Why Nigeria needs to conduct a referendum
The exit of Great Britain from the European Union (EU) and the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States of America(USA) even after campaigning using nationalistic slogans were clear indicators of a shift in the ideological spectrum of the 21st century. Nationalistic ideologies are now gaining momentum around the world in lieu of globalisation that was the hallmark of the 20th century.
The emergence of Nnamani Kanu has brought a new twist and turn in the campaign for the actualisation of a sovereign state of Biafra. The number of vibrant and energetic youths the movement is gaining is unprecedented. The hate speech used by the movement is a cause for concern. The ability of the movement to enforce a sit-at-home order in five South East states to mark the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the defunct Republic of Biafra took everyone by surprise. In spite of plea by governors of the region and the amount of security agents, the order still went in to force and gained high compliance.
Not until the emergence of a coalition of Northern Youth that issued a stern quit notice to Igbos living in the North, out of government’s habitual negligence, the level of compliance to the sit-at-home order didn’t send any message and was about to be swept under the carpets. In reality, the level of compliance to the order and the silence by Igbo leaders should have served as indicators of a bigger picture and give a glimpse of an average Igbo’s thoughts and mindset about Biafra. Subsequently, the Pan Yoruba group O’dua Nationalist Coalition (ONAC) has also called on Yoruba people to prepare for their own sovereign nation: the “Oadua” Republic.
With all the uproar the issue of secession has been generating, the government and some prominent Nigerians still believe the calls are made just to secure political appointments. This conclusion, even though it could be true, should still be accepted with caution. The heated debates the call for secession has been generating in both print and social media and among Nigerians in various works of life is detrimental to the peace, unity and security of the country. Before the Nigerian government reaches a conclusion on the motives behind calls for secession, it should first and foremost learn from how Boko Haram emerged. This should help the government to treat the smallest of threats with the greatest level of concern.
Instead of the government’s continual reiteration of how we are better off as a single, indivisible country, conducting a referendum to know exactly how Nigerians feel toward the unity of the country wouldn’t cause a fragment of what a poor handling of the issue once it gets out of control could do. History has shown how nationalistic and secession movement are hardly quenched by military might. Government should understand that it’s better we live in peace as neighbours than live together in pieces. As a result, the best solution out of this quagmire is for the government to conduct a referendum to know the opinion of the citizens towards the divisibility or in divisibility of Nigeria and have a bigger picture of the threat level this calls pose. Moreover, even Great Britain that helped in consummating this marriage called Nigeria, recently exited a marriage with its neighbours via a referendum.
Yahya Idris, Kaduna.