December 29, 2021

Nigeria’s second civil war

Nigeria’s second civil war

By Sola Ebiseni

I HAVE always wondered at the often-quoted statement that no country survives two civil wars. I do not know the origin of that theory but simply assume that it was based on some empirical evidence by people to whom any form of security or military expertise may not necessarily be ascribed. After all, one would justifiably say there have been two World Wars, yet the world is probably stronger for it.

Now I know better, that the ongoing civil war, which daily gains traction in space and velocity, is very much unlike the earlier one over Biafra which in itself is still ever-present. The raging civil war is also unlike the 16 years (1877-1893) Yoruba Kiriji War, reputed to be the longest civil war in history.

Kiriji, though an internecine war among various tribal states of the Yoruba ethnic nationality, the contending powers knew one another and the causes of the conflict. The coastal Yoruba states of Ilaje and through Ikale and Ondo territories provided the alternative and circumventing routes for the supply of arms to the eastern Yoruba states outside the Egba-Ijebu which the Ibadan was used to. Only the intervention of the British, an armistice entered at ImesiIle in 1886 by the warlords, finally brought peace.

The civil war of 1966-1970 was the first official war since the different constituent ethnic nationalities were grouped together into the modern sovereign state of Nigeria. The war was very clear in its cause and main theatres. The rest of Nigerians were recruited into a Nigerian army fighting their compatriots mainly in the South East and parts of South-South some of whom were actually moles on the Biafran side.

 That they were able to hold out for 30 months with the relatively humongous arsenal of the rest of Nigeria speaks volumes of the Ndigbo, not necessarily of its much-vaunted Ogbunigwe military hardware but the pride of the most republican African race. If Nigeria ever thought Biafra was dead with the surrender on January 15, 1970, of Philip Effiong, Ojukwu’s then second in command, events since then are only suggestive of a nation sitting on several kegs of gun powder.

When Muhammadu Buhari took over the Presidency in 2015, not a few people forgot his previous actions and mindset which were absolutely indicative of his incapacity to perform the task of keeping Nigeria one. The Yoruba, especially, would not easily forget the unjustifiable invasion of Awolowo’s house and seizure of his passport to prevent him from leaving Nigeria even when he was then not in any public office.

His lieutenants, as governors, who were absolved by a military tribunal, were never released from detention but re-arraigned by the Buhari junta, two of whom, Professor Ambrose Alli of the old Bendel State and Chief Bisi Onabanjo invariably paid with their lives. But all the above paled into insignificance as the nation was most expectant of a saviour to deal with insecurity which was then essentially confined to the North East territorially.

Contrary to the noise being made by some government spokesmen, including some of the cabinet members who still manage to risk their integrity speaking publicly for this administration, the attitudes of Nigerians today is simply that they want to live. Whatever impact the dollar has on the economy, the people no longer care; they just want to access their farms, if only for subsistence operations until the current hell comes to an end. 

Rotimi Amaechi may decide to extend his rail tracks beyond Maradi even to Niamey, even where there is no longer passage from Sokoto Zamfara; the Chief of Naval Staff may choose to avoid the deep sea at the coast of Ilaje in Araromi or Erunna and site his naval base in Kano; Nigerians scrutinising the nepotistic list of Buhari’s security chiefs currently on tour of the tip of the North West of Sokoto and Zamfara no longer bother if they are all from Daura; they just want to sleep, even if it is with one eye closed for now.

This current civil war has no precedent in history. It has shattered all the myths we used to hold dear. It has thrown up the Middle Belt tribes most vociferously craving its strict identity tucked within states deliberately created to sandwich them within states they could never aspire to govern.

As at the time of writing this on Monday afternoon, the press is agog with never-heard-of Hausa ethnic nationalism. The press reported the emergence of “Hausa Association of Nigeria, also known as Kungiyar Hausawan Nijeriya or KUNHAN, which in an open letter called on President Muhammadu Buhari to resign from office because of the obvious failures of his administration”, adding that “the Buhari regime spared Fulani terrorists and bandits, but went after agitators such as Nnamdi Kanu, the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra and Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, Yoruba Nation agitator”.

ALSO READ: Why doctors are leaving Nigeria in droves —NMA President

The Association specifically identified “Turji and Co as a high profile deadly Fulani terrorists but still nowhere to be found because they are just a threat to Hausas rather than your sovereignty while Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho could be found even beyond our territory.”

They listed all the vices of destruction of their means of livelihoods, including the violation of their sisters, wives and mothers which they unpretentiously put at the door steps of some members of the same ethnic nationality the rest of the country has been complaining of since the advent of the Buhari administration to no avail.  For those experts, who reasoned that no nation ever survived two civil wars, this intractable and undefined war if allowed to blossom may sing Nigeria’s nunc dimitis.

On APC manifesto and restructuring: It is not part of our culture in Yorubaland for little boys to interfere in the dialogue of elders. So no temptation will make me dwell on some of the issues raised in Chief Bisi Akande’s just released autobiography, My Participations. I was only curious on some of the issues that concern the whole nation which might expose the Yoruba to ridicule on important national affairs. I was dumbfounded to imagine Pa Akande claiming APC never promised Nigerians restructuring and querying the definition of the concept.

I took a look at the manifesto of the party online and the first item therein is that the party shall “initiate action to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit”. 

I doubt if the APC would embark on matters which it found impossible to define, even at the time Baba Omokekeke was the national chairman. If restructuring is not about reinventing true Federalism, what really is it?

As a reminder to the former Governor, it was the insistence on the fulfilment of this promise of ensuring the restructuring of Nigeria on the path of true federalism by the citizens, that forced the party to set up the El-Rufai Committee on True Federalism in 2017.

We do not insist on Chief Akande’s understanding of restructuring; we do not even bother if he still recollects that the agitations of NADECO, led by the Afenifere, and its insistence on restructuring through the instrumentality of a Sovereign National Conference, that ultimately provided the platform that made him Governor of Osun State in 1999. All we ask of Chief Akande and the APC lords is to take steps to implement the El-Rufai Report before the 2023 elections.

The PDP members in the National Assembly who have been canvassing for the implementation of the Jonathan 2014 National Conference will readily support the majority APC on its own report. They are both of a kind with the Rufai Committee drawing absolute inspiration from the 2014 edition. 

Lest I forget. I was a delegate to the 2014 National Conference, then in my early fifties. Overwhelming majority of the  about 84 South West delegates were below 60. While we have less than 20 percent in their 70 and above, we have far older compatriots from other climes.

Pa Edwin Clark, perhaps older than any of the Yoruba elders at the Conference, was the leader of the Southern Nigeria caucus. Alhaji Tanko Yakassai fall into that category, older than Ayo Adebanjo and a convenient uncle to Chief Olu Falae. There was also the Chairman of the Conference, Justice Legbo Kutigi, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria of blessed memory.

Time and space are not on my side, but it is important to inform that the APC, particularly in the South West, deliberately shunned the Conference, except for their Governors who sent three delegates each

In spite of their braggadocio, the Committee set up by the APC, led by El-Rufaicould not go outside the unassailable 2014 CONFAB report

Itsekiri Yoruba origin echoed at Pa Pessu’s 10th birthday in Warri: Over the weekend, our Leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, commandeered Abagun Kole Omololu, the National Organising Secretary and I to represent the Afenifere in Warri at the centenary birthday of Pa Daniel Solomon Tuedonjeye Odeworitse Pessu, a former Chief Magistrate,   parliamentarian and political juggernaut of the Awolowo school of politics.

It was a celebration that involved noble men and women from all walks of life trooping in and out of the centenarian’s modest residence at Pessu town. Political bigwigs, particularly from Delta State and the celebrated Itsekiri nation, graced the occasion.

As soon as my presence was announced as representing the Afenifere, as Abagun could not make it for flight difficulties, Papa got excited and asked that I sat on the side of his chair. He baffled me with the remembrance of the veterans of the Awolowo political family and the exploits of yesteryears.

Papa DSTO, as he was warmly called, insisted I addressed the gathering before the end of the event. I was quite at home because the Itsekiri tongue and my Ilaje’s shared mutual intelligibility. As I addressed the crowd and reminded them of the Yoruba origin of the Itsekiri, the Iwere children were ecstatic, so confirming their origin. And when I made them understand my own Ilaje background, I heard the shout of “omere”, attesting to the fact that we are siblings.

I left Pessu in high spirits. Papa son, Olu, who himself is a member of the Afenifere was a fantastic company.

Vanguard News Nigeria