Paris massacre, Biafran agitation and the Nigerian nation
As the impact of the ISIS executed Paris massacre begins to sink in, we must start asking the questions: Could the tragedy have been avoided? What role did the United States and her European allies play in the creation of ISIS? If Iraq, Libya, and Syria have been left alone, would this have happened? Question, questions.
Is the world not better off with universal co-operation, of mutual
respect instead of the superior and subordinate relationships that a few super powers choose to impose? If the United Nations resolutions are made binding on all members according to majority decisions, would we be in this situation?
A dissent that is forcibly suppressed is only waiting for the appropriate time to manifest its ugly side. Is the time not ripe for us to tackle world challenges with new paradigms that will usher in peace? Can’t we adopt the model of Gianpiero Petriglieri, Associate Professor of organisational behaviour at INSEAD which states that “we need more Fellowship, not more Leadership” in tackling present world challenges? According to him, “…we need to talk. And we had better not lie.”
Everything that is happening in the world today is also playing out here in Nigeria at the micro level. Where did we get it wrong with the Niger Delta militants? Where did we get it wrong with the Boko Haram insurgents? And where are we getting it wrong now with the Biafran agitators? The times call for a radical shift in our thinking, in the manner of recruitment of our security personnel, on their training, on our intelligence operations and above all, our general inter- relationships.
It calls for a leadership that will not be in a hurry to please the boss(es) but the type that will examine and analyse situations critically before proferring and implementing solutions, not re-cycled ideas. Also, these times call for a very intelligent leadership that will be far above the partisanship of ethnicity, religion and politics. Quoting Gianpiero Petriglieri again as published in the Harvard Business Review: “Fostering civilization means cultivating our curiosity to recognise substantive differences, and our commitment to respect them – Within and between groups. For that, we need not more effective but more humane leaders. More conflicted, less conflicting ones. Leaders who can hold on to their voice, and help others find theirs, when it feels riskier to do so. There are plenty of good tribal leaders already, we need more civilized leaders instead.”
That is the solution to the Biafran uprising and others of its type in Nigeria today. It is amazing when people call for the brutal suppression of popular sentiments being expressed by an ethnic group. Did you take a proper look at the faces of the protesting youths? Did you see fear? Did you notice the martyr’s complex in the air? We never learn from history.
What is the issue with the Biafran agitators? They feel that they have been marginalised in the federation of today’s Nigeria, so they want to excercise their right to self- determination. The question again: Is this feasible under the present democratic set up? Can they survive on their own without the support or linkages to other ethnic groups and regions? Are they right to continue with the agitations?
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights papers, in tandem with the UN charter, part 1, article1 states: “All people have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development….In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence”. It went further: “The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realisation of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.”
The above answers the question of whether the Biafran agitators are right in their actions. As long as the agitations or protests are conducted in a non-violent manner, it is legitimate and must be accommodated by the government in power. But another question here is: What are the causes of the mass discontentments in the land? Why are the Igbos still aggrieved? Has there been a true reconciliation, rehabilitation and re-integration since the end of the Civil War in 1970?
If no, what are the issues of dispute? Can these issues be discussed? If no agreement is reached, can it be passed on to the people to decide through a referendum? If they want a break up, why not give the people the chance to decide? Why not try to explain the federation’s position nicely to the people, the advantages of a diverse, united and strong nation over a small country in the comity of nations. Of what they stand to lose if the South-South, for example, refuses to go along with them.
Of the disadvantage of an Igbo race that is the greatest migrant tribe in the nation outside the Fulani herdsmen, of how difficult it will be for them to criss-cross the nation if the split takes place. But the decision resides with the people and not through the suppressive force of the government and its security agencies. Not too long ago the United Kingdom of Britain experienced such challenges from the people of Scotland which was settled through a people’s referendum. That is how to do it.
All of those that have been incarcerated because of their demand for self-determination should be promptly released and let the issues be tabled for discussion.
According to Petriglieri again: “..We cannot win a war on intolerance. We can only respect each other out of it…It is easy to remain speechless, scream, or strike when words do not suffice. But talking is what we need now, especially about what might be hard to hear.”
That is the way forward.
By Sunny Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.