Nigeria is at a crucial point in her history as the new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari battles head-long the hydra-headed monster called corruption to restore sanity to her finances in these trying times of the country’s economic life when oil, the main revenue source, has practically lost all its value.
But there are four people that could send all efforts down the drain this year through their controversial activities in parts of the country. These people are, in their different ways, contributing to the undermining of the unity of the country through their various actions in different regions of the country. They are battling for the soul of Nigeria with the central government at the expense of millions of citizens who just want an opportunity to live their lives peacefully.
Of all the people on this list, leading member of the group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and founder of Biafra Radio in London, Nnamdi Kanu is probably the most influential at the moment. Kanu, who is already in the court for treason under the watchful eyes of the Department of State Security (DSS), currently holds sway in practically all of the South East region and has numerous followers abroad.
The political activist is on this list of the dangerous ones to Nigeria’s unity because he is trying to reenact the series of events that led to the Civil War of 1967 to 1970 that nearly tore Nigeria apart.
Kanu is calling for the people of the South East to mobilize and fight for the creation of the state of Biafra. Kanu argues that the Igbos are not properly catered for by the federal government.
To achieve this, he joined IPOB and founded the highly controversial Biafra Radio at his London base, from where he broadcasted messages which the government says are inciting and treasonous to all parts of the South Eastern region and some parts of the South South. He was arrested in 2015 while on one of his brief trips to Nigeria. He has since remained in DSS custody while being arraigned in court.
In spite of being in jail, Kanu has continued to influence the continuous call for the state of Biafra and currently, not a single week goes by in the South East without a protest march in support of Kanu’s claim. While at the moment the protesters have been peaceful and recorded cases of deaths occurred only when security forces attacked them, the agitation clearly is on the rise in the South East as Nigerian leaders wonder what to do, and anything could worsen the situation.
Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky
Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El-Zakzaky is another individual with his finger practically on the trigger. El-Zakzaky was the one who introduced the Shia Muslim practice into the country from Iran over 30 years ago. Before then, Nigeria had only Sunni Muslims.
The Sheik controls a chunk of the Muslim population in the north and is so influential that his religious procession or convoy has right of way above anyone. He could not even be controlled by law enforcement agencies. Residents of Kaduna State where El-Zakzaky has his abode told stories of an oppressive theocracy imposed on them by the religious leader.
“Every resident of Zaria is affected directly or indirectly by the self-acclaimed powers and disregard for traffic rules by the Shi’ite members in Zaria, especially when it comes to the use of public roads. These Shi’ite members consider any other person as a second class citizen who has no rights and privileges.
“These boys traumatised and brutally dealt with anybody while El-Zakzaky was on transit. Complaints to police at different times did not yield any result. I am from Gyallesu area, before now we lived just like prisoners who have no right to live a life worthy of human living.
“When El-Zakzaky was in Gyallesu, the area became a home to all kinds of criminals because his boys did not allow uniform personnel into the area, no matter the level of crime committed. These boys used to search anybody that is coming into the area irrespective of his or her status.
“Again, once they lock up the gates at night you have no right to go out for whatever reason. The kind of loyalty these boys accorded El-Zakzaky was second to none.
“They see him as a messiah. They neither have respect for constitution nor any constituted authority. His instruction is the final,” coordinator of Peace Initiative Forum, Mu’izzu Daruddeen revealed in a statement.
Although at the moment, El-Zakzaky’s whereabouts are unknown after he was bundled away by military men following a recent face-off between Shiite Muslim members and men of the Nigerian Army which left hundreds dead, his followers wait for his return patiently.
With no fewer than five of his sons allegedly killed in clashes between the sect and the Army in the last three years and him (El-Zakzaky) still missing, it is quite worrisome just to imagine what this situation could degenerate into in the light of how insurgent group, Boko Haram became violent after the extra judicial killing of their leader, Mohammed Yusuf.
The fact that the Sheik has a direct link to Iran which is notorious for sponsoring proxy wars and terrorist organizations on foreign soil does not help matters.
Tompolo (Government Ekpemupolo)
A quick search of this code name on the internet reveals that the occupation of Government Ekpemupolo (as he was born) is guerilla fighter and it is doubtful if there is any informed Nigerian who does not know Tompolo, the Niger Delta militant who once ruled the days (and nights) of the South South region.
Before the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, the name ‘Tompolo’ drove fear into the hearts of many as he and his cohorts terrorized the creeks of the South-South region, blowing up oil pipelines daily and creating a thriving oil bunkering business from the ‘loot’ at the expense of millions of Nigerians. The amnesty programme, which was orchestrated by immediate past president Goodluck Jonathan when he was a vice president and signed by the late president, Umar Musa Yar’Adua, made Tompolo a very rich militant.
Through the programme, Tompolo and his ilk got mouth-watering contracts from the government of Yar’Adua and then Jonathan that ran into billions of naira. However, recent investigations by the Buhari administration alleged that the contracts were ill-gotten gains that have run the country’s treasury dry. But Tompolo has refused to see the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or show up in court, thereby forcing the presiding judge on is case at a Federal High Court in Lagos, Justice Ibrahim Buba to issue a bench warrant for his arrest.
Crying ‘witch-hunt’, Tompolo has threatened war with the Federal Government and vowed not to obey the court. He has already barricaded himself in at the creeks and has allegedly begun blowing up pipelines again to bring the government to its knees. Armed with more money than ever to procure even more weapons than before, Tompolo could pose a real danger to Nigeria quickly should the situation deteriorate any further in the South South.
With oil now selling at around $27 per barrel and the naira exchanging for over 300 to the dollar, the last thing Nigerians need is for things to get out of hand again in that region.
President Muhammadu Buhari
Also making the list is none other than Nigeria’s number one citizen, President Muhammadu Buhari. He is on this list only by virtue of the fact that he is the leader of the country and his actions or inactions could push Nigeria over the brink or save it from the impending disaster these people earlier mentioned pose to our unity.
The president’s manner of handling these people could go a long way to determine if the situation would be escalated into a national catastrophe or doused, buried and forgotten.
Sincerely, the president is in the unenviable position of balancing the tripartite of dispensing of justice, obeying the rule of law and managing the expectations of the international community to which these controversial figures have heavy links.
What this means is that while the president is trying to keep Nigeria one (a task that must be done), he has to ensure that the rights of these men are protected while also figuring out a way to take the wind out the sail of their agitations which could get violent within the twinkle of an eye. And he must do all these to the satisfaction of the international community, some of whom have relationships with this men and are already biased in their views.
For instance, Nnamdi Kanu is both Nigerian and British and the UK has already expressed reservations over his detention. (Remember that his Radio Biafra is based in London). El-Zakzaky has Iran’s backing because he preaches their type of religion, Shia Islam. (Iran has already warned the president to be careful on the issue of the Sheik). Tompolo has links abroad through which he buys his weapons, the kinds that only sovereign governments know how to get. And the president has to handle them all, and perfectly too.
With how big some of these agitations are getting, the bubble could bust soon and the president will be at the centre of it all – a very unenviable position.