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  • Of quit order, self-determination and peace
  • MANY Nigerians must be alarmed and saddened
    by the quit notice issued by some Arewa youths
    to the Igbos resident in northern Nigeria;
    particularly, given the impunity and
    intransigence so apparent in their letter to the
    Acting President.
    If these young people did not experience the
    effects of Nigeria’s three-year civil war, their
    elders and sponsors must have. Many Nigerians
    sacrificed their lives for the fragile relative peace
    which some now take for granted. As the youths
    themselves have rightly observed, Nigeria lost
    some of her finest professionals across all
    spectra of our society, apart from the military.
    Therefore, all Nigerians, particularly traditional,
    political and religious leaders have a duty to
    speak up emphatically and call their young
    people to order. The deafening silence from
    those in the North who should speak up against
    this type of behaviour is, to say the least, very
    disturbing.
    There are many others right across the entire
    country who are agitating for self-determination
    not just the Igbos. The peoples of the Niger
    Delta are doing so. The Yorubas in the South
    West are doing so and even minority groups in
    the North are doing so. Will the Arewa youths
    extend their quit notices to all these people too?
    How can we forget so easily the daily
    destruction of pipelines and other oil
    installations that almost brought Nigeria to her
    knees? How can we forget so soon the Acting
    President’s visits to the Niger Delta states
    including Cross River, which took place only
    three weeks ago? Were these visits not in direct
    response to and an effort to assuage the feelings
    of frustration, deprivation and injustice, which
    have generated the demand for restructuring to
    allow for greater autonomy and self-
    determination? So why single out the Igbos for
    crucificion?
    In any case, the Ikwerres of Rivers State are
    Igbos as are the Ikas of Delta State. Both Rivers
    and Delta States are in the South-South. So how
    will the Arewas differentiate the Igbos from the
    South East from those of the South South. This
    is how irrational and idiotic the quit order looks.
    The Arewa youths insist that “the only enduring
    solution” to the agitation for Biafra should be
    “through peaceful political process” and urge the
    Acting President to “take steps to facilitate the
    actualisation of the Biafran Nation” through a
    referendum. Their demand for an enduring
    solution for the Igbos also tallies exactly for the
    Niger Delta people and the Yorubas, all of whom
    clearly want self determination too. And the
    peaceful political process canvassed for by them
    lies within the recommendations of the 2014
    National Conference. This is what all Nigerians
    having been saying, which strangely, the Federal
    Government finds unpalatable and continues to
    resist.
    But unless Government can muster the political
    will and courage to address the issues
    presented at that Conference, the agitation for
    self-determination will only get more strident
    and increase the risk of an implosion.
    The actualisation of Biafra or any other state or
    nation for that matter to be excised or created
    out of Nigeria cannot be done by word of mouth.
    Word of mouth agitations only create tensions
    and incite avoidable violence. The Igbos are
    obviously agitating for autonomy to manage
    their affairs in the face of Federal neglect and
    inequity. Still, they need to be circumspect and
    perspicuous about the pursuit of their
    objectives. Actualisation of any state, if any
    group of people deem it necessary can only be
    done constitutionally if it is to be peaceful as the
    youths have suggested. The Government needs
    to urgently commence the process of writing a
    People’s Constitution which can be placed
    before all Nigerians for review and approval at a
    referendum. The Constitution must reflect the
    aspirations of all segments of our society and
    allow for greater autonomy and self-
    determination for the constituent states.
    We copied our Presidential Constitution from the
    United States. All fifty states in the US have their
    individual constitutions and democratic
    structures and are allowed a fair amount of
    autonomy in the management of their affairs and
    resources. The Government in Washington does
    not owe the oil in Texas or North Dakota; or
    does it owe the gold in Nevada or Alaska. Even
    the United Kingdom UK, that operates a
    parliamentary system allowed Scotland to
    constitutionally conduct a referendum as to
    whether it wanted to remain part of the UK.
    Though the first referendum failed, there is
    already talk of a second one in the face of
    Brexit. And it will happen again if there is
    enough support for it, and peacefully too.
    Talking about referendum and self-
    determination, it is, perhaps, somewhat
    heartening to see the Arewa youths make
    extensive references to the United Nations
    Charter. One would urge that they put the same
    amount of energy in persuading the Federal
    Government to take up the challenge of securing
    a referendum for the people of Bakassi. It was
    our Federal Government that without reference
    or consultation with the people decided to give
    away their ancestral land and homes to
    Cameroon. More than ten years after ceding
    Bakassi, the people remain refugees “in their
    own country.” The National Assembly is yet to
    ratify the Green Tree Agreement, which was
    suppressed for more than two years after an
    elaborate two-day public hearing conducted by
    the Senate.
    A special committee has been set up in the
    Presidency with funding and support from
    internal and external sources (the international
    community) to help the Internally Displaced
    Persons IDPs, in the North East who have
    suffered so much as a result of Boko Haram
    insurgency. This is as it should be because
    Section 14(2)(b) of Nigeria’s Constitution as
    amended asserts that; “The Security and
    Welfare of the people shall be the primary
    purpose of government.” But why has the
    Federal Government not seen the need to make
    similar provisions for the people of Bakassi who
    have been displaced due to Government’s own
    direct (and, one might add unconstitutional)
    action? Rather the people of Cross River are
    punished further by taking their oil wells from
    them and the UN, which pushed Nigeria into
    ceding Bakassi, is content to declare that the
    people will soon become stateless.
    If there are any people in Nigeria who demand
    and deserve self-determination, it must be the
    Bakassi people. They have a right to determine
    for themselves whether they want to be part of
    Nigeria, Cameroon or none of the two.
    The Arewa Youths and their backers must listen
    to the voice of reason and allow peace to reign.

    Sen. Ewa- Henshaw, wrote from Abuja.

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