Neither Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, nor Sunday Adeyemo (Igboho), the leader of Ilana Omo Yoruba, is of major concern to Nigerians, especially those in Southern Nigeria, where the two gentlemen hail from and which has been the sole terrain of their activities. The former has restricted his activities to the Southeast and parts of the South-south, while the latter has restricted his to the Southwest.
Both men have three things in common. One, they want self actualization for their people. Two, each has a small following. Three, neither man nor his group is fully embraced by his people: local traditional, religious, and political leaders maintain a distance from them.
must be noted, however, that they employ different tactics. In the Southeast, Kanu seems to be attacking his own people for not supporting his cause. There are ways in which he may be said to have carried his agenda too far. He also made himself a targe of hunt by jumping bail when he was first indicted.
Igboho, on the other hand, has been vending off outsiders attacking his own people, mainly herdsmen from the North, and rallying support for his cause of self actualization project by holding rallies across the Southwest. True, Kanu’s followers may have engaged in some skirmishes with his own people in the Southeast, Igboho’s group has gone about its self actualization campaign peacefully. Going after both men with the same zeal is laughable.
Why are these men and their groups not embraced by their people? It is because the focus of the people’s concerns is different. They are not in favour of secession. They want to remain in Nigeria. But they want optimal security, not word-of-mouth security, so they can live in peace, not in pieces. They want equity-a situation in which everyone is treated equally before the law and in the distribution of political goods and social rewards. They want their country to look like other countries the elite go to get treated, to educate their children, to enjoy a good vacation so that much of the money made in the country could be spent within the country.
Southern Nigerians especially have been vocal about three major wants: One, they want their farms to grow food for local consumption and for sale, rather than to feed cows whose herders carry AK-47 guns to kill the farmers, rape their wives, and waste their children or kidnap their elites (monarchs, businessmen, professors, and so on) for ransom or for murder, if ransom is delayed.
Second, they want major modifications to how the country is organized and governed. They want a review of how resources are distributed from a distant centre, which turns federating units into beggars. Specifically, they want more powers devolved to the federating units, be they regions or states, depending on the eventual reconfiguration. Such additional powers will include the ability of each regional or state government to manage its own local government areas and control its police in order to maximize local security. They also want a reallocation formula that will allow the federating units to keep much of the money they make and only pay a percentage to the centre. Only such additional resources will allow them to adequately deploy additional powers to full advantage.
These are not new demands. However, their escalation in recent years is in response to escalating insecurity in the land and the perceived insensitivity of the federal government to the situation. There is a long catalogue of the government’s unresponsiveness. This is especially true of the destructive activities of terrorists and bandits in the North, of Fulani herdsmen in the South and the Middle Belt, and of kidnappers across the country.
Neither Kanu nor Igboho would have had any agenda to pursue had the federal government provided adequate and needed security and responded to the calls for restructuring the country. It is in this sense that President Muhammadu Buhari may be said to have constructed these two men in their new role, by creating the atmosphere of neglect that led them to agitations for self actualization.
The enduring zeal with which the government went after Kanu from the days of Python dance to a 2-year international trail and the post-midnight military raid of Igboho’s residence is only negatively matched by the same government’s perpetual neglect of the incessant demand for protection and restructuring by the majority of the population.
It is in this sense that the arrest and the raid could be regarded as unnecessary diversions. They keep the federal government unnecessarily busy, while neglecting the real problems of terrorism, banditry, herdsmen-farmers conflicts, kidnapping for ransom, and other security breaches.
Take the case of Igboho for example and compare the totality of his activities with those of marauding herdsmen, wielding AK-47 rifles in the open. How many people have Igbobo and his group members ever killed? Zero, compared to thousands by herdsmen. But how many herdsmen have been arrested and their weapons seized? None, compared to the alleged seizure of weapons and the killings at Igboho’s residence.
As observers watch the government’s recent actions, questions cannot but be raised about the government’s priorities and about fairness. How can the arrest Kanu and Igboho lead to, or substitute for, large scale security in the land?
What is unclear to right thinking observers is why the government and its handlers don’t see these actions as reinforcing the people’s belief that this government is either not serious about security or is just buying time until the next election cycle.
One thing is clear, though. This President continues to leave room for questioning his suitability for democratic governance. The events leading to the banning of Twitter and the raiding of Igboho’s residence show a President uncomfortable with criticism and disrespectful of fundamental rights.
Whatever method Buhari may have employed to create diversion, Southerners are not buying it. This point was forcefully made on their behalf on Monday by the 17 Southern Governors. In the communique issued after the meeting, they emphasized the need for “the politics of equity, fairness, justice, progress, and peaceful co-existence between and amongst its (the nation’s) people”. In another oblique reference to the President, they also emphasized the need for the Chief Security Officer of the State to be informed, whenever there is need for any security operation. Finally, they touched on key aspects of restructuring in need of attention.