IPOB AND THE PRICE OF INDECISIVENESS.




OPINION  BY BENEDICT ODINAKA writing for ODOGWU MEDIA.


The handling of the agitations by the Indigenous People of Biafra and the incendiary rhetoric of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, have no doubt led some critics to conclude that President Muhammadu Buhari’s celebrated leadership qualities exist more in myth than in reality. With the possible exception of the military operation against Boko Haram, indecisiveness has been the distinctive quality of Buhari’s leadership style and the hallmark of his administration.
His indecision on several matters of national importance has been demonstrated time and again. It is illustrated sometimes by slow or delayed action and sometimes by no action at all. Matters which would have been dealt with promptly and decisively once and for all are dragged on and on until they become almost unmanageable.
We witnessed Buhari’s slow machine at work in the election of legislative leaders with alleged forged documents; the delayed appointments to his cabinet and boards of parastatals; the protracted and still inconclusive confirmation process of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; the delayed suspension and possible ousting of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on allegations of corruption; the delayed, and still unclear, response to the nationwide call for restructuring the country; and the slippery handling of various terrorist activities by kidnappers, Fulani herdsmen, armed robbers, and separatist agitators.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the nation is reeling today from the consequences of the President’s indecision on Kanu and IPOB. No wonder his latest attempt to silence them with military force has led to negative reactions from various quarters.
Operation Python Dance has been widely criticised for two major reasons. One, such military operations in public glare and in residential areas are incongruous with democratic governance. While there is validity in such a criticism, it is also possible to argue that it sidesteps two realities of our brand of democracy. For one thing, with soldiers in civilian garments as top political office holders, including Buhari himself, we have hardly grown out of the military era. Moreover, consequently, there are soldiers everywhere in our lives, as evidenced, for example, by military roadblocks across the country. If we could tolerate the military’s crime-fighting role on the roadways and welcome its presence during herdsmen-farmers’ clashes, why not tolerate them on city streets, where necessary?
Two, the above devil’s advocacy notwithstanding, the initial attempt by the military to allow the “python” to dance on Kanu’s street and in front of his family compound came with a falsifying effect on the reasons given by the military for the operation, genuine as they are, namely, to combat all kinds of crime in the South-East zone. The incident also further emboldened Kanu and his supporters to escalate IPOB’s propaganda machine.
The truth is that the President had earlier missed several opportunities to contain Kanu and IPOB. First, Kanu’s treason trial, if indeed there were provable allegations against him, should have proceeded full swing, when he was initially arrested, instead of keeping him in prison custody for far too long without charges. It was the prolonged incarceration without charges that led to national and international outcry, which, in turn, further emboldened Kanu, IPOB, and similar groups to taunt the Federal Government with their shenanigans.
Second, while Kanu’s trial was going on, Buhari should have taken advantage of necessary legal and constitutional channels to proscribe IPOB before it was emboldened enough to develop the paraphernalia of statehood, including a flag, an anthem, and secret service. In other words, what Southeastern governors did last week in proscribing IPOB should have been done by the Federal Government long ago.
In fairness to Buhari, he bent over backwards to hearken to the demand for Kanu’s bail. He surely must have done so out of respect for the constitution he swore to defend. After all, ours is a democracy that valourises free speech and freedom of association.
However, the truth is that no Federal Government would have tolerated Kanu and IPOB’s secessionist agenda, which has been in the forefront of its mission from the onset. A clique from the same region touting secession is an insulting affront to Buhari, a soldier, who fought in the civil war to liberate Biafra, participated in several military coups, and was himself the victim of a military coup. You could say that he is now a democratic president. But we knew his background before we voted him to power.
There’s no denying the fact that Kanu’s excesses know no bounds, and that his wings grew much wider even while on bail. Just consider images of Kanu on TV and social media. His regalia ranges from that of a Jewish rabbi to that of an Igbo monarch, while his persona ranges from that of the leader of a separatist group to that of a deity to be worshipped by his followers.
Apart from denigrating remarks about Nigeria, which he labels as a “zoo”, and the country’s leadership, Kanu’s public rhetoric is full of bellicosity, despite his claim of non-violence. That’s why it is difficult not to link the large cache of “ownerless” weapons seized by the Nigeria Customs Service with him and IPOB, especially in view of his public request that “We need guns and we need bullets”, which he allegedly made as a guest speaker at the World Igbo Congress in Los Angeles, California, USA, on September 5, 2015.
Third, once it was determined that Kanu had broken the bail conditions set for him, he should promptly have been re-arrested without fanfare and only by the police. Why the Attorney General handled Kanu’s re-arrest like a dog fight—charging and then retreating—remains a big question. Had Kanu been re-arrested for contravening his bail conditions, the military’s Operation Python Dance could have gone on, without attracting the negative reactions and (mis)interpretations it now does.
Fourth, the President should have set in motion long before now the processes of responding to the call for restructuring the country, which would have taken care of the agitations for self-determination by various groups, including IPOB. Had it been clear to everyone that restructuring was fully on the table, the idea of “looters” using IPOB to destabilize the country, as alleged by the Federal Government, would not have arisen.
It is heartening, of course, that the Federal Government is showing signs of acceding to the call for restructuring, by setting up a committee to look into the matter. If the ongoing attempt to accommodate the call for restructuring turns out to be a ruse, it will have dire electoral consequences on the APC nationwide, especially in the South. Besides, one can only hope that, after reviewing his committee’s report, the President would cover the necessary bases, including discussing the issue with the governors across the country and enlisting the cooperation of the leaders and key members of the National Assembly.
All too often, the President has been known to have left gaps in the communication chain, which led to serious governance problems. We saw it in the handling of the EFCC Acting Chairman’s confirmation and, recently, in the management of the ongoing IPOB saga, which led the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to invite the President to “do the needful by initiating the right process”. Saraki had faulted both the proscription of IPOB by South-East governors and its categorization as a terrorist organization by the military as unconstitutional, because due process was not followed.
That this Senate President could so publicly fault the President’s approach is part of the price Buhari has been paying for indecisiveness.






IPOB AND THE PRICE OF INDECISIVENESS. IPOB AND THE PRICE OF INDECISIVENESS. Reviewed by benedict odinaka on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 Rating: 5

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