Nigeria – Disintegration Secession: Cop Out, Not a Solution

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

“If learned people insist on acting like illiterates because illiteracy abounds in the society- then the value of their education is lost!”

Moments just before our independence anniversary offer an auspicious opportunity to examine our national enterprise- its viability, feasibility and options. It is very fashionable these days to be a secessionist; it is fashionable these days to be a proponent of the disintegration of Nigeria. In various articles, across message boards and in varying forums, staunch proponents of “dissolution is the only solution” are having a field day. But do not be deceived. Do not equate the wisdom of a vocal minority, with the logical conclusions of the majority. My intention of writing this treatise is to strip down the reasoning of the proponents of this so called “solution”. When you visit a medicine man (traditional or western), they engage first in the medical diagnosis of your ailment. At the conclusion of which a prescription is given. The “prescription” (be it surgical, medicinal or some form of therapy), can rightly be referred to as the solution. The same is true for the mathematician or engineer: there is a problem, the cause is identified and the solution is advanced which when implemented is expected to solve the problem.

As such, it is an assumption of causal relationship that drives the prescription of a solution. Simply put, the solution must reverse the cause to cure an ailment. But does, disintegration cure the ills bedeviling the Nigerian nation? What is solved by divvying up Nigeria into parts? Is there a causal link between the unity (forced or negotiated) of Nigeria’s constituent ethnic groups and the current problems of Nigeria? Of course, the assumption of a causal link must inform the prescription of these later days’ secessionists. However, in reality- an existence of two phenomenons concurrently is not a proof of causality. Does lightening cause thunder, or does thunder cause lightening? Or are they both causes by bad weather? Oh, well- go figure! Statisticians will be the first to tell you that correlation and causality are not the same. Hence, the current correlation of Nigeria’s unity and her relative under development is by no means a proof of the need to divvy her up unless such link is established by logical argument.

Speaking of logic; for a minute let us imagine. What will really change assuming Nigeria’s various ethnic groups actually go their way? Will these new smaller nations (who for the most part are hardly homogenous) be more united than Nigeria? I can imagine an Oodua republic where the Ijebu and the Ekiti don’t see eye to eye; or the Oyo and Egba are constant antagonists which will make the current chaos in Nigeria look like child’s play. The South-South and North Central will be waiting basket cases of festering ethnic riots between the wide variety of ethnic groups located there who hardly see eye to eye. In fact, if there is any lesson from Rwanda and Burundi (with just two ethnic groups), the lower the ethnic diversity the higher the propensity of mayhem: which makes sense because it will be one of clobber until you buck. For example, in the South-West there is an ongoing contention within Afenifere on why the leadership is always rotated amongst the Egba-Ijebu stock and the Ondo-Ekiti quarters, to the detriment of Ogbomosho-Oyo. They Ogbomosho folks are already propounding theories on being punished for the sins of Akintola. Well, wait until they get Oodua Republic!

On a more particular scale, the basic problems Nigeria faces today which are poor leadership, corruption and citizens with next to know sense of patriotism or investment in the common good is unlikely to be resolved by a break up. Will a break up of Nigeria suddenly make the police man stop demanding bribe, or the messenger in the civil service start coming to work early and delivering on his promises to his employer? I think not. Will 419 disappear? Or will political gangsterism and the win by all cost mentality be outdated? No. The problem with Nigeria is not that it is in a union; the problem is that it has abandoned the premise upon which this union was originally based. Structural problems as some put it. There is nothing wrong with Nigeria- which is a living organism of 120 million plus people that undoubtedly have developed some ugly, bad and good attributes over the past 100 years that will be solved by separation. The problems will only manifest and multiply itself in the different resulting entities. And for those who are bent on proving that they will do better being outside of the Nigerian framework, why don’t you prove it first on your local government and state level where a substantial amount of revenue outflows go today? What will change?

When the proponents of secession make their case, the easiest way to test the validity of their solution is to ask, how? How do they intend to achieve what they propose? For the most part most of them are clueless. They lack the mental curiosity to investigate the logical complexities involved with the process they propose. Back in my university days, my professor of logic in Akoka, Professor Ogunwolu (in case he is reading), always said- “if you don’t know how, then it doesn’t make sense”. Say for example Nigeria disintegrates, into how many nations? Who is to stop me from taking my local government into sovereign bliss? If the rest of Oodua have the guts to secede and dishonor the Nigerian union, what stops the people of Lagos from dishonoring the Oodua union at a time of their choosing considering the enormous advantage they hold in terms of size, economy and geography? Okay, to even more nitty-gritty questions, who takes Abuja? What happens to investments in now “foreign lands”? Considering the fact that the much vilified North is more likely to gain net from keeping investments of barons of the South, how likely will these barons (who the political class must rely for financing) to support this moves? In short, how viable is it?

There is nothing that illustrates the complexity and unintended consequences of the process of disintegration than a distant but more “orderly” cousin of “state and local government creation”; a phenomenon that took hold after Nigeria’s unfortunate civil war. In my short adult life, I have had the opportunity to observe these two processes upfront in vastly two different environments and observed extremely negative consequences however masked by the larger union (a luxury we won’t get when it all implodes). First, it was when Osun state was created from Oyo state in 1991 by IBB.

Back then, my father worked in Oyo state civil service. Though he was from then Ondo state, the rampant victimization of non-indigenes by the Oyo state brass was telling. In fact, Osun state indigenes had to stage raw office invasion to drive government cars away from lots, and seize office equipment just to get their hands on enough asset to set up shop in Oshogbo. The chaos attendant to this creation was telling as to what could and would happen. Do note that the women of Osun origin who were married to Oyo state indigenes were not even spared. Many were demoted, lost their jobs or forced to retire, simply because they were born on the wrong side of the border and belonged to the group of agitators (Ijesas they were called) who now had their own state and will not be tolerated. This by the way are Oyo and Osun, both children of Oodua and future occupants of the so called Oodua republic, or Yorubai as some hilarious fellow put it the other time.

The second incident was one which was even far more dramatic, and whose sad consequence was as heartbreaking and serves a potent lesson for the agitators of breaking up Nigeria. During the Abacha local government creation exercise, Warri South local government was created because of the agitation of people of Warri South consisting mainly of Okere, Ogbeh-Ijoh and Ekurede quarters of Warri for better representation. Well, problem was that the site of the headquarters of the local government resulted in bedlam. In between the Itsekiri, Urhobo and Ijaws that made up this local government an amicable compromise was impossible to be reached. Tensions boiled to the surface, and thousands lost their lives. I was a living witness to this mayhem. Men and women were slaughtered, homes were burnt, properties and business destroyed all because of where the headquarters of a local government was sited! Now peradventure, guess how big the crisis will be if the decision to site the capital of the republic of Niger Delta will be! Even in Warri, the five or more ethnic groups in that little town can hardly agree on one thing not to talk of the eight or more in Delta state or the fifty or so in the entire region! Of course, this same scenario was not limited to Warri; it replicated itself in Ife-Modakeke the cradle of the Alice in Wonderland’s Oodua Republic. Be careful for what you ask for people, be very careful!

Certainly, I understand that the most powerful argument that the secessionist have going for them is self determination. Well, self determination is easier said than done. What is the limit of self determination? If we believe in this principle absolutely, then why can’t every compound be a country? Is survival at the end of the day not the over arching principles of all associations? I submit that self determination that put at risk your survival because of current global realities where the big is strong, and the small is weak is not sensible! The miniaturization of Nigeria will result in smaller countries that can hardly be a force for change, or relevant in regional or continental geopolitics and who will be susceptible to the machinations of global imperial powers to the detriment of the national enterprise.

Exploring the points of the other side farther, they are likely to posit that before colonization every ethnic group did just fine. Oh, did they? Then how come the Europeans had guns and your forefathers never did? Why were your forefathers so impressed to sell their kits and kin to the white man for gin and umbrella if he was doing just fine? If those pre-colonial boundaries were immutable, then how come those institutions that were there to preserve them caved in, were defeated or did not blink an eye lid before they signed away their heirloom? Yeah right! The pre-colonial ethnic groups were not just fine. They were one step behind their Egyptian, Oyo Empire, and Benin empire precursors who saw the wisdom in consolidating boundaries and building strong mega nations. The destruction of these empires by the same agitation for internal independence we see today, was the tell tale sign of their invasion by powers from distant land. Indeed, do we want to return to the days of Ekiti-Parapo/Yoruba Kiriji wars or a constant siege of the caliphate north on their neighbors? How backward looking is that? Do we then intend to return us to this distant past? When all we did was come up with the next clannish invasion and wars, instead of studying mathematics, developing technology, building infrastructure and prospering? What in this distant past do we wish to romanticize, that we don’t already know?

In conclusion, I must caution that you do not mistake my thesis against the not so solution of dissolution as an endorsement of the status quo. I am sure you will agree with me that the foundations of Nigeria are flawed. But so what if it is? There is nothing flawed that cannot be fixed. Even the United States had a flawed beginning, but by the token of anti-discrimination laws, and more recently the selection of an African American as a presidential candidate, their nation is being renewed everyday. The truth also is that we won’t stop being neighbors either as one or many. We ultimately must still learn to live with one another- and separation cannot solve that one either.

What good will additional 6 or 12 or 30 or 36 or even 60 countries (who is to stop my local government from declaring independence?) do to the misery of Africa’s pauperized fiefdoms of 50 plus states that are a shame of our race? We should get our house in order instead of engaging on wild posturing. We admit the weakness or failure of our argument for restructuring when we grandstand and insist on dissolution. Dissolution is a cop out from getting into the hard work of restructuring and building a new Nigeria, not a solution! However, because I recognize it is not enough to be just against the bad idea to disintegrate, I will be making a pitch for a united Nigeria in another piece following immediately thereafter. Is Nigeria worth saving? Why is Nigeria worth saving? How do we save Nigeria? Can this about to be forty-eight years old be redeemed from itself? Those and many other questions will be explored.

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1 comment

Ime Udo-Obong March 18, 2010 - 9:31 am

Now that we have a “SOUTH SOUTH” , an Ijaw man in the SEAT of Presidency , I believe you Yorubas in other part of the world will come to the reality that Nigeria is MORE than THREE(3) major tribes..We are Ibibios support GOODLUCK to the letter…Why is it that many yorubas do not know that Nigeria WILL REMAIN a NATION of 250 or so ethnic NATIONALITIES which have their own HISTORY, culture, heroes and behavioral tendencies BUT want the nation to work…Why is is whan a SO_CALLED minority has POWER now that YORUBAs suddenly see that Nigeria is so FRAGMENTED..I grew up in University of Ibadan and I realized when I returned “home” to Uyo that many are MORE Patriotic that those in the Lagos/Ibadan-London/America axis..than many yoruba men and women..


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