Ayo Adebanjo and Peace Without Equity and Justice in 2023: National Unity versus Self-determination – THISDAY Newspapers
INTERNATIoNAL BY Bola A. Akinterinwa
‘’Can we have peace without equity and justice?’’ was the question asked, and the concluding sentence of the press conference granted, by Chief Ayo Adebanjo at the Wheat Baker Hotel, Ikoyi on Thursday 11th November 2021. The question was put to Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), and Bishop Mathew Kukah, probably in their capacity as national peace makers. It was generally also put to the people of Nigeria and their president, General Muhammadu Buhari. The objective of the press conference is not simply ‘fixing Nigeria, before the fall,’ but to also draw special attention to the implications of not doing so.
One additional objective of the press conference also appears to be the need to articulate what Chief Adebanjo and Afenifere group stand for before he passes on to the great beyond in the matter of national unity. In other words, there is conflict of interpretation of the agreement reached by the peoples of Nigeria for the purposes of national independence and unity. Thus, the sustainability of Nigeria as a united sovereign nation-state is the question that is constantly raised in light of the many challenges currently facing Nigeria.
For instance, Nigeria’s challenges range from Fulani herdsmen-farmers dispute, armed banditry and kidnappings to agitations for self-determination, secession and Boko Haram insurrections. These, without jots of doubt, are some of the dynamics of national disintegration and implications for the 2023 presidential elections, to which Chief Adebanjo wants to draw public attention. In this regard, what happens if President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) disregards the self-determination threats by the Yoruba Southwest? PMB has described secessionists as terrorists and the true terrorists as bandits, in spite of the fact that they do engage in criminal bombings. Questions are being asked as to why PMB is always quick in dealing with self-determination agitators, but very slow in cases involving his tribesmen. In the event of another civil war, can Nigeria survive it? What are the likely scenarios of Nigeria’s political environment in 2023?
Perhaps more importantly, on the question of whether there can be peace without equity and justice, we observe that the answer can be Yes and No. It is yes because Von Clausewitz has suggested that if you want peace you must prepare for war. This means that war making is also a requirement for peace making. War making is hardly managed by fairness, equity and justice, in spite of the provisions of international humanitarian law.
The answer can also be ‘’No’’, because lack of equity and justice breeds anger, anger breeds complaints, complaints without attention generates resistance in various forms, including violence, violence engenders crises that often degenerate into conflicts, cold and hot wars. Consequently, on Chief Adebanjo’s prayer that ‘God Save Nigeria,’ God can, but will He, save Nigeria based on the mania of political governance in Nigeria?
Why God May Not Save Nigeria
Biblically, God is only interested in sinners that repent or are ready to repent. God is not interested in people who are warned not to engage in sinful activities but still continue to indulge in the same offences. For this category of people, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrew 10:26). The same is true of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (John 14:17;15:26;and 16:13. In Nigeria, governance is apparently and consciously predicated on ungodliness, untruths, unfairness, injustice and inequity, and thus prompting people’s resistance. This is one major reason for the current peaceful agitation for self-determination and forceful struggle for secession. The quest for regional autonomy and separation is an expression of complaint, which, as raised in Chief Adebanjo’s press conference, cannot but be noteworthy. But since the same God says He will bless who He chooses to bless,(Romans 9:14-18 and in the same vein, save the people He chooses to save, as He did in the case of Noah and his family in the Holy Bible before the destruction of the world with waters. with the conscious commission of sins, Nigerians will need to pray more seriously and change their garment of wickedness before God can show preparedness to save them.
As explained by Chief Adebanjo, PMB and other political actors are blinded by ambition and therefore, must ‘see the need to fix Nigeria before the imminent eclipse of her horizon. Nigeria is dying.’ Many reasons were adduced to explain why Nigeria is dying. First, in his words, ‘the Nigerian State that was negotiated before independence in 1960, the one that was birthed and named on the first of October 1960, is long dead. It was mortally wounded in January 1966, and was then slaughtered in July of 1966. Its funeral obsequies were held between 1966-1970.’
More noteworthy, he said the ‘Frankenstein that was cobbled together in place of the dead nation that was agreed, has survived this long on the back of repression, lies, illusions, and outright delusions. But Buhari has finally killed it by his endless arrogance, the manifest incompetence, and the vile ethno-religious agenda, with which he is dangerously strangling the insufferable Frankenstein.’ This observation is noteworthy because PMB is not responsible for what transpired before his military presidency and also before his civilian presidency. What is noteworthy is the perception that the crescendo of the gradual killing of Nigeria is happening under PMB due to his ethno-religious agenda and incompetence.
True, PMB has been variously accused of flagrant nepotism contrary to the rule of Federal Character. PMB told Nigerians that political appointments is based on the people he knows, implying that his presidential mandate and power to appoint cannot be subsumed under other rules of law. If the people he appoints behave nonchalantly, PMB cannot be quietly condoned. His appointees are often wrapped up in the glory of ethno-religious sentiments, to the extent that when PMB’s people are engaged in criminal activities and are reported to the police, the police do not always act on the complaints.
Explained differently, it is logical to expect grievances at the level of people who are grieved by their Fulani brothers and reported to the police authorities but are also protected against the complainants. Protests must always be expected when what the southerners do as an offence against the State and are sanctioned, and their Fulani brothers engage in the same act and PMB and his government will keep quiet. Psychology of human differences cannot allow the sharing of patriotism in this case because of the intrinsic problem of visible unfairness and injustice. As Adebanjo interrogatively put it, can there be peace in the face of unfairness and injustice? It is most unlikely.
Second, Chief Adebanjo argued that the Nigeria that was agreed to was necessarily federal in structure, and design, and was based on a parliamentary system of governance in which the rights of the federating units were recognised. This is why Chief Adebanjo and the Afenifere, as well as the NADECO wanted and still want a Sovereign National Conference. In Adebanjo’s words, ‘the basis of the Nigerian State must be clearly negotiated.’
There are three issues raised directly or otherwise in this second observation: the challenge of fraudulent legitimacy; sovereign national conference, and non-negotiability of national unity. As regards fraudulent legitimacy, there is the question of acceptability of the restructuring of the regions into states beginning from the Gowonian era. There is also the issue of the 1999 Constitution in which it is insinuated that the Constitution was people-initiated, whereas it was not. In this regard, can an elected person based on a Constitution that is considered fraudulent, instruct another person to do or not to do?
Regarding the restructuring of the regions into states, how do we explain that there were struggles for the creation of more States under various governments? The establishment of States under General Gowon marked the beginning of centralisation in such a way that the items under the exclusive list in the 1999 Constitution as amended largely outnumber those on the concurrent list. This is to the detriment of the quest for true federalism.
On sovereign national conference, no Nigerian government is interested in it because of the implications of the adjective, sovereign. The decision of a sovereign conference is not subject to any higher authority. As witnessed in the case of the Republic of Benin, whatever decision is arrived at is final and the leaders of Nigeria are enormously afraid of this. In fact, they are generally hostile to national conferences and the response of Chief Adebanjo is clear: ‘many have pointed to Decree 24 of 1999,the same fraudulent document that is infamously known as the 1999 Constitution, and asserted that there is no need for an sovereign conference, as the country already has a Constitution. We disagree most vehemently and insist that Nigeria is not possessed of any expression of the WILL of the people, whose will it is presumed to fraudulently appropriate.’
Chief Adebanjo also noted that Nigeria is burning and that the people of the Northeast ‘have been rendered as pawns in the power games of the northern elite, who allowed Boko Haram to fester as the evil powers of the federal government was lost to them, and the insurgents were seen as ethnic champions.’ Pertaining to indissolubility, we have argued a number of times that a country can always be dissolved. National unity can always be negotiated and re-negotiated based on the whims and caprices of the people.
Thirdly, PMB has been variously accused of sponsoring an Islamic and fulanisation agenda. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo once said it. General Theophilus Danjuma said the Nigerian military were aiding and abetting boko haramism and that the people of Nigeria should seek ways of legitimate self-defence. Before Dr. Mailafia Obadiah died, he gave instances of such aiding and abetting. He reported his meeting with some bandit commanders who said they would declare war in 2022 in Nigeria.
National Unity versus Self-determination
More important, Chief Adebanjo put the Yoruba concerns this way: the hospitality of the Yoruba southwest ‘has been violently abused, the generosity of spirit is taken for granted and the security of lives and properties wickedly undermined.’ In addition, he said that bands of Fulani terrorists are in our forests and farms, they rape, rob, kidnap and terrorize the people. They bear arms brazenly and they act above the law, and when our people respond in self-protection, they are victimized by the Nigerian police and the army, which have acted to establish presidential complicity.’
Most importantly, Chief Adebanjo referred to the revelation of an article in the Wall Street Journal that ‘the Nigerian military has been dealing with terrorists, and in particular instance, bought back from the terrorists, an anti-aircraft gun, that the terrorists had captured from a unit of the army, because the presence of the piece in the hands of the terrorists was a direct risk to Buhari himself, who was apparently scheduled for an appointment in his home town. In this case, how can anyone normally expect God’s favour when Nigerians are precisely the same people deliberately creating problems for themselves?
Nigeria is currently playing host to several conflicts that militate against national unity. The first is Boko Haram insurrection. The Boko Haram wants Nigeria Islamised. The group does not want Western education in Nigeria and Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution. Consequently, the objective of the Boko Haram is outright destruction of what Nigeria currently stands for. President Muammar Gaddafi once made it clear there cannot be peace in Nigeria unless the country is first divided into two: Muslim North and Christian South. If armed bandits and terrorists in the Northwest and the insurrectionists in the Northeast want to turn Nigeria into emirates by use of force, why should the people opposed to such an agenda not have the right of resistance and legitimate self-defence? Why should the PMB administration be promoting ethnic politics and Fulanisation? Why does he not want people to reject his politics of suppression, oppression and flagrant ethnic enslavement?
In various ways, PMB is believed to be directly and indirectly Fulanising Nigeria. There was the time foreigners who entered Nigeria illegally and were residing in Nigeria illegally. They were given six months deadline within which they should regularise their stay in the country. The foreigners were said to be mostly of the Fulani ethnic stock. Public expectation was that anyone who used any fraudulent means to undermine Nigeria’s immigration law, by entering Nigeria illegally, should be arrested and prosecuted. This was not the case. It was that of blanket forgiveness, contrarily to ECOWAS regulations.
ECOWAS protocols allow all Community citizens to travel to any Member State of the ECOWAS freely without visa, but this right is subject to the provision of proof of national identity. The right permits a Community citizen to stay in the country being visited for a maximum period of ninety days without administrative formality. But after 90 days, their stay must be regularised, especially within the framework of the right of establishment. This protocol does not apply to non-Community citizens.
Another manifestation of Fulanisation is the Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) policy, adopted in May 2019 and purportedly aimed at putting an end to the recidivist conflict between the nomadic herders and farmers, by curbing open grazing. Settlements were to be established. In the words of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mohammed Umar, on June 25, 2019, Government wants to put the nomadic herders ‘in a place that has been developed as a settlement, where we provide water for their animals, pasture, schools for their children, security, agro-rangers, etc.’’
The RUGA project was vehemently opposed, particularly in Benue and Southern States. No community is readily prepared to give land for that project, especially that the Presidency had made it clear that animal farmers, not just cattle herders, would be settled in RUGA settlements with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities, like schools, road networks, vet clinics, markets and manufacturing entities. States that showed understanding of the agenda are all in the North: Adamawa, Kaduna, Kebbi, Kogi, Katsina, Nasarawa, Niger, Sokoto and Zamfara.
When the RUGA policy appeared to have failed in its objective, Government replaced it with the Livestock Intervention Programme in an attempt to revive the colonial-era grazing routes in many states. Again the new policy has been met with another controversy and rejection. In the eyes of southern elite, any attempt to Fulanise the south should be jettisoned.
Additionally, public outcry in Nigeria is about how armed bandits flagrantly engage in the use of terror tactics in registering their political grievances. PMB was frequently asked to declare the armed bandits in the Northwest as terrorists but PMB has vehemently refused for one possible reason: the likelihood of the use of the newly-acquired US Tucano fighter jets against the armed bandits if they are declared terrorists. The Tucano jets are contractually acquired on the understanding that they would be used to suppress terrorism. Armed bandits use bombs to kill, to maim and destroy whatever Nigeria stands for. They are de facto terrorists, but PMB does not want to see them as such.
In fact, the negative global perception of PMB is to the extent that efforts are currently made to declare him as another terrorist. The Global Advocates for Terrorism Eradication (GATE), a US-based non-profit group, has asked the US Secretary of State, Mr. Anthony J. Blinken, to declare some PMB government officials as official sponsors of terrorism. As reported in The Punch of 13 November, 2021, the GATE alleged that ‘some ministers in the regime of the President, Major General Buhari (retd), governors, an ambassador, former Inspector General of Police, head of a security agency, and some political office holders, were sponsoring terrorism but said the government had failed to take step any step against it.’
How can an elected government be preaching the gospel of anti-terrorism while at the same time actively aiding and abetting terrorism? Some countries have given the names of sponsors of terrorism to the PMB Government, but PMB is apparently protecting the alleged sponsors by refusing to disclose the names of the anti-Nigeria criminals. Insurrectionists are reportedly surrendering in thousands but no one is talking about the strategic implications for public safety and the origins of the surrendering boko haramists. Government argues, on the one hand, that the Fulani herders that are recklessly killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping people are non-Nigerians. They are foreigners. However, the same PMB government is forcefully trying to acquire titled community land for the same foreigners to the detriment of indigenous citizens. With this, God is not likely to save Nigeria because its governance is consciously and largely fraught with destructive dishonesty and political chicanery. Thus, any community seeking autonomy or complete separation should not be forced into an unwanted union. This is the principle of self-determination, a fundamental rule under international law. National unity is a priori a resultant from the right of self-determination. People must first decide to be part of a political union. Consequently, PMB should seek political settlements and throw the idea of indissolubility and non-negotiability of Nigeria’s national unity into the garbage of history.