Beyond the Secessionists’ Agitations in Nigeria
By Zubaida Baba Ibrahim
While preaching for National unity and peaceful coexistence for the posterity of Nigeria, there comes a time when the need to call a spade a spade arises. There is a popular saying that goes ‘when there is smoke, there is fire.’ In a simpler explanation, things do not happen over time without a causal factor. Therefore, let us talk about root causes.
Firstly, I will like to state that secession is not only an African problem, neither is it a Nigerian issue. Likewise, in Nigeria, secession is not only an ethnic issue like many seem to presume. Of course, there has been the fight for the breakaway of Biafra in Igbo land in the South-East, but then concurrently the Yorubas in the South-West are echoing for the separation of Oduduwa Republic. Even amongst the youth, there are demands for the Arewa Republic in the North, as well as a clamour for the Niger-Delta Republic in the South-South. Even in the so-called Middle-Belt, there is agitation by a separatist movement.
If these secessionist agitations were exclusive to one region, we would easily call the indigenes ungrateful, callous, and flay them for unpatriotic conduct. However, the push for separatism has become the only exit strategy from the seeming hardship and security challenges that Nigerians have been facing. This is fueled by ethnic bigotry which has made the fight for secession a chaotic and brutal one. The reason we need to pay attention to the root causes.
It is widely conceived that marginalization is a clear and intentional deprivation of a particular group from ownership or participation in strategic decision making. The deprivation can be political, financial, social or appointment in seeming exclusive classes of interest and importance, military-wise, media and regulatory domains in a country. In my view, marginalization is a condition of hardship and forceful subjugation by a group against another especially on political influence and control of allocation of resources.
While the concept of marginalization in Nigeria is imagined to be towards some certain demographic, ethnic groups, or geographical locations. The actual marginalized faction is the average Nigerian citizen. It is for this reason I get worrisome for the future of the nation, especially when there is inter-ethnic bickering on social media and elsewhere or the demands for a zonal presidency.
The reality most of us do not like to accept is that political leaders do not involve the conciliation of the demands arising from various beneficiaries especially the masses in any course of political action. It only involves the extraction of resources that can be used to satisfy the demands of the elites for political sustenance.
The political relationship in Nigeria is clearly not between the leader and the led but it is a form of patron and client relationship in which the patron survives to the extent he satisfies the demands of his clients. Meanwhile, the client in return gives support as long as the patron does his end of the bargain.
Although this has been happening for decades it is quite unfortunate to see that Nigerians have become oblivious to the tactics by political elites and bourgeoisie class of fanning ethnic sentiments. The uneducated and the uninformed have to make the citizens insusceptible to the dwindling stability of the nation that is majorly instigated by them, which brings me to my second point.
Ignorance is another cankerworm. Lack of information at any stage of a dispute can make people apprehensive, desperate and easy to manipulate. Likewise, the human mind is prone to concoct ideas based on what is presented at the expense of reality. Though the media cannot be wholly flayed for the citizens’ bias and stereotypical notions, one should also not forget that the media are a part of the society with the ability to accelerate fears or reduce them.
The media’s role coupled with the low literacy rate in the country has made the masses to be at the mercy of whatever is being fed to them be it good or bad. The mass media channels and especially the unchecked social media take issues out of context or blow them out of proportion in fueling inter-ethnic rivalry and discrimination.
Another factor that enables these separatist rebellions is poverty. The damaging effects of poverty in any society is multifaceted. However, in Nigeria, the political activities of a few citizens narrow the window of life opportunities into a sliver for the masses.
Since there is a reservoir of poor, ignorant, uneducated and idle individuals who are ready to do anything for a token, they are easily being used as tools for criminalities. Hence the turnout for any hostility is usually huge with destructive impacts.
There are people who are of the notion that ‘Nigeria’ wasn’t meant to be a united entity of the northern and southern protectorates. There are others who are fighting for the sovereignty of their region. These crooked solutions do not breed new leaders neither does it breed new people. In fact, it doesn’t erase the country’s numerous issues overnight.
Political rights remain the overarching indicator of a country’s future and it is essential to note that a separatist movement’s ability to succeed and establish functioning political institutions are affected by the situations it came from. When it is doused in abhorrence and loathing for one another, this can affect the entities’ ability to set up functioning economies, schools and hospitals.
Arguably a nation’s lack of infrastructure deprives people of their civil liberties which allows them to become involved in politics. A functioning economy provides more money for citizens which helps in establishing a social equality. An equitable abundance of resources helps thwart off the desire of a minority group to snatch and control everything to satisfy its selfish wants.
It is for these fears that Nigerians should not narrow their options to pushing for a breakaway or zonal presidency but to uphold nationalistic goal and demand for policies that would fix these root causes.
Zubaida Baba Ibrahim
Staff Writer at PR Nigeria Center, Wuye Abuja.
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