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MAGNUS ONYIBE

Magnus Onyibe is an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Massachusetts, USA and a former cabinet member of Delta state government. Since the return to multi-party democracy in Nigeria over 21 years ago, Onyibe has written and published over 200 opinion pieces on the Nigerian economy, business, politics, leadership, governance and foreign relations issues.

The separatist politics of Movement for the ActualizatIon of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) led by Ralph Uwazurike which has birthed Indigenous People Of Biafra, (IPOB), now branded BIAFRA EXIT and driven by Nnamdi Kanu, started slowly.

But now the row has picked up so much steam that it appears as if the dreadful Bosnia-Herzegovina ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, and the Tutsi-Hutsi internecine war in Rwanda which is the African equivalent, is about to be re-enacted in Nigeria, if superior reasoning from elders does not prevail over the emotional outburst by aggrieved youths from both the eastern and northern flanks of Nigeria.

As the cry for the Partitioning of Nigeria along ethnic, cultural and religious lines , which mimics the Partitioning of Africa amongst European countries during the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 , grows louder, it is pertinent to note that the conflict is being fueled by policies steeped in politics, as opposed to equity and justice.

Which is why allowing the lgbo agitation in particular and similar self determination struggles  amongst the multifarious ethnic nationalities in Nigeria to remain a monologue rather than a dialogue, is dangerous, if not reckless.

And it is therefore very heartening that both the presidency and the National Assembly, NASS, are now weighing in with a view to resolving the conflict as evidenced by recent consultations and media comments from both acting president, Yemi Osinbajo and senate president, Bukola Saraki.

l’m pretty convinced that like the duo, it has dawned on most Nigerians that disputes related to ethnic nationalism can no longer be attended to via the surfeit of window dressing measures that have been the attitude of authorities in Nigeria.

In other words when such rifts are allowed to fester, they could be likened to wounds that soon degenerate into sores, only because they were left unattended to, as is currently the case with Biafra.

To understand the origin of the schism which is fast becoming a sort of cul-de-sac, we need to interrogate the remote and immediate causes of the previous agitation for the nation of Biafra (50 years ago) that resulted in a 30 months civil war (1967- 1970) and the current cacophony of voices amongst the over 250 major and minor tongues and tribes now issuing ultimatums to each other to exit their domains.

The allure of forming their separate countries along ethnic, cultural and religious colorations, may seem appealing, but the pertinent questions that the proponents of breaking away from Nigeria or those expelling their compatriots from their land should ask themselves is: are the attractions ephemeral or real?

Subjected to critical thinking, the proponents of BRAFRA EXIT and issuers of QUIT NOTICE TO THE IGBOS would realize that such behaviors are emotional for the former, as it is irrational for the latter.

This is more so because it has been proven in this age of globalization  that due to economics of scale, nations are greater when they have high populations as evidenced by China and India, (over 1billion each) which are also the fastest growing economies in the world.

Despite their apparent marginalization in appointments into public offices, the lgbos flourish in business all over Nigeria and beyond maybe because as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

So by and large, commerce and industry have become the lgbo’s Unique Selling Point, USP or an area that they have comparative advantage over other members of the Union of Nigeria. They need a large territory and population-not a miniaturized country of perhaps less than (40m) and landlocked- to harness  their mercantile gifts

Having found their niche in business, l can’t help but wonder what has happened now that never happened in the past that has ignited the new Biafra agitation which  makes the lgbos appear to be ignoring the sad  misadventure that precipitated the 30 months war that claimed the lives of 3 million people -mostly children and women.

In my considered opinion, the quest for political power should be left to politicians in the National Assembly, ministers and governors to carry on, because those are the appropriate people and platforms in a civilized society for fighting such battles.

The late Biafran leader, Odimegwu Ojukwu probably went to war in 1967 because of the absence of a democratic forum such as NASS to square up with other political actors through political horse trading etc. In the absence of a democratic platform, both Gowon and Ojukwu went to Aburi, Ghana for a dentete , and failure to implement the agreement  resulted in the unfortunate civil war.

As lgbos are known to be politically sagacious, why resort to threats, vitriol and violence (which seem to be the stock in trade of IPOB) as  a panacea to their marginalization?

Let the men of  ‘timber and caliber’ in the hallowed chambers of congress and other such fora put on their thinking caps and slug it out with their contemporaries from the north.

 That’s on the  one hand.

On the Arewa quit notice givers’ side, it is such a contradiction that the Hausa/Fulani or northerners that fought doggedly to ensure that Nigeria did not disintegrate and thus were in the forefront of the war to restrain the lgbos from breaking away half a century ago, are now issuing quit notice to the same easterners that they fought so hard to keep in the federation. I can recall the mantra of Nigerian army during the war. “To Keep Nigeria As One Is A Task That Must Be Done”

That message was constantly in the airwaves during the war. There was even a fun one: Go-On-With-One-Nigeria-GOWON which resonated with the youths across country. It was coined from the alphabets in the surname of then military head of state, Yakubu GOWON.

Does the new attitude by the Arewa youths ( some of whom are offsprings of northern soldiers who dominated the military in those days that fought in the war) imply that those slogans that their parents were so passionate about have no value anymore?

What has changed so terribly badly that warranted a 360 degree U-Turn  to the extent of issuing the lgbos an ultimatum to quit Arewa land?

Assuming the Arewa youths  suddenly discovered that their fathers made a mistake to have fought to make Nigeria one about half a century ago, what is the raison d’ etre for the hurry to drive away the lgbos by force through an unrealistic ultimatum of 90 days?

Interestingly, the second part of the Arewa youths order which is that a referendum should be conducted in Nigeria, in my view, is what should be pursued with greater vigor. But that aspect seems to have been lost in translation.

So l wonder why commentators are  ignoring the second ultimatum which is a referendum for all Nigerians  to decide whether they want to remain in Nigeria or not.

At least both the Arewa youths and IPOB agree on that as they have both called for referendum and self determination respectively, which in my view are the same, except that both parties  referred to same principle by two different names.

In my view , the main issue creating the rift between the lgbo and Arewa youths are the language and attitude employed or deployed in conveying the same message.

My understanding is that the Arewa youths are offended by the vitriolic language employed by the lgbo youths especially the IPOB leader, Kanu who denigrates the Hausa/Fulani and other Nigerians in his verbal tirades on social media hence their angst and subsequent quit order to the lgbos. Otherwise, they appear to have acquiesced with the desire by some lgbos (not all) to pull out of Nigeria.

Obviously trading of barbs don’t sit well with Arewa people and this is underpinned by some cultural and religious trappings.

On the flip side, yabbng or calling out each other (njakiri) is a favorite past time of the average easterner or lgbo. You can witness that in Aba or Alaba markets in Abia or lagos states where the traders exchange banters and in the process sometimes harass the weak, especially women.

Unlike the Arewas, the Yorubas are indifferent or more tolerant of the exchange of vitriol or barbs and very accommodating of non-indigenes, hence they are not as perturbed or incensed by the alleged Nnamdi Kanu lambasting of members of other ethnic groups in Nigeria, especially the Arewas. That’s not to say that the Omo Oduduwas are insensitive to insults, but they are more absorbent of such insolence, perhaps owing to their cosmopolitan nature.

A testimony to how accommodating the Yorubas are is the existential reality that there are now lgbo legislators in lagos state just as Nnamdi Azikiwe and other lgbos were elected in lbadan during the first republic. In fact the level of political maturity of the Yorubas is so high that it can be comparable to European standards like in the UK where there are British born Nigerians in British parliament.

Another angle to the conflict is that considering the short time frame given for the lgbos to quit the 19 northern states, some analysts have simply narrowed it down to the belief that the Arewa youths want to strip the lgbos of their enormous assets and wealth spread all over the north which can’t be liquidated within 90 days.

Although l don’t subscribe to such pedantic reasoning, nevertheless, the motive behind such unrealistic demand can’t be ignored. So l’m curious to find out if the quit notice is a mere red herring or does it carry the grievous consequences of enforcement, if the lgbos fail to comply.

In my view, the latter is the case because, the Arewa youths have come out to deny the claim that they are threatening violence or proposing a war, plus they also, like IPOB demanded a referendum.

Understandably, the lgbos have every reason to be worried. And it would be foolhardy not to take the threat seriously. Given their previous tragic experiences of being killed in the North under similar circumstances before the war in the 1960s and during Maitasine religions insurrections over the years, as well as the Boko haram insurgency, they can’t be too careful.

In the same vein, l have the notion that the general belief amongst lgbo intelligentsia was to use the invocation of the spirit of Biafra to bring the federal govt to the negotiation table for a negotiated  restructuring of Nigeria.

I suspect that was the mission of MASSOB, but like a genie out of the bottle, Kanu’s IPOB which sprang forth from it, developed a life of its own. From experience, that’s what happens to most convoluted or decoy intentions. They go rogue and turn sinister. See what became of Boko  Haram.

Now, it behoves our intelligence agencies like the DSS to infiltrate the system with a view to extracting vital facts and analyzing same to unravel the true state of affairs. I believe the organization has the human resources (not sure of the material resources) to achieve that objective, if it makes it a mission.

Nevertheless, there is the need to dig deeper into the underlying practical issues with Project Nigeria by weighing some policies of government, before and after the civil war , against the politics that informed the policies and principles on which Nigeria now operates.

That is necessary to prevent Nigeria from disintegration, as the country now looks more like a character from the kindergarten rhyme: Humpty Dumpty which sat on a wall and had a great fall.

How long will the authorities in Nigeria continue to sit or stand on the wall of indecision and watch the country become densely populated by dissatisfied citizens to the extent that the nation is now on the brink of a break up, if appropriate measures are not taken?

To be concluded

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