The Scottish lesson for Buhari

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted in the foreign press as stating that the reason he visits the medical doctors in the United Kingdom is that they have already built his medical profile and so are adept at providing the best diagnosis and curative measures to counter any emerging ailments.

Another source within his Presidential media team that tried to provide justification for his principal's frequent medical tourism to the United Kingdom also informed his audience that President Muhammadu Buhari has had a very long history of consulting his London based medical doctors.

The abovementioned facts demonstrate that President Muhammadu Buhari is very conversant with British politics.

Buhari has only just breezed into Nigeria after spending about fifty days in the United Kingdom capital city of London on medical vacation.

Whilst he was in the UK the local politics in Britain were all about the anticipation of the move by the British Premier Mrs. Theresa May to trigger off Article 50 which would mark the beginning of the exit of Great Britain from the European Union after the British voters chose to leave EU for a number of reasons which ironically includes the desire to own their British sovereignty and to be able to run their own institutions such as courts and control immigration.

So President Muhammadu Buhari must have been bombarded with news stories about Brexit. Few days after he touched down in Abuja via Kaduna Airforce base, the Nigerian President must have followed the developments in Great Britain whereby he spent quality time and has only just returned.

He must be aware that as i write the British parliament- both the Commons and the House of Lords have Okayed the move by Mrs Theresa May to trigger off Article 50.

But just before the British parliament finished debating the amendments accompanying the request for legislative backup for the triggering off of Article 50 to begin the formal and long drawn negotiations with the European Union on strategies for the eventual exit of Great Britain, the Scottish people immediately signified their willingness to go for a second independence referendum to decide its future under the auspices of Great Britain.

But all through his stay in Great Britain, President Muhammadu Buhari's henchman in the Army the Chief of Army staff Lt. Gen. Yusuf Tukur Buratai was issuing a press statement saying that those who are agitating for self-government within Nigeria should perish the thought because even in another two centuries Nigeria will remain the same.

General Buratai was simply echoing his undying loyalty to the unity of Nigeria so I'm prepared to ask my readers to see his position for what it is. He is in the system so you don't expect him to rock the boat.

General Buratai must have followed the body language of his boss- our President Muhammadu Buhari who has been quoted in the media as saying 'over my dead body will South East break out of Nigeria'.

But i think President Muhammadu Buhari got it wrong because democracy and constitutional democracy is different from military dictatorship.

Under constitutional democracy the rights of the people are uppermost and nothing is cast in stone especially when the issue of restructuring or self-determination is debated.

Even under our current body of laws the people are the owners of the Sovereignty of Nigeria from where those in public offices derive their authority and legitimacy.

Wouldn't it be ideal for President Muhammadu Buhari to measure the wishes of Nigerians before reaching a determination that he could not oversee the conduct of any independence referendum for any component part of Nigeria?

President Muhammadu Buhari who has travelled widely as Nigerian leader is conversant with Europe and the various agitations for self-determination and he is expected to be metropolitan in outlook and accept the inevitability of PEACEFUL Agitations for either restructuring of Nigeria or self-determination by the different component parts making up Nigeria.

This writer strongly wants President Muhammadu Buhari to learn a lesson from the Scottish people and the British parliament vis-a-vis how the whole issue of self-determination of Scotland is constructively being debated.

The British government has never sent out soldiers or police to pounce on agitators for Scottish independence.

Although Theresa May have a difference of position on the timing for the second referendum on Independence of Scotland but no one within the government of Great Britain has advocated the incarceration of leaders of the agitation unlike here in Nigeria whereby soldiers have killed over 200 peaceful campaigners of self-determination who are members of the Indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

The incessant attacks of civilian targets by the Military has created widespread distrust amongst majority of civilians regarding the commitments of the security forces to honour the constitutional provisions on respect for FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN Rights of the citizenry.

I will very shortly return to debate the issue of widespread mistrust of government officials by Nigerians and the need for officials to operate with open minds and deliver to the people what it is that will bring about the greatest happiness to the greatest Number of Nigerians.

But first let me say that President Muhammadu Buhari must learn from the Scottish people and the British parliament and allow for peaceful debates and possibly call for a referendum on Independence of any component part of Nigeria desiring such.

I'm sure President Muhammadu Buhari has heard that the Scotland’s first minister took a step closerMonday to breaking up the United Kingdom by announcing she intends to begin the legal process of holding a new independence referendum for Scots.

At a news conference in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon said it is the "right thing” to give Scots an opportunity to express their opinion following Brexit, last year’s vote by Britain to leave the European Union.

In her speech, Sturgeon, whose Scottish National Party is the largest party north of the English border, said she wasn't prepared to “do nothing” while Brexit threatened Scotland’s economy and its links with Europe.

Coming in the wake of last week’s electoral surge by Sinn Fein nationalists in Northern Ireland assembly elections, Sturgeon’s announcement, although not a surprise, adds to the ramifications of the Brexit vote, which Britain’s Conservative government is struggling to contain, so reports Voice of America.

Moments after Sturgeon's speech, Faisal Islam, political editor of Britain’s Sky News, spoke for many British political reporters when he said, “Who knows where all of this will end.”

“Thus Brexit, which was meant to protect Britain, begins the destruction of Britain,” tweeted political commentator Nick Cohen.

The Voice of America radio reports that in last year’s Brexit vote, Scots voted by a 62-38 percent margin to remain in the EU.

After the vote, Sturgeon said Brexit constituted a “significant and a material change of the circumstances, thereby justifying a second independence referendum. Scotland elected to remain a part of the United Kingdom in a September 2014 referendum, which was then billed by Sturgeon as a “once in a lifetime vote.”

Responding to Sturgeon's announcement, May said a second independence referendum would set Scotland on course for “uncertainty and division.”

She added: “Instead of playing politics with the future of our country, the Scottish government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people of Scotland. Politics is not a game.”

A former Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond, said May would have to allow a referendum.

“The times of an imperial government in London dictating to the Scots is long gone,” he said.

But unlike in Nigeria whereby brute force is brought to bear on peaceful agitators, in Great Britain the British Prime Minister Mrs Theresa May can only use constructive debate to fight to preserve the United Kingdom.

Politically, observers say however, she could be placed in an untenable position if she tries to deny the Scots another referendum.

A reporter of Voice of America reports that majority in Scotland’s devolved parliament at Holyrood backs breaking up the United Kingdom.

Although a spokesman for May denounced Surgeon’s announcement, arguing evidence “clearly showed a majority of people in Scotland do not want a second independence referendum", but the desire of the Scottish for a second referendum is a democratic right which must be respected.

Coming back to the issue of mistrust of Nigerian government officials we will look at what a particular political scientist Dan F. Hahn wrote on the widespread distrust created against politicians in the greatest democracy of the World.

He said thus: "While it often argued that media have created the present high level distrust among citizens about government and, especially, politicians, such mistrust always has existed".

The “founding fathers” mistrusted government that’s why the constitution was designed with a series of checks and balances to keep any one group of politicians from gaining too much power.

Dan Hahn also asserted that: "And we always have distrusted politicians. Political scientist E.T.Jackz remind us that Alexis de Tocqueville observed as long ago as the 1830s that “ Americans as a group think of politics as a dirty business and politicians as confirmed scalawags, not to be trusted for a minutes.”

"Further, distrust is the logical outcome of any form of government. That is because every government engages in actions to address contemporary problems, and the actions taken must, of necessity, hurt some citizens. Naturally, those hurt come to distrust the government".

" But the tracing of historic distrust and identifying the logic of distrust should not be read as denial that distrust has increased in contemporary times. Clearly, there is less faith in government (and politicians) now than at any other time in our history",(Dan F. Hahn. Political Communication: Rhetoric, Government, and Citizens).

In the light of the vicious attacks by armed security forces against peaceful campaigners of self-determination, it is increasingly becoming inevitable the mistrust of the government will continue and may spiral out of control. Let President Muhammadu Buhari allow Nigerians of all ethnic nationalities to ventilate peacefully their agitation for either self-determination or restructuring because the way Nigeria is right now isn't working. Article 1 of the International Covenant on civil and political Rights makes agitations for self-determination a fundamental human right. The administration must release Mr Nnamdi Kanu of the Indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB) forthwith because he did no crime by peacefully and constructively agitating for self-determination.

Let me conclude by saying that i support one united but fundamentally restructured Nigeria whereby all component parts are equal and enjoy equality of rights and privileges. But as for allowing for a referendum on Independence of any component part of Nigeria I'm in support too as a constitutional democrat.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @ [email protected] ; www. .

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