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Separatist agitations in Nigeria: Causes and Trajectories (I)- By Dr. Jideofor Adibe

By Dr. Jideofor Adibe | Abuja, Nigeria | August 2017 – President Buhari’s health challenges have sparked intrigue in Nigeria and awakened the politics of succession, which revolve around an assumed power-sharing arrangement between the northern and the southern parts of the country. This intrigue is reminiscent of what happened when former President Umaru Musa Yar’adua (of the north) died before completing his term and was eventually succeeded by Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner.

The north-south flare-up occasioned by Buhari’s illness comes amid increasing agitations for the independence of the Republic of Biafra by mostly Igbo groups from the eastern part of the country. Energy around the movement has been growing. For example, Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of one of the Biafran separatist groups, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) was detained for nearly two years on several charges that included treason and operating a pirate radio, Radio Biafra. He was refused bail, despite several court rulings granting him bail. His prolonged incarceration turned him into a cult figure among his followers.

Agitations around Biafra have drowned out other separatist agitations, giving the wrong impression that Biafra is the only separatist threat in the country. The truth is that there is separatist agitation in virtually every area in the country—underlying the fact that the foundation for Nigeria’s nationhood remains on shaky ground. Among  the Yoruba, for instance, echoes of separatism come in different forms—from a direct call for Oduduwa Republic to those championing a Sovereign National Conference to decide if the federating units of the country still want to continue to live together, and, if so, under what arrangements.  In the north, there are intermittent demands for Arewa Republic, while some talk of the “north” as if it is “a country within a country.” In the Niger Delta, apart from the demand for Niger Delta Republic, shades of separatism are embedded in the demands for “resource control” by regional activists. In essence, there is a fairly generalized feeling of alienation and dissatisfaction among the various constituents of the Nigerian federation, a situation that has also deepened mistrust and incentivized separatist agitations. However, because there has never been a referendum in any of the areas agitating for separation,  it is  difficult to know whether the leaders of the various separatist groups actually reflect the wishes of the people of those areas or whether the agitations are mere masks for pursuing other agendas.

The separatist agitations took a new turn on June 6, 2017 when a group of northern youths under the aegis of Coalition of Arewa Youths gave the Igbos until October 1, 2017 to leave the 19 northern states in what they called The Kaduna Declaration.  They also said an inventory of assets owned in the north by the Igbos would be taken and confiscated at the expiration of the ultimatum. The so-called Kaduna Declaration further heightened the tensions and the social distance among Nigerians.

Though there is no known research on the economic impacts of these tensions and separatist agitations, it can be speculated that they may be having a dampening effect on commerce. For instance, shortly after the quit notice on the Igbos in the north there were reports that some Igbos that dominate the retail trade in many cities in the north had already started relocating to the east. It can also be assumed that the northerners in the southeast, who dominate the cattle trade market in the area, are likely to be very cautious, given the level of tensions and stand-offs.

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Posted by on Aug 13 2017. Filed under Articles, Columnists, Jideofor Adibe, PhD, NNP Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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