The current political situation in Ethiopia, which has degenerated to an armed conflict, is of immediate and significant national security concern to Nigeria. This is because of the close similarity in the elements threatening the political development of both countries such as the socio-cultural cum demographic features of both nations.
Ethnic-based politics which has been the bane of many African countries is gaining new life across Nigeria. While Nigeria has found ways to manage this divisive tendency through the unwritten principles of zoning and rotation in political power configuration, especially since the return of democracy in 1999, the issue continues to chip away at the fabric of our society.
This has led to many localized agitations gaining national and even international recognition in recent times. Many may argue that the adoption of zoning and power rotation is a better way to hold together the country as an indivisible whole and foreclose any future clamour for self-determination by ethnic champions. However, unlike Ethiopia, which has enshrined the ethnicbased regional system in her constitution, the zoning and power rotation arrangements in Nigeria are almost wholly dependent on good faith of the political parties and their leaders. While both Nigeria and Ethiopia have adopted the federal structure of governance, the reality is that the spirit of ethnic dominance continues to conspire against liberal democracy in the two countries.
During the last three decades, the Tigrayans of Ethiopia succeeded in cornering every sector of the largely statecontrolled economy and the security apparatus at the expense of other ethnic groups.
The resolve of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, an Oromo (who was once a trusted ally of the TPLF), to reform governance in Ethiopia is perceived as not being in the interest of the TPLF-led regional government who see their political and economic dominance in Ethiopia as being challenged by the Oromo upstart. It is obvious that Ethiopia is still grappling with her transition into a truly federal state due to her long experience with a unitary system and ethnic domination.
There is an overconcentration of powers in the centre thereby defeating the real essence of federalism. For instance, the current crisis was triggered by the insistence of the regional government in Tigray to proceed with scheduled local elections in spite of the postponement of general election by the country’s central election management body.
The response of the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed-led federal government was to forcefully remove the regional government in Tigray for going against the decision of Addis Ababa. Of course, as highlighted above, there are deeper undertones to this action and reaction.
Like many ethnically heterogeneous countries in Africa, Ethiopia has struggled for political balance between contending ethnic tendencies, which are perpetually struggling for the control of political power.
This forms the major basis for her adoption of a decentralized governance structure with a federal government at the apex and regional governments at coordinating level.
The scenario above should be of pertinent lesson to Nigeria in view of increasingly loud agitation for a restructuring of the polity as a means of addressing real and perceived hegemonic tendencies by particular ethnic nationalities and the marginalization of others.
As Nigeria looks ahead to another transitional election in 2023, it is important that these agitations are properly addressed to avoid the type of political disagreement that has preoccupied that current turmoil in Ethiopia. While it is improbable that armed political confrontation will take place here, we still must avoid any increase in political tension, particularly given the current security and economic challenges we now face.
A peep into the political party movement in Ethiopia shows that most political parties metamorphosed by establishing militia groups which, in too many instances, became more important than parties that formed them. This explains the belligerent posture of political actors in that country. Nigeria cannot afford to go that route because of its many dire uncertain implications.
Already, the increasing visibility of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) movement despite its proscription by the Nigerian government is a warning signal. Recent developments in Ethiopia have raised fresh concerns about the tenuous political stability of the East African country and the implications for regional security in the Horn of Africa.
With over 110 million ethnically diverse people, an outbreak of a civil war in Ethiopia will have far-reaching ramifications for regional peace and security. At a time, the whole world is battling a pandemic, the current conflict in Ethiopia exposes the