Today, Nigerians would be treated to another round of spectacle that has been brewing since the federal government in early July announced the rearrest of the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra leader, Nnamdi Kanu from an undisclosed African country–which fingers have pointed to be Kenya. Kanu jumped bail and fled after his trial in 2017 in which now senate minority leader Enyinnaya Abaribe stood as a surety for him.
One of the first tell-tale signs of things going possibly wrong came late Sunday evening when news filtered that the Federal High Court in Abuja has barred some media organisations from covering the trial. The newspapers banned were some of the most popular across the country viz: The Cable, Daily Sun, Daily Times, Daily Trust as well as Organizations with immense spread and wide reach such as Punch, Guardian, Tribune and Vanguard. In their place, the accredited includes Daily Post, Daily Independent, Herald, The Nation, Premium Times, This Day, NTA, AIT and Channels. For emphasis, this is a problematic decision because the media houses accredited were mostly television stations. Nigerians still grapple with poor electricity which makes sustained interest especially in places without Internet penetration (which a lot of the unaccredited Organizations depend on) really low.
It is important to state here that the Nigerian constitution and legal system forbids secret trials. The 36th section of the 1999 Constitution says every trial must be carried out openly and publicly. The decision to grant accreditation to a few media outlets also contravenes chapter 22 of the constitution that grants the media the right to ensure that the provisions of chapter 2 that deals with the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy are upheld in order to maintain government accountability to the people. Furthermore, what this gag on the press indicates is a continuation of the press censorship and the ongoing battle against the media that the Buhari administration has continued through various legislations such as the new NBC code, Hate Speech bills and several others spearheaded by the ministry of communications. Every pretense to a stable democratic state Nigeria may have had before now has been eroded as the vestiges of freedom remain stifled through overt clannishness.
It is in the same aura of clannishness that in the same week as the resumption of Nnamdi Kanu’s trial begins, another pro-sessecionist is fighting against his extradition to Nigeria. Sunday Adeyemo, a pro Yoruba secessionist agitator popularly known as Sunday Igboho who fled to neighbouring Benin Republic when Nigerian security forces invaded his home and killed some of his aides in early July. The speed in which the Buhari administration has clamped down on pro secessionists which before now were fringe elements of society pales in very stark comparison to the government’s attitudes to dealing with leaders of prominent terror groups operating in the North West and Central. Turji, Dogo Gide are just two names of tons of criminal elements–colloquially referred to as “bandits”–that have forced the Nigerian state to relinquish control of parts of its territory as areas in these two geopolitical zones have become increasingly ungovernable due to the wanton destruction of lives by criminal herdsmen both foreign and domestic, as well as the misappropriation of farmlands through an insane level of ethnic cleansing across the country that has made food security a big risk. Again, one must add that the decision to go after Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu while large sums of scarce government revenue is being paid to bandits and other kidnap syndicates as ransom presents a pattern of uneven governance model that sets the template for not just ethno-religious tensions, but also lowers the bar for future governments.
As Sunday Igboho battles his extradition while Nnamdi Kanu’s trial resumes today, there are a lot of questions that must be answered, and chief of which is why these ideas of secession, which were fringe during the reign of previous governments have become so mainstream as to dominate headline discourse of national importance at least within the past five years, reaching a fever pitch momentum within the past one year. If the Buhari administration ever stops to think, the starting point should a calm look in its mirror.