There are hints that the leaders of self-determination groups; Nnamdi Kanu of the Indigenous People of Biafra and Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho, of the Yoruba Nation, are prepared to meet with the Federal Government.
Yomi Aliyu, SAN, and Alloy Ejimakor, counsel for the Yoruba Nation and IPOB leaders, revealed this in separate interviews with The Punch on Thursday.
During a news conference on Wednesday, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, said the Federal Government would not rule out political solutions to the country’s separatist agitations.
Malami had also reiterated that though the Federal Government had not considered any political solution yet, it would not rule out any opportunity to broker peace with the self-determination agitators.
Aliyu told newsmen that his client was ready to embrace dialogue as long as the Federal Government was ready to discuss with him.
He, however, stated that the negotiations would have to take place without interference from political and socio-cultural groups.
Aliyu said, “Every war ends at the roundtable. When youths are angry, you cannot use force to quench their anger. Some youths came to me and told me that they wanted to demonstrate and I told them to do it peacefully.
“When you don’t allow people to speak out, they go underground and what happens underground is what leads to revolution.
“Igboho’s wife, Ropo, called me and told me that this was what she heard. I told her to go and speak to her husband about it and she did. She is my niece and she called me back and said he told her that he was ready if they (Federal Government people) were ready. We are not negotiating through Afenifere or politicians or Ohanaeze or anybody. He is in the cell in Cotonou; let the Nigerian government come and negotiate with him.
“He is ready for peace so long as they are ready; but if they refuse, he said he is ready to die for what he believes in.”
Similarly, the coordinating counsel for Igboho’s legal team in Nigeria and Benin Republic, Olasupo Ojo, maintained that his client committed no crime and that self-determination was a fundamental human right.
He said the over four-month detention of his clients in Benin Republic was no longer a judicial, but a political matter.
Ojo said, “It is good that the Federal Government of Nigeria, through Malami, is finally admitting its involvement in the continuous incarceration of Sunday Igboho in the Republic of Benin’s prison, because if they are not part of it, they won’t be talking of political solutions.
“It is up to the government to determine what it wants to do and it is also an admission that these people have not committed any offence and it is all politics that is being played.”
Another member of Igboho’s legal team, Pelumi Olajengbesi, said the government not ruling out a political solution to address the matter was a welcome development.
Olajengbesi, however, said insecurity in the South-West and other challenges that forced Igboho to embrace secessionist agitation must be addressed.
He said, “It is a welcome development. Sunday Igboho is not against political solutions to the crisis that is on the ground, because his desire is for people to live peacefully and have safety and security in the country.
“If we must resolve this matter politically, the Federal Government must come clean and it needs to apologise to Chief Sunday Igboho for the act of lawlessness demonstrated in his house on July 1, 2021, and the government must restore the property destroyed in his house and guarantee his security.”
Ejimakor, on his part, told one of our correspondents that his client had always been open to dialogue even before his arrest.
He stated, “You will recall that in early September 2017, Nnamdi Kanu was in dialogue with the South-East governors with the tacit blessings of the Federal Government.
“The subject matter was a political solution to the agitation. Then, all of a sudden, the dialogue was terminated and Operation Python Dance was brought to bear. It was not Kanu, who terminated the dialogue. What ensued after nearly cost him his life.
“When someone demands self-determination through a referendum, he has committed no crime known to any law, municipal or international.
“Instead, such a person has demonstrated sufficient respect and consideration for the state and the government that leads it.”
Ejimakor, however, said the Federal Government had the responsibility to initiate the dialogue with the IPOB leader.
He said, “Just like the AGF has not ruled out dialogue, Kanu himself has never said anything to indicate that he ever foreclosed the prospects of dialogue.
“So, the question is, who initiates the dialogue? In my view, it is the Federal Government and not Kanu, which bears the responsibility to initiate the dialogue.
“However, it is unnatural to negotiate with a man in chains. Dialogue cannot be meaningful without some freewill on the part of the parties, including particularly Nnamdi Kanu.”
He added that releasing Kanu from incarceration and discontinuing his prosecution should be the starting point.
Another member of Kanu’s legal team, Maxwell Opara, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, said a political solution might address the situation.
Opara, however, urged the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to withdraw the charges against Kanu and release him to Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the traditional rulers in the zone.
“As far as the security situation is concerned and as far as governance and this administration is concerned, you cannot rule out all possibilities,” Opara said.
When asked whether a political solution will quell the IPOB agitation, the lawyer said, “Yes, it can; it is all about talking (dialogue). Don’t we have issues in our various families? Don’t we have issues at work and other places? But everybody comes to the roundtable to resolve it.”
Meanwhile, socio-political groups, Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo, have backed the political solution being considered by the AGF to resolve the criminal charges brought against Igboho and Kanu.
Kanu, who has been in the custody of the Department of States Services, is facing terrorism charges, while Igboho has been in a Beninese detention facility since July 19, 2021 amid attempts by the Federal Government to extradite him.
Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, asked Malami to do the right thing and release Kanu and Igboho.
Adebanjo stated, “It (Malami’s statement) is welcome; let the government do the right thing. We don’t enjoy them doing the wrong thing. If they do the right thing, we will encourage them. After all, we want this country to move forward. But nobody will encourage them when they put this country on the map to disgrace us.
“People are clamouring for freedom and you say they are terrorists. I disagree with him (Malami), particularly being a lawyer. Let them release them (Igboho and Kanu); they are freedom fighters. We are in a constitutional democracy; don’t give them the impression that they are criminals.”
The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Prof George Obiozor, advised the Federal Government to “learn a lesson from history by not fighting an unwinnable war against nationalism, but seek possible peaceful options that are the only solution that guarantees national unity and peaceful co-existence.”
The group made this known in a statement titled, ‘Ohanaeze Commends Federal Government for Mulling Dialogue’, signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Alex Ogbonnia.
The statement read in part, “The Malami enthusiasm on the option of a political solution to the security challenges in Nigeria reflects the views of Ohanaeze Ndigbo that the Igbo nation is not at war with Nigeria and has nothing pending before any institutional authority that demands a separate existence from Nigeria.
“The common Igbo refrain is equity and justice. Therefore, it is hoped that a political solution to the current security challenges will go a long way in sustaining the corporate existence of Nigeria.”
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