This chapter reviews literature on the discontents in the Nigerian state as a whole from the historical perspective. This will demand the review of to look at critical events which have led to these discontents such as Colonialism, the Kano riot of 1953, January 15th 1966 coup, July 29th 1966 coup, the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970) which its aftermath is IPOB. Also, this chapter will provide a theoretical framework for this work.
Discontents in the Nigerian state were is a colonial heritage bequeathed to Nigeria at independence by the colonial masters. In effect, whatever damage this has generated in the process of governing the development of Nigeria it could be traced to the colonial order arrangement.
If we understand ethnicity as an in-group feeling and expression of sentiments by such a group against another in order to attract favor (use British not American English)for its members, how do we explain pre-colonial Nigeria when the different ethnics groups lived separately and independently? These groups were not even aware of the existence of some ethnics let alone to express ethnic sentiment against any. This clearly means that in the beginning of the Nigerian State before the arrival of the colonial masters, the people who lived in the territories today called Nigeria were not in any serious conflict with any group hence, there was none to compete with around them. It becomes clear to say that; ethnicity was a deliberate and conscious creation of the colonial masters in order to use such sentimental expression to perpetually have dominion and control over the colonies in Africa (Reference). That is the more reason Nnoli’s (2011:66) submission is accepted when he says opines that:
… the British colonialist introduced various policies that emasculated the revolutionary potential of the working class and the trade unions some of these policies were part of the overall colonial strategy and tactical of subjugating the colonized people as a whole. Others were design specifically to counteract working class consciousness. In the specific case of the working class in Nigeria, the imperialists used ethnicity to destroy working class collective action… consequently the working class could not provide political leadership to the more militant peasantry, its natural political ally. (This quotation is not relevant to the issue at stake, that is your argument. Why ethnicity is mentioned once in the quote the context has to do with working class and not ethnic group relations which is the focus. One would have expected would have expected you starting from the issue of divide and rule, refusal to allow western education and missionaries penetrate the north, favouritism of the north by the colonialist as well as using different legal order for the north until 1939 with the serious implication for mutual suspicion, antagonism and feelings of difference.
Ethnic sentiments in Nigeria today have a genesis in the political and economic activities which were the reasons for colonization and imperialism. So, ethnicity cannot be totally separated from colonialism (Reference). It was colonialism that forcefully brought the different ethnic groups who were initially separate, together to govern them in diversity.
Many writers (who are these writers? Provide their names) have traced the cause of the civil war to the colonial period, when the British came and merged peoples of different histories and traditions into one country they called ‘Nigeria’. In addition, the colonial government in Nigeria made little effort at genuinely uniting the different ethnic groups in the country. This heightened the divisions among these ethnic groups. It has been alleged that Lord Lugard at the 1914 Amalgamation insisted that his task was “to unify administrations not peoples” (Odogwu 187). It is believed that members of the protectorates were not consulted on the planned merger (Nwaoga, Nche & and Olihe, 2014). This view is echoed in the comment of Awolowo (1947) who said that “Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense as there are “English,” “Welsh” or “French.” The word ‘Nigerian’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.”
This proclamation goes a long way to portray the frustration of persons of divergent cultural and religious beliefs who are forcefully and unwillingly joined in an unholy union.
This amongst other factors implication of this transformations and ethnic alienation from one another became one of the strong bases for conflictual identity formation and discriminatory practice as could be seen in the Kano riot of 1953.
KANO RIOT OF 1953
The Kano riot of 1953 refers to the riot, which broke out in the ancient city of Kano, located in Northern Nigeria, in May 1953. The nature of the riot were This involved clashes between Northerners who were opposed to Nigeria’s Independence and Southerners made up of mainly the Yorubas and the Igbos who supported immediate independence for Nigeria. The riot that lasted for four days claimed many lives of the Southerners and Northerners and many others were wounded.
The remote cause of the riot was the strained relationship between the Northern and Southern political leaders over the issue of self-government in 1956. This strained relationship started with The 1953 motion for self-government for Nigeria in 1956 tabled in the House of Representatives by a member of the Action Group (AG), Chief Anthony Enahoro. The Northerners did not accept the motion. The leader of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, in a counter-motion, replaced “in the year 1956” with the phrase “as soon as practicable”. Another Northern member of the House moved a motion for adjournment, a motion which Southern members of AG and the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) viewed as a delay tactics. All the AG and NCNC members in the house walked out as a result of the adjournment motion. (Copying from Wikipedia)
When the Northern delegates left the House, they were confronted by hostile crowds in Lagos who insulted, jeered and called them all sorts of names. Members of the Northern delegation were embittered and in their “Eight Point Program” in the Northern Regional Legislative House, they sought for secession. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the tour by a delegation of the AG and NCNC led by Chief Samuel Akintola. That tour which was aimed at campaigning for self-government acted as the immediate cause of the Kano riot. It sparked off a chain of disorder that culminated in the riot. The riot took place at Sabon Gari an area predominantly occupied by southern Nigerians.
However, relating this Kano riot to this research work, this riot deteriorated the relationship between North and South.
ETHINICITY AND PARTY POLITICS
The ethnic divisions in Nigeria clearly manifested after the 1960 independence, with the disorganized political parties. According to Anene,(1996), Obviously, ethnicity affected the foundation stone laying of party politics in Nigeria since independence in 1960. For instance,
During the First Republic, three major political parties contested in the 1959 General Elections: Action Group (AG), Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) and National Council for Nigerian Citizen (NCNC). The AG which was launched by Awolowo in 1951 as a political party emerged from the Pan-Yoruba Organisation, Egbe Omo Oduduwa (Society of the Descendants of Oduduwa) organized by Chief Awolowo in 1948. The AG was purely a Yoruba based party… In March 1951, the AG was declared as a Western Region Political Organization (Anene, 1996).
Furthermore, the effect of ethnic politics on party formation was experienced in the Second Republic. Out of the five political parties that contested elections in 1979, three of them were highly northern in orientation and outlook. These parties were National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP), besides all the leaders of these three political parties Shehu Shagari-NPN, Aminu Kanu- PRP and Waziri Ibrahim-GNPP were of the Hausa/Fulani ethnic group. Closely related Dr. Azikiwe headed the Eastern Regional party in the Second Republic (Nigeria Peoples Party –NPP). The same thing applied to the Western Region, its major political party in the Second Republic was the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) headed by the Western Region Chieftain Obafemi Awolowo.
This ethnic background of political parties went on up to the Third Republic whereby the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was deemed more tilted to the Southern Regional states while the National Republican Convention (NRC) was more inclined to the northern states. Currently, in the Nigeria Fourth Republic, the political parties are always confronted with intra and inter conflicts.
Another effect of ethnicity on the Nigerian polity is that it has heightened political competition in electoral contest. Most ethnic group insisted on winning elections by duress especially in their regions. No wonder, in the First Republic, Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) had to return some candidates unopposed even before the elections were begun. This kind of political behavior created tension in the polity, according to Hembe (2003):
The contestants sought power by projecting themselves as champions of this or that ethnic group, thereby splitting the country into hostile ethnic blocks. The struggles were spearheaded by regional governments and the leaders chose to rationalize them in ethnic rather than intra-class terms (Nnoli, 1978).
Furthermore, Hembe (2003) citing Onobu (1975) says that:
Each party sponsored and supported ethnic minorities in order to destabilize the areas dominated by others, thereby promoting the proliferation of ethnic sentiments and the growth of ethnic tension throughout the country.
It is quite obvious therefore that ethnicity has affected every aspect of the governing process in Nigeria. It will be highly deceptive for anybody to think that ethnicity is not harmful to Nigeria and its quest for development.
THE JANUARY 15TH 1966 COUP AND ITS ETHNIC CONNOTATIONS
The ethnic divisions in Nigeria clearly manifested after the 1960 independence, with the disorganized political parties. This degenerated to general confusion and insecurity in the country, until the military intervention of January 15th 1966 – the Nzeogwu-led coup.
Nigeria’s first military coup d’état took place on 15 January, 1966. The bloody coup, which put an end to the civilian administration of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was staged by a group of five majors led by Major C.K. Nzeogwu (Mainasara, 1982).
Nzeogwu and his cohorts had accused Balewa’s government of corruption, inept leadership, ethnicity and nepotism. The coup claimed the lives of notable Nigerian military and civilian leaders, mostly from the Northern and Western Regions. Those killed included Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Brigadier Zak Maimalari and Lt. Col. Abogo Largema, all of whom were prominent Northern leaders. Others killed included Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh (from the Mid-West Region), Lt. Col Unegbe (an Ibo from the Eastern Region), as well as Chief S.L. Akintola, Col. Shodeinde and Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun (all from the West), (Akinseye-George, 2002; Elaigwu, 2005; Achebe, 2012).
It is unfortunate to note that the sectional nature of the killings raised the question of ethnic connotation of the coup. Without any doubt, the coup opened a sharp chapter of suspicion in the annals of Nigerian history creating suspicions about the intent of the coup plotters, this cannot be disconnected in analyzing the discontent in the Nigerian state.
The 15 January, 1966 coup was foiled by the military and the dissident soldiers were arrested. This brought Major General Aguiyi Ironsi to the corridors of power as Nigeria’s first military ruler. In trying to stabilize the turbulent political atmosphere of the country, Ironsi suspended the constitution and, by Decree 1 of 1966, the Federal Military Government was given the power “to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Nigeria or any part thereof with respect to any matter whatsoever” (FGN, 1966: cited in Elaigwu, 2005).
Furthermore, Ironsi abrogated federalism and instituted a unitary system of government through Decree No 34 of 24 May, 1966. The Decree abolished the regional structure, scrapped the regional civil service and created a harmonised National Public Service (Elaigwu, 2005; Achebe, 2012; Ikime, 2002).
Northern opposition to the Decree was vehement and sporadic because of the fear of marginalization in the public service. This quickly provoked anti-Igbo sentiments in the North. There was growing anger and disaffection among officers from Northern Nigeria who wanted revenge for what they saw as an Igbo coup (Achebe, 2012). The Northern press also accentuated the level of grievance against Ironsi’s government.
The electronic and print Medias of the North were reported to have unleashed a campaign of verbal hostilities against the South, rejecting proposals for a unitary government. (Abiola, 1990, cited in Olukotun, 2002) Northern leaders and the press eventually succeeded in whipping up public sentiment against the unitary system of government. By the last week of May, 1966, suspicion had become rife in the North that the January, 1966 coup was an attempt by the Igbo to dominate Nigeria (Elaigwu, 2005; Ihunna, 2002; Abubakar, 2002; Ikime, 2002). This instigated violent demonstrations, riots and killing of Igbo individuals in the North.
THE JULY 29TH 1966 COUNTER-COUP AND ITS ETHNIC CONNOTATIONS
Between June and July 1966, the Northern ruling élite made a number of demands on the Ironsi government. These included the revocation of the government’s controversial Decree 34 of 1966; the court-martial and punishment of the leaders of the 15 January, 1966 coup; and the suspension of any plans to investigate the May 1966 massacres of Easterners in the North (Achebe, 2012). The failure of Ironsi to meet these demands led Northern Military officers to stage a counter-coup on 29 July, 1966. It was essentially a vengeance coup against the Igbos. Aguiyi Ironsi was assassinated along with Adekunle Fajuyi of the Western region. Many senior Igbo military officers were reportedly killed in a bid to restore the hegemony of the North in Nigerian politics (Achebe, 2012, Ikime, 2002).
Between July and November, 1966, Achebe (2012) reported that the killing of the Igbos became “a state industry in Nigeria” as Northerners turned on Igbo civilians residing in the North and unleashed waves of brutal massacres that Colin Legum of The Observer (UK), described as a progrom (Achebe, 2012). Over thirty-thousand Igbos-civilian men, women and children, were slaughtered. Hundreds of thousands were reportedly wounded, maimed and suffered arson and looting of their property (Ibid; Abubakar, 2002). The ineptitude of the government to curb the attacks on Igbos caused Igbo intellectuals to regard it as a premeditated plan to exterminate their ethnic group. (Achebe, 2012). This led to a mass exodus of people of Eastern Nigerian origin from the North. They headed for the safety of the East.
It is instructive to note that the two coups of 1966 seem to be organized along ethnic lines, and to a very large extent, “altered the political equation and destroyed the fragile trust existing among the major ethnic groups” in the country (Niven, 1970: Nwolise, 2002). The coups led to calls for secession by the Northern Region, who named the 29 July coup as “Operation Araba” (meaning secession or call to separate); this was followed by the outright declaration of secession by the Eastern Region on 30 May, 1967 (Abubakar, 2002; Ikime, 2002, Achebe, 2012). The 15 January, 1966 coup was interpreted as a plot by the ambitious Igbo of the East to take control of Nigeria from the Hausa/Fulani North. On the other hand, Easterners felt marginalized and regarded themselves as subjects of extermination by the North. A battle line was almost drawn between the two ethnic groups.
NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR (1967-1970)
Following the killing of Major General Aguiyi Ironsi in the 29 July, 1966 coup, Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon emerged as the new Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. Lt. Col. Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu refused to accept the authority of Gowon, claiming that Gowon was his junior. Apart from Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, who was then Chief of Staff at Supreme Headquarters and the most senior officer in the Nigerian Army, other officers who were seniors to Gowon included Lt. Col. David Ejoor and Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu (Umoru-Onuka, 2002; Elaigwu, 2005; Ikime, 2002).
The accession of Gowon over and above his seniors no doubt created a problem of control and command for the army as it violated, with impunity, the established military hierarchy in the Nigerian Armed Forces. (Onyeoziri, 2002; Onumonu and Anutanwa, 2017).
Beginning from early November 1966, Ojukwu refused to accept Gowon’s leadership and declined from attending the Supreme Military Council (SMC) meetings from now on (Ikime 2002, Eliagwu, 1986). However after much persuasion, Ojukwu indicated his willingness to attend the SMC meetings provided such meetings were held outside the country or within the territory of the Eastern Region. This, according to him, was because his personal security could no longer be guaranteed anywhere in the country except in the Eastern Region (Ojukwu, 1969). In December 1966, General J.A. Ankrah, the then Ghanaian Head of State, offered to host a mediation meeting to broker peace between Lt. Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu and Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon. Hence, Nigerian military leaders and senior police officials met at Aburi in Accra, Ghana between 4 and 5 January, 1967 with General Ankrah as the mediator (Madiebo, 1980, Gailey Jr., 1972; Forsyth, 2001; Uwechue, 2004; Ojukwu, 1969).
An agreement popularly called the Aburi Accord was signed at the end of the meeting. Its terms included:
- The Army should be governed by the Supreme Military Council (SMC) under the Chairman of the Head of the Federal Military Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces;
- Establishment of a military headquarters in which each region was to be represented which would be headed by the Chief of Staff;
- Establishment of an Area Command in each region under an Area Commander;
- The SMC was to deal with all matters of appointment and promotions of people in executive posts in the Armed Forces and the Police and;
- Military Governors were to have control over Area commands in their regions for the purpose of internal security (Elaigwu, 2005; Oluleye, 1985; Obasanjo, 1971 Aremu, 2014).
Consequently, it is interesting to note that the agreement was never implemented by the Federal Military Government because it was viewed as representing no more than a victory for Ojukwu.
Gowon’s refusal to carry out the Aburi Accord and Ojukwu’s insistence that “on Aburi we stand, there will be no compromise” eventually led to the breakdown of the Accord (Aremu, 2014).
On 27 May, 1967, Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon announced the creation of twelve states in Nigeria and thereby abrogated the regional political structure. The Northern Region was divided into six states, the Eastern Region into three states, the Western Region into two states while the Mid-Western Region became the Mid-Western State (Elaigwu, 2005). Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu, the embattled Governor of the defunct Eastern Region, declined to recognise the new states on the ground that Gowon created them unilaterally without his (Ojukwu) consent. Ojukwu regarded this act as a conspiracy and tactical declaration of war against the Igbo as the newly created Igbo State (East Central State) was landlocked.
Ojukwu quickly summoned the Eastern Region Consultative Assembly on same day (27 May, 1967). The Assembly mandated Colonel Ojukwu “to declare at the earliest practicable date, Eastern Nigeria a free, sovereign and independent state by the name and title of the
Republic of Biafra” (Achebe, 2012). On 30 May, 1967, the die was cast. Ojukwu, citing a good number of malevolent acts directed at the Igbo, proclaimed the independence of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria. (Achebe, 2012). The secession of the Eastern Region from Nigeria and the determination of Gowon to foil the attempt, which he regarded as unconstitutional, eventually led to a full-blown war on 6 July, 1967.
Following this was the 30-month gruesome war, the Nigeria-Biafra War. It has been estimated that about three million souls perished in that war, a reasonable percentage of that from hunger and disease. Most of the casualties are from the Biafran side. The war however ended on January 15th 1970 with Federal government victorious.
In a nutshell, the plethora of events, actions and perilous inertia that characterised the national scene between January 1966 and July 1967 prompted the catastrophic Nigerian Civil War. These included the 15 January, 1966 coup and its attendant ethnic connotations; Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi Ironsi’s miscalculated stabilization policy, which necessitated the replacement of federalism with unitarism, causing furious reactions from the North; the 29 July, 1966 counter-coup and its ethnic connotations; the emergence of General Yakubu Gowon as military leader and the refusal of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to recognise Gowon’s leadership; the breakdown of the Aburi Accord and Gowon’s creation of twelve states in May 1967; the secession of the Eastern Region to form the Republic of Biafra, and Gowon’s determination to foil the attempt.
SESESSION THREATS AND ETHNIC NATIONALISM IN NIGERIA’s ETHNIC RELATIONS
Secession threats are not new in Nigerian politics. Indeed, Ojo (2004), reports that threats of secession have been a potent weapon in Nigerian political bargaining between 1950 and 1964. Ayoade (2010) corroborates this fact adding that the Northern Region, considered “big, strong and reliable”, had issued an “Eight Point Programme” threatening secession in 1953. Similarly, the West had also threatened secession in 1953 on the status of Lagos. Unfortunately, Col Odumegwu Ojukwu, Governor of the Eastern Region, felt pushed beyond his limits and led “Biafra” in real secession from Nigeria in 1966. In the ensuing conflict, the Nigerian government ably demonstrated its readiness and ability to match the Biafran forces’ terror tactics. This threats can also be found in recent times, apart from the recurrent agitations of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), which since the early 2000’s has been calling for the secession of the East and establishment of an independent state of Biafra, there has been recurrent unrest in most of the rest of Nigeria: the current quit notice given by the Arewa Youth Group to people of Igbo descent to leave Northern Nigeria on or before 1 October, 2017 is indeed a pointer to the fact that secession ambitions and calls for separation are still very much alive and kicking in Nigeria.
Consequently, since the beginning of the fourth Republic in May 1999, one relatively permanent characterisation of the country’s political landscape has been ethnic militancy (Gilbert, 2013). Decades of marginalisation and injustice allegedly foisted on the citizenry by the Nigerian state have been cited as precipitating a spectre of frustration and deprivation, which eventually triggered creation of militant groups as extra-constitutional method for negotiation, and redressing the political cum socio-economic dehumanising conditions of the people, with great commitment to self -determination (Afinotan, & Ojakorotu, 2014).
Prominent among such groups in the south are: The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), one of many secessionist movements with the aim of securing the resurgence of the defunct state of Biafra from Nigeria (Murray, 2007); The Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), a militant Yoruba Nationalist Organization in Western Nigeria; the Oodua Republic Front (ORF) which is a secessionist movement based in the Western part too, and advocates the creation of the Oodua (or Oduduwa) Republic of the Yorubas; The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), a campaign organization representing the Ogoni people in their struggle for ethnic and environmental rights, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which has proven to be a militant people’s movement dedicated to armed struggle against the exploitation and oppression of the people of Niger Delta and the ruin of its natural environment by foreign multinational corporations involved in the extraction of oil in the Niger Delta (Ezeji-Okoye, 2009; Agwuele, 2002). In the North, the story remains the same, violent ethnic movements and militant Islamic bodies dot the area and these developments stem from the perception of marginalization and non-accommodation of the pure Islamic way of life by the Nigerian political system. Prominent among these organizations are the Arewa People’s Congress (APC) which emerged to counter the OPC, the “hambada” and “hisbah” which enforce sharia compliance in northern states (Duruji, 2010). It is sad to note that these ethno-based militia groups have been highly instrumental to the heightening of mutual distrust in Nigeria’s inter-ethnic relations. It is essential to note that these ethnic militant groups have exacerbated the challenge of internal insecurity; and have continued to weaken the corporate existence of Nigeria as a united and powerful nation-state (Gilbert, 2013; Badmus, 2009).
UNENDING AGITATION FOR THE CREATION OF STATES
As mentioned earlier in this paper, the question of the creation of states began in Nigeria on 27 May, 1967, when the Yakubu Gowon regime created twelve states to replace the four regions in existence then. It was ostensibly done to nip the Eastern Region’s bid for secession in the bud. On 3 February, 1976, General Murtala Mohammed’s government increased the number of states to nineteen. Osaghae (1991) notes that this gave rise to a phenomenal increase in the demand for even more states as various ethnic groups as elites struggled to maximise their share of the national cake.
General Ibrahim Babangida added two more states in September, 1987 to raise the number of states in the country to twenty-one. The number increased to thirty in August, 1991 when Babangida added nine new states. The last states creation exercise took place on 1 October, 1996.
Then, late General Sani Abacha announced the creation of six more states to bring the number of states in the Nigerian Federation to thirty-six. Agitation for creation of more states has continued unabated. Suffice to say that no new states have yet been created in the past twenty-one years largely because civilian governments in Nigeria have no tradition of success at state’s creation.
It is expedient to make some salient observations on states creation processes in Nigeria. In the first instance, since Gowon’s masterful creation of states on the eve of the Nigerian civil war in 1967, there has been a continued obsession with the creation of states largely for self-determination and economic purposes by Nigeria’s ethnic groups. No ethnic group is exempted from this craze. Secondly, besides being a vehicle for extending political and economic self-governance to distinct ethnic communities, states creation became an administrative strategy for the devolution of Federal generosity to an unstructured array of territorial communities and coalitions. This probably explains why the politics of state creation in the country has not taken into account the ability of these states to sustain their existence. Furthermore, state creation exercise has been largely employed as a legitimizing force for military regimes in the country, largely intended to galvanise support for particular regimes, whose strength was ebbing and to compensate close allies.
There is no gainsaying the fact that states are important variables in a federation, and thus a pre-requisite for its existence (Noser, 1975). Nevertheless, the creation of states in Nigeria has so far not succeeded in satisfying all interest groups in the country. As a matter of fact, the paradox of the exercise is that each new state, assembled to satisfy the desires of a nationality, creates new “neglected” minorities, new tensions and fresh activism. Another issue suggested by Ezeji-Okoye (2009) is that the political atmosphere and intrapersonal relations are further poisoned by the language of propaganda employed to justify the need for new states. This normally centers on allegations of persecution of the nationality making the accusation. These allegations, according to him, usually breed antagonism. This marginalization phenomenon has always led to new minority formation and as such intensified the agitation for even more states (Ezeji-Okoye, 2009). In all, state-creation exercises have not addressed the problems of inequality, the minority question or underdevelopment. Understandably, agitations are unending.
THE IGBOS, INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA (IPOB) AND THE RESUSCITATION FOR A BIAFRAN STATE
Viewed from every angle, the Nigerian civil war appears like a paradox. On the one hand, the war restored the political map of Nigeria that had been redrawn by the seceding Eastern Region. At the same time it led to death, destruction of property and estranged relations among Nigerian nationalities.
It is apt to note that the Nigerian civil war did not resolve the “national question”. By the national question we refer to the claim by various nationalities that they were being denied their rights to equitable participation in governance and national life in general (Oriaku, 2002). Evidently, before and after the civil war, the issue of nationality question and the attendant crisis of instability have gained resonance in Nigeria’s national political discourse. However, one of the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War is the emergence of Indegienous People of Biafra.
Since the return to civil rule in 1999, the Igbos have continually craved for a just society where every ethnic groups can compete favourably for political power and where economic resources is equitably distributed through non-violence. Though other splinter groups, radical, pseudo-radical and non-radical have emerged including but not limited to; The Igbo Concerned Citizens, Igbo Elders‘ Forum, Igbo Renaissance Movement, MASSOB, BZM (Biafra Zionist Movement), IPOB among others. On the 26 August, 2004, Ralph Uwazuruike‘s MASSOB formed in 1999 called on the Igbo both in the Southeast and the cities across the country to shot down their businesses of which was a success (The News Magazine, 2005 in Ojukwu, 2009) and subsequently in May 2005, it embarked on demonstrations in Canada, France, Germany and Italy and also established a radio station in the US for the purposes of reaching out to Igbos in the diaspora and attracting international attentions (TELL, 2004 in Ojukwu, 2009)
Also, The Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM) founded by a United Kingdom-based lawyer, Benjamin Onwuka who hails from Bende local government area of Abia state in 2010 with affiliations with Igbos in Diasporas, United Kingdom, United States and South Africa in which it claimed that it sent its application to the UN for an observer status for the Republic of Biafra on 6th August 2012 with reference BZM/OS/REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA claimed that the security of lives and property, practice of religion and freedom of Association of the Biafra People are no longer guaranteed in the entity called Nigeria, hence the call for an independent state on 5th November 2012. He however put the threat to action on 8th March, 2014 when the Biafra flag was hoisted at the government house, Enugu state until the group was chased by the Nigerian Police. He claimed that with the hoisting of the flag, Biafra had been resurrected and no force of arm could hinder the aspiration as the states that will make up Biafra were Benue, Kogi, Delta, Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Anambra, Enugu, Imo Abia and Southern Ondo (Edike, 2014) and again made attempt to seize Enugu State Broadcasting Station (ESBS) in order to declare the state of Biafra in June, 2014 but he was subsequently apprehended by security operatives who had been on his trail after having placed a five million naira bounty on him since 2012. He was arrested with twelve others in a duel where one police sergeant was killed, another police officer injured while one died on the side of the BZM and had since been in detention (Uzodima, 2014).
The challenges of nation building birthed by the diverse ethnic and religious disseverance remain problematic especially in terms of power sharing and resource allocation. This informs the initial hoax as to the rumored Muslim-Muslim ticket of the All Progressive Congress candidate, Muhammadu Buhari prior to the 2015 general elections. Though, power sharing was considered at the formative years of formation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it was subsequently, though slowly ignored and the party even boasted at a time of ruling the country for 60 years especially in the seventh republic (2011-2015) where the Jonathan presidency apart from intensely provoking intense contempt and widespread opposition in the north for allegedly concentrating key appointments among elites from the South-south and South-East but successfully masterminding a civil and internal coup claiming the party‘s sole candidacy, a feat in the country‘s democratic history which was supposedly to return to the north after the precocious demise of President Umaru Yaradua (Suberu, 2015). This resentment influenced the alliance between key political parties in the North, South-West and a few from the South East having felt betrayed and neglected in the scheme of things, hence resulted in the overwhelming victory of the APC presidential candidate in the North and South-West (INEC, 2015).
With the inauguration of Buhari and his first assignment of forming his backroom cabinet, some groups began to question his lopsided appointment as sentimental, anti-Igbo and an islamization process despite his popular aphorism in his inaugural speech that …he belonged to everybody and for nobody (Buhari, 2015). Subsequently after his inauguration, he began a shuttle diplomacy to restore the lost prestige of the country, delaying the appointment of his ministers after more than five months of inauguration, non-declaration of his assets among others, some groups began to lose patience by questioning his integrity, seriousness and ability to steer the country aright. This coincided with the period when the use of suicide bombers by the insurgents amplified, dwindling economy as a result of the falling oil price, naira capitulation, insecurity, non-payment of salaries by some states, general strife -all these being the cardinal focus of his campaign promises hence informed the accusations lashed at the presidency especially from some quarters believed by pundits to be the South-East especially when waves of anti-Buhari campaign by a strange radio station, Radio Biafra came on airwaves for a separate and independent state of Biafra.
The recent claims are that the present administration have hounded and short-changed the Igbos in the scheme of things causing disharmony hence the call for a divided Nigeria. This is informed by the incessant hardship, lack of holistic development in the socio-economic landscape of Nigeria, lack of youth employment, corruption in high offices and economic regression. This recent agitations are from the IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu, a British-Nigerian. The IPOB is a splinter group from the MASSOB, taking on a more propagandist approach for the actualization of Biafra. Though it claimed to have existed since 2012 by a group of people from the South-South and South-east regions of the country in London, nothing was heard from them until the inauguration of President Buhari. The agitators believe that the post-civil war slogan of reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction which intends to integrate and reintegrate the returning Biafrans is still a chimera and the recent administration of Buhari rather than take off from where Goodluck Jonathan stopped, is set out to marginalize and oppress them (Igbos). These reasons have always been the justification for the Igbo cause since the 1970s. For instance the Wednesday 11 January 1995 National Constitutional Conference delegates from the Igbo-speaking areas of Nigeria raised an alarm that the persecution of Igbos had reached an epidemic proportion (Igbokwe). This is similar to Emeka Ojukwu‘s position on Igbos and national reintegration that as a people and that they have the right to aspire to the country‘s highest position and the speed to reintegration is slow but can be bettered so as to promote mutual benefit to all Nigerians (Odumegwu-Ojukwu)
The IPOB, with the radio media being its main tool is alleged to have addressed the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a zoo and president Buhari as terrorist, evil and a pedophile in some of its radio messages. However in a video message while addressing some Igbos in Diaspora at the World Igbo Congress in the US, Kanu was seen soliciting for weapons from the audience and boasted that the Biafran passports and sovereign status has been recognised by some powerful countries. He further said that he was going to Nigeria to regroup and on a particular date, ―something will happen‖ which he urged the audience to look out for. Though efforts were intensified to jamming the pirate radio station, Radio Biafra 104.FM and arrest Kanu, the director of the Radio station and IPOB. At a time, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) reported to have jammed the pirate radio station, Kanu aired that:
NBC lied to their master and gullible baboons and monkeys jumping up and down. Radion Biafra is live in Biafraland. They cannot even ban our local station; do they even know we also transmit via satellite and online as well? Have you seen why we call Nigerians baboons and monkeys, its because they are incapable of reasoning. No baboon even the so-called terrorist in Chief Buhari, were able to ask NBC which platform they jammed. Nigerian stupidity is appalling (PM News, 2015)
On 16 October, 2015, Kanu was apprehended in a hotel in Lagos and whisked to Abuja where he was at first tried at a magistrate court before the Federal Government begged the court to step down and headed for the High court where fresh charges were filed. Though he was granted bail by the judge on 19 October but the FG denied him on the basis that he may jump bail rather it filed fresh charges of treasonable felony against him on 23 November, which inadvertently evoked peaceful protests and other forms of agitations by his followers and supporters within and outside Nigeria including the lock-down of the Niger Bridge which led to confrontations with the Nigeria armed and civil forces. In protest of his continued detention at one of his trials, he argued that he was sure that the court will not be fair to him and this forced the Chief Justice to re-assign the case to another judge who again denied him bail even as he, Kanu changed his legal team. This issue necessitated the World Igbo Congress, Texas branch in a sponsored advert of a newspaper to call on the Federal Government to toe a fair path by respecting previous court‘s decision that granted Kanu bail, though it condemned any act of militancy or war against the Nigerian state by any group or groups in the quest for self-determination (Vanguard, 15 December, 2015). Aside the international appeasements, other stakeholders have followed suit, the Ohaneze Ndigbo not excluded. The validity of the claims of marginalization is still opened for debate as Buhari in his first presidential media chat in December, 2015 puts it:
….And the one you are calling Kanu, do you know he had two passports-one Nigerian, one British- and he came into the country without any? Do you know he brought equipment into this country and was broadcasting Radio Biafra? Which kind of government do you think would harbor that kind of person? There is a treasonable felony suit against him and I hope the court will listen to the case …They say they are marginalized but they have not defined the extent of marginalization. Who is marginalizing them? Where? Do you know? (Buhari, 2015b).
Recently, the unbridled invasion, killing and destruction of properties of some communities across some southern states in Nigeria by some armed Fulani herdsmen may have reinforced the Igbo agitation and predicaments as the Federal Government reacted to these acts a bit late together with the controversial zoning of the erstwhile ruling party (PDP) of Igbos as Vice-president when the post of presidency is long over-due.
However, on 20th September 2017, a Federal High Court in Abuja granted the Nigerian Federal Government an interim injuction proscribing the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra.
The importance of theories in any scientific research or analysis can hardly be over-emphasized. Without using a theory or theories for research, such a research cannot be regarded as being scientific. Therefore, theory is one of the elements which make research scientific. More so, those existing knowledge that are reviewed are usually in the form of theories or deductions based on existing data (Onah, 2010). Roberts and Edwards, (1991) see theory as “integrated set of laws or generalization which is capable of providing systematic explanation of some areas of knowledge or body of observations, or which may be used to predict events or which prescribe conduct”. In short, what a theory does is to describe, explain and predict phenomena in any area of knowledge. This study has thus adopted the Grouptheory for its analysis.
The group theory in political science, largely associated with Bentley argues that societies consists of a large number of social, ethnic or economic groups, more or less well-organised in political competition with each other to put pressure on the government into producing the policies favourable to the relevant groups.
Versions of the theory can either claim that it is entirely compatible with the aims of democracy, and that group representation satisfies democratic norms, as well as being empirically realistic, or can alternatively be used to argue that all societies have the same true structures, whatever their surface ideology and characteristics. Other branches of political science have taken the nature and multiplicity of groups as vital elements in determining political stability or indeed the liberalness or otherwise of the society.
In political analysis, group theory presupposes the fact that an inquiry into the political behaviour and phenomenon should be sought in the interactions and relationships between groups as they make claims on each other for the values of society.
Arthur Bentley (1870-1957) was an influential political scientist of the inter-war period. Methodologically, he was the precursor of the behavioural movement of the post-war period, while theoretically; he was the founder of pluralism. His main contribution to the analysis of political systems was his group theory.
Bentley in his 1908 book “The process of government” all political systems really consisted of a number of separate groups competing with one another for influence over policy. The role of the government was essentially that of political broker, responding to the demands and influence of the different groups and distributing “goods” (in form of policies) in response.
The question we should ask at this point is “what is meant as a ‘group’? There is somehow a consensus among political scientists about what they mean as group. Most agree that a political group exists when men with shared interests organise, interact, and seek goals through the political process. The key notions here are “interaction” or “relationships”, “interest”, and “process” or “activity”. David Truman, reinterpreting Bentley has argued that such interactions are the group (Truman, 1971).
The next thing for us is to ask, what is the significance of the group in the political system? How useful is group theory to the study of politics? Arthur Bentley believes group activity is politics. He argues,
‘When the groups are adequately stated, everything is stated. When I say everything, I mean everything’. (Bentley, 1908). In this context, a description of group activity is a description of politics. An approach to the study of politics must be based on the concept of group; hence the indispensability of groups in politics.
In the literature on group theory, the major question that often pops up is, “how do group behave in the political system?” Since politics is ultimately explained in terms of relationships between groups as they make claims on each other and compete for the values of the society, only the characteristics of groups that are relevant to this kind of activity are studied.
Bentley claims that government is a mere register of group pressure. He writes,
“The official procedures of government are techniques through which interest groups operate rather than independent forces in the political process”.
Thus, groups compete; pursue their interests, and government rings up the result indicating who has won and who has lost. This perspective downplays the significance of government.
CRITICISMS AGAINST THE GROUP THEORY
While group theory seems a useful approach to the study of politics, i.e. by suggesting hypothesis, this approach is not without criticisms. According to critics of this theory, it omits one important set of variables, namely, the characteristics of individuals. For example, in an election, do we vote in groups? However, Most group theorists do not reject the importance, let alone the existence, of individuals in politics. They only state that it is a wise strategy to stay at the group level. This criticism therefore misses the mark.
Secondly, by focusing attention by those groups operating only in contact with the government, group theory fails to acknowledge the fact that other groups such as the economic, social, and religious groups, in fact interest groups are also political groups. For they also structure the processes and functions of government institutions.
Thirdly, group theory assumes that groups are rational actors, who are committed to maximising their utility. The evidence on the ground differs from this claim, as groups sometimes behave in ways that can hardly be considered as rational.
The last criticism is that group approach is wrong and misleading in not considering the nation, the state, or society. This criticism argues that group theory studies a limited range of political phenomena. This has made its critics to argue that this theory cannot properly handle the notion of “public” or “national interest”.
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