Within the last two weeks, two significant events occurred within our sovereign terrain which have once more, cast our minds back to the beginnings of this sovereign entity called Nigeria and have continued to cast aspersions on the justification of the present political arrangement we practice as a country.
First and foremost, the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu was arrested on 27th June, 2021 based on a collaboration between the Nigerian government and Interpol. As to the exact location of his arrest, various versions keep flying in the air. While some alleged it was Holland, some others point towards Ethiopia and another rather weird version says it was Kenya.
However, that is not the locus of the issue. The fact remains that Kanu has been arrested and placed under the custody of the DSS pending his fixed trial for 26th July, 2021. What are the allegations? The Federal Government claims that apart from his previous offence of jumping bail in 2017, he has also been slammed with the accusation of instigating terror and violence against security agencies in the South East, through the instrumentality of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) and Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
This comes on the heels of the recent rant of President Buhari about dealing with certain people causing upheavals in the South East in the language they understand; a rant which led to a series of dramatic events ranging from deleting Presidential tweets to the banning of Twitter in Nigeria.
The second event of similar significance was the invasion of the home of Sunday Igboho at Soka area of Ibadan, Oyo State by the DSS at the wee hours of 2nd July, 2021. Sunday Igboho from the South Western part of Nigeria has been at the fore front of recent calls for Yoruba self-determination and the creation of Oduduwa Republic based on the trigger of criminal Fulani Herdsmen incursion into Yoruba territories without a determination on the part of the Federal government to checkmate their activities, leading to loss of innocent lives and property. The Igangan saga remains fresh in the memories of many Nigerians.
The DSS has declared Igboho wanted for possession of illegal ammunition found in his home and has been tagged a potential instigator of division in the country. This was shortly before the planned peaceful rally of Igboho that was to be held in Lagos for the realization of Oduduwa Republic.
These are two prominent cases among the plethora of agitations that continue springing up from various parts of the country. What do these tell our bureaucrats and public servants? What message or messages do these events pass across to our political class? Do they even get any signal at all from all that is happening? In one’s opinion, which is basically the opinion of not a few in this country presently, the present political arrangement of Nigeria has outlived its usefulness and rather than serve any reasonable purpose, has only become burdensome, as it obviously continues to serve the structural basis for injustice and inequality in our nation. The centralization of power was first and foremost initially a colonial machination for economic and administrative reasons, then later became a military tool for effective control.
Since the return to democratic rule, the present political arrangement should have only been a temporary arrangement, pending the re-systematization and re-construction of a new political charter to accommodate the disparate ethnic groups in the country.
The obstinate adherence to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (which is barely different from its 1979 military produced counterpart) was only a disaster in the making.
At this juncture, the country is left with only two choices: Restructuring of the polity or allowance for self-determination of the disparate ethnic groups within the country. By restructuring, what is meant is the provision of an environment where the disparate ethnic groups are provided the opportunity to thrive and determine their own political fates in recognition of their unique cultural identities, while still maintaining a united front. We have experimented with the Presidential System enough, which in one’s opinion is grossly incapable in taking care of the needs of a country so ethnically polarized as Nigeria.
Centralization of power has only increased the agitation for control at the centre which will only continue to leave the various ethnic groups with the feeling of marginalization or deprivation, whether real or imagined. The Regional arrangement of the 1st Republic was deliberately contrived to cater of these intricacies, but was unfortunately thrown in the trash can with the coming of the various military coups.
It is high time we return to a similar arrangement for economic, social, religious and political reasons among others, especially for the sake of peace. It is laudable that the National Assembly has begun a constitutional review process, but we pray it is not just a charade to buy time and will not end up among the category of issues that will endure endless sittings and deliberations like the PIB bill that was recently approved after enduring close to eight years of endless deliberations of the Legislative arm.
On second consideration, the political elite of the country seem indisposed to making the requisite changes to suite our modern political reality, because the present political arrangement seems to benefit the interest of many political stalwarts. Hence, the next consideration is actually the allowance for secession. Chapter 1, Article 1 Part II of the United Nations Charter gives allowance for the right to self-determination of peoples. Flowing from that, International law, though seems to be neutral on matters of secession except under grave circumstances of injustice, provides for the right of peoples to self-government and ability to determine their political fate.
This implies that a people of similar cultural identity have the prerogative to request for independence through a process of memorandum voting. If the allegations of instigating violence levied against Nnamdi Kanu is actually true, that in itself will be a violation of International Law which prohibits any form of violent agitation for self-determination.
However, the Federal government must also be disposed to allow for memorandum voting among her citizens if she is indisposed to a proper restructuring of the polity which would have been a most preferable option.
In all, the government of Nigeria must be careful on how they go about handling the cases of Nnamdi Knau and Sunday Igboho who have become regional cult figures. The careless handling of either of these cases has a potential to snowball into a crisis that the State may be unprepared to handle.