WHY ARE DISINTEGRATION, SECESSIONIST MOVEMENTS AND UTTERANCES GROWING?
According to Richard Dowden, a british journalist who has specialized in African issues since 1975, one area in which Nigeria seems to be deficient is political leadership. Nigerians have never agreed – or been given the chance to agree – what Nigeria is. It is a country of several ethnic communities that have co-existed at gunpoint for about 56 years. Nigeria has experienced a civil war and several crises like other African countries. “These [intertribal and intercommunal] wars diminished in number after the turn of the millennium, but their chief cause – THE LACK OF COMMON NATIONHOOD – remains. Africa’s nation states were formed by foreigners, lines drawn by Europeans on maps of places they had often never been to. They carved out territories, cut up kingdoms and societies of which they had little idea… They [African countries] lack a common conception of nationhood.”
In the last post, Divide Nigeria, we identified some elements that can bring national greatness when the ethnic communities strengthen their social and industrial values, before deciding to cooperate with other ethnic groups for a progressive and united Nigeria. Also, we exposed the fallacy of do or die unity of Nigeria, which is captured in the statement that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable. We noted that the Nigerian marriage of ethnic groups is held at gunpoint and not free consent. Hence, it does not qualify for a union or a marriage. the marriage now requires reevaluation and renegotiation before it can work, otherwise it breaks apart. In this post, we seek to discuss some of the reasons for calls for disintegration by different sections of the country despite the potential benefits that could be obtained by the different groups if the nation is properly ordered and united.
Continuing with the marriage analogy, we note that marriage is a union between two whole individuals (a fully developed man and a fully developed woman). When couples who have freely consented to a marriage had developed themselves properly with full social and economic values, the couple will be happy to have each other and afraid of losing each other. When the wife feels and appreciates the value of her husband, she would not want to lose him to another woman. Also, when the man sees and appreciates the value of his wife, he works hard to keep his wife attracted and attached to him, so that he does not lose her to another man. In each case, when both parties are developed, there will be a mutual appreciation of the union, a mutual respect, a high level of commitment and compromise for the sake of the relationship. But if one party is not improving or contributing to the relationship, the other party loses respect and interest in the relationship. Once the interest in the marriage is lost, the disenchanted party calls for divorce. Even in the olden days’ marriage, when parents chose spouses for their children without the children’s free consent, the love grew when the couple discovered that each of them had specific values and were continuously improving and contributing their fair share to the relationship.
Before the arrival of the colonial masters, Nigerian ethnic communities lived independently, and were developing at their individual paces. When the colonial masters came, they forced different ethnic groups together in a suppressed marriage. The colonialists installed loyal people, who they armed with guns, population advantage and democracy among illiterates who do not understand the implications of democracy. By installing loyalists as leaders, establishing population majorities through census and enshrining democracy as the system of government for the majority, the colonialists laid the foundation for chaos and mismanagement among opposing and non-consenting parties in a union that will ensure their colonial access to the nation’s politics and resources.
Before and after the independence, the northern Nigeria sought to pull out of the union as they found little cultural harmony with the other constituent ethnic communities. The northerners were industrious people, who had merged the simplicity and humility of the ancient Hausa empires (Borno, Sokoto) with the Arabic culture of hard work and faith in Allah. They preferred to stay in their region to develop their agriculture according to influences of enlightenment. After the first military coup in 1966, the Northern top politicians gathered in Lagos to discuss their secession. However, the northern leaders were convinced by the colonialists to stay back, with assurances of benefits for the north in the new formation.
In 1962, there was an internal disagreement in the Southwestern administration, which led to the imprisonment of many southwest politicians on different charges ranging from corruption to treason. Chief Obafemi Awolowo was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Yet, Before the Biafran war in 1967, Ojukwu released Awolowo from prison on the agreement that Awolowo would also take the Yorubas out of Nigeria in protest of Northern domination, while Ojukwu would take the Igbos. Awolowo agreed initially, but after his release from prison, he accepted a proposal from the North to be the highest ranking civilian in Gowon’s administration. The federal government at this time had seen the prospect of the newly discovered oil in the eastern region. This acceptance by Awolowo has been criticized by many as betrayal, especially by easterners. However, Awolowo, being a true and respectable Yoruba nationalist, saw it as a way of obtaining developmental benefits for his people. He remains one of the best ‘tribalists’ in Nigeria, who understood that there was no true nationhood in Nigeria, but an opportunity to develop one’s region properly to be strong enough for any union or marriage. While people from other regions selfishly stashed and squandered the oil funds they obtained, Awolowo invested in his people by giving them compulsory free education, building roads and bridges, offering top employment and business opportunities.
Following the January, 1966 coup that was plotted mainly by eastern officers, and which eliminated many northern officers and politicians, the North launched a vengeful massacre in the counter-coup in June 1966, killing many Igbo soldiers and extending the massacre to the Igbo civilians till the following year. Col. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu asked the federal government to halt the eastern massacre. As the massacre continued, Ojukwu announced the secession of the eastern region as the new republic of Biafra. This announcement was seen by the Nigerian government as an attempt to deny it of the prospect of oil benefits, which is masked in the war slogan of “keeping Nigeria one” as a gift handed over by the British colonial masters. A fight for peace and unity that caused about 2million deaths is no fight for peace and unity, but a fight for some unnamed factors, which turned out to be oil.
There might be some truth in the claim that the Biafran struggle was an Igbo people’s quest for the sole-possession of the region’s oil, a possession of the Igbo people’s independent state and self-determination. However, a more urgent concern for the lives of the easterners was paramount. The conditions for unity in the Aburi accord, which was signed by Gowon and Ojukwu stated that the Biafran struggle will die down once the massacre of the easterners ceased, and that each region could own and control its resources. The massacre did not stop until some weeks after the final gun from the Biafran side of the war had been handed over to the federal government. In order to curtail the excesses of the proud and stubborn Igbo, and to perpetuate the Igbo submission, the eastern region was divided in two to create a name which does not appear in any geography textbook, south-south.
After the war, the people from the eastern region were taunted and discriminated, many of their investments were confiscated in foreign lands. Some Igbo people had to change or modify their native names in order to avoid the discrimination and stigma that went with losing in war. Some Igbo people in the present day River state, Akwa Ibom state and delta state had to deny their Igbo origin in order to disengage themselves from the psychology of losing in war and the discrimination that was to be meted out to them as losers in the nation.
So much of a price to pay for unity in a peaceful marriage: Massacre, internal division of survivors and self-denunciation by survivors.
Millions of innocent civilians who were killed in order to keep them in the ‘sweet’ marriage of one Nigeria have not been commemorated, their killers continue to enjoy one promotion after another, and their surviving relatives received no official condolences or apologies for the murder of their loved ones. The surviving easterners may never recover from the shock and emotional effects of a defeated people in war. Some of them continue to clamor for an exit from the forced marriage to commemorate their dead ancestors, to forge their own path and manage their own lives according to their own culture, values and characters.
Around 1994, Ken Saro Wiwa represented the plight of the Niger-delta people, whose land produced the crude oil that feeds the nation. Like Ojukwu, he made several calls for resource control, liberation of the Niger-delta or a commensurate development for the region that produces the nation’s most valued resources. He was eventually tried and executed for inciting the international community against the federal government, but the case was presented as a charge of the murder of the Ogoni nine. Since after his death, the federal government, through its military power has carried out many raids and degrees of massacre in order to ensure submission of the region to the exploitation of its resources by foreign companies who pay the federal government handsomely for extracting the mineral resources.
Recently, there has been arm struggle and the demand for either liberation or proportionate development in the region that has been terribly polluted by the exploitation of the federal government and its allying foreign companies. The Niger Delta Avengers have repeatedly struck and destroyed the federal government/foreign companies’ oil installations. They strike these facilities with accurate precision, causing a drop in the nation’s oil production output.
These strikes are allegedly done in response to the withdrawal of the financial handouts, scholarships, security and reconstruction contracts for the community on oil installations by the Buhari-led administration. Their present set of conditions for peace seem multi-faceted to be outlined, but can be summarized in the demand for justice in the distribution of the resources that are generated from their region to the region.
In summary, many regions are undetermined about their position in Nigeria. Some want to leave the union, but are silently nursing the idea as they are either afraid, or do not know how to say or go about it. Some are vocal about their quest for leaving the union, but have not planned well for the exit.
In response to the question of why secessionist movements and utterances continue to grow, we respond that it is a continued CRY FOR JUSTICE BY ALL THE REGIONS IN NIGERIA. Though some regions and persons have borne more of the national injustice, each part of the nation has had its share of injustice, firstly by the colonialists and their allies, and further by fellow Nigerians in unison or isolation. It is a gruesome cycle of violence and oppression, which increases in intensity at every round of revenge.
The colonial masters destroyed the courage and core values of the ethnic communities by arbitrarily and forcefully dividing, merging, replacing ethnic groups, cultures, religions and value systems. By this, the social and industrial integrity of the different regions and ethnic communities were replaced by the introduction of democracy among a people who barely understand each other. The first set of politicians after independence squandered the trust in governance, while the first coup plotters who were majorly from the east dealt a terrible blow on the psychology of the simple-minded northern population. The first military head of state, Aguiyi Ironsi, shattered the fiscal autonomy and industrial independence of the regions by instituting a unitary government, which will be in control of all the nation’s mineral resources, thus reducing the regions to beggars running to the federal government for allocations. The counter-coup plotters dealt a worse, if not the worst blow on the possibility of a united Nigeria, as they tried to take their revenge on the easterners for the first bloody coup. Since after that, it has been one suppression after another; one attack from a region and several counter or worse attacks from the other regions.
The Nigerian union has remained a fight of cats and dogs and snakes and tigers and hyenas and crocodiles inside one room. No escaping, no running away. They continue to live with mutual suspicion in the same room, each waiting for the best moment to attack the other.
Walahi, my people. It is terrible to be in such a room without an agreement among the inhabitants.
Some in the East and the Niger-Delta ask for freedom from exploitation, oppression and for self-determination. Some in the southwest would prefer to have a cordial alliance with the rest, while some in the middle belt would prefer to be free from the Northern domination. Even some in the north would want a freedom from their leaders, whose focus on oil has blinded them from discovering and developing other human and natural resources in the north and who have not allowed the northern domination of Nigerian politics to reflect in the life, welfare, education, progress and advanced productivity of the average northerner.
Without a rediscovery, reevaluation and modification of our indigenous ethnic values, with a renewed attempt to synchronize and educate these values, and a new agreement to come together, the clamor for secession may never cease, but become more aggressive.
 cf. Richard Dowden, op. Cit. p445
 cf. Richard Dowden, op cit. p.445
 Richard Dowden, op. Cit. p3