The leaderships of the Southeast based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations; comprising the Anambra State Branch of Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA), Human Rights Club(HRC) (a project of LRRDC), Southeast Good Governance Forum (SGGF), Forum for Equity, Justice & Defense of Human Rights (FEJDHR), Society Advocacy Watch Project (SPAW), Anambra Human Rights Forum (AHRF) and the International Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (INTERSOLIDARITY) having observed the recent socio-political developments and events in the Southeast Nigeria; collectively wish to take a firm stand on the issues so generated.
Issues generated by the events warranting our firm stance: These are issues of high public importance affecting the Southeast Geopolitical Zone, leading to recent socio-political happenings that shook the foundation of the zone for the first time since the end of the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War in 1970.These are:( 1) mass movement and peaceful agitations for self-determination by millions of people of the Southeast and the South-south zones; otherwise referred as Biafran agitation; and response of the Buhari administration including his divide-in-rule approaches to same; (2) shameful roles of compromised individuals and groups of the Southeast extraction who parade themselves as “Igbo elders” or “Igbo political leaders”. The despicable roles also include those of compromised traditional rulers, activists and APC puppets, using different names and mushroom bodies such as “Ohanaeze Ndigbo”, “Igbo Conscience Leaders”, etc to get influenced presidentially so as to disparage the mass and legitimate agitations by their own people and lend soiled support to age-long injustices against the people of the zone including continued unconstitutional incarceration without fair trial of Citizen Nnamdi Kanu since 14th October 2015; a period of 39 days.
Others are (3) un-priestly and compromised third party roles of some men-of-God in the like of Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka and Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah’s manifest bias position on the issue when he contacted our Coalition recently in the guise of “mediation”. We are fully aware too of plans that have reached an advanced stage by the Presidency to continue its “divide-and-rule” approaches by using puppet-leaders of churches to further denounce and disassociate themselves from the agitations. Some paid media reporters have also been hired to blackmail and coerced leading traditional institutions and popular social bodies in the Southeast into joining in condemnation of the agitations including by pretending to seek to get their opinions on the raging agitations; for the purpose of deliberately quoting them out of context (i.e. Obi of Onitsha’s reported disassociation of himself from the agitations whereupon he was said to have been deliberately misquoted).
Also critically evaluated are (4) the social realities of the Southeast self-determination agitation or its remote and immediate factors or reasons and the universal reality of assertion of the right to self-determination using nonviolence, (5) sustained or continued threat to ethnic identity of the people of the Southeast zone in Nigeria as well as (6) political enslavement of the zone and its age-long structural injustice. We further looked into and considered the sorry state of (6) federal infrastructures in the Southeast zone including the acutely deplorable condition of federal roads in the zone (i.e. Onitsha-Enugu, Enugu-Nsukka-Oturkpo, Enugu-Port Harcourt, Owerri-Port Harcourt and Aba-Ikot Ekpene) , abandonment of the 2nd Niger Bridge project, the skeletal status of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu, the continued moribund status of the railway system in the zone, absence of a standard seaport or wharfs and general abdication of federal responsibilities by the Federal Government in the Southeast zone. Identified and condemned too is the (7) abysmal performance of the Southeast Governors Forum and its lack of clear vision and development insights for the zone.
We also considered it as utmost important and immediacy the need for establishment (8) of the Southeast Development Commission and the Federal Ministry for Southeast Affairs. Lastly identified was the need and public importance of the immediate (9) construction of a federal bridge linking Anambra State through Ogwuikpere Community in Ogbaru LGA in the Southeast zone and Rivers State through Ndoni Community in Rivers State in the South-south zone. The important bridge, when constructed, will facilitate easy and shorter movement of goods and services from Port Harcourt wharfs and the South-south zone to the Southeast zone in less than one-and-a half hour. This project being demanded can be jointly funded by the Southeast Governors Forum through the Southeast Joint Development Trust Funds, which should be established urgently; if the Federal Government chooses otherwise.
Vox Populi (voice of the people): It is very important to point out that the peaceful protests that swept across the entire Southeast and the South-south zones as well as in various countries across the globe are purely the voice of the people or mass movement oiled by mass conscience and consciousness and fueled by unaddressed and sustained social injustices against the peoples of the two zones. In the history of civil revolutions, issue of sponsorship is dead on arrival. The mass protests under reference were strictly built on immortal dictum of you can deceive the people some time but they cannot be deceived all the time.
The Federal Government’s divide-and-rule approach adopted to address the thorny issue is also not only a fire brigade approach, but also roundly condemned. Organizing compromised and faceless groups to issue public statements disassociating, denouncing or renouncing the earth-shaking mass protests is not only counterproductive, but also a further enslavement of the race raising their hallowed voices against enslavement and their identity slavery. By accepting crumbs from the presidency to disown the masses of the Southeast and the South-south including their sacred lands and cosmic ancestors; instead of identifying, cataloguing and articulating the age-long injustices responsible for the mass agitation, the profiteers and merchants of human miseries under reference stand totally condemned, shamed and have their integrity and relevance ruined forever before their own people; be they priests, religious leaders, politicians, elders, traditional rulers or public office holders!
Constitutional & Global realities of the Southeast (Biafran) self-determination agitation: It is our firm stand that rights of the people to existence, development and self-determination; irrespective of their race, colour, religion, ethnicity or class, are internationally and regionally preserved and protected provided they do not use or advocate violence. Though the success of using violence to advocate for and achieve these rights is determined by the doctrine of necessity (i.e. Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1993, South Sudan from Sudan in 2011, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovinian, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro from Yugoslavia in 1991/2), but violence of any kind is abhorred and prohibited locally, regionally and internationally. Our collective sympathy for the assertion of rights to existence, development and self-determination by the people or race under reference is built on two strong premises of use of nonviolence and the fact that the Nigerian Constitution, regional and international treaties recognize and protect the rights in question.
Rights to life, dignity of human person, personal liberty, freedom of expression, movement, peaceful assembly and association and freedom from discrimination are expressly provided in Sections 33, 34, 35, 36, 40, 41 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Rights to existence, development and self-determination are also provided in Article 20, etc of the African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights of 1981; ratified and domesticated by Nigeria in 1983. The right to self-determination is also provided in Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights of 1976, signed and ratified by Nigeria in 1993. It is also empirically established that countries in the world have periodically reviewed their concept of togetherness or separation and of the two major available approaches: peaceful and violent means; peaceful means remain the international best practices; which is why we constitutionally sympathize with the Southeast Nigeria’s self-determination agitators owing to their nonviolent approaches.
Social injuries behind the self-determination agitation in Southeast: It is our finding too that there are three social injustices or injuries responsible for the spirit behind the increased tempo of the Southeast (Biafran) self-determination agitation. These are: (a) sustained or continued threat to the ethnic identity of the people of the Southeast Nigeria leading to them being treated as leprous ethnic nationality or third class citizens of the Nigerian Federation in the country’s socio-political project.
Others are:(b) continued political enslavement of the zone; heightened by the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s resurged politics of exclusion and vindictiveness clearly targeted at the zone; and (c) structural injustice or imbalance against the zone in creation, allocation, composition and appointment of federal political and economic structures, infrastructures and persons. All of these are in deliberate and fragrant violation of Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution. They also violate and threaten the foundation of the 1999 Constitution which is laid on the sacred principles of Freedom, Equality & Justice.
Statistics: Out of the country’s current 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) spread across its six geopolitical zones: Southeast zone with only 5 States is given the least number: 95 LGAs; whereas two States in the Northwest zone alone: Kano and Jigawa have 77 LGAs. The two States used to be one State (Kano) until 1996 when it was divided into Kano and Jigawa States. Also Northwest zone has the highest number of LGAs: 186, followed by Southwest zone with 138 LGAs; South-south 123 LGAs; North-central 115 LGAs and Northeast 112 LGAs. It is important to inform that federal allocation of resources to the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria is dependent on the number of Local Government Areas in each zone; likewise federal elective and appointive offices. The six geopolitical zonal structures were designed for Nigeria in the 1993/4 Constitutional Conference to ensure fairness and equality in distribution of national wealth, resources, infrastructures and federal public offices and their holders. This is also reinforced by Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution. But this arrangement was brutally manipulated structurally by then Hausa-Fulani ruling military oligarchs and has remained so till date.
The same structural imbalance and injustice is also inherent in the number of Senatorial and House of Reps seats or districts/constituencies in the country’s six geopolitical zones; whereby out of the country’s 109 Senatorial seats/districts, Southeast zone has the least number of 15; whereas the Northwest zone is given 21; followed by Southwest, South-south, North-central and Northeast zones with 18 each. Out of the country’s 360 House of Reps seats/constituencies spread geopolitically, Southeast zone is again allocated with the least number of 43; whereas the Northwest zone is given 92; followed by the Southwest zone with 71; South-south 55; North-central 49; and Northeast 48. Out of the country’s 36 State structures, Southeast zone has the least number with five, whereas the Northwest zone is the highest number of seven while rest of the four zones (North-central, Northeast, South-south and Southwest) has six States each.
In the country’s six geopolitical allocation of registered voters (RVs) and permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) distributed in March 2015; totalling 68, 833, 000 RVs and 55, 904, 000 PVCs; Southeast zone got the least registered voters of 7,665,000 and PVCs of 6,614,000; whereas the Northwest zone got the highest RVs and PVCs of 17,620,000 and PVCs of 16,098, 000 respectively; followed by Southwest zone with 13, 731, 000 RVs and 8,965,000 PVCs; South-south zone 10, 059,000 RVs and 8, 365,000 PVCs; Northeast zone 9,107,000 RVs and 7,722,000 PVCs; and North-central zone with 9,767,000 RVs and 7, 651,000 PVCs.
Out of 34, 120 kilometers of federal roads spread across the country’s six geopolitical zones as at 2011, Southeast zone has the least number of kilometers of 3,231; whereas the North-central zone including the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) has the highest kilometers of 9,756; followed by Northeast 6, 787; Northwest 6,363; Southwest 4,161; and South-south 4, 150. And of all these, the federal roads in the Southeast and the South-south zones are most acutely deplorable and rapaciously abandoned. Few of them that are asphalted and made usable were done by host States’ Governors with their unpaid reimbursement sums running into tens of billions of naira till date.
In the area of federal public office holders in Nigeria drawn from the six geopolitical zones, the Southeast zone is abysmally represented. For instance, no senior police officer from the zone is among the current heads of the country’s 12 Police Zonal Commands and the few serving AIGs from the zone have since gone on statutory retirement leaving the zone no known serving AIGs out of the country’s current Police AIGs of at least 22.
All these are owing to age-long deliberate policy designed to stunt their promotions and posting till in the twilight of their statutory retirements when they are given retirement promotions. The composition of CPs and AIGs’ cadres of the Nigeria Police Force is also grossly lopsided in fragrant breach of Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution. The same gross lopsided composition is the case in the Nigerian Custom, Nigerian Immigration Service, the Nigerian Prisons Service, the DSS, the NIA, Army, Navy and the Air Force. In the headships of SPUs, ATSs, SARS, Federal Highway Police, the Mobile Police and Border Police composition and headship in the Nigeria Police Force; same is the case; likewise the country’s federal Appeal and Federal High Court and Appeal and Supreme Court Judges and Justices in which the zone is acutely represented. The same gross lopsidedness and exclusion are the order of the day in federal ministers, directors, headships of federal executive bodies as well as Service Chiefs and other top non ministerial federal appointments.
Addressing the issues thrown up by the agitation: Deployment of huge State resources that should be put for good public use; into influencing and compromising some individuals and groups so as to quench the raging agitations will end up escalating the issue and possibly blow same out of proportion and push the agitators to a radical and uncontrollable end, which may lead to another round of insurgency. This is more so when the leading brains behind the agitating movement (IPOB) are scattered across the globe. The Federal Government must be told in a clear term that those being compromised and influenced to recant are completely not in control of the agitating movement and millions of its supporters and sympathizers. These sets of conformist individuals and groups have long disgraced themselves and lost touch with the mainstream grassroots of the Southeast zone. Which is why to justify crumbs so federally received, they end up on the pages of newspaper with their tainted faces and faceless and mushroom groups.
The Federal Government must stop chasing shadows and critically look inwards so as to study and identify those issues that have remained unaddressed till date that resulted to the earth-shaking agitations in the Southeast and the South-south zones. The first critical step is to withdraw all trumped charges leveled against Citizen Nnamdi Kanu and order for his immediate and unconditional release from the DSS captivity. A Nigeria of pluralism and democratic constitutionalism, equality and fairness with no distinction in theory and practice as to ethnicity, place of birth, education, sex, class, oligarchic or aristocratic background and religion is always a preferred option and can be safely described as a united Nigeria. But a Nigeria of the opposite remains the worst option, while assertion of right to independent statehood is its best alternative. This is because it is better to live free in a land flowing with poverty than to live buoyantly in a land shackled and manacled by chains of slavery and enslavement.
To assuage the earth-shaking agitations and placate the people of the Southeast zone, all the age-long structural imbalances must be redressed especially the country’s geopolitical imbalances including lopsidedness in the number of States, LGAs, Senatorial Districts, Federal Constituencies, Federal Roads, Fiscal Allocations and geopolitical compositions of the field formations and headships of the Army, Police, Air Force, Navy, DSS, NIA, FRSC, Prisons and Customs.
Others to be geopolitically revisited with lenses of equality and fairness are the headships of the Federal Executive Bodies and the Federal Ministries, Parastatals and Departments (MDAs); likewise the Federal High Court, Appeal Court and Supreme Court Judges and Justices. Principle of geopolitical equality and fairness must also be applied to the letter in all other relevant and related offices and bodies. Each of the six geopolitical zones must be given equal number of States, LGAs, Senatorial Districts, Federal Constituencies and revenue allocations, federal projects execution and building and maintenance of federal infrastructures including roads, rail, aviation, health, education, water and other social facilities.
For: Coalition of Southeast Based Human Rights Organizations (CSBHROs):
1. Emeka Umeagbalasi (+23474090052 (office)
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
2. Comrade Aloysius Attah (+2348035090548)
For: Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO)
3. Comrade Peter Onyegiri (+2347036892777)
For: Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA)
4. Comrade Samuel Njoku (+2348039444628)
For: Human Rights Club (a project of LRRDC)(HRC)
5. Justus Uche Ijeoma, Esq. (+2348037114869)
For: Forum for Justice, Equity & Defense of Human Rights (FJEDHR)
6. Comrade Chike Umeh ( +2348064869601)
For: Society Advocacy Watch Project (SPAW)
7. Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq. (+2348034186332)
For: Anambra Human Rights Forum (AHRF)
8. Comrade Alex Olisa (+2348034090410)
For: Southeast Good Governance Forum (SGGF)
9. Jerry Chukwuokolo, PhD (+2348035372962)
For: International Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (ITERSOLIDARITY)
DISCLAIMER: Opinion articles are solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of the publishers of Elombah News