Obasanjo: Violent Agitation for Self-determination Looms in Nigeria If…

Olusegun Obasanjo
Olusegun Obasanjo
  • Says language of current debate is poisonous
  • Warns country can’t survive another civil war

Nseobong Okon-Ekong in Lagos

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has warned of possible violent agitations for self-determination movements, which he reckoned might be difficult to contain if the government of President Muhammadu Buhari allowed the current agitation for restructuring to degenerate any further.

The former president, who expressed grave concern over the current language of debate across the country, which in his estimation was poisonous, noted that if the development was not nipped in the bud, the government might have a bigger problem on its hands.

Berating the Buhari administration for its impunity, which according to him gave rise to fractional political divisions, poor management of the economy, the non-protecting security and the politics of uncertainty in the land, Obasanjo further warned that in the event of the unexpected, Nigeria might not survive another civil wear.

This, notwithstanding, Obasanjo still pledged his willingness to continue to work for the unity of the country.

Speaking at the First Anniversary Lecture of the late Dr. Frederick Isiotan Fasehun, Founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Obasanjo said, “There is still a window of opportunity for us to nip in the bud, a possible and indeed likely agitation for self-determination that will be violent, destructive and all-empowering.

“We have descended to lack of civility bordering on uncivilisation, indignity, mutual disrespect and crudity in the language of our debate, dialogue, discourse, address, comments and remarks across tribe, section, religion, ethnicity and community. If not halted, it will degenerate and poison the atmosphere to the tipping point or point of no return.”

Establishing a nexus between this and the current insecurity in the country, Obasanjo warned that, “If after over ten years of fighting Boko Haram, the terrorist group is still waxing strong, let nobody out of self-delusion think that a war of self-determination by one or more geopolitical zones of Nigeria with the present disenchantment would be easily suppressed by the rest of what may remain of the country.

“Some will fight to the last drop of the blood of their group rather than suffer the indignity of slavery, oppression, domination and atrocious injustice in the land of their birth and the only one that they can call their country.

“If Boko Haram can get an outside support, any geo-political zone opting for self-determination may equally get an external support. War may not necessarily go as planned, estimated and predicted.

“Everything must, therefore, be put in place to avoid a war, the end of which no one can precisely predict. There is no assurance that Nigeria can survive a second civil war. But rather, we should seek political solution and avoid a destructive civil war.”

While offering some solutions, Obasanjo emphasised the need for the Executive and the Legislature to work together to establish a Constituent Assembly.
“The exercise,” he said, “must not be compromised like the present Constitution. It must have full legitimacy of ‘we the people’. Talking of a new Constitution, maybe we should try a hybrid Constitution of President and Prime Minister sharing executive power in a Presidential cum Parliamentary system,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the event hosted by the President of OPC, Prince Dele Osibote at the NITEL Grounds, Cappa-Oshodi in Lagos, was attended by eminent Nigerians including former Governor of Osun, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Lagos State Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, Dr. Wale Ahmed.

Others were a former Lagos State governorship candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, President of the Certified Institute for Cooperatives and Social Enterprise Management (CICOSEMA), Prof. Kehinde Olusegun and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, who was represented by the Osanya of Sanya, Oba Muraina Adebanjo.

The General Secretary, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Anthony Sani, noted that restructuring, as widely proposed by many in the society, was not the panacea to the challenges confronting the country.

Sani, therefore, called for negotiation amongst the ethnic groups in the country in order to jointly proffer solution to the problems confronting the development of the nation.

“I am tempted to say that the problem might not be restructuring but the issue might be moral value. I would prefer we come together and challenge the issue confronting the country for a united Nigeria so that we can develop the country and this event is an example of such.

“At the moment, Nigeria is facing a lot of challenges. Many of the challenges are socio-economic and the issue of insecurity. Because of these challenges, I have heard that the panacea is restructuring. There is no harm in restructuring. I want to us to know that Nigeria had been restructured severally.

“We have operated different systems of government – presidential and parliamentary system – and they have worked in other climes,” Sani said.
In his opening remarks, Osibote assured Nigerians of speaking truth to power and protecting their rights as demonstrated in the life of the founder.
He explained that the importation of criminality into the organisation by some elites propelled problems within the group.

Osibote also reeled off some of the efforts of the current OPC leadership at weeding out undesirable elements within the group in a bid to bring back the good eggs to the group.

“We want to assure you that OPC will not derail in its chosen path of speaking the truth, protecting the rights of Nigerians and imbibing the culture and values of integrity, discipline, honour and prestige. We will ever be firm, open, cultured and disciplined as true disciples of Dr. Fasheun.
“OPC started having problems, which was against the intentions of the Founder, when criminality was imported into the organisation through the active connivance of the elites. This forced many discerning men and women of goodwill to distance themselves from the group.

“However, the present leadership of the OPC is making every legal effort to weed out undesirable elements from its midst and inculcate in our members the virtues of hard work, integrity and patriotism as laid in the vision of the Founder.

He, however, concluded by decrying the spilling of blood in the land, banditry, abduction, kidnapping and other forms of heinous crimes that almost made life miserable in some parts of the country.

He added that the dynamics of economic growth, development, prosperity and success were never found in savagery.

Further more, he noted that the purpose of setting up the organisation was, essentially, to stand against injustice.

“Where you have a neighbour that threatens your future survival is considered tolerable, just because you want to ‘embrace peace’ will be a hard conversation to sell. It will not be enough to just add the word: ‘Reformed’ to the name, but in content and in character, while expressing willingness of the institute to help re-brand OPC.