Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Biafra Challenge And Nigeria’s Future

By Nze Nwabueze Akabogu (JP)
For the past four weeks or thereabout, the nation had witnessed an unprecedented upsurge in the massive non-violent demonstrations which has now reached a crescendo in the agitation for the actualization of the sovereign state of Biafra jointly led by MASSOB and the so-called Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The widespread agitation throughout the South East region as well as some parts of the Igbo speaking areas of the South-South region suddenly erupted in the wake of the reported detention of the Director of the clandestine “Radio Biafra” based in the United Kingdom, Nnamdi Kenu, who was reported to have been picked up by security operatives on his arrival from London recently.

The MASSOB led by the irrepressible Chief Ralph Uwazuruike had for many years been in the vanguard for the actualization of the defunct Republic of Biafra through non-violent means. The Biafran Army was defeated by the Nigerian Armed Forces after thirty months of devastating civil war with the famous slogan of “No victor and no vanquished” as was declared by the erstwhile Nigerian Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) in January 1970.

Regrettably however, almost forty six years after the disastrous conflict, all the contentious issues that originally led to the unfortunate war had remained unresolved, hence the current wave of agitations spearheaded mainly by the restive youths who invariably had inherited the seeming lopsidedness of the nation’s political structure as well as gross marginalization being suffered by the people within the geographical entity known as the defunct Republic of Biafra or South-East region of Nigeria to be precise.

The Nigerian nation seemed to have lost the golden opportunity to put the dark period of the civil war and its horrifying memories permanently behind her hence the nation had failed to take advantage of the famous declaration of “No victor and no vanquished” slogan to build a new nation through the adoption of a deliberate policy of genuine reconciliation and re-integration of the Igbo nation into the mainstream of the nation’s political system of governance.

Cases abound around the globe whereby nations that had similar unfortunate and bitter civil war experience, like Nigeria had systematically embarked on a policy of genuine reconciliation and re-integration through the mechanism of pacifying the supposedly defeated sub national groups within those countries. The most powerful nation in the world today, the United States of America (USA) after her civil war quickly reunited the country by adopting true fiscal federalism as a system of government whereby the federating or component units (states) had a great measure of autonomy as well as the control of their resources and other critical areas that affect their own people without undue interference whatsoever in the affairs of the states by the federal government based in far away Washington. Furthermore, any state under the US constitution was at liberty to leave the union at any time if she so desired.

And coming nearer home in Africa, a typical case in point was the political scenario that prevailed at the end of the civil war in the former Congo Leopoldville now Democratic Republic of Congo or DRC whereby the secessionist Katangese gendarmes in the mineral rich Katanga province led by Moise Tshombe was roundly defeated by the Congolese national army and the nation quickly proceeded to heal her wounds and came together again as a strong and united country. Consequently, the founding fathers of the new Congolese nation in the true spirit of reconciliation proceeded to offer the erstwhile secessionist leader, Moise Tshombe the leadership position as the Prime Minister of the new Congolese government and thereby removing once and for all the mutual suspicion, mistrust, and political recriminations that led to the unfortunate civil war.

It is instructive to observe in this piece however, that the agitation for the actualization of the sovereignty of Biafra had recently assumed dangerous dimension and a source of grave concern to the Nigerian authorities who had threatened a crack down against the sponsors and agitators if they continued with their “treasonable” act.

However, it is preposterous and the height of political naivety for  the authorities to simply wish away or even threaten a crack down against the resurgence of the Biafran agitation without first and foremost addressing the fundamental issues as well as the root causes that gave rise to the current agitation for self determination by the Biafran agitators. It is needless to emphasize the imperativeness of the urgency for the immediate restructuring of the Nigerian political system to reflect the present realities of the ethno-cultural cum religious diversities of the country. The above recommendation is the only panacea for a united, viable and peaceful Nigeria whereby the various component parts or federating units will be allowed to control their God given resources and develop at their own pace without undue interference or hindrances from the central government as obtainable in most advanced democracies of the world that operate true fiscal federalism such as the U.S, Canada, Switzerland among others.

The only viable option or solution to the current extremely dangerous and precarious situation in the country is the urgent and inevitable restructuring of the Nigerian nation. The only alternative to this patriotic call however, is to allow any ethnic nationality or region in the country to freely express its wish or desire either to remain or opt out of the unwieldy union through a referendum which is the globally acceptable method of ascertaining the true wishes of the people.

Many nations of the world that have similar contrived and lopsided union like Nigeria such as the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, Spain and recently Cremia in Ukraine just to mention but a few, are today witnessing a strong and rather endless agitations for autonomy or self determination from the perceived marginalized minority regions in those countries. In the United Kingdom (UK) for a example, the people of Northern Ireland had been agitating for self determination and to join their Kith and Kin in the Irish Republic across the border. The Irish agitation assumed a dangerous dimension when the people of Northern Ireland led by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) resorted to the arms struggle in order to achieve their ambition to be reunited with the Irish Republic.

Similarly, the people of Scotland had equally been agitating for separation or independence from the lopsided union of the United Kingdom which led to the recent referendum conducted in Scotland but the pro-independence campaigners lost narrowly to the unionists. Nonetheless the Scottish people  had remained resolute and undaunted in their avowed quest for independence as they clearly demonstrated this fact during the recent British general elections into the British parliament (House of Commons) whereby the Scottish nationalist party won an overwhelming majority of seats allotted to Scotland in the British Parliament thereby sending a strong signal that the Scottish people  would sooner than later conduct another referendum to finally decide their future in the United Kingdom.

In a similar vein, the French speaking people of Quebec in Canada had not yet succeeded in their quest for independence from Canada through referendum on two previous occasions as the pro-independence campaigners or agitators had failed in the two previous occasions to secure the majority of votes required for the ultimate independence of Quebec from Canada. Nevertheless, the people of Quebec were not deterred and have continued to mobilize her citizens towards their eventual victory in a future referendum for independence.

Again only recently, the people of Catalonia in Spain carried out massive demonstrations across the Catalonian region of Spain demanding for independence from Spain and calling for urgent referendum to ascertain the wishes of the people amid the current highly volatile situation in the country. However, the authorities in the Spanish Capital of Madrid were vehemently opposed to the possible dismemberment of the Spanish nation but had not threatened the use of force to stop the agitation for the Catalonian independence as is the present case of Biafra in Nigeria.

It is the inalienable right of people the world over, to demand or agitate for their freedom or self determination in a civilized and peaceful manner as guaranteed under the United Nations Human rights charter. The only logical and civilized method of ascertaining the true wishes of the people for self determination or independence including the current Biafran agitation is through an organized referendum as opposed to the threat of brute force to quell the agitation.

It is pertinent to mention in this write up however, that the erstwhile British colonial powers in their legendry act of diplomacy and uncommon wisdom duly recognized the ethno-cultural and religious diversity of Nigeria at the time of amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914 and thereafter proceeded to create the Northern, Eastern, and Western regions of Nigeria and which were then controlled by the three major ethnic nationalities or tribes in their various regions and were allowed unfettered freedom and autonomy under the pre-independence Macpherson constitution to effectively control their resources as well as develop their regions at their own pace which ultimately engendered healthy competitions among the three federating regions in the country. This was the true fiscal federalism that was bequeathed to the country by the former British colonial powers at independence in 1960 as the only workable system of government that was suitable for the peculiar Nigerian political environment.

The Nigerian nation today is at a cross roads and facing unimaginable and extremely dangerous socio-economic cum ethno-religious challenges occasioned by the bastardization of the nation’s political structure and governance by the Military’s misadventure in the affairs of the nation. The consequences of the military’s unfortunate incursion into the governance of the country could be easily attributed to the current gross underdevelopment, perennial political instability, general insecurity, mutual suspicion, mistrust, and disunity among the nation’s diverse ethnic nationalities and their people. Time therefore is no longer on the side of the Nigerian nation and as such everything humanly possible must be done urgently to save her from the looming catastrophe.

Nigeria could still be rescued from the precipice if all hands must be on deck and her leaders must equally develop strong political will to tackle head on the seemingly insurmountable challenges currently confronting the terribly divided nation.

Akabogu (JP) a  Public Affairs Analyst resides in Enugwu-Ukwu, Anambra State

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