This article is a free advisory to the incurable nihilists amongst us who, in overestimating their capacities, have allowed themselves to believe that their quixotic activities in pursuit “self-determination’’ can bring Nigeria down.
The agitation, which has of recent gained traction, rests largely on two wrong assumptions.
The first assumption is that the Nigerian state as presently constituted is weak and thus a determined push for secession in form of self-determination will scare the Nigerian state into readily granting the agitators the political and economic concessions being demanded even at the expense of the constitution of the country.
The second assumption is that with sustained agitations in presenting Nigeria as a lopsided unworkable entity forcibly put together by Britain and handed over to an oligarchy of “primitive feudal elements’’. the international community, especially the advanced democracies and global institutions, will be convinced eventually to intervene either to compel the Nigerian government to restructure the country or assist the agitators in their efforts to break up the country.
Giving these agitations the effect of a force beyond what they really are, are sections of the media which, for both the sake of boosting their sales and also for clearly partisan reasons, are prepared to bend the tenets of the profession in this regard.
But is Nigeria such a weak country that it is at the mercy of a motley group of noisy street actors who believe they can break it up by mere street demonstrations with the aid of their partisans in the media?
A look at the reality of both the internal situation in Nigeria and the external factors of Nigeria’s place in the world will debunk this assumption.
First let us delve critically into the case for the agitations to determine whether in themselves they are credible and compelling enough to bring down Nigeria as its patrons believe. One of the basic requirements for the success of an agitation is a consensus secured through a democratic vote amongst the inhabitants of the area and the modalities to achieve the desired outcome. As there has not been such a move on the desirability or otherwise of the secession of these areas from Nigeria, the non-state agitators who are currently pursuing the issue can only be considered as engaging in law and order violations which behoves on the Nigerian state to apply appropriate measures accordingly. And sure enough, the Nigerian state has acted in a way to convincingly demonstrate that it is neither weak nor incapacitated in meeting these threats.
The second issue is to consider whether in their activities the agitators have the capacity to bring Nigeria down. In this regard, let us not forget that the areas from where the secession is sought exist within Nigeria, a fact which is underpinned and recognised in both the Nigerian constitution and international law. It follows, therefore, that for the goal of secession to be realized, if at all, depends largely on the disposition of the Nigerian state and not on the agitators.
Again going by our historical experience, the Nigerian state having confronted and subdued similar occurrences in the past, has developed the capacity over the years to do so again comprehensively. No Nigerian government, no matter how constituted, can encourage or fail to deal decisively with threats against the country’s existence. Over the years this much has become the unspoken but concrete ground rule which every government, no matter its hue, must operate with.
The second wrong assumption which the agitators make is in the expectation that foreign countries and global agencies will help, sympathise or assist them in their cause. In pursuit of this, we have seen the agitators calling on these countries and world bodies to either compel the Nigerian state to act in respect of their demands or to directly intervene physically to re-order the state of things in the country.
Again, even more than the internal situation, this expectation of foreign assistance is unrealistic and forlorn. It is a misjudgement based on ignorance of how the international system works on issues such as these.
Having granted us independence based on the same principle of self-determination and welcomed us into the comity of nations, the same advanced countries feel that we are sufficiently capable of conducting our affairs by ourselves. Where and when we deviated from the principles of democratic governance as during our years of military rule, they felt the need to encourage us to return to the path of democracy in their belief that it is the system through which we can resolve our challenges as a nation and move forward.
As we are now in a democracy, there is no way these same countries can support undemocratic means in resolving our issues. The agitators for secession have not first proven their democratic credentials by subjecting themselves and their cause to a modicum of democratic test amongst the people of the area they want to lead to secession; so how can they expect countries where such matters are subjected to democratic tenets to support them in their quest to subvert a democratic government such as Nigeria?
Another underlying factor which the secessionist agitators in their quest for foreign assistance cannot know is that between, especially, Britain, France and the United States of America, there is a strategic understanding that recognises the division of spheres in Africa between Britain and France.
Between the two none is expected to cross the other in their respective zones of influence in Africa. When the Nigerian civil war happened between 1967 and 1970, although the French appeared to be supporting the Biafran side, they offered only token assistance and never formally recognised the secessionist side. And from the moment Odumegwu Ojukwu declared the secession, the British set their agents on him monitoring his every strategic move and worked to counter it. A well-known British thriller writer who was then working with the BBC “resigned’’ and proceeded to “befriend’’ Ojukwu offering to “assist’’ him in procuring all kinds of “help’’ – from procuring mercenaries to linking him up with PR agencies and lobby groups – in the West. For all these, he was allowed to sit in on Biafran cabinet meetings and strategy sessions of the Biafran high command. That was one of the ways by which the first Biafran dream was extinguished. A similar re-enactment of this has just occurred with the whole process in the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, the latest pretender to the Biafran struggle.
Our secessionist agitators will do well do understand that where Africa and specifically Nigeria is concerned, support for their cause of dismembering the country can only be half-hearted if at all from the West. Dismembering Nigeria will only serve to upset the long-term strategic balance of interest between Britain and France which under the present circumstances will only benefit new entrants to Africa like China at their expense. And they will not do it.
In concluding this advisory, the lesson here is that rather than expend energies in the worthless pursuit of seeking the disintegration of Nigeria through secession, our agitators should instead concentrate on working with like minds towards improving the democratic struggle in Nigeria.