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Nigeria is work in progress. There are a lot of unresolved issues of national import that have been left unattended to by reasons of commission and omission by those saddled with the responsibility to do so. The sense of frustration and disappointment over the state of things in the country is palpable all over. Nigerians have every right to entertain thoughts as to whether as things are and as presently constituted the country should continue to exist.
But legitimate as these concerns are, we must examine whether the solution to the existential challenges of the country is to break it up as is being canvassed currently by some groups.
In this regard, the question that readily comes to mind is have we reached the point where the break-up of the country is the only answer to the challenges of our times and if so how can that materialise from the mainly media campaign currently being waged on the issue to reality? And if the break-up of Nigeria becomes inevitable how will it pan out for the seceding parts and the country in general?
Like the overwhelming majority of Nigerians, I do not believe that we have exhaustively reached the point where the only option left to resolve the problems of Nigeria is for the component parts of the country to seek to break it up. Nor do I believe that even in the unlikely event of one part of the country deciding to secede, it will be a cake walk as some erroneously think.
But if some are led to believe truculently that secession is the preferred option, then it is necessary to examine the merit of the issues.
For the agitators for an Oduduwa republic, the underlying economic basis is principally hedged on the economic status of Lagos which is geographically located in the putative Oduduwa area. They are well aware that Lagos is the principal economic hub of West Africa which by most parameters is bigger than a number of African countries. The quantum of economic activities generated in Lagos alone is almost one third the size of the Nigerian economy.
So the reasoning is that with access to the sea and with such a viable economic zone, the Oduduwa republic can hope to stand alone economically if it secedes from Nigeria. And there is an element of economic blackmail in it too in that the putative Oduduwa republic could block imports and exports from and to other parts of Nigeria or subject them to higher and arbitrary charges.
But this assumption however pales when considered against the reality. Between 40 to 60 per cent of the total economic activities in Lagos are generated by persons from outside the south west. Will the Oduduwa Republic ask such persons to go or subject them to different economic status as they will now be considered economic aliens? Will such persons consider it economically worthwhile to stay on in Lagos seeing that things have now changed? Will they decide to liquidate their businesses in Lagos and move them elsewhere conducive to their citizenship and business status?
Secondly can Lagos which is principally an entreport with the prevalence of mainly light industry and not known to be a hub of heavy industry and manufacturing, cope with the massive loss of jobs as a result of the possible relocation of businesses by business owners from areas outside the south west? Can the Lagos political and business elite rely on and trust the government of the Oduduwa republic to protect the special interest of Lagos as an economic hub that lays the golden egg for the country? Or will the Lagos elite in considering the exclusive economic status of Lagos decide to opt out or seek an alternative arrangement with both the Oduduwa republic and other parts of Nigeria?
The political issues that will confront the putative Oduduwa republic would be no less complex.
First of all, the boundaries. Will the Oduduwa republic include Kwara and some parts of Kogi? Will it be by force or by negotiation? The argument that they are Yoruba speaking will not hold water because the two provinces of Alsace and Lorraine in France which are German speaking belong to, and are in France. Texas and whole parts of western United States of America are Spanish speaking which by that logic, ought to be in Mexico. Or why can’t the Oduduwans also lay claim to and include parts of the Yoruba speaking areas of Benin Republic?
Then the brass tacks. How will the component parts of the Oduduwa republic live with one another politically? How will the Oyo component square up against the Egbas and Ijebus? The Remos and Yewas against both? Or the Ekitis and the Ondos? Ifes and Modakekes? And the big one; Ibadans and the Ijeshas?
The agitation for Biafra republic in the south east also faces similar reality checks. The first of such is to convince the contiguous non-Igbo ethnic groups to willingly join in the Biafra republic. This will not only provide much needed access to the sea but a share of the oil riches of the area. And the Igbos of Biafra will also have to cope with the fact of huge Igbo investment and settlement outside of the projected Biafra republic. Will Igbos abandon such investments and settlements and relocate and start afresh in the new Biafra?
Shorn of its mainly romantic appeal and promoted by a media for reasons of boosting circulation figures, the issue of secessionist agitation from Nigeria is really as a result of the lack of a clear pathway to genuine national development by our elite. Ironically it is the same elites who have squandered the opportunities to rise to the challenges of Nigerian nationhood that are turning round to seek the break-up of the country.
Secession will neither be the solution to Nigeria’s challenges, nor will it even succeed or be of any benefit to any part of the country that attempts it. Nigeria has come a long way and the best is ahead of us; it will be more beneficial and rewarding for us to work painstakingly together towards that goal than expend our energies in pursuits that will ultimately destroy us all.