Opinion | How far can our budding secessionists go? ~ Iliyasu Gadu
If you spend a good amount of time on the internet following events and trends in Nigeria as I do, you are likely to come across expressions such as; “Nigeria is a doomed country, it cannot work”, ‘’ This Lugardian contraption of people fused together against their will by the British should be divided and let everybody go their separate ways”.
To be sure, the division or separation from Nigeria has been canvassed variously by all the regions at one time in one way or another. The first recorded clamour in this regard was by the elites of the colony of Lagos when the British decided to merge Lagos which was then under a separate colonial administration with the rest of Nigeria. The grouse of the Lagosians was not just the merger with the Yoruba hinterland, but worse in their reckoning was joining up with the Northern protectorate with its ‘’Primitive feudal system and the unspeakable barbarities associated with it’’, as they put it then.
The next significant call for secession from Nigeria came from the northern region in 1953 following the passing of the McPherson constitution whose provisions the elites of the north kicked against. The result was the calls for ‘’Araba’’ in Hausa or separation in English. There were riots all over the north then and the colonial administration sensing the dangers moved to amend in some cases and in others, expunge some of the contentious provisions.
Fast forward to July 1966 following the counter coup by mainly officers of northern origin in revenge against the earlier one in January of the same year where northern political leaders and military figures were killed. In the ensuing uncertainty there were moves by some northerners to separate the north from the rest of Nigeria which was quickly discouraged and squelched.
And of course this precipitated the chain reactions that led to the civil war which raged between 1967 and 1970 in which the aggrieved part of the country, Eastern Nigeria sought to secede.
Then came the Gideon Orkar coup of April 22, 1990 in which the coup plotters sought to excise the north from the country. Although the mutiny was eventually put down, it however raised a lot of issues regarding the state of relations among the component parts of the country which have been reverberating right up to this day.
In our current situation, despite the return to civilian democratic rule and the devolution of powers to constituent states and local constituencies, all intended to allow for representation, the calls for secession have grown steadily and have become more strident.
Who are the groups calling for secession in the present circumstances and how far can they go in their bid to actualise it?
The most strident calls for secession from the country come from the former Eastern part of the country. The grouses range from perceived marginalisation in representation to appointments in the Nigerian superstructure. Added to that is the perception rightly or wrongly that the continued stay of the eastern region as an entity within the country inhibits the people and area from actualising their potentials for accelerated development.
Two main groups, Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, (MASSOB) and its splinter group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are spearheading the efforts for the actualization of the secessionist agenda of the south east.
In the South west where feelings of separatism runs high, the groups championing the cause however are not as coordinated and focussed as in the southeast. Between Professor Banji Akintoye’s Yoruba world Congress, (YWC) and the Afenifere, there has been a lot of talk and threats about separation from Nigeria but no real organization to that effect on ground.
One basic observation about the separatist calls is that they all somehow expect that the government of the day will bow to their pressure and grant them their wish either through a conference or outright fiat. They are not like the classical separatist movements that take up arms and organize an insurrection from a territory. Ours mostly organize from the pages of newspapers and the internet using provocative threats and statements.
But sensing that no government of any hue in Nigeria can and will grant the separatists their wish, they are looking up to foreign governments and multilateral bodies to aid them either in putting pressure on the government, or in supporting them logistically, diplomatically etc.
But here again they have goofed. Nigeria can only be dismembered through the major support of one or several foreign powers acting in concert. And in that they will be acting in their own defined interest and not necessarily those of the secessionists. Indeed the secessionists may just end up being disposable pawns in their hands. But then the process would have set up a dangerous scenario in which Nigeria as a whole becomes one great bleeding field. Syria, Iraq, Libya, Congo DRC and Somalia come to mind.
This is not to say however that the grouses of our budding secessionists should not be countenanced or that we should accept the dire situation in the country as given. Certainly our current political economy with the attendant disparities in the social, political and economic facets of our lives is not sustainable and can only result in a rupture in the not too distant future. It is a challenge for new thinking and approach away from the zero sum game that constitutes our politics.
As we have seen from the tragic experiences of the countries mentioned above, the international system is unforgiving and grants no favours to countries that do not live up to expectation. While Nigeria does have some built in advantages that to some extent insulates it from some of the issues that brought these countries to their knees, what this means is that the world can only reckon with us if we show ability and commitment to lift ourselves out of our desperate circumstances by our own bootstraps.
(08035355706 sms only)