The National Publicity Secretary of the pan-Yoruba sociocultural organisation, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakinbin an interview says that, Buhari Arresting Nnamdi Will Worsen The Case and make him more popular tells.
Read interview below.
Why are you against calls for the rearrest of pro-Biafra agitator, Nnamdi Kanu?
To start with, experience has shown that arrest cannot resolve the question of self-determination. Two years ago, who knew Nnamdi Kanu? Maybe he was just on the Internet or Radio Biafra. But when he was arrested and detained for over a year he became popular. You realise today that when he is addressing crowds in the South-East, thousands gather and follow (him). They (government) made him popular. If they rearrest him, they are going to further popularise him and bring into focus the issues he is fighting for. Why don’t they deal with the issues, solve the nationality question and render his achievements ineffective? His arrest will not resolve the matter. Even if they sentence Kanu to death today, another person will rise — once they refuse to resolve the matter.
On the other hand, when you talk about the rule of law, that lady that symbolises justice is blindfolded. The essence of that is, she is no respecter of persons — she delivers justice to whomever offends the law. But then, you begin to go after Kanu and some people get up in Arewa land to say leave our land. The Kaduna governor says, ‘Go and arrest them.’ The vice president says, ‘Arrest them.’ The minister of interior then says, ‘No, they said they were misquoted.’ The thing the minister said they were misquoted on, they sat with governors from the North to say they were suspending the order (notice to quit given to Igbo in the North), and they were holding a press conference in Sheraton.
In fact, one of the (Arewa) youths, when they were looking for them, said, ‘If I’m declared wanted, I will give myself up.’ Even (for security agents) to invite them for a 30-minute chat and let them go, they didn’t do that. When you refuse to do that, you create problems for the rule of law; you show that there’s a double standard. That is not how to build an inclusive country. Not that we endorse everything that Kanu is doing, but we are saying in order not to overheat the polity, what we need now is (for the Federal Government) to address the issues that have given rise to agitations. If we begin the process of restructuring this country, the separatist groups will be at bay. But if we don’t address these issues, you’re giving them, added energy.
Do you agree that Kanu has violated his bail conditions?
That is left for the court to decide. I’m not the court. The court granted him bail and gave him conditions. The Federal Government should go before that court and let that court decide if he has violated the bail conditions. There are sanctions for it. But it is not the executive, the police or anybody that can determine whether he has violated his bail conditions. It is the court. They should go back to that court and if the court is complaining that he has violated his bail conditions, there are appropriate laws to deal with that.
Do you think his utterances and actions have been justifiable?
If there are things he said after he was granted bail that are in conflict with the conditions of his bail, put that before the court. Let the court adjudicate. But it is not Arewa youths that will determine that. It is not Tanko Yakasai; it is the court that will determine that ‘these are your bail conditions, you have violated them and these are the sanctions.
But that is what the Federal Government is doing. It has gone back to the court to determine whether Kanu has violated his bail conditions.
When you are granted bail, that is not the end of the matter. The bail means you can go home while the case continues. They have a case in court; let them go to the court. It goes beyond the whole question of courts. Kanu has not been put before the court for killing anybody, burning property or doing anything wrong. All they are taking him to court for is for statements they said he made. Arewa youths made statements that threatened the unity of the country; they (government) said they should be arrested. The police did not arrest them. The minister of interior came out and started making excuses that the youths said they were misquoted. Why didn’t he say Kanu said he was misquoted? Now, those who are in favour of (Kanu’s) rearrest are from the same section of the country where the Arewa youths come from.
People can begin to draw insinuations that they are quick to ask for Kanu’s rearrest because he is not from their section of the country, while they are shielding those who are from their section of the country. That’s why I’m talking about inclusiveness. So, it goes beyond taking Kanu to court. It’s on the basis of the same question of what Kanu said that they arrested him in the first place.
Arewa youths made pronouncements that threatened the unity of Nigeria. To date, the police could not invite them for a chat; (not) even to take them to a five-star hotel and interrogate them over drinks, pepper soup and groundnuts. To let them be roaming free and even for the minister of interior to be making very lame and unintelligent excuses for them — what kind of country are you building? The boys never said they were misquoted. When they suspended their notice to quit, they repeated everything they said. That minister should have resigned by now. We are not holding the fort for Kanu at all. We are saying if you want to apply the law, you must apply it evenly; not a law for a section and another law for another section. That cannot work. In fact, that will create more problems and give more sympathy to Kanu.
But Kanu has again made provocative statements, saying anyone who tries to rearrest him will die. What do you make of that threat?
If he threatens anybody, there are laws that deal with that. Like I told you earlier on, this is not about Kanu. It’s about the rule of law. I’m not saying Kanu has not committed any offence on which he can be charged or tried. But we are saying, follow the due process of law. However, your rule of law should not be for Kanu only. The law you want to enforce against Kanu, should be enforced against anybody who has violated the law of the land, no matter where they come from. But when you flex your muscle and say you are doing a selective application of the law against somebody from a section of the country, you open yourself to all kinds of charges.
What is your definition of hate speech?
For me, hate speech is the deployment of any language or written materials to spread hatred, incite violence and other forms of abuses. But if you want to deal with hate speech, it must be qualified, so that we avoid a situation whereby it is subject to whims. It should not be subject to private interpretations of, in this case, the army or anybody. How can the army be the one to determine what hate speech is in a democracy? That is not acceptable. But if we don’t deal with the cause and we’re dealing with effects, it’s just a waste of time.
Would you categorise the statements made by the Arewa youths and Nnamdi Kanu as hate speech?
Well, when you talk about hate speech in the land today, it is not only about Kanu and Arewa youths. Go all over the Internet, you will see the kind of spiteful, despicable talks that are going on. But if you’re a social scientist and a thinker, you will understand that these things are not happening in a void. They are symptoms of a larger crisis in the nation. When we concluded the election in 2015, you saw the map of that election.
Mark Siollun, the author of Soldiers of Fortune, looked at that report and wrote in the New York Times that, looking at the map of the elections, Nigeria is a badly divided country and that what Nigeria needs is a reconstructive surgeon, not a bulldozer. But we’ve been bulldozing; now, an institution of the state — those who are talking about hate speech today — when did they realise that hate speech is hate speech?
A little over two years ago, they were buying BlackBerrys for young people to spread hate messages, to get power. Look at many of the adverts that were going round during the 2015 general election; all kinds of stories, songs and campaigns that they promoted. There was no red line then. Now, they (Buhari’s government) have come to power. What goes around surely comes back around. If they were thinking about the polity, even when they were campaigning, there should have been some red lines not cross. There are certain kinds of speech you don’t deploy in your campaigns. But there was no line they didn’t cross during their campaign.
This is not only about the All Progressives Congress now. This is about our political class. They should know that whatever you do during elections, you are coming to deal with the consequences after. The people who are spreading hate messages today are now on the other side; they have turned their BlackBerrys against them. You cannot now say that you will ask the army to arrest people on social media and that it is the way to solve the problem. No. The way to solve it is from the root; to begin to build an inclusive country. We need to look at the structure of the country again, to renegotiate our nationhood. Were we not in this country about 20 years ago? Is this the way we were talking to one another? Is it that we have killed all the human beings and brought in new ones? No!
There are conditions giving rise to hate speech. It is those conditions we should deal with. Dealing with hate speech itself is a waste of time. Even if you kill all those who are indulge in hate speech now, for as long as the conditions that produce the hate speech are there, many more people will still rise making use of hate speech because Nigeria today is in a bad shape. There is tension all over the country; there is hate, and so, the speech is flowing from the conditions of fear, lack of love and lack of respect for nationalities. Go to the root of it; don’t deal with the symptoms.