A former governor of Kaduna State, Abubakar Umar, has warned the Nigerian government over its latest move to re-arrest the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, for flouting his bail conditions.
Mr. Kanu is presently on bail after being charged with treasonable offences. He has dismissed the government’s plan to re-arrest him.
Mr. Umar said the move to re-arrest him is a ‘dangerous and politically unwise’ effort that could backfire.
The retired colonel and social critic said the Buhari administration should stop seeing Mr. Kanu ‘as a common criminal.’
The leader of Indigenous People of Biafra was granted bail late April, after spending 19 months in the detention of the State Security Service.
But he had openly violated almost all the conditions set for his bail by the Federal High Court, prompting Attorney-General Abubakar Malami to approach the court for a revocation of bail last week.
But Mr. Umar said the government’s move was not the smartest way out of the delicate situation.
”Mr. Kanu is a bitter young man fighting for a fairer deal for his Igbo kinsmen. His seeming militant approach is the result of the strongarm tactics with which the federal government deals with him,” Mr. Umar said.
He cited a quote by Usman Danfodio in which the famed Islamic scholar and founder of Sokoto Caliphate used to preach against inequity.
“One of the swiftest ways of destroying a kingdom is to give preference to one particular tribe over another, or to show favour to one group of people rather than another, and to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those that should be drawn near.”
Mr. Umar said Mr. Buhari had in his words and actions kept the people of South-east marginalised, a development that contributed to the seeming popularity of secessionist campaigns across the region.
“Many Igbo genuinely feel marginalised since they belong to the category of those who gave Mr. President only 5% of their votes and appeared to have fallen out of his favour,” Mr. Umar, who governed Kaduna from 1985 to 1988, said.
He also wrote extensively on the country’s unity.
“President Buhari’s insistence that the unity of Nigeria is a settled issue is a nationalistic wish and is no surprise coming from a veteran of a civil war fought to keep the country one.
“However, this does not take into account the mood of the nation as indicated by the growing agitations for self-determination, restructuring and many other similar demands. If indeed the president is able to ignore and silence those agitators, it will be a case of suspended animation.
“All indications are that Nigeria has become so polarised that it requires a strong personality like General Buhari to sustain its fragile unity. Needless to say that this does not bode well for the survival of the nation.
“Most Nigerians are convinced of the need to maintain Nigeria’s unity, cognisant of the enormous benefits all sections drive from a large, diverse and resource rich country.
“The federation also provides a security umbrella to all the federating units which enhance their survivability and prosperity. It is difficult to see how any of them can fare better out of the federation. But the fact that there are growing agitations for self-determination, restructuring and other similar demands speak gravely of the way the federation is being governed.”
Mr Umar said Nigeria’s unity can only be guaranteed when all its citizens feel they are getting a fair deal and when all its component parts are treated justly and equitably.
“Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, [Deji] Adeyanju and other similar agitators might seem like felons or even anarchists. But as often happens over humanity’s turbulent history, appearances can be deceitful. One man’s terrorist could well be another man’s freedom fighter.
“In any event, despite what the security agencies might feel, there is nothing to fear from Mazi Kanu. He and his compatriots are people who love their country dearly and are willing to take a risk with their lives while blowing a whistle on some of our bad habits. It will be a tragic mistake to treat them as common criminals. It is evident that they are fighting a cause millions consider entirely legitimate.
“Until our democracy learns to accommodate dissent, vigorous, robust, even if inconvenient, it will be incapable of serving our common good,” he said.