Disquiets over rebirth of northernisation policy

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  • Inter-ethnic hostilities pervade the polity

There have been emerging apprehension and innuendoes across the country of subtle rejuvenation of theancien regime of northernisation policy by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled federal government in the administration of justice and in decisions of who gets what, when and how from the commonwealth.

Dispositions of the federal government in certain critical national issues relating to promotion of national interest and national integration generated suspicions and inter-ethnic intransigence across the country, re-opening the gulf of North/South dichotomy in the contemporary dispensation of Buhari administration.

The current controversies in the polity raise fresh questions over President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise at inauguration on May 29, 2015, of maintaining neutrality or objectivity in the governance of Nigeria.

At inauguration on May 29, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari made a famous speech that raised fresh hope of a new Nigeria of justice and equity in which he declared: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. To every stakeholder in the Nigerian project, that aspect of the president’s inaugural speech was a masterstroke to rebranding leadership in Nigeria, and setting new trail of national rebirth.

About two years after the inauguration of President Buhari certain actions of government have generated corresponding activities in the body politic testing the validity of the president’s statement: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”.

The current plan to re-arrest Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB leader, vis-a-vis the Kaduna Declaration in which a Coalition of Arewa Youth issued October 1 ultimatum to Igbo resident in the North to vacate the zone, has pitched northern leaders against southern leaders, which, in furtherance, concentrated more inter-ethnic intransigence between the North and the South East.

The federal government detained Nnamdi Kanu about two years, and prosecuted him within same period over leading the agitation for the actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra, before the court granted him bail under certain conditions. Nnamdi Kanu’s case is a clear issue of treason against the Nigerian State which the federal government resected promptly with his arrest and prosecution.

The persistent agitation for Biafra by Igbo youths provoked the northern youths into actions that threaten national security and national integration. The Kaduna Declaration and the quit notice to Igbo resilient in the North by the Coalition of Arewa Youths constitutes serious crime isomorphic to the circumstance Nnamdi Kanu was arrested, detained and is facing prosecution.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai and Governor Shettima of Borno State had condemned the northern youths, advocated for their arrest. The arrest was never effected by the federal government, though, the state governors do not control the Police and can, therefore, not enforce such order.

The northern youths were allowed the latitude in the polity to continue meeting to review the quit notice, while northern elders also declared their support for the youths to the point that the youths declared that they have suspended the quit notice.

On the other divide, Kanu continued to behave like the northern youths, insisting on the agitation for the actualization of Biafra. While the federal government ignored the treason offence of the Arewa Youth, same government commenced proceedings to persuade the court to revoke Kanu’s bail.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Malam Abubakar Malami, was said to have explained that the Northern youths who issued an ultimatum to Igbos to vacate the North before October 1, 2017, were not arrested because of the “security implications.”

“Government considered the security implications on the issue. Let me state that government is alive to its responsibility and whoever is found wanting will be prosecuted. This administration is determined to provide good governance and promote justice, peace and fairness,” Malami had said.

The seeming asymmetrical responses of the federal government on the controversial issues the AGF explained government’s decisions compelled several stakeholders in the polity to raise suspicion that the current administration favour’s and protests northern interests more than others.

A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, had described the federal government’s request that an Abuja Federal High Court should revoke the bail granted Nnamdi Kanu over the struggle for Biafra as “reckless and dangerous.” Fani-Kayode further remarked that the FG’s plan to revoke the bail was “pregnant with mischief.”

According to Fani-Kayode, “Calling for the re-arrest of Nnamdi Kanu is a reckless and dangerous course which is fraught with implications and pregnant with mischief.”

However, the FG has a duty to maintain law and order; and if Kanu constitutes a threat, the government can take appropriate action; but there has to be balance in government’s responses to security threat.

Also, the Ohaneze Ndigbo, and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) described the FG plan to re-arrest Kanu as the height of hypocrisy.

President of Ohaneze, John Nwodo had protested the plan, drawing Abubakar Malami’s attention on other urgent national matters.

“I am amazed that the distinguished attorney is prepared to contest the superiority of the provisions of the Constitution on fundamental human rights of freedom of movement and freedom of association over an erroneous judicial proclamation violating those rights,” Mr Nwodo said.

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“A few hours ago, under the watchful eyes of the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum and in total defiance of the Head of State’s proclamation of the rights of a citizen of Nigeria to live anywhere in Nigeria and to do business anywhere in Nigeria, the Arewa Youths, pretending to withdraw their quit notice, gave qualifications to the Head of State’s proclamation, issuing conditions for enjoyment of citizenship status.

“These same Arewa Youths are supposed to have been arrested on the orders of the Governor of Kaduna State and the Inspector General of Police for acts of treason, conversion and sedition. As the chief law officer of the Federation, the Attorney-General looks the other way. He does not go to court to seek an order of arrest or prosecution,” Nwodo had declared; revealing mutual suspicion of ethnic sentiments in governance.

Correspondingly, the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), through its Chairman, Dr. Paul Unongo, condemned the Ohanaeze Ndifbo for criticizing the Federal Government’s plan to re-arrest Kanu.

Unongo had stated the northern elders were disappointed that Ohanaeze trivialised a criminal matter. He contended that Nnamdi Kanu’s case was 100 per cent different from the ultimatum issued by the northern youths, adding that the northern elders were able to prevail on their youths and the matter had since been resolved.

Unongo cautioned that, “Leaders should be careful about what they support,” observing in part:

“…what Ohanaeze members are doing is that they are giving the impression that if someone commits a crime and is from their tribe, he shouldn’t be tried…

“Are they saying he (Kanu) should not be tried until someone from another part of the country is arrested? That will invite chaos to the country.

“I will advise Ohanaeze and the Federal Government to let the matter be settled at the court because the issue of detention is in the hands of the court.

“It was granted and if the conditions were flouted, I think the prosecution is right to approach the same court to prove that the bail condition has been violated and to ask for the court to revoke the bail.”

The NEF President remarkable played down the disequilibrium in FG’s responses on the issue, both sides were involved in same treason crime and threat the national security.

Moreover, at the inchoate stage of the Buhari administration, there was wide outrage over what some stakeholders in the polity described as lopsided appointments by the president.

The stakeholders contended that appointments made by the president at the early stage lacked gender balance and regional equity.

The statistics then showed that of the key appointments made by the president, 75% are from the north and 25% from the south; undermining the federal Character principle.

This has been more so, since the North has the President, Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, including the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN) before the appointment of the incumbent CJN.

The resentment was deepened by the report of President Buhari’s statement  during a visit to United States, that he should not be expected to allocate same number of offices to states or regions that did not vote for him.

Perhaps, the president was misrepresented in that report because politics is simply struggle for power; you win power and use it.

However, in the storm of the rising disquiets over the perceived imbalance appointments,

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had promised that the president would address the lopsided appointments in subsequent appointments into the cabinet.

Adesina had remarked that appointment is a process and leads to feedback, saying that the feedback would be pro­cessed in a way that will lead to every­body being satisfied.

Moreover, the rampage of the Fulani herdsmen in local communities where thousands were killed and property destroyed, yet no arrest was made by the FG, deepens the suspicion of subjective implementation of public policies by the current administration. The FG rather made excuses that the Fulani herdsmen migrated from neighbouring West African counters to cause mayhem and destructions in those communities, yet, the Immigration, police are there.

President Buhari has, however, attempted to balance his leadership disposition in declaring that every Nigerian has the right to live and do business sin any part of the country.

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