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Is the right to self-determination, independence or self-governing legitimate or illegitimate? In other words, is it right or wrong for an ethnic or sociological group to demand independence from an existing nation to form a sovereign state, with its own constitution drawn to suit its peculiarities and aspirations? What do you think?
To start with, every reader should know that nature itself has taught that the right to self-determination is basic, legitimate and inherent in life. That is why a child, when he or she becomes of full/adult age or matures, moves out of the family, marries and settles somewhere. He or she begins to take decisions, feed himself/herself, run his or her business without reference to or directive from the parents. And the right to do so is protected by law and no one has ever queried this. Similarly, no school master continues to hold a student bound after graduation, but he departs and enters the theatre of life. The same lesson obtains here. People cannot be geo-politically bound forever, after decades of political nurturing and cooperation.
Furthermore, experience as well as history has taught that over the years in Nigeria, counties, districts, provinces and regions were created in the First Republic. In subsequent Republics and regimes, we have also witnessed new political Clans, wards, Local Governments, States and even ministries created. And we all believe this action is necessary for development and the exercise is subject to periodical review. For instance, General Gowon moved Nigeria from 8 to 12 States; Late General Murtala Mohammed, further moved the nation from 12 States to 19; General Ibrahim Babangida created additional 11 States making 30 States; and Late General Sani Abacha, raised the number to the present 36 States including FCT. And even now, there is still a clamour and agitation for more states in the country, some even suggesting a 54-State structure for the nation.
Now, if all these geographical and political entities can be created, is it not logical that new nations can also be created out of the existing one? Or is there any document or treaty anywhere that forbids such an exercise? Even if there was such a document, it is baseless, illogical and out of touch with reality. Secondly, does not the United Nations, UN, of which Nigeria is a member-state give the right to self-determination and even our national constitution tacitly? And that similar agitations are all over the world? Is it the fear of losing hold of economic resources and political power that causes some people and groups to violently resist these agitations? If these agitations are made legitimately and considered, can we not still relate and share our resources at the diplomatic and international trade level? and still continue to be brothers and sisters in the comity of nations? Should the call for self-determination always result in violence, bloodshed and war as is apparently the case today in Nigeria? This indeed is an aberration.
The truth is that no matter how much one tries to keep an eaglet with chickens, one day the eaglet will fly away. You know why, it doesn’t belong to that domain. So to try to suppress or crush the desire for self-determination of any group in the nation is not only impracticable, oppressive, wicked, unfair, groundless, against the principles of social justice but anti-progressive and lacking in civility, and tantamount to the wrong use of power and immorality.
In fact, not only this writer, but every humane and right thinking Nigerian would agree that whatever can bring about development including the right to self-determination, within the rule of law, is better than the brutal use of force and power to maintain an unwieldy, weak and feuding organisation in the name of national unity. Note that, true and lasting unity is predicated or based on common interests, shared goals and ideals and not the application of force. You cannot roll the military machine to enforce unity except the situation borders on terrorism, and never when there is a peaceful protest and agitation. To do otherwise is a gross violation of one’s fundamental human and constitutional right.
Therefore, let our leaders give proper thought to these agitations. This is not something anybody should feel jittery or agitated about, but to allow sound reason have its full and free course. As a matter of fact, these agitations may have been unjustifiable, say 40 or 50 years ago, when the nation was still at its cradle or nascent stage of development, but we have come a long way since then so they shouldn’t be inappropriate now. It is no sin and ethical to separate like Abraham and Lot did in Genesis 13:1-18, provided it is done amicably. Obviously, this is the most decisive, historical and noblest thing to do in the circumstance as it will immortalise the present democratic regime in the hearts of many people and even posterity. Buhari’s regime would be fondly remembered for creating X nations out of Nigeria.
We mustn’t forget that unity is good but sometimes division is more preferable and profitable. That was why God had to scatter the tower of Babel because that unity was against his eternal purpose for man. The builders of the tower didn’t want to spread contrary to the instructions given in Genesis 1:26-28. The resulting divisions gave rise to the different languages, cultures and nations we have in the world today. Also in Deuteronomy 28:7, God promises to scatter those enemies that come against his children in seven (7) ways. And in Acts 8:1, He scattered the church in Jerusalem so they could go out preaching the gospel. Here, the axiom “united we stand and divided we fall” was no more tenable but “divided we stand and united we fall”. Thus, they can be unity in the negative direction, unity that enables one to exploit and maintain an unhealthy political hegemony over another.
Finally, it is noteworthy that while it is good to be patriotic, defend and uphold our territorial integrity and national sovereignty from internal and external aggression, as provided in the national constitution, we must be reasonable enough not to sacrifice the right to self-determination which can cause greater grass-root development, peace, joy and welfare of every individual and family to national prestige and despotism.
This submission is without ethnic or religious sentiments but purely for the purpose of peace and development. May God’s sovereign and perfect will, however, be done in the matter.
Dr. Peter Ejeshi, a clergyman, wrote from Lagos.
Courtesy: Vanguard News