In what seems a diversionary move from the nation-wide insecurity, the tottering Buhari administration took a swipe at the British government for considering the asylum applications of the hounded Indigenous People of Biafra partisans. The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed had said the plan by the British government to grant asylum for IPOB members was disrespectful and amounted to a sabotage of the Federal Government’s fight against terrorism in the country. Besides, the minister also alleged that the British refused Nigerian government’s request to the effect that Radio Biafra, which broadcast from London should be shut.
However, the British government has laid bare its position on the points at issue. It averred that asylum and human rights claims from Nigerian nationals were carefully considered based on their individual merits in accordance with its international obligations. The British High Commission in Nigeria through its statement noted that: “The UK has a proud history of providing protection to those who need it, in accordance with our international obligations under the Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)…“Our country policy and information notes are published on the gov.uk website. They are kept under constant review and updated periodically – an update to the Biafra separatist note is expected shortly…We publish them since our decisions can be appealed in the immigration courts, which are public, so it is clearer and fairer for all involved (applicants, their lawyers, judges, stakeholders such as the UNHCR) to know what our position and evidence base is…All asylum and human rights claims from Nigerian nationals are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international obligations.”
Similarly, in a response, IPOB rejected the asylum ‘gift’ while underscoring its quest for freedom for its people. In statement from its publicity arm, it noted that: “… the global family of IPOB, led by Nnamdi Kanu, has noted with satisfaction the news that the United Kingdom has agreed to grant asylum to persecuted Biafra agitators resident in the UK.” It further stated that “While we commend them for this bold initiative, we wish to most graciously remind them that what we, Biafrans need and cherish the most is referendum and not asylum in the UK…We are tired of living in bondage in the devilish contraption called Nigeria they single-handedly created. We would not wish our children, now and generations unborn to share the same geo-political space with those that reward terrorists and criminalise law-abiding citizens. We particularly thank the UK government for confirming what the rest of the civilised world already know that the IPOB members are not terrorists but peaceful agitators and freedom fighters.”
The latest development for us is an attempt to create a bogeyman in the midst of pressing national issues, namely, widespread insecurity and daily bloodletting in the country and the insincerity of the government of the day to deal with these matters. Everyone knows the increase in separatist impulse in the country and the controversy of the skewed structure of the Nigerian state. Today, given the lie of the Nigerian state, many of its component nationalities wanted the rightfulness of the units addressed under a federal constitution. There are others to whom the Lugardian estate is no longer attractive. The irresponsible state minders have exhibited in the face of all these reprehensible self-denial. It is like Emperor Nero frolicking while Rome was burning.
Indeed, the Federal Government is unhappy about asylum granted the IPOB members by the UK. Lai Mohammed said it’s disrespectful of Nigeria, and the British government has responded within the ambit of its policy. The truth is that the IPOB matter is assuming a dangerous dimension in the south-eastern Nigeria. The Federal Government’s attitude to peaceful agitation for self-determination, legitimate within national and international laws is massive military onslaught against the people of the region. We uphold the right of the British government to grant amnesty to whom it wishes. At the same time, it cannot be denied that IPOB is against insecurity unleashed by Fulani terrorists and bandits against the ordinary Igbo people. Indeed, IPOB had to fill the vacuum created by the lukewarm attitude of state governments and the political class, which are more interested in 2023. As an afterthought, the governors rushed to announce a security outfit so-called Ebube Agu in ways to undermine the independent action of IPOB and its partisans.
The point should be made, however, that until the government addresses the imbalance in the country’s political and socio-economic character, IPOB and other groups will continue their campaign for justice. The solution to that agitation does not reside in military clampdown, which is affecting innocent people more than the guilty. The blame for the deadly attacks against security forces in the region has been put on the shoulder of IPOB without proofs to warrant prosecution and conviction within the rule of law. We state here unequivocally that government must go beyond mere suspicion to get the perpetrators and bring them to book. It cannot do this without restructuring the country along the line of true federalism.
There is a groundswell of opinion about federalism within the polity. There is no reason why state actors and indeed leaders in this failing state should not consider the agitation of the people at this time. At a colloquium organised by a faith-based organisation on Federalism at the weekend, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State (APC) who doubles as chairman of the Governors’ Forum, among other prominent and significant speakers, reiterated a point, for instance, that no federation within the Forum of Federations operates a federal police, except Nigeria. What is the Buhari administration still waiting for? Nigeria’s leader should note that unless he addresses restructuring of the convoluted federation to reflect organic federalism, he will not find rest. Reason: It is an idea whose time has indeed come – and his indifference and even hatred (for it) can’t stop that wind of change.