Opinion: Is it time for us to dissolve Nigeria peacefully?

by Diran Apata

DRIP! Drip!! Drip!!! The violent spilling of blood in our country goes on. It does not only show no sign of ceasing, it only shows signs of continuing. Indeed, it shows signs of increasing – and of increasing beyond imagination.

It is the most important piece of news from Nigeria these days. For nearly two years, it has been the dominant news of life in Nigeria.  It grows and grows and grows. It grows and grows without restraint.  This week, the Red Cross has been screaming through all the world’s news media that tens of Nigerians have been killed by fellow Nigerians in our city of Kaduna and our nearby town of Damaturu.  It is Kaduna today. In recent days it has been Maiduguri, or Abuja, or Bauchi, or Kano, or Yola – on and on. Tomorrow, unhappily, its awful list will expand. It is spreading, claiming more territory, more lives – and more of the little that is left of the soul of our country. It is the most eloquent statement yet of the uncomfortable truth that, after all our desires have been taken into account, and after all our resolve to keep going together have been taken into account,  our country does not appear, after all, to be a viable entity in the world.

Inevitably, all of us Nigerians, individually and collectively, are now faced with the question, “What should we do now?” or “What is in the future for this country of ours?”. For all of us who have belonged to this one troubled country for about one century, there is no way we can now wish or will that troubling question away. I say “inevitably” because I know that none of us can now sit comfortably and ignore the conditions foisted on us all as citizens of Nigeria. There used to be many who could ignore it all, like the ostrich hiding its head in the sand – some of them wooly-headedly believing that even if we did nothing, our country would somehow mend and revive. Of course, there used to be the few privileged Dukes of Robbery and Corruption who believed that their ethnic antecedents and/or political eminence guaranteed their being positioned to go on stealing public money for ever. There used to be many too who could live in the perverted hope that their chance to benefit from the robbery and confusion would somehow come. And there used to be many who, though they are very good at intellectually perceiving and describing the horror in which we all live, nevertheless thought that it was their patriotic duty to keep saying “Though this house has all but crumbled and sunk us all in horrific disaster, I must keep posturing that it stands and lives on”.

Today, it has become starkly impossible for any of us to continue to live in any of these various shades of denial or self-deception. All the hens have come home to roost. Most of us who used to be able to hold our lives together have now been destabilized or even crushed by a degree of poverty which, only a few decades ago, would have been impossible to imagine in our country. Even our big Dukes of Robbery and Corruption, who used to glory in their loot and flaunt their obscene affluence, appear now to be gripped in fear, doubt and foreboding. Most of these men and women, of all nationalities in our country, are too degenerate to think of stopping the robbery and the brigandage, but they are increasingly subject to a creeping fear that some sort of terrible end is near. Hardly any Nigerian now doubts that some huge monstrous fate is on its way to us all.

At such a point as this, the teacher in me desires to lay before all our people, in simple terms, the many suggestions and proposals which various persons, and various groups of citizens, have put forward for healing our country, or generally concerning our country. My hope, my great desire, is that more and more of us will find it easier to join in the debate over our country, over our country’s future, and over the future of all the nations, large or small, that belong to our country. This is the only path left to order, peace, and possibly progress also. Those who think that a progression to an ultimate implosion can be fun are involving themselves in a terrible crime against humanity.


Many citizens propose that we should RESTRUCTURE OUR FEDERATION with a view to achieving harmony and confidence in our country. Essentially, what these folks are advocating is a return to our federal system as it was from 1952-59, with certain important modifications.  In those years, we had a federation of three Regions. Each Region was autonomous in a large area of its own affairs. The system emphasized that each Region controlled most of its resources and managed most of its own affairs.  Each Region was therefore able to progress in its own way and at its own pace. Every Region made considerable progress – and, together, the three Regions made our country a land of expanding hope. A return to the 1950s kind of federation, with the modifications proposed by many of our citizens, would mean

a. A considerable readjustment of responsibilities between the states and the federal authority. It would mean that the responsibilities of the federal authority, as they are today, would shrink, and those of the states would increase.

b. Each state would have its own security apparatus, especially a State Police Service.

c. The Revenue Allocation system would allocate most of our joint resources to the states.

d.  Our nations would be the basis of the states of our federation, provided that any small and contiguous nations may, on their own initiative, agree to join together to form a state.

e. The Local Governments in each State would be part of the State’s apparatus for local service and development (as in the 1950s).

These changes are what India, a multi-national country like our Nigeria, adopted after the secession of Pakistan and Bangladesh, to prevent the further breaking up of the country. It is, with slight differences, the way the United Kingdom and Canada, and most multi-nation federations in the world outside Black Africa, are organized.  It is, in fact, what our minority nations in the three Regions demanded incessantly in the 1950s.

The folks who advocate these changes are fervently telling us that, given the ethnic national composition of our country, the constitutional arrangements that we have concocted since 1960 are senseless, incongruous, and destructive, and that we should get rid of them and give our country a chance to settle down in orderliness and progress.  Our rulers owe us the duty of leading us to examine such proposals as these.


Some of our people propose that we should include in our federal constitution the ultimate right of secession by any of our nations.  Among these, I will quote what our illustrious citizen, then General Olusegun Obasanjo (later President Obasanjo) advocated in 1998. In a book that he wrote that year (This Animal Called Man, pages 214-215),  General Obasanjo stated as follows:

I will like to see a clause for self-determination and self-determination process included in the constitution. I had always thought that a self-determination clause in a federal constitution would be disintegrative and disuniting. But when I listened to the Ethiopian experience and model, I was persuaded and enchanted by it.

In a public speech at the Lagos Tennis Club in 2002, Chief Tony Enahoro welcomed this statement by Gen. Obasanjo as a very important and constructive contribution to the Nigerian debate. A lot of our citizens now agree.  Whatever any of us may think of Gen. Obasanjo, we have to concede that, at least in the realm of Nigeria’s political realities, he knows Nigeria more comprehensively than probably any of the rest of us. Like him, many citizens believe that it is much better for us to accept the probability that some of our nations will seek secession sooner or later, and to provide for a peaceful process to it, than to exclude it from public discourse and live constantly under the danger of sudden secessions and their accompanying conflicts. Inherent in this is a humble and realistic acceptance of the fact that our country is made up of many nations, and that none of us alive today can limit what any of our nations may choose to do tomorrow.


Of course, hardly any of us would explicitly propose that our country be dissolved, but many of us have warned repeatedly that we are indeed heading towards such an eventuality. The resistance of the mainstream leadership of Northern Nigeria to all attempts to discuss the fundamentals of our country, even as our country manifestly slides into absolute poverty, hopelessness and chaos, has, in recent times, intensified the fears that our country could suddenly implode someday. Many informed and influential people in the wider world believe so too. Naturally, therefore, the warnings by our citizens to our rulers concerning this are increasing greatly. And more and more of us are suggesting that rather than doing nothing, rather than waiting until we break up in massive bloodletting and horrendous human suffering, we should find ways to break up peacefully. Some are already even suggesting ways to break up peacefully. Some are suggesting that Nigeria should set up an arrangement whereby the countries that would result from the break-up should continue for some years (like five or ten years) to receive agreed shares of the revenue from what is now the Nigerian oil resources, provided that not less than 50% will go to the Delta Country at any time during those years.

In recent weeks, indeed, the complexion of this facet of the discourse has been changed considerably. It has been changed by a particular kind of intervention from some influential voices from Northern Nigeria. The sum total of those interventions is that, while the North will not lead in breaking up Nigeria, it will not oppose the breaking up Nigeria, and that if Nigeria does break up, the North will be able to stand on its own.  To spell out these statements adequately and with the deserved respect, it would be necessary to give much space – the kind of space that we do not have in the message of today. Therefore, a reaction to them is promised for the message of next Sunday.


Source: Tribune


Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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