The absence of mutual agreement for nationhood by ethnic communities in Nigeria continues to manifest in inter-tribal threats and crisis all over Nigeria. Yet as the question of complete separation of the country along regional or ethnic lines continues to fester, another question becomes necessary: after separation, what happens next? Would the constituent ethnic communities fare better on their own as individual nations? How much division has been planted in the hearts of the ethnic communities through national experiment and alliances? Would separation for the whole erase the spirit of internal division even among the regions?
After decades of brutal civil war that left two and a half million dead in Sudan, the devastated and vastly underdeveloped southern part of Sudan secured independence in 2011. Secession from Sudan marked a major milestone and a fresh opportunity for South Sudanese. But massive state-corroding corruption, political instability within the ruling party, and persistent tensions with Sudan over the sharing of oil revenues left South Sudan deeply vulnerable to renewed conflict. The arm conflict did not die off even within the new nation, nor has there been a significant national progress.
If the call for separation in Nigeria is answered and Nigeria disintegrates along ethnic or regional divides, there are several possible outcomes for the ethnic-related regions and constituent communities.
On one hand, there is a possibility that the ruling class (traditional leaders and civil leaders) will lead their ethnic people to progress and development in selflessness and dedication. The new nations formed from ethnic-related regions may feel the need to compete for development of their regions against other regions. They might be motivate by the urge to brag over other new nations. For instance, the northern region will feel the need to prove to the south that they will be more developed without the help of the south-eastern or south-western people. With this competition in mind, the leaders in the south will compete for development among one another, prompting a massive development of all sides and regions of Nigeria.
On the other hand, it may be naïve to think that the present crop of leaders will miraculously become messiahs in their would-be nations. Many of them have adopted the desperate consumerism in the chaotic unitary system of Nigerian governance. Will they easily overcome the habit of looting that has characterized Nigerian political class. As it is observed in the continued chaos of South Sudan, the catalysts for political instability abound even among the regions that may align to form new smaller nations from Nigeria. There is still a massive state-corroding corruption, political instability and persistent tensions over the sharing of oil revenues in South Sudan. Yet, they may still require some coaching in acquired style of corruption by their Nigerian counterparts.
The present South-Eastern part of Nigeria rarely unite under one voice for internal leadership, except in opposition of a common enemy. Leadership figures in South-East hardly concede for one another, as they continuously tussle for supremacy. The south-south (a terrible conjecture of geographical terminology), just like Nigeria itself, is a haphazard creation of the civil-war victors. The civil war victors created south-south to cut the excesses of the ‘stubborn’ south-east by alienating the easterners from possible allies in the lower Niger (south-south). The civil war victors, like the colonial masters, merged the Ogonis, the Ijaws, Oron, Ibibio, Itsekiris, Urhobo, Esan, some Igbos in River and Delta states all as south-south. The south-west enjoys a relative cultural homogeneity like the North, while the middle belt remains in the same cultural confusion as the south-south between the Tivs, Idomas, Egbira, Igala and other tribes.
The casual misunderstandings among Nigerian ethnic communities bound together as regions by military decrees form backgrounds for the type of political instability that has kept South Sudan distracted from development even after their independence from Sudan. The focus on oil revenue in Nigeria remains high and the mutual suspicion against inter-tribal domination among the regions has not melted away. The question remains: after separation, what next for the smaller nations that will be formed?
A disintegration of the Nigerian entity may most probably spell doom for the ethnic communities that comprise the nation. They may continue to conflict and disintegrate further to their own detriment. Unless the ethnic communities, tribes and eventually, the regions agree on the form of alliances that could ensure their development, both options of dogmatically staying together or separating along ethnic or regional lines remain retrogressive.
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