By Douglas Anele
As I disclosed in our discussion last Sunday, Nigeria’s military government and leaders of the eastern region failed to make inconvenient but necessary concessions which probably would have defused tensions and prevented further escalation. Unfortunately that did not happen, and the devastating avoidable civil war was the end result of that egregious failure.
Notwithstanding odious attempts in certain quarters to equalise blame for the conflict or contrive a moral equivalence between Gowon’s chameleonic attitude to the Aburi Accord and Ojukwu’s single-minded determination for its undiluted implementation, the heavier burden of responsibility must be placed at the feet of Gowon, his hawkish advisers, and British diplomats who always put Britain’s strategic economic interests above everything in relating with Nigeria because working in concert they sabotaged the accord. No fair-minded person can fault the insistence by Lt. Col. Ojukwuthat “On Aburi we stand.”
In my opinion, Gowon’s finagling and failure to implement that agreement is one of the greatest blunders committed by a Nigerian leader since the country was created by British imperialists in 1914.
Gong back a little bit into history, it can be plausibly argued that the fundamental error by leading pioneer southern politicians was their misjudgement of the real intentions of northern leaders which prevented them from considering seriously from the very beginning when the struggle for independence gained traction the need for a referendum across the regions to determine whether Nigeria should remain a single country, reconfigured into a confederation like Great Britain or be divided into at least four independent nations.
That costly oversight was one of the reasons why they missed the golden opportunity of northern procrastinations or prevarications about self-rule to compel Britain to partition the country in a manner similar to what happened in India. Both Gowon and Ojukwu believed in One Nigeria but disagreed seriously on the foundational principles upon which the country should be built.
At the Aburisummit Ojukwu had a clear idea of how Nigeria could be preserved as a single political entity which he formulated with following propositions: “It better that we move slightly apart and survive. It is much worse that we move closer and perish in the collision.” On the other handGowon was bereft of clear ideas about how that could be achieved, which made him vulnerable to manipulation by northern power mongers.
Finally, it is a serious mistake to think that a stable nation can be built on a foundation containing, among other centrifugal forces, nomadic migrant muslim Fulani whose ruling class believe that they are ordained by Allah to rule, together with the largely republican acephalous Igbo who are predominantly christian and the Yoruba with their unique blend of liberal world outlook and monarchy.
The parliamentary system inherited from Britain at independence was fairly successful in that the regions enjoyed a considerable degree of autonomy. But for the fixation with One Nigeria created by Britain, regionalism should have evolved or dovetailed into confederation, the only single political arrangement that could beneficially sustain Nigeria as a single political entity while allowing the confederating units to develop to their full potentials untrammelled.
Now, as the years inevitably roll by the expressions “restructuring” and “true federalism” bandied about all over the place by notorious wily politicians and others have become so misused and distorted to the extent that what they denote concretely cannot be delineated precisely. Consequently instead of endless hair-splitting arguments about restructuring or true federalism focus should shift to confederation along the lines of Great Britain since a confederal arrangement, aside from its obvious advantages in a multiply plural setting like Nigeria, is more clearly definable and, therefore, more actualisable.
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At this point, some questions should now be asked: must there be a country called Nigeria as created by Lugard more than a century ago? Is it really true that Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable and sacrosanct? All things considered, is Nigeria worth preserving? Looked at objectively, there is no good reason why Nigeria should continue to exist especially in its present form.
Knowing full well the importance of symbols in the political life of human beings, it is disappointing that since independence Nigerian leaders had not radically modified the geopolitical entity they inherited from Britain in order to signal to the world that they can chart a new course positively different from the one bequeathed by the colonial master.
For instance retention of the name ‘Nigeria’ shows lack of historical imagination and insight. In Africa names matter a lot, which was why leaders of former Gold Coast, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, Upper Volta and so on changed the names they inherited from European colonisers to designations that reflected their Africanness.
Additionally failure to think beyond what British colonialists envisaged for Nigeria prevented leading southern politicians from realising the extreme difficulty of creating a cohesive and harmonious nation with muslim northerners whose dominant worldview and values are so different from what obtains in the south as to leave very little in common on which such a nation can be founded.
I have made this point earlier, but it bears repeating since the ruling power blocks in Nigeria and their lackeys are still pretending that the country is a united and indivisible geopolitical community. As long as members of the northern ruling elite who are predominantly Fulani muslims operating with the hideous agenda of Fulanisation and Islamisation of the entire country retain their stranglehold on power Nigeria will continue to lurch from one ethno-religious and political crisis to another.
In this connection the major positive thing about Buhari’s failing presidency is that his unprecedented negative triumphalist nepotism has really opened peoples’ eyes by exposing the colonialist project of the Fulani military-civilian establishment. For this group, southern Nigeria must be subdued to pave way for the establishment of Nigeria as the homeland for the Fulani in West Africa and the Sahel, as explained by Bala Mohammed, governor of Bauchi State recently.
The differential policies on border closure for the north and the south; the bizarre visa-free programme which has allowed Fulani from other countries to pour into Nigeria; the absurd covert encouragement of muslim terrorists and bandits from the north by the federal government;taqiyyah-impregnated handling of the demand for restructuring by the ruling party (APC); and Buhari’s obdurate refusal to address wisely agitations in the south for self-determination through referendum – all this indicate that the Fulani colonisation programme of Alhaji Ahmadu Bello has gained momentum since Buhari became president in 2015.
Extremely selfish and myopic politicians, traditional rulers, prominent businessmen and professionals from the south are either unaware of the serious existential dangers posed by Fulani colonialist agenda unfolding before their very eyes or are actively helping Buhari and his foot soldiers to entrench muslim Fulani domination nationwide.
Sadly the Fulani have no solid history of creating an egalitarian political system that could beneficially serve as solid foundation for its hegemonist agenda in Nigeria. And despite dominating political leadership at the centre for decades using decrees andunitarist constitutions that vested enormous powers and resources on the federal government, there is no evidence that Fulani leaders in general are astute managers of human and natural resources. It is tragic that whenever a northern Fulani muslim and a southerner are available for the highest political office, the northerner with inferior educational and intellectual credentials emerges victorious.
In the First RepublicTafawaBalewa became Prime Minister instead of Dr.Azikiwe or Chief Awolowo. The same travesty occurred when Gowon, not Brigadier BabafemiOgundipe or Lt. Col. ChukwuemekaOdumegwuOjukwu, succeeded late Maj. Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, the first military head of state. About thirteen years laterAlhaji Shehu Shagari rather than Dr. Alex Ekwuemeemerged as the presidential candidate of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), and in 2015 Buhari defeated Dr.Goodluck Jonathan to become president. Of course there is no guarantee that the southerners that did not lead would have performed magic if they were allowed to lead Nigeria. However, consistent emergence of mediocre leaders from the north, aided and abetted by “useful idiots” from the south, have done egregious harm to the country.
Anyone who claims that Nigerian unity is non-negotiable and sacrosanct is either ignorant of how nations evolve, change or decline and disappear, or is benefiting unjustly from the extremely flawed system, or is suffering from poverty of imagination. Because Nigeria is hanging on an existential cliff-hanger now due to Buhari’s incompetent leadership, the time is ripe for radical reconstruction of her geopolitical architectonic. The best option is confederation followed very closely by peaceful dismemberment. Any other option is merely an aberration, a meaningless waste of time and lessons from history.