For most Nigerians, the calls for the dismemberment of the country are disturbing. From the South East through the South West and the South-South, the rise in the agitation for secession has become such that ought to worry those who had the misfortune of living through the 30-month Civil War that almost crippled the country.
In the South West, the dramatic rise of Sunday Igboho who recently declared that Yorubaland is no longer part of Nigeria and called on the people of the ethnic group residing in the North to return home was alarming. In the South-South, the leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Salvation Force, Asari Dokubo, having fallen out with the leader of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, declared the formation of Biafra Customary Government (BCG).
Before Asari Dokubo and Igboho joined the secessionist agitation and while Kanu-led IPOB dominated the space in the last six years, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) led by Ralph Uwazuruike had held sway during the military era and the early days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
Although there hasn’t been any agitation for secession in the North, the quit notices flying around are enough to cause disquiet in the region and elsewhere. Before now, restructuring was the dominant theme for those who have reasons to believe that the Nigerian nation could be better managed.
For those fanning the embers of separatist agitations, the crux of their argument is the pervasive insecurity on the one hand, and the seeming almost ineffectual approach to tackling the menace by the government on the other. Frighteningly, in the opinion of this newspaper, the narratives spurned by these ethnic champions have been gaining traction in their regions.
What’s more worrisome is that the space for constructive and intellectual engagement seems to be narrowing in the face of the growing audacity with which these secessionists stoke the embers of disintegration.
However, it’s not all gloomy after all as the secessionist calls have been opposed by more discerning minds within those zones where these calls are the most strident. In the midst of such identifiable rascality, majority of stakeholders are pledging loyalty to Nigeria.
On the surface, these counter narratives are reassuring. However, as a newspaper, we believe that there is need for more to be done especially on the part of government to ensure that such caustic rhetoric are subliminally pushed back. While it is clear that the use of force might not be totally effective at this point, if anything, it might escalate the situation, we nonetheless advocate the use of sincere, but clear persuasive messaging procedure to douse the tension in the already heated space.
We are persuaded to suggest that the messaging process would underscore the point that the nation’s diverse cultural background, ethnicity and religion are supposed to be strong foundation on which to build the structures of unity, tolerance and survival as well as eliminate the psychological barriers that seem to hold back the efforts to make Nigeria a viable entity within the comity of nations. That message must necessarily project Nigeria in good light and do away with negative tendencies that feed on parochial interests.
But beyond the message is the need for concrete steps to be taken to frontally address nagging demands by the people who cite certain inadequacies in the body polity as their reasons for indulging in this distractive pastime. The call for devolution of powers to ease the stranglehold the centre has over the constituent states has been rife.
At the heart of this call is the heightening insecurity across the country as well as the weakness of the system to guarantee its citizens the basic quality of life much less the opportunity to actualise their full potential.
Furthermore, in our view, the complaints over the failure to address some criminal acts, issues of corruption and other nepotistic affiliations tend to project the government as being either ineffective or complicit and invariably encourage unwholesome allegiance to alternative source of protection.
It is imperative, therefore, that the government realises the fact that it has a critical role to play in this matter that requires reassuring the citizenry that their well-being is still the main objective of its existence. We are enamoured by the calming words of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who had stated that Nigeria would not break up, stressing that expectations of those wishing Nigeria well outnumber that of those wishing for the country’s break-up. As far as these words go, they need to be backed with concrete actions that will show the way forward.