By Yekeen Nurudeen
Yes, let’s break up the country and go our separate ways; it’s that easy. At the end, we can have Arewa Republic, Biafra, Oduduwa Republic. And then we stop all these horse trading; there won’t be allegations of manipulation, monopolization and all the distrusts and mutual suspects that beset the present arrangement.
But before we slice the bread and plunge ourselves- infants, women, the weak and the elderly into an unending suffering in the name of secession, can we all pause for a moment.
Granted that Nigeria’s unity is a forced marriage, we should still ask if we are really ready for what we are gunning for.
Since the beginning of what has now gained global attention as agitation for Biafra, over 150 people have been reportedly killed between 2015 and 2016. Parents, families, friends and associates of those who have so far died since the resurgence of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOP) agitation in their quest for secession can explain better. A friend recently showed a picture of her classmate that was killed in one of the recent clashes with security operatives. Life has continued but his own has ended and his family grieves as ever. To what end?
Perhaps, as the hoopla for the divorce of these entities continues, let the key actors and their sympathizers reflect over the scenario playing out in South Sudan. Then the next question should be: are we really ready for this? Breaking up Nigeria is not as difficult as the attendant fallouts.
South Sudan became an independent state on 9 July 2011, following a referendum that passed with 98.83% of the vote. It never enjoyed the gains of that independence; it has been in self-inflicted war-civil war since 2013, just two years after independence.
Over 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the war, including notable atrocities such as the 2014 Bentiu massacre. About 3 million people have been displaced in a country of 12 million, with about 2 million internally displaced and about 1 million having fled to neighboring countries, especially Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda. As of 2017, it had the highest score on the Fragile States Index (formerly, the Failed States Index), surpassing Somalia. Do you still consider secession an option?
South Sudan is acknowledged to have some of the worst health indicators in the world. The under-five infant mortality rate is 135.3 per 1,000, whilst maternal mortality is the highest in the world at 2,053.9 per 100,000 live births.
According to Wikipedia, South Sudan was at war with at least seven armed groups in 9 of its 10 states, with tens of thousands displaced. The fighters accuse the government of plotting to stay in power indefinitely, not fairly representing and supporting all tribal groups while neglecting development in rural areas.
If we eventually have Oduduwa Republic, Biafra, Arewa Republic that are currently on the lips of agitators and perhaps Middle Belt Republic, these countries and their citizens, I’m are also prepared for similar disputes and war, this, though at the risk of becoming an agent of doom.
As it would later happen here in Nigeria if we ever breakup as being demanded by the IPOB who really want to exit Nigeria and Northern Youths who have issued quit notice to southeasterners resident in the North, there have continued to be disputes between Sudan and South Sudan over sharing formula for their assets.
Nigeria’s common wealth would be major source of disputes as currently is between South Sudan and Sudan- the division of oil revenues is a major issue. And can we even point at one single national issue that has not pitched Nigerians against one another since independence in 1960. Suspicion and mutual distrust have led us to our present situation. Nigerians have not surmounted these problems and yet demanding new countries.
It might interest many Nigerians to know that 75% of all the former Sudan’s oil reserves are in South Sudan. The region of Abyei still remains disputed and a separate referendum will be held in Abyei on whether they want to join Sudan or South Sudan. The South Kordofan conflict broke out in June 2011 between the Army of Sudan and the SPLA over the Nuba Mountains.
Inter-ethnic warfare that in some cases predates the war of independence is still widespread. In December 2011, tribal clashes in Jonglei intensified between the Nuer White Army of the Lou Nuer and the Murle. The White Army warned it would wipe out the Murle and would also fight South Sudanese and UN forces sent to the area around Pibor. Don’t we have inter-ethnic clashes here? Have we addressed them? Ife and Modakeke people are Yoruba and it is fresh in mind how they killed one another in ethnic clash some years ago.
In March 2012, South Sudanese forces seized the Heglig oil fields in lands claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan in the province of South Kordofan after conflict with Sudanese forces in the South Sudanese state of Unity. South Sudan withdrew on 20 March, and the Sudanese Army entered Heglig two days later.
In December 2013, a political power struggle broke out between President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, as the president accused Machar and ten others of attempting a coup d’état.
Fighting broke out, igniting the South Sudanese Civil War. Ugandan troops were deployed to fight alongside South Sudanese government forces against the rebels. The United Nations has peacekeepers in the country as part of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Numerous ceasefires were mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and SPLM – in opposition and were subsequently broken. A peace agreement was signed in Ethiopia under threat of United Nations sanctions for both sides in August 2015. All to no avail; South Sudan is still in turmoil. Someone says Nigeria case is different from South Sudan, and I ask, how?
The order to quit the north issued by a coalition of Northern youths to the Igbos has caused more uproar and outcries than was before though it doesn’t seem that the Igbos resident in the north really want to be part of the IPOB agenda.
The Igbos have persistently cried foul and wanting to exit the entity called Nigeria. But besides the IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu, whose immediate family is tucked in United Kingdom, majority of southeast people have professed quitting Nigeria than actually acting it. They know the consequences without being reminded of the fallouts of the 1966 Biafra war. Most of them don’t trust Nnamdi Kanu and apparently don’t share his vision.
If this is not true, visit Lagos and go to Kano where the ‘Nnas’ formed the nucleus of economic activities. Many were born and brought up there and the only place they know as homes are these cities. They have married there, established businesses and courted friendships from different backgrounds over the years.
Rather than inciting more trouble, elder statesman, Ango Abdullahi should toe the line of Emir of Alhaji Abdulmumini Kabir, who said why reacting to the quit notice that Nigeria will continue to remain one in spite of its multi-ethnic diversity and recent calls for breakup.
The quit notice expires October 1, 2017 and Igbo traders, civil servants and of course politicians in the seat of power, Abuja are still going on their normal businesses.
Yekeen is a journalist and writes from Abuja