In a democracy, secessionism or separatism is not a new topic. The phenomenon is often stimulated by prevailing socio-economic or other forms of political disequilibrium being suffered by some groups within a state; thereby constituting palpable threats to the overall interest of the state. The attempt to secede may be violent or peaceful but the goal of the agitators is to create a new state or an independent nation that is carved out of the territory it seceded from.
For the purpose of this article, I shall bring into focus the case studies of IPOB and Oduduwa Republic, including their agitations for self-determination.
The current wave of agitations by secessionist movements in Nigeria is not the first and certainly may not be the last. The recurrence is largely traced to the mistrust or otherwise trust-deficit emanating from perceived political and socioeconomic marginalisation of some ethnic groupings within the nation Nigeria.
The resonance of 1966 civil war is still fresh in memory. However, the current wave of agitations under Mazi Nnamdi Kanu seems to be getting more serious and stronger than before.
While Nnamdi Kanu is leading the Southeastern region for the actualisation of the IPOB Agenda, the likes of Sunday Adeyemo “Igboho” and Professor Banji Akintoye are at the forefront of the agitation for the creation and independence of the Oduduwa Republic in the Southwestern region of Nigeria.
The question begging for answers are: “What are the factors responsible for the resurgence of the agitation and why now?”
A historical excursion through post-independent Nigeria, particularly the First Republic, reveals various contentions and contradictions underlying the political structure provided at independence by the European imperialists that ruled Nigeria between 1906-1966. It favoured Alh. Tafawa Balewa and the Hausa ethnicity. The first military coup was not far from the grudges cascading from the political imbalances of 1960.
The back and forth of these events led to the delcaration of the Republic of Biafra in 1967 when Major General Koduku felt betrayed as he was denied the opportunity to rule Nigeria while his junior-in-rank officer was installed instead.
To keep Nigeria as one, the Yorubas joined forces with the northern military to keep the Igbo extraction in Nigeria while the civil war lasted for about three years.
Fast forward to today’s Nigeria, it is not just the Igbos that are agitating to break away from Nigeria, the Yorubas too are asking for freedom owing to obvious animosity, aversion, fear and ethnic distrust that characterise the interplay of the three major tribes (Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa) in Nigeria. The North still suspects the Igbos, while the Igbos and Yorubas suspect the Hausas. Importantly, the Igbos have not been allowed the opportunity to have a taste of the Nigerian presidency since the ouster of Aguiyi Ironsi. Hence, the basis for agitation to have their own country at all costs, while the Yorubas are not also willing to continue as an ethnic nation within the Nigerian state.
In 2017 or thereabouts, the IPOB led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, an Igbo Prince renewed the secession idea due to the maltreatment he said is suffered by the Igbos allegedly in the hands of the Northern power-brokers and ruling oligarchs.
On the other hand, it seems the north is also sceptical of the Igbos, given their propensity to break away from or divide Nigeria if given the opportunity to govern Nigeria. However, this current Biafran rage, particularly under Major General Buhari, may not be far from the defiance to the principles of federal character and neglect of the Igbos, owing to the nepotism characterising the political appointment ratio under the current government. This takes us to another question, which is, “will the Biafrans cease-fire and ensure peace with the emergence or attainment of an Igbo president in Nigeria?”
In the southwestern region in Nigeria; where we have the Yoruba, the Yoruba people consist of a group of well-organised, educated and civilized people, who have always believed in one Nigeria until the assumption of General Muhammadu Buhari as president. The call for secession in southwest Nigeria by the likes of Professor Akintoye and co is not as a result of the presidency per se but mainly as a result of the growing challenges of insecurity and the inability of the Nigerian government to protect the Yorubas from the menace of Fulani herders and bring the northern herders to lawful prosecution. Among the prominent Yorubas that have been gruesomely murdered by the Fulanis, according to reports include: Doctor Aborode in ibarapa (a Germany-based Medical Doctor who came to Nigeria to better the lots of his people); the Olufon of Ifon; Mrs Olakunrin (the daughter of foremost Afenifere leader – Pa Ayo Fasanranti) to mention a few. Another possible reason for Yoruba’s discontent can be traced to the neglect of the federal character objectives, apparently getting tired of playing the second fiddle roles to the north.
Before his death, Comrade Yinka Odumakin, the publicity Secretary of the Afenifere and several other elders of the Yoruba extraction have advocated for total restructuring to reflect true federalism instead of the ‘voodo-federalism’ or ‘pseudo-federalism’ that is being operated in Nigeria. Meanwhile, other Yoruba actors like Chief Sunday Adeyemo and Professor Akintoye are campaigning for the total exit of the Yoruba race from Nigeria to give birth to the O’odua nation (Oduduwa Republic). The current wave of agitation has been the highest in the southwest region of Nigeria since Independence in 1960. For example, the killing of Doctor Aborode on his farm in Ibarapa led to the sacking of Sarki Fulani and his people and pronouncements declaring war on the Fulanis in the Yoruba land among others radical and violent reactions by Chief Adeyemo.
Commentators and political analysts like Mr Dotun Sasere have spoken so much about equity, equality and justice in regards to rotational presidency as a means to put an end to secessionists’ agitations in the country but the Nigerian state has remained lackadaisical in her response. As of today, there seems to be no solution by the Federal Government of Nigeria except for empty rhetoric on “one-Nigeria”.
Besides, the Nigerian government has attributed these limitations to actions being sponsored by opposition parties, resulting in the arrest and detention of agitators using the arrest warrant placed on Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho as a case study. They have refused to look inward and fix the problems through the formulation and implementation of workable policies that can engender effective integration and nation-building among citizens in the country.
The growing Fulani humanism in terms of appointment, application of rule of law and sense of entitlement in Nigeria through the marginalisation and subjugation of other ethnic groups to Fulani hegemony in the face of other ugly and negative realities such as economic recession, insecurity, poverty, unemployment, inadequate basic amenities and poor health and education system may continue to exacerbate the agitation for the autonomy of the Biafran Republic and the Yoruba race.
Obviously, the fragile peace and unity of the country are at the brink of collapse but the Nigerian state seems to be sitting on a keg of gunpowder.
The government should do the needful by ending the Fulani and Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria. The culprits/terrorists should be prosecuted while their victims are compensated nationwide. The Federal government should also restructure Nigeria, improve the economy, provide jobs and accord each region the required sense of belonging through a fair and almost equal power-sharing formula to reflect in the subsequent political appointments going forward, to save Nigeria from the imminent and daring collapse.
Olumide P. Akomolafe, a journalist and columnist, writes from Ikere-Ekiti
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