A nation on edge: Will Nigeria’s break-up become a reality ?

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A nation on edge: Will fears of Nigeria’s break-up by 2015 become a reality ?
By John Bulus

R
ecently, there were agitations by some groups in Nigeria to gain ethnic autonomy.Amongst them are the Bakassi and Ogoni people. Events of the present time in the country have put the country on the precipice. Saturday Vanguard’s JOHN BULUS in this special report x-rays the situation.

“I want to assure all Nigerians that Nigeria cannot be disintegrated in any form and the present terror attacks across the country came as a thief in the night. My request for Nigerians is for us to continue in prayers while we do our best to satisfy the needs of all citizens.”

With these words, President Goodluck Jonathan who recently marked his one year in office reassured Nigerians on the country’s unity.

Ordinarily, these are wonderful words of assurances Nigerians from all walks of life would have loved to believe having emanated from the Commander-in-Chief himself who controls the country’s security apparatus. But unfortunately, recent events in the polity have continued to foster  uncertainties, contradicting the stance of the President on issues of Nigeria’s coporate existence and cohesion.

In fact, at the last count, in the thinking of most political pundits, every factor known from history to have caused the disintegration of most countries has persistently played out in Nigeria: there is high level of insecurity; corruption is untoward; mass exodus from one part of the country to another is on the increase and regions and ethnic nationalities are threatening war.

Explosive comments from supposedly Nigerian leaders have not helped the situation either. Hundreds of innocents are gruesomely killed by unknown attackers.

President Goodluck Jonathan coming in Armour Personnel Carrier, “Igirigi Apc” Manufactured by Nigerian Army Engineering Corp.

Churches and Mosques are being attacked and most essentially, some parts of the country have gone a notch higher to produce for themselves symbols, anthems and seals that confer a special status and recognition on them even as others have declared a republic for themselves. With this, one is wont to ask: Is Nigeria heading for
disintegration?

The Genesis:

For reasons best known to them, the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, a US military spy group in 2006 made a disturbing prediction that Nigeria risks disintegration in 2015. It said “While currently Nigeria’s leaders are locked in a bad marriage that all dislike but dare not leave, there are possibilities that could disrupt the precarious equilibrium in Abuja.

The most important would be a junior officer coup that could destabilize the country to the extent that open warfare (may) breaks out in many places in a sustained manner. If Nigeria were to become a failed state, it could drag down a large part of the West African region.

Even state failure in small countries, such as Liberia, has the effect of destabilising entire neighbourhoods.  If  millions were to flee a collapsed Nigeria, the surrounding countries including Ghana, would be destabilised.  Further, a failed Nigeria probably could not be reconstituted for many years-if ever-and not without massive international assistance”.

The report continued: “states with high levels of violence will not automatically be failed states; indeed, the ability of African countries to continue to muddle along, despite high levels of violence, should not be underestimated. For instance, 20,000 people have been killed in Nigeria while that country has maintained its democratic facade.”

In another part of the report, it was stated that “the state system in Africa is unlikely to divide into Muslim versus non-Muslim states, not least because of the split personality of many African states in this respect. It is highly unlikely, no matter other domestic developments that Nigeria will develop a distinct identity as a Muslim state, although religious conflict centred around Islam within Nigeria islikely to continue.”

That was one prediction, too many. In fact, as 2015 inches close, palpable apprehensions have become the lot of most Nigerians especially with the excruciating crises that have continued to stare the country in the face. Many Nigerians including those in the corridors of power dispel real fears as most factors predicted to be responsible for such break-up gradually play out.

But again, President Jonathan would not bulge or succumb to such speculation. He said in a recent media chat:” I don’t agree with that assertion. Nigeria will not disintegrate. This is not the first time people will come up with such idea. You must have read the book, ‘This House Has Fallen’.

Nigeria may have challenges, just like other countries. I remember in 1966 when I was in primary four, when we had the first challenge in the Niger Delta, when the late Isaac Adaka Boro declared secession and the Niger Delta Republic”.

Continung, the President went down memory lane: “In 1967, we had the Biafran war. Ojukwu declared the secession of the Biafra Republic. We had a civil war, but we are back together. So, these are major issues that affected the country. It is not just because people are detonating bombs here or probably because there are some level of agitation in the Niger Delta which, of course, is almost under control, then we begin to predict that we would disintegrate”.

To President Jonathan, the signs or harbingers of disintegrations are not yet here as he yet said: “A country that will disintegrate, you can study the psyche of the people. During the civil war, the south-easterners were the bulk of the members of the proposed new country called Biafra.

Now the Igbo have investments across the country. Go to the South-west, go to the North. You’d see that northerners have investments even in my village; as small as my village is, Nigerians from the North, East and West have bought lands.

“People who want to disintegrate will begin to shift back into their own geo-political zones. The behaviour of Nigerians does not really show that we are going to disintegrate. Look at us- because of ethnic diversities, we are beginning to predict that we would disintegrate  but we will not disintegrate. I will not preside over a country that will disintegrate. I assure you that we will remain one united nation”.

Former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB is also another Nigerian who sees no disintegration of Nigeria in sight. Instead, the retired General said he would re-list in the Army and fight for the existence of corporate entity of the country even at 71.

Hear him: “There is always what you call the struggle for self determination and is quite easy for people to come out with. In this same country, we fought the civil war for almost three years for the purpose of  living together. I carry a bullet in my lap, so nobody will talk to me about secession or breaking away. If you do, I will call a tailor, take my measurement, get back into khaki to go and fight even at age 71.”

But on the contrary, most analysts have posited that the country risks disintegration as against the wishful thinkings and comments of the leaders who in their (analysts) estimation have not subsumed their comments into actions, but have unfortunately engaged in verbal fisticuffs, vilifications and vituperations which have set the country on the edge.

Atiku and Lawal Spit Fire

Contrary to IBB’s position, his kinsmen and allies which included the former governor of Kaduna State, Lawal Kaita and former Vice President and Presidential aspirant, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku have drummed it into the ears of every Nigerian that the country will not know peace should a Northerner  fail to grab power in 2015.

Alhaji Abubakar Atiku

Known for his explosive comments, many people point accusing fingers at Kaita as the mastermind of the present security crises in the country owing to the statements credited to him in the build-ups of 2011 elections that Nigeria will be ungovernable for Jonathan should he become the President in 2011. As if that was not enough, the same maverick Kaita was yet to say again recently in Katsina that Nigeria will disintegrate if a Northerner does not become President in 2015.

Hear him: “We hear rumours all over that Jonathan is planning to contest in 2015. Well, the north is going to be prepared if the country remains one. That is, if the country remains one, we are going to fight for it. If not, everybody can go his way”.

Earlier in 2010, the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, had come out openly on the 14th of December 2010 to say “Let me again send another message to the leadership of our great country, especially the political leadership that those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable.”With these comments, one wonders what is left of Nigerian polity.

Insecurity and Boko Haram Insurgency

Undoubtedly, Nigerians have suffered from palpable fear and death in the last one year. Apprehension has not only enveloped the polity but many innocent people have been killed in one unfortunate incident or another via series of explosions that have bedeviled the country.

Perhaps, the most daring move was the condition given to President Jonathan by Boko Haram to convert to Islam or resign as panacea for security problems. To the President, that is an untoward request from him.

But the President replied that he cannot convert to Islam or resign his office, stressing that his mandate came from a collective vote of all Nigerians across religious divide.

Since then, the bombs have continued to go off. Consequently, many people, especially the Ijaw kinsmen of the President have been agitated by the audacious utterances of the Sect. One of them is the former President of Ijaw Youth Congress, IYC and Leader, Niger Delta Volunteer Force, NDVF,

Alhaji Mojaheed Dokubo-Asari. To Asari, the statement credited to Boko Haram was too confrontal and so, in a somewhat reply to that, the freedom fighter who is not a neophyte in arms struggle barked in a meeting he held with the youth of Niger Delta penultimate week in Abuja.

Said he: “The arrogance of Shekau and his group is un-Islamic. Which President if not Goodluck will accept somebody to tell him to become a Muslim or resign? What kind of insult? Is that what the Prophet Sallalahualihiwassalam did? Become a Muslim or this…? That is an insult. You don’t push somebody beyond the point he can go. The insult is too much. Did you do it to Abacha, IBB? They are not the only ones that can kill.

I don’t know why they will not listen. They are behaving like the deaf, the dumb and the blind. Death and starvation are coming to their house, yet they are showing arrogance. Let nothing happen to Goodluck, because if anything happens to him, the world will know”.

Continuing, Asari who warned that the situation may degenerate to war said: “On the issue of security and Boko Haram, the north will lose.In this battle, the north will lose. And I feel pain because I am a Muslim, and I know that the North will suffer. The people should think. When I engage my northern friends, I always tell them, maybe you people are not seeing the hand writing on the wall. This war, as I am talking, is not a joke, I saw it coming and the north will lose.

A Nigerian fan cheers

There will be no national army to execute the Biafra type of civil war, because Ijaw people in the army will leave, Igbo people in the army will leave, and everybody will form loyalty to his tribe.

The Yoruba people that the north is relying on, you know their history, Ojukwu is dead. He would have told you about them. It is better for us to trade the path of peace. We can live together and create a greater nation, but there must be a dialogue”.

Asari, a blue-blooded Ijaw man like Jonathan, has never believed in the entity called Nigeria and he tells anyone who cares to listen that he is from Ijaw nation in the Niger Delta region. Nostalgically, he remembered how the British imperialists fused the people of Nigeria together against their wishes.

“Let us come to the issue that is threatening the existence and survival of every one of us. Economically, Nigeria is at the lowest level of economic activity. Everything is comatose, why; because some people feel that by right, they have the power to rule over others.

This is happening because when the British came, they introduced a divide-and-rule style of government. Those who opposed and fought them for that were punished for fighting them. When the entity called Nigeria came to be, the British did everything to support the north, and they did that very perfectly and promoted them over and above others, including the kings of Kalabari who have had diplomatic relations with other nations of the world before the British came.

The records are there for anybody that wishes to find out if what I am saying is the truth. Independence was granted to Nigeria on the premise that the north was more populated than the south, which is strange  because there is nowhere in the world, where the dry Savannah is more in population than forest wet land, nowhere. But in Nigeria,all these empirical and geographical laws were set aside and a bogus population figure was foisted on us”.

Giving his own condition on the corporate existence of Nigeria as an entity, the Niger Delta leader said Nigerian government must call for a sovereign national conference to bring all ethnic nationalities in the country to negotiate their future in Nigeria, otherwise all efforts for unity will mean postponing the doomsday.

“The easiest way to solve the problem is to convoke a national dialogue where we will all sit down and talk. But if we continue to postpone it, we are only postponing the doomsday because as the attacks continue in the North, and if they continue to kill the Igbos, one day, one mad Igbo man will get up and say enough is enough, and he will go to Ama Hausa (Hausa Community) in Enugu, Owerri, Aba and in all the Igboland and attack and kill innocent northerners.Then, there will be reprisal this way and that way”.

Ogoni ‘Republic’ and Bakassi Community

The spirit and letters of Nigerian constitution provide that there shall be no other sovereignty within the sovereignty of Nigeria. But it has appeared that this message cannot be preached in Ogoni community in Rivers State. Barely two weeks ago, Goodluck Diigbo, factional leader of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) on Thursday August 2, 2012 declared independence for the Ogoni ethnic group in Rivers State.
Advancing reasons for his action, Diigbo stated in a statement that Ogoni people’s rights had been tampered with for long, adding that the new approach would afford Ogoni people access to how they were governed and who governed them.

“The urgency behind the declaration is that self-government for Ogoni is overdue in view of many important issues bordering on indigenous rights of the Ogoni people being tampered with now. The non-implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s on Ogoni  is one out of many,” Diigbo explained.

It could be recalled that similar agitations for secession and self-rule by Ogoni people obviously sent most Ogoni leaders to the great beyond when nine of their activists including the famous playwright, Ken Saro-Wiwa were executed by the Federal Government on charges of  ‘incitement to murder’ on November 10, 1995. Yet 17 years after their deaths, the people have not given up the struggle for secession.

Then enter the newest Bakassi Self-Determination Front (BSDF). Bakassi community became famous on the heels of legal battle between Nigeria and Cameroon over an oil-rich peninsula in the area at the International Court of Justice, (ICJ). The community is located at a border town between Nigeria and Cameroon in Cross River state. Against every expectation, the place was ceded to Cameroon and since then, the people of the Community who prefer Nigerian citizenship have continued to feel short changed.

Though the Nigerian government is currently seeking a review of the 2002 judgment that conferred the ownership of the place on Cameroon, the people of the community recently opted for self rule. The declaration which was spearheaded by the Bakassi Self Determination Front (BSDF) witnessed the hoisting of the Blue, White, Red official flag with eleven stars on the blue and launching of a radio station called ‘Dayspring’.

The Commander-General of the BSDF, Ekpe Ekpenyong Oku, in his maiden broadcast, pointed out that arrangements had been concluded with some international liberation groups to assist the Bakassi natives in the battle ahead.

“We call on men of goodwill, individuals, human rights organizations and the indigenous people of Bakassi to join hands in resisting and fighting the present international conspiracy,” Oku said in anticipation of fierce opposition that the group will face from the government of Cameroon whose soldiers are believed to have started re-mobilization in the area”.

Almost in quick succession, Bayelsa, the home state of President Goodluck Jonathan  within the week signed into law, a bill that gives the state a somewhat recognition. By that, the state now has its own symbol, anthem and seal.
In a statement signed by Chief Press Secretary to Bayelsa State Governor, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, he said the decision was taken at the end of the 7th meeting of the State Executive Council held on Monday August 6, 2012 to reflect the colours and symbols of the Ijaw nation.

Other issues

Apart from terrorism and the silent drums of secession from the Niger Delta communities, there are still, a million other unattended issues that still threaten the peace and unity of Nigeria. One of them is hinged on political power and who controls the presidency of Nigeria in 2015. By every indication, it is expected to reach a crescendo  by that time when the country will head for another round of elections.

While the North is seemingly pushing for a spoil should power elude them in 2015, the body language of the incumbent President, even though he has not made any verbal commitment appears to be nurturing a come back. But if the likes of Lawal Kaita make well their threats, then Nigeria is heading for the worse. Again, recall accusations and counter-accusations between IBB and former Minister of Information and Ijaw Chief, Edwin Clark over the state of insecurity in the Nigeria.

The former had lambasted the latter for accusing him of being tacit over Boko Haram insurgency.  Of a truth, the face-off generated bad blood, contributing to the growing insecurity problem, atmosphere of gloom and pessimism as muzzles flexed and still flexing. And in the light of that, many analysts are of the opinion that there may not be any end in sight of the Nigeria’s disintegrating threats.

The implications

While no one can be cocksure of events in the near future, keen observers believe that the present scenarios place one on tenterhooks and swiftly prompt massive fears for the future of Nigeria. Their submissions agree that  in the interim, the Niger Delta communities may be the only ones craving for self-rule, but if obvious factors that militate against the corporate image of Nigeria are not checked, the hurricane for secession may sweep across the ethnic groups of the country, causing the disintegration of the country.

Just then, the CIA’s prediction that Nigeria would break-up before 2015 would have come through.

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