The attack on Sunday Igboho and Nasir El-Rufai’s defence of ‘banditry’

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No matter the post-fact argument being advanced for it, last week’s attack by Nigeria’s security operatives on the home of the leader of the separatist Yoruba Nation, Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho Oosa, was both unwarranted and unprofessional.

I say this without prejudice to the sovereign claims of the Nigerian state to maintaining law and order in the space under its control. Viewed from a purely legal or constitutional angle (and there’s hardly any other angle from which to view it), the presence of the combined forces of operatives of the Department of State Services and the Nigerian Army on the property of Mr. Adeyemo, without prior warning, amounted to an invasion.

That the DSS would in a self-righteous, triumphant tone admit to murdering two people in the home of a private citizen while exhibiting items like guns, amulets, and live cartridges, among other offensive things allegedly found on the property, is self-indicting. Where the courts are well and alive and every Nigerian is presumed innocent until they are pronounced guilty by relevant authorities, there can be no justification for such action.

The DSS does not even make the least pretense or concession to have abided by the due procedure in its attempt at apprehending Mr. Adeyemo, invading his home, injuring, or killing its occupants. When news of the attack first broke, the suspicion was that the unknown attackers were either sympathetic to opponents of Mr. Adeyemo, be they private individuals or groups or, indeed, elements within the state security.

And the usual outcome of such apparently state-sanctioned outlawry is to attribute it to unknown entities. Nobody could have expected the DSS to have come out as boldly as they did, admitting to the invasion of a private home and murdering some of its inhabitants in cold blood. It is a measure of the confidence they have in the rightness, even righteousness, of their action that they would engage in open display and confession of their attack on Nigerian citizens.

That is a clear violation of the duties of a state. The claim that the operatives came under attack from people guarding the property does not mitigate the criminality of the act nor should it be totally unexpected. Chinua Achebe’s Okonkwo, it was, who famously said that he could not be expected to fold his hand and watch if a man came into his hut and defecates on the floor. Rather, Okonkwo said, he would take a stick and break the man’s head. The DSS/Army invaders are no different from the man in Okonkwo’s story.

Theirs was not the way of a legitimate authority. They could have been armed robbers disguised as law enforcement operatives. Many of the abductions or robberies in Nigeria today are perpetrated by people disguised in military or police gear. Even at that, there is no reason at all why such a visit has to take place in the dark hours of the morning. What is the point in calling at the home of a man whose activities open him up to potential attacks, one whose reflexes must have been trained and attuned to anticipate such attacks; what is the point of calling at his home under the cover of darkness? And why go after him in the manner of someone under a death sentence?

For one, Sunday Adeyemo is yet a citizen of Nigeria and has not been pronounced guilty of any offence by competent authorities, to say nothing of being guilty of a capital offence as to justify his being hunted down like a wild animal. Even if that is the case, there are yet legal procedures that should be adhered to. But in the wake of the abduction and repatriation (extraordinary rendition) of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of another separatist organisation, the Indigenous People of Biafra, it seems the Nigerian State could not wait to silence these separatist agitators by a single stroke.

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How wonderful the feeling must have been in Abuja had both men been felled within days of each other in a single week! But would that have been the end of Nigeria’s problems? Would the arrest or liquidation of the so-called non-state actors agitating for a separate Igbo or Yoruba state bring an end to such agitations where the fundamental issues propelling the agitations are left unattended? Would we be speaking of a Nnamdi Kanu, say nothing of a Sunday Igboho, had Abuja under President Muhammadu Buhari taken the appropriate steps at correcting what many Nigerians from the South and other parts of the central states of Nigeria perceived as the president’s partiality to the Islamic North in general and the Fulani ethnicity in particular?

Perception matters and whether right or wrong, what a good leader does when an accusation of partiality arises is to take clear steps at addressing it, not ignore it or call the bluff of those aggrieved. But Buhari waited for so long while ignoring the more destabilising activities of the terrorists called bandits in the North. The exportation of ‘banditry’ to farming communities in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, and other Southern states and the refusal of Abuja to act is what created the vacuum the likes of Igboho came to fill.

It is disgraceful that Nasir el-Rufai will fail to see this connection in the heat of his sophistry justifying the unequal treatment and deployment of lethal force against, on the one hand, separatist agitators whose actions are partly fuelled by the murderous actions of so-called bandits that have filtered into Southern states, while ‘bandits’ in the North are, on the other hand, pampered and mollycoddled by the state. The monsters called bandits are in the main the creation of the Northern political and ruling elite whose feudal practices helped sustain the untenable system that exclusively serves the interest of the privileged few to the disadvantage of the majority talakawa.

This is why they (witness Sheik Ahmad Gumi and Abubakar Malami, among others) continue to defend the indefensible while comparing the incomparable- open grazing to spare parts, OPC members versus ‘bandits’ as oil pipeline/border guards. How does the guerrilla nature of ‘banditry’ make it less recriminatory or criminal and deserving of lesser sanction than agitations for secession?

How can El-Rufai in good conscience claim that ‘bandits’ deserve separate treatment because they operate from within Nigeria without a central leadership (a false claim), unlike separatists? What does Boko Haram do when they hoist their flags in parts of the country and declare themselves an independent caliphate?

From what moral high ground is Mr. El-Rufai coming when he compares Sunday Adeyemo or even Nnamdi Kanu to Abubakar Shekau? Disgust has, indeed, turned El-Rufai’s mind in perverse directions.

Correction: I had mentioned ‘Lot’s Wife Syndrome’ where I meant ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ last week. Error regretted.

Credit: Vanguard.

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