Secondly, associated with colonialism are the legacies of weak state structures alien in orientation and difficult to understand by both compradors with specific allegiance and support to emergent state and uneducated indigenous people with little knowledge of the gains of independence who fell victims to the exploitation of the emergent elite and whose ignorance was manipulated in conflict situations and power struggle for economic and political advantage of the surviving bourgeoisies. However the existent social structure which evolved from a peoples tradition were so knit that they supported the pre-colonial instruments of law making, adjudication and regulatory mechanisms and societal stability. With colonialism, hybrid structure emerged which never had full European mechanisms to sustain it or African tradesmen to understand it. The consequences were conflict, corruption and unrestricted ambition to be European in the negation of African roots and weak state structures. This preference for European values did not quite succeed because it lacked the basic tenets of white mans culture. What was left to constitute the Nigerian state was an acknowledgement of structural imposition of colonialism on artificial boundaries and sharp cultural differences. Coleman (1958:45) noted that these could have been done through the creation of internal peace and maintenance of law and order or through imposition of a common government, which all recognize and to which all give obedience, allegiance and loyalty. It is also to be noted that Margery Perham (in Coleman 1956:45) agreed that European rule was imposed like a great steel grid over the amorphous cellular tissue of tribal Africa (to use his words) and the hundreds of independent and often hostile communities were held within its interstices in peace. This peace according to her, has allowed and has been one of the greatest hopes and justifications of colonialism-full and free movement for the first time over wide areas not only for commerce, but also for ideas and for men who could never know each other before.
Coleman further observed that the present unity of Nigeria as well as its disunity is in part a reflection of the form and character of the common government – the British structure and changes it has undergone since 1900. He contended that the fact that the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria were never effectively united tended to perpetuate the cultural differences of the people of North and South. The disunity created by colonialism did not only affect the social integration but administration and political structures and peoples perception and understanding of their modus operandi. The gap created by educational attainment and access to western education which was deliberately created in the North, continued to create suspicion and inject mistrust into the Nigerian Political system. In other words the structural defects of the administrative machinery bequeathed upon Nigerians as a legacy had no trace to the roots of African culture especially when such machinery in a country like Nigeria was differentiated and structured along geo-political and cultural divides. In other words while the northern part of Nigeria was governed through the indirect rule system of administration, with all its traditional machinery, the administrative system in the southern territories were structured along West Minister model. It was only in 1914 that both the Northern and Southern territories were united into one central administration.
Nigerians are not one people. It is by all definitions a plural society, naturally federal with over 370 ethnic groups. Of course no research work has been able to find out the exact number of ethnic groups encapsulated within her geo-political entity. Even though Britain had a hand in structuring the Nigerian state into a federal framework, chance according to Eleazu (1997:84) played a part in shaping the Nigerian federal structure. According to Eleazu, after 1947, political developments in Nigeria were as much due to British policy as the outcome of events in Nigeria and the views of Nationalist elite. The problems of structural imbalance, ethnic pluralism, hatred, injustices and consequent conflicts led later in 1967 to a bitter civil war.
We are not in this paper saddled with the analysis of Nigerian federation but for the purpose of background, to guide us into her plural nature, group conflict and various institutional machineries and non institutional mechanisms for their resolution and secondly to look at the case study of Movement For Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra ( Massob). In accomplishing this, we shall look at conflict and in turn ethnic conflict as conceptual background and basis for understanding the nature of Conflicts in Nigeria and later a case study of Massob.
Conflict finds a reasonable meaning in contradiction and forces. Mao Tse – Tung in his selected works, noted that this contradiction is universal, absolute, existing in all processes of the development of things and running through all process from beginning to end. Consequently, Lin Yutang in the wisdom of Laotse observed that being and non-being inter-depend in growth. Difficult and easy inter-depend in completion; long and short inter-depend in contrast, high and low inter-depend in position; tones and voice inter-depend in harmony, front and behind inter-depend in company (cf Rummel 1976). Among slaves and masters, there is a manifest pattern of dominance. Conflict is therefore a natural phenomenon. We become concerned and worried when conflict becomes violent, destructive and impedes development. It is also this destructive conflict, which scholars noted, have turned Africa, the most diverse of all continents in the world, into a continent unable to turn its trend of diversity into opportunities for development. The dominant pattern of conflict in Africa is ethnic group conflict. Unfortunately, ethnicity is not in itself a cause of violent conflict. This is because as Newland (1993, 161) noted, most ethnic groups, most of time pursue their interests peacefully through established political channel. But when linked with acute social uncertainty and fear of what future might bring, it emerges as one major fault line along which societies fracture.
It is also posited that fear of physical safety especially when there is no situation of dominance could lead to violent conflict. This is especially the case when there is any manifest move of one group to assimilate the other into their culture.
cause of ethnic conflict is economic in nature. This kind of conflict
emerges when groups compete for some resources. This could be in the name
of rights, jobs, scholarships, educational admission, language rights,
and government contracts. Hardin (1995, 170) gave example of Rwanda. The
outlined factors above have also been at the root of conflicts among various
ethnic groups in Nigeria. Nnoli (1978) noted the importance of socio-economic
factors the role it played in ethnic conflict in Nigeria. Abner Cohen
in Nnoli (1978: 71) noted how kola nut trade majored to ignite conflict
in 1934 between the Hausas and the Yorubas of Nigeria. The conflict arose
when the Yorubas made attempt to compete with the Hausas in that trade.
This competition led to coming together of the Hausa in parts of Western
region dominated by the Yoruba. Their coming together and consequent unity
enabled them to control the trade and control its market. Cohen noted
(Nnoli 1978:72) in his study o cattle market, that both cattle landlord
and butchers were Hausas; but later, the Yoruba began to displace them
as butchers. The consequent cleavage is the market became perceived as
between the Yoruba and Hausa. J. S. Fun in (Nnoli : 72) noted that “the
working of economic forces makes for tension between groups with competing
interest; between town and country, industry and agriculture, capital
and labour. Cohen was further cited in Josephs (1991:5) work on ‘Democracy
and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria’ that:
Joseph noted that the special tactic that came to predominate in these ‘vicious struggles’ was the articulation of the conflict in terms of culturally defined groups. Skinier in Cohen (1969) also observed that ethnic groupings in each society and the competitive short-term tactics and long-term strategies they employ are functions of history and of the resources they seek to control. Groups with more effective tactics and strategies normally gain competitive advantages over the other groups within the societies.
Bonacich, (1972, 1973) in Pleskovic and Stiglitz (ed) (1988: 349) noted that ethnic conflict is the product of economic competition between ethnically differentiated segments of the working class or between ethnically differentiated traders and customers. The form of conflict between the Igbos and the rest o Nigeria has been and is still founded upon social, political and economic determinism. We shall take them fully when we examine the Biafran case, why the Igbos went to war and resurgence of separatist feelings. Ethnic conflict is not only determined by economic factors. Scholars have advanced a good number of factors, which could be bone of contention among ethnically differentiated groups.
the issue of ancient hatred advanced in Horowtz (1998).
The antecedent hostility may be another explanatory variable for Biafran case study. This is because the circumstances of ethnic relations in Nigeria have come to make the succeeding generation of Igbos feel that no Igbo man is loved by Nigerian There appears also to exist a situation of ancient hatred. In fact, the history of Igbo nation is rampant with what may come close to the history genocide. It has also been suggested that ancient hatred therein could explain the age long Romanian Hungarian conflict as well as Bulgarian -Turkish conflict.
There is the contact hypothesis of ethnic conflict. The thesis posits that contact among ethnic groups has the potentiality of engendering ethnic hostility. This contact is believed to be less in the rural community than the urban centers. The contact thesis is closely related to modernization theories. The modernization theory posits that modernization entails development and outlined some factors as features of modernity. This include, urbanization, availability of basic infrastructure. These factors attract and encourage rural – urban migration. The rural-urban migration phenomenon leads to urban concentration. While it is important to state that over-concentration leads to what I call ‘urban- ruralism’, it is more important to state that scarcity is an act of nature. This scarcity is a major feature of urban centers. Urbanization therefore creates a rendezvous in which ethnic group struggle for available resources. According to Nnoli (1977) ‘It is in the urban areas, where inter-communal contact by individuals is made on the basis of equality and basic necessities are limited, that competition which breeds ethnicity can ensue. This scarcity is not only economic; it is also political and social. Melson and Wolpe 1970 Tellis, Szaya, and Winnfeeld 1998 Olzak and Nagel (1986) in Donald Horowtz (1998) posit that modernization makes people want the same things, not different things and this sets up a great scramble for resources. The trace of conflict to modernization does not hold in all circumstances. Some ethnic conflict, even violent ones have been reported in rural communities especially between farmers who own farmland and cattle grazers who allow their animals to destroy edible or cash crops. Secondly, the basis of modernization theory has been challenged with the question of possibility of ethnic conflicts in less modernized states. In fact, the Israeli – Palestinian conflict cannot be said to be all products off modernization. These territories are even less modernized than the United State with less violent ethnic conflict. Horowtz even questioned why such states as Burma, Chad, Mauritania, and Sudan are engrossed in deadly conflicts. The theory of modernization may have to be reversed.
There is also the issue of policy preference by groups as potential some of ethnic conflict. It is posited that if the policy preference of groups are diametrically opposed to each other, there is possibility of violence by groups to assert their will over the other groups. This is not enough to explain the ethnic conflict in Nigeria. The elite thesis has a lot going for it as an explanatory model of ethnic conflict. Brass (1985, 1997); Compare Vail (1989, p. 11) and Kasfir (1979) in Harowtz (1998) posit that elite competition and the actions of ‘ethnic entrepreneurs’ drive ethnic conflict. If it is contended that the elites manipulate ethnic identities in their quest for power and they ‘construct’ ethnic conflict. During the 1979 presidential election in Nigeria, one of the contestant, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, was about being disqualified from contesting because of non-payment of taxes for the past three years. Instead of following the issue on its own merit, ‘Zik’ as all his admirers knew him blamed his attempted disqualification on his Igbo origin. The impression was created, that the move was another way of punishing the Igbos for fighting the civil war. That particular move by the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) aroused a lot of sentiments and emotions. The Igbos in general saw it as an attempt at marginalization. Kakar (1996: 150-51) would blame this development for creating an inaccurate image “of evil politicians and innocent masses”.
Trust could be another variable in the analysis of ethnic behaviour/conflict. Ethnic groups in Nigeria do not trust one another. Each group relate to the other suspiciously.
state was first declared on the 30th of May 1967. At that point time,
Nigeria had neither peace nor unity. It had stumbled from one crisis to
another pandemonium. The primary cause as interpreted was ethnic hostility,
occasion by arbitrary amalgam of disparate people to serve the interest
of colonialism. The Yorubas of the western Nigeria were the first to have
a taste of European culture because the British first entered Nigeria
through Lagos. The Igbo lived on both banks of the River Niger. Ironically,
in view of their later speedy development and progress which finally enabled
them to overtake the other ethnic groups of Nigeria in terms of European
style development, the Igbos and the other people of the East were regarded
as being more backward than the rest in 1900(Forsyth, 1976:16).
By 1960, the year Nigeria gained independence, the area called the North had 41 secondary schools against 842 in the South. The North’s first university graduate qualified nine years before independence. Western education was to the Emir dangerous, and they did their utmost to confine it to their own offspring or those of the aristocracy (Forsyth, 19756:18). This situation made a sharp contrast to what was obtainable in the south. Forsyth noted that by 1967, when Nigerian civil war started, the Eastern region (with over 80% Igbo population) had more doctors, lawyers and engineers than any other country in Negro Africa.
In terms of character, orientation and value system, the Igbo are structurally different from the Hausas. The Igbos cherishes democracy as inherent in their egalitarian structures and traditional institutions and functions. They want to be consulted in the process of decision making which concern their welfare. They recognize authority, but do not worship them. They hate dictatorship and abhor aristocracy. Their critics refer to them as uppity. Because of scarcity of qualified manpower of Northern origin, about 1,300,000 Igbos lived in the North and an estimate of 500,000, had taken jobs by 1966. In the west dominated by the Yorubas, Igbos were welcomed. They lived side by side with the Yorubas. Each group however, suspected the other, but they never degenerated to any form of group violence. Unlike the west, the Igbos in the North were never encouraged to live with the Hausas instead they were made to live in the area designated for strangers – Sabon Garis. This is a sort of Ghetto outside the main city.
In 1967, about 30,000.00 of Eastern people were killed in the North and 1,800,000 driven back to the East as refugees. During the civil war about 1 million Igbos lost their lives. According to Igbokwe (1995) despite the fact that one million Igbos lost their lives during the civil war, the agenda to wipe the Igbos away from the face of Nigeria has not abated.
“Religious riot and ethnic disturbances in the North have been occurring repeatedly since 1945 and each time we have such mayhem, Igbos are always the prime target for massacre”
It happened in Jos in 1945, Kano 1953, the entire North 1966, in 1980, it was in Kano, 1982 Maidugri, 1954, Yola, in 1985 Gombe, 1987 Kaduna and Kafanchan, 1991 Bauchi, Katsina, Kano. May 1992, Kaduna state, 1993 Funtua. In the year 2000, thousands of Igbos were again killed in Sharia riots in Kaduna. In all these cases, the action spots have been shops, business premises and selected houses – all belonging to the Igbos and Igbos themselves. On December 26 1994, a day after Christmas, an Igbo Chief (Gideon Akaluka) was murdered by Shiite Moslem Fundamentalist at the Bompai prison in Kano. They cut off his head, hoisted it on a splint and like an act from Stone age (Igbokwe, 1976:32) paraded it around the city. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of Nigeria was the person who asked in an essay, “why hate the Igbos and Chinua Achebe, a prominent novelist, wrote in his book ‘The Trouble with Nigeria’ “Nigerians of all other ethnic groups will probably achieve consensus on no other matter than their common resentment of the Igbos. (Igbokwe, 1976) The Irony of the dastardly act against the Igbo is the failure of Nigerian state to either arrest the culprit or redress the injustice. In the case of beheading of Akaluka, no arrests were made even when the assailants proudly claimed responsibility.
a mobile people who have made serious impact in every section of Nigeria.
Here is a people who lost everything during the civil war and were able
to move themselves successfully back into the system within five years
– a feat yet to be achieved by any tribe in the world. Here is a people
who were technologically advanced during the civil war only to become
traders twenty-five years after’ (Igbokwe) 1976:34.
The above quotation though long is a deep rooted venom poured by an aggrieved author of a book, representing the level of control of the resources and opportunity by the Northern part of Nigeria and the accommodating spirit of the south to ensure one Nigeria and consequent atrocities committed against the one particular ethnic group. The homicide and ethnic cleansing phenomenon of Nigeria is latently manifest in the practical relationship between the Igbos and the rest of Nigeria. One basic question which arises from the foregoing is what are the reasons for the marginalization of the Igbos and why are they hated? Why is it that whenever there is a violent crisis in any part of the country, the people will leave the object of conflict and launch attack on the Igbos?. Part of the answer to this question was given by a former Works and Housing Minister who incidentally happens to be of Hausa stock.
You see, once you are here doing nothing, there is no way you will not be envious of what I am doing. Once there is a slight opportunity that will come your way, you will just vent your spleen on me because it is me who is close to you. What is happening here in Kano is that you have a situation where the Igbos are the most enterprising. They are the ones you visibly see their successes. They are traders, and you see their shops and wares. It is unlike Yorubas who are service-oriented people. There is nothing that you see Yorubas doing that will attract you to go and loot. They are artisans like plumbers, welders or professional like accountants. So nobody is going to pounce on them. That is why the Igbos are always the targets. They have electronic shops, and hoodlums see these television sets, music systems among others (Vanguard June 24, 1995).
In his comments,
a former Governor of Anambra State in the South Eastern part of Nigeria
had this to say in a news magazine cover story,
Presidential aspirant on the platform of defunct Social Democratic Party,
Mrs. Jibril (an Hausa woman) in an interview noted as follows:
In a speech
delivered during an Igbo day, Professor Ben Nwabueze, a constitutional
Lawyer, and the national sectary of Ohaneze, a pan Igbo Cultural organization
stated as follows
noted further the only way to uplift the Igbos from the present marginalized
position and to realize their group interest in the fierce competition
and struggle among the antagonistic ethnic nationalities that comprise
Nigeria. This he suggested requires an effective, credible organization.
Without this he implored further, the Igbos will remain rudderless, forever
drifting aimlessly with no sense of purpose or direction.
A lot of statistics exist to buttress the unfortunate place of the Igbos in Nigerian polity. It is the need to have a credible organization to actualize the ‘Igbo Dream’ which give rise to the formation of the youthful and radical group called ‘the movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra. (MASSOB). The Biafran Dream is contained in the speech declaration of independence of Biafra delivery by the erstwhile while Biafra leader, then Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu. It might be necessary to restate part of this declaration to drive home our point. This declaration was made on the 27 May 1966.
‘Fellow countrymen and women, you, the people of Eastern Nigeria. Conscious of the supreme authority of Almighty God over all mankind, of your duty to yourself and posterity; Aware that you can no longer be protected in your lives and in your property by any government based outside Eastern Nigeria; Believing that you are born free and have certain inalienable rights which can best be preserved by yourselves; Unwilling to be unfree partners in any association of a political or economic nature; Rejecting the authority of any person or persons other than the Military Government of Eastern Nigerian to make any imposition of whatever kind or nature upon you; Determined to dissolve all political and other ties between you and the former Federal Republic of Nigeria; Prepared to enter into such association, treaty or alliance with any sovereign state within the former Federal Republic of Nigeria and elsewhere on such terms and conditions as best to sub serve your common good.
The above principles upon which the Biafran declaration was made raise some fundamental issues. One is on the right to self-determination and separatism upon which this paper is founded. Do the Igbos have the right to self determination and secession? Do they want secession? What are the views of succeeding generation of Igbos? Will they want to fight another war in the nearest future to redress what was generally perceived as injustice? Sens and stoett (1998; 323) defined self-determination as the right of all peoples to choose their own government or right of all peoples to independence and sovereign statehood. The declaration also raises the question of precepts of democracy such as basic rights, and some elements to social contract theory, which has to do with the consent of the governed. Preliminarily, why do segments of a population, at a point in the history of a nation decide to go their own way? Spencer (1998:9) noted that a precondition for emergence of secessionist movements is nationalism, a phenomenon that has changed in character over years. He examined four routs of nationalist movements. These are structural, historical, ideological and motivational factors. In the first instance, it does not appear that the United Nations system has rigidly stated the minimum standard for separation or recognitions of secessionist claims. The UN’s ambiguity on this issue encourages separatism. The other issues is what Karl Deutsch would call mobilization. Spenser noted that mobilization draws traditional persons into a broad, swiftly changing social world characterized by social insecurity. They according to him, may seek to recreate their lost sense of community seizing upon small sign of similarity: - such as common accent or cuisine or holiday customs as grounds for solidarity- what Deutsch would call ‘ersatz’ community. Based on pretended familiarly. Though Deutsch predicted an ephemeral duration for nationalism, and seeing it as a transitional phase in a larger process, and something that will fizzle out after people become familiar with modern institutions, creating pluralistic associations in their new country and attaining their security (Spenser: 11), it has to be noted that new conditions of injustice created by perhaps low level of institutional and structural development could intensify a sense of solidarity and a new nationalism based on collective sense of descent, history, language and community. Modernization theory interpreted along this line has aided instead of ameliorated sectarianism, conflict and ethnic nationalism. This must have in informed Spenser’s contention that period of nationalism may not after all be brief.
for the sovereign state of Biafra is a youthful and radical organization
made up of succeeding generation of the Easterners and dominantly, the
Igbos who fought the civil war. The organization is formed as a
separatist movement whose ultimate ambition is to revive the Biafran dream
(earlier on stated) and make it a reality. It is the assumed believe
of the group that if their fathers cannot succeed through violence and
because of the circumstances of their period, they can succeed through
non-violence unless where this fails, violence could be a last option.
The group is struggling to succeed and acquire a sovereign status over
the territory formally know as Biafra. Capitalizing on the ambiguity
of the UN charters provision on self determination, and the creation in
1991 of a forum for the unheard, they share a common connections with
other separatist movements across the world – that the existing political
order is illegitimate and that their group has been assigned to a lower
status than it deserves in the country called Nigeria (Spenser, 1998:15).
These would be justified by empirical evidence. For instance the
UN resolution no 1514 of 1947 proclaims the following:
the history and genesis of the Biafran struggle, and the current activities
of Massob, we went ahead to administer a questionnaire covering a range
items concerning the Igbo question and separatist struggle.
It is secondly
hypothesized that “there is existence in Nigeria upsurge in separatist
feelings among succeeding Youths of former Biafra.
is a complete loss of faith in the corporate existence of Nigeria by the
succeeding generation of Igbos.
The questionnaire was administered mostly to cluster of youths who mostly did not participate in the war as shown in Table one above. Among this group, we had the following age distribution.
Age During the civil War
Participation in the war
extent has the Igbo ethnic group which made up (85% of those who fought
for the independence of Biafra had access to the authoritative allocation
of values and resources in the post-civil war Nigeria?”.
Participation in allocation of resources is considered as an analytical variable because competition for scarce resources lies at the root of ethnic conflict. This struggle is noted to be capable of producing competing interests. In sharing of these resources each group often wants adequate representation and participation. Where this is denied a group, it raises the problem of balance of power and security dilemma, concepts developed in international relations and extended to the study of ethnic conflict and which makes groups to react to pre-emptive strategies in pursuit of group demands. Such resources as land, state allocations are highly valued by all ethnic groups, their exclusion from participation in higher position of decision making concerning such resources could centripetalize to group mobilization and threat to corporate existence of a nation state. It promotes extremism and reinforces ethnic solidarity. Ethnic entrepreneurs to carve a nitch for leadership and emergence, of radical ethnic organizations, often capitalize upon this situation. For such entrepreneurs, self-aggrandizement are built and constituencies are created for up-keeps of political power.
It also appears to be the feeling among the Igbos of Nigeria that their forced existence in the same geo-political state with the rest of Nigeria drags their tempo of political and economic development. Metta Spencer (1998), the statement of Roberto Ronchi, a representative of the lega Nord (League of the North (in RFE/RL, Daily Report, April 13, 1994, 4) stated as follows: “We are tired of paying all the taxes to support lazy southern man and corrupt of officials in Rome” He also noted that of the separatist movements demanding the creation of a “Republic of the Pampas” in southern Brazil, who agree that their taxes go to support the lazy poor in Amazon. We at this point asked the following questions to our respondents about the feeling of exclusion and faith in the corporate existence of Nigeria.
1. Do you
think that the resources of and opportunity in this country are equitably
distributed among all ethnic groups in Nigeria? We gave option of
No and Yes, and followed it up with open-ended questions. If No
which groups are nor favoured.
In answering the question on resources and opportunities we obtained the table below
From the table, 20.3% said ‘Yes’ 76.8% said ‘No’. Among the groups not favoured, almost every respondent noted that the following percentages represented those who said that groups below were not favoured.
The responses above appeared 90% for Igbo and Niger Delta and 45% for Middle Belt because the respondents were not restricted to only one group.
In the second question that deals with tax payment and use made of them. 73.2% of our respondents contended that taxes, which they pay, are used to develop other areas than theirs. 23.2% disagreed. On the question of use of resources to favour other area, the states in Northern part of Nigeria and Western Nigeria feature prominently, mainly Lagos, Kano, Kaduna and Ibadan.
We now sought to find out if there are federal government policies that are against the ethnic group of our respondents. The responses are show below.
From the above table, 50.7% said Yes, 39.1% said No. 10.1% had no idea. We further sought to know what the policies are.
1. The Igbos
are not represented in the federal Security Council. They are against
Bakasi.(an indigenous security outfit organized by Igbos, which has succeeded
in eradication crime in Igbo land)
From the responses to these open ended questions, we proceeded to find out if age is related to feeling about federal government, use of resources to develop areas other than where they are produced, using chi-square analysis. The chi-square analysis was .233 approximates at 0.0070 approximate significance. This shows that age did not determine significantly the responses to the question of resource distribution. The feeling of injustice on resource distribution appear to have cut across all age groups, with cramar’s V of .272, a similar explanation could be given for the use of taxes to develop other groups. The implication of these findings is that with the apparent feeling of injustice widespread among the succeeding generation of Igbos, a ready and fertile ground is already offered by the prevailing circumstances for separation and call for secession.
7 Faith in Corporate Existence of Nigeria by Igbos Youths
to the paper:
In the vanguard
Newspaper of April 22, 2000, Professor Egboka,( who incidentally was an
ex- Biafran senior Army Officer and a combatant) noted as follows:
The above represents deep emotional lamentations of a professor (an ex-Biafra gallant soldier) emotional and angry, in the year 2001 and a reactionary out burst against President Obasanjo’s unfettered attempt to falsify war trends. President Obasanjo had earlier on in a public statement, during his visit to Akwa Ibom State told the people that Igbos went to war in order to exercise control over mineral deposits in the Eastern Region. His statements were widely condemned by the Nigerian Press. Ohaneze, an Igbo socio-cultural organization in the champion of April 22, 2001, reacted as follows:
(Igbo People) went to war in defense and reaction to genocide committed
against their people’.
If you were
not born during the war, what were you told caused the war? We had the
following (unedited) responses,
We went from here to find out if any lessons have been leant by Nigerians about the war
above table, 25.2% felt that lessons have been learnt, while 67.3 contend
that no lessons have been learnt about the civil war. The response collaborates
with the statements and actions of Ohaneze, (the Igbo Cultural Association).
Because lessons have not been learnt, Igbos continue to lose their lives
and properties in most parts of Nigeria. When other ethnic groups
are involved in violent conflict, the Igbo blood and properties are used
to settle the score. When we asked the respondents, the lessons
they thank should be learnt from the civil war, we had the following open–ended
Popularity of a revolutionary or separatist movement is likely to act as a pointer to its success. This is especially the case if such movements represent a common aspiration of a people. It can also be made popular if such movement emerges to fight against a collective feeling of injustice meted against a group. If the leadership if such movement demonstrates transparency and emotive desire to redress injustices of the present and past, those who are so represented are likely to lend a diffuse support to ensure the success of its Objectives.
Biafran Republican movement could be classified as first generation separatism. The circumstances of its period of existence favoured its collapse. Baifran Republic was declared during the epoch of cold war, which did little to favour separatism. Lack of support by post imperial European states and super powers did not belittle the legitimacy of their claims. America and Europe saw them as capable of constituting threats to the stability of states being enlisted in the cold war blocs. Lack of international support was a major handicap to the Biafran struggle. The faith of Biafra was similar to those of Iriais Juya and East Timor, Quebecois in Canada etc.
The Movement for the actualization of sovereign state of Biafra emerged as a second generation’s separatist movement. While the defunct Biafra was a violent protest, the strategies of Massob are not violent. They appear democratic. It is rooted in the United Nations declaration, and collective aspirations of the Igbo ethnic group. However, all is not yet rosy for Massob since it is confronted with many challenges. One principal challenge is its ability to effectively mobilize not only its members, but those political elites who are currently occupying varying positions in government and who have the aspiration of one day becoming a governor of state, President, and whose financial and power positions various economic interest hardly make them see injustice in the states quo. It also has as a further challenge of, organizational ability and the task of convincing non-Igbo former Biafrans on the need for a separatist struggle which requires their support in the face of open rejection of identity with the Igbos. These states and ethnic group who are encapsulated in the map of former Biafra may likely see this as the Igbo challenge and struggle. However all said and done Massob appears to be a movement of the people with strong ambition to actualize to dreams. Perhaps the most serious challenge is that of the Nigeria state whose Biafra-phobia has resulted in many Police actions against the movements, sometimes killing and maiming their members. It is a situation, which makes them feel that feel that should Ndi Igbo allowed to go; such will mark the end of Nigeria.
It is against this backward that we used the following items not only to test the popularity and acceptance of Massob but the readiness of the succeeding generations of Igbos to take up arms to support the Biafran cause:
you ever heard of the Movement for the Actualization of the sovereign
state of Biafra? We gave the options of Yes and No.
The above comments were common and constitute 90% of the responses. We now asked them if they think such objective should be given all the support it deserves, by all former Biafrans?
all former Biafrans support the separatist struggle?
From the table above, 58.0% said Yes while 34.1% said No. The relationship between age and support was .21671 (not strong enough). This did not vary strongly according to age. We proceeded to find out then feeling about the success of Massob struggle: 57.2% were of the view that the struggle will eventually succeed. 35.5% appeared pessimistic. We also sought further to find out if our respondents were aware of implications of separation.
Are you aware that separations could lead to war, refugee problems, heavy weapon involvement and agony?
85.6% said Yes. 11.5% said No.
We now asked again: If yes do still want your ethnic group to secede?
58.7% said yes while 35.5% said No.
this task we were aware of the role of emotional memories and sentiments
in arousing feelings of injustice and readiness to go to war. This
is especially so when present practices and polices fails to address such
events that led to war before. When injustice of the past, marginalization,
hatred and discrimination still persist, socialization will more likely
have fertile grounds to succeed. Because when we asked our respondents
of they are still in love with Biafra, 66.2% said yes while 29.8% said
No. In an open- ended question we asked them how they feel whenever they
remember Biafra. What we observed was out- bust of emotions and tiers.
of Conflict Management
formal measure was the conferment of the judicial power of the Federation
on the Courts, which is a practice in all civilized nations. With this
provision, any person or group of persons who feel deeply outraged about
another group or government policies can challenge such in the courts
of the land. However a fundamental and important innovation was
the section 14(3) and 14(4) of the Constitution. 14(3) noted as follows:
was meant to address the issue of dominance and marginalization through
policies and allocation of resources and opportunities of any group especially
the minorities. Then section 14(4) stated as follows:
Section 15 noted that national integration should be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited. To accomplish this the constitution guaranteed the provision of adequate facilities, which will encourage free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the Federation. It also guaranteed full residence rights for all citizens in all parts of the federation; encourage intermarriage among persons from different places of origin or of different religions., promote and encourage the formation of associations which cut across ethnic linguistic, religious or other barriers. The state also through the constitution promised to foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various peoples of the Federation, to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional interests.
To ensure that that the doctrine of Federal character was carried according to the constitutional provision, a Federal Character Commission was set up in all parts of the Federation to ensure as a structural overseer.
In 1973, the Federal Government introduced through decree 24 of May, a National Youth Service Corps scheme. The primary objective of the National Youth Service Corps was to promote unity and loyalty to the nation. The strategy was to post graduates of tertiary institutions to states and ethnic areas other than their own. By so doing it is hoped that they will be in the position to appreciate better the culture and values as well as the geographical variations of the country , a knowledge which is hoped will prepare them better for future leadership of the country. It is also believed that with such knowledge conflicts based on ethnic differences will be reduced through the understanding of one another’s feeling and values. Such informs teaching of major ethnic languages during the period of the Youth service.
The Federal Government also introduced Unity schools in which pupils of all ethnic diversities are admitted to study under on academic environment. This will afford them the opportunity to appreciate one another early enough and reduce incidence of stereotypes, which have been blamed in some quarters as potential causes of ethnic conflicts
There is in Nigeria a Ministry of National Orientation and Information. This is a federal government structure to education and socialized people to understand the need for harmonious existence, allegiance and patriotism to the nation state.
also some informal structures of conflict resolution in Nigeria. These
informal structures have been notable in its intervention in ethnic and
religious conflicts. Notable among these are the Christian Association
of Nigeria, and various other such other ethnic cultural groups as Ohaneze
Indi Igbo, the Afenifere- a Yoruba cultural Organization and Arewa Peoples
Congress- Hausa/Fulani Cultural Association. These groups have been notable
in their intervention during various conflicts, which had engulfed Nigeria
in recent times.
At the end of the war, those events, which led to the war, appeared and are perceived to have reappeared against the same group. This has led to the emergence of a separatist movement called the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra. The objective of the movement is to realize the Civil war dream of the Separatist. This constituted the case study. One major finding in this study is that in spite of the apparent awareness of the implications of the separation, the succeeding generation of Igbo youths is still in love with Biafra and would be prepared to fight to defend its cause. Secondly, in spite of all the constitutional measures and informal mechanisms of conflict management, no little progress has been made in addressing those issues that led to civil war between 1967- 1970.
However one major way of avoiding a seemingly explosive situation is good governance, justice, and equitable distribution of national resources.
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The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author
Les idées et opinions exprimées dans cet article sont celles