CAN NIGERIA SURVIVE ANOTHER CIVIL WAR?
- Other Apps
All those who love this Nation and who want its continued unity, peace and progress have continued to harp on one theme: Let us restructure this Federation and make it stable. There are too many fault lines in the Federation which the military left for us. Of course the unilateral amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 to create one Nigeria by Lord Lugard and his British colonial overlords left some fault lines. But by and large, the first generation Nigerian political leaders did their utmost to manage these fault lines, which allowed the Nation and its constituent parts to make very significant progress. For example, the effort by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and his likes to forge a truly united Country where" though tribes & tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand", was hampered by the political expediency of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his likes who played the divisive card, causing massive carpet crossing from the NCNC to the AG on the floor of the Western House of Assembly which prevented Zik from becoming the leader of government in the old Western Region of Nigeria in 1952. I still think of what Nigeria would have become, if Zik had become the Premier of Western Nigeria and Eyo Eta, the premier of Eastern Nigeria. May be Akintola would have become the Premier of Northern Nigeria and subsequently Maitama Sule could have become the Premier of Eastern Nigeria, succeeding Eyo Eta. That may not have been far fetched, because at some time, a Northerner was the Mayor of Enugu. Zik had most of his Children in Western Nigeria and gave all of them Yoruba middle names in his quest to unite Nigeria in word and in truth. Alhaji (Sir) Ahmadu Bello , the Sarduana of Sokoto who was the political leader of the North made no pretence of his preferences . He supported one Nigeria as long the North was allowed political leadership over the Federation. If left to him, he preferred the North for the North and West for the West and East for the East. He was on record to have said that he preferred to have British expatriates fill vacancies in the Northern Public service than have the Igbo or any other Southern Nigerian.
But Nigerians lived in relative peace with each other despite the tribal politics of the time. The political leaders never turned Nigerians against themselves. If there was any problem at all, it was mainly inter-tribal, like the Western Nigeria's political crisis which concerned the Yoruba essentially, Awolowo versus Akintola. While this raged,no Easterner or Northerner was killed. The Yoruba did not visit their frustration on the Ijaw or the Nupe living among them. All over the North, the Igbo traversed and made home in Kafanchan, Jos and Kano. The Muslims celebrated Christmas with the Christians while the Christians celebrated Sallah with the Muslims. There were political differences but mainly visible only at the political levels. The ordinary Nigerians lived in peace and did their businesses side by side with little molestation, discrimination or even acute consciousness of tribal, ethnic or religious differences. Nigeria was at peace with itself. The Fulani Herdsmen moved their cattle from the North to the south, both for Pasteur and to the market. The farmers in the North Central , South West and South East planted and harvested their crops . If there was any conflict between them it was not significant and not much was heard. At the time, the herdsmen did not carry guns and certainly never attacked nor sacked villages.
However, all that began to change when the military disrupted Nigeria's orderly growth in January 1966. The January coup seemed pro Igbo as some leading political lights from the other Regions were killed, sparing the Igbo in a coup led by an igbo. This led to a counter coup in July, 1966 which was decidedly anti-Igbo, because essentially only Igbo officers( with exception of Brigadier Adekunle Fajuyi) were targeted and killed. The Northern Soldiers went further to round up even junior army officers of Igbo extraction in barracks in the West and North and killed many. Eventually,Innocent Igbo civilians who had nothing to do with the January coup were hunted and Killed in many Northern cities over many months in late 1966 in a premeditated progrom. Unable to find safety anywhere else in Nigeria, the Igbo retreated home and when all efforts to reconcile failed, declared the independent State of Biafra. Nigeria refused to let Biafra go and declared a war which lasted 30 months in order to force Biafra back. Nearly three million people died in the war, including pregnant women and malnourished children as the Nigerian Government led by General Yakubu Gowon used every means including Economic blockade and starvation to bring Biafra to its knees. Today, some people accuse the Nigerian Government of committing Genocide against the Biafrans. Nigeria also lost a lot during the period as money that would have been used for development was diverted to prosecuting the Civil War. Many Nigerian Military men and women lost their lives as well and indeed Nigeria's development and progress was virtually suspended in the three years, the crisis lasted. Though the Nigerian Biafra War ended 46 years ago, we still live with the vestiges of that war.
The military finally disengaged from political governance of Nigeria in 1999 but left a Country that was angry with itself. The national treasury was plundered, the institutions were destroyed while systemic corruption,ethnicism, cronyism, religious bigotry and deep seated injustice were promoted. We then began to have all kinds of inter-tribal,inter-ethic and inter-religious upheavals in the last 17years which have cost the Nation so much in human and material resources, prompting strident calls for a sovereign National conference. Though no one has granted that wish exactly but Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan set up the National Political Reform Conference in 2005 and the National Conference in 2014 respectively. Unfortunately, despite the enormous resources invested in both conferences, none of their recommendations has been implemented. Ken Nnamani's Senate threw out the recommendations of the 2005 conference, and nobody has cared to implement any of the recommendations of 2014. Infact from the body language of the present government,it is doubtful if any body will look at the document at all. And yet in those two reports lie what could help remove or pamper the numerous fault lines that seem to widen everyday.
Just as Nigerians were trying to take a breather after the nearly 5-years of intensive onslaught of the Boko-Haram insurgency and terrorism, we are faced by another problem which may be worse than Boko Haram. Boko Haram started with attacking Churches and property that belonged mostly to the Southern Nigerians,especially the South Easterners. At that time, some people applauded silently and saw it as an opportunity to show that President Jonathan was unable to protect Nigerians. But when the attack dog turned indiscriminate against enemies and supporters alike, Heaven was let loose and the President was called "clueless" and when he could not rescue the CHIBOK girls, he was dubbed a failed Commander-in-Chief, prompting the opposition to call for a new C-in-C who will rescue the CHIBOK girls within weeks of assuming office. We succeeded in getting a new C-in-C. But nearly one year after, the CHIBOK Girls are still missing!
The Fulani herdsmen have become the current destabilizing factor in Nigeria and from their activities, I am afraid that they plan something terrible for Nigeria. May be I should ask: what do the Fulani herdsmen want? This is similar to the question the President posed to the Igbo People recently: what do the Igbos want? And he asked this question because of the non-violent activities of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra( IPOB) , represented by Nnamdi Kanu whom the government has kept in Prison custody for months now . I do not know if he has received answers from the Igbo. The Boko Haram said they wanted to convert Nigeria into an Islamic State where everybody will be ruled by the Sharia Law. The Egbesu militants of the Niger Delta said they wanted resource control. What do the Fulani herdsmen want? To take over all the grazing land in Nigeria? Or to drive Farmers out of Nigeria?After the Fulani herdsmen completed the 'conquest ' of the Middle Belt with their last onslaught on Agatu in Benue State, they have now taken on the South East as their major theatre of operations. They arrived last week in Hilux Trucks armed with Ak-47 rifles and sacked 7 villages in Uzo-Uwani killing over 700 people according to an eye witness account. The Police and Military refused to come to the rescue of the people as requested by the Governor of Enugu State who had some intelligence on what was about to happen, but only came after the killings of Nimbo people and the burning of their houses to prevent reprisals. Indeed the Governor of Enugu State has released details of an emergency Security meeting he held on the eve of the attack. The Police and the Military had assured him they were on the ground. But when the Marauders or terrorists arrived, they were no where to be seen until the attack ended. This is a shame. And I am pained that our government can not rise up to the most important job of protecting the unarmed citizens. Since this Government came to power, it seems more innocent Nigerians have been killed than in the last four years, mostly by BokoHaram and the Fulani Herdsmen! Meanwhile, none of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes has ever been arrested or prosecuted! And they match around with automatic weapons.!! Something is not right here!
Before they came strongly to the East, they had made incursions in the West, kidnapping and pillaging but got repelled because, the Odua Peoples Congress( OPC ), especially the faction led by Gani Adams seemed prepared. They caught the Agatu and Uzo Uwani people unawares. The next attack may be bloodier. If in the face of a difficult economy which is inflicting pains on the citizenry, the Federal Government gives Nigerians reason to device means of protecting themselves against a rampaging army of armed herdsmen, the Second Nigerian civil war may have started unwittingly .Can we survive it? Only God can tell.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR