A pan Yoruba socio-cultural group known as Afenifere has weighed in on the recent calls for the re-arrest of the Leader of the Indigenous people of Biafra(IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
In a recent interview with Punch, the national publicity secretary of the group, Yinka Odumakin implied that only people from the Northern region of the country seek the re-arrest of Kanu.
To start with, experience has shown that arrest cannot resolve the question of self-determination. Two years ago, who knew Nnamdi Kanu? Maybe he was just on the Internet or Radio Biafra. But when he was arrested and detained for over a year he became popular.
You realise today that when he is addressing crowds in the South-East, thousands gather and follow (him). They (government) made him popular. If they rearrest him, they are going to further popularise him and bring into focus the issues he is fighting for. Why don’t they deal with the issues, solve the nationality question and render his achievements ineffective? His arrest will not resolve the matter. Even if they sentence Kanu to death today, another person will rise — once they refuse to resolve the matter.
On the other hand, when you talk about the rule of law, that lady that symbolises justice is blindfolded. The essence of that is, she is no respecter of persons — she delivers justice to whoever offends the law. But then, you begin to go after Kanu and some people get up in Arewa land to say leave our land. The Kaduna governor says, ‘Go and arrest them.’
The vice president says, ‘Arrest them.’ The minister of interior then says, ‘No, they said they were misquoted.’ The thing the minister said they were misquoted on, they sat with governors from the North to say they were suspending the order (notice to quit given to Igbo in the North), and they were holding a press conference in Sheraton.
In fact, one of the (Arewa) youths, when they were looking for them, said, ‘If I’m declared wanted, I will give myself up.’ Even (for security agents) to invite them for a 30-minute chat and let them go, they didn’t do that. When you refuse to do that, you create problems for the rule of law; you show that there’s a double standard. That is not how to build an inclusive country.
Not that we endorse everything that Kanu is doing, but we are saying in order not to overheat the polity, what we need now is (for the Federal Government) to address the issues that have given rise to agitations. If we begin the process of restructuring this country, the separatist groups will be at bay. But if we don’t address these issues, you’re giving them, added energy.
When asked about Kanu’s violation of his bail conditions, Odumakin said;
When you are granted bail, that is not the end of the matter. The bail means you can go home while the case continues. They have a case in court; let them go to the court. It goes beyond the whole question of courts. Kanu has not been put before the court for killing anybody, burning property or doing anything wrong. All they are taking him to court for is for statements they said he made.
Arewa youths made statements that threatened the unity of the country; they (government) said they should be arrested. The police did not arrest them. The minister of interior came out and started making excuses that the youths said they were misquoted.
Why didn’t he say Kanu said he was misquoted? Now, those who are in favour of (Kanu’s) re-arrest are from the same section of the country where the Arewa youths come from. People can begin to draw insinuations that they are quick to ask for Kanu’s re-arrest because he is not from their section of the country, while they are shielding those who are from their section of the country. That’s why I’m talking about inclusiveness. So, it goes beyond taking Kanu to court. It’s on the basis of the same question of what Kanu said that they arrested him in the first place. Arewa youths made pronouncements that threatened the unity of Nigeria.
To date, the police could not invite them for a chat; (not) even to take them to a five-star hotel and interrogate them over drinks, pepper soup and groundnuts. To let them be roaming free and even for the minister of interior to be making very lame and unintelligent excuses for them — what kind of country are you building? The boys never said they were misquoted.
When they suspended their notice to quit, they repeated everything they said. That minister should have resigned by now. We are not holding the fort for Kanu at all. We are saying if you want to apply the law, you must apply it evenly; not a law for a section and another law for another section. That cannot work. In fact, that will create more problems and give more sympathy to Kanu.