Former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to empanel a national dialogue to find solutions to the growing insecurity in the country.
Anyim noted that the Harry Willinks report of 1957 which addressed the fears of ethnic minorities in the country and established the foundation of the Nigerian state is no more effective, requiring an urgent government intervention to save the country from collapse.
In an open letter titled Re: State of the Nation addressed to the President and dated May 3, 2021, Anyim reminded President Buhari of his visit to him in his office at the Presidential Villa on the 5th of October, 2018.
The former Senate President recalled that 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 re-convey my earlier suggestion which, I want to believe, did not get to you.”
Giving a preamble on why he had to write an open letter to the President, Anyim said, “the perilous threats to the 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.”
He admitted that the President did approach the insecurity challenge with commendable determination, but unfortunately, the challenge, with time, has become hydra headed and is now beyond the President’s control.
He noted that every violent agitation originates from a non-violent agitation that was not attended to. “Today, Nigeria is bedeviled 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 has degenerated into a deadly conflict with many states now bloody theaters of war; ethnic conflicts in Kaduna, Ebonyi, Cross River, Benue, Plateau states etc, which are escalating to an unmanageable scale.”
Anyim disclosed that armed banditry in virtually all states of the federation particularly Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto may have overwhelmed the law enforcement agencies including kidnaping which has become occupational in most parts of the country.
To worsen matters, Anyim pointed out that Boko Haram, has acquired new impetus that they now overrun the military and have even expanded their base to Niger State.
According to him, IPOB has become a regional challenge while 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.”
He added that the military actions or even foreign help alone cannot bring permanent solutions to ethnic conflicts or nationality agitations and urges the President to create a platform to hear Nigerians out.
He maintained that any search for solutions must involve the citizens. The letter recalled that in the build-up to securing the Nigerian Independence, the colonial administration were 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, he said the colonial administration appointed a commission to “Enquire Into The Fears Of Minorities And Means Of Allaying Them”.
This gave birth to the Willink’s Commission of 1957, named after its chairman Mr. Harry Willinks which produced a far-reaching report after extensive hearings of the complaints and suggestions from the people.
Anyim stated that it can be argued that no other document in the history of Nigeria has had far-reaching impact on the country’s political structure than the 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 letter noted that 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, it recommended solutions became an official position and was easily accepted to be constitutionalised as a long-term measure.
Anyim said there is no gainsaying that reservations about the continued existence of Nigeria is 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.”
According to him, 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 the Willink’s commission that gave all the component groups in Nigeria the comfort to go into the union at independence.
The letter continues, “It has become apparent that the foundation of the various agitations in Nigeria today is that the comfort provided at independence by the Willink’s Commissions Report is no longer working.
I make bold to recommend that Mr. President should make history by empaneling 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.”
Anyim listed the benefits of the commission as the de-escalation of the current tension in the country and creation of a platform for exchange of ideas.
“It will provide a natural governmental process of addressing challenges of public importance.
The report of such a commission, he says, will put in proper perspective and provide 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.
This includes democratic agitations which can be separated from violent crimes to the understanding of all and 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 roadmap used as a national reference document would guide further interactions and process for implementation.
And lastly, the former Senate President believes 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.