" ITREALMS: Commentary: Possible exit of Britain from European Union and Lessons for Nigeria

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Commentary: Possible exit of Britain from European Union and Lessons for Nigeria

Over many years, the Scottish people were unhappy to belong to the United Kingdom (UK) and there were agitations to break up the union so that the Scots could go their own way as a separate and independent Nation. 

A couple of Parties emerged calling for what I may call Scottexit from the UK. There were heated and rancorous debates all over the UK which tended to divide the Nation. To determine if this was truly the desire of the majority of the Scottish people or just the opinion of some of the Politicians or a minority vocal protesters, a referendum was conducted last year in Scotland.

The Majority of the Scots voted against leaving the UK, preferring the semi-autonomous status that gave them opportunity to have greater say in how they were governed. The agitation ended, at least, for now.

No bullets were fired and The UK avoided reliving the experience of the violence that engulfed the Nation for several years as Irish People of Northern Island sought self-determination and self-rule. The Scots are at peace right now still part of the UK and they live at peace with their independent neighbor, Northern Island.

Similarly, in the last couple of years, there has been a growing dissent among many British People regarding Britain’s stay in the European Union (EU). This has led to stiff political debates that divided the Nation. To stop the debate degenerating into violence, the civilized political leadership of The UK decided to hold a referendum to decide, if it is really true that the majority of the British people want to exit the EU. In the last couple of months, the debate has become intensive with Prime Minister David Cameron leading the campaign to Stay while the former London Mayor Boris Johnson is leading those who want to exit. 

Last week, MP Jo Cox was murdered on the streets of Northern England as she campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU. And on June 23 this year, a few days hence, the people of the United Kingdom will March out to the pools to freely express their desire. Who knows what the majority may desire. But what a civilized way to end disputes relating to self -determination and sovereignty.

Are there lessons for Nigeria from these two examples related above? Between 1967-1970, Nigeria fought a bitter civil war in an effort to prevent the people of Biafra from leaving Nigeria. At that time the slogan was: “To keep Nigeria one was a task that must be done.” 

Well, we succeeded or did we? After the loss of nearly three million people, not to talk of morbidities (we still have an army of disabled ex-Biafra soldiers left to die by installment) loss of material resources of unquantifiable value and at least a three-year delay in the development trajectory of Nigeria, it is surprising that we are where we are today.

Main crude oil pipelines blown up by NDA & militant fighters explode into huge fireballs and disrupt supply to export terminals on the coast

All over Nigeria, there are agitations for self-determination while some are asking for sovereignty. Currently the most prominent are the agitations for Biafra by MASSOB & the IPOD, with their horde of supporters. There is the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) with their variants asking for the Republic of Niger Delta and whatever is left after all the oil wells and pipelines have been bombed or ruined. 

There is another group which seems to be an amalgamation of the two tendencies called the Lower Nigeria Congress (LNC) whose geographical territory extends to the Middle-belt of Nigeria. This group is speaking essentially about self-determination which does not necessarily mean secession. In the South West and middle belt, there are dormant volcanoes which can become active anytime. I do not quite know if the technical defeat of Boko Haram is the end of that chapter.

All over Nigeria, there have been increasing and strident calls for restructuring Nigeria. NADECO which included Balarabe Musa (Northwest), Tony Enahoro (Southsouth), Wole Soyinka (Southwest), Bola Ahmed Tinubu (Southwest), Ndubuisi Kanu (South East) and a host of others started this campaign in the early 90’s, especially after the June 12 debacle. 

They asked for a National Sovereign Conference to restructure the Country.  This cry remained which compelled Olusegun Obasanjo to set up the National Political reform conference in 2005 that made far reaching suggestions on how to restructure the Country to create stability. Not much came out of this effort as the report was jettisoned at the National Assembly along with the third term agenda. Despite palliative efforts by Obasanjo, Yar’adua and Jonathan to calm agitations, through all kinds of “bribery” and hand twisting including the amnesty program, the call remained disconcerting forcing Jonathan to call for another National Conference in 2014. 

This conference is said to have come up with suggestions on critical things that need to be done to bring peace and stability to our beleaguered nation.

So far, it looks to me that this government thinks there is no form of justification for any of the agitations and protests. In fact, they seem to treat every agitation, armed or unarmed, peaceful or violent as criminal activity, which must be crushed with brutal force. I see that the mentality of 1967 still persists: To keep Nigeria one at all costs, so nobody would be allowed to say or do anything that that seems to threaten the current lopsided, unstable Nigerian political structure. 

If you ask me, my preference is to restructure this nation and restore stability. My preference is for the leadership of our Country to invest serious effort in making our country united with happy and contented citizens in every part of Nigeria. Of course if this becomes impossible, I will naturally consider other options.

Movement for New Nigeria (MNN) agreed to above map to be future federations for a devolved Nigeria.

But it will be foolhardy to assume that is everybody’s preference. That’s why Prime Minister David Cameron is not assuming that his preference of Keeping UK in the EU is everybody’s preference. And since some British people have agitated for a Britexit, he decided to call for a referendum. My wish is that Britain remains in the EU. And eventually that might be what the majority of British people want and if that happens, that will quieten the current rancorous agitation and if the people prefer to leave, that will be it.

Everybody will have had their say but the majority would have their way and life continues. That is called self-determination. So, to keep Britain in the EU is desirable but not a task that must be done by all means. If the British got us into one Nigeria, we need to learn a few things on how to resolve major national issues. The way of referendum seems to be the preferred option even to agree to adopt or reject the report or recommendations of the last National conference.

That to me will be cheaper than arming the Nigerian army to kill Nigerians as we see all over Nigeria today in the bid to quell protests and agitations. And it may resolve matters faster and we may surprise ourselves to realize that there is more that unites us than divides us.

May God help our leaders.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, OFR

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