It is a contest of interests between Nigeria apologists, Restructuralists and Separatists. It is about the Biafra question brought to the front burner by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has engulfed the whole country like never before. The world is also watching as the Al Jazeera News Network had to take it upon itself to run a documentary on ‘ Biafra at 50’, in which many, including yours sincerely were interviewed. I am surprised that many were surprised that I pitched my tent among the Restructuralists, the middling group who are trying to bring the two extreme groups together into a healthy compromise.
In my humble estimation, there are three divides in terms of solutions to the present quagmire in which the Nigerian nation unwittingly has found herself. First, there are Igbos nay Nigerians who believe Nigeria should keep muddling through in retaining the failing nation as it is. To them therefore, no need to restructure, no need to dismember the largest black nation on earth. Their reason for being pro- One Nigeria activists is basic. Often products and beneficiaries of the dying system, they feel obliged to defend and sustain it, believing that somehow, water will find its level and keep them afloat and feeding fat from her flabby breasts. Do you really blame them? In life, survival comes before morality and patriotism.
To be fair to these Nigeria apologists, as products and beneficiaries of the flawed (some even say fraudulent) system and its imbalances, they believe it is time to come to her rescue and rally round their source of sustenance. Unfortunately, their intervention has nothing to do with patriotism but defence of a source of livelihood.
Apologists of Nigeria are found everywhere in the country but predominant among the beneficiaries of the unitary system imposed by the military, an amorphous system which remains oligarchic and catering only for the very few. Even in the north where majority of the beneficiaries of this obsolete status quo abound, the vast majority of the citizens are excluded, leaving behind such an overwhelming poverty, accentuated by a feudal system which seems to thrive in poverty also.
The counteracting group is those who want complete exit from Nigeria, as a union which is fraudulently consummated and therefore doomed to fail. As a sinking ship, they want to get out before the inevitable happens. This is a group of those have found the nation suffocating and stifling their growth and see their future as guaranteed only in going their separate ways. To them, Nigeria is nothing but a contraption conceived by colonial Britain for their economic benefits and when departing was handed over to the feudal north as caretakers to sustain as a rentier economy. They point to government policies that are deliberately designed to keep the economy perpetually disarticulated and tied to apron strings of departing British and western powers as a dependent, consumer economy.
Then there is a seemingly salvaging third group – the restructuralist group – those who want the system rejigged and made workable and sustainable. These are the restructuralists, those arguing fervently for the return of Nigeria to true federalism, as it used to be before the Nigeria civil war when the regional economies were among the fastest growing in the world. It is proof that self-determination, which is one of the main aims of separatists, can be achieved within one Nigeria if the nation returns to full, fiscal federalism as obtained post-independence.
The two extremes being mediated and mitigated are now daggers drawn and constitute portent centrifugal forces tearing the country to shreds. In other words, if we fail to substantially restructure and urgently too, as being pushed by the restructuralists, the nation may reap disintegration as a reward for not being proactive and realistic.
Those who refuse to see it this way are still living in the past and under the illusion that the widespread agitations will be contained by force forever. If the USSR could not be sustained by force as a country, one wonders which other nation could be? Those who are acting up against restructuring Nigeria now do not wish the country well.
What we have today as country, the way it is structured, is no longer sustainable. Nearly 30 States federating units have been rescued at least twice with bailout funds by the federal government because in their insolvency they could no longer as much as pay salaries, which is the very first line charge on the recurrent expenditure profile. Every objective observer except perhaps the apologists can see the nation is fast unraveling.
Many separatists demand referendum and restructuring to follow if referendum shows that Nigerians have opted to remain together. This argument is incurably flawed because If Nigeria will remain together, restructuring must come first and quickly too before referendum if still necessary. Otherwise, any referendum, as Nigeria is now, will almost certainly lead to disintegration. Those in power therefore have the chance and responsibility to save Nigeria by restructuring before referendum becomes inevitable.
Pro-Biafra agitators are latching on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday, 13 September 2007, by a majority of 144 nations. You won’t believe, Nigeria abstained during that historic vote simply because the resolution seeks to establish an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples that will undoubtedly be a significant tool towards eliminating human rights violations against the planet’s 370 million indigenous people and assisting them in combating discrimination and marginalization as is the case of Igbos in Nigeria.
IPOB for instance, tapping into UNDRIP has articulated indigenous historical grievances, contemporary challenges and socio-economic, political and cultural aspirations of the Igbo people to secure recognition for their aspirations, and to generate support for their political agendas. So, what IPOB is doing is therefore acceptable in international law.
So many deprived Nigerians are too provoked to the point of calling for a total breakup. Can we really blame them when the nation runs a structure that is not taking the country anywhere? And so many things holding the nation together have been so bastardized to the point that not many want to be associated with them anymore. A ‘referendum’ with the NYSC scheme, which most undergraduates looked forward to, will offer an ethereal example. The prevalent view now is that the scheme seems to have outlived its usefulness.
The separatists do not believe in restructuring but rather ask for referendum to determine the nation’s unity because, according to most of them, the people the restructuralists are preaching restructuring to are hell bent on keeping the status quo. The separatists also argue that the apologists will repeat history, asking if Nigeria had accepted the outcome of Aburi Accord (which was restructuring) could we have lost more than 3 million souls during the civil war? For many of them therefore, it is ‘ Biafra or death’ .
Another interesting dimension to the argument for referendum before restructuring is that the contraption called Nigeria was created in 1914 and given 100 years lifespan and therefore billed to expire in 2014. So, Nigeria haven expired, as they say, requires a referendum first to decide if the ethnic nationalities still want to be together before restructuring. To them therefore ‘restructuring first’ is subterfuge, a ploy and a distraction and so a poisoned chalice.
To be fair to all, the three divides have their points but the growing majority favour restructuring over retention of the status quo or outright separation. This is democracy. Your sincerely is with the majority on this one even though he is not given to much populism.
Graciously, the time has verged into a revolutionary situation and all revolutionary situations enforce the option they deem best. Only time shall tell which of the three groups is most politically expedient (not those necessarily right). Let all Nigerian adults speak up now and may government harken to the voice of reason so that our nation may not come to grief like many nations that have failed and vanished.
Nigerians do not have to sing Nunc dimittis (meaning “Now you dismiss”) to Nigeria since the situation is still salvageable.
- Law Mefor is an Abuja-based Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel.: +234-803-787-2893