We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.— Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world…
– American Declaration of Independence
A couple of weeks ago, the news media – regular and social – was rife with news of the purported jamming of the frequencies of Radio Biafra by the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC). The said jamming of the station was necessitated by what the authorities claimed were inflammatory statements emanating from the station. In a swift reaction to the purported jamming of their station, the operators of Radio Biafra countered the claim by the authorities, claiming that the station was still broadcasting via backup frequencies. The claims and counterclaims by both parties have expectedly generated a host of media hype both within and outside the shores of the country, eliciting some pertinent questions about the true state of the Nigerian State as currently constituted and operated.
To be candid, the issues being propagated by groups such as Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM) and other pro-Biafra groups agitating for the establishment of an autonomous State of Biafra, are not new to these parts, as is been suggested in certain quarters. They have traditionally constituted large chunks of the “National Question”; a multicoated teaser that seeks to locate where each of the several ethnic groups constituting the Nigerian State belong, what they stand to gain from their membership of the union, what truly makes them Nigerians, in conjunction with several other thorny questions that bother on the relationship that should ideally exist between the Nigerian State and its citizens, and amongst the country’s various resident subgroups; a compound question that requires immediate answers.
Instead of joining the bandwagon of the self-appointed “patriots” who have formed the penchant for lampooning the activities of groups who agitate for structural cum institutional reforms, Nigerians must begin to objectively seek for answers to some critical questions of the day, considering the growing number of disenchanted dissenting groups challenging the legitimacy of the Nigerian State system as currently constituted. If one may objectively ask: Is the Nigeria State still viable in its current amoebic shape? Has the Nigerian State been just in its dealings with all the groups domiciled within its borders? Are all Nigerians equal stakeholders in the Nigerian project? Have Nigerians of all hues been carried along the processes of governance by all the leaders that have been privileged to run the affairs of Nigeria since its inception? On what basis should Nigerians continue performing their fiduciary responsibilities to the Nigerian State? When you juxtapose these searing questions with the practical, everyday realities on ground, a clearer explanation and understanding of the actions of the centrifugal forces challenging the authority of the Nigerian State begins to emerge.
The questions of ethnicity, religion, resource control and distribution, in conjunction with other issues of general significance have defined the evolution of the Nigerian State since the British impetuously yanked the Northern and the Southern Protectorates together hundred years ago – the Amalgamation of January 1st, 1914. Unlike the processes that culminated in the formation of most European Nation-States consequent to the outcome of the Westphalia Treaty of 1648, the integration of all the groups constituting modern Nigeria – as was the case in other African States that were created consequent to the agreements reached by European nations at the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 – was as careless as it was directionless; a unification that was purely driven by the mercantilist dispositions of colonial Buccaneers who transported their piracy from the high seas to dry land; a display of power without responsibility, with intent to exploit without redress; an action that inadvertently created the monsters currently tugging at the very soul of the Nigerian State. Nigeria, in her current state, can be likened to a hideous Medusa; a potpourri of confusion; a foul smelling cauldron of death that threatens all within its confines; a contraption from the deepest section of Hades that has given rise to the several cutthroat struggles among its indigent ethnic nationalities for the control of political power and the distribution of resources; struggles that have shown no signs of abating.
However, while one can be excused for castigating the processes that led to the emergence of Nigeria, one very salient question stands out like an ugly pimple: in subsequent years – prior to and after independence – consequent to the braggadocios actions of the rampaging British Pirates, what have successive governments in Nigeria done to redress the much-trumpeted Mistake of 1914 in all its asseverating ramifications? The question obviously answers itself: “Next to nothing, if anything”. The reluctance of past administrations to practically address – with intent to redress – the anomalous structuring of the federation – in which the Northern part is politically larger that the Sothern part – is largely responsible for the quandary the country currently stews in; a mischievous design by a debauched and greed-driven colonial Mafia that has continued to define the current currents of the country’s politics; an extremely dangerous pitfall the present administration must avoid in its handling of agitations for the establishment of autonomous states by disgruntled groups in the country with inclinations to challenge the legitimacy of the Nigerian State system.
The poor quality of Nigeria’s political leadership down the ages has not helped matters. Rather than act as buffers against the forces of disintegration, successive Nigerian leaders, through their inglorious actions and inactions, have helped fuel animosities among the country’s heterogeneous groups. Rather than wield the country together, they have further estranged the constituent units. Instead of patriotic leaders that are committed to providing the greatest good for the greatest possible number, Nigeria has been led by self-seeking ethnic bigots; rulers – and not leaders – who, having refined and perfected the sadistic divide and rule stratagem of the departed British colonial Conquistadors, have sailed the country’s ship of state off course. These bushwhackers exploit the country’s fragile unity to score cheap political points by always throwing the ethnic dice. Nigeria has been cursed with demon-possessed leaders; self-serving vultures without conscience; greedy Mongrels whose primitive affinities and proclivities have inadvertently pushed the country closer to the precipice. Had Nigeria had detribalized leaders committed to developing the country evenly and distributing the national wealth equitably, without recourse to primal sentiments, the burning issues of today would have been long excoriated and buried in the sands of time. What Nigeria needs in these perilous times are bridge builders – as leaders – committed to wielding all the country’s disparate groups together into a giant compendium ready to take on the rest of the world.
Most Nigerians are scrambling into sectarian gazebos because they have lost faith in the national mansion. The pro-Biafra separatists feel alienated in the current configuration. They are very angry. They are justified in being angry. Sincerely speaking, have the root causes of the Nigerian Civil War been addressed thirty five years since it ended? Have the Igbos been fully re-integrated into Nigeria as promised by Gowon? Do Igbos enjoy equal status with other indigent groups in the distribution of political appointments in Nigeria? How well have Yakubu Gowon’s post-war mantra – “No Victor, No Vanquished” – panned out thirty five years later? Has the South-East been physically reconstructed from the devastation of a three years war? Have Igbos been fully rehabilitated? The answers to these pointed questions are not farfetched. When you treat people who are used to freedom like a bunch of animals, a time comes when they start resisting you. Igbos are egalitarians by nature; republicans who value their freedom above every other consideration. This obviously explains their dissatisfaction with the current cockeyed arrangement.
Clamping down on separatist agitators – such as pro-Biafra groups – is obviously not a long term solution to their grievances. Instead of seeing groups that agitate for better deals from the Nigerian State system from the binoculars of enemies of the state, the Nigerian government should exploit the windows of opportunity presented by these agitations to address the age-long issues of marginalization and underdevelopment of vast swathes of the country which have given rise to the plethora of calls for secession, state creation, resource control, political inclusion and, in extreme cases, the outright dissolution of the union as currently constituted by groups that feel shortchanged and disempowered in the current arrangement.
The demands by the pro-Biafra separatists, is not in any way out of order – though their methods cannot be said to be all that legal. Thus, the administration of President Mohammadu Buhari should not be opposed to any form of dialogue among Nigeria’s various ethnic nationalities. Rather, it should review the possibility of a proper National Conference determined by the citizens of the republic. If the Nigerian State must continue at all, the individuals and groups constituting it must have their say on how it should be constituted and administered. Modalities should be immediately put in place on how to create an acceptable platform for a national dialogue that will reinforce the ties that bind the country’s many ethnic nationalities and ensure that Nigeria’s immense diversity continues to be a source of strength and greatness. The convocation of a national conference is the fastest route towards achieving the much needed transformation of the country.
In all, the issues raised by the advocates of a Sovereign State of Biafra are real matters that cannot just be swept under the carpet. They are practical everyday realities that any objective administration would work to address. Nigeria has about 389 ethnic nationalities. There is an urgent need for these disparate groups to sit together on a round table and decide the terms on which they would like to continue being members of the Nigerian State. The time has come to correct the historical blunders of a hundred years. God save Nigeria!