Ethnic Agitations: Why We Must Learn From History, By Olaogun Michael Sunkanmi
We can, as well, learn from the present conflicts between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan, which have equally claimed thousands of lives, and brought about severe famine. Many Sudanese are now refuges within and outside Africa, as a serious economic dislocation lays siege to their sovereignty. Despite the “successful” secession of South Sudan and Eritrea, they are still not better off after years of decoupling.
It is no news that one of the topical issues in Nigeria at the moment is the agitations of different ethnic and socio-cultural groups. These agitations are not far from the power play within the polity, most especially from ethnic groups that believe they have been politically and economically marginalised since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, with the marginalisation gaining obvious expression by President Muhamadu Buhari’s administration, as perceived by many Nigerians, most especially of southern extraction.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is frequently demanding for secession, while the Arewa youths and some northern elders have, in the recent past, demanded for the exit of the Igbos from the North and vice versa. Also, there has been the late call for an Oduduwa Republic in the South-West, which is also becoming a daily loud song in the mouth of some South-Western political and cultural leaders. And increasingly, the ethnic agitations and demands for secession from the larger polity is sinking into the subconscious of the average young Nigerian.
Why now, and should this be happening again in Nigeria, despite our painful history in this regard?
Can all these demands also happen without the shedding of the blood of innocent citizens?
While it is imperative for people to express their plights, most especially under unfavourable political and economic dispositions, I think the government at the centre has not been sensitive enough to the people beating the drums of secessions by trying to hear out their predicaments, in order to proffer workable solutions to them. We have failed to learn from history and if proper attention and care is not paid by government, in seeking constructive ways to put an instant and permanent end to their agitations, we may as a nation again experience what I call the “Ethnic Armageddon”, which may plunder Nigeria into another socio-political unrest.
For those who have forgotten or who don’t know or bother to know, I think it is important for all to learn. The Nigerian Civil War lasted for almost two-and-a-half years, from 1967 to 1970, and during this about two million Nigerian lives were lost, with a ravaging famine attendant upon the human carnage. We need to think of the would-be devastation of war in relation to present-day Nigeria, particularly in consideration of our population. We can, as well, learn from the present conflicts between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan, which have equally claimed thousands of lives, and brought about severe famine. Many Sudanese are now refuges within and outside Africa, as a serious economic dislocation lays siege to their sovereignty. Despite the “successful” secession of South Sudan and Eritrea, they are still not better off after years of decoupling.
If we contemplate the present state of insecurity in all geo-political zones of the country – the insurgency in the North-East, banditry in the North-West, kidnappings and farmer-herder crisis in other zones and the heavy impact of the aforementioned on our overstretched and limited security formations – can Nigeria really afford another civil war?
The lessons of the past, especially the most recent past, are clear enough for the blind and the deaf, otherwise we will pay dearly for any descent into conflict. I believe that no Nigerian blood is worth shedding again for any reason whatsoever, whether secession or otherwise. The blood of innocent citizens being spilled daily is already too much to bear.
I salute the efforts of some individuals across the country’s regions who have continued to preach the gospel of a united Nigera. The truth be told, the efforts of these few individuals would not come into full fruition until all political and religious leaders join their voices together to advocate for peace.
Importantly, the onus lies on President Muhamadu Buhari to ensure that Nigeria does not go the way of Sudan, as he’s has been repeatedly accused by different constituencies in the country that his body language is promoting ethnic and religious discontent. There is need for the president to do away with the use of force and urgently embark on listening, as a leader of all, to the pains and demands of every section of the country at this time.
There is need for him to engage opinion and notable leaders, irrespective of political and religious differences, in helping him to reach out and appeal to aggrieved Nigerians. This should be done in good faith, as a way of seeking the panacea to the present agitations in the country. If this call is not heeded, history will not be kind to the president under whose administration Nigerians finally part ways. A Yoruba proverb holds that, “the king who rules when the town is peaceful will not be forgotten”, and vice versa. This should serve as a wakeup call to President Muhamadu Buhari and possibly successive leaders in Nigeria.
As we salute and appreciate the relentless efforts of our security agencies in keeping peace in the country, I believe that more can be done to pull us back from the tipping point of ethnic agitations, with the right political will of the leadership.
No nation is devoid of challenges, even the so-called world powers. It is however our collective responsibility as patriotic Nigerians to sue for peace at all times. I believe that our present situation, if overcome, will make us a more united an indivisible country.
Olaogun Michael Sunkanmi, a social commentator wrote from Ilorin; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.