The atmosphere was ominous; the official threat of fire and brimstone, accompanied by the full mobilisation of the destructive forces of the federal government, was unmistakable. But despite the gory atmosphere and the threat; in spite of Lagos state banning the proposed Yoruba Nation Mega Rally in contravention of the constitutionally guaranteed right of Nigerians to demonstrate or protest peacefully; notwithstanding the storming, in a gestapo fashion, the house of Chief Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho, in the dead of the night by security operatives, armed to the teeth and without Search Warrant in utmost disregard for constitutional provisions, the Yoruba Nation Mega Rally held on July 3rd, 2021 in utter defiance of the official illegality and its arrogance of power. The rally was held to the pride and admiration of the Yorubas of all walks of life at home and abroad, but it was also to the eternal shame of the federal government whose head was well known for their distaste for constitutionalism or legality. However, we do recognise that the rally was not without its fatalities; three Nigerians, including a 14-year-old girl, paid the supreme price for the dastardly official high handedness. They lost their lives, courtesy of the Buhari Administration’s reckless disregard for human lives in as much those lives do not belong to Nigerians of Fulani ethnic stock. We do, therefore, grieve over the loss of these precious lives and commiserate with families of the departed.
Of course, the Nigerian public was not hoodwinked by the stated official position that their mission to Sunday Igboho’s house at that unholy hour was to arrest, but not kill the prominent agitator for Yoruba nation, in order to forestall the staging of the mega rally for self-determination of Yoruba nation. No one was convinced by that cock and bull story because had they succeeded in killing their quarry, the security operatives on the unholy mission would not have owned up, and the murder would, as usual, have been attributed to unknown gun men. In any case, it is curious that the quest of the Yorubas for Self-determination will attract the heavy handedness of the federal government, thus provoking the following questions: Is Nigerian government acting in honest ignorance of the meaning and import of Self-determination? Is there a parallel line between self-determination, insurrection, treason or treasonable felony? Why will a quest for self-determination be conflated with criminality such as treason or treasonable felony by the Nigerian government? Can Self-determination be conducted peacefully and without recourse to violence or bloodshed? I will attempt to respond to these questions in this piece. But before doing so, I think there is the obligation to apprise readers of the genesis of the sudden 'to thy tent, O Israel' cries that have seized the Nigerian public space.
Though the dubious conjugal union of 1914 had been preserved without much rancour, through the embrace of a federal constitution that recognises Nigeria's diversity, with potentialities it had harnessed during the pre-15th of January Revolution for the developmental feat recorded between 1960 and 1966. However, all of this changed with the 'arrest' of the 15th of January revolution by impostors who, subsequently, imposed Decree 34/Unification Decree, which abolished the extant federal constitution that granted the federating units (regions) freedom to run their governments however, subject to the provisions of that constitution, and the 29th of July counter coup d'etat by the Northern arm of the Nigeria Army who, aggrieved by the disproportionate loss of Northern political leaders to the 15th of January Revolution, rejected the Unification Decree.
Ironically, since the Northern wing of the Nigerian military took over the reins of government, the stone (Decree 34) which the builders (Northern military/political Oligarchs) once rejected had since become the cornerstone of their governance system - their preferred constitution for Nigeria, notwithstanding the fact of its being an aberration for a heterogeneous country like Nigeria. But why the sudden enamorment with the Decree 34, an otherwise unitary constitution, by the North? One important reason is the fact of its conferring absolute power on the central government, making the president of Nigeria extremely powerful as he controls the burgeoning exclusive legislative list and accumulated the largest chunks of the national resources, leaving very little for the federating units. Unfortunately, these large chunks of national resources, controlled by the central government, are largely misappropriated, mismanaged, unappropriated but spent, openly stolen or disposed of inequitably; indeed, in Nigeria, kleptocracy has become a byword for governance. Expectedly, the little left for capital expenditure is grossly inadequate, thus explaining the underdeveloped state of our national economy. Another reason is the inequity or inequitable benefits the core North derives from the aberrant constitution. All of these disadvantages came into open because President Muhammadu Buhari happens to be an ethnocentrist (Fulanicentrist), a nepotist, a Fulani irredentist and an irredeemable geo-hegemonist who sees Nigeria from the prism of Fulani hegemony. It is certainly for this reason that President Muhammadu Buhari has attracted to himself and his government virulent opposition from members of the federating units, who are at the receiving end of his policy of exclusion, inequity, inequality or unequal apportionment of opportunities and privileges, favouritism, religious bigotry or other objectionable treatments. Consequently, we do not need to go far in search of the raison d'etre for the current uproarious clamour for political restructuring or for the upsurge in the number of self-determination groups in the country under the Buhari Administration. It thus explains why in this write up, I am concerned with the Buhari administration's high handed or self-induced cataclysmic response to the quest for self-determination by two of Nigeria's ethnic tripods. I am referring to the quest for Oduduwa Nation as well as the Indigenous People of Biafra's (IPOB) quest for Biafra republic. I believe very strongly that Buhari’s high-handedness or his self-induced political cataclysm, betrays his deliberate abysmal ignorance of what self-determination is, which makes his administration to erroneously conflate that concept with treason or treasonable felony, thereby charging the leaders of the Self-determination groups with the political high crime.
I say deliberate absymal ignorance of the concept because, in his 2015 address to the UN General Assembly, President Buhari had acknowledged self-determination as an inalienable right. So, why the President's volte face; why is President Buhari conflating or drawing a parallel lines between self-determination, insurrection, treason or treasonable felony when there is none? It ought to have been clear to our President that by so doing, he is saying that Nigeria is an island unto herself and can therefore operate outside the ambit or purview of international law or outside of the UN Charter on self-determination.
To understand what Self-determination means, President Buhari is enjoined to learn from Dr. Peter Ejeshi's exposition on self-determination. Dr. Peter Ejeshi, a clergyman presents, in the Vanguard Newspaper of August 2, 2017, a beautiful allegorical explication of Self-determination or the quest for it when he writes inter-alia: "The truth is that no matter how much one tries to keep an eaglet with chickens, one day the eaglet will fly away. You know why, it doesn’t belong to that domain..." My understanding of the Clergyman's description of self-determination is that 'likes' will always congregate in peace and harmony while 'unlikes' will have to contend with frictions and conflicts ad infinitum. This is a natural law for a stable and lasting political union. This means that any extra-legal attempts, including brute force, murder or assassinations, to crush, suppress the popular will, desire or the inalienable rights of a person, group of persons or ethnic group(s) to make choices and manage their own lives will, in the end, fail. This is because Self-determination allows people to feel that they have control over their choices and lives.
Dr. Peter Ejeshi's explanation of Self-determination is very implicit in the dissolution of the USSR into its component parts without bloodshed. But had the behemoth gone the whole hog by applying the Ejeshi's 'Theory', or the aphorism that 'birds of a feather flock together', the bloody war of independence of its satellite nations would have been avoided. It means that quest for Self-determination will be unnecessary because ethnic/cultural homogeneity is a key factor of formation of nation states. As it was with the USSR and its now independent satellites, so it will be with Nigeria if it ignores Ejeshi's 'Theory', or the aphorism that 'birds of a feather flocking together'. This is bound to happen in spite of the hypocritical mouthing of "Nigeria's unity is not negotiable". Doing this needful means accepting that the quest for self-determination is an inalienable right of people "to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no interference"; this is backed by the UN resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, that states unequivocally the "importance of the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, national sovereignty and territorial integrity and of the speedy granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples as imperatives for the full enjoyment of all human rights". Besides, the concept has psychological implication because it underscores a people's ability to make choices and to feel that they have control over their choices and lives, and are at liberty to manage their own lives as they deem fit.
It will be a mistake of monumental proportion for the Buhari administration to think that the quest for Self-determination is a Southern affair only. No, it is not! Recent developments in the Northwest indicate that self-determination is fast cruising home to the region. The bloody confrontations between Hausa and Fulani bandits speak eloquently to the realisation by the Hausa of the deception in "One North One people One Destiny" sloganeering epithet; the Hausa have realised that they cannot share the same destiny with their enslavers, the Fulani. The Hausa are now exacting their own pound of flesh on the Fulani over their century of enslavement by the Fulani. The development is a veritable explanation for banditry in the Nigeria's Northwest.
In conclusion, I want to bring to the attention of President Buhari the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 which provides that “all peoples have the right, in full freedom, to determine, when and as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interference, and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social and cultural development". It is hoped that it will have a civilising influence on the president's decision, response and action vis-a-vis the quests of Nigeria's other ethnic nationalities for self-determination.
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