Femi Adesina, the man who tagged his bosses critics as Wailing Wailers, has manifested his ignorance of Nigeria, once again.
Special adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on media and publicity made comments in an interview with Punch that implied that Biafra agitations began when former President Goodluck Jonathan lost the 2015 elections. According to him, the pro-Biafra protests wouldn’t have happened if Jonathan had won the 2015 elections.
That conclusion is not based on facts. First of all, the pro-Biafra protests which held around the country were demanding the release of the the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu who was arrested in October 2015 and has remained detained as a prisoner of conscience since that time. Despite court granting him bail and ordering his release pending the outcome of his trial, Buhari’s government continued to detain him.
So, yes, if Jonathan had won, he would have continued to ignore the agitations of Nnamdi Kanu which he was expressing on Radio Biafra. Radio Biafra was created in 1966 by the government of Biafra just as the Nigerian civil war began. Its broadcasting room has been preserved in the War Museum in Umuahia in Abia State.
Nnamdi Kanu resurrected the radio station in 2012 under the Goodluck Jonathan administration about the same time he formed IPOB with some other Nigerians living abroad. He has been operating it as a pirate radio since 2013. Jonathan ignored Kanu, Buhari decided to elevate him to a hero for the Biafra cause by clamping down on his radio station and arresting him.
The other recognised pro-Biafra agitation group,Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, (MASSOB) has been cited in international media as far back as July 2006.
Adesina also made some pulled-from-the-air assertions about the Biafra cause like saying that he was very sure that generation that fought the 30 months civil war which kept Nigeria “as one” will never be part of the quest of the current agitators. But, Igbos did not fight to keep Nigeria one. They fought for an independent Biafra.
He also said that a referendum in the South East would fail to produce Biafra because a large number of Igbos want to stay in the Nigerian federation. Then, sir, please call for one now as David Cameron did for Scotland, so your assertions can be tested in real life.
“Why did we fight that 30-month grueling civil war to keep Nigeria one if at the end of the day, people will just stand up and say ‘we are dismembering the country’?” he asked.
“What is IPOB asking for? They say they are being marginalised, when did they realise that they are being marginalised? Is it about 12 months ago when power changed hands? If the former President Goodluck Jonathan government had continued, would there have been that agitation? Were they not saying he is Ebele Azikwe and he is their brother and that his administration was an administration of the south-east?
“The issue is that even among those who live in that geographical area that used to be called Biafra, is there a consensus that they want self-determination? Among those who are there, there is no consensus. Those young people got together because they never experienced war, they never knew the trauma of the civil war in which more than two million Nigerians died. They are the ones beating the drums of self-determination.”
He also reacted to various allegations of dictatorial tendencies levelled against Buhari, the state of the economy, militancy, among other issues.
“We know that this president is a democrat and he is very liberal. We know him when he was a military ruler, now we have seen him as a democrat. We know he is playing the game according to democratic principles and ethos. One thing I am very sure of is that this president is a democrat,” he said.
Adesina also expressed confidence that the current administration would change the country for better.
“Nigeria is like a plane taking off with its nose in the air. As long as the nose of the plane is in the air, you know that it is gaining altitude. Before this government came, the nose of the plane was down and one did not know whether it would land safely or crash-land. There is a lot of hope in the country now,” he said.
“This time last year, we did not know whether Boko Haram would advance into the core south and core-west. It seemed it would because Boko Haram was not just confined to the north-east then; it was in the north-west and north-central. The sect was active in Abuja, it was active in Kogi and the next thing was that it was going to make a foray into the south-west and go into the south-south and we know what would have happened to the country if that had happened. So if you compare the security situation this time last year with the situation now, you will know that Nigerians have a lot of reasons to be thankful to God.
“Anybody who blames this government for the nation’s economic woes does not understand the issues. A government does not run down the economy in 12 months. This government came on board to meet an economy which the President said had been vandalised. What this government has been doing in the last one year is coping with the consequences of the rot that the previous government left behind. It is not only about the previous government, but an accumulation of what was done by the many governments in the 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party in power.
“Do not forget that these were years that oil sold for an average of $100 per barrel and there was a time it hit $140 per barrel. How come we did not save? How come we have no reserve? How come infrastructure is at the stage it is? Anybody who says this government caused it does not just understand and I would want to pity such a person.”
The presidential spokesman said the government was on top of the situation in the Niger Delta, saying most of those behind attacks on oil installations have been arrested.
“Saying government is at a loss is not right because each time this (pipeline attacks) happens, in a couple of days, those who did it are apprehended. I am sure that in everywhere it has happened, those responsible have been apprehended within a number of days,” he said.
“So you cannot say the government is at a loss because it has the capacity to deal with it. I am not saying that it is by the use of force or arms alone that government is going to respond to it, but then, this government does not lack capacity to respond to that development.”