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A WORD OF CAUTION TO  NIGERIAN ETHNIC SEPARATISTS 

THE REAL CHALLENGE FOR NIGERIAN DEVELOPMENT IS A SUCCESSFUL POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC SYSTEM

                                                 
                                                                                                                                       NOT ETHNIC SEPARATION 


                                                                                                                                       Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju
                                    
                                                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                           Monday, 16 January, 2011


The ongoing  economic and security crises in Nigeria have inspired aspirations towards the break up of Nigeria into smaller countries. The central argument seems to be that such smaller countries will be easier to manage. A major plank of this hope in  such smaller countries being more successful is the idea that since they would be ethnically homogeneous, the problems emerging from the artificial construction of various ethnicities into the country now known as Nigeria would be significantly reduced or nullified.
As far as I can see, such thoughts are examples of wishful thinking. Will the African in an Oduduwa  Republic, Biafra  or Arewa Republic, for example, be different in personality from the same African in the government of Nigeria? To what degree  has the Nigerian political elite demonstrated an ability to rise above personal interests and focus on either national interests or the genuine developmental needs  of their ethnic constituencies?
And yet, these same politicians  regularly use ethnicity as one of their strongest tools to get into office, appealing to the ethnic sentiments of their eventual victims. 
Ladies and gentlemen,  the central problem is not the amalgamation of Nigeria out of many ethnicities, the problem is the political immaturity of many Africans and African political elites  who see politics as an opportunity to emulate the former colonial  masters and steal from the conquered  populace. 
While the colonial masters stole mostly for their nations, England, France, Belgium or Portugal, the African politicians  and their accomplices among the economic elite steal for themselves, their families and cronies. 
Nigerians right now are united against this culture of corruption and of theft from the people, united against  both direct theft through illegal actions, and indirect, institutionalised theft, theft built into the legal framework of the national system.  
A central example of such indirect, institutionalised theft is the fantastic salaries and allowances of political office holders, salaries and allowances   that  exceed even that of the US President, the President of a country with the second largest, if not the  world's largest economy, compared to a country poor in development and productive capacity  like Nigeria,  a country  dependent  on a raw substance mined from the ground which it does not even significantly process by itself, oil, as different from any productive capacity of its citizens. 
That is the problem.
The problem is the fact that Nigerian politicians of all ethnicities, Igbo, Hausa/ Fulani, Yoruba, ijaw, Edo, Ibibio, Niger Delta etc, are operating a system that in its very nature is a gargantuan effort at theft from Nigerians , a system calculated to NEVER lead to any substantial  development because the material resources for such development are constantly  being swallowed  by greedy politicians and these greedy people have little or no motivation to make the country grow, because the more developed the country is, the less concentration of resources  there will be at the centre of political power, the more enlightened people will  become, leading them to  demand their rights, the less the political figures will  be elevated above the current poverty of the average Nigerian.
So what must go is the corrupt system!
The issue here is not the breaking up of Nigeria into smaller countries that will be manned by people with the same mind set that is described as  at times even infecting the younger generation of teenagers. 
Some of those hoping for an Oduduwa Reuplic are quietly biding their time and hoping for their new country to emerge. Some of those hoping for a new Biafra are particularly vociferous in their cries for Nigeria  to break up and they struggle to instigate a break up.
It is this group that has inspired this response   beceause they don't seem to understand the nature of the wind of change and are actually moving against the  national development consensus  and the tide of contemporary Nigerian history. 
They consistently  project the security situation with Boko Haram terrorists as  an  Igbo problem, a claim  that is an example of straining to paint something with only a little shade of black into complete  black, in defiance of all obvious evidence.
The book Haram terrorists have attacked  all Nigerians and their attacks on Igbos have been an accidental outcome of  attacks on Nigerians. The only times known to me when they might have targeted  specific Igbo  territory was the two attacks in a geographical location described as North Eastern Nigeria. The  majority of their attacks  have been on  Nigerians in general, including Northerners and Muslims, and recently, focusing on  Southerners and Christians.
The larger number of Igbos in the bombing of the Catholic church in Madalla was not due go its being an 'Igbo church' as some  have claimed. There is no 'Igbo church'. The Catholic Church' is not an 'Igbo church'. The term 'Catholic' means 'all embracing'. The large presence of Igbos in the Catholic church does not make it an 'Igbo church'.
The larger number of Igbos affected in the Catholic church bombing was due to the  fact that Igbos constitute a good number of attendees at Catholic churches, perhaps everywhere in Nigeria, not because Igbos specifically were being targeted.
These attacks have come under heavy and unequivocal condemnation by Northern and Muslim leaders. Muslims, Northerners, Christians and Southerners are working together to combat the divisive goals of Boko Haram. This united work at unity by people of various ethnicities and religions has been widely reported in the news. 
it is vital that those who see themselves as pursuing  an Igbo cause in the midst of the current national crises do not alienate others. 
It was such alienation of the sympathy of others that was central to  the failure of Biafra in in 1967 to 1970.
This country has moved beyond the  pre-civil war years of the mid-1960s  and the civil war years of 1967 to 1970. 
It is vital to recognise these new developments so that all ethnicities and the country can move forward as one. 
It is in unity that ethnic politics and corruption  can be defeated.

Views: 120

Replies to This Discussion

(1953) NNAMDI AZIKIWE, “SPEECH ON SECESSION

POSTED ONSEPTEMBER 2, 2009 BY CONTRIBUTED BY: BLACKPAST

Nnamdi Azikiwe


In 1953 when Northern Nigerians were beginning to consider secession from the Nigerian colony that would soon be a nation, Nnamdi Azikiwe gave a speech before the caucus of his political party, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) in Yaba, Nigeria on May 12, 1953.  That speech, while not disallowing secession, suggested that there would be grave consequences if the Northern region became an independent nation.  Ironically, fourteen years later, Azikiwe led his Eastern Region out of Nigeria and created Biafra, a move that prompted a bloody three year civil war.  Azikiwe’s 1953 speech appears below.

I have invited you to attend this caucus because I would like you to make clear our stand on the issue of secession. As a party, we would have preferred Nigeria to remain intact, but lest there be doubt as to our willingness to concede to any shade of political opinion the right to determine its policy, I am obliged to issue a solemn warning to those who are goading the North towards secession. If you agree with my views, then I hope that in course of our deliberations tonight, you will endorse them, to enable me to publicize them in the Press.

In my opinion, the Northerners are perfectly entitled to consider whether or not they should secede from the indissoluble union which nature has formed between it and the South, but it would be calamitous to the corporate existence of the North should the clamour for secession prevail. I, therefore, counsel Northern leaders to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of secession before embarking upon this dangerous course.

As one who was born in the North, I have a deep spiritual attachment to that part of the country, but it would be a capital political blunder if the North should break away from the South. The latter is in a better position to make rapid constitutional advance, so that if the North should become truncated from the South, it would benefit both Southerners and Northerners who are domiciled in the South more than their kith and kin who are domiciled in the North.

There are seven reasons for my holding to this view. Secession by the North may lead to internal political convulsion there when it is realized that militant nationalists and their organizations, like the NLPU, the Askianist Movement, and the Middle Zone League, have aspirations for self-government in 1956 identical with those of their Southern compatriots. It may lead to justifiable demands for the right of self-determination by non-Muslims, who form the majority of the population in the so-called ‘Pagan’ provinces, like Benue, Ilorin, Kabba, Niger and Plateau, not to mention the claims of non-Muslims who are domiciled in Adamawa and Bauchi Provinces.

It may lead to economic nationalism in the Eastern Region, which can pursue a policy of blockade of the North, by refusing it access to the sea, over and under the River Niger, except upon payment of tolls. It may lead to economic warfare between the North on the one hand, and the Eastern or Western regions on the other, should they decide to fix protective tariffs which will make the use of the ports of the Last and West uneconomic for the North.

The North may be rich in mineral resources and certain cash crops, but that is no guarantee that it would be capable of growing sufficient food crops to enable it to feed its teeming millions, unlike the East and the West. Secession may create hardship for Easterners and Westerners who are domiciled in the North, since the price of food crops to be imported into the North from the South is bound to be very high and to cause an increase in the cost of living. Lastly, it will endanger the relations with their neighbours of millions of Northerners who are domiciled in the East and West and Easterners and Westerners who reside in the North.

You may ask me whether there would be a prospect of civil war, if the North decided to secede? My answer would be that it is a hypothetical question which only time can answer. In any case, the plausible cause of a civil war might be a dispute as to the right of passage on the River Niger, or the right of flight over the territory of the Eastern or Western Region; but such disputes can be settled diplomatically, instead of by force.
Nevertheless, if civil war should become inevitable at this stage of our progress as a nation, then security considerations must be borne in mind by those who are charged with the responsibility of government of the North and the South. Military forces and installations are fairly distributed in all the three regions; if that is not the case, any of the regions can obtain military aid from certain interested Powers. It means that we cannot preclude the possibility of alliance with certain countries.

You may ask me to agree that if the British left Nigeria to its fate, the Northerners would continue their uninterrupted march to the sea, as was prophesied six years ago? My reply is that such an empty threat is devoid of historical substance and that so far as I know, the Eastern Region has never been subjugated by any indigenous African invader. At the price of being accused of overconfidence, I will risk a prophecy and say that, other things being equal, the Easterners will defend themselves gallantly, if and when they are invaded.

Let me take this opportunity to warn those who are making a mountain out of the molehill of the constitutional crisis to be more restrained and constructive. The dissemination of lies abroad; the publishing of flamboyant headlines about secessionist plans, and the goading of empty-headed careerists with gaseous ideas about their own importance in tile scheme of things in the North is being overdone in certain quarters. I feel that these quarters must be held responsible for any breach between the North and South, which nature had indissolubly united in a political, social and economic marriage of convenience. In my personal opinion, there is no sense in the North breaking away or the East or the West breaking away; it would be better if all the regions would address themselves to the task of crystallizing common nationality, irrespective of the extraneous influences at work. What history has joined together let no man put asunder. But history is a strange mistress which can cause strange things to happen!

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