It is self-defeating to go into a negotiation and demand or expect things that are not possible.
That is a sure path to failure and frustration. After all, as they say, politics is the art of the possible. So Ndi-Igbo need to carefully asses the feasibility of whatever they set out to achieve at the National Conference. And since it is going to be a multilateral negotiation, they have to realize that they can only get what they desire if they can persuade a majority of others to seek it in their own self-interest.
It would be foolish to expect others to abandon their perceived self-interest and support the Ndi-Igbo self interest. Ndi-Igbo should go only for options that are both desirable AND feasible.
That’s the sensible thing to do. What are the alternative configurations of Nigeria that could emerge from the negotiations? And what are the prospects for each configuration, in light of the interests of the various groups/peoples that participate in the negotiations? And which configuration should Ndi-Igbo work to realize?
The probable options are four:
A] Abuja, that is to say, the present fake federalism.
B] Total Araba Now, the total and immediate breakup of the present Nigeria, that is to say: to thy tents O Israel. Every people goes its own way.
C] Partial Araba plus Aburi, that is to say the Orkar solution plus Aburi, wherein Arewa leaves or is excised, and the rest of Nigeria agree to stay together in Aburi-style Confederation/federation.
D] Aburi, that is to say, all the peoples in Nigeria, including Arewa, remain together, but under an Aburi-style Confederation/federation.
Assuming the negotiation is democratic and decisions are either unanimous, by consensus, or by majority vote, let us evaluate the support each option is likely to get.
A] Abuja, that is to say, the present fake federalism.
This is the status quo. Only Arewa is likely to want this. And I don’t see any other group going along. So this outcome is most unlikely.
B] Total Araba Now, the total & immediate breakup of Nigeria.
Total Araba Now is not in the self-interest of an Arewa that has been committed to and enjoying hegemony under Caliphate colonialism since 1960; nor is it in the self-interest of MB (Middle Belt), SW or SS.
MB is at present very much fragmented, ethnically and culturally, and needs time to build its organizational cohesion. Furthermore, its economic base is weak, and total araba would at once leave it economically impoverished. It is therefore unlikely to go for total araba at this stage.
As for SW, their effort has been to coalesce the Yoruba into a region, with their own government and the autonomy to organize their industrialization, like in Awo’s Western Region. Leaving Nigeria entirely is not likely to appeal strongly to them in light of their not having serious oil and other mineral deposits.
As for SS, they have enough oil to go it alone, but do they have the necessary organizational cohesion and cultural unity? I suspect that once they obtain their main objective, resource control, they, like MB, would prefer to stay in a larger entity while building their organizational cohesion and cultural unity.
So, it is unlikely that any of these groups would opt for Total Araba Now.
What of SE? Is it organizationally ready right now for this option? Some SE persons and groups have emotionally welded themselves to this option, but is it feasible? If SE goes for this option, it will find itself isolated and defeated in the negotiations. What then would it do? Try secession again? Does it have the capacity to fight another secession war?
I submit that it does not. It is now in an even weaker economic and military position than Biafra was in 1967, when it attempted secession and failed.
Furthermore, even in the most unlikely event that Total Araba Now wins out, SE would need time to organize itself to receive back and resettle the millions of its people who will be forcibly returned to their enclave from all other parts of Nigeria.
These are therefore serious reasons why SE should discard this option, even though it appeals strongly to some hearts: It will be isolated in the negotiations and lose out and face the option of another futile secession attempt; and it isn’t organizationally strong enough to handle the predictable flood of millions of refugees if this option were to miraculously win out. So, for Ndi-Igbo, I submit that the Total Araba Now option is not viable and is not even a sensible one to propose.
C] Partial Araba plus Aburi, wherein Arewa leaves or is excised.
All those who regard Arewa as the source of their disadvantage or misfortune in the Abuja arrangement, are likely to support this option. Nija would then continue as a true Federation/confederation of SW, SS, MB and SE. Having removed Arewa, the root cause of the trouble with Lugard’s Nigeria, the resulting Nigeria would be a bit smaller, but would have more unity of outlook, and a viable economic basis for nation building and development.
D] Aburi-style Confederation/federation.
If somehow option C fails, Arewa might reluctantly accept this as its second best outcome. For while it would terminate its domination of Nigeria, it would still give it a share in the riches of Nigeria and leave it with access to the sea.
And once freed from Arewa domination by an Aburi-type Federation/confederation, the other peoples might fall back on this option as the minimum acceptable and available to all—i.e. the option that guarantees the primary interest of every group. It still meets the interest of SW for regional autonomy, the interest of SS for resource control, and the interest of MB for separation from Arewa. This option would still meet SE’s need for autonomy to ensure security and economic self-control.
For SE, getting control of its security and economy would be a giant step out of the present hell of domination by Abuja. It is not the most that we desire, but half a loaf is better than none.
Besides, struggles are wisely conducted stage by stage: Aburi would give SE enough scope to prepare for greater autonomy or even total independence whenever opportunity offers itself. It will be a holding pattern for later development. It should, I think, be the fallback option for SE, in case option C proves unobtainable.
Ndi-Igbo would be well advised to mandate their delegation to aim for option (C) i.e. Orkar + Aburi, with (D) i.e. Aburi, as their minimum and fallback objective. Both (A) Abuja i.e. the status quo, and (B) Total Araba Now should be rejected as not being in the Ndi- Igbo interest.
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