by Dele Awogbeoba
For over two years now, the Igbo political elite have been uncomfortable with their choice for president losing at the last Nigerian presidential election. Since that time, it (as well as its militant wing IPOB) has resorted to subversive sabotage of the Nigerian state.
It (the Igbo political establishment) has argued that the Igbo has been marginalized for the last 50 years and it has had enough. Empirical evidence suggests otherwise. Since 1999, the Igbo have been in the driving seat of the Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan presidencies (13 of the last 17 years). What we also know is that the North East and the South West were completely marginalized under the last GEJ administration in ways that do not even apply to the Igbo today. Their response, mature as it was and in line with democratic norms, was to re-strategize and vote out the then party in power.
It is debatable that the Igbo are even marginalized under this government. The most powerful Petroleum ministry is headed by an Igbo as is the powerful transportation ministry (that manages the powerful ports, airports and the increasing importance of railway infrastructure). It still has the legacy appointments from GEJ that ensures an Igbo heads the CBN (monetary policy). Buhari has also appointed Ben Nwabueze to head the Budget office and by implication drives fiscal policy. None of the people of either the South West nor the North East were so lucky under GEJ. In fact, under GEJ, the Yoruba voted for GEJ and was confined to meaningless minster of state positions. The Igbo did not vote for Buhari and expect to get the creamier positions than the people that did vote for Buhari.
The Biafran agitation premised on the back of dubious and intellectually dishonest cries of marginalization, is also illegal according to international norms. One of the reasons Russia is subject to international sanctions today was because it organized a referendum of the predominantly Russian people in Crimea in breach of the Ukrainian constitution.
John Bellinger in his interview with the council of foreign relations entitled “Why the Crimean Referendum is Illegitimate” stated:
“The Obama administration and most European governments argue that the referendum violates both the Ukrainian constitution and international law. The Ukrainian constitution requires that any changes to the territory of Ukraine be approved by a referendum of all of the Ukrainian people. The requirement is consistent with general principles of international law, which respects the territorial integrity of states and does not recognize a right of secession by a group or region in a country unless the group or region has been denied a right to “internal self determination” (i.e., its right to pursue its own political, economic, social, and cultural development) by the central government or has been subject to grave human rights violations by the central government. These factors, which could give rise to a right of remedial secession under international law, are not present in Crimea.”
In Nigeria, The Igbo have the right to vote for a party of their choice and can and does pursue its own political, economic, social and cultural development within the states of the South East Nigeria. The Central Government is not pursuing any human rights violations against any tribe in Nigeria so the second limb will not form the basis for such secession.
The Nigerian constitution makes clear that the unity of Nigeria is indivisible. That said, the constitution allows for changes and provides mechanisms through which changes can be effected. If a tribe within the Nigerian nation state wants out, it must do so within the parameters of the Nigerian constitution. The Federal Government is therefore handling matters very well. It has stayed within the law and to the extent that the racist and thuggish IPOB remains non violent in its agitation then they should be ignored by the Nigerian state whilst at the same time buying more weapons for its armed forces and embarking of more intense security measures in order to ensure no breach of the peace occurs in the South East and the rights of non indigenes are fully protected.
The behaviour of the Igbo elite has been disgraceful. They have now fully embraced the racist thug and now self acclaimed supreme leader Nnamdi Kanu. Any casual listener to Radio Biafra when it was hosted by Kanu can attest to the most repugnant racist slurs and stereo types that were directed at the North and the Yoruba. This climate of hate speech has now been a feature of Igbo internet warriors all over the net. They have found a willing host in Vanguard Newspapers (that most subversive Nigerian publication). This has led to defensive responses from Yorubas and now a quit notice from a section of the Northern youth that have now become exasperated and fed up with the antics of the certain sections of the Igbo population. The response by the Northern Governors and the Central Government was exemplary. The South East Governors have been shown what real maturity consists of and what it truly means to act in a civilized manner. The sooner the Igbo political establishment starts to publicly condemn the actions of IPOB the better for it.
Nigerians should not allow themselves to be bullied and intimidated. There is an electoral process every 4 years. People are able to change governments they do not like or seek alliances across various ethnic groups in order to improve their political fortunes within Nigeria (as was done by the North East and South West). The Buhari government did not run on the platform of implementing the 2014 national conference recommendations. The defeated PDP candidate ran on that platform. The winning party cannot be expected to implement the policies of a defeated party whose policies majority of the country clearly rejected. The APC government should as it is doing continue to ensure the protection of all life and property of all Nigerians in every state of the Country. The bail of Nnamdi Kanu should be revoked and he should be made to stay in prison until his trial is determined either way. If convicted, the law should be passed that prevents a president from pardoning a person convicted of treason until such a person as been in Prison for no less than 10 years. AFTER such a pardon has been granted, any continuance of such subversive action by such person should immediately lead to the person’s pardon being revoked.
The Buhari/Osinbajo government has acted with due maturity and political sophistication. Despite the fact that I am a proponent of fiscal restructuring within the confines of the present 36 state structure, I am of the belief that the Federal Government should not be steamrolled into any referendum of any kind nor into talks of restructuring of any kind. When 2019 comes, then new candidates can put their policies up to the camera for consideration and who ever wins can try to implement their policies. To the extent that their policies require changes to the constitution, then that candidate should hope that they have the required numbers to ensure it can change the constitution in the way they envisage.
Votes and elections (as the Americans say) do have consequences. For Nigeria and Nigerians, they must learn to respect the Nigerian electoral process. Thuggish blackmail should never be allowed to trump or intimidate the sanctity of the Nigerian nation and of the Nigerian electoral process.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
The author tweets @deleawogbeoba