Why Nige­ria needs to con­duct a ref­er­en­dum

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

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.

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