Secessionist Aspirations In Nigeria

INTRODUCTION

The country Nigeria began evolving in 1885. There were several forces which led to the moves for the evolution of Nigeria. However, following the rise of industrial revolution in Europe, It became necessary for the European powers to begin to look on Africa for raw materials to support their home industries. The federation of Nigeria has never really been one homogenous country, thus, this obvious fact not withstanding, the former colonial masters decided to keep the country one in order to effectively control her vital resources for their economic interests. Thus for administrative convenience, the northern and southern Nigeria were amalgamated in 1914 and having the name of the country (Nigeria) as the only thing they shared in common, since each side had different administrative set up, culture and languages.2This alone was an insufficient basis for true unity.

The amalgamation ought to have brought the various peoples together establishing closer cultural, social, religious and linguistic ties vital for true unity among the people, rather it resulted to division, hatred, unhealthy, rivalry and pronounced disparity in development. Therefore parties were formed based on ethnic rather than national interests. These therefore had no unifying effect on the peoples against the colonial master. Rather it was the people themselves who were the victims of the political struggles which were supposed to be aimed at removing foreign domination.3

At independence Nigeria became a federation and remained one country. Soon afterwards the battle to consolidate the legacy of political and military dominance of a section of Nigeria over the rest of the federation began with increased intensity.4 Events which led to the civil war were firstly, the general census conducted in 1962 was alleged to be riddled with malpractices and inflation of figures of such astronomical proportions that the Eastern region refused to accept the result. Secondly, the general elections of 1964 were said to be neither free nor fair and this resulted to the breakdown of law and order which led to the coup of January 1966, a coup alleged to be staged by people of Eastern region. A counter coup was staged by the northern military officers on 29 July 1966; the lack of planning and revengeful, intentions of the second coup manifested itself in the chaos, confusion and the scale of unnecessary killings of the easterners throughout the country and this led to the outbreak of the civil war5

This paper therefore examines the secessionist aspirations in Nigeria, a case study of MASSOB, which is the direct result of the civil war and the continuation of aspirations of Biafra in the past.

1.1    STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The end of the cold war brought about new secessionist aspirations and the strengthening and re-awakening of existing or dormant separatist claims in nearly all regions of the world.6 Prior to 1966, Nigeria witnessed fluctuating peaceful atmosphere for political development. However, the coup of 1966 triggered Nigeria into crisis of different dimension. The development of political intolerance, marginalization and the lackadaisical attitude of the government to the needs of the people especially the people of the South East, Niger Delta Region can be traceable to the secessionist aspirations of the movement for the actualization of the sovereign state of Biafra (MASSOB) from Nigeria. To what extent has MASSOB achieved its plans.? How has the Nigerian government responded to this development.

It is against this background that the research is set to give an account of these developments and to give recommendations to the solution of these problems.

AIMS AND PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

This research work has as its aim to highlight the aims and objectives of the movement for the actualization of the sovereign state of Biafra (MASSOB); its programmes, its effects on the evolution of the Nigerian State and the methods it is using to achieve its goal namely, the actualization of a sovereign state of Biafra through secession.

1.3    SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF STUDY

Secessionist aspirations has been a neglected topic among scholars. However the secessionist aspirations of the movement for the actualization of the sovereign State of Biafra is a contemporary issue, whose origin is traceable to the defunct republic of Biafra.

The focus of this research work is therefore to examine the background to the formation of the movement for the Actualization of the sovereign State of Biafra, its aims, objectives and its operational strategies, a critique of MASSOB, overview and conclusion.

1.4    METHODOLOGY

The work will employ concepts from social sciences especially psychology. The frustration aggression theory of John Dollard et al readily comes to mind.7 The theory explains that the person in a  given society is frustrated because in his interaction with his environment, he is hampered by circumstances he cannot control which do not allow him reach his objectives. He can contain his frustration for a while but if the cause of the frustration continues then the end result is violence. The documentation of sources of information shall be the MLA style.

The work is divided into five chapters. Chapter one deals with the background to the study. Chapter two reflects on the background to the formation of MASSOB. Chapter three examines the aims, objectives and operational strategies of MASSOB. Chapter four will focus on the critical analysis of MASSOB  and its aspirations. While chapter five (5) is the overview and conclusion.

1.5    LITERATURE REVIEW

Until quite recently secession has been a neglected topic among scholars. Scholars recently began to turn their attention to secession because of the increase in number of attempted secessions and successful secessions in the past decade and the idea that there is a strong case for some form of self government for groups presently contained within states. However there have been more emphasis on the Nigerian civil war as secessionists aspirations by scholars.

Writing on the Nigerian civil war has become a thriving industry and has attracted an array of writers with various motives. Mostly to expose the various factors that shaped the course of events in Nigeria.8 Some of the books written by scholars are: H.G. Handbury, Biafra: A Challenge to the conscience of Britain, Alain Renard, Biafra; Naissance d’une Nation.

The making of a nation, Authur Nwankwo and Samuel Ifejika, The murder of Nigeria: Obi Egbuna, A. H. M. Kirk – Greene,.  Crisis and conflicts in Nigeria; A documentary source book 1966 – 1970; John Oyinbo Nigeria crisis and beyond, major Adewale Ademoyega, Why we struck. Major general Joe Garba, Revolution in Nigeria another view (Dr.) R. B. Alade: The Broken Bridge.

G. Handbury, Biafra: A Challenge to the Conscience of Britain focused on the injustice, committed against Biafra, and the lack of humane concern of Britain in helping Nigeria to suppress secession in Biafra because of British economic motives since Nigeria was the largest British market in Africa and also because of the almost half a billion pounds sterling of British investments in Nigeria. This book was written from the sentimental angle of view against human suffering and the natural tendency to support the underdog in a conflict.

Alain Renard, Biafra: Naissance d’ une nation raised the questions of whether biafra was a veritable African nation created by the genuine desire of Africans themselves rather than a colonial imposition of artificial frontier by outsiders. This book deals essentially to establish Biafra consciousness of the European public to establish her right to live as an independent and sovereign state.

Apart from foreign journalist who have produced a considerable amount of literature on the war, a few Nigerian writers have made great contributions to this literary work.

Author Nwankwo and Samuel Ifejika, being insiders of the Biafran situation, wrote on the making of a nation: Biafra. They directed the book at the European audience with the aim of exploiting the enormous sympathy for Biafra in Europe so that the unequal war between Biafra and Nigeria could be internationalized. However his book was written from the Biafran point of view and is never expected to be objective.

The murder of Nigeria by Obi Egbuna tried to use his fame to advance the cause of Biafra by writing in detail the atrocities committed against the Igbo people. This book is not expected to be objective but cannot be doubted.

Crisis and conflict in Nigeria: A documentary source book 1966-1970 by A. H. H Kirk Greene focuses on several speeches, official publications and commentaries made by key figures and “dramatis personae” in the conflict in Nigeria. It equally provides an important source material for student interested in understanding the Nigerian conflict. This book only provides speeches, official publications and commentaries as important source materials.

Nigeria crisis and beyond by John Oyinbo advanced the thesis of the inevitability of instability in Nigeria, given the structural, political and economic imbalance in the polity. However the reason why he used a pseudonym is not clearer.

Major Ademoyega ‘why we struck’ deals extensively with the reasons for the military coup of January 1966. He claimed he and his colleagues were motivated by the highest ideas i.e. to deal ruthlessly with the corrupt regime. This book is more of a political treatise on the reasons for military intervention in January 1966.

Major General Joe Garba, ‘Revolution in Nigeria another view deals essentially with a rebuttal of many of the assertions made by major general Madiebo in his book my command especially on the question of Northern domination of the army and the bending of the promotion rules to accommodate what Madiebo considered intellectually inferior army officer cadets from the north. However Joe Garba failed to acknowledge the contributions of non-Nigerians, such as the Zaberma from Niger and some of the Chadians who were used essentially as cannon fodder during the war. He did not explain that the ethnic minority groups in Northern Nigeria were not special breeds of Nigerians motivated by such higher ideals as patriotism or nationalism, but were responding to economic benefits provided by  the army. He maintained silence on the coup d’etal that brought Yakubu Gowon down in July 1975.

Dr. R. B. Alade: The Broken Bridge is an account of the experiences of a field commissioned Lt-colonel in the Nigerian Army Medical Corps. The title of the book is appreciate, but it would have been better still if it had been broken legs, to prepare the reader’s mind for the vivid impressions of the several limbs Dr. Alade and his colleagues had to deal with surgically. The book lacks objectivity.

This writing aims at reviewing the secessionist aspirations of MASSOB, a re-enactment of the Nigerian civil war. This writing is necessary because it examines the unaddressed issues which led to the civil war and its connection to the origin of MASSOB.  MASSOB  a psychological posing factor to the Nigerian unity could lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.