Editor’s note: In September 2014, the Scottish people came together to answer the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?” The "No" side won, with 55.3% of voters being against secession, and the matter was settled for the time being. Hussain Obaro, the Legit.ng author, says a similar referendum on Biafran independence is long overdue in Nigeria.
Mankind must put an end to war or else war will put an end to mankind. – John F. Kennedy.
The "war of unity" also known as the Birafran War which ensued nearly 50 years ago was meant to put an end to the uprising, agitation and unrest which was occasioned by perceived injustice, exclusion and unlawful killings of the people of eastern origin in Nigeria. The fact that a resurgence of a similar uprising is gradually springing up after that bloodshed which claimed the lives of more than half a million Nigerians, mainly Igbos, is a pointer to the fact that the Civil War didn’t achieve really anything desirable.
The right to self-determination, like other rights and fundamental freedom, are non-negotiable. Nations that genuinely desire to maintain unity should invest in justice and equality, shared prosperity, inclusion and social justice, and not force people to live together through the use of guns and ammunition.
The British-Scotland democratic referendum has provided a formidable template and an ample example for everyone to emulate. Rather than engage in needless wars and crises that will end in massacre, like what transpired in 1967, the President Buhari-led government needs to institute a democratic referendum. This is the right way to go in line with the realities of the 21st century, civilization, and in consonance with the British approach of peacefully ending Scottish independence agitation through a referendum.
If war can effectively silence genuine agitation and subdue peoples to unite and live together, then we wouldn’t have had incidence of renewed secessionist agitations by the IPOB, MASSOB and Radio Biafra. Countries like Eritrea, South Sudan, East Timor, Kosovo, etc couldn’t be silenced or forced to continue to live together against people’s wishes, hence the referendums. The citizenry had a say and made a decision as it affected them in line with provision of the freedom of a people, the United Nations' charter and ultimately democracy and rule of law.
The act of war for the purpose of holding a nation together or ensuring national peace is not only old-fashioned and uncivilized, it is tantamount to holding a gun to a person's head and forcing them to be part of a nation. This is certainly not different from apartheid, slave trade or colonialism, and can never be a legitimate means of keeping a people or a nation together.
If the people of the Southeast desperately wish to secede from Nigeria, they should be allowed to do so within the ambit of international rights to self-determination and rule of law. All the Nigerian government needs to do is carry out a referendum and make sure that these agitations truly reflect decisions and opinions of the generality of Igbos.
There’s nothing wrong in the Igbos having their own country only if such is what every South-eastern citizen desires and wants and that of course must be properly and carefully channeled through the political and traditional leaders unto the government of the federal republic of Nigeria. Beyond the fact that the federal government of Nigeria needs to do more practical work in persuading the Igbos that their interests will be better protected in terms of inclusion in government, securing of lives and properties, resource control, equity and equality, and social justice like the British did to the Scottish, if a Biafra referendum got an overwhelming YES votes the Nigerian government should graciously allow them to go peacefully and prevent a repeat of the 1967 massacre. War is not picnic, it should be avoided by any sane people.
Hussain Obaro is an author, motivational speaker and public affairs commentator writing from Lokoja, Kogi state.
This article expresses the author’s opinion only. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Legit.ng or its editors.
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