The Nigerian community consists of over 300 tribes and ethnic groups, all of which are grouped into 3 major – Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa, but over the years, one of the tribes seem to have been pushed to the backbench of things and have been made to watch the runnings of the country from the sidelines
Today, the South-Eastern region, like much of the country, suffers from deficient and dilapidated infrastructure and widespread youth unemployment. For several years, the Igbo people haven’t held a major leadership position in the country, key security positions have been long held by other tribes except for the Igbo people. This has consequentially birthed the long-standing Biafran movement, one which several people identify with as their dreamland, a place that recognises them and provides them with a number of opportunities to thrive and develop their home.
Officially the Republic of Biafra, this new movement reached a secessionist and became a State independent on Nigeria in the midst of cold blood war but only existed from May 1967 to January 1970 (during the Nigerian Civil War). After Biafra’s declaration of independence, Nigeria declared war on the nascent state, defeating them in the Nigerian Civil War and reuniting the two states.
During the two-and-a-half years of fighting, almost two million Biafran civilians (3⁄4 of them children) died from starvation caused by the total blockade of the region by the Nigerian government. The Biafran forces under Nigeria’s motto of “No-victor, No-vanquished” was forced to surrender to the Nigerian Federal Military Government as facilitated by the Biafran Vice President and Chief of General Staff, Major General Philip Effiong.
After the surrender, some Igbos who had fled the conflict returned to their properties but were unable to claim them back from new occupants and this became law in the Abandoned Properties Act (28 September 1979). It was purported that at the start of the civil war, Igbos withdrew their funds from Nigerian banks and converted it to the Biafran currency and on their return, bank accounts owned by Biafrans were seized and a Nigerian panel resolved to give every Igbo person with an account only 20 pounds.
Federal projects in Biafra were also greatly reduced compared to other parts of Nigeria, and till the present day, allocation has been minute compared to other regions, especially the North. Still, for over 20 years, the nation had not had an Igbo President in power.
The cry of the Igbos over the year has been unequal treatment. “We are like second class citizens, of the same status as a colonised people, except that this is internal colonialism, caliphate colonialism”, asserted a retired Igbo military officer. The calls for Biafra has risen again, as led by Nnamdi Kanu and rather than seek ways to reach a consensus, the Federal Government of Nigeria has threatened to treat the younger ones who did not experience the civil war in a language they understand, the same language and voice that was not given to the bandits kidnapping, killing and taking ransoms in the North, whose hideouts the Government said it knows.
This article rather than take sides with the secessionists or the Government seeks to proffer the solution which the latter has not been able to find in years. How can the nation attend to the needs of the Igbo people and end the constant agitation for Biafra and an independent country away from Nigeria?
1. Scrap Zoning
Zoning was first introduced into the Nigerian political lexicon by the National Party of Nigeria in the Second Republic. In the beginning, it was seen as a very good strategy that will give everybody in Nigeria a sense of belonging – those who are able to get the position to their side will be satisfied and acknowledged and those who have yet to get it were assured that they will get it when the time comes – until recent times when zoning has done more harm than good. It has led to agitation among the people with tribes starting to feel sidelined or ignored. For peace and a true one, Nigeria merit should be introduced where a fair playing field is given to all tribes and the best man for the job emerges. With this, every tribe gets equal representation and opportunities.
2. Take On Federal Character
The Federal Character Commission was established in 1996. The mandate was to work out equitable formula subject to the approval of the National Assembly for the distribution of all cadres of the post in the public service, armed forces, police force and other government security agencies. Olusegun Obasanjo reiterated that the essence of the federal character is to “avoid the concentration in a few ethnic hands or geographical places” but in modern-day, all the appointments of the administration and pointed out that it is as favoured the North (the tribe of the President). The principle of federal character has been thrown away. Marginalization of other tribes has now taken centre stage.
3 Look Beyond Tribe
Tribalism is one issue the country has battled with for years and the end to it is nowhere in sight. In Nigeria, people are placed in major leadership positions because they belong to the same ethnic group. The question of whether the person can deliver or not is not asked as long as they belong to the same group with some other influential people. People tend to feel comfortable and favour people from their tribe and feel insecure and unsure about those from other tribes. This attitude has over the years affected the development of Nigeria and now, it is time for us to look beyond the tribe. One tribe is not superior to another all tribes are equal and would work towards the development of Nigeria.
4. Physical Federation and Restructuring
Over the years, several tribes have been marginalized and the need to reassure them that they belong to the country called Nigeria is needed now more than ever. It is time to draw up a system that works for the country called Nigeria. In this system, every tribe is recognized and given an opportunity to thrive. Restructuring Nigeria will ensure justice and equity. In the restructuring, every region is given the autonomy to develop its resources, utilize it and also utilize these resources for development. States will independently function on their own and not rely on Abuja for resources and funding.
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