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Friday, June 16, 2017

Secession between hypocrisy and illusion (1)

….also published in Daily Trust

The recent issuance of an ultimatum by the neo-Biafran secessionists to northern Nigerians based in south-eastern Nigeria to leave the region, and the counter-ultimatum issued subsequently by a group calling itself the Coalition of Northern Youths to the Igbos based in northern Nigeria to leave the region have retriggered the recurrent controversy over the survival of Nigeria as a united country.

Having survived the bloody Biafran secession attempt almost half a century ago, Nigeria has on various occasions also somehow survived many relatively lesser yet serious threats to its survival. However, the threats have over the decades seriously taken their toll on its socio-economic development and political stability.

Though the successive civilian administrations and military regimes in the country may deserve some credit for managing to keep the country united despite their failure in general, which has consequently frustrated the country and rendered it unable to achieve its massive economic potential, it (i.e. Nigeria) also owes its survival to other underlying factors. For instance, its survival is, one the one hand, partly and indeed quite ironically due to the hypocrisy of the elite stakeholders in the south-east where the neo-Biafran secessionists have been agitating for secession, and, on the other hand, to the inconsistency of an increasingly growing number of northerners who, after decades of vehement resistance against the secession of the south-east, are now increasingly showing willingness to accept its secession this time around, and even create a separate country in the north in the aftermath, yet, quite ironically however, they aren’t committed to preparing the necessary ground for that.

To start with the neo-Biafran secessionists in the south-east, though their secession project is seemingly popular in the region and it apparently enjoys the tacit albeit largely empty support of the elite in the region, it has failed to gather momentum not due to any government preemptive measures after all, but simply because the elite in the region e.g. governors, state legislators, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, ministers, senior federal civil servants, top federal government officials and other top beneficiaries of the survival of Nigerian unity, realize the sheer irreconcilability between agitation for the secession of the region from Nigeria and allegiance to the same country at the same time. They realize that for them to openly engage in the agitation, they will have to give up whatever positions they hold under the Nigerian constitution, which of course they aren’t prepared to do. They are simply being too hypocritical to be inspired by late Lieutenant Colonel Odemegwu Ojukwu who was the military administrator of the Eastern Region of Nigeria in 1966 when he renounced his allegiance to Nigeria, gave up his position and launched the Biafran secession struggle that attracted the then Igbo elite in the military, federal civil service, business and political circles who followed suit having rightly realized that an allegiance to Nigeria and a secessionist agenda were (and are of course still) mutually exclusive.

Obviously, ever since the failure of Ujukwu-led secession attempt, the subsequent generations of the elite in the south-east have always been insincere towards the neo-Biafran secessionists. On the one hand, they are always too self-centered to sacrifice their personal interests and the privileges they enjoy primarily for being citizens of Nigeria, and on the other hand, knowing how the average south-easterners have been deceived into believing that secession from Nigeria is the best thing for the region, they (i.e. elite) are simply not willing to openly oppose the idea knowing that by doing so they will jeopardize their popularity, which they always need in order to maintain their socio-political influence and strategic business interests.

Now, while the neo-Biafran secession struggle is constrained by the hypocrisy of the region’s elite, a look into the growing willingness in the north to let the south-east secede for the region (i.e. north) to equally create a separate country reveals some equally interesting inconsistencies. By the way, there is basically nothing wrong with this tendency as long as it doesn’t involve violence, besides, the northerners have apparently had enough of insults from the southerners in general who belittle the region’s contribution in sustaining the country economically, and often liken them (i.e. northerners) to parasites.

However, though the north has all the economic potential to not only survive but also thrive as a separate country, yet, it’s obvious that the current neo-Arewa advocates of the region’s transformation into a separate country are largely driven by sheer emotion rather than logic. They don’t seem to consider the fact that, the region’s economic potential isn’t currently developed enough to generate enough resources to immediately fill the huge financial vacuum that will inevitably result from a hasty and miscalculated decision to transform it into a separate country now. They apparently mistake the region’s massive economic potential for instantly exploitable resources. They sound as though they are oblivious of the fact that, without the monthly allocation from the federation account, no state in the region is independently rich enough to fill the inevitably ensuing vacuum in its finances. Even Kano state, which is the richest state in the region, the amount of its internally generated revenue, which is the highest in the region, is currently too little to cover the salaries of its workforce and its operating expenses, let alone any strategic development project.

Besides, in the aftermath of a sudden disappearance of the police personnel, the military and the other security agencies in the region, which will certainly be one of the immediate implications of such hasty decision, the magnitude of the chaos that will certainly ensue in the region can’t be overestimated especially considering the fact that Boko Haram terrorists have not yet been completely defeated. And obviously in this ugly scenario, it would be practically impossible to arrest the situation, let alone create a viable country. Having clearly ignored all these observations, these neo-Arewa advocates are apparently living in illusion, at least for now.                           

To be continued next week.