When an individual or group of individuals send quit notice(s) to other ethnic groups, and the government, instead of arresting the transducers, decided to play the ostrich, that government will lose its moral right to arrest and prosecute others for the same crime in the future.
In 2011, there was a clash between the Hausas and the militant wing of the Yoruba Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC). Armed riot policemen were drafted into the area, but the fighters refused to yield. OBJ even though a Yoruba man opined, “Anyone who calls himself OPC should be arrested and if he doesn’t agree he will be shot on sight. We cannot allow this country to be overtaken by hoodlums and criminals. When people decide to behave like animals then they must be treated like animals.”
I was one of those that condemned the shoot at sight order and this type of high handedness. I spoke against the shoot at sight order because that was never prescribed as an acceptable way of dealing with crowd control by our laws.
Secondly, I believe that no matter how strong some groups are, they cannot be bigger than the state. Lastly, the security agencies have the wherewithal to arrest the worst of offenders, so, why resort to shooting at sight that could kill the innocent?
The point here is, as a Yoruba man, OBJ did not side with the OPC. He did not say the governors should find a way of negotiating with them. He canvassed for appropriate institutional actions against those breaching the peace. Is this what we have thereafter and now?
The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, ACYF, a coalition of socio-political groups in northern Nigeria, in June 2017 issued three months ultimatum for all Igbos to quit the entire North. The group also threatened to take over their properties after their departure. My expectation then, was for the government to be bold enough to arrest those who gave the quit order notice, prosecute them and let the court imterpret what the constitution and the laws say. That would have sent the message that the government will not tolerate any form of intimidation of fellow citizens within the Nigerian soace. Nobody was arrested. Nobody was prosecuted. Why would others not follow suit?
To forestall this type of unacceptable behavior, the government should be decisive in taking actions as they occur. Sanction criminals on the go through appropriate institutional frameworks. For instance, those who torched the Seriki and Igboho’s properties would have by now be cooling their heels in various police cells, waiting for prosecution. If security agencies shy from this task, reprisals will happen and could conflagrate into a national emergency.
That is why they say, a stitch in time, saves nine.
Grace and peace!!!