Sovereign National Conference (with Honesty), 2004-2005
What keeps Nigeria one today, if “one” you can call it, is mutual hatred, fear, suspicion, malice, demonization, pretense, hypocrisy, arrogance and exploitation, held together by lethal force and the unscrupulous opportunism of a haughty few who can wring wealth and power from this pathologic state of affairs.
In the North, the Muslims want their own Sharia Nation and care nothing about Nigeria or Nigerians, except for the preservation of a structure called one-Nigeria, which guarantees their power to control the politics, the military, the security, the economics, and the human resources of entire Nigeria, but especially, the Oil resources.
The non-Muslim North care nothing about one-Nigeria because such a structure ensures that the Muslim-North subjugate and exploit them and take over their land, forcing Islam on them and forcing them off their own land.
The West only cares about what serves the best interest of the Yoruba race, and they do not mince words about it. They are not interested in what is good for Nigeria, nor in sharing anything theirs with Nigeria.
The East understands that their best interest is served by a sovereign Biafra, but suffer from a “defeated nation complex,” acting like an enslaved nation under occupation by the conqueror, Nigeria; helpless to protect their own people, helpless to protect their own natural resources, denied the opportunity to integrate into Nigeria, forcefully ruled indirectly through persons hand-picked by Nigeria, and are well-loathed and constantly dehumanized by Nigeria. This unbearable condition is guaranteed and sustained only by the structure called one-Nigeria.
We can trace the root-problems of Nigeria to the same root problems of Africa, the result of colonial “Balkanization” maps which have left so-called independent African countries with unworkable, unnatural, dysfunctional forced “unions.” The prize of trying to maintain this colonial error is the dysfunction we know as Nigeria today; and as Africa in general.
The time for hypocrisy and pretense is over. The problem with Nigeria is one-Nigeria—trying to keep Nigeria one. The solution is the assertion and diplomatic recognition of each individual nation’s sovereignty. The sovereign nations, now equal partners, can then, with equity and mutual respect, resolve other issues among them. In truth, the word “Sovereign” in Sovereign National Conference is designed to refer to such individual national sovereignties, not to the sovereignty of the entity called Nigeria.
Beware of those chanting one-Nigeria or those who make a habit of telling the Press everyday that they will sacrifice their life to keep Nigeria one. As for the latter, one does not even have to look deep to see that they are not suffering at all in Nigeria (nor are their families and relatives, by the way) in any sense of the word; nor are they currently making any sacrifices. They are just feeding fat off the misfortunes of hapless masses suffering in Nigeria. As for the former—those who chant one-Nigeria, ask them, how and why one Nigeria, after almost 100 years of failure? Then, demand that they show some measure of honesty regarding the issue. They need to look within themselves and check their motivation for “insisting” one-Nigeria.
Those who pontificate “goodwill” should be compelled by reasoning to place “goodwill” side-by-side with real experience of, in, Nigeria. The peoples living and suffering under Nigeria do not lack goodwill. Those who fling the accusation of “tribalism” or “ethnic nationalism” as a derogatory should be reminded of their own natural tendencies and of their own real records and acts. They need to be reminded that “posturing” has not solved anything, and usually dissolves in the face of Nigerian reality, as everything in fact eventually crystallizes to tribalism and ethnicity, soon enough, and only to go unchallenged and or unquestioned by even the self-proclaimed so-called “de-tribalized” ones.
Then there are those who speak of Democracy and protection of “nascent Democracy” in Nigeria with nurture and patience. We ask, where were they when the powers that be reduced democracy to mockery and mere rhetoric? What have they done about the fact that those who wrap themselves around the flagstaff of Democracy are the same ones who do everything to defeat Democracy when it suits their own purpose? Finally, do these persons understand that Theocracy will never work in a Democracy—that the two philosophies and practices are in fact antithetical? How do you democratize Sharia? Do they think that if one remains patient for 6 years or six thousand years for that matter, that Democracy will replace Sharia in the Islamic Nation of the North? The reality of Nigeria today is that there is Sharia for Muslims, and then, there is “neo-pseudo-military” one-party dictatorship for the rest, which will certainly persist but may or may not change leadership faces, come 2007 (assuming that Nigeria survives until then).. As such, to speak of patience for democracy or even democracy per se, in Nigeria, is a complete waste of time. It will not happen. It is just not possible.
Above all, remember that every single solution attempted which has placed “one-Nigerianism” as a prerequisite for solving the problem that is Nigeria has failed woefully. Isn’t it why we are here now? These “solutions” include a costly war of genocide against Biafra by Nigeria. As we speak, the same conditions that led to Biafra in 1967 are still now even more evident—and worse.
It is more natural to have an independent and sovereign Muslim nation, an independent and sovereign Yoruba nation, an independent and sovereign Biafran nation, and any other independent and sovereign nation(s); than to continue to try to have one nation of Nigeria, an unnatural and forced union, an attempt which has been failing since 1904.
It is time to return and restore sovereignty to naturally existing nations. This is the win-win-win solution for the nations and their peoples currently suffering and dying in Nigeria.
That’s the purpose of this SNC. We shall succeed, because there is no other way that works.
II. Overarching Historical and Political Background
The Cobra’s Heart, or “The Heart of Africa’s Problem.”
“…Everything about the internal politics of Africa’s states is intricate and entangled. This stems directly from the fact that European colonialists, dividing Africa among themselves under Bismarck’s leadership during the Berlin conference, crammed the approximately ten thousand kingdoms, federations, and stateless but independent tribal associations that existed on this continent in the middle of the nineteenth century within the borders of barely forty colonies. Meantime, many of these kingdoms and tribal groups shared a long history of conflict and wars. And here, without being asked their opinion on the matter, they suddenly found themselves within one and the same colony, subject to the same (and foreign) authority, the same laws.
Now, with decolonization, the old interethnic relationships, which European rule only froze or simply ignored, suddenly sprang back to life and were becoming relevant again. The chance for liberty appeared, yes, but liberty with a proviso: that yesterday’s opponents and enemies form one nation and become its joint managers, patriots, and defenders. The former European colonial capitals and the leaders of Africa’s independence movements adopted the principle that if bloody internal conflicts erupted within a given colony, that territory would not become free.
The process of decolonization was to occur through what were stipulated as constitutional methods, at a round table, without great political dramas, ensuring the preservation of that which was most important: the uninterrupted flow of goods and riches between Africa and Europe.
The circumstances under which the leap to the kingdom of liberty was to be accomplished presented many Africans with a difficult choice. Colliding within them were two sets of considerations, two loyalties, in painful, almost insoluble conflict. On the hand lay the deeply encoded remembrance of the history of one’s clan and people, of the allies one could turn to in times of d and of the enemies one had to despise, and on the other was the awareness that one was supposed to be entering the community of independent, modern societies, a precondition of which was the renunciation of all ethnic egoism and blindness.
[substitutions by this writer enclosed in square brackets]
Taken from the Chapter, The Cobra’s Heart, pp 50-51 from the book, “The Shadow of the Sun,” by Ryszard Kapuscinski. (First Vintage International Edition, 2002. Vintage Books, a subsidiary of. Random House. Inc.)
About the Arthur
I lived in Africa for several years. I first went there in 1957. Then, over the next forty years, I returned whenever the opportunity arose. I traveled extensively, avoiding official routes, palaces, important personages, and high—level politics. Instead, I opted to hitch rides on passing trucks, wander with nomads through the desert, be the guest of peasants of the tropical savannah. Their life is endless toil, a torment they endure with astonishing patience and good humor.
This is therefore not a book about Africa, but rather about some people from there—about encounters with them, and time spent together. The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say “Africa.” In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist.
The Shadow of the Sun
Ryszard Kapuscinski, Poland’s most celebrated foreign correspondent was born in 1932. After graduating with a degree in history from Warsaw University; he was sent to India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to report for the Polish news, which began his lifelong fascination with the Third World. During his four decades reporting on Asia, Latin America, and Africa, he befriended Che Guevara, Salvador Allende, and Patrice Lumumba; witnessed twenty-seven coups and revolutions; and was sentenced to death four times.
His earlier books—Shah of Shahs (about the Iranian Revolution), The Emperor (about the fall of Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie), Imperium (about the fall of the Soviet Union), Another Day of Life (about the last days of Portuguese Angola), and The Soccer War (a compendium of reportage from the Third World)—have been translated into nineteen languages.
III. Practical steps:
Dealing with Oil
We hold one another in so much loathe and contempt that we are willing to allow the so-generated forces of malevolence and malice destroy us all, by our insisting on and enforcing the structure of one-Nigeria—the prison walls which assure that none can escape from the resident evil and all-annihilating consequence of our own wickedness.
Any chance of coming to our senses and breaking down the prison-walls and saving our selves was drowned in the discovery and economy of Oil. The overlords who profit from Oil are convinced that in order for them to maintain their trade and windfall profits, they have to also maintain the prison called one-Nigeria, and fortify and defend its walls. And it was not a difficult sale to the peoples suffering in Nigeria—the same ones that would rather all sink and drown, dying chained together, than break their bonds and be free, thereby taking a risk that somebody perchance may actually come out alive.
The common person living and suffering in Nigeria does not benefit from the Oil. This is a documented fact. But, he or she doesn’t really care, as long as he or she is satisfied that the East was being punished and peppered by however the Oil is being managed by Nigeria. And here, he or she has had their expectations exceeded and their desire more than adequately met. East—Biafra—has been thoroughly tormented by the way Nigeria has handled the Oil resources which are to be found for the most part in Biafraland. Shall I count some of the ways?
1) Destruction of the ecology of Biafraland by Oil drilling industry.
2) Deliberate refusal to use some of the oil proceeds to repair or ameliorate the ecological damage.
3) Destruction of Biafran villages and towns—societies—and welfare and way of life through the fallout of Oil acquisition
4) Deliberate refusal to re-settle and to rehabilitate the victimized folks.
5) Destruction of Biafran youth by military action to protect Nigeria’s exploitative interest in the oil.
It is pointless to mention the fact that the oil money available after theft and graft by Nigerian overlords is used for projects anywhere else but in the East, by policy. Such is the stark irony that the land where the oil is being extracted from, is left bereft of any improvements, infrastructure or amenities, after first being permanently disfigured from its natural and original state. But it is not pointless to indict the insensitivity of those from other parts of Nigeria whose only harp is how much of a share of this oil wealth should go to them. Save, of course, for the fact that it is all part of the plan, part of that aforementioned malice and malevolence. It is all part of the plan to torment the East; and how else can one do this more effectively except by forcibly enslaving the East in one-Nigeria, there to force them to witness and experience their own rape, humiliation and dehumanization?
It would be a simple enough matter for the East to say to Nigeria: take the Oil but leave us alone—leave us out of Nigeria. Would it work? While pondering that, another question. If the Oil was located in Northern Nigeria, would the North be so willing or generous to share it with the rest of Nigeria? Would the Yoruba, if the Oil was in Yorubaland? Think about that.
Although a few Nigerians might possibly fight to continue to subjugate the East to the East’s punishing lot under the evil structure called one-Nigeria today, the only Nigerians ready to fight just for Oil are those hired hands of the private armies of Oil lords. For, the latter are in fact the only real beneficiaries of the East’s Oil boom and windfall. Only they are threatened when the structure of one-Nigeria comes under fire.
Now that we understand oil politics, lets move on to other issues.
Each of the different nations of peoples suffering in Nigeria today have natural resources or infrastructure based on natural resources, filling a particular need or two. The North has the Electric Power Plants that provide much needed power for the entire region. There are also valuable rare minerals which are in high demand. Part of the North also is a breadbasket, rich in food production. The West has the Ports, and Cocoa. The East has Oil.
For anyone to insist that only the Oil be shared, but not even mention these other resources and or place such resources on the table for sharing also, is to exhibit either ignorance or gross insensitivity, or, most likely, the usual Nigerian mentality of grabbing anything for themselves that belongs to the East, acting out the present policy which treats the Easterners as non-existent and without rights of ownership in Nigeria. This is not going to work, nor is it going to be the basis of negotiations.
The negotiating points regarding natural resources are more meaningful and equitable if and when they deal with commensurate exchange of resources. between the different nations. Concepts such as discounted Electric Utility rates in exchange for discounted Petrol prices in exchange for discounted food price in exchange for discounted duties and use of Ports—concepts such as these are the matter and meat of equitable negotiations.
The other category is the retirement of Nigeria’s foreign indebtedness using natural resources: how is that to be parsed out among the nations, with equity and fairness? Hopefully, the issue would then be raised about the individuals and parties who have stashed away huge sums of looted monies and property stolen from the coffers of erstwhile Nigeria, with the goal of recovering the loot and or holding them accountable for the debt.
Responsibility for payment of pension indebtedness, labor sector stability during the transition, personal and property security, and a few other matters are all subjects for equitable negotiations.
Equal representation at SNC can never be accomplished by sending delegates voted in by their communities (the equivalent of local government areas [LGA]). When do we finally learn from history and experience? Neither “voting” nor “delegation” works in one-Nigeria. Just look at the National Assembly vis-à-vis the Executive today! Besides, breaking down nations and ethnicities into LGA’s created by so-called Nigeria Federal Government for reasons of Nigeria’s brand of, and practice of, politics can only replicate the same problems that have destroyed Nigeria, which SNC is set to correct.
Equal and meaningful representation is achieved by having each nation send in its own National Representatives, in equal numbers, and these reps must be strong nationalists who are interested in what’s best for each his or her own nation. And, they must also possess good negotiating skills. Inter-national multilateral issues such as labor can also have independent representation. Having at a minimum two imperatives at SNC will be necessary: each nation’s independence and sovereignty is preserved and uncontested; and non-violent mechanism is the method of choice.
1) Preservation and ratification of the Sovereignty and Independence of each nation (such as Biafra, Odua, Arewa, etc)
2) No violence
3) Equal representation (representation from each individual Nation)
4) Equitable solutions
Beyond the imperatives, everything else should be on the negotiating table.
It is counterintuitive to recognize that the best outcome for SNC will result from each nation, on an equal footing, seeking what is in its own national best interest. A little more thinking should reveal the solid advantage and justify this method of representation as the only effective way.. On the other hand, it is counter-knowledge and counter-experience to fail to understand that individual community delegation strategy is the worst suited for SNC.
To be continued...
Oguchi Nkwocha, MD
A Biafran Citizen