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Toward a More Perfect Union—Conditionalities for One United, Indivisible, and Indissoluble Nigeria

--Cutting-Edge Analytics--

By: Franklin Otorofani
 Published July 20th, 2011

Let me state from the beginning that I, as an individual, stand for one united, indivisible and indissoluble Nigeria for reasons that will follow presently in this piece. But I must confess from the outset also that some of the words which appear in the caption of this piece are not exactly mine. They were borrowed from the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Historically, however, those words predate the constitution and extend to the period, 1967-1970, marking the unfortunate and utterly regrettable Nigerian civil war that claimed the lives of millions of Nigerian citizens on both sides combined.

It was an unfortunate and most regrettable war not only because of the senseless destruction of lives and properties that it had wrought on the young and blessed nation just starting out, but because at the end of it all “there were no victors, no vanquished.” And here again those words enclosed in quotation marks are not exactly mine but were borrowed from the official policy statement of the then Federal Government headed by then military Head of State and Commander in-chief of the Armed Forces, the amiable and genial General Yakubu Gowon.

But why go to war at all if there was not going to be victors and vanquished, and therefore, no winners and losers in the end? It means it was a war that was totally uncalled for and, therefore, wholly unmeritorious to begin with. It means it was a war that was fought to merely prove a point. It means millions of fellow citizens were killed just to prove a point. A war need not be fought if it will not produce winners and losers in the end because it will be a pointless war. It is an odd war that would be bitterly fought without producing winners and losers in the end. And the Nigerian civil war was indeed a complete oddity which only merit, if at all, was merely to prove a point about the unity and oneness of Nigeria. In other words, it was fought to prove the point that Nigeria would remain one united, indivisible, and indissoluble entity on the part of the Federal Government. On the part of the government of the then Eastern Region led by Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, it was fought to prove that the security and safety of the Igbos were not negotiable. However, both points are entirely provable and could have been proved without resorting to war, and there were negotiations leading to an accord that fell apart at the last minute before the bullets started to fly and the bombs began to fall on hapless Nigerians on both sides, with both sides trading blames as to who fired the first shot. That, at the very least, was an indication of the willingness of the parties to avoid going to war and instead iron out their differences at the negotiating table. That both sides were trading blames about who attacked first was also an indication of an attempt to avoid taking the blame for the war, which itself was a product of a guilt complex. It would appear, however, that the stronger hand of history was forcing the rather reluctant parties to test their will at the battlefield rather than at the negotiating table to which they had voluntarily subscribed.

However, although the war ended with the territorial integrity of the young nation preserved, it ended on a somewhat happy note on the one side and on an entirely sad note on the other side notwithstanding the pious declaration of the Federal Government. In other words, there were, in fact, victors and vanquished; winners and losers, after all, in practical terms.

Now, I’m not going to go into the technicalities of war victory and war defeat because such a voyage of discovery, so to speak, is neither profitable nor germane to this discourse. The fact that there was such a declaration at all of no victor no vanquished underlined the proposition that it was a senseless war that should not have taken place, and there are many senseless wars in history with some going on even at this moment in parts of the world. It would appear that, despite his taming and mastering of his immediate environment, and has even daringly taken on the cosmos to dare the gods of the skies, man has not yet attained such level of sophistication and civilization sufficient enough to restrain his wild, beastly impulse to destroy his fellow man together with his property at the drop of a hat, and the morbid game of wasting human lives and properties is still well and alive today as it indeed was in the time of our cave dwelling ancestors in pre-historic times. Therefore his profuse profession of peaceful co-existence and religiosity has had no discernible effects on his raw, destructive natural instincts and tendencies. Else how would any thinking government go to war with a people who were simply asking for guarantees of their security and safety in any part of their own country where they happened to find themselves living out their lives in peace even if the people had underlined their provocation with violence by firing the first bullet? It did not matter whether it was Ojukwu who fired the first shot of the war because the damage that might have been caused by that single shot, if at all, could not in any way, shape, or form be equated with the destruction of thousands of lives and properties of Ndigbo sons and daughters in the north for which the Eastern Regional government was indignantly protesting, and rightly so. That strong protest only showed that the government of the Eastern region was alive to its responsibilities of ensuring the security and lives and properties of its citizens—a responsibility that fell squarely on the shoulders of the then Federal Government which it atrociously abdicated seemingly with glee to roaming murderous bands in the north. I thought that security of lives and properties of citizens was the primary purpose for the existence of any government in the first place. Therefore, citizens need not ask for or demand those guarantees before they are protected by the state because they ought to be a given in any serious nation that wants to remain a going concern. It is doubtful if there would have been recourse to civil war if the Federal Government had demonstrated its capacity to discharge that primary responsibility at the time. It is so elementary that one would shudder at the thought that a simple demand for security guarantees which was not forthcoming was, in the last analysis, essentially the cause of the Nigerian civil war. And that is why it was a senseless and dumb war.

It was no surprise, therefore, that the Federal Government was quick to declare at the end of it all that there were no victors, no vanquished, having realized the senselessness of it all. And that belated realization must have informed the decision not to impose any terms whatsoever on the surrendering Biafra side either as was the case, for instance, in the 1st and 2nd World Wars, when Germany was hit with crushing postwar penalties. This “magnanimous” and “humane” official position of the Federal Government which, as indicated above, was more or less borne out of a guilt complex, was further articulated, amplified, and encapsulated in the famous General Gowon’s three Rs— Rehabilitation, Reconciliation, and Reconstruction—of the areas devastated by the war, particularly in then Eastern Region of Nigeria, which is now roughly equated with the geographical territory known and identified today as the South/East zone.

But the almighty question which has been looking for answers for 40 years is this: Have these famous three Rs been implemented and given full effects in the post war periods? It is a question that has been stuck on the lips of every Igbo man and woman for 40 years—and the one question that has been begging for answers for 40 odd years and still counting. And sincerely and honestly speaking, it is a question that should be stuck on the lips of every Nigerian with a good conscience. However, it is not for want of attempts at answering it that it has taken so long to answer, rather it is for want of good faith efforts at the attempts at answering it that has prolonged its solution.

Although there were efforts in that direction on the part of the Federal Government headed by Gowon in the “Four-Year Development Plans” that followed, many would agree today that the Federal Government’s efforts were tokenistic and therefore grossly inadequate in addressing the terrible mess left behind in the South/East, which is still bearing the scars of the war till date. When we compare a similar scenario in the United States, which also fought a bitter civil war between the North and the South of the country, which notably, also ended pretty much on a similar philosophical note of “no victor, no vanquished,” we find that the difference is clear in terms of rehabilitation as only the “relics” not the “scars” of the American civil war are still left in the Southern parts of the United States that had suffered defeat in the American civil war. The Union Government moved swiftly to put the bitter memories of the American civil war behind the nation through total re-integration of the Con-federal states in the south with the results that there is hardly any American today in the Con-Federal states ruminating over the loss of the war and regarding the secession with feeling of nostalgia as we seem to have in Nigeria today by some of our Igbo brothers.

Unlike its American counterpart the Nigerian government fell short on its declared commitments to the people of the Eastern region after the war. Thus the exemplary, large hearted, reconciliatory, and admirable declarations and policy instrument of the Federal Government under Gowon has not been matched with action so far as the South/East is concerned, not just by Gowon regime but by subsequent military and civilian administrations. On the contrary, official neglect and seemingly deliberate policy of marginalization by successive governments at the center seem to be the unspoken and unofficial rule rather than the exemption. But it must quickly be added that, this, in general, has been the nonchalant and indifferent attitude of the Nigerian government to the population in general not just to Ndigbo alone and it is indicated in the Niger Delta crisis and elsewhere in the nation including the routine mayhem in parts of the north suffered mostly by the people of Plateau state. Even so post civil war neglect stands out as monument of governmental indifference due to the sheer scale and magnitude of the sufferings involved.

However, neglect and deliberate marginalization are things that cannot be hidden from their victims by any means because they stare them in their faces everywhere they turn in their decimated domains. And that is a recipe for a disaster. Students of world history, particularly of the world wars, would tell you that the World War II was essentially caused by unresolved grievances such as I have described above starring Germans in their faces, which Her Adolf Hitler and other Germans could not stomach forever, including but not limited to restrictions on her military capabilities, crushing war debts, loss of territories, war destructions, and other untold burdens imposed on the German state. While there were no such burdens imposed at the end of the Nigerian civil war on the “Biafran” side for reasons advanced earlier, the fact remains that the area mostly affected by the devastations of the war needed to be rebuilt and the lives of the people affected by it reconstructed and rehabilitated in order to give content to reconciliation. In that regard, the re-admission of Igbo military officers and civil servants into both the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Nigerian civil service respectively that was carried out pursuant to the declaration of the three Rs, was therefore, a good start. But a good start remains just that—a good start, and cannot be the end of it. Full rehabilitation means full, not partial rehabilitation. Full reconstruction means full, not partial reconstruction and, full reconciliation means full, not partial reconciliation.

While ingrained war attitudes necessarily take some time to turn around, 40 years is more than enough time to have effected 180% attitudinal turnaround, even if not by ordinary citizens, but by the government itself, recognizing that the Nigerian state owe Ndigbo a debt, because promises and commitments made and unfulfilled are, by definition, debts. The promise of the three Rs was not imposed on the Federal Government by the people of the South/East, but was voluntarily made and accepted. It is, therefore, a debt that every Nigerian living or dead owes Ndigbo, which must be repaid in full, if we agree that debts owed deserve to be honored and settled. It is time the Nigerian government made a formal declaration or proclamation of the nation’s indebtedness to Ndigbo on account of the destruction of their lives and properties and the untold sufferings resulting from there. And the time is now ripe for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to begin that process right now as history beckons on him to right the wrongs visited on a section of the Nigerian family as the Federal Government is currently doing or attempting to do to the people of Niger Delta. This writer submits humbly that these two cases are inseparable as they are joined together like Siamese twins with the cord of justice and fair play.

Like the defeated Germans in World War 1 dangerous sentiments of injustice have been brewing, first silently during the military regimes, and now rather loudly during this civilian era amongst our Igbo brothers and sisters who are the direct victims of the devastations of the Nigerian civil war. These sentiments cannot be ignored any longer, because they are anchored on a feeling of injustice which cannot be impeached and symptomatic of underlying maladies eating at the heart of the Nigerian nation. It is indeed scandalous that the scars of a war fought more than 40 years are still as fresh today as they were 40 years ago. It is sinful that successive governments have been paying lip service and have been allowed to get away with the failed policy of reconciliation, rehabilitation, and reconstruction, thereby stoking separatist agitations that shouldn’t have been allowed to come to the fore in the first place. That does not bespeak of a nation that is serious about unity and cohesion. There would have been no MOSSOB today but for this criminal neglect of the South/East the same way there would have been no Niger Delta militant agitations but for the criminal neglect of the South/South. It only goes to show that Nigerian leaders have the brains of cows. They are quick in professing their total commitments to building a united, virile, and prosperous nation. But how in the world are you going to build a united, virile, indivisible, indissoluble, and prosperous nation by deliberately pursuing and implementing a policy of neglect and marginalization of any parts of the nation in question? How is that possible to begin with? Injustice is not one of the tools of nation building but the first tool of nation killing.

There are all manners of militant agitations going on in Nigeria today that threaten the very foundations of the Nigerian nation. While all pose varying degrees of security challenges to the authority, and all also threaten the unity and stability of the nation, we must nonetheless separate, isolate, and categorize these differing strands of agitations and treat each category in a different way, because a one-size-fits-all solution will not address the different issues involved. Some of these agitations are ethno-religious in character, particularly in the northern parts. Others are purely political with no religious or ethnic undertones, particularly in the southern parts. There is, therefore, no basis for comparison between MOSSOB or Niger Delta militants on the one hand and Boko Haram menace currently ravaging parts of the north on the other. While all employ the instrument of violence to advance their causes, the causes themselves are different from one another. There is no way anyone is going to equate a campaign for the institution of an Islamic state with agitations against economic and political injustice suffered by sections of the nation such as the South/East and the South/South. The one is purely prescriptive in that it is seeking to impose a religious state or Islamic theocracy in a multi-cultural, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic nation, which issues had long been settled before the nation’s independence at several constitutional conferences, and the other is purely equitable in nature, in that it seeks to be given what is due to it as a matter of right not privilege, just like the others. In the case of the South/East it is a debt owed to that region.

As US General Collin Powell said to GW Bush before going to war in Iraq: “If you break it, you fix it.” The Nigerian government broke the land of Ndigbo and it is duty bound to fix it. That is what the US has, in fact, been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan with hundreds of billions of dollars for ten years and still counting. It is not enough to drop bombs, when silence returns, the destructions caused by the bombs must be fixed. When the US breaks, it fixes. The Nigerian government must learn to do the same with sincerity of purpose rather than playing games with the welfare and wellbeing of its citizens. That is a just and ethical demand. It is not seeking to impose anything on anybody but simply to be given its due. And why would such a wholesome and totally meritorious demand not be met by anyone with a modicum of good conscience?

It seems to me, therefore, that just like the just demands of the South/South region have been sufficiently presented with the presentations sometimes being carried and delivered with bombs and bullets, until recently, to the deaf and dumb demigods of Aso Rock, before they began to elicit serious official reactions, the just and equitable demands of the South/East will similarly be met in due course. However, the Nigerian state should not make the mistake of waiting for those demands to be delivered with bombs and bullets before addressing them wholesomely in good faith. They should not just be addressed, but addressed in “good faith.” Good faith has been the missing element in previous efforts at addressing the huge post war devastations in the South/East. When that element is plugged in, it will make all the difference.

Why, for instance, is it taking forever to build the proposed second Niger Bridge? That bridge has been on the drawing board before I was born and I wasn’t born yesterday. Will that bridge benefit only the South/East? No, it will benefit the South/South and North/Central as much as the South/East, and indeed the entire nation as whole. Development in one region of a nation should not be seen as benefitting that region alone but as benefitting the entire country. There is hardly any Nigerian of note who has not used the Niger Bridge or the Benue Bridge or some other major bridge. The same is true of federal highways and other infrastructures. Yet a myopic officialdom tends to view a second Niger Bridge as project that will benefit only one region and on that basis continues to drag its feet. But so what, if it benefits only the South/East, for the sake of argument, given the huge population in that region and the undeniable fact that it is the technological hub of the nation even if still in crude forms at the moment?

Again, why would it take a President Goodluck Jonathan to upgrade Enugu Airport which is older than many international airports in the country to international status when the Federal Government has several international airports in all the regions of the nation save in the South/East, until now? Why are there no refineries, petro-chemical or other major federal industries in the region? Is it because there is no oil in the East? Wrong! Imo state has oil. But is there oil in Kaduna that has one of the biggest oil refineries in the country?

Ok, forget about oil—Kaduna refinery is supposed to feed the entire north that is far from the source of petroleum products in the south, we are told. Fair enough, the north is entitled to the good stuff from the south and vice versa, that power modern life and make it meaningful to all citizens of the nation. As fellow citizens we must not deny our northern brothers and sisters the benefits of oil, and if putting a refinery in Kaduna would help to satisfy their demands for petroleum product, so be it. There should be no complaints about that. But how about putting one huge power plant comparable to Egbin or Mambilla Plateau power plants in the South/East? How about turning the huge deposits of the Enugu coal mines into a major source of electricity to power the nation with a coal-based mega power plant? How about a seaport in the throbbing commercial heartland of Onitsha city with unarguably the biggest market in West Africa? How about turning the Onitsha/Asaba/Awka corridor into an industrial zone in partnership with the state governments and serviced by the proposed but seemingly unattainable second Niger Bridge? And how about comprehensively addressing the serious erosion problems in the South/East in order to attenuate the effects of the devastations of the civil war?

It is true that the federal government is beset with development challenges practically on all fronts but there are certain development imperatives that need to be addressed with an attitude of urgency for the sake of equity and the promotion of national unity and cohesion. The case of the South/East has been on for more than 40 years, and it is about time the Federal Government designed and present to the National Assembly a South/East Development Master Plan with full budgetary estimates to cover at least six years from now, now that oil receipts are pretty hefty for implementation alongside that of the Niger Delta Master Plan. Postponing it is akin to postponing the evil day and might frankly be tantamount to perpetuation of a policy of official neglect and exclusion, which is bound to fan the embers of succession and separatist feelings.

I may have missed it but I did not find such a comprehensive program in Jonathan’s inaugural address of a “transformative agenda.” With due respect to President Jonathan’s policy hawks, any transformative agenda must begin from the South/East and the South/South and from there spread to other parts of the nation, for obvious reasons, some of which have been indicated above. These are the areas that have suffered official neglect in the past and now forced to be beating the drums of separatism. It is therefore, the burden duty of all Igbo sons and daughters in government both in legislative and executive branches to help put this in the front burner of national discourse. A South/East Development Authority or Ministry is a sine qua non for the integrated and well-coordinated development of the region rather than the ad hoc standalone, project by project, approach. A robust federal interventionist agency and presence in the South/East can only be effected by a robust program along the line articulated above not necessary with the same nomenclature but in terms of substantive contents. By the way, I proposed a similar thing for ND during the OBJ administration which came to fruition during the late Yar’Adua regime. And I’m doing the same here for the consideration of the Jonathan administration. It is entirely doable. If it can be done for ND it can be done for Ndigbo as well. But someone has to articulate it and help push it forward and bring it to the forefront of the nation’s development agenda.

This, in my humble opinion, is what needs to be done and urgently, too, rather than dissipating valuable energies on sterile separatist projects and plots. Opportunistically lapping on events in Sudan only goes to indicate the affliction of Nigerians with the copycat syndrome regardless of relevance and propriety. Nigeria is not Sudan and Sudan is not Nigeria either. Nigeria had fought her civil war long before Sudan began hers some thirty years ago and had achieved a different outcome from Sudan’s. And it is belated to wish a Sudanese outcome for Nigeria that is not presently engaged in Sudanese-type civil war, or at all. That wish-list belongs to history. Nigeria is not about to re-negotiate her nationhood. The question of the Nigerian nation as is has been settled 40 years ago with the blood of Nigerian patriots during the civil war, particularly that of the Ibos. It cannot, therefore, be re-litigated now or in the future with the blood of Ndigbo wetting the fields again to preserve the nation yet again. If at all, that should be the call of another ethnic nationality in the union, not Ndigbo that has more than paid her dues with blood and destruction. I know of no nation in history that has fought civil wars in every century. In other words, the Nigerian nation/state has been purchased and paid for with the blood of Nigerians, mostly of Ndigbo extraction. That debt, if it can be so-called, has been paid in full and will not be paid a second or third time by Ndigbo.

And come to think of it, Ndigbo should be last to call it quits with Nigeria. Why? It is because the Nigerian nation itself owes its true origins and existence to the sacrifices of Ndigbo sons who led others to win her independence and create the nation. Who does not know or hear about the political exploits of the great Zik of Africa who gave Nigeria her independence and for which he was rewarded with the position, first as Nigeria’s first Governor-General, and later Nigeria’s first President and Head of State? Who in his right mind would imagine that the Great Zik fought for the creation of Nigeria only for her to be dismembered out of existence by future generations? Who does not know or hear about Nigeria’s first four-star general and Supreme Commander of the Nigeria’s Armed Forces, General Agui-Ironsi? Who does not know or hear about Dr. Nwafor Orizu, Nigeria’s first Senate President? And who does not know or hear about Dr. Michael Okpara, first Premier of the Eastern Region? Do I need to mention more? These were the people, together with their contemporaries from other ethnic nationalities, gave Nigeria independence, and therefore, created the nation called Nigeria today. They are, therefore, our founding fathers and their struggles and sacrifices ought to be respected, honored, and cherished by the present and future generations.

Must their memories be dishonored by destroying what they fought for and achieved in their lifetimes? Must the exploits of the great Zik and Ironsi be reduced to puny Biafra? I don’t think so neither was Zik himself when he was alive. That would indeed become a travesty of monumental proportions. It would be a betrayal indeed for any Igbo son and daughter to simply ignore these sacrifices and walk away from the bequest of their forebears because of current but necessarily temporary conditions of injustice because the Igbos are co-owners of the entity called Nigeria, which their forefathers fought hard to create and nurtured to adulthood when it became a Republic in 1963. Ndigbo is thus a joint landlord, not a co-tenant of the Nigerian real estate, and all she has to do is demand the rents due to it from the real estate management firm in Aso Rock. And quitting is therefore not an option.

It is worthy of note in this regard that Dr. Azikiwe was a contemporary of Dr. Kwame Krumah of Ghana, Dr. Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, and Dr. Leopold Senghor of Senegal, and many other Pan African titans and nationalists whose nations are still in existence today despite internal stresses and fissures similar to those in Nigeria. In point of fact there is hardly any post independence African nation that is free from these domestic issues, yet all but one or two have managed to weather the storm and have therefore maintained their territorial integrity till date. Nigeria cannot be any different notwithstanding her internal contradictions and stress points. As the Dr. Zik himself, Ndigbo’s foremost son put it: “No condition is permanent,” however long it might seem. The wisdom in that statement has been tested time and again that it should learned and internalized by every black man on earth as an article of faith. Must we now then play the Chuba Okadigbo by dismissing Zik’s time-honored and timeless riposte as the “ranting of an ant” because of perceived injustice, which necessarily must run out its lifespan in due course?

Marginalization took so long due mainly to prolonged military rule that was not answerable to anybody, not even to itself, much less listen to silent cries of marginalization from the real victims, more so when such cries had been cheapened and devalued by every ethnic nationality crying of marginalization at every turn to attract federal largesse to itself. Democracy is a sea-change from military command and control rule where dissent is not tolerated. By its very nature, democracy encourages, in fact, imposes a duty on the leadership to listen to the genuine cries or complaints of the people which are allowed to be loudly voiced unlike the case during military dictatorships. When we examine the trajectory of the Nigeria Delta crisis, for example, it will be seen that it took on its most militant form, not during the military, but during a civilian government of President Olusegun Obasanjo, precisely because democracy afforded the enabling environment to fully prosecute that agenda as loudly as it could get, having been suppressed by previous military dictatorships.

It is, therefore, in the best interest of the South/East to take advantage of this same democratic environment to prosecute its agenda, not necessarily through bombs and guns, but through democratic means at its disposal. Is that an impossible thing to do? I don’t think so and I confident that reasonable Ndigbo sons and daughters would not only prefer such an option as a more viable and attainable route but are probably already pursuing it as well in some fashion. And the fact that no notable Ndigbo son or daughter has come out to associate him or herself with separatist sentiments being expressed by some is reassuring and indicative of the fact that Ndigbo is irrevocably resolved to pursuing its claims from within rather than from without in a peaceful and democratic fashion.

Resurgence of separatist tendencies this late in the day after the issue of nationhood had been settled more than 40 years ago even if promises made have not been fulfilled, are symptomatic of refusal or inability to fight within the system and seeking to quit altogether. Quitters are not fighters and fighters stick around to fight on until is attained. In this case victory will not come in one fell swoop but incrementally. Ojukwu had to do what he had to do at the time when the very existence of his people was at stake. But even so secession was not the first item on Ojukwu’s wish-list but the last item. Remember the “Aburi Accord” hammered out in Ghana? The last time I checked that was not an accord to break up Nigeria. Rather it was an accord to help preserve the young and inexperienced nation. And even upon Ojukwu’s return from exile on his pardon by the Shehu Shagari administration, he went straight to join the NPN, which was the most nationalistic political party in the Second Republic rather than the NPP led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe which was more regional like its UPN counterpart in the South/West. I would venture to state that the Nigerian civil war might not have occurred if civilians were in power at the time. It was wholly a military affair with military men eyeballing each other.

It is not altogether clear to me, therefore, that the balkanization of the Nigerian nation would in any way, shape, or form become the solution to perceived injustices by any ethnic nationality. On the contrary, such wish-list may very well lead to the total disintegration of the Nigerian nation into, not an Igbo, Oduduwa, AREWA, ND, or Middle Belt states, but into complete fragments of nothingness totally incapable of holding out on their own, but easily falling preys to neighboring states who will find plenty of carcasses to feed on. And you can count on Britain, France, and even the United States to join in the resulting feasts of free African territories to either re-colonize or hold as vassals. What about Cameroons, Niger, and Benin Republics? Sure these will either become predators in their own rights or used as launch pads for the total annexations of fragmented Nigerian territories resulting there-from. Niger Delta will surely become a full blown war theater consuming the entire region and extending to the South/East, guaranteed. The oil wealth in the Niger Delta will guarantee the assured resurrection of the age-old bloody inter-ethnic rivalries in that region that will boil over to the South/East and South/West. And you can equally count on the North/Central to flare up in real war with the Jihadists that will spread to the South/West with Al-Queda having foothold in the region. There will be merciless and bloody campaigns on all fronts. The various regions will maintain territorial claims against each and one another.

Where are you going to draw their boundaries with several ethnic groups spanning two or more geographical regions? Where would the north end and the south begin? Where will the west end and the east begin? Those boundaries will be drawn with blood. Indeed the ethnic blocks in the entire south will be on one another’s throat with the larger ones trying to grab as much oil resources from the Niger Delta as possible which will of course be violently resisted. At the time of the Nigerian civil war parts of the oil bearing communities were in the Eastern Region. The whole of Cross River, Uyo, Rivers, and even parts of Bayelsa were parts of the then Eastern Region. That is not the case today. Gowon cut off those territories and ethnic groups from the Eastern Region to become states of their own in 1967. That means the territories that the proposed Biafran Republic might have comprised are no longer there as the boundaries have changed. Any talk about Biafra today, therefore, is an anachronism at best. What is left of the proposed Biafran territory is now severely shrunken in size and entirely encircled by potentially hostile neighbors like the Jews in Israel. And any attempt to bring those territories back into a revived Biafran nation will be pipe dream as it will be met with war since those territories are now firmly secured in the South/South, which might or might not want a break up from the union. In point of fact the South/South is not interested in a break up of the Nigerian nation today despite the militant agitations going on there before now hence the acceptance of the General Amnesty program. There is hardly any leader of thought in the South/South that has voiced a preference for secession from the Nigerian union. And even if push comes to shove in future it will most certainly not want to belong to a revived Biafran nation. It is simply an unattainable proposition to think of a revived Biafra in terms of its past.

I have painted the scenarios that will most like results from any reckless thoughts about the break up of the Nigerian union in order to show the utter foolishness of such a proposition. All of these will be settled and unsettled by bombs and bullets throwing the entire West Africa into a huge political inferno comparable to none in history, with no one benefitting from it in the end. In whose interests then will that be? Will it be in the interest of Ndigbo, Oduduwa, ND, AREWA, Middle Belt, or some misguided separatist dreamers, who will be the first in line to flee abroad with their entire families at the crack of the first bullet leaving poor innocent souls behind to die and suffer? You tell me. You’ve got to be kidding me, but this is no kidding matter. These are not possibilities or probabilities, but dead certainties. Proofs: Libya and Somalia, where Britain and France are neck deep in sharing the spoils of internal strife though not even involving succession. Proofs: Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda. Don’t even go there, for there lies the perilous path to doomsday. Stick around and man up to the demands of the Nigerian state in all its perfections because an imperfect union can indeed be made more perfect. But it takes perseverance not quitting.

It is indeed naďve and delusional to imagine that the constituent parts of Nigeria would simply go their different ways if and when push comes to shove. Nigeria will crumble like a 36-storey mud-brick building hit by a category 5 hurricane with no single brick or storey standing in its aftermath. Every singe brick will lay flat in the debris for the international firemen to retrieve and sort out on their on their own terms as collectors’ items and memorabilia. And all will be lost—yes, all the labors of our heroes and heroines past will be lost forever to the vultures. No, it will and cannot happen because the forces that hold Nigeria today are more than those that have its death and destruction on their wish-list. And that’s why it is still a going concern defying every doomsday prophesy and prediction to date.

And here is why: the share of Nigeria by any of the ethnic nationalities comprised in it is far greater than the physical and intellectual assets found in their respective regions due mainly to trans-ethno-geographical trades and investments in different regions by members of different ethnic groups. What do I mean by that? Take Ndigbo for example. The share of Ndigbo in Nigeria is by far greater than the sum of the physical and intellectual assets comprised in the South/East zone. Ndigbo’s investments in Nigeria outside of its region are by far greater than its investments in its core region of the South/East. What are you going to do with those fixed investments in the event of a forced break up as opposed to peaceful break up, which can be nothing but reckless wish and a pipe dream? Move those investments to a new dream country that is still up in the air? I am not aware of any investor or businessman that would even broach that to begin with let alone attempt it. On the contrary, it is in the office of business people and investors to protect their investments, if need be, with their blood wherever they happen to be at any given time. And the Ibos cannot be an exception. Moreover as candidate Jonathan declared during the campaigns, some 30% of the Northern population belongs to Ndigbo. Even if the figures are not entirely accurate we are talking here about millions of Igbo sons and daughters living out their lives in the northern parts alone. And as it is in the north so it is in the South/West and South/South. There is hardly any town or village outside the south/East where you will not find sizeable populations of Igbo sons and daughters living out their lives peacefully and productively, and whose lives, and in some cases, intergenerational investments will be put yet again in complete jeopardy by the separatist drums of wishful secessionists.

Ndigbo cannot afford another pogrom and abandoned property sagas. That is not her call but a call for another ethnic nationality that might wish to test the waters again. No, not at this time when they have almost fully recovered from the setbacks of the civil war and have claimed their place in the Nigerian nation attaining positions that were hitherto considered no go areas and have become barons of commerce and industry, denizens of the intelligentsia, tapping as they do, into the huge Nigerian populations and the limitless possibilities outside their domain without asking for visas and trade quotas as a foreigners, as Ghana is currently doing to Nigerians. The entire Nigerian landscape is the play ground of the highly entrepreneurial Ibo businessmen and women. Tell me who wants to give that up for a puny Biafra state? Tell me which Nigerian politicians of Igbo extraction who have the entire Nigeria as their playground that would want to give up on Nigeria and recoil into an ethnic enclave in the state of Biafra? The fact that the Igbos are clearly identified more with national political parties right from the time of Zik than with regional parties such as APGA, unlike the Yorubas of the South/West, for example, should ring a bell in the minds of wishful separatists.

Going forward, therefore, democracy holds the key, not to succession, but to national integration as every region stakes its claim that must be taken into national account in the distribution of offices and resources. The era of arbitrariness and impunity by khaki boys are over. Every benefit won in a democracy is fought for and anyone looking for a fight has plenty of fighting to do in a democracy to obtain its dividends. Walking away from fighting for a place under the sun in a democracy in the name of separatist sentiments is simply—a wish-list of a utopian pie-in-the-sky fit only for toddlers and infants rather than thinking and reasonable adults. It is alright to loudly pitch demands in a democracy, but it is not alright to undergird such demands with threats of secession that one is not in any position to carry out. That, ipso facto, cheapens the demands. Let’s get real and quit this utopian secessionist dreamland, for whatever can be attained by any ethnic nationality in a mini-state can be attained by that ethnic nationality in bigger Nigerian state, and even more!

Long live the union of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where justice and fair play reign supreme in a thriving democracy.

From the stable of –Cutting-Edge Analytics—

Franklin Otorofani is an Attorney and Public Affairs Analyst.


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