Ethnic agitations and quest for equity, fairness in Nigeria
There is no doubt that Nigeria has foundational and systemic defects that triggered series of questions, debates and struggles among its ethnic groups from inception.
These, as someone argued the other day, are only a sad reminder to the fact that the country was built on falsehood and has so far, managed to stick together through that falsehood.
It is, however, believed that Nigeria’s pre and post-independence leaders managed the challenges with political sagacity, selfless leadership and a strong faith in the unity of the country.
After the failed first and second republics, the military leaders mainly from the Northern part of the country dominated its leadership. Latching on to this advantage and using military decrees, they widened the gap between the North and the rest of the country through their actions and inactions.
Not many Nigerians who were marginalised and deprived by the lopsided policies and appointments of successive military regimes could challenge the status quo then due to fear of unknown. Few like late Environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and his kinsmen, who tried to do so, paid the supreme sacrifice.
With the return of democracy in 1999, with a constitution fashioned by the military class, the country’s structural defects, which include unequal states, council areas, minority challenges, lack of fiscal federalism, restructuring, lopsided appointments, marginalisation and resource control, among others became too obvious once again.
Relying on the tenets of democracy, including rule of law, freedom of speech, association and others, many people, mainly from the Southern part of the country, began to agitate for equity and fairness in the allocation of resources as typified by the federal character principle.
They came in different guise with different names such as freedom fighters, militants, ex-militants, liberators, leaders, and others. It was during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 that the likes of Ralph Uwazuruike came with the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) seeking independence of Biafra.
Also from the Southwest, Dr. Fredrick Fasheun and Gani Adams of the O’dua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) advocated for true federalism and Oduduwa Republic.
In the Southsouth were the likes of Asari Dokubo, Ateke Tom and others who were asking for resource control and Republic of Niger Delta.
But the Obasanjo administration incarcerated all of them at various times, refusing to dialogue with them. Even though his government gave the oil producing states of the Niger Delta region 13 per cent derivation.
Obasanjo’s successor, the late Umaru Musa Yar Adua dialogued with the Niger Delta agitators, culminating in the Presidential Amnesty Programme and the establishment of Ministry of Niger Delta.
During former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, such agitations for equity less frequent. This was mainly because most of the leaders of the various ethnic groups were absorbed and carried along by his government.
However, with the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the quest and agitation for restructuring and equity became louder, following some of the government’s policies and lopsided appointments that mainly affected the Southeast.
That brought about another round of agitations for Biafra Republic by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. Just like the past leaders of ethnic agitators and their activities, the Federal Government had proscribed Kanu and his group and even declared it a terrorist group.
So, of what exactly will such agitations achieve, seeing that they have always failed to achieve the desired goal in the past? Where are the past agitators and why did they abandon their cause half way or in some cases politicise or commercialise the struggle? Is the struggle truly for the benefit of the people or for personal motivations? Why has the struggle not been able to resolve the marginalisation and sectionalism in the country? Why does government prefer compromising or intimidating the agitators, rather than addressing the issues? Only time will tell!
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