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31 August 2011 | Feature Article

At about 10:30 AM Friday the 26th of August, 2011 a suicide bomber drove his car and rammed it into United Nations main building in Abuja Nigeria. Dozens of people are now known to have died from the blast and a lot more people are in critical conditions in the hospitals. A few hours later the Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram which is agitating for a separate state from Nigeria claimed responsibility. Since the past few years Boko Haram just like some other separatist movements that have been very active in Nigeria have intensified their protests against a forced unity in the Nigerian state. The group wants to take themselves and their people out of Nigeria and establish a state that conforms to their Islamic religious/cultural values. According to the United Nations Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights this group has the right to protest and make demand for a state of their own.

In other words what they are doing is the process of Self Determination. Now, that should sound familiar to many readers. They are actually walking a familiar path though their means may not go down well with a lot of people and that will not be the issue here. Prior to this time the same group had bombed other places and killed several thousands of people in Nigeria just to prove to everybody that they are serious about their demands but it seemed that nobody had cared to listen. Then only recently the Sultan of Sokoto who is acknowledged as the head of Muslims in Nigeria came out to publically throw his support and that of all Muslims in Nigeria behind the group. This is supposed to convince the remaining skeptics that Boko Haram as an organization is carrying out a popular regional program and that is enough to make them legitimate anywhere in the world. The people and their wishes will always supersede the state any day. If the other regions of Nigeria are uncomfortable with the group's agenda and method of operation then they should begin to take more seriously what their own people need and what they are saying. Take the example the group from Southeastern Region, Movement for the Actualizations of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB. The leaders from that political bloc must begin to pay attention to what they are demanding; separation from the Nigerian state. (Some of the Southeastern leaders may only wish it were not so, but the reality is what is and these leaders must have to live with it and actually begin now to publicly identify with this truth. No one has ever escaped from his shadow).

By the standards of the United Nations it seems like the places and lives being destroyed in Nigeria prior to this time are of less importance in the UN's scheme of things in the world. Let's face it, as human beings and by extension, our human institutions, we tend to attend to issues that affect us in their order of priorities. First things are generally treated first while the less pressing ones are attended to later. The urgency that we attach to an item will determine the position that we allot to them in our scale of preferences. When lives and assets that we consider precious are threatened, we usually tend to consider such situation as urgent. In this case we should note the use of the word precious. That holds the key in this point we are making.

Who or what is considered precious will always differ from person to person, or from institution to institution which is largely decided by a person's or institution's sense of value. In this case under consideration, it appears like the members of the United Nations Security Council and the UN Chief Ban ki-Moon do not consider the lives and properties in Nigeria as precious. From all indications they seem to believe that they can afford to attend to more important and pressing issues elsewhere first. One can almost imagine them as saying, Nigeria's situation can wait and we will get to it later. By UN's scale of things, though lives and properties are being lost, but those are not precious enough to be accorded any first priority treatment.

Some readers might want to ask what led us to such assumptions. A few months back, Ban ki-Moon came to visit Nigeria and was supposed to have seen things for himself and from what he saw he should have tried to make adjustments in UN's scale and maybe moved Nigeria's situation further up for a quicker attention, but he did not and, an opportunity was lost. Instead the UN's Chief told the listening world that all was well in Nigeria. He told the world that Nigeria is a united country and that there are no several groups who are agitating to separate themselves from the forced Nigerian union!

We believe the United Nations Secretary-General was sincere in his assessment but we have also not stopped wondering; how he could have missed those very legible signs? At the end of his official visit of Nigeria he read the script as expected: Democracy, free, fair and credible elections. That of course is the panacea, the cure-all for all of Africa. The advocates for this fallacy have always deliberately forgotten that the soundest of concepts will break down in the face of any structurally faulty system. Nigeria and many other troubled places on the African continent have only but one problem and once it is fixed all the other problems which are actually the symptoms of this one problem will cease. That one problem is socio-cultural structural problem. The society (societies) in Africa must be restructured for them to function. The whole thing is a foundational problem, if you liked. (What do they normally say, when the foundation is destroyed, what good can all the good intentions [democracy, free, fair and credible elections] do?)

What we have going on in Africa and Nigeria particularly as corruption, bad governance, poor leadership, etc are nothing more than culture clash. Such creates unhealthy and retrogressive rivalry rather than healthy competition. We can fix this problem very easily if we wanted to. Nigeria has several groups that are agitating for separation from the unhealthy union and all these conflicts and explosions will cease the very day we decide to do the right thing. The right thing is to divide up Nigeria along the lines of cultures and ethnicities that have close affinities and are willing to work together as a team. Society building is always a team work, people working together in agreement and with respect for each other.


Think of it like this, conflicts are direct results of repressions. Nigeria's union is the result of various peoples and nations with no cultural or religious commonality who are forced under duress to remain “united” in a space. There is no love that is lost amongst these various ethnic peoples and there is zero tolerance for one another's diverse worldviews hence the killings, lootings and continuous social upheavals. The world through the United Nations' initiative can choose to spare the peoples (especially the Igbo/Biafra people) this constant and unnecessary heartaches. Fix the problem in Nigeria. Divide up Nigeria into the naturally occurring nations. If that sounds too simplistic, we did not mean to, but it is actually as simple as it sounds.

Take the case of Igbo/Biafra people, there will never come a day that they will accept to continue in the Nigerian union. They have suffered the greatest; they lost 3.1 million of their people to Nigeria between 1966 and 1970. With the 26 August 2011 blast in the home of the United Nations in Nigeria probably the organization can now pay serious attention to solving the Nigerian problem on a permanent basis. Permanent basis are the key words here. The permanent solution is the division of Nigeria. This is true, there will be a solution to Nigeria's problem on the day that the people that make up the membership of Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, Bilie Human Rights Initiatives, BHRI, Boko Haram Islamic State Movement, BHISM, Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, Oodua People's Congress, OPC, Middle Belt Federation MBF, etc are taken serious enough to assemble them and their wishes finally granted to them. The peoples in Nigeria are forced together but they do not like each other as citizens of the same country but will do well as friends and neighbors with different counties' citizenships. Fortunately for the Igbo/Biafra people they relinquished their Nigerian citizenship forever on the 30th of May 1967. Just wondering out loud; why the insistence on maintaining Nigeria's unity at all costs, even when it means wiping out the entire population of the people within the enclave? Nothing can be stranger!

Now, on the 26 of August, 2011 one of the ignored separatist groups Boko Haram, struck too close to home; in the United Nations' compound in Abuja, Nigeria. UN's main building was destroyed in a bomb explosion and some of UN's staff members were killed. This is sad and perhaps an avoidable catastrophe but without doubt, unnecessary deaths and destruction. And we feel persuaded that this ugly incident could have been avoided because this situation had been on and very grievous for rather too long a time. Check this out, for more than one year the UN's Secretary-General's visit to Nigeria was postponed and adjusted for so many times. On each occasion they gave vague reasons why the UN's Chief could not come as earlier announced. Also, Britain's Prime Minister Cameron visited Nigeria some weeks back and he was hosted by Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan in Lagos instead of Abuja, the country's capital city. The reason given was that the British leader was scheduled to meet the local business community and that those business people were temporarily unable to travel to Abuja so he had to meet them in Lagos instead. Those measures were prudent and precautionary steps and we commend the United Nations and the British for acting in a preventive manner. Any unjustified death of another human being will never one day cease to be abhorrent and affect all of us in so many painful ways than we can ever imagine.

On the overall however, we may still look at some of these precautionary measures as mere escapist's approach to a dire situation. We know that escapism can hardly solve problems, at least not on a permanent basis. And finally, we should all bear in mind that contrary to what a few people still think; Nigeria's situation is not complex at all. It is the issue of ethnic/cultural structural problem. And the problem can easily be fixed when we are willing to face it rather than keep running away from it and getting hit where it pains the most.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © Osita Ebiem

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Feature Article

quot-img-1He who forgives touches the heart of God.

By: Samuel Abuaku quot-img-1

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