By Barrister Mike Egbune
For years now, the marginalized indigenes of the South South and South Eastern parts of Nigeria have been clamouring for a restructuring of Nigeria, but the caretakers at the centre which is the Federal Government has never given them a listening ear basically because of the control of the domineering North.
The South West and Middle Belt have now joined forces with the South South and South East in the clamour for restructuring, but this time they have gone a step further and are asking for a new one. This new one is self-determination. How well they have done their homework in sensitizing their people is another thing entirely. But the point is that the voices are getting louder by the day.
In fact, what most Nigerians do not know is that they have such powers from United Nations international policies which allows them to take their self-determination even to the fullest level derivable from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This is what Tony Nnadi and his NINAS group have been capitalizing in their call for self-determination. Self-determination for ethnic nationalities can be achieved without any form of violence or anarchy, that is why I condemn in strong terms, the violence that Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB/ESN followers are promoting in their bid to gain self-determination for Biafra. This is because it can be done in a more civilized and decent way which will capture the attention the international community to give them positive response. It is not a war as such, it should be pursued intellectually.
Separation is not about war; it has peaceful aspects from history. In 1776, the USA split from the UK.
In 1830 Belgium separated from the Netherlands.
In 1965, Singapore split off from Malaysia
in 2002, East Timor got split off from Indonesia
In 1921, Ireland split off from the United Kingdom, and (possibly in the future) there will be secession of Scotland.
In 1944, Iceland split from Denmark with remarkable ease.
In 1905 Norway split from Denmark
In 1905, Norway and Sweden also peacefully split ways. One got the car. the other got the kids.
In 1947, the British India Dominion was partitioned into India n Pakistan. In 1971, Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan.
In 1992-93, the two parts of Czechoslovakia agreed to each go their own way. Thus, were born the Czech Republic and Slovakia after what’s been named the “Velvet Divorce”. About the same time, another kind of separation occurred, of course, in Yugoslavia. This one led to a bloodshed.
in 1965, Singapore split from Malaysia for a variety of reasons, including religious (Malaysia is majority Muslim, Singapore isn’t), ethnic/racial (Singapore has a very large majority Chinese population) and concerns over the Malaysian Bumiputra policy, which was (and is) basically a form of “Affirmative Action” for Muslim Malaysians – who make up the majority population in Peninsular Malaysia.
Ethiopia and Eritrea
Sudan and South Sudan are now separate countries.
USSR is now broken down into several countries.
I see separation as an avenue for a healthy competition for development as the case of Singapore and Malaysia, India and Pakistan, Norway/Denmark/Switzerland.
The United Nations has even made it easier for ethnic nationalities that seek self-determination. In the case of Nigeria, I am sensing a healthy competitive development among the original component part, the North/West/East each making useful progress while competing with the others.
It is not about war after all there is nothing wrong for one to decide he is no longer comfortable with the union and therefore want to opt out.
While doing my research on this write-up, something struck me and I realized these facts about most of the countries that were given name by colonialists:
I take my cue from Myanmar -. British named them Burma. They have rejected it, restructured and renamed themselves Myanmar.
Burkina Faso- British named them Upper Volta, but they rejected it, restructured and renamed themselves Burkina Faso – Land of Incorruptible People.
Ghana- British named them Gold Coast, they rejected it, restructured and renamed themselves Ghana.
Zimbabwe- British named them Southern Rhodesia. They rejected it, restructured and renamed themselves Zimbabwe.
Zambia – the British named them Northern Rhodesia. They rejected it, restructured and renamed themselves Zambia.
Tanzania – British named them Tanganyika. They rejected it, restructured and renamed themselves Tanzania.
Namibia- Germans named them colony of South West Africa. They rejected it, restructured and renamed themselves Namibia.
Benin – France named them Dahomey. They rejected it, restructured and renamed themselves Benin.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)- Belgium named them Zaire. However, they rejected it, restructured & renamed themselves Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
With us, we appear to be stuck. Britain named a bunch of people – Nigeria. They rather kill to preserve it than restructure and give themselves a befitting new name.
“It is only an animal that bears the name that is given to it by his enemy” (Proverb).
Do you know that in today’s Europe there is no single one multi-ethnic state anymore where one group is positioned to dominate the rest that hasn’t broken up?
For those who do not know, what you call ethnic groups in Nigeria are called nations in Europe.
There’s nowhere in the world where the white man accepts domination from another white man in perpetuity.
It used to be so under the Roman empire and the like. Not anymore. The Communists tried it, dividing society into capitalists and proletariats, deluding themselves that ethnicity is effectively swept under the carpet, but what followed? The Communist edifices in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the big brother, USSR, all collapsed, while the two Germans that are ethnically the same but split by communism vs capitalism were reunited. Such is the power of ethnic nationalism.
Czechoslovakia was made up of two ethnic groups, the Czech and the Slovakians. Both separated peacefully on 1st January 1993. The former is today 10.6 million people and the latter 5.4 million. Added together, they’re not up to Lagos. Yet, they split for peace. Two masters can’t be in the same house.
Yugoslavia in 1991 was 23.2 million, barely more than Lagos population. It broke into six countries same year – all along ethnic lines, namely: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.
Then the big brother, USSR. It had, at least, the following ethnic groups identified by their languages:
Ukrainian, Belarusian, Uzbek, Kazakh, Georgian, Azerbaijani, Lithuanian, Moldavian, Latvian, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Armenian, Turkmen, Estonian.
Abkhaz, Bashkir, Buryat, Chechen, Finnish, Volga German, Korean, Ossetian, Tatar & various others.
Today, your fingers will not be enough to count the number of countries that have emerged from the USSR.
Sit down there and be preaching unity in Nigeria as if you’re the kindest gentleman on earth while you have no solution to the genocide in Southern Kaduna, the illegal but officially condoned arms in the hands of killer herdsmen roaming the country, and be condemning those better informed about the fact that the country is undergoing the strains of a forced union and should be peacefully restructured or let people go their separate ways.
In Europe, the two best examples of fairly stable multi-ethnic states are the UK and Switzerland. The former is led by reasonable men who permitted regional autonomy to the Irish, the Scots and the Welsh, while the English dominate Westminster. That’s something some of us are asking for, but you’re fighting against it in your own country wracked by ethnic crisis. Your own people are better off under oppression of fellow black men because your people have bad leaders who can’t do better than their new internal colonizers.
The latter country, Switzerland, has four ethnic groups. Each of them rotates the presidency annually through seven cantons that constitute the federation units. All the four languages of the four ethnic groups are recognized as official languages and school languages to boot, namely: German, French, Italian, and Romansch that has just a few thousand speakers!
There’s nowhere in the world where the Caucasians allow the domination of their group by another.
In Canada, Quebec is the only full French-speaking province, aside a little section of New Brunswick. The other seven provinces are English-speaking. Yet, Canada is bilingual for the sake of Quebec! And each of the provinces is largely self-governing.
Here we are in Nigeria, you have people arguing vehemently that a decrepit, structurally-flawed, and crisis-prone artificial contraption badly configured by the British only needs good people to survive. Why not centralize the powers of the British regions to London and see what happens?