IDANT and Restructuring, Biafranisation, Boko Haramism in Nigeria

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Vie international By Bola Akinterinwa

IDANT is the acronym for International Day Against Nuclear Tests. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 64/35, initiated by Kazakhstan and unanimously adopted on December 2, 2009 at the 64th session of the UNGA, set aside every August 29 as International Day Against Nuclear Tests (IDANT). In the same vein, the UNGA also set aside September 26 of every year as the International Day for the Total Elimination of nuclear weapons.

Every August 29, the objective of the United Nations is to underscore the opposition of the international community to nuclear tests in the strong belief that nuclear wars would be prevented. By this, the message of August 29 is preventive: there should be no more nuclear tests hence, it is addressing the future. The message of every September 26 is that all existing testing plans should be stopped forthwith. In both cases, therefore, the message is that nuclearisation and tests should belong to the garbage of history.

Even though the issue of nuclear disarmament was first raised as far back as 1946 and has remained a major feature since 1975 at the level of the review of conferences of states, parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, disarmament has remained a dream. It has not belonged to the dustbin of history. On the contrary, threats of a nuclear war, possibly replacing conventional wars, are the most critical challenge for the United Nations to address as at today.

In July 1969, Chief Simeon O. Adebo noted: ‘We live in troublous times. Look, where you will, there is hardly a spot where there is a stable peace. Where there is not actual fighting, there are grave tensions; where the tensions are not international, they are local.’ When this statement was made, Chief Adebo might have considered the civil war situation in Nigeria, the then ongoing Cold War between the West and the East, the crises and conflicts in many parts of Africa, but might have not envisaged the extent of deterioration of global insecurity as it is as at today.

Without any scintilla of doubt, the global community, in general, and Nigeria in particular are living under what we may call ‘more than grave tensions,’ as at today. Internationally, the United Nations’ prescription of use of peaceful means (negotiation, conciliation, reconciliation, adjudication, diplomacy, etc) to resolve disputes in interstate relations is increasingly being made nonsense of with threats of use of nuclear weapons. The many international conventions done to nip in the bud, threats to the maintenance of global peace and security are no longer a big deal.

For instance, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime was done in 2000 with the objective of promoting cooperation, as well as preventing and combating transnationally organised crimes more effectively. As at today, the global community cannot be said to be succeeding with unending international terrorism, which constitutes a transnational crime per excellence. In fact, the extent of success of the 2000 ‘Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children,’ which was an additional Protocol to the UN Convention on Transnationally Organised Crimes is also doubtful.

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption was signed in 2003 with three main objectives in mind: ‘Prevent and combat corruption more efficiently and effectively; support international cooperation and technical assistance in the prevention of and fight affairs and public property.’ The war against corruption, again, is far from achieving its objectives globally. Corruption is institutionally chronic in Nigeria.

More important, and perhaps most disturbing, all efforts so far made on nuclear weapons non-proliferation since 1963 are also a failure considered stricto sensu. In 1963, when the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation was done, France and China refused to sign the Treaty but later accepted to sign it after both countries had perfected their nuclear tests. The best the international community could do is to play the politics of hide and seek without being able to seriously sanction any proliferating country.

In fact, according to the World Nuclear Association website, ‘Over 45 countries are actively considering embarking upon nuclear power programmes. These range from sophisticated economies to developing nations… Nuclear power is planned in over 20 countries, which do not currently have it and under some level of consideration in over 20 more (in a few, consideration is not necessarily at government level).’

Additionally, according to the UN website, as at today, ‘some 15,000 nuclear weapons remain. Countries possessing such weapons have well-funded, long-term plans to modernise their nuclear arsenals. More than half of the world’s population still lives in countries that either have such weapons or are members of nuclear alliances.’
More important, the UN also has it that, ‘As of 2016, while there have been major reductions in deployed nuclear weapons since the height of the Cold war, not one nuclear warhead has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty – bilateral or multilateral – and no nuclear disarmament negotiations are underway…’

What is particularly noteworthy at this juncture is that there is no fundamental difference in the processes of nuclear energy making for war and for peaceful purposes. Besides, the existing nuclear powers do not want new countries to become nuclear powers and acquire a nuclear status. It is often argued that new members do not have the means and experience to manage its complexities. Consequently, membership of the nuclear club is generally not done by kind invitation but by reasons of force majeure and self-imposition.

In this regard, what meaning should we give to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which was opened for signature in 1996, but which has become more about politics than anything else? True enough, France and the United Kingdom were the first two countries to sign the CTBT in 1996 and to ratify it in 1998. France made it clear last week, on August 29, 2017 that ‘it was the first state to have decided to close and dismantle its facilities for the production of fissile material used in nuclear weapons…, the only nuclear-weapon state to have dismantled its nuclear test site in a transparent manner…, the only state to have dismantled its ground-launched nuclear missiles…, (and) the only state to have voluntarily reduced the number of its nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines by a third,’ and also to have ‘reduced the number of nuclear weapons, missiles and aircraft in its airborne component by a third.

The United States Department of State has also said ‘since 1992, the United States has observed a unilateral moratorium on nuclear explosive testing. This moratorium is based on our national security assessment that the United States does not need to conduct nuclear explosive tests in order to ensure the safety, security and effectiveness of the nuclear forces we maintain to deter nuclear attacks on the United States, our allies and partners.’

From the foregoing, many lessons can be drawn for the situation of insecurity in Nigeria. First, there is conflict between the revelations of France and the United States and the UN objective of a nuclear-free world. Second, denuclearisation is a priori more about politics of self-survival. Countries unilaterally decide to engage in denuclearisation when it is convenient, especially when a level of security and self-reliance has been attained.

Explained differently, one truth about politics of disarmament is that when weapons are obsolete or have been overtaken by the development of new and more powerful ones, the powerful countries gladly come into the open to talk of destruction of weapons and disarmament. If we admit the UN report as noted above, that ‘deployed nuclear weapons since the height of the Cold war, not one nuclear warhead has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty, bilateral or multilateral, and no nuclear disarmament negotiations are underway’ why should anyone be carried away or deceived about the various pronouncements on the subject matter by world leaders? What purpose can setting aside an International Day for the total elimination of nuclear weapons have, when the intention to really do away with it is not sincere?

A second lesson is that, as a result of the insincerity that has come to characterise nuclear politics, the possibility of a new war in Nigeria can be taken advantage of for testing nuclear arms in the country. Put differently, Nigeria may easily become a deadly battle ground of international nuclear politics in the light of the various threats to the country’s national unity. It should not be quickly forgotten that alliances can also change in the light of enlightened national interests.

For instance, in 1975, when Cuba launched a military intervention in support of the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) against the United States-backed interventions by apartheid South Africa and Zaire in support of’ two right-wing liberation movements competing for power in the country, the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), Nigeria did not initially support the MPLA. It was on the discovery of the fact that Apartheid South Africa was actively supporting Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA that Nigeria applied her policy of ‘no compromise with Apartheid,’ and switched support in favour of the António Agostinho Neto-led MPLA.

Thus, all the countries publicly appearing to be giving support to the PMB’s administration as at today may secretly change alliance and seek to undermine Nigeria in several ways in the foreseeable future. It is within this context that the three main obstacles militating against national unity in Nigeria should be discussed, understood and new lessons learnt.

Impediments to National Cohesion in Nigeria
Three major obstacles are currently militating against national cohesion in Nigeria: quest for restructuring, biafranisation, and boko haramism. Restructuring as an act does not constitute a problem but what is likely to be the end result of it is the source of fear, and therefore of the problem. Will restructuring precipitate dismemberment of the country? If not, will it truly be a good antidote to societal ills, especially in terms of good governance, a corruption-free society and nation-building?

The quest for restructuring is essentially about the lop-sidedness in the management of federalism in Nigeria. The federal government is believed to be too strong to the detriment of the constitutive states of Nigeria. In this regard, a redefinition of the allocation of powers is pleaded. Apart from this, the manifestations of unfairness and injustice are complained of. This point largely explains the rationale for Biafranisation.

Biafranisation is a struggle for self-determination, self-autonomy, and quest for national sovereignty. Unlike restructuring which can and may not engender national disintegration, biafranisation necessarily does. The agents of biafranisation (MASSOB, IPOB, etc cannot be rightly considered as terrorist organisations like Boko Haram. Boko Haram is terroristic in design and wants Nigeria restructured into an Islamic State. The proponents of an independent state of Biafra are acting within the context of entitlement to the claim of or right to self-determination. Thus, there is a serious political lull before President Buhari to address: he is obligated to defend Nigeria in his oath of office. Nigeria’s constitution also provides for respect for international law which also requires Nigeria to uphold the principle of self-determination.

Therefore, in addressing the three impediments, government has three options to consider: effective dialogue, use of force and referendum. At the level of dialogue, the choice of dialogue requires mutual consent at the level of government and the opposition. However, a meaningful dialogue has been difficult to achieve, thus probably compelling government to consider, most unfortunately, the possibility of use of force, which is only hardening the position of the opposition to the extent that both government and opposition are now talking in belligerent terms.

For instance, as declared by Nnamdi Kanu, the Director of Radio Biafra and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), on Sunday, August 27, 2017 in his address to the Boys Technical College on Faulks Road in Aba North Local Government Area of Abia State: ‘Aba is the spiritual capital of Biafra land… Tell Buhari that I am in Aba and any person who comes to arrest Nnamdi Kanu in Biafra land will die here. I’ll never go on exile, I assure you. Some people talk about restructuring; are we doing restructuring of Nigeria now? Are we doing fiscal federalism? Are we doing devolution? What we want is Biafra.’
And most significantly, Kanu also told his followers to ‘forget all the nonsense they wrote about us. We are not slowing and no man born of a woman can stop us… God sent me to you, Aba people and I am giving you His message. Our veterans here your own message is that you’ll see Biafra alive, not in death.’

Four deductive points of truth are noteworthy from Kanu’s submission. First, his major complaints about Nigeria as it is today remain the issues of non-restructuring, lack of fiscal federalism, and non-devolution of powers. These are the very issues that the other lead proponents of restructuring from other regions are also hammering on. This simply means that the Biafran agitation is not stricto sensu a struggle for separation but for fairness and justice.

The second point is that the Kanu-led Biafrans have already resolved to become sovereign in the belief, rightly or wrongly, that there would not be any room for fiscal federalism or restructuring or devolution of powers. The situation of Kanu can therefore be likened to a court judge threatening to sentence a suicide bomber to death penalty. A suicide bomber on mission normally leaves home to bomb himself or herself to death before he or she is caught. In the same vein, the Biafrans now appear to have taken the bad end of the stick to the extent that they are not only ready to kill whoever is bringing any battle to their door steps but also indirectly accepting to be killed in the defence of their quest for what they consider to be a righteous cause.
Third, Kanu believes, probably wrongly too, that no person born of woman can stop him from achieving his objective of State of Biafra. His belief appears to have been largely influenced by the thinking of Macbeth, the valiant cousin of King Duncan, in Shakespearean Macbeth. Macbeth, who led the war against Scotland in defence of King Duncan of England, was told by three witches on his return from the war front after defeating the enemy that he would become the king. The King was still on throne. The witches also told Macbeth that only a man not born of a woman could kill him.

In the thinking of Macbeth, there was no person not born of a woman. Besides, if he was to become king, it meant that he must assassinate the king. Very interestingly, there was Macduff, who was born by caesarean section and not born of a woman. Macduff simply gave meaning and fulfilment to the predictions of the witches. Thus, Kanu should not only learn from this, but should also learn from the Yoruba proverbial saying that ‘what is behind six is more than seven.’

Fourth, and most importantly, Kanu and others are invoking the name of God in their struggle. Kanu presented himself as God chosen and God sent. If the people of Aba accept him as God sent, biafranisation can become fanatical in character. Even if the federal government destabilises the Biafrans on the battle field, guerrilla war may not be easy and ruled out. Terrorism against Nigeria may also not be as easy as it is being contemplated. Kanu also said: ‘we are going to boycott Anambra State election. After Anambra 2017, in 2019, there’ll be no elections in Biafra land. Signed and sealed.’ This is a direct confrontational challenge, though very serious, which must be taken with much caution.

President Buhari, as number one citizen, must know his onions very well in this regard, because Kanu appears to want to engage in a catalytic provocation as a prelude to war engagement. Re-arresting him cannot but also renew hostility vis-a-vis the federal government, not necessarily because people would want to support him or the Biafran agenda, but because the environmental conditionings of national unity are currently favourable to disintegration. This is where the IDANT requires a special reflection out of the box.

Vie Internationale posits at this juncture that, in the event of another war in Nigeria, the federal government cannot but be compelled to fight in different battle fields far apart from one another, North-east and South-east. The type of support enjoyed by the federal government during the first Biafran war is not much likely to be there. Even though the use of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear arms is internationally prohibited, they are still likely to be used in Nigeria illegally.

And borrowing from Chinua Achebe, when ‘there is trouble with Nigeria’ in terms of failure of leadership, ‘the arrow of God may strike’, ‘things will fall apart’ and there will be ‘no longer at ease.’ Consequently, IDANT should not simply be limited to create awareness on the needs for non-nuclearisation and prohibition of nuclear tests. Greater emphasis should be on the need to avoid crises and conflicts that may provide the platform for use of conventional or nuclear arms.