By Bola A. Akinterinwa
Sunday Igboho is not on record to have any movement beyond his resolution to stop what he believes to be a Fulani herdsmen aggression on the law-abiding Yoruba people. He is from the South-west. Nnamdi Kalu is leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). He is from the South East. Mujahid Asari-Dokubo is from the South-South. He created a new anti-Nigeria group about a fortnight ago. What is common to the three leaders is their frustration with the political governance of Nigeria. The frustration is to the extent that they now want to liberate their people or carve out their territorial boundaries out of the corporate existence of Nigeria as it currently exists.
In reaction to this, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Ibrahim Attahiru, was reported to have declared ‘war on Igboho, Kalu and Dokubo.’ As reported by Tony John, the Army Chief told them as follows: ‘we’re coming for you.’ Again, in the specific words of the Army Chief, ‘the Nigerian Army under my leadership would remain proactive and jointly work with other security agencies to decisively deal with threats facing the nation. The Nigerian army under my watch remains resolute and is poised, more than ever before, to decisively deal with individual or groups that threaten the peace, security and stability of our great nation’ (vide Daily Sun, Wednesday, March 24, 2021, pp.1&6).
The statement of the Army Chief may not be simply seen as an expression of any jot of braggadocio. The Army Chief may mean well and may also have a seriousness of purpose. However, there is the need to ask if Nigeria’s problem is Sunday Igboho or Nnamdi Kalu or Mujahid Asari-Dokubo? It is also useful to ask whether declaring war on them individually or collectively is a good solution to Nigeria’s problem? What really is Nigeria’s problem?
Nigeria’s problem is profound, accidental and self-inflicted. Nigeria’s profound problem is Nigeria. Her accidental problem is environmental-driven. The self-inflicted problem is attitudinal. Nigerians like untruth. Nigerian politicians are at best, sycophantic. Nigeria appears to be the only country where untruth is worshipped and honoured and where intellectual energy and resources are always deployed to defend inequity, injustice and oppression. This is why the reported declaration of war on Igboho, Kalu and Asari-Dokubo is nothing more than a poor evaluation of the criticality of Nigeria’s main problem.
The Problem: Insecurity and Self-determination
As noted above, Nigeria is the problem of Nigeria, which, in the eyes of many, is simply a geographical expression. In other words, Nigeria is not seen as a nation-state. And true, Nigeria cannot be developed into a nation-state because of another sub-problem: the erroneous belief that the Fulani owns Nigeria, or that they have sovereignty over Nigeria, and therefore, the need for Fulanisation. Without scintilla of doubt, the Fulani is apparently believed to be treated as another God of Nigeria and given unnecessary preferential treatment in the governance of Nigeria, especially under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB). Many are the press reports according to which security agents refuse to act whenever the subjects of complaint are Fulani. This has raised much anger in the polity as at today.
More important is another belief that the Nigeria bargained for before her independence in 1960 is not what is being nurtured today. The independence leaders agreed on a true federal system. And most important is the issue of the 1999 Constitution which many observers see as a major source of national misunderstanding, and therefore, should be jettisoned for various reasons. From the perspectives of the #end1999Constitution, Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution frees government from liability regarding citizen rights provided in Chapter 2, thus making these rights not justiceable. The Constitution was neither signed into law by the National Assembly or by the president, nor subjected to a referendum in order to legitimise it through people’s involvement.
The 1999 Constitution was written by a select few Nigerians and, therefore, seen by the people as a constitutional fraud. The 1999 Constitution, as further noted by #end 1999constitution, does not enable State Constitutions to create a true federation. Besides, it was not only kept a secret till after all inauguration activities in 1999, but also not printed by Government Printers in 1999. It only provides for one religion, Islam, in Sections 275-279 and neglects all other religions, which gives the wrong impression that Nigeria has a state religion.
Thanks to the 1999 Constitution, political governance in Nigeria is unnecessarily over-centralised. The whole judiciary is centralised. The National Assembly is given power over concurrent items. The Constitution also created a unitary government and not a federal government. And perhaps more disturbingly, it allegedly and falsely claims that Nigerians willingly handed over their lands and resources to the Federal government, thus pauperising the States and Nigerians.
Additionally, Sections 275-279 negate Section 10 on non-state religion. On the basis of the Constitution, State governors are the Chief Security Officers of their States, but the Constitution does not empower them with security outfits or power over the Nigerian Police. In the same vein, a civilian government can hardly meet Section 8 requirements for the creation of new States and Local Governments.
And funnily enough, the Constitution regards married girls below 18 years of age as adults who can sue and be sued, vote and be voted for. The inclusion of the military land use decree and NYSC decree (later Act) in the Constitution necessarily makes it very difficult to amend. The provision for only one police force, unlike in other federations, cannot but be a source of political suspicions. Section 6 of the Constitution frees Government from liability regarding citizens rights provided in Chapter 2, thus making the rights not justiceable.
Apart from constitutional problems, there is a video that has gone viral, showing that there is gold in Yoruba land, specifically in Ibadan, Oyo State. The gold is being secretly mined by the Fulani to the knowledge of ‘Fulani Government… The gold in Zamfara State is being mined by the local people while the mining of gold in the South West is by the Fulani. The video claims that the State government does not know much about this development. Whether or not the video is credible, viewers are already made to be hostile, not only to the Fulani, but particularly to a united Nigeria.
The foregoing constitute the ingredients of Nigeria’s problem, which is being manifested in the form of national insecurity and people’s agitation for self-determination. This is how Nigeria has become a problem unto herself, how national unity has been seriously threatened to the extent of irreversibility. The fundamental question being raised by the generality of the people is this: why is it that PMB is handling the problem with kid gloves? Why is he unwilling to accept national restructuring in order to douse the national tension, and by so doing, enhancing effectiveness in governance and peace and security through national cohesion? The governance of Nigeria under PMB is that of political chicanery per excellence and has had Nigeria’s international image seriously tainted.
Former South African president, Nelson Mandela, was quoted as saying that ‘the world will never respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world are looking up to Nigeria to be a source of pride and confidence. Every Nigerian citizen should be made to understand this.’ The concerns of the current Ghanaian president, Nana Akufo-Addo Dankwa, is not different. He reportedly told his compatriots as follows: ‘we must learn from the mistakes of Nigeria, and never in our entire history be ever so foolish. You cannot declare war on your country and still be enjoying federal allocation as a state except in complicity with the government. The Nigerian government is an ethnic government, not a nationalistic government. What I cannot understand is why Nigerians themselves are not angry enough to change the situation.’
This reported statement of the Ghanaian leader may be considered unfriendly because of the conflict between declaring a war against one country, while the attacking belligerent is still eligible for federal allocation. In this same logic, asking why Nigerians are not angry enough to address their national problems can be interpreted as an incitement of the Nigerian people against the Government of Nigeria.
The truth of the matter is that Nigerians are already transparently manifesting their anger through agitation for self-determination, which some observers misrepresent as treasonable. In fact, many people confuse the agitation for self-determination with the complaints against the deepening situation of insecurity in the country. First of all, the recidivist character of insecurity is what strengthens the agitation for separation, as the agitators have come to believe that PMB really has a Fulanisation agenda which they are not prepared to accept.
In this regard, whoever argues that an effort at self-determination constitutes a treasonable offence cannot but be looking at the issue myopically, disregarding the essence of self-determination in contemporary international diplomatic practice and during the colonial era. In fact, the way the Yoruba people are going about it not only makes the threats by the Army Chief to deal with Igboho, Kalu, and Asari-Dokubo completely nonsensical and irrelevant, and therefore missing the point, but also why the threats will be used to fast track the dismantlement of Nigeria. Put differently, the Yoruba people, for instance, are not talking in terms of war but going through international diplomatic processes. The Yoruba memorandum to the United Nations speaks volumes on the rationales for self-determination.
Yoruba Memoranda and Self-determination
The Yoruba quest for self-determination cannot be said to be recent. Stricto-sensu, the aggravating situation of insecurity in the country is not the origin or main dynamic of the agitation. The factor of insecurity is simply a catalytic agent. It is on record that a 27-year old Headmaster, Mr. Modiyu Adeniyi-Osinowo organised a one-man campaign that Yoruba land should separate from Nigeria as Pakistan separated from India. The call for separation was in reaction to his perceived shabby treatment spewed on Chief Obafemi Awolowo by the Fulani-led Federal Government on the day of Nigeria’s independence in 1960. As reportedly quoted, ‘let’s have our own Pakistan. If they could rubbish Awo like this, sooner or later, they will be defecating on our heads.’
Although he was reportedly assassinated five years thereafter, there is nothing to suggest or link the assassination to his call for separation of Yoruba land. What is, however, noteworthy is that there have been growing complaints against the Fulani people in Nigeria since 1960. The current situation of insecurity in the country is nothing more than the tipping point of the problem. It is against this background that the Yoruba Memoranda should be explained and understood.
The memoranda is titled ‘Yoruba People’s of Nigeria Memoranda for Yoruba Nation Independence.’ By talking about Yoruba peoples, an attempt is made to underscore the point that there are different sub-ethnic groups: Akoko, Igbomina, Ijebu, Ijesha, Ilaje, Egba, Egun, Ondo, Onko, Oshun, Owo, etc. In fact, the memoranda identified 27 categories of peoples in Yorubaland. A modern State in international relations since the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia is believed to exist when there is a union of government, territory and people or population. Although a school of thought has it that a fourth criterion should be included, that is, recognition of the State, the truth of the matter is that the non-recognition of a State does not in any way prevent the existence of the state in international relations. In the same vein, the non-recognition of a government does not also prevent the government from entering into international relations. The only difficulty in the factor of non-recognition is that the non-recognised State may not be able to establish diplomatic ties with the non-recognising country. This is the likely scenario to be expected in the event of an independence for Yoruba land in the foreseeable future in international relations.
In essence, the journey of the Yoruba people to self-reliance and statehood does not follow the logic of Von Clausewitz who has posited that whoever wants peace should always prepare for war. The Yoruba strategic approach consists of use of diplomacy to prevent the aggravation of the current crisis from becoming a conflict that may have the potential of becoming a war. This strategy appears to have anticipated the hostile reaction of the Government of Nigeria to the idea of self-determination which may provoke a war of genocide. Consequently, by firstly going through the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), the Yoruba leaders have well, in advance, secured the solidarity of all other peoples in similar situation.
Some observers simply look at the UNPO as a Non-Governmental Organisation. True enough, but it is still an international organisation put in place on 11 February, 1991 in The Hague, Netherlands, with the mandate to facilitate the voices of marginalised nations and unrepresented peoples worldwide. Only indigenous peoples, minorities and unrecognised or occupied territories are eligible to be members of the UNPO. The mere membership of the organisation of the Yoruba people necessarily puts their complaints against the Government of Nigeria worldwide. The internationalisation of their complaints cannot but prompt the monitoring of the Government of Nigeria.
In officially welcoming the membership of the Yoruba World Congress (YWC) on August 20, 2020, the XV Assembly of the UNPO said the YWC ‘has joined the UNPO because they want to the Yoruba people to be able to exercise their right to self-determination, which they aren’t able to do as a part of Nigeria.’ This statement falls squarely within people-to-people relations, and therefore, within citizen diplomacy and international life. The issue at stake is self-determination to which every people has legitimate right in international relations. Its origin dates back to the colonial era.
Additionally, by also going through the UN Security Council, which has the mandate to ensure maintenance of international peace and security, the Yoruba leaders have also ensured that the international community would be there for them in the event of commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Government of Nigeria. And perhaps more significantly, the Yoruba strategy necessarily prevents potential and irrelevant arguments of treason at the municipal law level, but which does not hold waters in international law and relations
Thus, the Yoruba memoranda was addressed to the UN Security Council in the main, through the incumbent UN Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres (GCC,GCL) and to Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, through the Rt. Honourable Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister and the British Parliament. The memoranda was copied to 43 people and other traditional rulers in Yoruba land.
Three main points are noteworthy about the memorandum. First, the memorandum wears the toga of Yoruba people, but the founding of the ethnic Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-determination (INAS) from the South-West, South East, South-South and the Middle Belt, clearly suggests that the Yoruba are not alone in the quest for self-determination.
The INAS held a meeting on December 18, 2020 and issued a sovereignty dispute to the Government of Nigeria on the fears of possible extermination. As noted in their communiqué, the Yoruba leaders affirmed: ‘being confronted by the clear and present danger of extermination in the hands of our supposed compatriots in the union of Nigeria (we) declare a sovereignty dispute with the federation of Nigeria as represented by the Federal Government of Nigeria, on account of our repudiation and rejection of the imposed 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, whose authorship was fraudulently imputed to us.’ Thus, the Yoruba memoranda is meant to avoid the likelihood of extermination. The memoranda therefore has a preventive character.
Secondly, the INAS gave a 90-day notice to the Federal Government ‘to constitute a committee on Sovereign National Conference to decide on the repeal of the 1999 Constitution or to dissolve Nigeria’s amalgamation of 1914.’ Government is not on record to have yielded to the requests of the INAS. The Government cannot even like the idea of a sovereign national conference above which there will not be any other authority.
Thirdly, the INAS wants the UN Security Council, United States, the European Union and the global community ‘to reconsider our (INAS) continued allegiance to the disputed 1999 Constitution, as well as the unitary union of death, attrition and backwardness if foists on us.’ In all these notices, the 1999 Constitution is the subject of disagreement and which the people do not want or want to have reviewed to allow for the establishment of a true federal system, but to no avail. This is the crux of Nigeria’s problem.
In fact, many reasons for seeking to exit the Republic of Nigeria were given by the Yoruba leaders. The reasons clearly show that the current situation of insecurity in Nigeria only aggravated the grievances of the Yoruba, but not the originating factor of their grievance.. The 1999 Constitution is a major reason for the Yoruba grievance. The visible protection of the Fulani under PMB to the detriment of other ethnic groups, and particularly the horrible and heartless killing of Yoruba people in their own homes, on public roads, on their own land, on their own farms and the mistreatment of Yoruba surely hardened their decision to call it to thy tents O Israel. Thus, the reported declaration of war by the Army Chief of Staff on Sunday Igboho, Nnamdi Kalu and Asari-Dokubo is completely playing to the gallery and not addressing the issues at stake. The bitter truth about Nigeria’s first civil war is that it has not ended. What ended on January 12, 1970 with the surrender of Phillip Effiong was the battle and not the war. General Gowon only won the battle while the war only changed its form as from 1970. The 1999 Constitution is fraudulent in design, treasonable in content and centrifugal in application. If the Constitution is in itself a treason, any opposition to it cannot be treasonable but legitimate. This is why any attack and aggression on any community seeking to exit Nigeria by peaceful means will also have the entire global community to contend with, because self-determination is a right in international law and relations. PMB needs to see more clearly.