By Douglas Anele
In the last three weeks, I attempted to answer the deceptively simple but pregnant question: Was the amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria in 1914 a mistake? The nuanced conclusion that emerged at the end of my inquiry was that although the amalgamation was very beneficial to Britain and northern Nigeria, it was hugely disadvantageous and stifling for the Igbo, the Yoruba, and their southern neighbours.
Britain configured the country in a manner that gave northern region more landmass than the eastern and western regions combined. More significantly, the colonial master kick-started the entrenchment of Fulani caliphate colonialist domination of political power at the centre since independence by handing power over to Sir Tafawa Balewa, a move that retarded the developmental aspirations of southern peoples.
According to Emefiena Ezeani in his thought-provoking book entitled In Biafra Africa Died: The Diplomatic Plot, there is abundant evidence for the conviction especially amongst Ndigbo that had the former eastern region been allowed to exist as an independent Republic of Biafra to this day, it would have rivalled or probably surpassed Singapore or South Korea and become the pride of the black race.
Of course, due to the tremendous support Nigeria received mostly from Britain, Russia, Egypt and Spain, Biafra was defeated after about three years of hard fighting that cost over three million Biafran lives.
In this connection, only an emotionally frozen evil person would read about how Britain and a few countries actively participated in the genocide against Biafrans without being morally appalled that such wickedness was condoned by the same countries that fought tenaciously to safeguard Europe from the madness of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
But then, history is replete with such monstrosities, a testament to the fact that human beings can manifest a level of bestiality unmatched by any other creature on this planet. As a continuation of my critical engagement with the present political uncertainties in Nigeria, I will present arguments to justify the quest for the resurrection of a sovereign Republic of Biafra which, mutatis mutandis, means that such reasoning can also be used to support the quest for self-determination by any ethnic group or collection of interconnected ethnic groups in the country.
Now, it is clear to those who value justice, equity, and truth that the way Nigeria is structured and governed at the moment is very unsatisfactory and cannot work because there are serious congenital abnormalities in her DNA which would require radical genetic engineering to correct.
The most popular proposals in this regard, namely, restructuring and Igbo presidency project for 2023, are cosmetic and do not address the root causes of our problems. Only confederation or peaceful dismemberment can resolve the perennial National Question on a long term basis by providing the foundation upon which geographically contiguous and historically cum culturally related ethnic nationalities can build viable countries for themselves without being asphyxiated in a highly centralised administration dominated by members of another ethnic group.
Those still insisting dogmatically on One Nigeria are poor students of history either benefiting from the current gravely flawed system or are intellectually dishonest and lacking in creative imagination. Ultimately, two things will happen: either the Fulani (with the support of Britain and multinational companies involved in lucrative contracts in Nigeria) would eventually succeed in their planned conquest of the whole country or “Niger Area” will break into a few independent countries that might later decide to form a confederation of nations.
Most Nigerians who genuinely think that it is time to jettison the British colonial amalgam for either confederation under a new name like Songhai or complete dismemberment are afraid to state their views publicly due to the repressive attitude of the Buhari government to serious criticism, no matter how justified or well-argued such dissenting opinions might be.
Nevertheless, for those that genuinely cherish democracy despite its shortcomings, any country in which leaders use authoritarian methods to prevent citizens from freely expressing well-argued opinions, including views that not only criticise the leaders themselves but also question the foundations on which the country was built, is unworthy of genuine patriotism from the people.
The essence of democracy, according to the Viennese-born British philosopher, Karl Popper, is the opportunity it offers for healthy critical debate and non-violent periodic replacement of one set of people running the government with another. Implicit in the Popperian theory, therefore, is the power of the people to determine their political future, including the demand for self-determination if existing political arrangements are not delivering security and well-being to them.
This leads us to consider the so-called hate speech bill which, according to media reports, stipulates an outrageous fine of N5million for anyone convicted of the “offence.” It is disgraceful that members of the National Assembly who ought to protect the basic freedoms of Nigerians and top government officials like Lai Mohammed whose vituperations against previous administrations can be classified as hate speech in line with the new bill would introduce and support such a horrible piece of legislation cloned from the obnoxious Decree 4 of 1984.
The main danger with that bill is its inherent arbitrariness and openness to abuse by those in power, given that what they might consider as hate speech could as well be a bold unadulterated statement of fact by critics. As I adumbrated a moment ago, Lai Mohammed and many politicians supporting the hate speech bill would have been in serious trouble if such a law was in place during Jonathan’s presidency.
Besides, they should realise that no government in the world has ever succeeded in stifling completely people’s right to freedom of speech. It follows that the legislation is unnecessary and out of tune with democracy properly so called. Given the ephemeral nature of power, sometime in the future they might be victims of the rubbish they are championing now.
Freedom of speech without fear of reprisals by government is a basic right of civilised human beings. To be clear, the bill in question cannot stop responsible Nigerians from speaking out against bad government policies and actions. How is responsible democracy possible without freedom of speech?
Sentiments aside, and ignoring the tiny percentage of agbata ekee politicians together with their cronies across the top social strata reaping handsomely from the colonial contraption and clamouring for the continuation of One Nigeria, it is obvious that the country is a depressing example of contemporary black man’s failure in nation-building.
TO BE CONTINUED.