PRINCIPLE OF SELF DETERMINATION IS A UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTABLE RIGHT (A REACTION TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI'S NATIONAL BROADCAST) /

 On the 21st of August, 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari made a six-minute broadcast to the nation after his return from medical tourism to the UK. 

Characteristically, the speech was uninspiring, gibberish and hyperactively illogical. In a nutshell, Buhari’s speech raised more questions than answers and dashed the little hope compatriots have on the 1914 colonial masters’ political contraption called Nigeria. Truth be told, he affirmed the dictum: once a dictators, always a dictator. 

 Mandate givers expected an outright apology for violating his personal order that barred all public officers from embarking on medical tourism abroad. This is another confirmation of the notion that Buhari's government operates on the Orwellian Animal Farm dictum of "All Animals Are Equal But Some Are More Equal Than Others". 

 Buhari is refusing to accept the fact that the political milieus of 31st December, 1983 - 27th August, 1985, are not the same. His inflicting of below-the-belt blows on new media stems from the undying spirit of his infamous decree No2 which he deployed in harassing and jailing journalists wantonly. He must know that freedom to hold onto an idea and expressing same is a concomitant part of democracy. Social Media is an “uncensorable” information revolution he must live with, willy nilly, if he does not want to suffer the kind of backlash such an idea would visit upon him and his government.

 Somewhere in that his wishy washy speech, Buhari piqued: some comments crossed "our national red lines", and consciously or otherwise, he refused to educate Nigerians on what these mysterious red lines are. Could it be questions on the state of his health? Could it be comments that said we are tired of picking his expensive health bills and aides’ estacodes? Could it be sundry analyses challenging his morality of collecting salaries without work? Could it be commentaries bordering his wastage of parking a presidential jet in UK at a prohibitive cost to the ordinary Nigerian? Could it be the local and international Resume or Resign protests of Concerned Nigerians? Or could it be the Indegeneous People Of Biafra, IPOB’s advocacy for a United Nations’ monitored Referendum? 

 No doubt, Buhari and his unprofessional handlers love bandying phrases without knowing their full meaning, weight and minding their place in a democratic political setting. 

  Reading between the lines in his unsubstantiated narration about Dim Chukwu Emeka Ojukwu's visit to his hometown in Daura,  Katsina State, in 2003, and their purported resolution of indivisibility and undissolubility of Nigeria as Buhari made us believe, it was clear that IPOB's advocacy for a referendum was atop the pyramid of the reasons for his broadcast. 

Assuming (without conceding) that Dim Ojukwu was in Daura, Kastina State for two days and the duo indeed agreed that Nigeria should remain a single political cluster, is Buhari not aware of Ojukwu's interview with the Newswatch magazine edition of 13th September, 2004, which graced the magazine’s cover page under the title "I SUPPORT BIAFRA"? If the Ikemba Nnewi were to be alive today, he would have been advancing a similar position with IPOB and leading his people like Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is doing today.

Buhari and his underground political power string pullers are pretending not to understand that the principle of self determination is a universal norm and not a vice. It was on the same principle that nationalists pillared our movement for self rule that peaked with the lowering of the Union Jack on 1st October 1960. It is on this same principle that IPOB are advocating for a referendum for South Eastern Region. This is legal and fair game! 

Recently, we have seen clusters in existing nation states that clamoured for referendum and they were successfully organized: Kosovo, East Timor, Eritrea, South Sudan, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Crimea. 

Still, Catalans in Spain, Irish and Scottish in the U.K. etc are pushing for referendums. In all these instances cited, leaders of climes they seek to break away from are not treating them as criminals or labeling such advocacy treasonable. 

Thus far, IPOB (a movement government is in a hurry  to tag a fraternity of felons) have conducted their activism peacefully and within the parameters of our laws and  other global and regional protocols. IPOB's strategic and tactical decisions like sit-at-home, staging of rallies, boycott of elections, and formation of cells in all the nooks and crannies of South East are quite acceptable in our law books. Elsewhere, these decisions fall within the bracket of CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE. It's our candid opinion that IPOB's leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and his loyal cum dedicated cadres should be commended rather than be crucified for their measured, civil and responsible manner of advocacy- despite provocations from overzealous security agencies and pro system politicians. 

 Lest we forget, Sir Ahmadu Bello called Nigeria the 1914 mistake. Chief Obafemi Awolowo also said Nigeria is a mere geographic expression. These statements are a clear demonstration of the fact that we were not one and might likely not be. And since then, new issues have germinated and made anything short of a referendum a mere waste of time. Consequently, packing people in a country hemmed for economic exploitation, political subjugation and cultural domination without their consent is undemocratic. The imperialists’ action created a semi-apartheid entity that enslaved majority of Nigerians and deliberately refused to collapse the mischievous chains of slavery on the free people they made slaves through an unholy political wedlock knotted in 1914. 

We must be courageous enough to put the question before Nigerians once and for all. We have pretended far too long and the pretext must cease, right away. If we are truly indivisible and indissoluble as Buhari and his sing-along cohorts want us to believe, why are they afraid of testing their position via a referendum? 

 A survey of opinion across the country shows that all Southern zones and entire middle belt are not satisfied with the country's political structures. Sequel to that, narrowing dissatisfaction to our current political structures to the South East and IPOB shows the quantum of insincerity of Buhari and his men in the loop. Just yesterday the 24th of August 2017, kingpins of Southern Nigeria Leaders' Forum reiterated their dissatisfaction on the Nigeria Project and insisted that the Unity of Nigeria is negotiable. 

 Finally, we want PMB to know that threat to unleash brutality on dissenting voices and the opposition will never make us turn-tail-run. We shall continue to enjoy our freedom to disagree with any political decision or stance under the political sun of Nigeria. Self determination is a right, never a privilege. And we are prepared to exercise that right to its fullest!

 John Danfulani, Ph.D

CENTRUM INITIATIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS ADVOCACY