used to. It’s a dance by exasperated Nigerian soldiers who treat every national assignment with their discontentment with life and the depressive economic realities in the most populous black nation in the world. It’s a dance where the music is replaced with gunshots and horse whips; smiles replaced with hot tears and agony. I am talking about the dance of widespread fear, panic, flesh and blood. This is what happens where the python, a reptile that is known to swallow its preys dances for you.
Before now, Nnamdi Kanu, 50 traversed the polity as an emperor walking majestically among his teeming followers who found his feet attractive to kiss; an act that is reminiscent of the master-slave relationship in the medieval period. Gradually, he gathered momentum and courage to flout the bail conditions he signed to while Buhari struggled with his undisclosed illness in London, United Kingdom. His words against the Nigerian government carried fire, fury and stark hate thereby threatening the ‘theoretical unity’ the major tribes in Nigeria share.
Nnamdi Kanu enjoyed the open and unwavering support of some professional politicians from the main opposition party in Nigeria, Peoples Democratic Party namely a former minister of Aviation Femi Fani Kayode and the governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Peter Fayose. Other politicians in the Southeastern part of Nigeria on a clandestine note drummed support for the young man like he was divinely mandated to break the Igbo Nation out of the ‘Zoo’ which he regards Nigeria as. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo, an apex Igbo socio-cultural group stood solidly behind Nnamdi Kanu. A former Niger Delta militant, Asari Dokubo also suddenly fell in love with making videos to mock the President while the spokesman of IPOB, Emma Powerful released more press statements than a media house. The situation was tantamount to the perfect picture of the fate of your house in the hands of rats when you embark on a lengthy vacation.
As the pictures of Nnamdi Kanu’s soaring popularity littered social media platforms, the United Kingdom returnee launched the Biafra Secret Service and reportedly the Biafra National Guard which he called the vigilante groups. In fact, his inspection of the guard of honour at the inauguration of the BSS was spectacular and presidential.
There were social media arguments that Nnamdi Kanu could wield more influence than Buhari. Kanu even went as far as reiterating that he was ready to die for the Biafra cause and his followers could burn down Nigeria if anything happens to him. I remember vividly when he threatened former President Olusegun Obasanjo as well as his lineage with total annihilation over some comments of his which Kanu found unfavourable to his separatist cause.
In the absence of Buhari, a coalition of northern groups, Arewa Youths Consultative Forum appeared to embark on an offensive crisis de-escalation move in the inglorious Kaduna Declaration that called for the exit of the Igbo’s from the 19 northern states before the 1st of October, 2017 or face physical attacks. It took the intervention of Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State and other stakeholders to make the infamous group rescind the order which had birthed a hate and genocidal song against the Igbos in the north. This wouldn’t have only claimed lives but properties of the prosperous Igbos would have been reduced to rubble by the northerners who have a long history of restiveness and homicidal acts.
In the light of the foregoing, it was crystal clear that Buhari, a former military dictator rumoured to have a penchant for wielding the big stick generously at dissenting voices and being stingy with the carrot was going to pay Kanu an august visit. It was just a matter of when and how. All indications showed that Buhari was going to wait for the court of law to sanction the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu as filed by the government but the 74 year old retired Major General was impatient and had other plans. He opted to give Nnamdi Kanu a bit of his military orientation and the python was called to come dance for him at the heart of the IPOB headquarters.
One uncanny thing about Buhari is his level of unpredictability. You hardly know his direction and it’s debatable to say this attribute must have detrimentally affected his handling of the recuperating local economy. He loves to spring surprises and it’s almost impossible to know his enemies from his few words or physical reactions. In the last two years of being verbally attacked and mocked with his health by Fayose, Buhari has never mentioned his name in the media but the war between them is colder than Iceland. That is who the leader of Fulani descent is. The preparation of the dance of the python – Egwu Eke II has thrown Kanu’s defiant and compact camp in disarray. His supporters have been reportedly subjected to inhumane conditions of military brutality while others have been killed. Kanu in a phone call put to him by Channels TV yesterday evening claimed the Nigerian Army invaded his house and killed 22 of his followers as well as his dog with his elderly father threatened with a gun. The IPOB has been declared a terrorist organization by the Nigerian Army and to compound their woes, the South-eastern governors in a fresh resolution have proscribed the pro-Biafra group which has been labeled a security threat. The self-styled Southeastern warlord has been relegated to the level of someone seeking public sympathy as he hides from the Nigerian Army. He is presently calling on the United Nation, European Union, and other members of the international community for intervention.
Buhari’s militarization of the South-east has become a hot topic of political discussions across the country. While some have termed it as reasonable, others believe its unwarranted and reckless. Some accidental human right activists and armchair heaping criticisms on him have forgotten that you can’t beat a child and simultaneously teach him or her how to cry. You can’t hurt me and also guide me on how to revenge although two wrongs don’t make a right and fire doesn’t quench fire; water does.
Those criticizing Buhari for making Kanu relevant following his initial arrest are only making a mockery of the wise saying that you can only trim the branches of an Iroko tree when it’s at the tender stage, it will demand sacrificial exercises to control when it reaches full maturity. No wise man finds rest in a room when a small snake is parading because the size can never be undermined when considering the grave danger it poses. The neglect and condoning of the nefarious antics of the late Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf by security operatives and the Borno State government today has birthed the cancer of terrorism leading to the death of over 100,000 people (Shettima, 2017), displacement of about 2.7 million people taking refuge at the Internally Displaced People’s camps, destruction of infrastructural facilities in the northeast, setback in the aspect of agriculture and other crises which are chain reactions to public unrest. Remember that Nnamdi Kanu once attempted to talk an Igbo group in diaspora into raising funds for him to acquire arms to battle Nigeria for the independence of Biafra. He was like a ‘loose cannon’.
No sane leader will watch Nnamdi Kanu pollute the minds of his people through the Radio Biafra which was illegally being transmitted in the country from the United Kingdom. Another state was technically created inside Nigeria with emblems, flags, passports and currencies. The group even grew wings that it had the effrontery to declare that no election will hold in the Southeastern part of Nigeria and stakeholders started trembling with fear. They were forced to hold emergency meetings with their recalcitrant son pursuing a cause outside the dictates of legitimacy.
The last thing Buhari would want to be remembered for is the break-up of the Nigerian entity. Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan through an act of political expediency avoided being associated with that by history. This is the last detail Buhari would like to be associated with in his Wikipedia page.
Right to self determination by a group of people isn’t illegal. It is recognized by the United Nations charter which Nigeria is a signatory too. The problem I have with the cause is that it has an egomaniacal outlook. There has been a proliferation of pro-Biafra groups following the success of Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB and IPOB which the leaders are drawing money from in exploitation of sympathizers. MASSOB is like a company run for 18 years by Ralph Nwazurike without a concise direction which is on purpose. Covert and overt followers are made to contribute to a common purse which is never accounted for just like the constituency projects of federal lawmakers and security votes of state governments.
For every statement in support of Biafra, you will see five others against it from the same people reported to be marginalized. The Igbos have never spoken in unison and this is a historic problem that could be traced to the failure of the British Indirect Rule system. There are claims that the voice of Nnamdi Kanu doesn’t reflect the yearnings of the people which is a fact as he is not a constituted authority. The referendum he is seeking for is alien to the Nigerian constitution. His efforts shouldn’t be originally directed at Buhari but the National Assembly for the amendment of the 1999 constitution to facilitate a referendum. Our constitution says in Section Two that Nigeria is one “indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state” to be known by the name the federal republic of Nigeria.
He should gather the South eastern governors, senators, House of Reps members in the Southeast, House of Assembly members, traditional rulers and representatives of dominant socio-cultural or political groups to speak in a common tongue and prosecute their demands of secession. This will give it a more far-reaching face and not his purported collaboration with an Osita Chidoka who is hoping to be an Anambra governor come November 18 under the banner of the United Peoples Party, UPP or a Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe (Abia-South Senatorial District) who plans to dig his grave at the Red Chamber where he has spent over 10 years making uncommon laws.
The level of hypocrisy in Nigeria is alarming and the country is built on lies. The country is cursed with ‘political entrepreneurs’ investing the angers and despondency of the downtrodden in their political businesses. The only business venture that strives well is politics where the act of sleaze is not a sin. The Igbos claim to be marginalized but I have always argued that there is no challenge faced by the Igbos that is not evident among the other tribes. The bitter truth is that the country is sick without an available serum. The Igbos have argued that appointments in the country have been lopsided which is very true but in the real sense the issue of the reflection of the federal character principle in the area of public appointments has never translated to national development. The north has produced more political leaders than any other tribe today but the region has remained perpetually impoverished and starved of formal education which is the light every generation needs to move forward.
The truth of the matter is that everybody is fed up with Nigeria where a First Class university graduate is not even guaranteed of anything in the labour market. I have a very young friend who almost graduated with a First Class from a federal university and she has been forced to settle with a teaching job where she is earning a meagre salary that can’t cater for her transport costs pending on when God will ‘pick her call’. Yes, the clerics are now are like the hope of Nigeria seeing our problems from the spiritual perspective.
People are hungry and angry despite the fact that some even have executive jobs. The high rate of inflation in Nigeria has rendered the greenback worthless and figures of economic reports churned out by the National Bureau of Statistics every month have failed to connect with the realities on ground. Inflation rate in Nigeria for the month of August has dropped to 16.01% but the surge in food prices at the local market is astronomical. This is part of many issues interwoven with poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, healthcare, power, potable water, good roads and legendary corruption. Nigeria is truthfully a plague we should be divorced from but looking at the situation that way is like cutting off the head because of a disturbing migraine instead of settling for drugs.
I must admit that President Buhari’s body language has further divided Nigerians as he appears to have a score to settle with the Igbos. Buhari in 2015 told an American audience that he was going to treat Nigerians unequally, that is according to the support they gave him during the presidential election. What a gaffe! We all know Nigeria has never been united and we have been wired by documentation procedures to think about our Local Government Areas and States of Origin first before considering ourselves as Nigerians. That is what our resumes even teach us except for those that have upgraded theirs to the latest standard.
President Buhari’s lopsided appointments are reprehensible, provocative and condemnable. It hurts more that the government has refused to prosecute the self-acclaimed youths behind the infamous Kaduna Declaration which almost tore Nigeria apart. I personally wish the Operation Python could be directed at the irate Fulani herdsmen committing all manners of atrocities across the geopolitical zones with the my-brother-is-in-power mentality. There is no special law for any ethnic nationality in a democracy and preferential treatments will always breed discord. The bad news is that Buhari doesn’t care and he is not ready to be politically correct. This was expressed in the tone of his presidential speech on his return from London, United Kingdom after staying for about 103 days.
With the 2019 presidential election less than 18 months away, it seems Buhari doesn’t care about the reputation of his party or himself in the South-east with gory pictures of killed IPOB supporters and sickening videos of civilians being tortured by the army on the streets.
The reports have been laced with serious propaganda and it’s working positively for the IPOB members. The truth is that the international image of Buhari and Nigeria is also being sacrificed on the altar of ego here. As the United States of America whose political system used to reek of perfection at the surface level is dealing with the character of President Donald Trump acting against the norms, I think Nigerians should also conform and adapt to a Buhari who has a military ideology which has worked in crisis de-escalation to an extent.
The Igbos might not like him but I will not encourage the Igbos to hate him as he is the pilot flying the Nigerian plane and it will be suicidal to help him crash the big bird conveying us into the Red Sea. His time will probably expire in the year 2019 but the Nigerian entity which is bigger than all of us continues.
Osayimwen Osahon George is a political scientist and journalist. He writes from Lagos State.