MasterwebNews 13/7/16 - What if Nigeria were to break up?

[ Masterweb Reports: Professor Layi Erinosho reports ] - It is widely believed that the collapse of the Biafran dream in the 1970s will put paid to any talk of secession in Nigeria. Indeed, many have observed that no country can afford more than a civil war which for me is a bland statement to make us feel good. Another civil war is feasible if responsible national authorities fail to respond to troubling challenges underlying nation building.

 

 


As example, Yugoslavia, a country that was held together for thirty-five years by Marshall Tito went down and is now subdivided into nearly ten republics. Czechoslovakia is today broken into two countries. Canada nearly broke up into the English-speaking provinces on the one hand and the French on the other in the 1970s but for restructuring that gave greater autonomy to the French-speaking Province of Quebec which felt marginalized. Today, French is the first language in Quebec and all sign posts in the Province are in French. Nearly all universities in Quebec are required to use the French language while English and French are Canada’s official languages.

 

The United Kingdom consisting of England, Wales, and Scotland has had its own share of the threat of secession. By and large, the United Kingdom has managed to stem the threat of secession by granting considerable autonomy to Wales and Scotland. Even then, Scotland is still threatening to pull out of the United Kingdom.

 

Empires also rise and disappear. The Roman, Greek, and British Empires have come and gone into the belly of history. These empires had to respond to threats and crises within them. Their authorities had no choice but to give way to the pressures of their colonies and they (i.e., empires) disintegrated.

 

What is therefore happening in Nigeria is not new in history. What is important is for us to learn from history and respond robustly to stem the threat of secession by any ethnic group or state or region. There is indeed no point sweeping our problems under the carpet. These problems will not go away.

 

Nigeria is currently not working optimally and there are sound reasons for this assertion. Insurgency is widespread in the country, - the Boko Haram in the North East; the Niger Delta militants in the oil producing states; as well as the renewed demand for the Republic of Biafra. drive this point home. Kidnappings, ritual murders and domestic violence coupled with lack of water and electric power supply; and the remarkably poor networks of roads within and between cities/rural areas point to the fact that Nigeria is not working. Our country can be likened to a forest full of animals in the name of human beings, roaming aimlessly without the wherewithal for good living.

 

One can discern three schools of thought from various contributions and proposals on the way forward for our country. There is on the one hand a group that believes nothing is really wrong with the current state of affairs in our country. To this school of thought, the 1999 Constitution is flawless and should be allowed to work for the country. The key proponents of this viewpoint come from the Northern part of country. They argue persuasively that all is well inspite of the insurgencies and killings and the weakness of responsible authorities to address security challenges and fast-track development.

 

The second school of thought calls for the restructuring of the country as a way out. The proponents of this proposal are of the view that the solution is to enthrone true federalism which is unfortunately loosely defined by many of the discussants. On the whole, the centre-piece of the contribution from this school of thought is that government should be decentralized (i.e., the federal government should shed its onerous responsibilities while allowing states to take many more than they are currently handling).

 

Finally, there is the third school of thought that is pushing for the breakup of the country. According to this school of thought, Nigeria will be better off if states are merged into zones and they can go their different ways because the country is currently too big to be managed by our leaders. We are stalling the much needed socio-economic development because we busy fighting one another. There is therefore no point forcing ourselves to live together within the geographical boundary called Nigeria.

 

This short piece is on implications of the proposal calling for the breakup of Nigeria into autonomous republics like Biafra, Oduduwa, Niger Delta republics etc because of our huge problems. Is this proposal feasible in view of the long standing relationship among Nigeria’s ethnic groups? What will the breakup of the country into autonomous ethnic republics mean in practical terms? We need to be well educated on the implications of this proposal which this piece will attempt to discuss below. By the time you go through the piece, it may well be that is easier said than achieved.

 

Practical Implications of Breakup of Nigeria

 

In the first place, the breakup of Nigeria into autonomous republics will mean forcible drift of members of the various ethnic groups back to their ethnic enclaves. The Yoruba in the North, East, and South South indigenes will drift or be forcibly ejected back to the South West. Similarly, the members of the each group will go back to their tent, (ie., To thy tent O ye Israel as the saying goes). They will become the citizens of the newly minted republics and will be required to hold travel document like international passport if they intend to travel out to some other republics. They will be treated as foreigners, traveling through borders and going through immigration formalities.

 

The emerging republics may (or are more likely to) deport those who have inter-married. A Hausa man married to Yoruba woman will be forced to go back to his republic in the North where he comes from. Similarly, the Igbo man married to a Yoruba woman and resident in Oduduwa republic will be forced to go back home.

 

Lest we forget, this sort of forcible eviction was carried out when we created new states. The non-indigenes civil servants married to local women were forced back to their state. The Imo man who was married to an Enugu woman was sent back to Imo along with his wife.

 

          Anambra state did likewise to those from Abia state etc. Ladoke Akintola, the late Premier of Western Nigeria deported the Bini people working in the Western Nigeria civil service back to Benin city, former Bendel state. Those of them with Yoruba names who claimed affinity to Yoruba and who had worked for years in Yoruba land were also forced out.

 

Second, a country like Nigeria cannot be likened to a loaf of bread that can be neatly sliced. Nigeria is a large complex country consisting of three major and several other ethnic groups that have co-existed within its geographic space for more than a hundred years. Odimedgwu Ojukwu was tempted to secede because he believed he could carry along the Efik, Ibibio and Ijaw in the southern coastal sub-region. But as it turned out the Efik, Ibibio and Ijaw yarned for their separate state within Nigeria. The Efik, Ibibio, and Ijaw were fearful of Igbo domination in a new Biafra. They supported the Federal Government in the war against Biafra. Indeed, the Efik, Ijaw, and Ibibio were pro-North during the first Republic and joined the NPN. They did not remember and appreciate the contribution made by Chief Obafemi Awolowo towards their emancipation through his call for the creation state before independence in order to protect them from Igbo domination.

 

One of the major concerns of ethnic groups is the fear of domination by numerically bigger ethnic groups around them. The Idoma loath the Tiv in Benue state and the Igbomina/Okun Yoruba as well as the Igbirra in Kogi state are wary of perpetual domination of Igbirra. Similarly, the Yoruba Igbomina in Kogi or Offa people in Kwara who are inclined to associate with the Yoruba in the South West will face challenges due to their spatial location vis-à-vis Yoruba in the South West. Furthermore, the Ilorin people (who often claim Fulani heritage) will be inclined to go with their kith and kin in the North. What will be fate of the Itsekiri in the Riverine who share strong affinity with the Yoruba? Will they be allowed through a referendum to become a republic? What will be the situation in Plateau or Benue states that are predominantly Christians and currently facing serious security challenges posed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen and settlers? Will they become landlocked republics or would rather feel better protected by a federal government of Nigeria? Can Adamawa and Taraba states consisting of very many ethnic groups become autonomous republics or what? Can Taraba and Adamawa survive as autonomous republics?

 

Fourth, another important challenge that Nigeria will face in the event of a breakup will revolve around the delineation of the boundaries of the emerging republics. Can Nigerians amicably re

 
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