A Sense of Common Purpose or Secession ?
The casualties are not only those who started
A fire and now cannot put it out. Thousands
Are burning that have no say in the matter. JP Clark.
After the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970 and the carnage, mutual hatred, despondency and hopelessness that trailed it, no time in the history of the country have the cries for secession and hate speeches been so vociferous.
This current upsurge in secessionist agitations gathered momentum with the call to arms for actualisation of the Republic of Biafra by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, who had suffered long detention in the hands of the authorities as a result. There is also the sit-at-home order by the Movement For the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) on 30th of May, 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Biafra in 1967, the final albatross that brought about the war. These are apart from several rallies to draw attention to the need for the secession of Biafra from Nigeria in many towns and cities in the eastern part of the country.
Nauseated by these, a coalition of sixteen Arewa youth groups, under the aegis of Northern Emancipation Network, ordered all igbo people to leave the North by 1st of October, 2017. This audacious, ruinous and inordinate move of 6th of June, brings to troubled minds, echoes of the ‘Araba’ phenomenon, one of the issues that precipitated the civil war. In every part of Nigeria, clouds of separatism are gradually gathering; Biafra sit-at-home order, Arewa youths ultimatum and echoes of June 12 reverberating in the South-West. The polity is getting heated up, as ethnic hate is being promoted and citizens are becoming more alienated. Every part of the country is already feeling the heat generated by these agitations, as they begin to evaporate from our famished land. The voices of the irredentists are already reaching a condensed level and only God knows who will be swept away in the flood that will gather after precipitation. A storm is brewing. If care is not taken, the storm will break and all will be lost in the flood of war.
Let us not forget that the youth, inundated by politics of ethnicity and hate speeches, ignited the thirty-month war, as exemplified in the action and inaction of the then two youthful gladiators; Yakubu Gowon and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Rivalries, accusations and counteraccusations by these Nigerians contributed to the plots and subplots leading to the war. It is worrisome that some youths, who probably know nothing or little about that misadventure are treading that path again. It will be fatal for the country to overlook the urgency of the faceoff and to underestimate the determination of the agitators.
As Nigeria begins to thread on that precipice again, one needs to ask in whose interest are these calls for secession? If Nigeria must break up, who stands to gain or benefit? No one has paused to dissect this. Is it the political class, tribal demagogues, ethnic opportunists or religious bigots? Or is it the common man. This current agitation if allowed to simmer, will be more tragic, ruinous and injurious to the country.
There is a popular maxim among the Yoruba people that only the beginning of a war is known, how and when it will end is a mystery nobody can decipher. If you need to start a fire, you need to control the burn. Otherwise, everyone will go up in the inferno. Therefore, people calling for break up of Nigeria in whatever guise must have a rethink. Though there is an argument about self-determination, which none can be denied, but at what cost and to what end? The latest in such adventure or misadventure is Sudan and South Sudan. The two countries are still battling with the aftermath of that breakup of 2011.
Even if the country will break in peace, into how many pieces? Biafra, Arewa and Oduduwa republics? This is because every zone of the country has its own majority and minority groups. In fact, there is not one Igbo nation in the East as the secessionist may want to preach. There is no one North or one South, or one East, one West, one Middlebelt and one Niger Delta.
Such disintegration will only throw up more challenges like the national questions in Nigeria; ethnicity, religious intolerance, bad leadership and more. The problems currently ravaging the country would only metamorphose into different forms as soon as Nigeria breaks up into pieces. Fresh complaints of marginalisation would assume even bigger and more embarrassing dimensions.
Nigeria’s problem is not secession or disintegration or disunity, but bad leadership. American union is never threatened because nobody feels discontent. Those who have ruled or governed Nigeria in the past 57 years have demonstrated no capacity to exploit its wealth and potential for the wellbeing of citizens and overall progress of the country. All we have seen is the rise of few politicians who become demigods and ethnic jingoists. Most of what the crop of the leaders do are loot the country and leave the people fuming and groping in abject and debilitating poverty.
Therefore, any disintegration of Nigeria will bring about a never-ending calls for secession. For instance, there is no Hausa/Fulani monolithic North. Even if an Arewa Republic emerges, what happens to the Kanuri, Kwararafa, Tiv, Igala and so on. What about Republic of Biafra, will the Ijaw nation stay or call for a separate country? What fate has the Niger Delta in such republic? In case of a possible Oduduwa republic, will another Benin Republic be carved out of it?
The way forward therefore is for the political class to provide good leadership, combat debilitating and grinding poverty and shun sectional politics. The situation where appointments into government and recruitment into the civil service are lopsided needs to cease. Lately, there have been calls for restructuring. This is a right step as Nigeria needs to restructure fast, to assuage the fear of everyone complaining of marginalisation. This renewed agitation for BIAFRA is borne out of perceived marginalisation and persecution of the Igbo people by other tribes, especially the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy. If something is not done to address injustice, poverty and neglect, then the whole country is doomed.
Enough of these cries. The cries and agitations will never end, Nigeria or no Nigeria. It will just become an unending circle, until we learn to do the needful and stop finding enemies where they do not exist. What we need is sense of common purpose to defeat evil systems, not secession. Now is the time to change the narratives of governance and take Nigeria on the path of social, political and economic redemption. Now is the time to transform mutual hatred into creative love