“One of the swiftest ways of destroying a kingdom is to give preference to one particular tribe over another, or to show favour to one group of people rather than another, and to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those that should be drawn near”.
Shiekh Usman Danfodio.
Reports in the media indicate that the Federal government has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to revoke the bail granted Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and have him rearrested. This is both dangerous and politically unwise. Mazi Kanu is not a common criminal as the government appears to think. On the contrary, he is a bitter young man fighting for a fairer deal for his Igbo kinsmen. His seeming militant approach is the result of the strong arm tactics with which the Federal Government deals with him. His long incarceration before a court granted him bail testifies to this.
Like Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, many Igbos genuinely feel marginalized since they belong to the category of those who gave Mr President only 5% of their votes and appeared to have fallen out of his favour.
President Buhari’s insistence that the unity of Nigeria is a settled issue is a nationalistic wish and is no surprise coming from a veteran of civil war fought to keep the country one. However, this does not take into account the mood of the nation as indicated by the growing agitations for self determination, restructuring and many other similar demands. If indeed the President is able to ignore and silence those agitators, it will be a case of suspended animation. All indications are that Nigeria has become so polarized that it requires a strong personality like General Buhari to sustain its fragile unity. Needless to say that this does not bode well for the survival of the nation.
Most Nigerians are convinced of the need to maintain Nigeria’s unity, cognisant of the enormous benefits all sections drive from a large, diverse and resource rich country. The Federation also provides a security umbrella to all the federating units which enhance their survivability and prosperity. It is difficult to see how any of them can fare better out of the federation. But the fact that there are growing agitations for self determination, restructuring and other similar demands speak gravely of the way the federation is being governed. Nigeria’s unity can only be guaranteed when all its citizens feel they are getting a fair deal; when all its component parts are treated justly and equitably. When none feels oppressed.
Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, Adeyanju and other similar agitators might seem like felons or even anarchists. But as often happens over humanity’s turbulent history, appearances can be deceitful. One man’s terrorist could well be another man’s freedom fighter. In any event, despite what the security agencies might feel, there is nothing to fear from Mazi Kanu. He and his compatriots are people who love their country dearly and are willing to take a risk with their lives while blowing a whistle on some of our bad habits. It will be a tragic mistake to treat them as common criminals. It is evident that they are fighting a cause millions consider entirely legitimate.
Until our democracy learns to accommodate dissent, vigorous, robust, even if inconvenient, it will be incapable of serving our common good.
Col Abubakar Umar, a former military governor of Kaduna state, is current Chairman, Movement for Unity & Progress, MUP.