Editor’s note: The agitation for an independent Biafra state has increased especially since President Muhammadu Buhari came into power. The pro-Biafra agitators have expressed interest in leaving Nigeria and championed their cause for Nigeria to secede.
In this opinion by Bayo Oluwasanmi, he points out that the Yoruba region has a lot to gain by being alone as an independent nation rather than in Nigeria and gave historical points to support this.
The coming of Oduduwa nation
In our present political predicament, we have three options: a federalism with an all-powerful central government, a decentralized federal government, and a fragmented Nigeria supplanted by separation. The first option of a powerful and tyrannical federal government is what we have now. The second option of a true centralized federalism is being rejected, rebuffed, and resisted. But Nigeria is headed for the third option – fragmentation and separation.
The imminent possible break up of Nigeria brings on the bone-shaking shivers doctors call rigors. Many writers have detailed how Nigeria is bursting at the seams with ethno-religious, political and economic problems waiting to explode. However, the apostles of one Nigeria have repeatedly denied or dismissed the notion and tried to nudge us out of that zone. By definition, a failed state is one that has simply ceased to function. Going by this definition, Nigeria is a failed state because nothing works in Nigeria. Nigeria is a divided nation. Nigeria is a collapsed state and her break up is imminent. The signs are all over the place: an Oduduwa Republic for the Yorubas is inevitable.
I believe there is a very strong case for Oduduwa Republic for the benefits for both the historic rivalry between east and west, north and south, oil states and non-oil states, Christian and Muslims communities, democrats and autocrats, soldiers and citizens that have bedeviled Nigeria since its founding are pulling us apart to the extreme. We're closer to the breaking point. The elements of traditional prejudice of the three major ethnic groups – Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba – continue to ignite enmity, distrust, and hatred. The three groups have remained incontestably hostile – forever. Today, there is more animosity than there is collegiality. The three groups are full of expression of self-hate, suspicion, and intolerant of each other.
Our history proves that ethnic unity is more of a dusty artifact of an ancient political arrangement than the outcome of genuine political incorporation or enhanced cohesion among the different ethnic groups. The fragile state of affairs has been held together by a tsunami of lies and misrepresentations in whose wake the country is reeling perpetually. Successive governments were dominated by evil and murderous perpetrators of crimes. Ethnic fragmentation and persistent hotbeds of political criminality were encouraged and sponsored by the rulers. As a result, we were submerged in ethnic hatred and rabid nationalism that swept throughout the nation like a disease.
Lack of a true democracy
The absence of a true democracy to ensure devolution of federal power is a powerful incentive against unity and cooperation. Nigeria is convulsed by internal violence. It can no longer deliver positive political goods to her citizens. The government is fast losing legitimacy. The government has become illegitimate in the eyes and hearts of a growing plurality of 180 million Nigerians. Nigeria sinks deeper and deeper into chaos and calamity. The north-south divide remains the greatest obstacle to a strengthened democracy and a workable union. We're battling economic confusion, continued corruption, prolonged poverty, and sustained mismanagement. The scale of corruption dwarfs any brazen robbery of public treasury in recent memory. Our world has been turned into a medieval hellscape. Corruption flourishes on unusually destructive scale. Our corrupt ruling class mostly invest their loots overseas, not at home, making the economic failure of the country much more acute.
Our rulers siphon funds from the state coffers. They dip directly into the coffers of the shrinking state to pay for lavish residences and palaces, extensive overseas travel, and privileges and perquisites that feed their greed. Nigeria has failed to grow economically and its citizens have failed to flourish. For many years, Nigerians have been trapped in an irreversible debilitating cycle of poverty and hopelessness. The paralysis of our democratic structures has illuminated further the mockery and the failure of our democracy. The twice forgotten man in Nigeria has always been the poor. The government response to the abject poverty that has defined the lives of the poor is zero. Our political leaders are not chosen on the merit of mass support. Most are selected by god fathers, elevated to position, supplied with resources and, as expected, subjected to the king maker’s control.
The Presidency and the National Assembly are inarticulate giants with uneasy gait, subjected to abuse and confuse in their responses to national issues. Checks and balances that are part of a healthy democracy have been deleted in our system. It’s no surprise that our representative democracy is nothing but a disguise in name. It is no exaggeration to say that there are no legislatures in Nigeria. If they exist at all, they are rubber-stamp machines. Our judiciary is a derivative of the executive rather than being independent. Nigerians know that they cannot rely on the court system for redress or remedy. The mass poor of our people nurtures a healthy suspicion toward these manufactured leaders. It’s an open secret that money is the chief argument these leaders are offering to induce and buy loyalty. These manufactured leaders lack personal integrity, commitment, and ability. Tragically, they’re not fighters for a new life for our people but figureheads of the old.
They are not impressive or illustrious to their constituents. We’re all too familiar with their impotence and remoteness from the problems that have made life unlivable for the people they profess to represent. Many in their constituencies are among the legions of the lost and have been crushed by the weight of many years of poverty. These leaders do not evoke affection, respect, and emulation. Our democracy have slid towards autocracy, maintaining the outward appearance of democracy through elections, but without the rights and institutions that are equally important aspects of a functioning democratic system. Our constitution is not robust enough to promote long-term stability, reduce discontent from minorities against the government, and bolster the fight against corruption.
Our democratic system is based on economic coercion. People are forced to do what they don’t want to do. The effect of this is lack of innovation and technological progress. Our bureaucracy has long ago lost its sense of professional responsibility and exists solely to carry out the order of the executive, and in many ways oppress Nigerians. We have deteriorated or destroyed infrastructures. Our education and health systems and other public facilities are decrepit or neglected. Civil servants are paid late or not at all. Economic opportunity is only for a privileged few. Those around the president or around the governors grow richer while the rest of us starve. Our economic insecurity is engineered by our rulers in order to maximize their own fortunes and their own political and economic power. Unemployment is dangerously high and persistent. Regional inequalities remain the rule. Economic decline is accompanied by a diminished confidence in the federal system. Our currency falls out of favor.
It is common knowledge that nations don’t breakup overnight. The seeds of their destruction are sown deep within their political institutions. Some nations fall as a result of total collapse of institutions. Examples abound: In Afghanistan, after the Soviet withdrawal and hanging of President Mohammed Najibullah from a lamppost. In Sierra Leone, the long Civil War erased all traces of existence of government. This form of slow death of institutional failure is responsible for the sub-living standards in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America in contrast to what obtains in the western world. Nigeria is not going to fall or explode as a result of war and violence, but the refusal or failure to capitalize on the enormous potential for growth and for pursuing a policy that condemned their citizens to a lifetime of poverty.
In the case of Nigeria, and any other failed state, the failure is by design. The institutions are designed to fail by the elites who are the beneficiaries of such design. As we have seen in Nigeria, such elites benefit from rigged political institutions. The system is built on exploitation. And any system propped on exploitation is doomed to fail leading to immeasurable suffering of its citizens. Nigeria is operating on a tilted plain field. The big men get greedy. The elites control the economy. They use their powers to create monopolies and block the entry of new comers. A good example is Dangote cement and salt. The privatized industries end up in the hands of the elites. The privatized power sector is a case in point. These elites with their fraudulent companies received protection from the state, got government contracts, and large bank loans without needing to put up collateral.
The greedy big men and their businesses could be described as “whales.” Their stranglehold on our economy had created huge windfalls for them and blocked opportunities for the vast mass of Nigerians to move out of poverty. A successful economy must have effective government. Law and order and the mechanisms for resolving disputes are possible and applicable in a truly democratic system with apparatus of enforcing the laws. Nigeria is yet to create or operate on a set of nationally respected laws or rules. Without a responsible and responsive central government, there can be no law and order. Without law and order, there can be no real economy. And without a real economy, a country is doomed to fail.
It is too late to save Nigeria
I believe it is too late to save Nigeria. Our union for the past 57 years or so, has produced no progress, no peace, and no prosperity. At this juncture in our history, it's going to be what Allen Buchanan, the author of Secession: The Morality of Political Divorce From Fort Sumter to Lithuania and Quebec calls sauve qui peut secession - “let him save himself who can.” The federal government cannot save the union. It fuels the separatist thinking by being deaf and unresponsive to the cries of the people. The fact that secession is a marginal idea today doesn't mean it won't ever come to pass.
Nigeria is no one nation and it's negotiable. If nothing else cause a mass revolt, corruption epidemic and endemic poverty could yank everything apart. The Old West made up of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Oshun, Ekiti, Edo, and the old Kwara States, have the economic means to support itself as an independent country – Oduduwa Republic. Rather than fight the inevitable, the federal government should toss out the idea of Nigeria is not negotiable. I believe the best option is for the three major ethnic groups to go their separate ways. Yorubas are ready and prepared to go. Nigeria will witness the birth of Oduduwa Republic.
Nigeria is a country divided against itself it cannot stand. Nigeria is virtually bankrupt. The central government is out of control. The clamor for separation is the manifestation of a nation grounded as it were, without no hope of moving forward after 57 years. Our slavish loyalty to the central government that takes over everything must end. All constitutional methods should be exhausted before the Yoruba people invoke the principle of self-determination. Our 57 years of stagnation, suffering, oppression, exclusion, fear and insecurity would be our guide. Sentiments may mislead us. The deep disdain for the federal government really spurs the agitation for separation: it is bloated, inefficient, ineffective, unresponsive, irresponsible, and lopsided. If Nigeria was a business, it would have folded decades ago. The sad truth is that it can never be fixed. It has gotten worse. It would continue to get worse. There is no ray of hope in the horizon.
The Old West peaked as a region many decades ago – first in everything progressive. You know them I don't need to list them. The type of Constitution we operate and the kind of federalism we practice made it possible for the breeding of a generation of crooks, thieves, hooligans, touts, jejune, and other abominable personalities as professional politicians that run the center and the states. The federal government is nothing but a ball and chain around the legs of progressives. The Old West should separate and leave the regressive and backward looking federal government to continue to wallow in pettiness and self destruction. Our separation from the rest of the country is in accord with the principle of self-determination. By going our separate ways, I believe we could dramatically do away with the tension, hatred, jealousies, acrimonious rancor, hostility, among the three main ethnic groups. To continue to force the three groups to live together under one nation is dangerous and undesirable. Let's take the pressure out of the balloon asap and try not to force-fill it beyond its breaking point.
Our separation is not illegal. We would separate with the approval of other part or parts of the federation which will like to leave as well. We'll leave legally and peacefully with airtight conviction not only to our Yoruba people, but to the rest of the country. The Constitution does not explicitly prohibit separation. The present arrangement of the federal system makes no sense because it keeps away real power and real responsibility from both the state and local levels which are closer to the individual voter, and may more readily be held truly responsible. The crazy-guilt patchwork of the federal government is insane to say the least. We have failed through meaningful moves such as the National Convention which would have addressed the present madness as to structure and power. If majority of Nigerians believes in democracy, that power resides in the citizens, then separation should be a real option.
Yorubas are just plain disgusted with the lame responses to problems that Abuja seems undisturbed. We are sick and tired of Abuja's constant state of do-nothing. Nigerians in general and Yorubas in particular, are slowly becoming aware that there is a better way to live and this is not it. Yorubas have suffered a lot from the hands of monopolists of the central government. I believe there is a very strong case for Oduduwa Republic. I recall with sadness the assassination, murder, persecution, and incarceration of majority of Yorubas who were NADECO members by the brute dictator Sanni Abacha. To cap it all, the first ever freest and fairest election in Nigeria won by a Yoruba – MKO Abiola – was annulled by Hausa-Fulani because a Yoruba won the election. As anyone who has been through divorce knows, the ultimate goal of being free from the other person is the huge motivator to get it done. We're already three nations – separate, hostile, and unequal – that happens to live on the same continent! And we just can't stand one another.
Our separation will not lead to another civil war. Times are different now. We should be discussing how to dismantle the country and let each group go its own way instead of advocating for a restructure that will be diluted and watered down, that will not make any difference at the end of the day. As a nation, we have gone down the wrong path with all that's wrong with bad central government. For the Yoruba people, we would act to realize the only option that looks viable and doable to take our destiny on our hands. And that's having our own country.
This opinion first appeared in Sahara Reporters and was written by Bayo Oluwasanmi.