Prognoses of a Possible Disintegrated Nigeria by War: The Foreign Policy Challenge

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Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari

By Bola A. Akinterinwa

Pointers to a possible disintegration of Nigeria by war are on the increase day by day. In other words, there is currently a crisis of insecurity and political lull in the governance of Nigeria under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB). The situation is, in terms of polemology, gradually moving from a crisis situation to that of a conflict situation with the possible use of force. In the event of use of force, disintegration is most likely to be the final outcome and Nigeria may not exist as it is thereafter.

Disintegration of any nation can be precipitated by jots of nationalism, which Arthur N. Waldron said, in 1985, ‘in general, is a powerful and comprehensible idea, yet, while it defines general situations, it is not very useful in explicating specific events.’ Political developments in the Nigeria of today are increasingly become very specific in articulation. Generally speaking, disintegration can be prompted by poverty, cultural invasion, social breakdown, economic imperialism, bipartisan politics in the sense of engagement in what is good for the party and not the people, and by other threats of a particular or a general nature.

In the very case of Nigeria, the threats are more of the nature of cultural invasion and bipartisan politics in the sense of what is good for the party in power and not what is good for national unity and survival. Political chicanery is one major issue. Besides, integration policies are also perceived structures of disintegration, especially in terms of their design and operations. And true enough, it is the very nature of the Nigerian federation that is currently generating centripetal and centrifugal debates in the country.

It is the position of Vie Internationale that the dynamics of a likely disintegration of Nigeria are largely associated with the people’s perceptions of politics of dishonesty in the governance of Nigeria, and the deepening of a discrimination- and ethnically-based nationalism, which, in the words of Walter Conner, ‘is likely to reinforce trends towards political fragmentation, particularly in the Third World, even as the momentum of integration and interdependence continue apace’ (vide Lewis W. Snider, “Political Disintegration in Developing Countries: Theoretical Orientations and Empirical Evidence,” www.tandfondline.com).

Threats to Nigeria’s national unity can be rightly said to be known generally: Boko Haram’s quest for an Islamic State of Nigeria, the quest for a State of Biafra, bad governance, fiddling with the politics of political restructuring, international conspiracy and religious fundamentalism, as well as political chicanery. These are classical threats that have been managed with ulterior selfish interests until now. The trending threat, which is quite fundamental and which appears to be at the epicentre of the whole crisis and possible conflict, is the perceived ‘Fulanisation Agenda.’ It is an agenda that really appears to be the most critical dynamic of the perceived impending war-driven disintegration of Nigeria, the dynamics of which are not far-fetched.

International Dynamics of Disintegration

The geo-political status of Nigeria in international relations is an important dynamic of the impending disintegration of Nigeria, which is hardly explicated or factored into foreign policy calculations. The truth is that no country likes any other country perceived to be better than it. It takes more courage, rather than sincerity of purpose, to accept the rising profile of a rival. In other words, Nigeria’s profile in international relations is admired, but with jealousy, and particularly in Africa. Nigeria’s active policy stand on matters directly affecting Africa’s interests is not liked in the developed world and in many parts of Africa. Nigeria has been, more or less, serving as a counter-weight to the policies of many developed countries on and in Africa, and therefore, no one wants a powerful Nigeria that will have the capacity to permanently constitute an impediment in the protection of its interests in Africa either considered bilaterally, plurilaterally, or multilaterally. International friendship with Nigeria is, grosso modo, that of a hide-and-seek game and mutual deceit at times.

And without scintilla of doubt, Nigeria’s vibrant population is a factor of strength that any country can ignore only to its own peril. Nigeria is not, simply put, only having the biggest population in Africa, but more interestingly, also playing host to the biggest population of black people in the world. This means that, in terms of correct foreign policy and strategic calculations, Nigeria ought to be made the world capital of the black people, their integrity, their values. The world is much aware of this great potential. But which country, developed or not, wants Nigeria to have that global position? What is in their interest is to have a giant without teeth to bite. No one wants Nigeria to acquire the capacity and capability to become a good and effective challenger.

For instance, to what extent is Nigeria’s policy of protection of black dignity internationally appreciated or accommodated? Nigeria was strong enough, under the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo, to the extent that the country nationalised the British Petroleum and the Barclays Bank in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was on the basis of strength that Nigeria adopted the policy of ‘No Compromise with Apartheid,’ in 1963 and that Nigeria also formulated exceptions to the United Nations principle of non-intervention in the affairs falling under the domestic preserve of other sovereign states. In fact, it is on record that Nigeria denied landing permission to visiting aircraft of former US Secretary of State. With this type of profile, why should anyone expect Nigeria to be liked positively? Nigeria can only be truly tolerated, not more, by the United States.

In the same vein, there is the French connection. Nigeria has Francophone neighbours all of which have close entente with France. Relationship between the neighbours and France is considered to be preferential. As a result, France does not want Nigeria to be able to effectively act to the detriment of French interest in the neighbouring countries. On the contrary, and for the same reasons, Nigeria does not even want France to be actively present in the same neighbouring countries, considered to be within Nigeria’s sphere of influence. As a matter of fact, the immediate neighbouring countries are considered to fall within the innermost circle of Nigeria’s foreign policy of concentricism.

More important, the Franco-Nigerian dispute over France’s atomic tests in the Reganne area of the Sahara desert in 1960 is a case in point. The dispute led to the severance of Franco-Nigerian diplomatic ties in 1961, even though it was only France that had a mission in Lagos by then. Nigeria would not have a diplomatic mission in Paris until 1966. The break in ties prompted France to prevent Nigeria’s associate membership of the then European Economic Community.

And perhaps more interestingly, Nigeria’s policy stand so much angered France that the country supported the Biafran spirit and war against Nigeria when it broke out in 1967. The French Prime Minister by then, Mr. Michel Debré, made it clear that if the Biafran rebels could not live happily in a united Nigeria, they should be able to become happy in a divided Nigeria that would enable a separate existence for them. That France might have objectively changed position is, at best, a matter of speculation.

And most interestingly, observed strategic calculation of the developed countries is essentially to have the oil producing areas of Nigeria become autonomous and independent of Nigeria, in such a way that privileged ties can be evolved and maintained with them. It will not only be easier to manage the relationship in terms of territorial scope, but also in terms of reduced corporate social responsibility or magnitude of assistance to be provided.
The point being made from the foregoing is that, in the consideration of the various threats to the survival of Nigeria as a sovereign nation-state, the factor of foreign interest cannot be underestimated. If disintegration is to be averted and if the external environment is to be used as a possible antidote, Nigeria’s foreign policy calculations need a very urgent review in light of the emerging new Cold War and the New World Order also in the making.
At the Nigerian domestic level, the threats are not taken with the seriousness they require. They are simply taken with kid gloves.

Domestic Dynamics

There are two main dynamics of disintegration at the domestic level: politicising critical questions and manu militari rigidity of policy response, on the one hand, and alleged ‘Fulanisation Agenda,’ on the other hand. As regards politicisation, when issues are generally raised by competent and non-partisan observers, they are generally and simply given a political coloration. The observers are labelled and given names that are truly not theirs.

In fact, in an attempt to defend government, objectivity of purpose is necessarily, but most unfortunately, lost on the altar of subjectivity and disintegration. The case of Barrister Olisa Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, is quite relevant. So are the many calls for disintegration equally important, because of the visible and declining interest in the corporate existence of Nigeria. The declining interest is primarily because of the mania of political governance of the country. We can espy the example of the Yoruba Youth Council for illustration purposes.

The Ondo State chapter of the Yoruba Youth Council (YYC) called on Wednesday, 2nd October, 2018, for the disintegration of Nigeria (vide www.nigerianwatch). In a statement by its Chairman, Pastor Benson Akinwunmi, a statement issued to mark Nigeria’s Independence Day, the YYC noted that ‘the Nigeria project is a failed one. It’s been bad, but now, it is worse and we don’t believe in the actualisation anymore.’ This statement and call for disintegration is a resultant of frustration and the YYC is not alone in the many calls.

Another group, Voice of Reason (VoR), comprising professionals and academics, has called on PMB that Nigeria will disintegrate if he fails to address national issues. As told by Mr. Olufemi Adegoke, Chairman of the group, ‘many problems in the polity have been identified as being worthy of statesman-like deliberation and contemplation. All these issues, if not properly addressed, would lead to chaos and finally, the disintegration of the country.’

Mr. Adegoke has it further that ‘the arrest and subsequent detention of Omoyele Sowore, the erstwhile presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, for “the crime of a call for revolution,” which is neither known to Nigerian statutes on criminal law, nor to the Constitution of the country, is a worrisome development… The VoR wants PMB to respect the Rule of Law, to stop the use of policemen as bodyguards, and in their place, ex-service men may be made available for citizens and officials who require bodyguards functions and are ready to pay the appropriate fees.’ Beyond these calls, how have the calls been handled?

Unlike the problems of natural disaster, declines in economic development, disease epidemic in other countries and which are promptly and effectively contained in such countries, the situation in Nigeria is quite different, especially in terms of management and timeliness. As seen by Pastor Akinwunmi, ‘a nation being divided along ethnic and religious line; a nation where a particular tribe is the colonists and some are the colonised; where the system of government is based on deception and corruption; where the personal or selfish interest of some few individuals supersedes the interest of the poor masses who are in the majority; where the lives of cows is worth more than hundreds of human lives; where innocent children are burned and massacred in cold blood and nobody is being apprehended for it, … what more can we say about this nation?’

The statement of Pastor Akinwunmi is weighty and should be noteworthy, particularly from two critical observations made: relationship between a cow and a human being, and the massacre of innocent children. Cows are animals and human beings are also animals, whether or not they are more developed. What is useful to note here is that cows are, for their owners, not simply animals but like cash crops for the farmers. Consequently, the loss of a cow is a loss of investment. The problem here is the evaluation of a cow, a material investment, compared to the live of a human being as another investment property.

In this regard, it can be argued, and rightly too, that a cow is important only to the extent of the live of its handler or owner. The cow cannot survive without the human being, looking after it, especially by the owner. This is to suggest that there is no way a property will and can be more important than its owner. The problem, in this case, is that it is perceived by the ordinary people that emphasis by Government is being placed on cows to the detriment of the human beings who look after them, who pay tax, and who are not lower animals.

Without any shadow of gainsaying, Pastor Akinwunmi’s statement is loaded with many serious implications for national unity. In other words, there is a sharp conflict between calls for disintegration and calls for preventable approaches to the challenge of disintegration. Government and its supporters naturally constitute a school of thought, which argues that Nigeria is a ‘one-indivisible’ country, and therefore, its corporate existence is ‘non-negotiable.’

Is it really tenable that there is something that cannot be negotiated? What makes Nigeria that was put in place as a result of amalgamation and an independent Nigeria that also came into being on the basis of volunteered consent? If Nigeria came into being by negotiation and consent, why is it believed that the consent cannot be renegotiated?

Put differently, it is often argued that the Constitution of the land provides for indissolubility of the Nigerian union. Admittedly, it can be tenable. But another school of thought has submitted that the very Constitution often referred to is a fraud in itself, simply because the preamble of the Constitution begins with ‘We, the People…’ whereas it is not the ‘we,’ the people of Nigeria, that made the Constitution. The school therefore sees the Constitution as a military one. Nigerians are actually asking for a new constitution that will continue to be amended, modified, or reviewed.

Again, the problem is that anything that has to do with raising questions about national unity is viewed with contempt and not as a matter of right of every Nigerian to look at. This gives the impression that unity and citizenship of Nigeria is by force. This brings us to the case of Barrister Olisa Agbakoba and others in his category who have made suggestions on the way forward.

Agbakoba called on PMB for restructuring of Nigeria into regions in the manner of the Aburi (Ghana) accords, which were done during the 1967-1970 civil war. He argued that the problems of insecurity and other challenges ‘can’t be fully arrested,’ if the Central Government remains so strong as it is now. In his thinking, ‘community policing or state policing is a tactical tool to deal with the problem, but the strategic tool is the bigger question of the national question.’

Perhaps, more importantly, Agbakoba said that ‘there are so many unclear issues in Nigeria about how we want to organise ourselves, how we want to live together, this is what some people have called restructuring question, some call it the national question, but I (Agbakoba) call it devolution of powers question. Whatever it’s called, that is the central issue that needs resolution so that even if you use tactical tools like community,… the bigger issue remains’ to be resolved.

In this regard, Agbakoba believes that the national question is essentially about space and therefore, wants PMB to ‘create space…, identify the ethnic regionalities, create eight big blocks even though we have six, to make it eight, [a]nd then… give them to do things at their own local level, it’s called the principle of subsidiarity. Let them work at their own level. Subsidiarity is where people engage themselves at the local level such that you find in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England.’

This observation and the suggestions therein contained, are to me worth being seriously tabled for further analysis by everyone, rather than throwing them into the altar of controversy. Chief Emeka Anyanwu has been a chief apostle of restructuring into regional zones along with several constitutional luminaries. Reactions of people have, however, not been intellectually engaging. In fact, it is shameful.

For instance, the reaction of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) to Agbakoba’s submission is noteworthy. The President of the CNM, Sabo Odeh, responded that ‘the demand from Olisa Agbakoba for the division of Nigeria by activating the Aburi Accord of the Civil War era is nothing, but scheming to achieve his own devious ends. This is because the issues he identified as militating against the management of Nigeria’s diversity are already being addressed.’

More importantly, Mr. Sabo Odeh noted further that, ‘had they been addressed on the scale the present administration has been addressing them, perhaps the country would have been spared the recent unsavoury experiences.’ The CNM simply sees Agbakoba as another Boko Haramist, as another extremist, rather than as an objective agent of patriotism, which Agbakoba truly is. In other words, Mr. Odeh has simply politicised his suggestions.

Most unfortunately, however, what PMB is seen to be doing is quite far from what the CNM holds to be the solution. Currently, PMB is believed, rightly or wrongly, to be sponsoring policies of nepotism by manu militari, which is seriously a major source of anger for the people, and this brings us to the second major dynamic of the reported impending disintegration of Nigeria: Fulanisation, under which the dispute .between Fulani herdsmen and farmers, and particularly the issue of land grabbing by the Fulani’s, clearly fall.

In March 2019, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo said that ‘Nigeria is more divided today than it was during the civil war.’ On July 5, 2019, he noted further that PMB was driving Nigeria ‘towards disaster and instability and unsustainability. In October 2019, he said the Northern Nigeria oligarchs and the wider network of Fulani in sub-Saharan Africa have concluded plans to adopt Nigeria as the homeland for all Fulani in Africa. More important, he said, the Fulani have realised that the wandering and rootless lifestyle of cattle herding Fulani is no longer tenable in the twenty-first century. Fulani need to have land to call home and rear cattle and that land should be Nigeria,’ but which, most unfortunately, they do not have, being migrants to Nigeria.

It is expected, therefore, that the force to be used by the Fulani to acquire land, and the counter-force to be used by the owners of land to stop such forceful acquisition, cannot but fall under the rule of legitimate self-defence. Any forceful acquisition of land, even by Government, has the potential to lead to war and disintegration of Nigeria, because order and counter-order always amount to an encounter and disorder. Consequently the scenario and foreign policy challenge cannot be far-fetched. Regarding scenarios, the war in Yoruba land may be fought, less with weapons, but more spiritually. Unlike the 1967-1970 model in which the Biafrans fought all others, the second war will essentially be between the North and the South. In terms of foreign policy, the challenge will be quite daunting, because it is internationally believed that Nigeria will never have peace until Nigeria is divided into Muslim north and Christian south. This was how the Muammar Gaddafi put it before he died. Again are Saudi Arabia and Iran not aiding and abetting Islamic agenda in Nigeria? God may know, but this is where the foreign policy challenge lies.