Colonialism exploited the nation’s people and resources for the benefit of the mother country. During the scramble for Africa, the colonial carthographers simply drew a line across a map creating new states without regard for tribal or cultural considerations which is why the national boundaries of Libya, Saudi Arabia and few other countries are so straight. In Nigeria, Lord Luggard simply amalgamated the northern and southern protectorate for administrative purpose while no attempt was made to integrate the various nations within it. A nation is any group that shares a common language, culture, territory and political organization. This legacy of European conquest is a background factor in much of today’s racial/ ethnic and socioeconomic problems that has plagued several states worldwide; groups with no history of national identity were incorporated arbitrarily into the same political boundaries with the result that the last century probably witnessed more genocide and ethnocide than any other. There are about 450 nations in Nigeria, 350 in India and 90 in Ethiopia. That nations are squeezed into states with which they don’t identify is the nub of the problem. A state claims a monopoly on violence over a territory and a state may contain one or many nations. For every nation, group identity transcends political affiliation, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa sees himself first as a Yoruba man, Igbo man or Hausa man before a Nigerian and the same with other tribes. However, one could argue that we ought to have been able to overcome this and risen above the challenges set by the colonial master. This article tries to examine the root causes of why the Nigerian state has failed to function as a unit and then tries to present an opinion on whether nations that possess self identity and a common history and culture have the right to secede from a state.
Time has proven that multiracial, multiethnic and multilingual countries are held together either by an authoritarian regime (Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia) or an ethno-cultural core just as the English have held the United Kingdom together else they come apart and they made sure they replicated the same unit in almost all her colonies. Welsh nationalism / Scottish independence are political ambition of political groups and individuals to break away from the United kingdom and become an independent state. These groups claim that Welsh’s and Scotland's inability to fully control its own affairs, both nationally and internationally, is detrimental to their interest even though the Union acts primarily in the interest of the entire United Kingdom (of which England is by far the most populated part), it is to the detriment of Scottish and welsh interests to remain in the union so they say. However, Britain has finally granted the Scottish government the permission to hold a referendum on independence which has been set for autumn of 2014 without a single drop of blood shed. Fully aware of her actions and consequences, Britain recreated her situation in Nigeria (played one nation against the other) and as colonialism fell out of style they ensured the northern nation who are predominantly Muslims and whom they found easier to control was given the power at independence to protect their oil interest and spite the southerners for agitating for independence. During the Nigerian civil war, Britain overlooked the genocide against the easterners and propped the Nigerian government up by selling the latest weapons to them. Over 1 million people died and still counting. Why didn’t Britain urge the Nigerian govt. to abide by the Aburi accord as was agreed or apply referendum as the solution to the Biafra nationalism as has been applied to the Scottish nationalism or advise the current Nigerian government to use referendum as the way out of its present and unending sociopolitical and economic crisis? Sudan has finally freed herself with referendum after over 20 years of blood shed so why not Nigeria. No amount of oil is worth a drop of human blood.
Let’s examine the European Economic Community as a model for statehood based on its peaceful integration. Two major attempts at unifying the European continent have resulted in the biggest tribal wars of mankind (world war 1 and 2) and both attempts failed. The current attempt at unification through the European Economic Community/union is still not as united as it appears to be. In 2005, France and Holland rejected the proposed EU constitution which created an obstacle to EU’s unity. UK rejected the euro currency in exchange for the pounds sterling which it considers part of its cultural heritage and national identity. Greece is threatening to pull out of the euro zone to protect its economy. Therefore, the EU with its sophisticated economic and political model is still continuously frustrated as individual countries clash over competing interest. Belgium, created by the European powers in 1831, is likely the next nation in Europe to break up into a Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, tied to Holland by language and culture, and a Francophone south, Wallonia, tied to France by language and culture. Belgium is also divided economically and politically just as Nigeria is. Flanders (southern Nigeria) is wealthy, conservative, and capitalist while (Northern Nigeria) Wallonia is poor and more of a socialist. Belgium has been a distinct entity for over 150 years. There could hardly be a more striking reminder of how deep ethnic differences run, and how central they are to people’s identity. Britain and the European Union at large have continued to resist the Turkish application to join the European Economic Community because their politicians and citizens see Turkey as too big and too Muslim to join; a worrying prospect considering the EU’s desire for peaceful integration of its multi-national population. They point out that Turkey's 99.8% Muslim population is too different from Christian-based Europe. Still our colonial power deemed it fit to merge the Christian nations and a muslim nations together to form the Nigerian state while they have resisted it all through history and continue to resist it. Unfortunately, some nations have discovered the powerful weapon of terrorism. It too has become part of the balance of political power in Nigeria and other similar countries as can be seen by the activities of BOKO HARAM. The Northern nation of Nigeria has finally lost power and the activity of BOKO HARAM is a resurface of that old ideology of “Leave us alone and go your way”. They cannot meet the enemy (state) on a battle field but has opted to use terror as a weapon to push their political objective. Twenty explosions hit the city of Kano and more is still expected. They are determined to end the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates and establish an Islamic state which is an integration of governance with their religion. Let the truth be told, they have the right to self determination and to live their lives whichever way they choose. But my question is; Why did the northern region enabled by the western region not allow the Biafra state to secede when they wanted to only to wait for another 40 years and make the same demands?. The truth will set us free.
At the end of the Nigerian civil war, control of the state resided in the hand of few power elites in one nation. Corruption was amplified and unchecked, industrialized nations sold goods on credit especially weapons that the elites desired so they can keep themselves in power, Nigeria became entrapped with a circle of debt following the crash of the oil prices of the early 1980’s putting the nation at the mercy of its creditors – thus Nigeria fell completely to neocolonialism. The government made up of largely the victors of the Nigerian civil war confiscated the resources of the other nations under its control and gradually the the nations started to resist and this has resulted in armed conflict which has given rise to nationalism – identity with and loyalty to a nation. The problem of Nigeria is deeper than the issue of removal of oil subsidy, poor infrastructures and high unemployment. Nigeria is like a HIV patient whose immune system has been compromised (amalgamation of the protectorates without inputs from the nations); each nation tries to dominate the other at all cost and as such exposed the state to life threatening diseases (endemic corruption, poor economy, unemployment and poverty). The BOKO HARAM bombs and its threat that southerners should leave the North within three days and none of the northern emirs has come out to say anything contrary is clearly an indication that the ship is sinking even faster than one had expected.
Sadly, the three premiers were never on the same page at any given time. Of the three premiers, it was only Zik who strongly believed and worked for Nigeria that was created not in the interest of Nigeria or Nigerians but in the interest of the British, unfortunately a tree can’t make a forest. The north had always wanted a complete break from the country but was advised against it by the British. With the situation of things in the country, most Nigerians will finally agree with the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo who championed constitutional federalism along the lines of Nigeria's multitude of ethnic groups or to confederation as was agreed at the Aburi accord between late Ojukwu and Gowon else Nigeria as it is presently constituted will never function as a unit.
Self-determination is the principle in international law that nations have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no external interference. Even the most developed democratic model of the world (USA) still has to contend with the Texas/Alaskan nationalist groups seeking to break away from the union. According to a report written by Sebastian Anstis and published on June 2010 titled "The normative basis of the global territorial order, diplomacy & statecraft” Self-determination is just one of many principles applied to determining international borders. In order to accommodate demands for minority rights and avoid secession and the creation of a separate new state, many states to devolve greater decision-making power to new or existing subunits or even autonomous area but Nigeria government guided by the principle of “winner takes all” since the end of the war has rather centralized most of the decision making power and has refused to read the writing on the wall . A man destined to drown will drown even in a spoonful of water.
The unwillingness to grapple with the trauma of Nigeria's stillbirth as a nation is the greatest political tragedy that will always return at will to haunt and mock the state of its existence. While most Nigerian government officials and contractors will reject any suggestion of the imminent disintegration or restructuring of the country, we have to admit the truth of this possibility to ourselves and each other with each passing day else we’ll continue to pay the price with innocent blood and believe it - their blood is crying out to God for vengeance against the state. Although the union may be patched together for a few more years by suppression using the military to maintain the graveyard peace, its long-term future looks decidedly doomed with the refusal of the Nigerian government to convene a Sovereign National Conference and allow the nations to decide the way forward. Military or forceful intervention is counterproductive but rather dialogue and sincerity as has been demonstrated by our colonial master in solving her own similar situation regarding Scottish independence. A time will come when guns and armored tanks will no longer hold the graveyard peace. One does not need to drink with the skull of Nostradamus to realize that if prosperous, democratic Belgium and United Kingdom still displays its ethnic fault lines after over two centuries, it’s unlikely that the flame for national self-determination in Nigeria will be quite so easily extinguished and as such i've come to the conclusion that even when the rights of nations within a state are protected, nations still have the right to self determination and to secede from a state if they so desire.

Nchekwube Henry Emembolu, a mechanical engineer by training, obtained his Bsc in Nigeria and Msc in Ireland and currently works for the county of Westchester in NewYork