Former Central Bank governor, Charles Soludo, and some key leaders of the south-east region on Tuesday said their demand for the release of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, was based on the yearning for “national cohesion”.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, Mr. Soludo and other members of the group, Uzuku Umunna, said the Buhari-led administration of the All Progressive Congress should join hands with other Nigerians to bring about a new Nigeria, agreed to by its constituent parts and citizens.
Mr. Kanu was arrested in October 2015 and has been held since then despite court orders, on allegation of treason. His group demands the creation of a separatist Biafra state.
At the media briefing, Mr. Soludo was in the company of other Igbo leaders including former presidential aspirant, Pat Utomi, and former head of Nigeria’s electricity regulator, Sam Amadi.
The group said Nigeria cannot succeed by “suppressing legitimate agitations or democratic expressions”.
“It is our considered view that much of the increasingly desperate agitations are in response to the failures of the dysfunctional/looting elite and poor governance in the context of a failing state that offers increasingly vanishing opportunities and hope for its youth and future generations,” the group said in a prepared statement read by Mr. Soludo.
“We do not condone violence, criminality or brigandage of any sort, and nor should any state do so. However, by failing or refusing to address the fundamental issues and instead concentrating on the symptoms, Nigeria runs the grave risk of turning the entire country into a large prison yard or a police state.”
It continued: “There seems to be a national consensus that the current system cannot endure. The APC, PDP, APGA and other political parties, as well as all non-partisan actors and statesmen must come together to save Nigeria. We are in a state of emergency at all levels. We demand for the urgent release of Nnamdi Kanu, his colleagues and all prisoners of conscience, as part of the process of the search for national cohesion and building a new Nigeria.”
He added that Nigeria has had a very poor ranking among the global list of unsustainable states, due to reasons associated with its current structure.
“Since 2005, Nigeria has drifted from a rank of 54th position in the global Failed/Fragile State Index to 17th position in 2014 and now to a dangerous 13th position in 2016 (under the ‘Red Alert’ category of countries),” Mr. soludo said.
He urged the Federal Government to “live up to its promises and rebuild the country to overcome its years of unwarranted differences and challenges”.
“If the only thing the current administration succeeds in doing is to re-engineer a new Nigeria, agreed to by its constituent parts and citizens, it would have birthed a new country for the 21st century!”
Mr. Soludo said although the pattern of agitation adopted by Mr. Kanu may not be acceptable to some Nigerians, the factors necessitating the agitation are issues that remain real in the current structure of the country.
“There is a legitimate debate among Nigerians on the Biafra question, and there are indeed many Igbos who, like many other Nigerians, do not agree with Nnamdi Kanu’s objective or means. It needs to be stated, however, that no citizen of Nigeria deserves the kind of treatment meted to him and his colleagues. Government has declined to obey the orders of properly constituted courts in Nigeria for his release.
“Nnamdi Kanu is not above the law; but nor should he be put beneath it. A situation where the state refuses to obey clear and legitimate court orders for his release and holds him until it gets a favourable order; moves the goalposts endlessly through endless amendment of the charges against him; and now seeks to try him in secret clearly constitutes circumstances that would fall well short of the constitutional guarantees of due process.
“We demand that the right to freedom of association, assembly, peaceful protest, and expression must be accessible to all citizens of Nigeria as guaranteed by Nigeria’s constitution. Trying to criminalize anyone who talks about self-determination or attempts to use brute force to main and kill innocent protesters in a democracy is a strategy for a time that we no longer live in.”