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11.06.2011 Feature Article

THE MANY SEPARATIST MOVEMENTS IN NIGERIA

THE MANY SEPARATIST MOVEMENTS IN NIGERIA
11.06.2011 LISTEN

In the last few years a lot of nationalist movements have sprung up representing virtually all the geopolitical zones in Nigeria. The interesting thing about them is that they all have one central theme; each group wants to separate their ethnic people from the Nigerian state. This is very healthy and unarguably the singular most important socio/political development in Nigeria since post-colonial era. What this means is that the people are beginning to realize who they are and are anxious to reassert themselves and take back their national destiny. The people are now beginning to see that it is only them who should and do know what is good for themselves. The people are the ones who should choose how they would be governed, who they should associate with and their national sovereignty. The people have now come to realize that the Europeans in 1885 in the European city of Berlin in Germany would not have known better than the indigenous people as to where their national boundaries should start and end. This is a good thing and we should all be proud of ourselves.

The Nigerian state (space) has become too deadly toxic and it is choking out of existence every good and noble trait that is found in each ethnic group that makes up the union. Nigerian space like a viciously mined field has become too dangerous for the safe existence of the peoples who make up the union as a result of the most incongruous amalgamation of the most culturally, religiously and linguistically diverse and eternally irreconcilable peoples. The current Nigerian socio/political arrangement is simply at best the most unfortunate thing that has happened to the various ethnic constituents of the geographical space.

What these different nationalist groups are doing is called variously by different names, Self-Determination, Nationalist Movement, Separatist Movement, Civil Rights Movement, Indigenous Peoples' Rights Movement, etc. There could never be a better time than now to be living in the Nigerian space because this is a period of social/political awakening like no other time. Everyone everywhere is requested to come forth and be an active participant in this movement. Each group should be proud of who they are and clearly and unashamedly identify with their ethnic uniqueness. Nothing is wrong with that. Someone telling you that something is wrong with that is like telling the French that something is wrong with identifying himself as French instead of as English and vice versa. If the kind of deathly “unity” that exists in Nigeria is a mark of civility, modernity or even brotherliness as some would want to argue, why doesn't Belgium become united as one country with Italy? To hell with the false notion of one-Nigeria because there will never be a one-Nigeria. What the various regional/ethnic groups agitating for their nationalist unique identity are doing is honest, sincere, bold, courageous and commendable.

The point we are making here is that what the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB is doing is the right thing to do. What the Oodua People's Congress, OPC is doing is the right thing to do. What the Boko Haram Islamic State Movement, BKISM is doing is the right thing to do. What the Middle Belt Federation, MBF is doing is perfectly in order. What the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND is doing is the right thing to do. Other ethnicities are also encouraged to stand up and be counted, then each can choose which group they have the closest cultural affinity with and they can merge to begin building progressive indigenous nations based on mutual understanding, trust, honesty, respect and healthy relationships. The time for pretences have passed, we can now look each other in the face and tell ourselves that we are not one, can never be one, should never be one country but can relate as friends and neighbors with foreign citizenships. Nothing is wrong with that. Whatever relationship that we are maintaining now does not engender any progress or development of any kind or any form of brotherliness. We have only wasted each other's time and stunted each other's growth since the time that we have been together. Going our separate ways now is good and the only right thing to do.

We will briefly look at the various agitating groups that represent the different ethnic regions and the method they use trying to achieve their goals. We want to point out that because these movements as should be expected are ideologically based therefore you will expect them to have different approach on how they intend to achieve their goals. Every method can be considered legitimate depending on how you want to look at it. Each society has their different value standards and each group should be judged based on that. What this means is that we should respect each group and whatever method they want to use or are using. If we are not comfortable with the method and we do not belong to that society then we should leave there without trying to impose our foreignness on our neighbors. This is how to show respect to your neighbors and friends.

Over the years the northern part of Nigeria has produced several rights/separatists groups but basically the Boko Haram or the Wahabi group which is still current and very active on the sociopolitical scene of that region is typical. They believe in and use violence to human persons and properties in achieving their goal. They are pressing for Self-Determination and a separate existence based on the Islamic religious principles of sharia. And with the legal provisions of the various international organizations to which Nigeria is signatory, such as the United Nations and African Union, this group's demand is legitimate and must be respected. It will be illegal to suppress them.

OPC that represents the western part, as well as advocating for dialog does not shy away from the use of violence if the need arises as they fight for their Self-Determination and ethnic separation from the Nigerian state. MEND of the South/South as a separatist movement; apply violence to property and business installations to drive their message home rather than to human persons. It must be noted that though they had had reasons to take hostages of foreign and local oil workers, they have never been known to harm any of their victims. They have always released the people they captured after the payment of ransoms or through some other negotiated means. MBF that represents the Middle Belt has not specifically declared if they are completely non-violent but has not yet been associated with any violent acts. MASSOB which has its root in the southeastern axis has constantly maintained a non-violent posture (though most people are beginning to question the effectiveness of this their method in the face of the constant brutal violence against them and members of their ethnic group by the Nigerian state and its citizens). And it is quite ironical that of all the groups the one that have had most of their members murdered, maimed and jailed by the Nigerian government is MASSOB which is non-violent. MBF as a rights/separatist organization covers the entire middle belt or the central region of Nigeria and is led by Leonard Shilgba. The group has not been explicit on the method they intend to use in achieving their avowed goal of decoupling themselves from the Nigerian train that has been heedlessly and dangerously driving towards disaster and complete destruction at full speed. But we know that they are emphasizing the illegality of both Nigerian 1999 Constitution and the social structure/ethnic constitution of the present Nigerian state.

One thing we want to point out here is that Nigerian government has been discriminatory in the way they have dealt with these various groups. This is not surprising though because it will always depend on who is wielding the stick of oppression/suppression of the agitating groups. MEND and other similar groups operating in Southeast-South/South axis have suffered the most in the hands of the Nigerian government. Nigeria has used maximum force in trying to suppress these groups and their legitimate demand for justice and Self-Determination. They have gone to the extent of setting up special military forces such as the so-called Joint Task Force which uses extreme military measures, aerial and ground forces including bombing and strafing of both the agitating groups and their host civilian population. Let us take the recent example of the killing of the Niger Delta freedom fighter General John Togo by the Nigerian government. John Togo's death is considered as state murder by the people of the Niger Delta for whom he dedicated his life to fight for justice and freedom from the Nigerian union. He was killed in one of the many indiscriminate aerial bombardments of the Niger Delta by the Nigerian government. His death is seen today by the locals as a martyr's. This observation becomes important when you try to juxtapose it with what is obtained in Nigerian government's dealings with the other groups around the country. In the case of OPC which is also known to be violent in their operations, there has not been any instance of the government forces killing any member. The worst they have ever suffered is jailing. As for the Boko Haram group that believes in the Islamic jihad of killing non-believers and have consistently carried out this their religious injunction through beheadings, shootings, bombing, etc: They have also suffered arrests and in one occasion extra-judicial killing by the Nigerian police.

In the end, as we have repeatedly emphasized, the demands and agitations of these various groups are legitimate and right and should be pursued vigorously by all of us who find ourselves living in today's Nigerian geopolitical space. This is the right thing to do and there is nothing to be naïve or self-conscious about. Right now the various groups are expected to increase the tempo of their agitations. We expect to see an increase in action by these groups in the areas of more civil disobedience, conferences, rallies, protests, symposia, etc. All the groups should put more pressure on the rulers in Nigeria through the use of all means that will create real impact on them so that the process of Nigeria's disintegration can be accelerated and it will come quickly to free the oppressed ethnic peoples within the enclave.

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