Monday, 26 June 2017

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Of quit order, self-determination and peace

Of quit order, self-determination and peace
Many Nigerians must be alarmed and saddened by the quit notice issued by some Arewa youths to the Igbos resident in northern Nigeria; particularly, given the impunity and intransigence so apparent in their letter to the Acting President.

If these young people did not experience the effects of Nigeria’s three-year civil war, their elders and sponsors must have. Many Nigerians sacrificed their lives for the fragile relative peace which some now take for granted. As the youths themselves have rightly observed, Nigeria lost some of her finest professionals across all spectra of our society, apart from the military.
Therefore, all Nigerians, particularly traditional, political and religious leaders have a duty to speak up emphatically and call their young people to order. The deafening silence from those in the North who should speak up against this type of behaviour is, to say the least, very disturbing.
There are many others right across the entire country who are agitating for self-determination not just the Igbos. The peoples of the Niger Delta are doing so. The Yorubas in the South West are doing so and even minority groups in the North are doing so. Will the Arewa youths extend their quit notices to all these people too? How can we forget so easily the daily destruction of pipelines and other oil installations that almost brought Nigeria to her knees? How can we forget so soon the Acting President’s visits to the Niger Delta states including Cross River, which took place only three weeks ago? Were these visits not in direct response to and an effort to assuage the feelings of frustration, deprivation and injustice, which have generated the demand for restructuring to allow for greater autonomy and self-determination? So why single out the Igbos for crucificion?
In any case, the Ikwerres of Rivers State are Igbos as are the Ikas of Delta State. Both Rivers and Delta States are in the South-South. So how will the Arewas differentiate the Igbos from the South East from those of the South South. This is how irrational and idiotic the quit order looks.
The Arewa youths insist that “the only enduring solution” to the agitation for Biafra should be “through peaceful political process” and urge the Acting President to “take steps to facilitate the actualisation of the Biafran Nation” through a referendum. Their demand for an enduring solution for the Igbos also tallies exactly for the Niger Delta people and the Yorubas, all of whom clearly want self determination too. And the peaceful political process canvassed for by them lies within the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. This is what all Nigerians having been saying, which strangely, the Federal Government finds unpalatable and continues to resist.
But unless Government can muster the political will and courage to address the issues presented at that Conference, the agitation for self-determination will only get more strident and increase the risk of an implosion.
The actualisation of Biafra or any other state or nation for that matter to be excised or created out of Nigeria cannot be done by word of mouth. Word of mouth agitations only create tensions and incite avoidable violence. The Igbos are obviously agitating for autonomy to manage their affairs in the face of Federal neglect and inequity. Still, they need to be circumspect and perspicuous about the pursuit of their objectives. Actualisation of any state, if any group of people deem it necessary can only be done constitutionally if it is to be peaceful as the youths have suggested. The Government needs to urgently commence the process of writing a People’s Constitution which can be placed before all Nigerians for review and approval at a referendum. The Constitution must reflect the aspirations of all segments of our society and allow for greater autonomy and self-determination for the constituent states.
We copied our Presidential Constitution from the United States. All fifty states in the US have their individual constitutions and democratic structures and are allowed a fair amount of autonomy in the management of their affairs and resources. The Government in Washington does not owe the oil in Texas or North Dakota; or does it owe the gold in Nevada or Alaska. Even the United Kingdom UK, that operates a parliamentary system allowed Scotland to constitutionally conduct a referendum as to whether it wanted to remain part of the UK. Though the first referendum failed, there is already talk of a second one in the face of Brexit. And it will happen again if there is enough support for it, and peacefully too.
Talking about referendum and self-determination, it is, perhaps, somewhat heartening to see the Arewa youths make extensive references to the United Nations Charter. One would urge that they put the same amount of energy in persuading the Federal Government to take up the challenge of securing a referendum for the people of Bakassi. It was our Federal Government that without reference or consultation with the people decided to give away their ancestral land and homes to Cameroon. More than ten years after ceding Bakassi, the people remain refugees “in their own country.” The National Assembly is yet to ratify the Green Tree Agreement, which was suppressed for more than two years after an elaborate two-day public hearing conducted by the Senate.
A special committee has been set up in the Presidency with funding and support from internal and external sources (the international community) to help the Internally Displaced Persons IDPs, in the North East who have suffered so much as a result of Boko Haram insurgency. This is as it should be because Section 14(2)(b) of Nigeria’s Constitution as amended asserts that; “The Security and Welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” But why has the Federal Government not seen the need to make similar provisions for the people of Bakassi who have been displaced due to Government’s own direct (and, one might add unconstitutional) action? Rather the people of Cross River are punished further by taking their oil wells from them and the UN, which pushed Nigeria into ceding Bakassi, is content to declare that the people will soon become stateless.
If there are any people in Nigeria who demand and deserve self-determination, it must be the Bakassi people. They have a right to determine for themselves whether they want to be part of Nigeria, Cameroon or none of the two.
The Arewa Youths and their backers must listen to the voice of reason and allow peace to reign.

– Ewa-Henshaw wroties from Abuja.


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