| by Osita Ebiem

( March 7, 2014, New York City, Sri Lanka Guardian) Nigeria just like the United Kingdom of Great Britain is a country of loose union of various ethnic peoples with diverse and evidently irreconcilable and mutually antagonistic cultures and religions. The Nigerian union was put together by a foreign power (the Great Britain during the colonial days) without any reference to the opinions of and due consultation with the indigenous ethnic peoples as to whether they would like to associate with one another as citizens of the same country. By this action the independence and sovereignty of the various ethnic peoples were forcefully taken away from them. Therefore, the Nigerian state or country is not a union of voluntarily consenting partners as is supposed to be the case in all modern states including the UK. As against the modern definition of the state as a contractual arrangement where willing adults enter into agreements with specific conditions on which to relate with one another, execute projects and resolve resulting disputes, Nigeria is an entity where most of the members do not even know why they are there in the first place.

Railroad construction project in 1963 to open market for agricultural produce in northeastern Nigeria
Courtesy World Bank
Nigeria as we know it took form and its name in January, 1914 when the British colonial governor Fredrick Lugard chose to amalgamate the former two separate so-called South and North British Protectorates into one administrative commercial business entity. The step to amalgamate the two regions into one was taken primarily to cut the cost of running the two colonial business spheres and maximize profit for the home office in London. That was the original intention of the British for one Nigeria – purely to benefit a foreign commercial business interests. Every enactment, treaty, agreement and administrative structure was only for the benefit of the British and was not intended to profit the indigenous peoples. It is not surprising now that the Nigerian country which remained intact when the British left after independence in 1960 continues to unravel. After independence Nigeria could not and still have not been able to function to the benefit of the Natives. The non-viability of the existing Nigerian state is logical enough; much of everything in human existence functions on some basic principles. One of these principles is that no one plants yam and expects to harvest cassava. In the same vein the present Nigeria was not established to work for another purpose other than as a business enterprise for the benefit of a foreign entity. In order to make it serve the interest of the indigenous ethnic peoples, Nigeria must be redesigned completely and refocused differently.

By 1966 the generated disputes and clashes of the conflicting and irreconcilable sociocultural and political interests of the diverse ethnic groups had spun out of control. This led to the 1966 pogrom/genocide that was committed against the Igbo and the other Eastern Region ethnic peoples. Together these peoples will later be called Biafrans. In the pogrom/genocide Nigeria and Nigerians murdered over 100,000 Biafrans. This led to Biafra’s secession from the Nigerian union and the subsequent Biafra war (the Biafra-Nigeria war) of 1967 to 1970.

During the war Nigeria fought bitterly and viciously to maintain the unity of the country. In the process, apart from the 1966 pogrom and genocide, the Nigerian government and its people committed further genocide and crimes against humanity in Biafra and another 3 million Biafrans were murdered. Those dead were mostly women and children who were starved to death as the result of the Nigerian government’s policy of hunger as a legitimate weapon of war. Nearly fifty years since after the war there has hardly been any improvement from the first state of mutual intolerance, suspicion, bigotry and outright hatred of one another by the various ethnic groups that make up the Nigerian union.

It is in recognition of this persistent dysfunctional and deadly state of things that convinced the present Federal government of Nigeria on the need for national dialog or discussion. The government and of course the people acknowledge that Nigeria is not working hence the general welcome for this national discussion on finding solution to the problem of why Nigeria is not working. With this high expectancy it was believed that those who initiated the conference – Goodluck Jonathan’s government would be bold enough to go all the way and afford the people the opportunity that the colonial masters could not. Most people saw the idea for a national conference as a sign of the indigenous leaders becoming attentive to what the people they represent want. This is being responsible and responsive to the yearnings and sensitivities of the people. Very few people doubted that Jonathan having had a firsthand experience of the many absurdities and incongruences of one Nigeria would deny the people this chance to take their destiny in their own hands and look at each other in the face and tell one another the reason why they cannot live together as citizens of the same country.

The conference is supposed to be the best conducive and friendly platform on which the people will come together to tell themselves why and how the British made a mistake by merging strangers into an inconvenient and unworkable union. There is absolutely nothing wrong with acknowledging and verbalizing obvious facts and no one should be ashamed to hold opinions that are based on facts. It is the people who should decide what they should be called and who they should associate with as citizens of the same country. By allowing the people this unrestricted freedom at such a crucial moment as this the government would have been exhibiting a sense of wisdom and boldness. Every government anywhere should be humble enough to recognize the fact that the people are smart enough to know what they want. And in Nigeria right now the people want to discuss and decide on the best way to divide the country.

But it seems the government of Goodluck Jonathan gave in to pressure coming from the few individuals who are the only beneficiaries of the prevailing dysfunctional state of one Nigeria. Now Jonathan seems to be choosing to disappoint the vast majority of the people who are calling for the division of Nigeria, to satisfy the few but powerful individuals who want to maintain the deadly one Nigeria for their maximum profit. Jonathan who also experienced Biafra appears poised to be content to disappoint the majority to appease the few by restricting the topics to be discussed in the conference and even specifically saying that the issue of division should not be discussed in the conference. Such restriction is considered by some critics as an insult on the intelligence of the people by deciding for them as if they are but little children who do not know what is good for them.

As expected, Jonathan’s position is being defended by some allies. They say that Jonathan is justifying his position by saying that Nigeria will not disintegrate under his watch. But most analysts have countered that argument by concluding that he is just being emotional, sentimental and unrealistic. Those who disagree contend that Jonathan is actually lucky because he has so many very recent precedents that should serve to embolden him and lead him to do the right thing by dividing Nigeria. Gorbachev of the former Soviet Union is often cited as a very relevant example from whom Jonathan should take a cue.

The Nigerian union cannot be considered to be as successful or viable as the USSR at the time when Gorbachev presided over its disintegration into about 15 different countries. Jonathan’s critics say that Jonathan is even luckier because he has his best example in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, the creators of the disastrous one Nigeria. (As if ridiculous is not enough some Nigerian leaders have even been heard saying that God created Nigeria for some divine purpose. Nothing can be more stupid than this assertion.) The United Kingdom is made up of three union members, i.e. England, Scotland and Wales. These ethnic peoples have been together as members of the same country for about 307 years. From all indications, the union has worked and benefited every member but above all the union was entered into by these three peoples consenting and accepting to voluntarily surrender their sovereignty and independence for the mutual benefit of every member of the union. And from all appearances the union has really served its original purpose. Yet after 300 years, in September this year 2014 the Scots will organize a referendum to choose either to remain in the British union or opt out as an independent sovereign state.

Right now most poll results indicate that a vast majority of Scots favor independence and will overwhelmingly say yes to Scotland’s secession from the union. Closer home and on only July 9, 2011, those who favor division of Nigeria also cite the example of the two Sudans – Sudan and South Sudan. By these abundant examples Jonathan’s clause of no-go-area in the conference is being roundly condemned from every quarter as insensitive, even foolhardy and an invitation to an eventual avoidable violent break up of Nigeria.

Those opposing the continued unity of Nigeria also counter the no-go-area stance of the government by saying that after 100 years that all the treaties and agreements that established Nigeria in the British Parliament have actually expired since the Acts were specifically enacted to be in effect for only 100 years and not perpetual. So those in this school of thought believe that presently Nigeria exists as an illegal entity. They argue that even if Nigeria had worked that it has come full cycle and ripe for renegotiation by the various ethnic peoples who were forcefully compelled to belong to the union. But since Nigeria has not worked then the need for renegotiation becomes more compelling and urgent.

It’s also noteworthy that Nigerian unity critics have continually attributed everything that is wrong with Nigeria to its unity. They argue that Nigeria’s unity is responsible for the enduring poverty, political corruption, insecurity, bad governance and lack of progress. So it makes sense that since unity has not worked for Nigeria that the leaders should listen to the people’s desire and try disintegration. Rooting for and actually making real effort at dividing Nigeria does not cast anyone in any negative light rather it is the sustenance of one Nigeria that does.

In today’s world we can solve most of our sociopolitical issues through dialog or discussion. And with the proliferation of so many weapons of mass destruction it becomes more foolhardy to do otherwise. Jonathan and his government are being offered this rare opportunity to peacefully dissolve the Nigerian union. Even the Great Britain is peacefully dissolving its own union of the United Kingdom. Nigeria must take a cue from there or inevitable war and violent disintegration will await it. This or any other generation of leaders cannot forcefully hold the various peoples captive in the Nigerian union against their will for too long anymore. And a patchwork or sloppy business is not what Nigeria and Nigerians need at this eleventh hour of a fast dying country. It needs a thorough surgical work that will solve the problem once and for all. And remember, talking about dying and disintegration for Nigeria is not an anathema as some people would think; so many great empires like Rome also died and Nigeria must die to let the people live.

For further reading on the urgent need to divide the Nigerian union please read the book by this author published by Page Publishing, Inc. New York. February, 2014. The book is titled “Nigeria, Biafra and Boko Haram: Ending the Genocides through Multistate Solution.” You can order a copy or more through any reputable bookstore worldwide, the Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Google Play, etc.