It will be an understatement to state that all may be well with the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria as a country given the separatist agitations and insurgency in different parts of the country. These issues predate the present government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, however, it’s discriminatory and nepotistic policies have escalated the problems beyond peaceful agitations to now violent confrontations.
Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, alias Igboho, epitomize this situation and their current trials in Nigeria and Benin republic respectively, are clear indications that there may not be a quick resolution of the crisis in the life of this government. The position of government expressed in recent interviews by President Buhari insisting on judicial and legal determination of the cases are unrealistic and intended to prolong the simmering tension in the country which somehow may threaten the 2023 general elections in one way or another.
There is little or nothing to gain by government beyond personal ego and vindication to convict the agitators. Nigerian judiciary is not the most expeditious in dealing with criminal cases of this nature and the drama of last week’s appearance of Kanu at an Abuja Federal High court before Justice Binta Nyako, is enough indication and warning of the likely prolongation of the trial and it’s attendant political and economic consequences.
Government is not only mismanaging the situation but also squandering it’s own political goodwill with the people affected by the continued protraction of the cases. The clamp down may be justified because no government can sit idlly and watch such potential threats to national unity without responding appropriately, but such actions should also be weighed against their overall national interest and effective resolution of the problems.
Beyond keeping the agitators in custody and away from causing mischief, any value and advantage in pursuing that course of action is negated by their growing support, because the agitations have not stopped with their incarceration, and every court date has become a reminder of the nation’s day with history. This is particularly so in the case of Kanu, as the South East is usually shut down on such court days. Last week the entire region was on lockdown for three days with incalculable economic losses including several lives.
Although the regime and those who only believe in their self righteous justification may adopt the attitude that the South East is destroying itself, however, such would be self defeating of any government which is interested in unity and peace, because given the mass following these men command, it will simply mean to murder sleep permanently, and no one will sleep again. The political and economic costs of keeping the cases in court is so overwhelming that a serious and fair-minded leadership would be circumspect in choosing that route.
In our considered view, the political option to settling the legal tangle is most recommended and appropriate to their resolution by quickly dousing the tension, regain public trust of the affected areas, and save the unnecessary costs attached to the trials. The cases cannot be resolved in terms of conviction, which will simply complicate and worsen it’s permanent settlement. The High court is only the first step in the trial and it can take years to probably get to the Supreme Court for final adjudication.
President Buhari does not have such luxury of time on his side, so he is likely to bequeath to the incoming administration this time bomb. His legacy to the new government will be finding acceptable ways of de-escalating the heightened state of insecurity and tension in the country; and resorting to a negotiated political option will achieve this end.