THAT Nigeria is passing through one of the most difficult times in its chequered 61 years after independence is not in doubt. Most bizarrely, however, the authorities have often pretended that all is well with the country, glossing over the frightening and precarious state of affairs. Rather than being pragmatic, decisive and firm in tackling the core issues frontally, they choose to play the ostrich. They scratch the problems on the surface out of inertia and the business-as-usual culture. To be sure, the country did not all of a sudden find itself in a state of influx: it is a cumulative effect of the injustices visited on major constituents of a supposed federal entity by ethnic hegemonists for decades. In their confused thinking, they have consistently insulted the sensibilities of other stakeholders, their superiority complex constantly lubricating the strident clamour for restructuring and self-determination by ethnic nationalities.
Recently, the Presidency described as a shocking and worrying development, the “cooperation” between Yoruba nation agitators and members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) when agitators under the aegis of the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS) protested at the UN headquarters in New York, United States. The coalition described itself as a multi-ethnic alliance of the indigenous peoples of the Middle Belt (part of the former Northern Region), Ilana Omo Oodua (the former Western Region) and the Lower Niger (former Eastern and Mid-Western Regions). According to the Presidency, since “actions and associations speak louder than words, the “Yoruba Nation’s talk of human rights promotion must therefore be ignored.” Ignored? At what cost, amidst the chaos across the country? How does ignoring the agitators solve the critical issues that trigger, sustain and orchestrate those agitations? Does ignoring them take away the fact that Nigeria is on edge and needs quick action to salvage it?
Again, how is it that the Presidency is quick to condemn IPOB but has been silent on killer Fulani herdsmen designated as a terrorist organisation in the Global Terrorism Index? What criteria was used to designate IPOB a terrorist organisation but not Fulani herdsmen? The Yoruba nation protesters are going about their agitation lawfully, and under no condition would the United States, nay the UN, allow such agitation if it infringed upon American laws and UN Charters. So, the Federal Government must review its current approach and attitude to issues behind the self-determination campaigns. It should dialogue with the agitators instead of deploying the sledgehammer all the time. The actions and utterances of its officials over the protest suggest that it is jittery.
Herders with illegal possession of lethal weapons have made many states ungovernable, deprived millions of their means of livelihood, instigated food insecurity across the country, denied children formal education; raped, maimed and killed innocent citizens and consigned able-bodied men, and women and children to Internally Displace Persons (IDP) camps in Nigeria and neighbouring countries. Yet, none of them has been visited by the state with the due consequences of their virulent actions. In fact, the umbrella organisation has carried on like a lord of the manor, threatening fire and brimstone and declaring with effrontery that it would defy laws legitimately passed by state governments against open grazing of cattle in their territories. Do the herders have special powers that supersede and override the powers of states as federating units? The UN Charter guarantees the right of people to ask for self-determination and so it cannot be a crime for any section of the country to attempt to exercise that right. Le the authorities sincerely and profoundly address the core issues behind the spate of agitations across the land before the situation deteriorates further.
It is preposterous for the authorities to, in one breath, treat condone those unleashing terror on the land, causing incalculable damage to the psyche of the people; killing, maiming and destroying the properties of law-abiding citizens; and, in another breath, crack down on self-determination agitators exercising their rights under the law. The illogical approach to the fundamental issues behind the agitations is nauseating. The government fails to appreciate the place of diplomacy and tact in resolving sensitive issues. It fails to foster a sense of inclusiveness. The government’s highhandedness and double standards in handling national challenges have continued to aggravate the highly volatile situation in the land. But it must be emphasised that impunity and contempt can no longer cohabit with sanity and legitimacy if Nigeria must discover itself. Injustice meted out to any constituent awaits the rest in no distant time. It is time the government disembarked from its high horse.
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