Nigeria’s Unity by Manu Militari: The Dynamics of Recidivist Insecurity and Imminent Disintegration

Bola A. Akinterinwa 

Nigeria acceded to national sovereignty in 1960. Political independence and territorial integrity were affirmed. Nigeria told the world that she should be seen as a man and not as a woman. When France described Nigeria as La Nigéria, Nigeria kicked against it and thus compelling France to limit the use of ‘la’ only to ‘La Fédération du Nigéria. France accepted the masculine definite article to refer to Nigeria, Le Nigéria, since 1961. 

In 1962, the idea of an Ibo secession was first moved. 1962 also witnessed the beginning of Operation We tie in the Western Region of Nigeria and the declaration of a state of emergency following a motion approved by 209 votes against 36 in the House of Representatives and by 32 votes against 7 and 2 abstentions in the Senate. Professor Larry Diamond reminded us that ‘throughout 1965, the Nigerian political system was ravaged by the tensions and strains that had been developing through the years of political conflict and decay. In March, a bitter struggle over the Vice-Chancellorship of the University of Lagos re-ignited the issue of tribalism, paralysing the University for months…’ In 1966, Nigeria played host to two coups d’état in January and July both of which also culminated to the 1967-1970 civil war.

The foregoing is the foundation of Nigeria’s national unity which has been sustained by use of force. General Yakubu Gowon made it crystal cleat in his war slogan that ‘to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.’ In keeping Nigeria united, he set aside the regional system and introduced statism, carving out 12 States from the existing four regions. Thereafter, the twelve states were further repartitioned into the present 36 states. The problem, however, has remained national unity by force, including the promulgation of the 1999 Constitution.

Without any whiff of doubt, political governance in Nigeria is very criminally oriented in policy orientation and implementation. Imagine how a Federal Government could advertise the building of houses in April 1994 for allocation to interested Nigerians who pay deposits in December 1994 and in 2022, no construction of such houses has taken place. There is no allocation of any house, and, perhaps most annoyingly, no one is even talking about refund of deposits made. This is a crime against the housing depositors of whom I am one.

The EFCC is pursuing those who stole public money, but no one is running after the Government that collected money from the public and embezzled it. Houses purchased and fully paid for under the Monetisation Programme under the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration are not given the necessary Certificate of Occupancy. When a buyer pays, must he or she begin to beg to have the certificate? In Lagos State, we also paid for a land under the Isheri-North housing project under the military regime of Brigadier General Buba Marwa. Up till today, the Government wants depositors to come and lobby or ‘settle.’ The essence of the foregoing is to underscore that political governance in Nigeria is holistically predicated on dishonesty of purpose, forceful unity, politico-economic chicanery, and hidden agenda, hence the recidivist insecurity in the country and imminent disintegration of Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Unity by Manu Militari 

The 1999 Constitution provides in its Article 2(1) that ‘Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble, Sovereign State to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,’ Additionally, Article 2(2) stipulates that ‘Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory.’ And more interestingly, Article 3 says that ‘there shall be thirty-six States in Nigeria…’  The problem with these provisions is the rigidity or unquestionable character, of its validity and of its enforceability. Nigerians have said the preambular statement of ‘We the People’ in the Constitution is at best very fraudulent. It is argued that the 1999 Constitution is a military constitution imposed by fiat. It is not a Constitution of the people and by the people. It is more problematic when a Constitution meant to ensure good governance, public accountability and transparency is in itself fraudulent and acquiesced to but not without open complaints and calls for a complete re-writing of the Constitution. 

People have been calling for complete restructuring of the polity, but President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) has rejected any call for restructuring, insisting that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable, and that Nigeria is indissoluble. Agreed that, by virtue of the 1999 Constitution as amended, national unity is non-negotiable and the country is not dissoluble, what should we mean by non-negotiability and non-dissolubility bearing in mind international experiences? Who are those Nigerians who said Nigeria cannot be dissolved? Which are the international legal instruments justifying such indissolubility? 

What is indisputable is the fact that international law, and particularly international human rights, enable the right of self-determination, not only for purposes of decolonization but also for reasons of political marginalization, injustice, and unfairness. In fact, in cases of crimes against humanity and genocide, there is the principle of International Responsibility to Protect (IR2P), originated by Canada and approved by the UN General Assembly with the ultimate objective never to allow the mass atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, crimes that many Nigerian ethnic groups are accusing the PMB Government of engaging in, to occur again.

Several countries that have once been united, not forcefully but voluntarily, have been violently disintegrated when peaceful approaches were made difficult. Two most recent cases in Africa are those of Eritrea, which seceded from Ethiopia and South Sudan which was carved out of Sudan here in Africa. More questionably here, why would any group in Nigeria decide the future of all other Nigerians in a dictatorial fashion on a permanent basis? Why will any government at all be opposed to re-writing a fresh Constitution for Nigeria?

In 2014, a National Conference was convened by the Goodluck Jonathan government to address the many complaints about the country’s politico-economic and structural problems. There were many memoranda submitted to the Conference. One of the relevant memoranda is on ‘True Federalism’ and was submitted by Professor A.B.C. Nwosu, one of the delegates representing Anambra State. He raised the controversial issues of federating units and devolution of power; fiscal federalism and revenue sharing; resources, ownership, and control; policing and internal security; and nation-building institutions and Sovereign Wealth Fund.

  Three points of observation are noteworthy in the memorandum. First, Professor Nwosu had it that before independence in 1960, various ethnic groups affirmed a federal structure for Nigeria voluntarily in the belief that a federation was the best system of government for a multiethnic country like Nigeria. On this basis, Nigeria became a Federation of Three Regions by common agreement at the time of independence. In his words, ‘each region was neither subordinate to, nor accountable to the Center. All Regions were constitutionally equal in status at independence…Thus, the template adopted at independence by our founding fathers for national cohesion and national development was true federalism. And there was a negotiated and agreed specific power sharing formula (Legislative Lists) between the Federal and Regional Governments.’

The second point is the issue of federal structure at the time of independence which was weak and which the Political Bureau identified in 1986 as imbalance between the North and the South. The Northern Region was bigger than the Eastern Region and Western Region put together. Besides, the Minority Ethnic groups in the regions had the fear of domination by other groups. As Professor Nwosu put it, ‘the two issues outlined above continually undermined the stability of the Federal Republic manifesting in several controversies over the 1959 General Elections, the 1962-63 Census, the 1964 General Elections, and (the) intense agitations for the creation of States.’ These were well known foundational problems of the newly independent Nigeria but which the leaders of Nigeria as from the end of the First Republic prefer not to address. 

And thirdly, Professor Nwosu noted that ‘following 1966 and civil war (1967-1970), the process of concentrating political power at the center in consonance with the unified command structure of successive military regimes has turned the Nigerian ‘Federal’ System into a pseudo-Federal or Quasi-Unitary System of governance.’ Based on these considerations, the Anambra delegation considered that there was need to return to the path of true federation which is considered the most critical challenge for the 2014 National Conference.

However, PMB saw the whole 20-volume report of the conference as nothing more than a chiffon de papier (a rough sheet of paper) that can be kept in the drawer to gather dust. And true enough, what PMB publicly told all Nigerians following assumption of power in 2015 was that he never had time to look at the report of the conference and that he simply kept it in his drawers. Why should the report of a national conference on which multi-million naira was spent and that took many months to prepare be ignored?  Several recommendations on how to move Nigeria forward, how to ensure sustainable unity, as well as restructure Nigeria and restore a true federal system were given in the report, but by manu militari, the PMB administration set the report aside, while now complaining about a recidivist national insecurity. 

The National Conference was not a gathering of buffoons or that of area boys and reckless politicians. It was a gathering of seasoned professionals, special delegates from various ethnic communities and of notable public officials. The report of the National Conference was therefore a reservoir or encyclopedia of ideas, a fountain of knowledge from which every subsequent government can draw from. But very myopically, the PMB government threw it to the garbage of history and became clueless in addressing societal problems: kidnapping galore, deepening boko haramists in the government, increasing agitation for autonomy and self-determination, deepening institutional corruption, and sharpened political chicanery. And yet, politicians seeking presidential election have nothing to show on containment of threats to national unity. They all freely talk about their competence to govern presidentially, but no evidential manifesto to back their claimed competence, especially regarding their development agenda and national unity. Thus, the disintegration of Nigeria is no longer a dream. It is imminent unless the dynamics are quickly addressed.

Insecurity and Disintegration: The Dynamics

The disintegration of Nigeria is a matter of when shall it happen? The threats are increasing without control and the government has been helpless. At the epicentre of the factors of disintegration of Nigeria is a quadrilateral on which a manifest Fulanisation Agenda, Islamic Extremism, Buharisation, and Self-determination Agitations are placed.

On Fulanisation Agenda, Nigerians have been publicly talking about it but without any proof. It was initially taken as a speculation. Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has identified Fulanisation agenda as the major dynamic of ethnic conflicts in Nigeria. At the 2021 Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association, Makurdi Branch, Governor Ortom noted that ‘in Nigeria, open grazing has been the practice of livestock production. However, in recent times, the livestock production system has led to conflicts between farmers and herders. This is due largely to population growth, infrastructural development and increased economic activities and above all, the Fulanisation agenda of Fulani nationalities worldwide to make Nigeria their own country.’

More important, Governor Ortom affirmed that ‘across Nigeria, open grazing has led to the invasion of farming communities by Fulani herdsmen leading to massive killings and maiming of people, raping of women, destruction of property, loss of livelihoods, and displacement of persons.’ Perhaps more disturbingly, for complaining about this Fulanisation agenda, he was a victim of assassination attempt by Fulani militia on March 20, 2021, when he was returning from his farm (vide Peter Duru’s report “Fulanisation agenda fueling ethnic crisis, secessionist agitations in Nigeria,” Vanguard, June 18, 2021).

In another similar report, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Malaifa, made the same observation at the special session of the Forum for Good Governance Towards Revival for All Nations (TRANS 21). The Forum, which met in Akure, Ondo State, addressed ‘The Role of the Church in Nation Building.’ Dr Malaifa noted that ‘the kind of Islam that is coming from Sahara is dangerous. They want to take over your land and enslave you. Christians must rise to protect it. They want to take over your land.’ 

More painfully, Dr. Malaifa reminded us that ‘in the Northeast alone, more than 3,000 churches have been destroyed, more than 400 priests and pastors have been killed,’ and that in 2020, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Adamawa State was beheaded even after paying ransom to his kidnappers. (Vide Hakeem Gbadamosi, “Fulanisation Agenda of Buhari is Real, Says Obadiah Mailafia,” Nigerian Tribune, September 5, 2021).

When in May 2019 Chief Olusegun Obasanjo similarly drew attention to PMB’s Fulanisation Agenda in the making, not only seeing the Boko Haram and the ISWAP as pursuing an Islamic agenda, but also considering that insurgency in Nigeria is no longer about lack of jobs for youths but a full blown ‘Fulanisation,’ and ‘Islamisation,’many Fulani came out in defence of PMB and condemnation of Chief Obasanjo’s viewpoint.  But in the same vein, many notable Nigerians also came out in defence of Chief Obasanjo’s observations as reflecting the exact situational reality on the ground. Thus, Fulanisation has divided sharply the people of Nigeria.

But most interestingly, however, Chief Obasanjo and all those who had accused PMB of having a Fulani ethnic agenda were eventually proved correct when the Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, said during a Channels Television interview that efforts are being made to bring all Fulani herdsmen in West Africa to Nigeria to have a home rather than leaving them to roam about with their herds. 

The problem here, and we have noted several times in this column (“Buhari’s Fulanisation Scheme: Manifestations and Foreign Policy Dimensions, ThisDay on Sunday, August 29, 2021; “Nigeria’s Political Magouilles and Increasing Threats to National Unity,” (ThisDay of 1 May 2022, etc.), that national unity is seriously being threatened. Today, the threats appear to be reaching their crescendo and therefore knocking at the door of disintegration. There is urgent need for greater caution.

Regarding Islamic Extremism, many Nigerians who did not share Obasanjo’s view that the purpose of boko haramism is Islamic can help the PMB administration to answer the poser raised by the late President Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. He hypothesized that there will never be peace in Nigeria until the partitioning of Nigeria into Muslim North and Christian South. What informed this hypothesis? How do we explain the fact that one allegation of blasphemy will be enough a reason for burning down several churches in the North? 

While the killing of Deborah Samuel, the 200-level Home Economics student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto was still being queried, justified, or condemned, another Christian woman, Rhoda Jatau, 40 years old and mother of four, narrowly escaped being lynched in Katanga, headquarters of Warji Local Government Area of Bauchi State, hardly a week after the gruesome killing of Deborah Samuel in Sokoto. She was accused of posting a video on her office’s WhatsApp platform which was adjudged disrespectful to Islam. 

What is particularly noteworthy about all these killings is that they are carried out by Muslim youths, who are also Nigerian leaders of tomorrow. If they are currently hardened Muslim extremists, what will the future portend for Nigeria and Nigerians of tomorrow? People criticized the 1999 Constitution as being Islamic biased with the mentioning of Islam not less than sixty times in it, but without any mentioning of Christianism in it. It is argued that the Fulani killers are foreigners, but the Government of Nigeria is forcefully looking for land for them, who are foreigners, and this brings us to Buharisation of the Nigerian polity. 

By Buharisation, we simply mean PMB’s personal attitude to political governance in Nigeria as an elected president. When he was military president, jots of ethnicism and indiscipline were far-fetched in his mania, unlike when he is an elected president. Although his passion for Islamic priority in his undertakings is constant, the truth is that the nationalist hitherto seen in him has been completely neutralized by his conscious nepotistic policies, don’t care attitude towards public complaints against maladministration of the country, and mounting institutional corruption under his administration. The main problem with this Buharisation is that it is being used as a reason for quest for separation and for protesting alleged institutionalization of Fulani hegemony. 

And true enough, the Yoruba Southwest want separation from Nigeria based on the principle of self-determination that is recognized by International Law. The Professor Banji Akintoye-led Yoruba World Congress (YWC), representing the Yoruba Southwest, has joined the Geneva-based Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) to press their right to self-determination. The UNPO decided at its 11th General Assembly in Geneva on November 30, 2012, to expand the rights of minorities, oppressed peoples and right of political participation. The Yoruba quest for self-determination falls squarely within this resolution of the UNPO.

For sure, agitation for Self-determination has become more critical than ever before. The agitation of the Movement for the Actualisation for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the agitation of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are cases in point. Even with the peaceful approach adopted by the Yoruba in seeking their Oduduwa Republic, their membership of the UNPO has the potential to dovetail in the request for a United Nations referendum, thus internationalizing the problem. The moment their right to self-determination is affirmed, the domino effect on others yet to determine their direction under the alleged hegemonic federalism operated in Nigeria should be expected. The likely scenario of national disintegration is not far-fetched: The Yoruba are currently not forceful. However, the eventual intervention of the international community through the organization of a plebiscite cannot but affirm the allegations by the proponents of an Oduduwa Republic. The attitude may turn violent if the Government of Nigeria refuses to comply with the results of the plebiscite if they are positive. Consequently, PMB cannot and should not seek national unity by force or by manu militari. Marriage, like membership of any union, cannot be by coercion. Even when a union takes place by consent, it is sufficient to discover during the relationship that one has been induced into error of belonging to the union to put a stop to the relationship. The principle of dol in French Civil Law so applies. A stitch in time saves nine.

Related Articles