Why Secession Is Not The Silver Bullet To Nigeria’s Challenges (2), By Iliyasu Gadu

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The proponents of Nigeria’s break up hinge their reasons on three main pegs; the 1914 amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates which gave birth to Nigeria, the United Nation’s charter on self-determination and allegations of lack of representation and marginalization in the affairs of the country.

The notion that the 1914 amalgamation which secessionist groups say was the foundational move from which most of the current challenges facing the Nigerian nation emanated needs to be vigorously challenged and totally debunked. In this regard, it will benefit us to know that there was an earlier amalgamation in 1906 where the Lagos colony which had been in existence in 1862 was merged with the southern protectorate.

Like the subsequent 1914 amalgamation which seems to enervate the secessionists, the 1906 amalgamation too was a forced one between unwilling entities which had little or no cultural similarities. Pray what did the peoples of the coastal states in the Niger Delta region have culturally and historically with the Yorubas of the southwest? What links historically and culturally did the Igbos in the eastern hinterland have with Yorubas for that matter?

As far as can be deduced the reasons for rejecting the 1914 amalgamation also suffices for the one of 1906 in that they were both a forcible measure against peoples of different historical and cultural backgrounds.  Why then do the secessionists harp only on the 1914 amalgamation to press home their demands neglecting conveniently the 1906 amalgamation?

The reasons are simply because for their own narrow political narratives and ends which seek to justify a north versus south secessionist agenda the 1914 amalgamation narrative is more suitable. It would not make good strategy if they also have to cite the 1906 amalgamation which essentially by import and effect was similar to the one of 1914. How would it look for instance if Oduduwa secessionists say that the 1906 amalgamation was the reason why Igbos who are of different historical and cultural background have come to  dominate the economic and commercial life of Lagos and as such the Oduduwansare seeking out of this marriage with the Igbos forced on them by the British? Or the Igbos claiming that the 1906 amalgamation was responsible for the skewered nature of economic infrastructure being concentrated in the southwest which compels them (Igbos) to have to invest in the Lagos economic zone rather than the East at great inconvenience?

Another fallacy being peddled about the 1914 amalgamation which was purportedly signed by representatives of Nigerian entities, was that it was to ‘’expire’’ after a hundred years meaning by 2014. That Nigeria is still existing after the ‘’expiry’’ date of 2014 is something the secessionists are trying to instigate other Nigerians to agitate against and ensure the end of this ‘’expired contraption’’ as they call Nigeria.

Again this is as near a nambypamby narrative as it can get. By 1914 the British had established full and total control of the territory we now call Nigeria as all pre-existing entities such as they were had become subsumed under British rule. British colonial rule over Nigeria had been unquestionably established which made the amalgamation a purely administrative measure by a colonial overlord for which he did not need the permission of his subjects to carry out.

In this regard the amalgamation could not have been time bound as claimed and it was not. If ever there was a time for the amalgamation to ‘’expire’’ as claimed, it had to be at the end of the British colonial enterprise which at the time was not in the reckoning of the British.

If there was a genuine document that contained the terms and condition of the 1914 amalgamation including the signatories representing various signatories of pre-existing Nigerian entities as well a clause stating the date of ‘’expiry’’, the onus is on those peddling such as basis for the break-up of Nigeria to present it as proof to us of their justification.

In any case even if such a document existed, with Nigeria’s independence in 1960 it ceased to be valid because all entities in Nigeria at the time partook through their elected representatives to discussand agreed terms to be part of the new country. If an agreement such as being bandied about on the amalgamation existed and if the parties that took part in the independence talk agreed for its retention and inclusion in the independence constitution, it would have become a relevant constitutional and legal case for the secessionists to cite in their agitations.

On the issue of the UN provision on self-determination as cited by the secessionists for their action, it is important to bear two important points in mind.

The UN is not a world government with executive powers to superimpose its will on national governments. A country can invoke the principle of sovereignty to block the implementation of any UN resolution it considers in conflict with its national interests.

Although Nigeria is signatory to the UN charter including the provision on self-determination, it can and has the right to block any attempt by any group within it to break-up the country by latching on to that provision. Thus even in the unlikely event of any break-away group in Nigeria securingUN support, Nigeria can within its sovereign rights stand against such a move.

But what is more significant is that although the UN charter provides for self-determination, the UN places a great onus on seeking such to prove their credentials and case comprehensively.

The process of seeking and eventually getting UN support for a self-determination bid is a very complicated and convoluted one which will take years to come to fruition and may not result in success ultimately. Those seeking to invoke the UN principle of self-determination for their secessionist bid must first of all prove that they have the mandate of the people of the area they seek to represent through popular elections or referendum and not through the media or internet. They must also show proof that the area seeking to secede has been denied or does not have adequate representation at local, state and national levels of the government of the country.

(To be concluded next week)

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