PMB and Nigeria @ 61: Deepening Discord and Disunity and the Myths of Indivisibility of Nigeria – THISDAY Newspapers
Bola A. Akinterinwa
Whenever President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) makes a speech and talks about non-negotiability of Nigeria’s unity or about the indivisibility of Nigeria, my mind always goes to the theory of indestructibility of an atom, being the smallest particle of a matter that forms a chemical element. When I also remember that what could not be destroyed at the ordinary level could be easily split with atomic fission at the advanced level, I always ask myself why PMB cannot sit down for once and think deeply about his frequently mentioned national unity not being negotiable and the country not being divisible.
To argue that national unity is not negotiable is an intellectual fallacy, an intellectual fraud, and at best, an expression of poverty of ideas. Who says Nigeria’s unity cannot be negotiated? Is it because the Constitution provides for it? If yes, who says that the provision cannot be reviewed? Is there any part of the Constitution that cannot be amended? If the law is written by human beings at a point in time, what prevents another set of people from reviewing the law at another time? Without any whiff of doubt, there is nothing like indivisibility of Nigeria. Indivisibility of Nigeria is at best a wish, a wishful thinking. Seeking national unity is an aspirational ideal that must be worked for and not one that is imposed by force.
What is terribly amazing is that PMB is preaching the sermon of settlement of grievances without shedding blood, but at the same time he is adopting policy measures that subjugate ethnic communities to Fulani rule. There were several public complaints against his political appointments, but PMB never bothered. PMB cannot be deepening national discord and disunity while expecting national unity as a resultant. Boko Haram has been internationally adjudged as a very notorious terrorist group. The group is opposed to Nigeria and her constitution. It is recklessly killing people, kidnapping and maiming. When members of the group are captured, Nigerians are told that they have surrendered, and therefore have been granted amnesty. Very ridiculous. Names of people reportedly funding terrorism in Nigeria are given but the PMB administration refused to talk about it, only to be announcing during his Nigeria @ 61 speech that one member of the National Assembly is funding Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu activities. PMB is acting contrarily to what he openly confesses. This is what makes PMB’s Nigeria @ 61 speech most unfortunate. PMB must therefore learn how to make haste slowly in enforcing national unity by force.
Dynamics of Discord and Disunity
PMB made several rhetorical policy statements in his speech. For instance, he vowed to arrest, prosecute all those inciting violence in words and actions. What the people are waiting for is not the vow but its translation into manifest action. PMB said the past 18 months in the country were particularly most difficult. COVID-19 pandemic is one of the reasons for the difficult times. If the past 18 months had been difficult, it cannot be because of COVID-19 pandemic, insurgency, armed banditry but primarily because of PMB’s attitudinal disposition towards national questions. Therefore, it is argued here, the 61st anniversary celebration of Nigeria’s independence was done amidst much regret, unhappiness and aggravated suspicion. The Nigerian land is politically filled with discord and disunity. At the time of independence in 1960, Nigeria was the cynosure of all eyes in the world. Nigeria had much respect. Nigeria not only spoke authoritatively on behalf of Africa, but also formulated exceptions to the principle of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of another. And true enough, Nigeria’s leadership of the African and Black people of the world was largely felt at the level of the anti-apartheid struggle. Nigeria served as chairman of the UN Committee Against Apartheid. In fact, not only did the whole world expect exemplary leadership, the-Alhaji-Tafawa-Balewa administration also made Nigeria’s readiness to provide such leadership roles clear to the world.
Most unfortunately, however, Nigeria at 61 in 2021 has a different story of regrets, unhappiness and deepening suspicions. Opinion is shared on whether in 61 years of sovereign existence Nigeria should be in her current situation of non-development. Proponents of many successful areas abound and so are the proponents of failure. The position of this column is that Nigerians, in their private capacity, based on their dint of hard work, have been excelling worldwide, and by so doing, they bring honour and dignity to the whole country. As for corporate Nigeria, the story is that of retrogression right from 1960. The retrogression began with the introduction of Decree 34 by the General Aguiyi Ironsi regime in 1966. The decree put an end to regionalism and introduced unitary system of government. General Yakubu Gowon deepened the problem by restructuring the 4-regional system into 12 States. Since then, agitation for restructuring, redefinition of the bases of national unity, re-writing of a new constitution, etc., have been raised, but all to no avail.
In this regard, can it be rightly argued that Nigeria which was more united in 1960 but currently challenged by national discord, disunity and critical threats of national disintegration has succeeded in 2021? Far from it. Difficult interpersonal relationships, unnecessary animosity, especially between southerners and Fulani are the current order of the day. It is therefore argued here that the future of Nigeria as a united and vibrant country is not bright because the major dynamic of the national discord and disunity is not being addressed. For as long as the main dynamic is allowed to define policies, a bitter lesson cannot but await national unity.
Put differently, post-independence inter-ethnic relations were largely based on suspicions between the Fulani and other ethnic groups, particularly in the South. The suspicions are derived from various statements carelessly or otherwise made. For example, reference is made to the 1904 Usman Dan Fodio claim that Nigeria is the property of the Fulani and that the Fulani has the right to forcefully acquire the whole country. There is also the statement that the Fulani are born to rule, that others are meant to serve as slaves. The dispute between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers has raised the issue of non-titled land in the South. The herders argue that no state government has land and that the herders can continue to openly graze their cattle.
Funnily enough, the herders are preaching lawlessness. They cautiously ignore that every land is titled and that there is nothing like terra nullius anymore even in the entire system of international relations. Besides, moving from one’s state to go and relocate in another place requires the respect of the laws of the new place. In essence, the Fulani herders behave above the rule of law with the incredible support of Government. Without scintilla of exaggeration, Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda not only became a controversial public debate, but also pushed the agitation for self-determination to its crescendo. Under PMB, national unity was most threatened. PMB had no regards for the Federal Character Principle. He made nepotism his policy, and yet he has the effrontery to claim that he fought for national unity during the 1967-70 war. What he fought to unite is precisely what he is directly also undermining with his ethnic chauvinism, as reflected in his nepotistic policies. Some quick illustrations will do here.
Senator Rashidi Ladoja, a former Governor of Oyo State, showed many concerns in an interview, ‘we must discuss breaking up or keeping Nigeria,’ and granted to the Sunday Tribune of 26 September 2021 about how the Federal Government behaves in matters of insecurity. As narrated by Senator Ladoja, ‘I saw a video of the Akwa Ibom governor talking about how 18 people in military uniforms were arrested with 18 AK-47 and were handed over to the police, only for the police to release the suspects because of orders from above.’
How do we explain ‘orders from above’? Senator Ladoja wondered how the governor of a state talking loudly like that and accusing the Federal Government through the Inspector General of Police. If the Akwa Ibom governor had to come into the open to complain, it is believed that he must have been complaining to the authorities above, but to no avail. The perception of the criminal support being given to Fulani bandits prompted the Governor of Benue State to ask his people to arm themselves in self-defence. These are some of the issues that made the past 18 months very difficult in Nigeria
And perhaps more disturbingly, Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma openly accused PMB that the Nigerian military are aiding and abetting boko haram insurgency against the good people of Nigeria. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan made it clear at a point in time that there were boko haram agents in his government. PMB is not seen to want to address the problem. Accusing fingers are pointed to PMB on some critical issues. First is his policy of nepotism, which is driven by a don’t care attitude, without any due regard to whatever complaints. The policy is managed in such a way that all the instruments of coercion are in the hands of one ethnic group, the Fulani.
Second is PMB’s policy of double standard. It is alleged that there is free movement in the North, but such freedom of movement is not allowed in the South. When such freedom is allowed, it is only to pave the way for the passage of Dangote cement trucks. Senator Ladoja put it this way: ‘there is free movement of people in the North. There is no free movement of people in the South, particularly in the South-West. The borders in the North are all open, those in the South are not, except the Seme border. And when people make noise about opening of our borders, they opened it only for Dangote and BUA to export their cement. Whereas most of the time, the cement is even cheaper in Benin Republic than in Nigeria. So, who is fooling who?’
PMB turned deafening ears to them. In fact, the anti-Fulanisation agenda underlies the Cold War between Northern Governors and Southern governors, on the one hand, and political activists in the North and the South, on the other. Statements by Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the spokesperson for the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) are quite infuriating. Northern and Southern governors traded in hostile words. However, how is the problem of secession and self-determination addressed?
Secession and Self-determination
As regards secession is first a struggle. It is an aspiration, and it is always done by use of force, because no sovereign states ever want this territory to be dismembered. Consequently, every government that is challenged by threats of secession always fight back ruthlessly. Second secession can also be a situation of fait accompli, especially when the struggle for secession has succeeded. In this case secession implies the withdrawal of territory and sovereignty from part of an existing State to create a new state. Generally, secession is done by unilateral fiat. It is not considered as a right under international law outside of decolonization and situations of military occupation.
What is noteworthy about secession is that its proponents are not much bothered about legality. They simply believe that they have the right to live an independent life to the exclusion of others. On Friday, 1st October, the US President urged the Bosnian Serb leader to halt his secessionist rhetoric. This is to remind that secession is a constaisnt question in international relations. In fact, agitation for secession can last for decades and even centuries. The specific case of the Catalonians in Spain is a good illustration. For over 300 years they have been fighting for autonomy. The lessons for the PMB administration, Government can always start the war, but the Government may not know how and when it will end. Biafran agitation.
The agitation for sovereign autonomy in Yoruba Southwest is also interesting, but more complex. Unlike secession, which is not considered a right, self-determination is a right. It initially had a colonial foundation, in which case it was argued that all dependent territories and peoples were entitled to be free, entitled to define their future. Behaviourally, self-determination requires acting autonomously, that the autonomous action must be self-regulated, and that the people initiated or concerned respond ‘to events in a psychologically empowered manner’ and the person acted in a self-realizing manner.
Self-determination can be violent being a struggle. The attitude of PMB to secession and agitation for self-determination is very belligerent, even though the Yoruba Southwest has adopted the civilized peaceful approach by first joining the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organisation (UNPO). The UNPO was specifically established in 2008 to empower the voices of unrepresented and marginalized peoples worldwide and to protect their rights to self-determination. The UNPO has played roles in ensuring the political emancipation of many of its members. Former members like Armenia, East Timor, Estonia, Latvia Georgia and Palau have gained full independence and have joined the United Nations. The Yoruba self-determination agitators are precisely following this peaceful path. But the PMB security network has been engaging force to fight back.
Thus, the future scenarios of the next 18 months will be more serious than what obtained in the past 18 months. Agitation for self-determination and secession does not have the potential to abate. By implication, national unity will be under intensified threats. Without doubt, PMB will continue to dream of non-negotiability of Nigeria’s unity or indissolubility of Nigeria. The bitter truth is that the membership of the Yoruba people and the IPOB of the UNPO is the first leg for dismantling Nigeria. Government may respond violently but the international community is most likely to stand up and defend the principle of self-determination. PMB will then many battle fields: boko haram, armed banditry, IPOB, Oduduwa Republic battlefield, etc. PMB soldiers may force the IPOB fighters into the bush. The war will become a guerrilla type. To what extent can drones be sent across the whole territory of Nigeria, especially with the influx of new terrorists from Afghnaistan?
Very few Ministers under President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), not to say no one, believes that Nigeria can be Afghanized in the mania of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Most unfortunately, on the contrary, Nigeria is gradually running down the slope of precisely being Afghanized even beyond that of Afghanistan. Political governance is largely being driven by unidirectional national discord in which the blind is being guided by the deaf and the dumb and those who can see act in a directionless manner, but with their eardrums perforated.
The resultant effect is the fast-deepening situation of insecurity which the Government acknowledges but deals with, with kid gloves in the belief of a knower-than-thou spirit. Most unfortunate! Nigeria of today, under PMB, may be the end of Nigeria of 1960-2021 and the foundation of a New Nigeria, that may be most likely comprised essentially of the current Northern States, particularly the northernmost ones, either in the spirit of the Major Gideon Orka Coup of April 22, 1990, or in that of Muammar Gaddafi who said that there would not be peace in Nigeria until the country is divided into Muslim North and Christian South. The solution offered by former President of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings, that Nigeria cannot thrive well unless the neo-colonial leaders of Nigeria are wiped off may not be applicable either in the current or future Nigeria.
If PMB believes the past 18 months have been most difficult times, it is argued here that the next 18 months may be that of harder times to come because of the issue of secession and self-determination which PMB does not appear to understand in terms of its implications in international relations. Whether or not the unity of Nigeria is negotiable, the truth is that Nigeria currently has the challenge of national cohesion, national unity, national understanding, and national survival. Based on the deepening crisis of boko haram insurgency and the revelations of the commanders of both the bandits and boko haramists that they will soon move their banditry and terrorism from their phase 1 in the rural areas to phase 2 in the municipalities in 2022 with a declaration of war, there is no disputing the likelihood of another Afghanization of terrorism in Nigeria. The agitation for secession and self-determination are potentially pointers to a new war in the making. The language understood by PMB is the use of force. The problem is the perception of PMB as the chief promoter of Fulanisation, Islamisation, and nepotism. Consequently, there is no amount of public appeal that can change the people if PMB is protecting the Fulani ethnic stock while asking other ethnic groups to show understanding of it. PMB must first show honesty of purpose.