By Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko
A lot of people believe we all need to remember what happened exactly four years ago. Four years ago, I was approached by the South East Governors Forum to arrange a meeting between Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and the South East Governors.
I pleaded with them to grant me the concession to involve an Igbo elder, they agreed. I invited Prof Ben Nwabueze and he accepted to lead us to the meeting. At the meeting, Nnamdi agreed that his demands for secession and election boycott were not absolute, in other words, that he and his group were amenable to negotiations, as the dialogue progressed.
In my sitting room before the meeting, Nnamdi and I had agreed that presenting the need for a wholesome reconstruction of the polity, a constitutional conference where Nigerians would sit down to agree on the way forward, a get-together that will draft the people’s agreement, probably anchored on power devolution, true federalism and resource control via a new constitution, affirmed at a referendum, should be the group’s position. A constitution that would give every section, a sense of belonging.
Nnamdi INSISTED on the 1963 constitution model. He was reluctant to quiten all agitation for 24 months. He was willing to concede between 6 and 12 months, of peace and quiet, to allow the FG time to address the demand. This position was presented to the meeting. The South East Governors agreed to take his demands to Abuja and get back at the next meeting, where Nnamdi will conclude the negotiations with his group.
In my car on our way home, I asked Nnamdi how he hoped to convince his group to flow with the national reconstruction agenda, just in case Abuja looks at it favourably. Nnamdi assured me that he had it all figured out. He believed he had to play the statesman for the sake of posterity. The South East Governors demanded Nnamdi attended the follow-up meeting in a fortnight, with his group. On the eve of the proposed second meeting, Nnamdi’s residence was invaded.
Four years later, the FG is upbeat the agitation will soon be crushed because Nnamdi is in their custody once again. Nnamdi’s followers, driven by emotion and anger, believe they will cripple the country and have their way. Well, the truth may be a little different from the two extreme positions.
Three months ago, circumstances forced me out of my self-imposed silence, to make certain interventions through my 155-point, 20 series social media post titled MY PEOPLE ARE DESTROYED FOR LACK OF KNOWLEDGE.
Disturbed by the possibility of a military invasion of the South East, that will not only destroy lives and infrastructure, but also injure the economic life of the region, I made public, certain truth that could stay the hand of the authorities, thereby avoiding a blood bath and massive destruction of the land. Once again, I am forced to present these “unattractive” deep truths.
1 It is not true that Nnamdi’s detention has or will bring the agitation to an end. The agitation has never been about an individual. It has rather, always been about the suffocating unitary structure, the refusal to enthrone equity, fairplay, and a level playing field for all. It is about the impunity, nepotism and poor governance, enabled by the military’s decree 24 of 1999, a.k.a. the 1999 constitution. It has been about the lack of interest and loss of faith in the structure, format and style of governance in the country. A system that not only encourages massive corruption, but also makes it impossible for the established agencies to bring corrupt leaders to book. A system that rapidly grows unemployment, hamstrings State Governments and overloads the central government with duties it is unable to perform. A system that has failed all round, but is only sustained stubbornly and to the pleasure of certain folks, who believe that restructuring Nigeria may cost them their preeminent and dominant position in the country.
2 The deliberately woven false narrative that if Nnamdi is caged, then the agitation will die, is actually unpatriotic and unhelpful. The agitation is fuelled by the fear of eternal subjugation. Millions of young folks of my region are not willing to see their children go through the humiliation they experience in unitary Nigeria. Where they have been reduced to permanent onlookers and spectators in a country Azikiwe and co laboured and fought to build. The smart deception that the agitation is all about Nnamdi, is designed and cleverly sustained by people who do not want the truth addressed and the issues resolved.
3 The agitation which began 22 years ago, has grown greatly and would have overrun the region, had the agitators the good mind and needed skills to win over the elite of the region. Nevertheless, their near-total support and sympathy from the masses of the region and very huge diaspora presence, makes it unintelligent to write off the agitation. The masses are woke, intimidation has not worked, and earlier applied lethal force only deepened their anger.
4 The Governors of the region must show leadership now and engage Nnamdi immediately. They should visit, engage and sound out Nnamdi even in the DSS custody, to work out an amicable and peaceful roadmap to closure and harmony. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO RESOLVE THE CRISIS WITHOUT NNAMDI.
Those who think otherwise are naive or unfamiliar with the structure of the agitators and their modus operandi. The earlier the South East Governors visit Nnamdi in the DSS facility and begin talks with him, the better for the land. There’s no other way.
5 The importance of avoiding violent approach, cannot be over emphasized. The issues that inspired the agitation, must be addressed. The unhelpful and unhealthy structure of the country must be reconstructed. The nepotism, impunity, especially the brigandage of the murderous Fulani herdsmen, must become issues of the past. And, demonising the agitators must be stopped. It is wrong to consistently attack and demonize much abused youngsters, whose only sin, is that they can no longer swallow the wicked humiliation meted on them by their fellow countrymen, just because their parents lost a war in 1970. That you don’t agree with their style, does not make their cries for justice invalid.
6 Finally, its not true that you can cure your malaria by addressing the symptoms only. You solve your sickness by treating the root cause of the disease.
A: You run tests, identify the malaria parasites and address them with anti malaria drugs.
B: You cover your bed with treated mosquitoe net, and sleep in them.
C: You clear drainage, get rid of stagnant water in your gutter, and disinfect your compound.
Your malaria symptoms will only disappear once addressed from the root.
We will never get it right by obstinately ignoring the root cause, while gleefully attacking the symptoms.
The desire to crush the agitation forcefully is wrong and will backfire. The agitators should be engaged without delay. Clerics and credible elders should be used. Time is of essence.