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Risks in re-arresting Nnamdi Kanu

Has anyone noticed that rather than diminish, agitations for the restructuring Nigeria has grown in the aftermath of President Muhammadu Buhari’s crossing “our national red lines” speech penultimate Monday?

It started with a reaction from the Southern Leaders Forum, a congregation of groups from the three zones of Southern Nigeria.

The SLF, in insisting that Nigerians cannot be threatened out of their desire to renegotiate the country said: “We are of the view that leadership requires more than this at this crucial moment. We call on the President to realise that the country is in a very bad shape… This is the time to renegotiate Nigeria along federal lines negotiated by our founding fathers to stem the tide of separatist feelings and agitations.”

Ahead of this press conference, individual ethnic groups including Afenifere, representing the interest of the Yoruba; the Ijaw Youth Council; the Urhobo Progress Union and the Ohanaeze Ndigbo had condemned the President’s speech.

On its part, the Coalition of Northern Groups supported the President’s averment that Nigerians were free to live anywhere they desired. But they had a caveat that, “that does not extend to a people who by action and utterances say they are not Nigerians.” A suggestion the Ohanaeze Ndigbo would later describe as a blatant qualification of Buhari’s yellow card, one which went without reprimand.

On the larger part, northern groups including the Arewa Consultative Forum sided with the President. This seems a cogent testimony to the fact that ethnic warlords have refused to be beaten into the lines that Buhari hoped to draw by that early morning speech.

Incidentally, the Federal Government has unwittingly stoked the fire of these ethnic mumblings. Probably, to give bite to the President’s promise to deal with forces threatening the corporate survival of the country, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has approached the Federal High Court for the revocation of the bail granted the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, by Justice Binta Murtala Nyako of the same court, last April.

Two points need to be made here.

Although one can query the constitutionality of the bail conditions handed to the IPOB leader, there is no doubt that Kanu has flouted them. I cannot comprehend the legality of restricting the freedom of association and expression of a Nigerian, provided by the 1999 Constitution as amended. But even if these conditions were not totally legal, the man under trial accepted them and he should, if he really wants to remain a free man, live by them.

The second point is that the Federal Government, even though it is seeking to bring Kanu back into detention, has, this time, not resorted to self-help.

That the government has not decided to storm Kanu’s home with agents of the Department of State Services, and take him into custody is an indication that we are moving away from state terrorism that we were hitherto exposed to. Especially, as it concerns Kanu and a few others who have come into confrontation with the administration.

All said and done, the Buhari administration should at this point honestly ask itself what it stands to gain from having the IPOB leader arrested and clamped into jail. Would it prove the point that government is in control of the country or further the course of peace which the President, even without stating it explicitly, seems to desire?

In answering the question, the administration should re-assess the gains of having previously detained Kanu for about two years in spite of court orders for his bail. Did his incarceration suppress the idea of a new Biafra which he propagates or did it in any way discourage other parts of the country from speaking their minds about the structural imbalance in the country?


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