Self-determination and Global Peace: The Yoruba Standpoint on Restructuring

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VIE INTERNATIONAL With Bola A. Akinterinwa

When the principle of self-determination was initially conceived in international relations in the immediate post World War II era, it was specifically aimed at facilitating the independence of colonial peoples and territories. The United States was one of the leading factors that compelled France and the United Kingdom to grant independence to many colonial and dependent territories.

After independence, the concept of self-determination changed from seeking autonomy from colonial masters to the quest for autonomy from within existing States. While the quest for autonomy or self-governing status enjoys general international support, the quest for autonomy within existing states does not. In fact, several national Constitutions provide for national unity by force. The making of the OAU Charter made it also compulsory by adopting the principle of uti possidetis.

Explained differently, uti possidetis is the principle of sanctity of colonial frontiers, adopted in 1810 by the Latin American countries, according to which accession to national and international sovereignty must not alter existing international frontiers or boundaries of member states. Consequently, by signing or acceding to the 1963 OAU Charter, which provides for the principle, no member state of the OAU or the successor organisation, the African Union, could or can change its boundary.

Perhaps, more interestingly, wherever newly elected presidents were to be sworn in, they generally all pledged to defend and protect the territorial integrity of their countries. In an attempt to defend this principle, many governments opt for shooting wars. No country is favourably disposed to dismemberment of its constituent parts. In many cases, they also go to war when there are territorial disputes rather than accept diplomatic approaches to dispute settlement.

In the quest for the application of the principle of self-determination, different methods have been adopted: use of force by insurgency or secession; negotiation by consent, negotiation by ultimatum; by multilateral diplomacy. In the context of Nigeria, the proponents of Biafra are seeking self-determination by use of force while the Yoruba in the South-west are asking for the same by negotiated ultimatum. They have asked for restructuring and some other ethnic groups have indicated the possibility of non-cooperation in the 2019 general election without restructuring as a fait accompli before then.

In this regard, how do we explain the quest for self-determination by ultimatum? In which way will this be helpful to peace in Nigeria and globally? The Yoruba People have been raising the need for restructuring for more than four decades now, but all to no avail. What difference will it make this time by giving an ultimatum? More importantly, will a post-restructuring era change the attitudinal disposition and the mental psyche of the people?
Vie Internationale observes that the quest for self-determination by ultimatum is largely prompted by the rigidity of policy pronouncement by President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB). The rigidity of the pronouncement is largely predicated on misperception, misunderstanding and misjudgement of the relevant provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, and especially the implications of the provision for international relations

Without doubt, perception-induced policy can be right or wrong. A right policy may be good for the adopter while the targeted audience may consider it hostile. This is why in any given type of relationship – bilateral, trilateral, plurilateral or multilateral – perception largely determines the extent of warmth or goodness in it. It is in the way the advocates of restructuring perceive the polity, the way they perceive the incumbent government in the conduct and management of issues of good governance, particularly, issues dealing with fairness, justice, discipline and openness of mind, that more often explain general commitment to national unity.

Vie Internationale also observes that, because the Yoruba people have been calling for a stronger, a more functional federal system, and a more meaningful unity through restructuring for more than 40 years, their patience appears to have now reached its crescendo in the continuum of tolerance. On the other side of the story, the Yoruba are also climbing the first step of the continuum of intolerance, the ultimate outcome of which no one can rightly predict for now.

And most importantly, Vie Internationale also observes that, unlike before, the mental disposition of Nigerians to Nigeria is also changing to the detriment of a virile and united Nigeria. Public officials steal hard-earned pensioners’ money with impunity. PMB is fighting crimes and indiscipline, on the one hand, but also consciously encouraging it on the other hand by acquiescence. The role of the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Governing Council of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in the generation of societal indiscipline is a good illustration.

We have drawn attention to it several times in the past but PMB is not interested in it. The supervisory authority, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, particularly under the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama is keeping silent over it as well probably, because of ethnic solidarity and esprit de corps. Most unfortunately, the silence necessarily also militates against the attainment of the development objectives of PMB and why he is currently operating in a junction of conflicting anti-Nigeria interests.

By seriously and conclusively fighting corruption, he has effectively blocked all access road to embezzlement of public funds. The thieves cannot be happy with him. Only non-thieving politicians will support PMB in anything he does or what he wants to do. The thieving politicians do not and cannot want him alive.

Most unfortunately, however, the anti-corruption war has been unnecessarily very selective. When attention of PMB is drawn to the protection of crimes and encouragement of acts of serious misconduct at the NIIA, he kept quiet apparently in the spirit of ‘I don’t care.’ This is more than a double standard attitude in the war against societal indiscipline, which he even tenaciously started in 1984. It should be underscored at this juncture that it is the problem of a double standard-driven unfairness and injustice in the political governance of Nigeria that largely explains the do-or-die quest for self-determination struggle in Nigeria. This self-determination struggle has the great potential to undermine regional and global peace and security, if it is not properly handled. It is within this frame of mind that the Ibadan Declaration of the Yoruba People is explicated here after.

Ibadan Declaration and Global Peace
The Yoruba leaders met at the Lekan Salami Stadium in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, on Thursday, September 7, 2017 to renew discussions on the need for political restructuring as a basis for political stability and unity. At the end of the meeting, a motion on the “Yoruba standpoint on Restructuring” was adopted. It is generally referred to as the ‘Ibadan Declaration’. The Declaration can be considered significant in many ways.

First, all the Yoruba leaders appeared to be more united than ever before on the issue. The Afenifere and the Afenifere Renewal Group, Oodua People’s Congress, Yoruba Council of Elders, leading Yoruba traditional rulers, academics, etc, were there. Second, other Southern leaders were represented. They included delegations of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which was led by Chief John Nwodo, and the South-south delegation, led by Chief Albert Horsefall. The support of the two delegations for the Yoruba Standpoint on restructuring necessarily makes the issue a North-South divide in which case, the North is against and the South is proponent. When this South versus North standpoint is considered in the context of conjectural projections, we may in the long run have Nigeria split into two main countries by beginning with regionalisation or zonalisation.

In this regard, the Ibadan Declaration is comprised of many interesting points, especially with the emphasis placed on the need to return to the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions and amending them, where necessary to respond to current challenges. One of the resolutions is that ‘a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria can only know real peace and development if it is run ONLY along federal lines.’ Besides ‘the greatest imperatives of restricting Nigeria is to move from a rent-seeking and money sharing anti-development economy to productivity by ensuring that the federating units are free to own and develop their resources. They should pay agreed sums to the federation purse to implement central services.

And perhaps most importantly, it was resolved that the ‘agreed positions of the Yoruba taken today shall form the basis of negotiations with our partners in the Nigerian project for a united Nigeria, based on justice, peace and fair play.

Some deductive major points are noteworthy from the foregoing. By admitting that the only condition Nigerians or Nigeria can know ‘real peace and development is to engage in a true federal system, the Yoruba are also saying that there is no ‘real peace’ in Nigeria. In this case, what is real peace? When does real peace exist? Does the existence of real peace imply non-existence of kidnappings, armed robberies, political agitations, corruption?
There are also the conditions with other partners in the Nigerian project, such as 50% share of the ration of all revenues raised by means of taxation for the States, 35% to the regional government and 15% to the government of the federation, as well as the call for a special fund for the development of all minerals in the country in the next 10 years following the commencement of the operations of the new Constitution and that ‘each region shall have its own Constitution containing enumerated exclusive and concurrent legislative lists regarding matters upon which the regions and the states may act or legislate.’

Again, when the foregoing is reviewed against the background of the role of ‘perception,’ it is observed that it is how political governance is perceived, especially in terms of its inadequacies and how government has responded to them that is largely responsible for the restructuring agitation. For instance, Chief Afe Babalola, who chaired the one-day meeting in Ibadan, submitted that “restructuring ‘would enable each State to control its population, set internationally accepted standard for admission to tertiary institutions and bring back the glory of quality education to our Universities.” The main complaint inherent in this submission is that the standard of admission into tertiary colleges in Nigeria is below the normal international requirement. If there is to be real peace in Nigeria, there should be acceptable admission standard.

The perception of Chief Reuben Fasoranti is that the structure of Nigeria as at today is an impediment to the growth and development of the Yoruba nation, implying that it has become a desideratum for the Yoruba people to quickly vacate the world of under-development without any further delay. The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, cannot but also admit that untruthfulness is one of the banes of political governance when he called for “truthfulness” among all the stakeholders.

And perhaps more interestingly, Chief Horsefall declared at the meeting that “we don’t want a federation run on unitary system of government.” This comment is actually the epicentral foundation for the various calls for restructuring. The belief is that the Abuja government is too powerful to the detriment of the operation of federalism at the level of the constitutive states of Nigeria. People want decentralisation of powers and only want the federal government to be responsible for the protection of limited common interests such as national currency, foreign policy, national defence, etc.

Considered grosso modo, if the Arewa youths in the north have reportedly withdrawn their quit notice to the Ndigbo resident in the north and many of them are still doubting the seriousness of the withdrawal, does this not also explain the suspicions in international relations, according to which no country wants to be cut unawares or overtaken in terms of national defence. On the one hand, the powerful countries preach against armament but do not truly disarm. Even, many militant groups draw strength from foreign secret support. The militants in the South-south and South-east were once reported to have requested for help from the United States. And true enough the attention of the United Nations has also been drawn to the quest by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo for self-determination.

Thus, the Ibadan Declaration has not only given more strength to the existing struggle, but has also created new problems to reflect on: can the federal government engage in any successfully when the whole polity is sharply divided? The proponents of restructuring cut across the whole country, most are in the south while others are in the north. In the same vein, most people that are against restructuring are in the north while the minority of them are in the south. Essentially, the debate has been largely the north versus the south, with the South-west championing the call for restructuring.

With the Yoruba standpoint on restructuring and PMB’s standpoint that national unity is not negotiable, Nigeria may after all be the first testing ground for the new nuclear and hydrogen bombs still being secretly kept by the major powers. The Ibadan Declaration is consistent with international law. It is quite silent on the use of force as a tactic. Nothing is known about the likely attitudinal disposition of the Yorubas in the event of a need to respond to eventual PMB’s use of force to suppress restructuring agitations.

In essence, the only option left for the PMB administration in lieu of the intended use of force is to organise a plebiscite, the date of which should be in late 2018 or early 2019. In-between now and then, considerable efforts should be made to enlighten the general public on the issues involved and also seek to persuade most people to still persevere while new foundations for better days to come are being laid.

Additionally, elements of visible injustice and unfairness should also be removed before then. Even though the PMB administration may not be directly responsible for the 1994 collection of huge deposits of money from people like me for houses that would not be built, for deposits that have not been refunded, and over which government can be said to be criminally (crime against the people this time) keeping silent, political governance is continuous.
It is most unfortunate and unacceptable for the PMB administration to be rejoicing that houses are being built for public servants, when houses paid or deposited for in 1994 have not been built as a today. National unity must be on constructive basis and objectivity of purpose. It can never survive or endure on the current basis of unfairness and anti-patriotic policies of government.

Quote: With the Yoruba standpoint on restructuring and PMB’s standpoint that national unity is not negotiable, Nigeria may after all be the first testing ground for the new nuclear and hydrogen bombs still being secretly kept by the major powers. The Ibadan Declaration is consistent with international law. It is quite silent on the use of force as a tactic. Nothing is known about the likely attitudinal disposition of the Yorubas in the event of a need to respond to eventual PMB’s use of force to suppress restructuring agitations