It is a predictable path that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has taken in his response to threats that are nibbling away at the nation’s unity. Unfortunately, this path has consistently failed to engender national healing and boost the prospect of fidelity to the vision of a united people. For, what our leaders like Osinbajo are unable to successfully disguise is their insincerity in responding to the overarching challenges of our contemporary society.
His was a response cast in the mould of a warning to those who are fomenting trouble that poses an egregious threat to the peace of the nation. At a meeting with northern leaders over some northern youths who have given an ultimatum to the Igbo in their region to relocate, he vowed to crush troublemakers. Since Osinbajo did not say that the warning was specifically directed at the northern youths, we must not limit it to them in order to appreciate its futility. We must appropriate troublemakers as all those who have grievances against the state since the northern youths only responded to the position of some aggrieved youths in the south-east.
The current threat to the nation’s unity is not what could be wished away by threatening fire and brimstone. It requires a more rigorous examination before proposing a solution. As Osinbajo himself rightly observed, disagreements are bound to exist in any union. But what he did not acknowledge is that the Nigerian nation has failed to adopt an enduring mechanism for resolving these conflicts. Again, why should disagreements whose source can easily be located and resolved permanently be allowed to fester as the Nigerian nation is doing ? In this case, what plague the Nigerian nation are not just conflicts that are inevitable in a union. They are rather crises the country and its leaders have refused to resolve because they benefit from them.
The current crisis has been triggered by the Igbo’s clamour for exit from the Nigerian union which they have considered as intolerably oppressive. They consider it as a system that denies them opportunities but favours a section of the country .To be sure, it is not only the Igbo who have found the union skewed against them and thus urgently seek a means of escape from its suffocating grip. In other words, there have always been threats to the unity of the nation. Even before the civil war, there was the Isaac Boro’s revolution to free his people from the vice grip of the Nigerian union. Boro’s struggle has since taken various forms in the hands of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Niger Delta militants. There was also the Gideon Orkar coup that was triggered by the same quest for freedom from the union. In the northern part of the country, there is the Boko Haram crisis that was provoked by a complicity of religious bigotry and political ambition and cupidity.
But a response to such conflicts is not just decreeing that every party involved in them should pretend that there is no reason to disagree. They should just continue to live in the face of what they consider as obstacles to their progress. In the case of the northern youths who gave the ultimatum, the government may be in a dilemma over embracing the immediate response of just arresting them and throwing them into detention to wean them off the path of threatening the unity of the country . President Muhammadu Buhari failed to tactfully handle the Nnamdi Kanu case. And by incarcerating him, he unwittingly turned him into a hero. He has now become the rallying point for the Biafra agenda. For the northern youths, since the condition that led to their position still exits – the secessionist agenda of the Igbo – arresting them and detaining them may rather aggravate the crisis. This may make them heroes of those who believe in their cause and thereby rather hasten the realisation of their planned mass slaughter of innocent Igbo and other non-indigenes in their region. While it is necessary that the government should caution the northern youths and their sponsors, the focus should be on what has given birth to their position. If Osinbajo is sincere about effectively responding to the crisis, what is required is a radical approach. We must first of all find out why the crisis exists. Again, if Osinbajo is sincere, he would acknowledge that injustice is its cause. Thus the best approach is to replace the unjust system with justice and equity.
Thankfully, the nation has not been bereft of attempts to find enduring solutions to its crises. Osinbajo should consider these attempts in responding to the crises in the nation. He should consider the recommendations of the 2014 national conference report. Why are our leaders afraid of restructuring and implementing a true fiscal federalism that would enable the nation to develop the way the citizens want? Osinbajo’s All Progressives Congress (APC) got to Aso Rock largely because of its promise to implement true federalism. Now that they are in power, they are mouthing how they would solve the nation’s crises by other means including issuing warnings to troublemakers.
Until this radical step is taken to ensure justice in the system, Osinbajo may issue as many threats to troublemakers as he likes. But this would not stop agitations that would provoke counter-agitations that would threaten the unity of the nation. Osinbajo talked about ensuring that agitations and disagreements are not outside the constitution. Which constitution was the acting president talking about? The one designed by some people to oppress others ? Must a people whose oppression has been ratified by this constitution willingly submit to its tyrannical dictates?
As he meets with the leaders of the different regions, the focus should be on how to bring about the restructuring that the citizens want. He should not expect the so-called leaders of the regions who have been part of the oppressive system to persuade those whom the system have short-changed to accept their bleak fate. Does the president think that the leaders of the south- east would be able to stop the youths in the region from agitating for Biafra Republic? Have these youths not been agitating for Biafra Republic in defiance of their elders ?
Osinbajo does not need to remind anybody of the viciousness of war. A people who have been treated like second-class citizens and who feel that there is no hope of the government remedying this situation cannot be stopped from their agitations by the fear of war inflicting pain, blood and death. Of course, those who are faced daily with death that is the iniquitous Nigerian system would have no fear of death. Or does he think that the Niger Delta youths would be stopped from more agitations because their leaders and elders have gone to Aso Rock to meet with Osinbajo? The youths of the Niger Delta who have been wracked by years of unemployment and poverty may not feel obliged to listen to their leaders and elders when they are listening to a better voice – that of escape from the oppressive Nigerian union. In the days ahead, leaders like Osinbajo would have more hate speeches and agitations to contend with as long as they refuse to go for the options that would engender permanent solutions to the numerous crises that are threatening the Nigerian nation.