Calls for Self-determination, to Be or Not to Be – Time Will Tell.
by Olaniyi Benjamin Olalemi
This write up is to educate the minds of its readers and further reiterates what they may already know or not, also correcting a narrative about the indigenous Nigerians who are calling for self-determination, why they should not accept the tag “agitators,” and the need for the mainstream media, OAPs and social media influencers to refrain from buying into this wrong narrative by referring to them as agitators, while using the opportunity to offer some advice to Nigerians.
First of all, they believe that the call for self-determination is only limited to Yoruba and Igbo lands is not true. Yoruba, Lower Niger and Middle Belt, even Some Northerners are in tandem with it. The only difference is its understanding and why it should be or not to be both at the high level and grassroots.
On April 20, 2021, I had a WhatsApp chat with one of my Northern friends and he was very honest in his submission, which I reproduce verbatim below:
“I strongly support the dissolution of 1914, and am telling you the view of the majority or let me say over 60% of Northerners. But across the aisles, we have corrupt few benefitting from the system who don’t like the dissolution, which is the best. Not just competition as there’s nothing to compete about, but it’s about cohesion and feeling of self-belonging. Now every Nigerian feels as if he does not belong. So patriotism is nowhere to be found from most Nigerians”.
Before I continue, I would like to give Kudos to everyone (even at the risk of their lives and business interests) who have enlightened, supported and also created grassroots awareness on self-determination, especially the “Yoruba Nation Now” campaign across the Western States. Generally, the Nigerians in the diaspora, I will always say, are the ones God has positioned for such a time as this.
Justifications for Self-Determination Calls:
To start with, what is self-determination in the context of what is being discussed? “Self-determination denotes the legal right of people to decide their own destiny in the international order”. In fact, in 2015 President Muhammadu Buhari urged the United Nations to recognize the State of Palestine as a sovereign nation through self-determination.
The word “agitation” is a wrong one to use in describing the calls for self-determination. I believe it’s derogatory and deliberately being used by those who oppose it in order to discredit and paint the whole idea black or genuinely being used because it’s being made popular in the media, although repetition is a principle of long and lasting impression. You can’t be agitating for your fundamental human rights.
Let me remind my readers that the 1914 Amalgamation Treaty joined the Northern and Southern protectorates together and that the British gave birth to Nigeria for ease of administration. Whether the Union was intended to be just, fair and equitable for all is another debate entirely. While I have not seen any document showing the signatories to the 1914 amalgamation treaty, I’d seen a document dated May 9, 1913 purportedly submitting proposals for the amalgamation of the governments of Northern and Southern Nigeria into a single administration, signed by Fredrick John Dealtry Lugard. So, I will refrain from mentioning names of those who signed us into a geographical expression in January of 1914 as I did not have that authentic information at the time of putting this write-up together.
However, the best information available tells us human beings (the British in this case) proposed in 1913, sat together and signed Nigeria into creation, in 1914, for the sole reason of ease or convenience of administrative control of their conquered territory named Nigeria. So the intention was not to unite the Nigerian people who are naturally diverse in beliefs, religion and aspirations. Nigeria is not a natural but artificial nation.
The historical background of how Nigeria came into existence through the 1914 Amalgamation Treaty may not be as important to this generation and those calling for self-determination as the clause it contains on its expiration. In consideration of the future realities and in the wisdom of the founding fathers of Nigeria, they recognized the nature of the artificial country of their creation. They included in the treaty that different components of the country can renegotiate their further co-existence after 100 (one hundred) years of their signing the amalgamation treaty of 1914 into existence.
This position had been widely documented and referenced. So, logically and in fairness to those appealing for self-determination through a referendum, the country called Nigeria had since expired in 2014 and an un-negotiated continuous relationship among different ethnic Nationalities in the country is forced, inhuman and at best, exploitative. This explains why there’s so much abuse of the Union and feelings of alienation in response.
There’s no army legion that can stop an idea whose time has come. As fraudulent as it may appear, the right to self-determination is technically and impliedly entrenched in the infamous 1999 Constitution. Beyond that, according to Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights: “All peoples shall have the right to existence. They shall have the unquestionable and inalienable right to self-determination. They shall freely determine their political status and shall pursue their economic and social development according to the policy they have freely chosen”.
The above is binding on the federal government of Nigeria as long as it’s a signatory to this charter, except it claims Decree 24 of 1999 was not freely chosen, even at that it will be self-destructive to the government.
The resolution adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 13, 2007 also unequivocally declared Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Self-determination in Article 1 of its Charter as referenced below:
“The principle of self-determination is prominently embodied in Article I of the Charter of the United Nations. All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.
So, when I titled this section” justifications for self-determination calls”, I did not intend to start highlighting multiples of injustices, carnage, kidnapping, nepotism, exploitation, evil hidden agenda and other social vices that had led us to this path but solely on the expiration of the Amalgamation of 1914 since 2014 and inalienable right to self-determination.
The landmark ruling of September 17, 2021 in Ibadan by Justice Ladiran Akintola of Oyo State High Court in the Case of Sunday Adeniyi Adeyemo VS SSS (Federal Government) wherein a sum of N20 Billion damage was awarded in favor of the Plaintiff against the Federal Government also lays credence to right to self-determination, it will always remain positive judicial precedence. So, the federal government is advised not to criminalize the calls to self-determination by NINAS (Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination), its Yoruba Nation or Ilana Omo Oodua sub-group and other similar groups. If there’s any criminality at all, it’s on the part of the federal government violating the fundamental human rights of those who are visibly calling for self-determination and the despicable July 1, 2021 invasion of Chief Sunday Igboho, the poster boy for Yoruba Nation Self-Determination group will forever be remembered in the annals of Nigerian history.
Advice to Nigerians:
While most Nigerians have been beating down and out by the politicians through the weaponization of poverty (deliberate impoverishment of Nigerians) using religion and ethnic divides as their gun and very potent gunpowder, respectively, Nigerians should educate their own minds in what is right, pay attention to how they’re being governed and the conspiracy of silence among the political elites in Nigeria, poor development and perpetual poverty.
What we have in Nigeria are businessmen and women across all the geopolitical zones disguising as politicians and holding our resources in distrust and also the people by the jugular. More than 90% of the politicians are in offices for their own selfish and not people’s interests. If you raise an objection to the rule in close or open speech, your freedom is not guaranteed after raising the objection or criticizing them, more like living as slaves in our own country.
While some have withdrawn mentally from Nigeria, some have physically turned their backs and waved Nigeria goodbye. But we will not allow these charlatans to continue taking us for a ride. We have kept quiet for too long for fear of victimization, assassination, arrest, alienation and being schemed out of opportunities in Nigeria. This must stop.
My counsel to Nigerians is that you have the right to determine your own destiny either through the ballots during elections or when the opportunity comes to decide whether or not you want to remain in Nigeria or not, through a United Nations supervised referendum, come out and vote to save your lives or continue to be abused by those who have hijacked Nigeria and are not willing to make policies and take steps to restructure the country on the basis of fairness, equity and justice. It will be foolhardy to think these politicians will willingly give us a constitution that will remove their hold on us. They will have to be cornered or arm-twisted to do the right thing that is devoid of their personal and business interests.
Jointly and severally, march to the offices of your representatives and demand of them what you want, call and message them, recall them from the legislative houses should you have to do so, if you don’t do it, no one will and they will continue to represent their own interests and give you stipends in return. While I would have advised Nigerians to stop voting for charlatans to represent them, the electoral processes have been rigged against them, so it doesn’t matter if you vote or not someone will be selected and not elected at the end of the day. Can you imagine what the outcome of our elections would have looked like if the Nigerians in the diaspora who remit over $25Billion every year were allowed to vote at their respective embassies in their countries of residence and electronic voting leveraging on web/mobile applications were deployed in all elections? Quality of leadership would have greatly improved at a very reasonable election budget. Nigerians should wage War (of words and votes) Against Financial Indiscipline (WAFI) that has put the country’s debt service to revenue at a historic high of 98%, spending N1.8Trillion between January to May 2021 on the debt alone.
For those who believe in the 2023 elections, I wish them well. My take is that you can’t continue to build legality on illegality as you can’t build a beautiful edifice on a faulty foundation. The outcome will always be catastrophic like we have today in Nigeria. If you don’t have it, you don’t have it. Besides, it’s madness to think you can keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. For there to be peace in Nigeria, the Northern Oligarchy or Hegemony must be subdued through strong institutions, 1999 constitution must be buried, the dominance of Fulani over other ethnic groups must be challenged by every and any legal and legitimate means, Miyetti Allah be declared a terrorist organization so that they can attract international community’s searchlight, the land grabbing and displacement of farmers by the Fulanis across the country especially in southern Nigeria must stop, the genocide, ethnic cleansing and burning of churches must stop. Failure to do so is tantamount to what will eventually determine Nigeria.
Let me leave you with these quotes credited to three of Nigeria’s foremost leaders:
Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English,’ ‘Welsh,’ or ‘French.’ The word ‘Nigerian’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not – Obafemi Awolowo (1947).
“Since 1914, the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show themselves any signs of willingness to unite … Nigerian unity is only a British invention” – Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1948).
“It is better for us and many admirers abroad that we should disintegrate in peace and not in pieces. Should the politicians fail to heed this warning, then will venture the prediction that the experience of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be a child’s play if ever it comes to our turn to play such a tragic role.” -Nnamdi Azikwe (1964).
With the historic Asaba, Lagos and Enugu pronouncements by the seventeen (17) Southern state governors on May 11, July 5, and September 16, 2021, respectively and the Kaduna state pronouncement of September 27, 2021 by the nineteen (19) Northern state governors along with their notable emirs condemning the statement by the Southern governors that the presidency must go to the South in 2023, the proverbial kolanut seed is already sprouting where it was intended. God has already raised a standard against our common enemies and the quotes of our heroes’ past are turning out not to be in vain.
Written By: Olaniyi Benjamin Olalemi, FCA, ACIB (Nig&Scotland), CISA, CFE, PIOR, ICBRR, MBA (Bangor, UK), B.Sc. (Hons) Econs.