By ABBA MAHMOOD –
The federal government has been making frantic effort to curb the spread of hate speech. Hate speech led to the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda. Hatred has a way of destroying both the one hating and the one hated. But one can only cure hatred with love. Those spreading hatred on both sides of the divide say that the constitution guarantees them freedom of speech. Perhaps they never knew what Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada of Uganda once said: “Freedom of speech is guaranteed but I cannot guarantee your freedom after the speech.”
As Eugene Enahoro one of my favourite columnists, wrote last week in his usually incisive analysis, “these days the main threat to our unity comes from unelected ethnic leaders who capitalize on prevalent mass suffering, real socio-economic injustices and perceived discrimination to convince their kinfolks that breaking away from Nigeria is the best means of improving their prospects. They argue that every citizen’s constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of association infers that they also have the right to decide not to associate. They call it ‘freedom of disassociation!’”
This column stopped writing “God save Nigeria” as finishing line when it became obvious that there are many who do not like Nigeria; ironically they are the greatest beneficiaries of Nigeria. And it is true that there is no human association that is sacrosanct and non-negotiable. For some years now, many have made up their minds on the inevitability of either remaining in unity with everyone knowing his or her rights as well as corresponding obligations or for us to de-amalgamate along the 1914 lines and everyone will go their separate ways. After the 1982 UN Convention on Law of the Sea, (UNCLOS82) a country that is landlocked is no more at a disadvantage. And, in less than 10 years oil will cease to be a strategic commodity; so having and relying on oil will be stupid. In any case, South Sudan is teaching us what separation because of oil looks like.
With the level of venom and hatred being exhibited in the social and conventional media and other discussion fora, it will be a miracle if Nigeria remains one country in the next few years, if not months. That is why this column insists history is on the side of the oppressed, since the oppressors are on all sides. Let me share with you, my dear readers, what Abu Najakku wrote last week entitled “The Errand Professor Nwabueze Runs for Nnamdi Kanu” which summarizes our dilemma and disaster on this. Happy reading:
It took the Chief Nnia Nwodo-led Ohaneze Ndigbo several months to disown the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) avowed objective to dismember Nigeria and resurrect the “Republic of Biafra.” It is clear by now that Kanu’s campaign for Biafra is blessed by the highest echelons of the Igbo elite. Many among them – politicians, professionals, ex-governors, ex-ministers, some businessmen and jobless youths — support it, if not actively, then passively. They took the decision on the eve of the 2015 election that in the unforeseeable event that Buhari won the presidential election, they would ask for a separate country for themselves.
As Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, and lately Professor Benjamin Obi Nwabueze would tell you, Biafra is their maximum demand, but they could do with a “restructured” Nigeria. Both Nwabueze and Ezeife hate President Muhammadu Buhari with a passion and the entire Hausa-Fulani even more so. Last week, a national newspaper reported that Professor Nwabueze said he had been mandated by Nnamdi Kanu, the self-styled President of Biafra, to “tell the federal government that he (Kanu) would caution his followers to slow down or call off the struggle for the actualisation of Biafra if the government accepted the Leaders of Thought’s position on restructuring. According to Nwabueze, Kanu also promised to back down on the threat to disrupt the 2019 elections.”
Can you imagine! As can be increasingly observed by analysts, a great many Igbo elites are grateful to Kanu for what his IPOB is doing. There is a general belief among them that both campaigns for Biafra and restructuring constitute existential danger for Northern Nigeria. Who cares if Nnamdi Kanu agitates for Biafra? Who cares if Kanu attempts to disrupt the 2019 elections? The history of Nigeria is replete with the unpleasant consequences suffered by those who opposed the country’s unity!
The question is, does Nnamdi Kanu or IPOB really have the capacity to disrupt the 2019 elections? In particular, does Kanu even have the capacity to disrupt the Anambra state gubernatorial election scheduled for November this year? Because if elections are due and they are interrupted by IPOB or any disgruntled group in this country, the objective of such action will be clear: to cause chaos and no government worth its name will allow chaos! In that case, President Muhammadu Buhari will understandably sack the governors and state assemblies whose mandates have expired, declare state of emergency and appoint new administrators until normalcy returns. This should be clear to both the puppet and the puppeteers!
It has been the life-long ambition of Ben Nwabueze to break the veneer of political unity enjoyed by Northern Nigeria which has largely been fostered if not by Islam, then by language or other form of culture. This much has been conveyed in his essay titled “The North-South Divide as an obstacle to the Creation of a Nation and National Front”. Well, it is possible that the Hausa-Fulani have not treated the Northern minorities fairly, but it is on record that the Igbos who dominated the Eastern Region had fared worse in their relations with their smaller neighbours. Back in November 2013, ace columnist Muhammed Haruna had made mincemeat of Professor Nwabueze’s paralysed reading of Northern, nay Nigeria’s history. Referring to the old man’s obsession with schemes to disunite Northern Nigeria, Haruna observed that the “illogic of the argument that the unity of one section of a country necessarily poses a threat to the unity of the country seems to have escaped the fine mind of our Professor. One would have thought that until the various sections of a country are united, the country as a whole cannot.”
Recall that when Professor Nwabueze was singled out for a leading role in the 2014 President Goodluck Jonathan N7-billion national conference, the grand old man turned it down on the grounds that he was suffering from cancer. The Professor is probably cured of the ailment now and has become strong enough to run errands for Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB; after all, he has a common agenda with them to break the stranglehold of the Hausa-Fulani on Nigeria’s affairs. The crescendo of the voice of those calling for restructuring has therefore stirred him such that he has to insert himself into the fray.
Following a meeting of the so-called Leaders of Thought last week, Professor Nwabueze told newsmen that Nigeria needed a new constitution. According to him, “the view that the 1999 Constitution cannot be completely abolished and replaced is erroneous because the National Assembly fails to take into account the fact that the 1999 Constitution is only a schedule to Decree 24 of 1999.”
So, what is the matter with Decree 24 of 1999 if it formed the basis for the 1999 Constitution which ushered in the current Republic that has seen relatively peaceful national elections which have produced four administrations already? Is the clamour for restructuring and a new constitution from Professor Nwabueze and company really altruistic? I ask this question because this is the same Ben Nwabueze who lobbied his way into the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida and was appointed minister of education!
More importantly, I don’t believe that President Muhammadu Buhari will surrender to the whimsical demands of grand old men positioning themselves as errand boys for secessionists, perennial agitators who want the country balkanised and other unelected persons angling for power just two years after they have lost it. I don’t see Buhari permitting their dubious schemes to replace his agenda of reviving the economy and fighting corruption. President Buhari cannot bypass the National Assembly and Council of State, which are creations of the current constitutional order, and adopt some boring and imprecise exercise from a group of dissenters aiming for their individual wellbeing while pretending that they love Nigeria more than anyone else!