Text of A Briefing by the National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA); Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko During an Audience With European diplomats in Abuja On the Major Political Challenges in Nigeria since the Last Seven Years held on January 20th 2022.
When I got the notification for this briefing, I took my time to review it. However, I became excited when I was made aware that the briefing is centred on the series of overlapping security, political and economic crises that have seen Nigeria facing its worst instability since the end of the Biafran war in 1970.
As the leader of the foremost civil rights advocacy group; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, I couldn’t have chosen to be concerned with another issue than the subject matter herein. So it is an honour to brief you today on some of the major political crisis that has bedevilled Nigeria since the last seven years.
In doing justice to this, I have chosen to dwell more on insecurity in general, referencing the allegations of pampering of armed Fulani herders, the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu and the crisis it has created in the South East, youth unemployment, violence and child trafficking among others.
The concluding part of this briefing text is laced with unique and dynamic scenarios from the challenges and prospects that Nigeria must contend with or harness if she must emerge stronger and united again. I shall start with the review of the Political tension in the last seven years of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidency.
2.0. Overview of Political tension in the last seven years of the President Muahmadu Buhari’s Presidency
Perhaps, no elected President of Nigeria enjoyed the level of Buhari’s goodwill at the inception. He had virtually all the nation’s human resources at his call to make his administration the best Nigerians ever had, including a very cerebral deputy who, as Attorney General of Lagos State, used the instrumentality of the judicial process to fight for a true federal Nigeria with the concomitant devolution of powers to the states; he has men who have served the country in different capacities and whose experiences were available for him.
He jettisoned these resources and allegedly placed the destiny of Nigeria in the hands of his few boys led by Abubakar Malami, whose only political exposure was being the Legal Adviser of Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
The political vacuum created was capitalised upon by individuals using him as a cover to execute their personal agenda. He refused to engage the nation and communicated nothing but sectional and parochial messages that threatened and still threaten to tear the nation apart.
With experts warning that large parts of the country are in effect becoming ungovernable, the mounting insecurity from banditry in the north-west, jihadist groups such as Boko Haram in the north-east, violent conflict between farmers and pastoralists across large parts of Nigeria’s “middle belt”, and Igbo secessionists in the south-east calling for an independent Biafra once again, Nigeria is teetering on the precipice of failure.
Nigeria since the last seven years has been adjudged to be unable to keep her citizens safe and secure. Thus, she has become a fully failed state of critical geopolitical concern. Nigeria’s failure matters because the peace and prosperity of Africa and preventing the spread of disorder and militancy around the globe depend on a stronger Nigeria.
From Boko Haram’s jihadist insurgency in the north, to the escalating conflict between farmers and pastoralists, a growing piracy crisis in the Gulf of Guinea and the newly emboldened Igbo secessionists, Nigeria under the presidency of the retired army general; Muhammadu Buhari since 2015 is facing a mounting sense of crisis
Those security issues are in addition to a series of other problems, including rising levels of poverty, violent crime, youth unemployment and corruption amid an increasing sense that the central government, in many places, is struggling to govern. All of which has prompted dire warnings from some observers about the state of Nigeria’s democracy.
3.0. Ruthless on Agitators, Pampering Bandits, Killer Herdsmen
There is a sense of disappointment in the fact that the country hasn’t developed as people had expected and has suffered reversals in poverty and youth unemployment. Then there’s the dearth of infrastructure and a generally very poor quality of services.
For many Nigeria experts, the problem of these political tensions in Nigeria is not to be found in the individual parts of the crisis but in the way they are beginning to bleed into one another.
Insecurity seems almost nationwide People have difficulty moving from one city to another, with kidnappings and danger on the highways. It is going from a largely governed country with a few ungoverned spaces to a place where there are a few governed spaces while in the rest of the country governance has retreated.
The unfortunate long history of farmer-herder clashes, local-migrant communities have now been further complicated by criminal activities of elements alleged to be roaming killer Fulani herdsmen or those closely associated with them, some of whom are non-citizens of Nigeria.
The frequency and severity of this violent criminality points to a failure of political leadership in the country and of our security agencies to address the deeper issues of law and order, and the security of ordinary citizens.
Regrettably the reaction of the Presidency to the herders/farmers crises has consistently fallen short of the impartiality, responsibility and empathy that is expected of an administration that serves the whole country, and has fuelled fears of official complicity, tacit encouragement of criminal elements and their public defenders.
Most remarkable was in October 2020, when the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria via a letter asked that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Abubakar Malami should prosecute armed Fulani killers, Malami had replied that his office was unable to prosecute alleged killer herdsmen, owing to the absence of case files.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the AGF has the duty to ensure widespread crimes are checked and to coordinate the prosecution of such offenders. The AGF being the chief law officer of the federation is expected in situations like this to partner with the Attorneys-General of the various states to ensure that the herdsmen involved are arrested and prosecuted for the offences committed. Regrettably, we are yet to see such coordination or intervention from the office of the AGF.
As such, the failure to prosecute these criminal elements, bandits, insurgents, marauding Fulani herdsmen and kidnappers, has significantly polarised the country and turned Nigeria into a theatre of violence while undermining the confidence of average Nigerians in the willingness and ability of the State to protect them.
Rather than tackle the armed Fulani killers and bandits, the Muhammadu Buhari regime appeared to be indirectly encouraging an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, to meet with the bandits frequently, who has been demanding amnesty for the hoodlums, while also suggesting that they should be engaged to guard the forests.
More frustrating is that while the government and security agencies are allegedly pampering the outlaws who have become more emboldened, the regime has been going after propagators of secession in the country, especially in the South.
Many Nigerians thought the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, was about announcing a major breakthrough in the security crisis facing the nation during his hastily arranged press conference in mid-2021.
But a seemingly happy and satisfied Malami victoriously disclosed that security agencies had apprehended Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra. The news which was short on details brewed speculations on how and where he was arrested and the manner of his extradition.
While some applauded the government for apprehending the Biafra leader, a huge number of Nigerians argued that the Federal Government would have focused more on the urgent security situations instead of chasing flies while the nation collapses.
Distinguished audience, it is on record that as at the time of Nnamdi Kanu’s arrest and extradition in June 27, 2021, mass abductions of students and large-scale killings have assumed pandemic proportions.
About 110 female students of the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State were kidnapped on February 19, 2018; on December 11, 2020, over 300 students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State were abducted by bandits.
On February 17, 2021, a student was killed while 27 other students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, Niger State, were also whisked away by gunmen.
Similarly, 279 students of Government Girls Science School, Jangebe, Zamfara, were abducted on February 26, 2021. A group of gunmen took away 39 students from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Kaduna on March 11, 2021. The victims spent two months with their captors before they were released.
The bandits also abducted 23 students of Greenfield University, Kaduna, on April 20, 2021. On June 29, 2021 (two days after the arrest of the IPOB leader), five soldiers and nine villagers were killed, while 104 people were abducted in three communities in Zamfara State.
This however could explain the anger among Nigerians with many from the South East expressing fury over Nnamdi Kanu’s secret extradition and the deployment of state power and violence against the leader of IPOB, whereas armed Fulani killers and bandits are busy plying their trade uncontrolled. This could account for the current spate of insecurity in the South East of Nigeria.
The argument was, if the Federal Government, which has failed to arrest and/or prosecute armed Fulani herders and bandits had demonstrated the same zeal put into the arrest of the IPOB leader, against the leaders of the Fulani militia herdsmen and bandits who have owned up to the killings in the middle belt and the North west, the country would not had been this deeply challenged on several fronts in terms of its economy and people’s livelihoods.
The question you Diplomats should ask is why the federal government of Nigeria has refused to deploy the same zeal it unleashed on both Kanu and Igboho against bandits and killer herdsmen who are continuing in their deadly activities in the country almost unchallenged?
Nigerians are keen to know and the international community should also be keen to know whether the bandits and other criminals the government and its officials are engaging in talks are institutions.
4.0. Way Forward
Proposing a political solution, the Federal Government of Nigeria should be made to understand that the unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho is the beginning of a national healing process of the existential calamity which has needlessly become most aggravated under the Buhari presidency.
Again, communications with Nigerians must be pacifying, handled with maturity and diplomatic finesse, not some coarse messages, the likes from the Attorney-General; Abubakar Malami, who needs to be cautioned to deliver every message like a freeborn even in an errand of a slave.
Malami has rather demonstrated that he occupies a position he knows not its tenets and perhaps much bigger than him. He has done most incalculable damages not only to the Buhari administration but also to the unity of Nigeria and the peaceful coexistence of its inhabitants more than any other person and at any time in the history of Nigeria.
It is worthy of note that political solution is called forth and deployed when a State is faced with intractable crises and in search of ingenious solution. The political solution must be total, unapologetic putting obstructive laws in abeyance for sake of humanity.
Finally, may I seize this opportunity to call on the international community to help in making the President; His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and his few narrow-minded advisers realise that neither he nor they together possess any magical capacity to make or remake Nigeria in his or their own image. Hence they must wake up from their fantasy dreams to the reality that Nigeria is not and never will be part of any person or tribe’s possessions.
Thank you for listening.
HURIWA’S OBJECTIVES ARE;
- To deploy the members’ creative talents as writers to promote, protect and project the human rights of all Nigerians and other law abiding citizen’s resident within Nigeria;
- To organize periodic seminars and training workshops locally for human capital development specifically on the tenets and ideals of Human Rights and the rule of Law;
- To attend international workshops and seminars targeted at the promotion and protection of human rights;
- To conduct periodic studies on ways, means strategies for promoting and protecting human rights of law abiding citizens;
- To highlight human rights challenges confronting the persons in conflict with the law and seek for constructive modalities for redressing such violations; and
- To recognize excellence and good governance standards in the polity through yearly award ceremonies for exceptionally good, tested and trusted leaders in both the corporate and public sectors. The process of selection would be transparent mass participation strategies.
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko