November 8, 2015
Open Letter to President Muhammadu Buhari
Dear Mr. President,
You recorded a clear victory during Nigeria’s 2015 election and you and the former President Goodluck Jonathan made Nigeria proud by a smooth transition from one civilian president to another of a different party. It is a legacy that Nigerians would want to keep for a long time. You promised that you would be a different kind of president and Nigerians and the world cheered. We interpreted the “change” to mean a change for the better.
Many Nigerians and the world hoped that the basic freedoms of the people would be permitted under your leadership. Some of us doubted because of your past which included draconian restrictions placed on the press with little thought-through decrees. But your most serious supporters proclaimed that you are a different Buhari. You, yourself, gave voice to this kind of thinking by announcing that you have become a convert to democratic government and as if to clear all doubts you announced that you should be addressed as President Muhammadu Buhari as opposed to General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd). Nigerians and the world noted. Today one very seldom remembers that you are a retired general.
But the test of the pudding is in the eating. There are a few things that have made some of us pause as we watch your administration develop. I will at this time not name any but one that would strike at the heart of our nation’s survival: freedom of speech and assembly. The arrest and detention of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu represents a great threat to Nigeria. I am sure you have seen the demonstrations going on all over the South East and South South. It is still scattered and has not reached the level of 1967 which you had a front row sit in watching. I also watched the escalation then and I am afraid. It is this fear that emboldens me to write to you at this time. So far it has been peaceful, but it will require just one mistake by a police officer or soldier to give order to disperse or to try to stop one young person from advancing and the order is disobeyed. That could start from pushing to shoving to a discharge of a bullet or two and a corpse on the ground.
And you will lose control of the situation.
Nigeria is currently standing on a tinder box and as the head of state and commander in chief it behooves you to do any and everything to ensure that there is no match box anywhere near this tinderbox called Nigeria. Imagine what would have happened if Mr. Kanu had visited Nigeria and was allowed to move freely and to go back to London. Nobody would have known of the visit and these demonstrations would not have taken place. He would have gone back to Radio Biafra and continued as he had done for a while with just as much success as he had, which was little. Now we all “Know Mr. Kanu”. It is only a matter of time and he would become another Ojukwu.
You must step out and diffuse this. The Igbo advice is kwo nmiri mgbe O di n’obu okpa (stop the flood while only ankle deep). The agitation for Biafra is just ankle deep and can be de-escalated quickly and easily now by a very simple action of releasing and allowing Mr. Kanu to move as freely as the constitution allows. You can place him under 24/7 watch and wait for him to make a mistake, which he would make given sufficient time. If you do not do this and continue this senseless detention you or somebody believing that he is protecting your interest would make the mistake and Chuks will take his music to Port Harcourt (Chuks eburu egwu ya na Pitakwa)
It will be difficult now to say who would be the greater loser, you or Nigeria. Demonstrations place immense stress on law enforcement officers; demonstrations embolden the youths for they look like picnics; demonstrations energize the leaders as they become instant celebrities; and demonstrations are difficult to control. If you doubt any of these points think back to 1966-1967 and as a person involve in those demonstrations I can still feel the impact on me. If you have forgotten look at what is happening in the Arab world now. The Arab Spring has brought shooting wars and even Europe and Russia are feeling the impact. The West that supported and gave impetus to the Arab Spring are now worried and concerned.
Mr. President please do not lose control.
And do not let the organizers of the movement lose control
It will be difficult afterwards to tell who lost control for the consequences would be the same no matter who is to blame. Remember that whatever happens, the buck stops at Aso Rock.
Your out is to free Mr. Kanu unconditionally and his 15 minutes of fame would disappear. You will then face what you were elected to do.
Boko Haram is one war too many. You and Nigeria do not need another. Nnamdi Kanu has used you to bring his message to his people. You should stop being a willing horse. All the radio and TV stations in Nigeria and around the world, all print and internet sites are now talking about Biafra. Radio Biafra could not have had this reception.
I hope you will listen to me.
Your Obedient Servant
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
November 8, 2015