“Few individuals want to willingly invite their death. Yet many will be found who are prepared to fight fearlessly for their rights even if their life is threatened. The human spirit has a remarkable capacity to rise above oppression and only the fools who misrule Guyana can imagine that our population alone lacks such capacity”
“… For the only great men among the unfree and the oppressed are those who struggle to destroy the oppressor” – Dr. Walter Rodney, author of “Drink from my Calabash” and the seminal “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.”
The “National question” has been a vexed issue from time immemorial, disrespecting ideological divides and confounding the best of thinkers. Marxist thinkers grew gray hairs grappling with it. In the end, it was the same national question that led in part to the disintegration of the USSR.
Small and big nations have floundered at the hurdle of the national question. China has been in the news for the wrong reasons over the agitation for self-determination and the alleged (mis?) treatment of its minority Muslim Uyghur population. In Myanmar (formerly Burma), made popular around the world by the pro-democracy activism of Aung San Suu Kyi, minorities have tales of woes to tell. The mostly Muslim Rohingya population has alleged genocide and ethnic cleansing.
In Egypt, it is a miracle that the minority Coptic Christians have survived to this day. In Turkey, once a flourishing and vibrant Christian country, the Christian majority has been virtually but viciously wiped out.
In all manner of climes, under whichever form of government, and regardless who superintends, the national question has been a raging issue that consumes governments where people’s sensibilities and sensitivities are not sensibly gauged; where effective solutions are not proactively proffered; where tardiness takes the place of timeliness; where offences and irritations are left to fester; where, rather than nip in the bud activities that put the fabrics of society to the sword they are encouraged by acts of omission and or commission; and where grievances, many of them ageless, are not adequately addressed but are constantly swept under the carpet.
Oppressive forces hardly concede anything to self-determination groups except through struggles, many of them bitter, acrimonious and long-drawn. True, then, are the words of Frederick Douglass that “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Witness the Catalonians in their quest for independence from Spain and Western Sahara’s struggle for self-determination from the iron grip of Morocco.
Nigeria fought a civil war between 1967 and 1970. After the Biafrans failed in that project, there was a lull for many years; but cries of marginalization and nostalgic feelings, especially by younger Biafran population, for “Paradise Lost” have once again stoked the fire of separatist feelings in the belly of Biafrans.
It would seem that the Yoruba people of the South-West who, in the Nigerian civil war teamed up with the rest of the country against Biafra “to keep Nigeria one”, are having a re-think. The idea of an Oduduwa Republic has been in the public domain for quite some time; since the second coming of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and with his nepotistic, clueless and incompetent regime pandering to ethnic chauvinism and religious fundamentalist bigotry, the cry for Yoruba self-determination has become more strident.
The alarming and mouth-gaping insecurity in the land coupled with the FG’s perceived complicity have radicalised views and opinions from the tepid demand for restructuring to more radical propositions of disintegration and outright exit. Since the FG dithered, delayed and, in fact, denounced restructuring, various Yoruba self-determination groups now appear bent on upping the ante. Enter YEXIT! Taking after BREXIT, YEXIT’s full meaning is “Yoruba Exit Nigeria” or “Yoruba Exit”, for short.
Really, really imaginative! The train has left the station of restructuring, heading straight for the exit!
Blame the impunity, intransigence, audacity, mendacity, arrogance and pompous grandstanding of those who boast that Nigeria is their ancestral inheritance. A referendum supervised by the United Nations – not any senseless war – is, however, the best solution to the Nigeria quagmire. Let those exiting do so peacefully; and let those remaining in the contraption called Nigeria also enjoy their peace. After all, exit or no exit, we will forever remain neighbours. None of us can remove our land, roll it up like a mosque mat, and transfer it elsewhere! After all, Britain exiting the European Union has not translated into Britain exiting Europe. As demonstrated by the example of Britain and the EU, a negotiated (however long-drawn and energy-sapping), peaceful, and orderly parting of ways makes far more sense than a disorderly, acrimonious, bitter and bloody scattering of erstwhile brothers, referring them inveterate goes and implacable enemies long-term. One great lesson of history is that whereas wars may start on the battle field, they often always end on the negotiation table.
The Nigerian civil war, for instance, fought for grueling three-and-half years on the battle field, ended with the declaration of “no victor, no vanquished” and the immediate prosecution of the 3 R’s policy of Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction.
Regrettably, however, Aldous Huxley posits that “Men do not learn much from the lessons of history – and that is the most important of all the lessons of history”! And those who fail to learn from history, warns George Santayana, are often condemned to repeating it’s mistakes. Will Nigerian leaders learn from the copious history of separatist groups and self-determination struggles that litter the pages of past and recent history? Time, as they say, will tell!
Now, back to our opening quotes: Does the quotes from Rodney also apply to Nigeria as it did his native Guyana? Rodney was assassinated at age 38 through car bomb. Right from my University days when I first encountered Rodney through “How Europe…” I have always been fascinated by his thoughts about the human spirit having a remarkable capacity to rise above oppression. The truism in Rodney’s words has been demonstrated everywhere: In the Jews who survived the Holocaust and over six million deaths; in the Igbo who survived the civil war and rose from Ground Zero to sit, today, atop Nigeria’s commerce; in southern Africa that overcame apartheid; in Christians in the northern parts of this country and in the Middle Belt that have clung tenaciously to their faith against excruciating odds; to mention but a few. When Rodney posited that “…only the fools who misrule Guyana can imagine that our population alone lacks the capacity…” to rise above oppression, did he also speak to the Nigerian situation as we know it today?