By Kayode Ajulo
The report filtered through the airwaves few days ago, leaving a media storm in its wake as the development elicited diverse reactions across the emotional spectrum from various quarters. Chief Femi Fani-Kayode had done the unthinkable and deservedly so, the news generated quite a number of controversies as manifestly evident in the series of vituperations, remonstrations, denunciations, disapproval and in some instances, admiration heavily dissipated on the subject matter.
Indeed, the defection of Femi Fani Kayode from the opposition to the ruling All Progressives’ Congress and his subsequent visit to the State House in Abuja alongside the Governors of Yobe and Zamfara to the President can be described as a major climax of the dramatis personae’s tortuous journey towards mainstream acceptance and political renaissance.
In my considered opinion, the defection is a welcome development that one must cautiously observe and subject to the crucible of critical analysis while being guided by the defector’s political adventure and antecedent. This is however not the immediate obligation of this discourse.
Given the not-too-distant attacks on the person and office of the President by Femi Fani Kayode and how those attacks unwittingly influenced passions in some quarters for armed and unarmed agitations against the President, and consequently, the Nigerian State, it is needful therefore to factually contextualize some topical issues herein so that the commendable magnanimity of President Buhari to Femi Fani Kayode can be put into perspective and same be pleaded as a precursor for a presidential pardon or ‘amnesty’ for secessionists’ leaders such as Nnamdi Kanu, Sunday Igboho and where practicable, repentant Boko Haram terrorists and bandits.
I should quickly put a caveat in order not to subject my audience to the pitfalls of misconstruction and misinterpretation; amnesty in this context is not to be viewed from the strict standpoint of legal knowledge rather the ordinary meaning is desirable. For our immediate purpose therefore, amnesty means forgiveness, cessation of remembrance of wrong, leniency and mercy.
One may not be wrong to state that the symbolic ‘amnesty’ granted to Femi Fani Kayode by the President and his party, the All Progressives’ Congress almost came on a platter of gold. The symbolism, which can be referred to as a master strokes by President Buhari, signposts the fact that the vilest of ‘sinner’ in his lucid moment of thorough reflections can be granted safe passage towards the ‘mercy seat’. Hallelujah?
Given the benefit of both once upon a time professional and personal relationships with Femi Fani Kayode, I admit that he is quite misunderstood and therefore a controversial personality. I easily recall how my law firm approached the Federal High Court to stop the Nigeria Police Force from unlawfully arresting and prosecuting him without reasonable cause. As a distinguished member of the legal profession that owes a duty to uphold and observe rule of the law, promote and foster the cause of justice, we ensured at the time that a fellow comrade and brother was defended and shielded to the hilt against possible harassment and detention by the Nigeria Police Force.
Furthermore, it is important to emphasize that Femi Fani-Kayode’s comrades namely, Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho are currently languishing in different prisons in Nigeria and Benin Republic respectively due to their separatists’ agitations whilst one of their opinion moulders and influencers whose will always be remembered for overtly fanning the embers of some of these agitations with his divisive words and symbolic associations with these characters now bask in the euphoria of his newly acquired membership status.
It is on the strength of the above that I strongly recommend that having been given the benefit of ‘eating his cake and having it’, the same level of understanding, leniency and mercy should be extended to his currently incarcerated allies, that is, Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho.
The agitations of these men have not gone without the enablement, endorsement, open admiration and support of Femi Fani Kayode and one is easily tempted to query the rationale behind the ‘presidential amnesty’ he currently enjoys without a consideration of same for his friends.
While the legal and ethical merits of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho’s agitations may be questioned, it however does not weaken the point that their agitations were borne out of genuine concerns about the growing insecurity in their regions and the need to protect their people from murderous foreign elements masquerading as herders.
These sentiments and other similar ones were deployed by these agitators to call for the secession of the Igbos and Yorubas from the currently terror-ravaged Nigerian State. The Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu who is currently in detention continues to maintain a hard stance against the unity of the Nigerian State and his foot soldiers have remained resolute in their demands by deploying all manners of protests which even extend to the institution and enforcement of sit-at-home orders in Igbo land. On his own part, Sunday Igboho started agitating for the actualization of a Yoruba Nation earlier this year when he gave an ultimatum to Fulani herdsmen in Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State to vacate the territory due to their alleged complicity in the increase in incidents of kidnappings and killing in the zone. As we are all aware, things escalated very quickly and he has since been arrested in Benin Republic, facing possible extradition to Nigeria.
I strongly maintain that Femi Fani Kayode cannot totally divest himself of his divisive unnationalistic past, he has suggested on different occasions with his tweets that the APC government is filled with terrorists and I recall that some years back he published an article which he titled ‘APC CULT OF DEATH’, suggesting that the ruling party is all out to kill Nigerians. One really wonders what has changed and logically surmises that if he could receive clemency from the President despite all these attacks against the President and his party, that same benevolent act of leniency should be extended to his friends who seem to be have been motivated by their tribal sentiments and loyalty to their ethnic kin rather than national interests.
As I stated in the introductory section, the political history and antecedents of Femi Fani-Kayode is not on trial in this piece. The cardinal interest here is a patriotic call to the effect that the highly symbolic forgiveness granted Femi Fani-Kayode can and should be extended to Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho.
Assuming without conceding that some opinion leaders may not contemplate the impact of their negative socio-political comments and the extent to which their followers, allies and associates may want to act on them, such claims does not entirely divest them of the moral responsibility of decency of speech expected of them in the first place. In my honest opinion, secessionist movements have their opinion leaders, strategists and foot soldiers and this stratification is emplaced for the purpose of achieving their common purpose.
It is unassailable that Femi Fani-Kayode through his publications and statements in time past demonised the country and its leadership in such a way and manner that eroded public confidence and portrayed the government as weak and insensitive, this he did while equally identifying with these separatists in his capacity as an influential Nigerian but as of today, he enjoys the privilege of a relationship with the President. Premised on this and in the spirit of fairness as bon pour l’oie est bon pour le jars– what is good for the goose is good for the gander, I strongly appeal that this same hand of fellowship be extended to Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho in the spirit of nation-building and peaceful co-existence.
Finally, on this point, let me stress to all that secession is not within the contemplation and competence of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and no President having sworn to an oath to uphold the Constitution will support same. Without prejudice to the genuine underlining issues, there is no gainsaying the fact that agitators resorted to a poorly conceived methodology; they are however not unrepentant enemies of the State that cannot be called for a dialogue and subsequently forgiven, given the large-heartedness of President Muhammadu Buhari. This perhaps is the simple political solution that has eluded our decision makers for a long time. It is equally important to note here that the convoluted nature of insecurity in Nigeria suggests that it will be in the overall interest of Nigerians to adopt some alternative ways of solving this protracted issue that have lingered on than necessary.
At the risk of sounding monotonous, I refer to the political symbolism of the Presidential acceptance of an erstwhile ‘enemy’ of the All Progressives’ Congress; Femi Fani Kayode. To be quite honest, my “friend and brother”- apologies to the dramatis personae of this piece Chief Fani-Kayode who has all but copyrighted the foregoing manner of expression in describing his friends and acquaintances-, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State confidentially gave me an insight about this reconciliation a long time ago but I doubted that it will ever materialize. The rest as they say is history and we await more cross-carpeting in this political season.
In this similitude, I strongly urge and appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari, the father of the nation that as a matter of utmost national importance, he should extend forgiveness to agitators, repentant terrorists and bandits who are up in arms against the State. As the principalem repraesentativum and numerus unus civis of the Nigerian State, it is well within his right to show clemency. I therefore implore him to give heed to the timeless message of that Shakesperean character, Portia, who eloquently waxed thus in the Act 4, Scene 1 of the classical work, The Merchant of Venice:
“The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice”.
This intervention should not in any way be construed as suggesting an end to military operations in the affected states across Nigeria and especially in the Northern region. The psychological dimension of the warfare presumes that the Nigerian military can ramp up their operations by paying close attention to the current disposition of some of the already fatigued terrorists and their leaders. This of course is in line with the de-radicalization efforts of the military and beyond these efforts, it is suggested that the President can change the narrative of the war by offering a one-time peace-pact to some identified leaders and financial sponsors of terrorism as well as leaders of secession movements in Nigeria such as IPOB and Ilana Omo Oodua.
I conclude this piece by stating what I know is already obvious to astute and discerning ,minds lest the perception of less-perspicacious persons seek to make of this suggestion what it is not: this proposed move cannot portray the President as weak but as an empathetic leader who is keen on ending the war in his final days in office thereby setting Nigeria on the path of sustainable peace and economic progress as a legacy for posterity.