Editorial

Secession bids: Time for constructive dialogue

The vultures are gathering in the horizon. It is a bad omen. Vulture, it is said, is a patient bird. But it lives on carcasses. So, when vultures gather, it is an ominous sign of death; not of life. In the last couple of months, there have been calls for the balkanisation of the geographical entity called Nigeria.

 

The calls are not new, but they have probably never been this strident. The calls have become louder in recent times, particularly in the last 24 months or thereabout.

 

The shouts of those calling for the disintegration of the country are almost drowning the voices of reasoning. The call for secession is daily gaining currency and wider acceptability among Nigerians, especially Nigerians in the Diaspora.

 

Several names such as Oduduwa Republic, Biafra, Savannah, Arewa, etc, have been chosen for the different enclaves clamouring to become future countries or republics.

 

Recently, former president of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and leader of the defunct Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Mujahid Asari- Dokubo, was credited with the formation of Biafra Customary Government, with the aim of forming the Biafran nation.

 

“We as people have resolved that as Biafrans, it’s time for us to take our destiny in our hands and bring freedom to ourselves and our children and the generation of Biafrans yet unborn,”

 

Asari was quoted as saying. Earlier, Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), had called for an independent nation for the people of the old Eastern Region.

 

He was arrested on October 14, 2015. He was detained by the Federal Government for about one and a half years, despite several court orders mandating his release. Before then, there were several moves for the creation of Biafra.

A few days after the declaration of Biafra Customary Government, a self-acclaimed Yoruba activist, Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho, declared Yoruba as a separate nation and demanded the secession of South-West states from Nigeria.

Announcing the formation of the Yoruba nation, Igboho said the major resources of Nigeria were in the hands of Northerners. He said the Yoruba were being killed and their land taken over. “If the police attack us for that, we are ready for them. We do not want Nigeria again, but the Yoruba nation.

 

There is no essence for one Nigeria when the major resources in the country are in the hands of the northerners. Enough is enough. There is no going back… We are not scared of anybody.

 

These killer herders are taking over our land and they are killing our people,” Igboho said. In a viral video, Igboho also threatened to open all international borders such as the   Idiroko and Seme borders in the South-West to allow importation of food into the ‘Yoruba nation.’ When calls are rife for secession, it is a sign that some people are, either perceived or real, marginalised, oppressed and or deprived of access to collective patrimony.

 

For instance, the issue of insecurity, particularly mass killings in parts of the country by certain groups of people regarded as the untouchable, has never been adequately addressed by the government. A few days ago, there was an attempt on the life of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, allegedly by herdsmen.

 

 

But the response from the Federal Government, if any, was, as usual, lame.

 

Despite the fact that a group claimed responsibility for the attack and even threatened to kill the governor sooner than later, no arrest has been made. Meanwhile, Ortom has been resolute in his stand against herders, who have been responsible for the killing of thousands of residents of Benue State.

 

In the past, a particular group had claimed responsibility for the bloodbath in the state, yet all the security agencies such as the police, the Department of State Services (DSS), etc, have looked the other way.

 

These are some of the issues contributing to the agitation for secession. Agitation for self-determination by groups of people who no longer share the same values which brought them together is not in itself bad or new. People in some countries in the past have gone their separate ways but later came back together. A case in recent history is that of Germany. The country was divided at the end of World War II in 1945. But West Germany and East Germany reunited in March 1990. Agitations for Scottish independence led to the September 18, 2014 referendum which sought a Scottish Independence from the United Kingdom.

 

Those who wanted Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom won but the agitation has not been defeated. Seeking a self-rule does not necessarily lead to a war but the reactions of state actors do. Such reactions by the Federal Government led to the Nigeria- Biafra War.

 

According to a maxim, anyone whose only tool is a hammer sees every problem as a nail.

 

The Federal Government needs not always bring down its boots on those seeking self-determination. Sometimes purposeful dialogue does the magic. While we call on secessionists to seek avenues within the Nigerian state to address their grievances, we also urge the Federal Government to not only listen to the cries of the oppressed and discontented but deliberately and adequately address the root cause or causes of their agitations. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria

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