Forty-six years back this month, Nigeria's civil war came to an end with the surrender of the secessionist Republic of Biafra. The two plus a half years of fighting took some two million lives, but when the bitter struggle ended the victorious Nigerian authorities proclaimed, "No Victor, No Vanquished." Nevertheless, the discontent of the ethnic Igbo people of southeast Nigeria lingers on.
In 1999, a group known as the Movement emerged, seeking through demonstrations and political agitation to re-establish an independent state. Lately it has been overshadowed by another group, the Indigenous Folks of Biafra, which likewise calls for independence, by violence if needed.
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every day since Mr. Kanu's arrest, there have been demonstrations and calls for the authorities to free him. In handling his case, the government must tread carefully, ensuring that it does not transform him into a cause celebre.
Several weeks ago, Nigerian newspapers reported the existence of a handwritten statement Mr. Kanu submitted to law enforcement representatives shortly after his arrest, in which he apologized "unreservedly" for the "regrettable" and "uncomplimentary things" he'd said about President Buhari and some other folks. The government should think about capitalizing on this particular hint of remorse and making an offer of amnesty to Mr. Kanu in exchange for a pledge to be less-tumultuous in his approach.
Directed by Nnamdi Kanu, a Nigerian who was living in Britain until last October, it has presented greater sophistication than Massob. Its main publicity tool is Radio Biafra, an online station that spreads the call for "liberation" and "self-emancipation" from the "zoo" called Nigeria. These actions have annoyed President Muhammadu Buhari, who has openly backed Mr. Kanu's on-going trial for treason.
When the Biafran War broke out in 1967 in the wake of widespread communal violence, Lieut. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu, a top Igbo officer, declared that "asian Nigerians are no longer desired as equal partners in the Federation of Nigeria." That feeling is still broadly shared among the Igbo. But the frustrations of today's would be Biafrans are no distinct in the Niger Delta, whose oil keeps Nigeria going but gets them little in return, apart from gas fires and oil spills. Nor do they differ in the grievances of their fellow countrymen in the north, who news around Naija
continue to wallow in levels of illiteracy and poverty that make the south look affluent in contrast.
The fact is that no part of Nigeria has a monopoly on victimhood. The impulse to seek to determine the destiny of one and to protest suffering is just not wrongheaded; the issue lies in seeking change in an approach that incites ethnic hatred and violence. It'd not be worse for Biafran separatists push instead for constitutional change that will fortify the federal system Nigeria purports to practice and to drop their calls for autonomy. Our present Constitution, just like the others that followed independence in 1960, is the product of military leaders whose plan has rarely coincided with the public good. Though it starts with all Naija news papers
the necessary words ("We the folks of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ... "), it had been crafted by a handpicked committee and never made public before the military transferred power to the civilian authorities on May 29, 1999.
Push for a referendum to determine the future of the region and Igbo separatists would do better to follow the example of Scotland. True, the central government would not be likely to support such a call for fear that it might trigger an avalanche of referendum This Day Nigeria Newspaper Today
requests in this state of more than 250 ethnic groups. But were one to take place, my guess is that it might turn out overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining union with Nigeria.
There will never be enough support in the southeast for independence from Nigeria, chiefly because all the people there recognize that there could be little to gain and much to lose. It's doubtful the delta's several minority ethnic groups share the conviction of the Biafran agitators the oil-rich delta states certainly are an all-natural section of Biafra. Without the Niger delta, Biafra will be a its enterprising folks hobbled with a condition to obtain visas to work in places where they've lived and dealt in for decades, a tiny, landlocked nation.
Furthermore, an unaffiliated Biafra would stay riven over the tribal and religious lines that are Naijagists.compage2
being invoked to justify its leaving Nigeria. It's possible for the Igbo to regard themselves as a cultural and religious monolith so long as they continue in Nigeria. But all Nigerians should be aware of that there is no end once we give into the instinct to subdividing ourselves. In an independent, irresistibly Christian Biafra, folks would start to identify themselves as Anglicans and Catholics and Methodists -- as they already sometimes do in local politics. In the runup to the elections of last year, for example, Anglican bishops warned the ruling party in the Igbo state of Enugu that they might not accept a gubernatorial ticket composed completely of Catholic nominees. The party disregarded the warning.
The clamor to get a referendum would give an excellent opportunity for all those like me who believe (to take a phrase from British adversaries of Scottish autonomy) that Nigeria would be "Better Together." True it's difficult to see this in a nation where on-line comments habitually degenerate into ethnic sniping, but with appropriate framing the diversity in Nigeria could, in fact, be turned right into a unifying motif.
That "Better Together" campaign would require much soul searching about our nation's painful past. It might also require acknowledging the complaints of the various Igbo voices that are exhausted of marginalization however don't support the concept of secession.
The very best means for the authorities to permanently sideline those that call for political violence will be to push for the economical reforms that President Buhari has vowed to accomplish. Handling corruption and ensuring equitable distribution of Nigeria's wealth will benefit all its people. Splintering the nation right into a hodgepodge of independent states wont.