The Biafra Declaration at Arewa House

The Biafra Declaration at Arewa House

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When Umaru Musa Yar’Adua visited us at a newspaper, just before the 2007 general election, he stressed that good leadership would emanate from obedience to the rule of law. A president has no power outside of the law, he said, and he hoped to do well as president simply by following the law. How right the then presidential candidate of the PDP was!

The Yar’Adua era now belongs to a distant past. But we remember that, as president, he was a stickler for the law and thus remained popular until sickness seized him. Unlike his predecessor Obasanjo, he did not disobey any court order or declare public holidays just to obstruct the wheel of justice. He told the truth starting from his inaugural address and did what was right to the best of his ability. May his soul rest in peace!

Lawlessness and lies have made Nigeria ungovernable. And the situation has been worsened now by the lack of an effective leader. Journalism seems dead!  Any person – whether a lunatic, a thug, a frustrated housewife or a jobseeker disguising as a politician – has become a source of “breaking news”. Credibility is no longer important.

Only in a lawless country would some young men claiming to represent a section of the country be permitted to organise a “press conference” and soon after get the attention of state governors and “elder statesmen” as well as dominate discussions in beer parlours, social media and elsewhere. It happened last Tuesday when a sponsored group of young men went to Arewa House in Kaduna to make a statement on behalf of the “north”. Blaring headlines followed: “Northern youths give Igbos 3 months to vacate”; “The beginning of the end [of Nigeria]”; “Vacate the north, or else…” Comments on the “vacation order” have subsequently dominated headlines since then and may continue to do so for the next month or two.

What has happened to Nigerian law all this while? In the silence of the law, we might well regard the Kaduna “press conference” as a declaration of Biafra from an unlikely quarter. Otherwise, the young men of so-called “Coalition of Northern Youth Groups” would have been picked up right from Arewa House for questioning, and no newspaper would have reported on their poorly written statement. Whoever did would be treated as one endangering state security. The “northern youths” and their sponsors would be charged for treason, for they acted like Major Gideon Orkar of 1990.

But the reverse outcome was predictable in Nigeria’s case: Governor A and Governor B would condemn the youth (even though they could be among their sponsors) and Governor C and D would order their arrest. The police chief would also order their arrest. Yet, nobody would be touched!

A dangerous cabal therefore seems to be holding this country by the jugular, and it’s not ready to loosen its grip until Nigeria goes up in flames. It was right to imprison Nnamdi Kanu for 19 months but wrong to arrest “northern youths” who rained invectives on the Igbo and went ahead to sack them from Nigeria. On Friday, Ango Abdullahi came out to support the youth strongly, and many of his admirers have been celebrating their “outspoken leader” on media platforms.

The right judgement of professional editors would have silenced charlatans that fill the Nigerian landscape today. The danger brought by the Internet to a lawless nation like ours is that felons may wake up one morning to announce that a coup has ousted an elected regime. Or that five new nations have been created. A declaration might be reasonable but not lawful.

If we were a nation of laws, and President Muhammadu Buhari made that Kaduna declaration on TV, he would have still been ignored because he has no right to do so. The “Arewa youth” committed a crime by giving an ultimatum that suggests an even graver crime: the likelihood of murders, arson and looting.  By stoking tension and threatening to dismember Nigeria, they and their sponsors have committed treason. And the argument that the “north” did it in return for Igbo elders’ failure to caution IPOB and MASSOB is false: Many Igbo elders have disagreed with pro-Biafra campaigners and cautioned them openly. Besides, the “Biafran” groups have not been violent like Boko Haram or the street urchins continually murdering “unbelievers” in their midst.

I have always regarded those who are now in their 80s as the country’s worst generation so far. They caused and fought an unnecessary civil war that killed 3million innocent compatriots. They were corrupt leaders. They destroyed the education system, the civil service – everything good one can think of. They were/are liars who abolished the study of History as a subject in schools. As I stated last week in this space, we should thank God that members of that generation are dying out and we only have to ensure they are not replaced by their children.

Sometime in 2013, “Boko Haram” gave all southerners three weeks to vacate the north. And three weeks later they started bombing churches and other public places. Northern elders and consultative forums said nothing until the lions started devouring their children too. A similar ultimatum issued last Tuesday should therefore not be disregarded. It’s the same conspirators at work. And they are above Nigerian law.

This time the targets are “Biafrans” or the Igbo of the south-east alone. But they have not shown how they would exclude the Igbo of the south-south or how rioters would know the difference between an Igbo and an Itsekiri or Urhobo living in the north.

Which north were they referring to anyway? Does it include southern Kaduna or Benue or Plateau or Kogi or FCT Abuja? Are the Igbo to vacate with their houses or forfeit all their assets in the “north”? I thought “immigrants” are allowed to own property in their host country!

Through Ango Abdullahi we’ve learned that the Igbo should forfeit their “N44trillion investments” [as claimed by another shadowy group from the south-east] because resources from the north had been used to develop the south. That’s another clear distortion of history: those who were lucky to study History before it was banned in Nigerian schools know that the reason the colonial authorities merged the Northern Protectorate with the Southern Protectorate in 1914 was for “administrative convenience” – to use the resources in the south to develop the north. At the time oil was discovered, there existed regional governments which controlled their own resources. The foreign oil companies came with big investments. So how could the “magnanimous” north have abandoned its own region in order to “help” the more prosperous south? There is no end to some wild claims: another “northerner” has said that the oil in the Niger Delta and south-east belongs to the north that has a larger land mass.

One must admit, however, that those who sponsored the Arewa House event have succeeded in no small measure. Whether they did it to embarrass Acting President Osinbajo or to divert attention from hunger in the land, they have achieved their aim, thanks to the Internet. One thing I fear, though, is the likely collateral damage or aftereffects. It would be easier now to mobilise starving street kids to cause riots and kill innocent people. For the murderers have always gone scot-free. This is a lawless country indeed.

The way forward for Nigeria is RESTRUCTURING. It’s not by declaring that Nigerian unity is non-negotiable, as the Senate did on Friday. Nigerian unity exists only in the imaginations of treasury looters and their accomplices who stand to lose more in the event of the country’s break-up. Someday, someone will call for a referendum, a thing the Nigerian constitution fails to recognise. Meanwhile, tomorrow is June 12.

— By ANIEBO NWAMU

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