Recognising Nnamdi Kanu Is Rewarding Bad Behaviour — Arewa Consultative Forum

Anthony Sani, the Secretary General of the
sociopolitical group, Arewa Consultative
Forum, tells BAYO AKINLOYE that the Igbo
leaders have tacitly endorsed hate speech
by the Indigenous People of Biafra
Some northern elders have said Igbo
leaders are trivialising the hate campaign
and divisive activities of Nnamdi Kanu and
the Indigenous People of Biafra. What do
you think?

Hate speech is a serious issue that is
capable of splitting the country through
avoidable conflagration or war. Yet, Igbo
leaders have tended to tacitly endorse the
hate speech by the Indigenous People of
Biafra through their reticence until very
recently – and despite their knowledge of
dire experiences of civil war.
The northern leaders have equally been
accused of shielding northern youths said
to be guilty of inciting others to violence
through the notice to quit they issued to
Igbo living in that region. Don’t you agree
with that?

To accuse northern leaders of shielding the
northern youths is most unfair. We say the
accusation is most unfair because northern
leaders did not support the notice to quit.
For example, the Arewa Consultative Forum
said even though it appreciated the youths’
frustrations with the activities of IPOB, the
forum did not support the notice to quit
because it was unconstitutional and illegal.
We said two wrongs do not make a right.
Hence, we did not support it. The Northern
Governors Forum did not support the
notice to quit. The same way the Northern
Elders Forum did not support it except one
member who supported it out of his anger
at the activities of IPOB. After the notice to
quit, northern governors and their leaders
made a spirited effort and pressured the
northern youths to withdraw the ultimatum
given to the Igbo to leave the North – this
has come to pass. So, how have the
northern leaders supported violence
through the notice to quit? We should be
fair in apportioning blame.

The northern youths have been persuaded
by the northern governors and northern
leaders to withdraw the notice to quit. This
has gone a long way in dousing the
tension. To me, that is a heartening
development which should attract plaudits
from all well-meaning Nigerians – and not
from northern governors and northern
leaders alone.

Many in the South-South and South-East
are saying the youths ought to have been
arrested and prosecuted for making
inciting comments. Is that a genuine call?
While it is correct to say that the notice to
quit was illegal and could encourage
hoodlums to take advantage (of the
situation) and cause mayhem, I am not
sure it was directly inciting as alleged;
more so that the youths have denied
making such incitement.

Do you support the rearrest of Nnamdi
Kanu?
This is a legal matter of which I am not an
authority. You would note that Nnamdi
Kanu was arraigned on charges of
treasonable felony and was granted bail on
medical grounds with clearly spelt out
conditions which he accepted of his own
volition. But Kanu has observed the bail
conditions more in the breach. This has
tested the will of the Federal Government
which has gone to court to either enforce
the bail conditions or have him rearrested.
But some other people believe that Kanu’s
rearrest will make him a political factor in
the polity. To this group, it is better to
ignore Kanu, while some others are of the
view that the Federal Government should
dialogue with Kanu and bring about a
political solution. But, do we now reward
bad behaviours with recognition and
concessions by playing up Danegeld in
Biafra? To me – unless it is impossible – I
would prefer that the law should take its
course.

Do you think the Federal Government has
dealt fairly with Kanu, incarcerating him
for months without being tried?
I am not sure his trial hasn’t begun. The
delay in trying Kanu cannot be laid at the
door of the Federal Government which is
not expected to force the judiciary that is
well known for its goodness in delay. Even
Mr. President (Muhammadu Buhari) has
himself expressed his regime’s frustration
with the judiciary in the delay of cases that
have to do with corruption. So, the case of
Kanu cannot be treated in isolation of how
the judiciary treats cases in Nigeria. Mind
you, the delay by the judiciary is
responsible for many indicted people in the
legislature making laws for us.

Do you think Kanu’s agitation for an
independent state of Biafra is wrong?
I think the concern is in the methods of
the agitation employed by IPOB, which
include the use of uncouth language
capable of incitement. He even used the
word ‘zoo’ to depict Nigeria and in blithe
disregard for the fact that this same term
was used in Rwanda to cause ethnic
cleansing with dire consequences. There
are countries where agitations for the split
have taken place without the resort to the
use of foul language and hate speech as we
have experienced with IPOB. We have
Catalonia in Spain; Quebec in Canada; and
Scotland in Britain. Why should there be
hate speech that is capable of incitement?
Your group publicly condemned the stance
of Igbo leaders concerning Kanu. Some
believe it would have been better for
northern leaders to discuss the issue with
them without making a public
condemnation. Do you agree that your
public denunciation of the role being
played by the Igbo leaders can worsen the
already bad situation?

While I agree that dialogue is preferred to
an altercation in a democracy which is a
contest of ideas and reasons, your position
is a matter of judgment. Those who
encourage dialogue in the case of IPOB
ignore the dire consequences of rewarding
bad behaviours with recognition and a
form of concession. We must discourage
threats and intimidation in a democracy
which is a contest of ideas and reasons. It
is not a bullfight.

Some people believe that to set a good
precedent both Kanu and the Arewa youths
should be arrested and prosecuted by the
police. Do you share that view?
While I share the view that two wrongs do
not make a right, it is important to be
realistic. The (Arewa) youths were spurred
into issuing the notice to quit by their
frustration arising from the activities of
IPOB – more so now that they have been
persuaded to withdraw the notice to quit;
which they have withdrawn. That
underscores the impression that the two
offences do not have the same weight nor
can it be treated the same way.

There was an anti-Igbo song composed in
Hausa that went viral on the Internet. No
one has been arrested for that. Do you
think the government and security
agencies lack the will power to tackle hate
speech in the country?

You would note there have been many
instances of crimes in this country which
perpetrators are not arrested immediately,
either due to the need for thorough
investigations or due to shortcomings by
the authorities. The delay in the arrest of
those who sang the hate song may not be
due to the dearth in will power but due to
the need for thorough investigations or
shortcomings on the part of the security. It
is important to note this point lest anyone
ascribe wrong impressions on why they
have yet to be arrested.

Do you support the fact that Kanu and
others in the South-East have the right to
demand an independent state of Biafra?
They have the right to demand anything
within the law.

Do you agree that the South-East people are
the most marginalised region in the
country?

I find it very difficult to share the view
that the South-East is the most
marginalised (region). I recall President
(Goodluck) Jonathan once said, when he
was the governor of Bayelsa State, he
thought the Ijaw were the most
marginalised. But, when he became the
president, he discovered every ethnic
nationality in Nigeria claimed to be
marginalised, and he began to wonder who
was marginalising who. We better note
that since 1970, the Igbo have been part
and parcel of the Federal Government as
the vice president; senate president;
speaker of House of Representatives;

secretary to Government of the Federation;
coordinating minister; ministers; governor
of the Central Bank of Nigeria; service
chiefs; and as national chairman of the
ruling party. The South-East held sway
under Jonathan for five years. For them to
still play victim may be understood but not
acceptable. Nigeria has about 371 ethnic
nationalities, most of which have not
enjoyed ingress to the Federal Government
compared to the Igbo.

The Hausa, whom the Igbo malign so
much, have produced only Gen. Murtala
Mohammed as head of state who ruled for
only six months and died in the same
circumstances like the Igbo’s Gen.

(Johnson) Aguiyi-Ironsi – who also ruled
for six months. Yet, the Hausa do not play
the victim of marginalisation like the Igbo.
Nigeria is going through hard times. But
hard times should bring about national
grandeur; bring about purposeful
leadership at all levels and the best of
everyone across the nation. I also believe
the Igbo should note that the certain
benefits of our togetherness in a big
country are far more than the uncertain
gains of the split. No country is without
challenges – was there such a country,
there would be no need for government.
Our situation is not beyond redemption.
Punchng

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