On paper the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is dead. The five Governors of the South East states proscribed the body a few days ago. They, instead, advised all aggrieved groups in the region to articulate their positions on all national issues and submit them to the Committee of Governors, Ohaneze Ndigbo and the National Assembly members from the region through the Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum.
The action of the governors is futile because they have no power to ban any association, even a rascally one like the IPOB. The 1999 Constitution confers on groups and individuals the freedom to associate. This order by the governors is an infringement of that freedom under the Constitution. The Governors’ Forum is not a parliament that makes laws so its pronouncement on IPOB is not a law. However, each of the governments in the region can get its House of Assembly to pass a law banning IPOB but that law, if passed, will be in conflict with the 1999 Constitution. The Constitution will prevail.
The truth is that the governors’ decision on IPOB is an act in futility. The IPOB members can change the name of their pressure group and still carry on with their activities. There used to be a National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) many years ago. The Federal Government placed a ban on its activities and proscribed it. The Association removed the NUNS garment and renamed itself the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). NANS is alive and well today, doing what NUNS used to do except that it has become a poor shadow of its vibrant ancestor.
To compound the woes of IPOB the military authorities have gone overboard and declared IPOB a terrorist organisation. The military lacks the powers to declare any organisation a terrorist organisation. Only a court of competent jurisdiction can make that pronouncement. Even the charges made by the military against IPOB are not weighty enough for any such declaration. If they think they are right let them head to the court and make a case for the stigmatisation of the pressure group. If the IPOB members decide to challenge these decisions in court they may run away with victory. But that is only my own piece of speculation. The reality is that soldiers are on the ground in the South East marching people’s freedom on their big boots and sending terror into every spine.
This activity is called Operation Python Dance II (Egwe Eke II). There was Operation Python Dance 1 in the South East that took place from November 26, 2016 to December 27, 2016. The mandate of that mission was the same as this one: to nip in the bud criminal activities such as kidnapping, armed robbery, threat to security and peaceful coexistence. We have no idea how much of these listed activities the soldiers were able to eliminate during their maiden mission in the region. The unvarnished truth is that in the two operations the IPOB and its cousins are the main targets of these military operations. But this organisation is not known to be armed so why do we need a heavy handed approach in dealing with its irritation. In any case, in a democracy, the military should not be the first security group to be deployed. Where are our mobile policemen? The mobile police was specifically created for the purpose of dealing with problems that the regular police cannot handle. It is actually when the mobile police is overwhelmed and there is a breakdown of law and order that soldiers can be drafted into the scene. Soldiers are a security outfit of last, not first, resort. The noticeable anomaly in the current military operation is that the soldiers still have to hand over anyone arrested for an offence to the police for investigation and possible prosecution. That emphasises the need to get the police into the act so that the soldiers do not do more damage to the image of the Nigerian military. If that happens they will confirm the wide ranging allegations that Amnesty International has been making against them on alleged human rights violations.
Let us admit, first, that Nnamdi Kanu has been a loose canon from day one. My suspicion is that the South East political elite saw him as the battle axe that they needed in persuading the Nigerian state of their marginalised status. That is probably why the South East governors did next to nothing when the guy was ordering the closure of markets, schools, public highways, etc. if they had reined him in earlier on the man would not have grown into the monster that he has now become. Now he has created a Biafra National Guard and a Biafra Security Service. He is rapidly moving towards becoming a government within a government. He has even announced that the November Governorship election in Anambra State will not hold. Not satisfied with his hold on the South East states he has made some futile attempts to annex some territories in the South South region as well. What impudence!
When he was in detention I wrote an article in which I stated that he should be released based on pronouncements by the courts. Some Igbo professionals including Charles Soludo, Pat Utomi, Ebere Onwudiwe, Sam Amadi, Udenta Udenta, Ferdinand Agu under the aegis of Nzuko Umunna pleaded with the Federal authorities for his release. These eminent Igbo intelligentsia and Orji Uzor Kalu all visited Kanu in detention. Their intervention was based on the rule of law. Kanu was granted bail with still bail conditions which he accepted. However, on stepping out of prison, he vowed not to obey those conditions which he freely agreed to. But Kanu is not above the law. Neither is he below the law. His violation of his bail terms is violation of the rule of law and a show of disrespect to the eminent Igbo leaders who fought for his release.
In one of his remarks Kanu stated that the Constitution approves of freedom of association. This is true. But does the Constitution say he is free to create a Republic of Biafra? It doesn’t. He wants a referendum on Biafra, but there is no provision for a referendum in our Constitution. Has he found out whether the Igbos want a referendum or not? No. he simply assumes that he is speaking for the Igbos but the Igbos have elected people who speak for them: Governors and parliamentarians in the states and at the centre. Kanu’s metamorphosis is amazing. He now wears a long dress with a white covering on his shoulders and carries a Biafran fan with red, black and green with a rising sun in yellow on top of the black. In one of the pictures posted in the internet one idiot was kissing his feet. He must see himself as some sort of junior Jesus, a redeemer of the Igbos since these urchins who never experienced the pangs of war virtually worship him.
I believe Nigeria needs to be finetuned or retooled for optimal performance. But I don’t think that the country is going to be rebuilt by the mechanism of incendiary rhetoric of which Kanu is the foremost apostle. He said a few weeks ago that Abuja will be burnt down if his bail was revoked. He also said that any policeman who tried to execute an arrest warrant on him will be slaughtered. If his mandate is to fight for a fairer deal for the Igbos within the federation of Nigeria, such intemperate and incendiary remarks will not help his cause. The truth is that he is not the only one who is asking for a fair deal. Many people from many parts of Nigeria are singing the same song because Nigeria is not yet fair to the bulk of its citizens.
The agitations in the various regions represent a repudiation of Nigeria as it is. Its fragility and dysfunctionality are too glaring to be ignored. I hope President Muhammadu Buhari does not think that these agitations are a phase that strong-arm tactics can drive into the grave of forgotten issues. These are real live issues that hamper our unity, cohesion and our progress and prevent us from becoming the type of country that our founding fathers dreamt of. They will not go away until they receive the attention that they deserve.
President Buhari must figure out how to sort them out without the country breaking into smithereens under his watch.