Since at least the early 90s, and in reaction to the military’s apparent foot-dragging to restore democracy in Nigeria then, clamour for secession has always been used as a tool of political blackmail against the Northern Nigerian political establishment.
It’s widely assumed that Northern Nigeria’s particular commitment to a united Nigeria is purely for economic reasons, as it’s believed that the region is economically unviable without the regular statutory allocation from the proceeds of crude oil resources from the Southern part of the country. After all, given the tendency of the region’s political establishment to make any compromise, concession and even sacrifice for the sake of the country’s corporate survival, that commitment is even perceived as desperation.
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In the geopolitics among the country’s primary regions i.e. North, West and East, the Northern Nigerian political establishment has always been blackmailed with a tacit threat against the survival of the federation. For instance, the region was blackmailed into conceding to the unconstitutional arrangement to rotate the presidency among the regions thereby effectively rendering its population advantage irrelevant. It’s also so with the disproportionate revenue distribution formula among the federating states, and many other policies.
Also, though the protests that ensued following the controversial annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election that was believed to have been won by late MKO Abiola were understandable, the South West political establishment and its press soon manipulated the situation by portraying it as a Northern conspiracy to prevent the emergence of a Yoruba man as president. Interestingly, that’s even though Abiola defeated his main contender, Bashir Tofa, even in Kano, his birthplace, and supposed political stronghold.
Anyway, with their sustained, systematic and well-oiled propaganda machinery, they even managed to portray the situation as a grand Northern plot against the emergence of any Southerner as president. Violent protests persisted across the South West in particular amid threats against the country’s corporate survival by the region’s political elite under their umbrella organisation, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) that somehow gained the sympathy of the influential Euro-American axis and its powerful media, which adopted and vigorously promoted the NADECO narrative of the events in the country.
Also, following the sudden death of the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha, and with the start of the democratic transition process under General AbdulSalami Abubakar, the Northern Nigerian political establishment had already been blackmailed into tacitly accepting the responsibility for the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election by the then military regime, the imprisonment of the supposed winner, Abiola, and his subsequent death in prison, simply because the heads of the military regimes i.e. Babangida and Abacha respectively were Northerners.
That paved the way and indeed made it easier to further blackmail the “guilty” North into conceding the presidency to the “wronged” South West on a silver platter to pacify it in the interest of “national cohesion”. That was how the convicted Obasanjo was released from prison, rehabilitated and literally imposed on Nigeria.
Since then, the apparent desperation of the Northern Nigerian political establishment for the country’s corporate survival has grown, which explains the growing trend of blackmailing the region with secession and other threats against the country’s continued corporate existence.
It’s now quite common, for instance, to learn that Northerners living in the South have been rounded up and deported back to the North. This, in addition to other discriminatory actions, is becoming more systematic following the establishment of well-armed regional security outfits in the South East and South West while the South South is equally considering its own, all in a blatant disregard to relevant constitutional provisions.
Interestingly, those secession threats aren’t actually genuine after all; the only genuine secession attempt was the Odumegwu-Ojukwu-led session attempt that triggered the Nigerian civil war more than half a century ago. Since then, secession threats have always been mere tactics for political blackmail against the North, as the individual and collective interests of the Nigerian elite as a whole have over the decades grown too interdependently to survive the secession of any region in the country.
That explains why no incumbent political office-holder, civil servant or any beneficiary of the status quo even from the regions particularly notorious for secession threats has ever been openly involved in the clamour for secession knowing that their involvement in it and their stay in government are mutually exclusive. Instead, only opportunists, desperate for relevance, broke and frustrated public figures with hardly anything to lose get involved in it.
Besides, though Nigeria as a corporate entity has always been fragile, its peculiar circumstances make it too fragile to disintegrate. Yet, Northern Nigeria will continue to be politically blackmailed until it addresses its self-inflicted socio-economic disadvantage, which the other regions capitalise upon to blackmail it with a secession threat.
Until it develops its massive economic potential into real and instantly exploitable resources and turns its huge population into the 21st century-standard economically productive population, the region will continue to be blackmailed into making further concessions until it gets to a point where it may have to literally beg to be kept in the federation.