By Eric Teniola
From last week, this piece continues with Awo’s argument that all federating units must be in agreement if war must be waged against any unit.
THE second factor is that Lincoln and others in the northern states were English-speaking people waging a war of good conscience and humanity against their fellow nationals who were also English speaking. A war against the East in which Northern soldiers are predominant, will only unite the Easterners or the Igbos against their attackers, strengthen them in their belief that they are not wanted by the majority of their fellow-Nigerians, and finally push them out of the Federation.
We have been told that an act of secession on the part of the East would be a signal, in the first instance, for the creation of the COR state by decree, which would be backed, if need be, by the use of force. With great respect, I have some dissenting observations to make on this declaration.
There are 11 national or linguistic groups in the COR areas with a total population of 5.3 millions. These national groups are as distinct from one another as the Ibos are distinct from them or from the Yorubas or Hausas. Of the 11, the Efik/Ibibio/Annang national group are 3.2 million strong as against the Ijaws who are only about 700,000 strong.
Ostensibly, the remaining nine national group number 1.4 millions. But when you have subtracted the Ibo inhabitants from among them, what is left ranges from the Ngennis who number only 8,000 to the Ogonis who are 220,000 strong. A decree creating a COR state without a plebiscite to ascertain the wishes of the peoples in the area, would only amount to subordinating the minority national groups in the state to the dominance of the Efik/Ibibio/Annang national group.
It would be perfectly in order to create a Calabar state or a Rivers state by decree, and without a plebiscite. Each is a homogeneous national unit. But before you lump distinct and diverse national units together in one state, the consent of each of them is indispensable. Otherwise, the seed of social disequilibrium in the new state would have been sown. On the other hand, if the COR State is created by decree after the Eastern Region shall have made its severance from Nigeria effective, we should then be waging an unjust war against a foreign state.
It would be an unjust war, because the purpose of it would be to remove 10 minorities in the East from the dominance of the Ibos only to subordinate them to the dominance of the Efik/Ibibio/Annang national group. I think I have said enough to demonstrate that any war against the East, or vice versa, on any count whatsoever, would be an unholy crusade, for which it would be most unjustifiable to shed a drop of Nigerian blood.
Therefore, only a peaceful solution must be found, and quickly too to arrest the present rapidly deteriorating stalemate and restore normalcy. With regard to the second categorical imperative, it is my considered view that whilst some of the demands of the East are excessive within the context of a Nigerian union, most of such demands are not only well founded, but are designed for smooth and steady association amongst the various national units of Nigeria. The dependence of the Federal Government on financial contributions from the regions?
These and other such like demands I do not support. Demands such as these, if accepted, will lead surely to the complete disintegration of the Federation which is not in the interest of our people. But I wholeheartedly support the following demands among others, which we consider reasonable and most of which are already embodied in our memoranda to the Ad Hoc Committee.
That revenue should be allocated strictly on the basis of derivation; that is to say after the Federal Government has deducted its own share for its own services the rest should be allocated to the regions to which they are attributable.
That the existing public debt of the Federation should become the responsibility of the regions on the basis of the location of the projects in respect of each debt whether internal or external. That each region should have and control its own militia and police force.