A former President of the Senate, Pius Ayim, has suggested how Nigeria can overcome the problem of insecurity in various parts of the country.
In an open letter on Monday, he advised President Muhammadu Buhari to make history by setting up a commission of inquiry into the violent and non-violent agitations to make recommendations on the immediate – short-term and long-term – solutions.
Ayim believes this will help to de-escalating the rising tension in the land and lead to a process for the renewal of the march to nationhood.
According to him, no action is deemed successful or completed until the buy-in of the people is secured through a democratic process.
The former Senate President warned against shutting the people out of the process of finding solutions to the conflicts, stressing that a permanent solution would be a mirage.
He noted the processes that led to the independence of the country, saying the colonial administration was confronted with reservations by minority tribes over fears of domination by the majority tribes.
Ayim informed the President that a similar commission of inquiry chaired by Harry Willink was set up and the panel produced a far-reaching report after extensive hearings of the complaints and suggestions from the people.
“It can be argued that no other document in the history of Nigeria has had a far-reaching impact on our political structure than the Willink’s report,” he said.
Read the former Senate President’s letter to the President below:
ANYIM PIUS ANYIM LLB, LLM
3rd May, 2021
Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR
Federal Republic of Nigeria
OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI.
RE: THE STATE OF INSECURITY IN THE NATION:
Mr. President, you may recall that on the 5th of October, 2018, I had audience with you in your office. In that meeting, with your then Chief of Staff, the late Mallam Abba Kyari, in attendance, we touched on a number of issues including the insecurity in the country and about which you directed that I should do a short brief on my suggestion and forward to your Chief of Staff.
Mr. President may wish to know that I did as you directed and submitted my suggestion to your then Chief of Staff on the 20th of October 2018.
I have decided to do this open letter just to be sure that it will get to you, because I suspect that the private one did not get to you. Most importantly, I would not have bothered to write you this letter if the unfortunate and avoidable circumstances we have found ourselves in, as a nation, have not continued to fester to the magnitude of threatening the fabric of the nation.
This letter, therefore, is to reconvey my earlier suggestion which, I want to believe, did not get to you.
The perilous threats to our national sovereignty at the time you took over the reins of power in 2015 were the Boko Haram insurgence in the North East; the armed agitation in the Niger Delta Region, and the IPOB agitation in the South East.
Mr. President, on your assumption of office the most striking promise you made to the nation was to tackle insecurity with emphasis on reclaiming the territories occupied by Boko Haram. I must admit that you did approach the insecurity challenge with commendable determination but unfortunately, the challenge, with time, became hydra-headed and no doubt went beyond your control.
Before I proceed with my suggestion, may I first put in perspective the basis of the position I will canvass in this letter. I wish to note that every violent agitation originates from a non-violent agitation that was not attended to. Today, Nigeria is bedevilled with violent and non-violent agitations.
It is also a fact that the current violent agitations originated from non-violent agitations e.g., Boko Haram started as a non-violent procession; the herders/farmers clashes which have degenerated into a deadly conflict with many states now bloody theatres of war; ethnic conflicts in Kaduna, Ebonyi, Cross River, Benue, Plateau states etc., which are escalating to an unmanageable scale; armed banditry in virtually all states of the federation particularly Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto which has overwhelmed the law enforcement agencies, kidnapping which has become occupational in most parts of the country.
To worsen matters, Boko Haram, has acquired new impetus that they now overrun the military and have even expanded their base to Niger State. IPOB has become a regional challenge. On the non-violent side, agitations for restructuring are scaling up in momentum, ethnic consciousness and allegiance even among the elite are far eroding national concerns.
All these and many more coupled with gross downturn in the national economic, social and political space has become an apparent threat to our nationhood.
I am to add, that it must be known that military actions or even foreign help alone cannot bring permanent solutions to ethnic conflicts or nationality agitations. Mr. President, you need to create a platform to hear Nigerians out.
THE SEARCH FOR SOLUTION MUST INVOLVE THE CITIZENS
In the build-up to securing the Nigerian Independence, the colonial administration was confronted with reservations by minority tribes in the three regions of Northern, Eastern, and Western Nigeria about fears of domination by the majority tribes. In other to find a lasting solution, the colonial administration appointed a commission to “ENQUIRE INTO THE FEARS OF MINORITIES AND MEANS OF ALLAYING THEM”.
The Willink’s Commission of 1957, named after its chairman Mr. Harry Willink, produced a far-reaching report after extensive hearings of the complaints and suggestions from the people. It can be argued that no other document in the history of Nigeria has had a far-reaching impact on our political structure than Willink’s report.
It guided the debates in subsequent constitutional conferences before the independence; gave structure to the emergent Constitutions and indeed gave health to the socio-political structure of the nation at independence.
The greatest achievement of Willink’s Commission is that its report provided the colonial administration and the nation an in-depth understanding of the nature, dimensions, and magnitude of the fears of the minority tribes.
Accordingly, its recommended solutions became an official position and were easily accepted to be constitutionalised as a long-term measure.
There is no gainsaying that reservations about the continued existence of Nigeria are building up to a dangerous time bomb. I make bold to say that no solution except one birthed by an independently conducted engagement with fact-based recommendations arrived at with the participation of the citizens will provide an enduring solution.
The most outstanding recommendation of the Willink’s Commission as a long-time solution is the inclusion of a Fundamental Human Rights Chapter in the constitution. It was recommended that the inclusion of the Fundamental Human Rights Chapter in the constitution will protect all citizens, including the minority stock from any governmental and or majority bloc abuses.
I must say at this point that it was the recommendations of Willink’s commission that gave all the component groups in Nigeria the comfort to go into the union at independence. It has become apparent that the foundation of the various agitations in Nigeria today is that the comfort provided at independence by Willink’s Commissions Report is no longer working.
I make bold to recommend that Mr. President should make history by empanelling another commission of inquiry to inquire into the violent and non-violent agitations in Nigeria and make recommendations on the immediate-, short- and long-term solutions as a way of first de-escalating the rising tension in the land and a process for the renewal of our march to nationhood.
It is important to note that in a democracy, no action is deemed successful or completed until the buy-in of the people is secured through a democratic process. This buy-in- is an imperative that is yet to be pursued in the fight against violent agitations in Nigeria. I must say that as long as the people are not part of the process of finding solutions to the conflicts, a permanent solution will be a mirage.
THE BENEFITS OF SUCH A COMMISSION
The de-escalation of the current tension in the country and the creation of a platform for the exchange of ideas.
It is a natural governmental process of addressing challenges of public importance. The report of such a commission will put in proper perspective and provide a basis for further action.
It will offer the citizenry the opportunity and platform to share their concerns and to be heard. This helps to build confidence and reduce animosity and mutual suspicion.
It identifies the immediate and remote causes of the current challenges and provides a framework for their resolution.
Such a commission will aim not only to unravel the remote and immediate causes but also determine the various dimensions and define them accordingly. E.g. democratic agitations will be separated from violent crimes to the understanding of all. It will also capture the reasons for the agitations and the Justice thereto.
Such a Commission will propose immediate-, short- and long-term solutions and develop a roadmap towards addressing them. Such a roadmap used as a national reference document would guide further interactions and processes for implementation.
Such a document will be the foundation for a new Nigeria anchored on negotiated settlement derived from the legitimacy bestowed by citizen participation and the credibility of the commission.
Above is submitted for your kind consideration, Sir.
Anyim Pius Anyim, GCON.
Former Senate President
Federal Republic of Nigeria