By Charles Adingupu
Since the enthronement of independence, the various ethnic nationalities which make up the geographical space call Nigeria, have been laying conflicting claim to the centre.
The historical literature of Nigeria shows that the North has held-sway in overseeing the affairs of the nation to the detriment of others. But beyond this mundane postulation, remains the realisation of good governance which is attained under a democratic government. It is unarguably that democratic rule focuses on equity, fairness and human governance, a tripod which helps sustainable poverty reduction strategies.
Ironically, these hardly happen through appeal to politicians but rather through enlightened populace who insist on their rights and by being intolerant of poor governance.
However, the Chairman of The Human Rights Investigation Commissions (HRIC), Honourable Justice Chukwudifu Oputa lamented the havoc brought about by the military and the attendant consequences of bad governance.
His words: “During the period of military rule, most of our rulers’ principal motivation and preoccupation were not service to the country but the accumulation of wealth and personal gratification. Military rule has left in its wake a sad legacy of human rights violations, stunted national growth, a carperists and static state, increased corruption, destroying in its own internal cohesion in the process of governing and posing the greatest threat to democracy and national integration.”
But fortunately for Nigeria, democracy which ought to have ushered in the desired social equilibrium has become an albatross to the Nigerian populace. Politics is being personalised. Therefore patronage has become essential to power as leadership assumes broad discretionary authority and loss its legitimacy.
According to the World Bank, governance is simply the exercise of political power to manage nation’s affairs. The liberal democracy which Nigeria practices emphasise electoral competition in a content of high inequalities particularly among individuals and groups and an authoritarian state such that people vote without choosing, and when they do, the only option is between two oppressors. This state of affairs has created a widespread poverty and ignorance which impedes good governance and threatens democracy.
Although the military was initially viewed as the prototype of modernity and has subsequently portrayed as a bulwark against social unrest. But events in the past had proved the contrary.
Today, some contentious issues in Nigeria’s federalism which revolve around the equitable and fair sharing of the national resources and access to national power seem to tear the nation apart. Most groups feel disillusioned and frustrated over these issues. Accordingly, they have led to the emergence of ethnic agitating groups such the Odua Peoples’ Congress in the West (OPC), Area Peoples’ Congress (APC) in the North, Bakassi Boys and Niger Delta militants in the Niger Delta and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) all fighting to protect their parochial interest.
More than ever before, Nigeria has never witnessed the upsurge of self actualisation of the different ethnic nationalities than she has experienced lately. The recent declaration of political autonomy and self determination by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and the people of Bakassi coupled with the naked threat of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Northerners who hid their malice under the veil of Boko Haram insurgence. The agitation of the Westerners under the aegis of Odua Peoples’ Congress for the creation of Oduduwa Republic cannot be left in the forgotten past.
However, a voyage into Nigeria’s political historic shows that agitation for self actualization of the ethnic nationalities is not recent development.
The Northerners’ Agenda
Among the different ethnic nationalities, north agitation for self actualisation started in earnest on the 31st of March 1952 when late Chief Anthony Enahoro moved a motion at the parliament for Nigeria’s independence. The move which was supported by Chief F. Awosika left Sir John Macpherson surprised.
But the Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) leader, Sir Ahmed Bello and the Sarduna of Sokoto counter it thus.
“Every community is the best judge of its own situation. In this regard, Mr. President, the people of the north are the best judges of their own situation and we cannot commit ourselves to fixing a date for the attainment of self government. We are fully aware of the implications involved and we want to make it abundantly clear that the destiny of the north is in the hands of the people of the north.”
However, before the end of the debate, Sir Ahmed Bello who enjoyed the tremendous support of his fellow compatriots of Mallam Ibrahim Imam and Mohammadu Lapai made a disparaging remark over the 1914 amalgamation of the old separate entities of northern and southern protectorates.
“This mistake of 1914 has come to light and I should like to go no further.”
At this stage all members of the House, it was reported staged a walk out.
However, the appointment of Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Belewa according to historians, made the north to be comfortable in the Nigeria project.
Since then, Nigeria have always maintained the ratio of pre-independence Nigeria in anything that must be shared at 54% to 46% ratio.
Today, the insurgence of terrorism in the north has been reported to have more of political colouration and an extension of the agitation of the early ones.
The civil war by Igbos
Barely six years, seven months and six days after independence, the Igbos engaged the federal government in a battle over perceived marginalisation.
Despite effort by the then Ghanaian head of state, Lt. Gen. Joseph Ankrah to settle the bickering between the leader of the Biafra troop, Late Chukwuemeka Ojukwu and General Yakubu Gowon at the Aburi conference, the Igbos insisted that “on Aburi we stand.”
However, in an apparent move to checkmate the secession plan of the Eastern region, Gowon created 12 states out of the existing four regional structure but Ojukwu went ahead to declare the whole of Eastern region as the Republic of Biafra.
Today, that perceived marginalisation of the Igbos still manifest in virtually all facet of our human endeavours. And the quest for self actualisation is currently being executed by the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra.
At different fora, they have demonstrated their preparedness to be independent if that will help to check the political imbalance in the nation’s democratic and socio economic equation.
The Isaac Adaka Boro’s Revolt
No doubt the agitation for self actualisation in the Niger Delta today began with the late Isaac Adaka Boro and his two fellow compatriots, Samuel Onwunaru and Wothingham Dick who struck like the Trojans in 1966 to extricate the Izon nation from perceived marginalisation in vis-a-vis criminal neglect of their people. Their revolution centred on inequitable distribution of the nation’s wealth and most of all, the degradation of their environment. They started a revolution which looked like secession with the theme: “Let my people go,” had a clear mission and articulated plan for the Izon nation but were subdued by the federal troops.
For a time, the agitation for self actuatlisation died until the late Ken Saro Wiwa of Ogoni working in the spirit of the Kiama declaration, fought tirelessly for the liberation of his people.
However, the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni eight, once again puts the agitation spirit of the Niger Delta people on suspension. Consequently, the youths in the area started kidnapping the oil company expatriate workers and occupying their rigs as well demanding for their own share of the oil wealth. This eventually gave rise to the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), upsurge of militancy in the Niger Delta and the uprising following their ostracisation from Nigeria.