By Aiyeku Timothy
Several secessionist movements are gaining traction in Nigeria at present as it has touched more regions of the country than we had expected.
There is a common feeling of exclusion and injustice as expressed by units in the country, a situation that has led to alienation, suspicion and apprehension among various groups in the country.
The Igbos continued to feel alienated from Nigeria after the civil war. They believed they had been excluded from the political and socio-economic mainstream of the country, and the clamour for a separate existence from Nigeria continued to gain momentum.
It fair to recall that before the coming of Nnamdi Kanu, there have been secessionist from the southeast who have made the same call on the same ground. The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) was formed by Ralph Uwazuruike, a lawyer, on 13 September 1999.
Nigerian-British Nnamdi Kanu came heavily to the scene and created the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group, a more radical breakaway faction from MASSOB.
It became more intense with the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu for treason in October 2015. He was granted bail in April 2017 on health grounds before he later disappeared with reports that he is currently in the United States.
It has become an issue of no retreat as the group have continued to gain momentum, especially with the recent creation of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), formed to secure the region from activities of kidnappers and armed Fulani herdsmen.
To the amazement of many, there has been recent and growing agitation for the Yoruba Republic in the South-West with a popular activist, Sunday Igboho, leading the train for the demand of secession.
Like the Igbos, the Yorubas have claimed to be oppressed by the Fulani, especially in the wake of the reported attacks by the herdsmen in the region and the disappointment in the part of the Federal Government to deliver the dividend of democracy.
The Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Otunba Gani Adams, a voice in the South-West, has also given his support; as a matter of fact, he said there is no going back, despite the opposing stand of top politicians from the region.
In his words: “Whatever they want is what I also want. But we are supposed to ask where our kings, leaders and politicians are going because I also want the Oduduwa nation.
“There are many activists around the world who say they want the Oduduwa Republic. Never will I be the enemy of the Yorubas, and we do our virtual meetings and it is obvious that our people want the independence of the Oduduwa nation.”
Just before getting over the shock, the screamer happened as the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) gave their backing to the Igbos to leave Nigeria, as long as it can stop the bloodshed as was witnessed in the 1966 civil war.
The Director of Publicity and Advocacy for the NEF, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, stated at a press conference in Abuja that the country cannot afford to fight another war to keep the Igbos seeing that Nigeria is on her knees and already burdened with failures.
“The Forum has arrived at the difficult conclusion that if support for secession among the Igbo is as widespread as it is being made to look, and Igbo leadership appears to be in support of it, then the country should be advised not stand in its way,” the forum had said in the statement.
“It will not be the best choice for the Igbo or Nigerians to leave a country we have all toiled to build and a country we all have a responsibility to fix, but it will not help a country already burdened with failures on its knees to fight another war to keep the Igbo in Nigeria.”
Political commentators have noted that the elite political class are more interested in one Nigeria than the masses because of what they stand to benefit from holding political offices in Nigeria but the fact remains; no Nigerian wants the breakup of the country but for the feeling of injustice and oppression by units in the country that has deprived them of the joy and feeling of being a Nigerian.
A vox pop conducted by KAFTAN Post has hinted that majority of the Nigerian masses are unhappy with the state of the nation but will choose seccession as their last option.
Ene Okorie, a Kaduna resident said, “We all want one Nigeria but no one is happy with situation of the country, especially the insecurity and the attitude of the president. He behaves like he is just for a few people.”
According to one Ahmed Biu, “To be sincere, this country no be am o, this is not what we planned for but I dont think breaking up is not the answer but a change of government.”
On his part, Haruna Sabeyan said, “People are complaining, something should be done before it gets late.”
The government might be taking strict measures against secessionist groups but that has been condemned and seen as the last resort. As suggested by Southern governors, national dialogue and restructuring will help in getting the feeling of a Nigerian back in the heart of others.
Meanwhile, Max Siollun, a historian of Nigeria, believes that the government is unlikely to give in to the secessionists’ demands, particularly given the bloodshed of the 1967 war.
“There is very little chance of the federal government considering an independence referendum for any part of Nigeria,” says Siollun, the author of Soldiers of Fortune: A History of Nigeria (1983-1993).
“Nigeria’s elites will handle these secessionist demands the way they always do: via some form of unwieldy yet ingenious backdoor compromise.”
There is a need for fair and equitable development and policies that ensure equity and equality. Nigeria’s position in the international community is derived from its diversity and population.
It is also important to note that there are many contradictions in the motives for the various agitations. Some people use it as bargaining chips and some for personal gains, while some sincerely want secession. A good majority of Nigerians across the country do not support the movement, and would rather have a fair and equitable Nigeria than a separate state of Biafra and Oduduwa.