1 September 2017
In the wake of the ongoing agitations for secession, the tension over restructuring, raging oppositions among other issues, JAMES OJO examines the tension-soaked atmosphere in the country, the implications of President Muhammudu Buhari’s determination to hang on to a united Nigeria and what the future holds for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
The strings of agitations ongoing in the country is an indication that these are not the best of times for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, which took off on a promising note after its victory at the 2015 polls.
Many tied the party’s victory at the polls to its campaign promises, leaving other quarters to argue that the ruling government’s true test would be how to actualize the promises made to Nigerians.
Two years down the line, the party, it appears, is going through its thorniest moment as it struggles to find a solution to the various challenges facing the country.
Agitations too many
Since the President Buhari-led administration took off on May 29, 2015, various groups have been thronging the streets, threatening secession from Nigeria.
In 2016, Niger Delta Avengers reportedly destroyed properties worth millions of naira, citing government’s continued marginalization of the region, despite its contribution to the economy.
The group’s spokesperson, Murdoch Agbinibo, in a 2016 statement credited to him said “We want our resources back to restore the essence of human life in our region for generations to come because Nigeria has failed to do that. The world should not wait until we go the Sudan way. Enough is enough. We are calling on the international community to come and support the restoration of our right to peaceful self-determination from this tragedy of 1914 that has expired since 2014.”
At the time, the agitations appeared to have died down after measures were taken by the Federal Government to address the volatile situation – barely two years down the lane, the country is right back at it again. Difference is that this time, the country is faced with agitations for the actualization of the Independent State of Biafra.
At the forefront of the movement is the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, group led by Nnamdi Kanu. Another group also supporting the movement is the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB.
On May 30, 2017, IPOB successfully carried out a sit-at-home protest across the south eastern states as they make stronger move to drive home their demands.
With the rising tide of the agitations, many have argued that the country’s existence is under a serious threat.
In spite of the growing agitations for secession in the country, Buhari has insisted that the unity of the country is non-negotiable.
In a nationwide broadcast to the country on Monday, August 21, two days after his return from the United Kingdom, the President restated his administration’s commitment to maintaining an undivided Nigeria, stressing that government would read the riot act to any group caught fanning the embers of disunity. “Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable,” Buhari had said during the nationwide broadcast.
Many have, however, condemned the President’s stance, saying that it would only aggravate the situation of things in the country.
According to some, rather than issuing threats to the agitators, the present administration should whip up measures that would calm their nerves. They argued that what the Buhari-led administration should be losing sleep over is how to restructure the current system in the country to accommodate everyone, due to allegations of marginalization raised by some regions.
Speaking on the issue, a former military governor of Kaduna state, Abubakar Umar said: “President Buhari’s insistence that the unity of Nigeria is a settled issue is a nationalistic wish and is no surprise coming from a civil war veteran. However, this does not take into account the mood of the nation as indicated by the growing agitations for self-determination, restructuring and many other similar demands. If indeed the president is able to ignore and silence those agitators, it will be a case of suspended animation. All indications are that Nigeria has become so polarised that it requires a strong personality like General Buhari to sustain its fragile unity. Needless to say that this does not bode well for the survival of the nation.”
Speaking in a statement issued on Wednesday, the Chairman of the Movement for Unity and Progress stated that, “Most Nigerians are convinced of the need to maintain Nigeria’s unity, cognizant of the enormous benefits all sections drive from a large, diverse and resource rich country. The federation also provides a security umbrella to all the federating units which enhance their survivability and prosperity. It is difficult to see how any of them can fare better out of the federation. But the fact that there are growing agitations for self-determination, restructuring and other similar demands speak gravely of the way the federation is being governed. Nigeria’s unity can only be guaranteed when all its citizens feel they are getting a fair deal; when all its component parts are treated justly and equitably. When none feels oppressed.”
In the same vein, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had during his lecture at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, UNN, on the occasion of the Senior Staff Club Lecture Series on Restructuring held in July stated that “only restructuring can guarantee unity, equity and security of our nation.”
“I believe we need to speak the truth. And the truth is this: our national wealth is being drained by a select few instead of building a country for all of us. This has to end,” he added.
To this end, many have continued to question the president’s alleged silence on the calls for restructuring.
The Social Democratic Party, SDP, in a press statement signed by Alfa Mohammed, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, had again urged Buhari after his nationwide broadcast to swiftly address the issue.
“This issue of restructuring we reason is fundamental to the peace and unity of our great country, and pretending otherwise is like postponing the dooms day,” the party said.
It added: “Directing agitators of the nation’s restructuring to the council of state or the National Assembly where it was killed during the constitutional review exercise amounts to not appreciating the enormity of neglecting the loud cry of the victims of the status quo.”
Another hard nut to crack for the ruling party is the raging oppositions brewing up across the country.
The major opposition party in the country, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, seem to be getting over the crises that had earlier kept it divided. This, many believed, is a major blow to the ruling party. It would be recalled that the PDP recently issued a statement telling the APC-led government to start counting its days in office.
Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, has also continued his criticism of the ruling government.
Fayose recently said “It is clear that the President has lost touch with the real economic situation of the country. Even a two-year-old child knows that there is hunger in the land. Nigerians are hungry, they are suffering, and telling them that all is well is like adding insult to their injury.”
In June, it was reported that a coalition of 15 different political parties had formed an electoral alliance tagged “Mega Coalition” to adopt and field candidates at Governorship and Presidential elections in Nigeria.
Some of the parties who signed the agreement document included the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN, Better Nigeria Progressive Party, BNPP, Democratic Alternative, DA, Democratic Peoples Congress, DPC, and Democratic Peoples’ Party, DPP, among others.
Many are of the view that with oppositions pooling resources together, the ruling party faces a stern test ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Nnamdi Kanu’s re-arrest
Another thorn in the flesh of the ruling government will Nnamdi who has refused to keep quiet, leaving the country’s leadership to consider his re-arrest over claims that he has violated his bail conditions.
It would be recalled that the IPOB leader was released on April 28 after satisfying the bail conditions mandated by Justice Binta Nyako on April 25, but the Federal Government had on Friday, August 25, announced its plan to ask the court to revoke Mr. Kanu’s bail for allegedly contravening his bail conditions.
But daring the Federal Government, Kanu flayed FG’s threat to re-arrest him. “Some idiots who are not educated said that they’ll arrest me, and I ask them to come. I’m in Biafra land. If any of them leaves Biafra land alive know that this is not IPOB. Tell them that’s what I said.
“Tell Buhari that I’m in Aba and any person who comes to arrest Nnamdi Kanu in Biafra land will die here. I’ll never go on exile I assure you,” Kanu was quoted to have said by The Cable, an online newspaper, at the Boys Technical College in Aba, Abia State.
Already, the group had in a statement cautioned the Federal Government against re-arresting Kanu, warning that “Nigeria will disintegrate faster than they think,” if re-arrested.
Observers contend that the re-arrest of the IPOB leader remains one of the major issues that would either make or mar Buhari’s administration.
Walking the tight-rope
Mausi Segun of the Human Rights Watch had in 2015 opined that, “Nigeria faces serious economic, social, and security challenges in the years ahead, and the real test for Buhari’s new administration will be to address the challenges while respecting human rights.”
As it stands now, the pendulum is swinging; expectations are mounting on President Buhari’s APC-led government.
Whether or not the party can weather the storm of these challenges, time will tell.