The buzz activated by the arrest and subsequent extradition to Nigeria of the leader of Biafra Zionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, purportedly via the coordinated efforts of Nigerian security agencies and sister international security organisations, is still lingering on the information superhighway, as Nigerians continue to express differing views on the development.
Consequent to Kanu’s repatriation to Nigeria, some linchpins of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government such as Mr. Lai Mihammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information And Culture, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, have promised that he would be made to face the full brunt of the law for allegedly inciting violence in the south-east, which has resulted in the death of civilians, security personnel and the destruction of property. They have also assured that he would receive a fair trial in consonance with the country’s laws.
Meanwhile, opinion leaders, rights activists and other concerned parties have charged the authorities to respect all subsisting international human rights laws and other associated protocols, which Nigeria is signatory to, in the manner the separatist leader is treated.
Yours sincerely hereby calls for tact by the Nigerian Government and its security eggheads in handling the IPOB matter. They should not forget in a hurry that a similar scenario played out not too long ago when the arrest of the same man, who was then virtually unknown, was so badly handled that it culminated in the escalation of an issue that could have been diplomatically handled.
Rather than seeing Mr. Kanu’s arrest solely as a victory of sorts, the authorities should also see it as a golden opportunity to right its past mistakes, especially its poor handling of secessionist and other nonviolent agitations across the country. The bad blood between IPOB and the Nigerian Government, notwithstanding, which makes the idea of seeking punitive measures against the group’s arrowhead very attractive, as a way of deterring other individuals or groups with similar inclinations, there is also need for the authorities to consider the long-term implications of its actions in this regard. There is need for extreme caution here!
The authorities should not forget how the Boko Haram insurgency, Niger Delta militancy and the face-off with IPOB and other secessionist groups reared their monstrous heads. These conflicts, which started off as peaceful agitations, escalated due to the application of the adversarial conflict handling style by the authorities, with emphasis on the mass use of force to clamp down on these initially non-violent movements.
Thus, from a strategic standpoint, it would pay the FG more to seek a zero-sum outcome from Kanu’s arrest, which has opened up a vista of opportunity for the resolution of not only the IPOB matter, but other brewing separatist campaigns in some parts of the country, once and for all, and return positive peace to the country. Efforts should be made by the authorities to parley with Kanu, Sunday Igboho and other separatist agitators and leaders of thought in the country with a view to addressing some of the issues raised by them. There is no need hounding them. They are Nigerian citizens with genuine love for their country.
The issues being canvassed by separatist agitators in the country are germane to the peaceful operation of this polity. They harp on the need for an overhaul of the several operational incongruities clogging the smooth running of the system. Theirs are calls for justice, equity and fair play. They want a Nigeria where EVERYBODY has equal stake; a country where government provides the greatest happiness for the greatest number; not one where one is treated according to where he hails from, or the religion he professes. These are not Utopian requests, but legitimate appeals.
Towards achieving the aforesaid objective, the Nigerian Government should consider seeking the services of seasoned peace practitioners, citizen diplomats and other critical members of the Multi-Track Diplomacy spectrum to help hash out feasible strategies for a non-adversarial transformation of the several avoidable conflicts it is enmeshed in. This is the best way going forward.
“Peace cannot be achieved by force, but by understanding”, according to the mystical minded Albert Einstein. So, let’s embrace peace, which is cheaper than the cheapest war!
God save Nigeria!