Yes, that’s right: Since 1960, democratic Nigeria has had many treason trials without any – except for that of Obafemi Awolowo – netting a conviction or even coming close.
No other person has ever been convicted of treason or its garden varieties like treasonable felony or sedition throughout all the democratic dispensations in Nigeria.
Even when that of Awolowo resulted in conviction, it immediately brought many issues that still remotely dog Nigeria to this day.
Plus, Awo’s conviction most probably would not have happened had he not overconfidently opted for summary trial when he could have tarried awhile.
What’s more? His trial was later found to have been tainted with profound judicial bias. And in quick time, it was commuted.
Most remarkably, his conviction convulsed Nigeria to no end, especially Western Nigeria. And it ultimately contributed to the 1966 coups that directly led to the Civil War and its horrendous aftermaths.
Paradoxically, a few months after his release from prison, Awolowo became deputy to Gowon, sat astride the nation’s finances and went to the funeral of some of the politicians that had jailed him for treason.
To cap it all, in 1979, Awolowo nearly became President. You can’t beat that. And if you stretch it to the military dispensations, Obasanjo meteorically went from conviction for treason to becoming President.
Democratic Nigeria Has Never Had A Successful Treason Trial – Nnamdi Kanu’s Lawyer, Aloy Ejimakor pic.twitter.com/GX3fuHiQ8S
— Sahara Reporters (@SaharaReporters) July 27, 2021
The lesson from all these are not hard to see, and they are:
First, treason is a regime-specific political offense. So, unless the trial is dubiously concluded during the life of the extant regime, it sunsets with the coming of a new regime.
Second, treason trial – if pushed too aggressively – can bring more problems than it initially set out to contain. In some climes, it led to overthrow of the very government in power.
Don’t forget that Rawlings went from being in jail for treason to overthrowing the very government that jailed him.
So, Nigeria needs to thread with caution and a keen reference to history as it ramps up on its aggressive treason trials of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, Igboho and Omoyele Sowore.
When alpha patriots get so upset with the system that they begin to seek solutions in revolution or separation, you talk to them; you don’t try them. Simple!