Abeni Obomeileh Muhammed is the principal of A.O Muhammed located in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital. In this interview with KAYODE ADEOTI, he condemned the declaration of Biafra agitators as a terrorist group among other issues. Excerpts:
The recent declaration of Biafra agitators as terrorist group has attracted different reactions from the public, what is your view towards this development?
The presidency has adjudicated his role to the military, and that is why today, the army are the one telling us what in the country. Having seen themselves as most powerful, they went ahead to declare an organisation a terrorist group; they don’t know the legal implication of that, because they don’t know the process involved before a group can be declared such, both in municipal and international law. However, there seems to be confusion in the country now because the President has not risen up to the issue of the Biafra agitations. The gaps between the ethnic groups have widened, there were no divisions among the ethnic groups in the country before, and this is not to say ethnic rivalries have not always been there but government has learnt how to manage them through dialogue and resolution of conflict. The Biafra issue has been in existence before now but it has never escalated to this level. But we must realise that right to self-determination is a universal right, which is embedded in the United Nation Charter, even in Africa charter and it was in the Nigeria constitution before it was removed in 1963. The right to agitate, to demand for what a person feels for should be given to him or her from the Federal Government; its a right that nobody can take away provided one go about it legitimately. Looking at the issue of Biafra, I will not agree with their own modus operandi because the Kanu and his group believe that they are self righteous and that they can secede from Nigeria and turn to Biafra by antagonising other ethnic groups, it doesn’t work that way, they were supposed to be seeking supports. On the other hand, that doesn’t give the Arewa youth liberty to give quit notice to the Igbo people that by October 1st, they should all go back to their states. They can’t do that because it is not the entirely of the Ibos that support Biafra but a group. And if they go, would the West remain? Won’t they start agitating for their Odudua state too? The South-South will equally want their Delta region. That is the mechanisation of the country. The prevailing agitations, hate speeches, discriminations and ethnic bigotry that is now enveloping the whole country has brought more division to the country.
(Cuts in)…what is now the way forward?
The President must take bold and drastic steps to ensure that the problems are solved through dialogue, not war. When the President returned from abroad, our expectation from him was that he would deliver a speech that will appease all the ethnic groups, but reverse was the case. However, if a group will be named terrorist, it is the government that will sit down, draw up what such group has done that constitute them as terrorists and thereby make a legal frame work. It is the executive that will set a motion in process to declare a particular group, terrorist based on the information gathered about such group that confirm their deeds as terrorism in nature. So it’s a process and a procedure that must first be legalised, it shouldn’t be soldiers that will tagged the group such when we are not under a military rule but civil regime, the soldiers are subordinate in this government, they have no voice, they cannot be giving orders. Can we say the President handed over power to the military to go and do what they like in the east because when this group were tagged, he was not with them?
But, I am so happy for what the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki did concerning the issue, in fact, that is the best thing for him, to say, tagging the Biafra group terrorist is unconstitutional, the army has no power at all to declare any organisation as a terrorist group neither do governors in the eastern states can declare their activities illegal and or proscribe them. Saraki came to the rescue of many as the head of the legislative arms to condemn what they’ve done and he is very right. Even if we are under a military group, if they want to declare a group terrorist, it will be done by military head of state not the army headquarters. It seems the President has abdicated his duties in some ways as contained in section 5 of the constitution.
One of the ways out is for the President to always seek for advice and his first contact should be his Vice, Yemi Osinbajo, who is a professor of law and who has once been an attorney general in the most advanced state in the country, Lagos State.