By Bala Ibrahim
Yesterday Friday,19/11/21, a group of Igbo leaders, led by First Republic parliamentarian and Minister of Aviation, Mbazulike Amaechi, met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential Villa, during which they asked for the release of secessionist Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Biafra group, IPOB. Kanu is being detained and prosecuted on treason charges.
According to a statement issued by the president’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina. Mr Buhari told his guests that an ‘unconditional release’ of Mr Kanu ‘runs contrary to the doctrine of separation of powers between the Executive and Judiciary, but all the same, he would think about the heavy request.
“You’ve made an extremely difficult demand on me as leader of this country. The implication of your request is very serious. In the last six years, since I became President, nobody would say I have confronted or interfered in the work of the judiciary”. Referring to the leader of the delegation, Chief Amaechi, PMB said, “God has spared you, and given you a clear head at this age, with very sharp memory. A lot of people half your age are confused already. But the demand you made is heavy. I will consider it”
Consider it? Please have a rethink Mr. President. If by consider it, the President is contemplating tampering justice with the prejudice brought forward by some sectional sentimentalists, then I think it is the President, and not elder Amaechi, that needs to go back to history, the history of Nigeria’s civil war, and see how such sectional sentiments played a paramount role in the Nigerian Civil war, a war the President fought, and one that lasted from 1967-1970. It was a war that was triggered more by the misjudgement of leaders on sentiments, than political and ethnic differences.
History has it that, in 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Six years later, some mutineers, led by Major Nzeogwu Kaduna, terminated the life of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and the Premier of northern Nigeria. Also killed was Tafawa Balewa, the then Prime Minister. Sardauna was gunned down in his house and in the presence of his wives.
That triggered the anger of the Muslim Hausas in northern Nigeria, who began massacring the Christian Igbos in the region, particularly when it became clear that Major Nzeogwu Kaduna was the boy of Major General Johnson Thomas Ironsi, who had taken over as the Military Head of State of Nigeria, and who, out of misjudgement, was reluctant to punish Nzeogwu and his co coup plotters.
That misjudgement on the side of Ironsi, sowed the seed of sectional sentiments in the north, prompting the initial attacks that made tens of thousands of Igbos to flee to the east, where their people were the dominant ethnic group.
The same began to happen to the Hausas and non-natives in the East, just as pro-Biafra and people with Ibo sentiments started injecting the prejudice that the north and Nigeria’s military government, dominated by the northerners, would not allow the Ibos to develop.
So, on May 30, 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, announced the establishment of the Republic of Biafra.
The additional misjudgement of General Ironsi according to history, in allowing Ojukwu to go ahead with his Biafra agenda, resulted in another coup, which terminated the life of Ironsi and installed young Yakubu Gowon as Head of State by July 1966.
Despite the change and the charged atmosphere in Nigeria then, with the war drums beating, Yakubu Gowon was said to be hesitant in giving the marching orders for war. He was said to be too sympathetic for a war between people of the same country.
But officers on the Nigerian side, refused to see things his way, saying Ojukwu is a secessionist and must be treated like one. They began threatening a showdown, should Gowon contemplate tampering military might with military mercy.
Prejudice and sentiments don’t come in where the unity and mightiness of a nation are challenged. And precisely that’s what Nnamdi Kanu has done, and is still doing in detention.
It may interest the President to know that memories of his tweet in June this year are still fresh in the minds of many, particularly where he said, “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
The hope here is that, by telling the Ibo leaders he would consider their request for the release of Kanu, he is not changing the language from that of justice, to that of submitting to sectional sentiment.
Should the President do that, the north may be compelled to ask him why he kept Sambo Dasuki, his in-law and the former National Security Adviser in detention for four years without bail. Is it because northerners don’t have the right to put forward such sentiments, or because the north is a lesser section to be so pampered by such prejudice?
Could the allegation of diverting $2.1billion arms funds be of greater consequence than treason?
Well, the Ibo leaders are waiting to hear from the President on their son, Nnamdi Kanu. The Yorubas, whose son, Sunday Igboho is also in detention in Cotonou are equally waiting. And Nigerians and the world would continue to remind Mr. President of his inaugural speech on May 29, 2015, wherein he said, I BELONG TO EVERYBODY AND I BELONG TO NOBODY.