Wednesday Column by Peregrino Brimah
To properly appreciate what the north, and I believe, Nigeria as a whole wants, we may benefit from a little history rehash. In 1966, a young soldier, Kaduna Nzeogwu attempted the first coup that led to the military eras that marked our history. His coup attempt, though possibly not tribalistic in intent also aggravated and sharpened ethnic divides that perhaps may have resolved naturally had things panned otherwise. In an attempt to redress the aggravating tensions and suspicions that had come to the fore, especially after the Nzeogwu coup, Aguiyi Ironsi on 24 May 1966, with Decree No. 34 ended up plunging Nigeria into a deeper mess and bloodier abyss. Aguiyi Ironsi’s Decree 34 “abolished the regions,” and ended Nigeria’s true federalism!
Compounding the sequence of errors, General OlusegunObasanjo upon restoring civil rule in 1979 had a new constitution instituted, which converted Nigeria from the Parliamentary system of governance to the Presidential system. With the more money wasting Presidential system, the president became the supreme leader, with unlimited powers and virtually impossible to check and dethrone. The entire electorate of diverse millions would become involved in ethnic fractionating, senseless battles to select a single man for the entire nation. This system is known to trigger ethnic fracas most especially in highly diverse societies. India, another nation that has as many as Nigeria’s 516 ethnic groups utilizes the Parliamentary system whereby regions only have the responsibility of electing local representatives. The battle for leadership happens in the parliament where the representatives select the Prime minister.
With these three significant events, Nigeria was on a path of intractable gloom. Compounded with the secession desire of Biafra, after a series of post-independence deadly-events, which started from Nzeogwu’s killing of northern elite in his coup; a provocative bread-loaf by south-eastern bakeries in the north which depicted Nzeogwu as the Saint killing Sardauna—the dragon, in the medieval ‘Saint George and the Dragon,’ tale; ethnic wars in the north with a northern upper hand in the numbers murdered; retaliatory wars in the south and finally Ojukwu’s demands.
Historians believe that with Decree No. 8, Gowon gave Ojukwu 95% of the Aburi accord demands. Gowon’s Decree No. 8 of 1967 effectively restored Nigeria to a confederacy. The decree stated “…legislative and executive powers of the Regions have been fully restored and vested in their respective Military Governors. But the provisions of section 86 of the Constitution of the Federation ensure that no Region shall exercise its executive authority so as to impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive authority of the Federation or to endanger the continuance of federal government in Nigeria.”
Ojukwu was not satisfied, he waged the secession war and Gowon, a young leader from Plateau state, together with his army commander, Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo, defeated the seceding east in a war that would result in up to a million deaths, mostly from famine, due to debated dynamics and politics of the war.
In the course of the war, the seceding Biafra would lose the south-south and the south-west. The war also included invasions of regions outside the 5 Igbo states, this included notably a mid-west invasion. It is important to realize as our history is considered in appreciating our present, that the Biafra war was not simply a secession attempt but involved annexation and conquest of other parts of Nigeria. Ojukwu later joined Nigeria and Biafra talk was practically eliminated till after he passed.
In review of our history, we see several key errors, and painful, deadly events that contorted Nigeria’s development and prepared a platform that gave opportunity only to a handful of elite cabal. What does the North want and need at this moment? An abrupt division of the country into several nations may be hard, impossible and bloody. But urgently, Nigeria needs a restoration of true federalism with each region being able to compete in securing and developing its economy, protecting its citizens and values and steering its future. We need the egregious errors of Aguiyi Ironsi reverted. The North and every other part of Nigeria need their own leadership to secure life and provide hope and prosperity for its people. Abuja cannot hold the nation. There is violence, theft, kidnapping, oil bunkering, high sea piracy, ritual killing, child persecution as witches and what have you, in the south. There likewise is ‘Boko Haram,’ ‘Herdsmen Haram,’ ‘Unknown soldier Haram,’ and all other sorts of population genocide in the north.
The current president is totally disconnected not only from the north, but also from his own village. Perhaps good leadership would have staved off these critical crises, but 14 years of greed-laden, visionless democratic rule has determinately turned what was manageable before on its head and sacked all hope. Niger Delta militant leader, MujahidAsari-Dokubo is quoted to have said that ‘Fulani Buhari would have done more for the people of the Niger Delta’ than the current president who he only supports in tribal patronage.
The exemplary behavior of the Civilian JTF in the North-east elucidates the need for state police. Those involved in the struggle to secure the northeast clamor for such reformations. If these young men who know the in-and-out of their neighborhoods are in charge of security and equipped with guns and not the knives they manage with great efficiency, Boko Haram terror would long be a thing of the past. The people of Borno arrested sponsors of terror, but Abuja released them. How can such a system work?
The North is the poorest region of Nigeria. The poverty level is as high as 85%. Most of