Ndigbo also need to understand both the local and international political tides and sentiments to be able to make the right choices because the considerations for self-determination go beyond just the South-east. Already, extreme utterances and actions by some key elements in the agitation for Biafra are taking tolls on our goodwill, friendship, and the sympathy we enjoy. Insults hurled at religious and political leaders of other regions are not helping us, politically. Today, discordant tunes over the boundaries or territories of a prospective sovereign State of Biafra is growing in proportions with the hard wickets hurled at our neighbors and compatriots. Indeed, as things stand today, the greater part of South-south region have continued to discountenance the idea of Biafra, perhaps, for these utterances or fear of becoming a minority within another sovereign state.
As I earlier said, there is serious clamour for Northern Cyprus to rejoin Cyprus. Beside the frustrations from isolation, the economy is also at the heart of it. The Monday, June 26, 2017 edition of UK’s newspaper, The Telegraph, estimates that the reunification of the tiny island could boost its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by GBP5 Billion. South-east’s political future should therefore be put in the context of its economic interest and survival. The Igbos have larger chunk of their investments outside the South-east. Our people have invested heavily in every nook and cranny of Nigeria. They are into trading. Imagine a situation where a Republic of Biafra would have to depend on Nigerian passports to travel out. Importantly, as I mentioned earlier, we are not certain that the South-south will go with the Biafra idea. And in the event that they do not, what are our options for economic survival? Flowing from this, and aware that no nation is a Santa Claus, what guarantee do we have for international support if the main oil bearing region pulls out?
Nigeria has never been as divided as it is today. The hate rhetoric is getting worse by the day. Parting ways under such level of bitterness could be risky to the investments and lives of the South Easterners. Realistically speaking, is it possible that all Ndigbo living in the other parts of Nigeria, many of whom were born and bred outside Igbo land, and have been well assimilated by their host communities will return home? Many have never visited home and do not even speak Igbo language. Can we realistically expect those who have their investments in other parts of Nigeria to willingly abandon them and head home? Although international systems seek to guarantee the security of lives of peoples and their properties on either side of the divides, should there be a self-determination process that leads to the emergence of a new nation, such guarantees are not absolute and difficult to enforce, especially in a society such as ours. The quit notice and hate spewed by the Arewa youth to Ndigbo point to the fact that all is not well. And it calls for caution because the mother hen does not run without looking back to know the fate of her chicks.
The other option left for us is a restructured federation. Ndigbo need to develop and market what it believes to be the right template for restructuring. The Eastern Region was rated the fastest growing economy in Africa in the First Republic because the regions were relatively autonomous; resources were largely developed and controlled by the regions. I believe Ndigbo will thrive, probably more than other regions, under a federal structure that guarantees substantial autonomy, justice, equity, security, and prosperity for Ndigbo wherever they live. What we need is a federalism where each constituent part fends for itself to promote industry. We need a federal arrangement that guarantees and allows every constituent state or region to be primarily in charge of its aspirations and preferences to catalyse competitive development. We need a mutually agreed arrangement that allows every component to take charge of the security of lives and properties of citizens through decentralised policing, while the Federal Government takes care of defending our territorial integrity.
We need a federal arrangement where the best excels, and does not have to be sacrificed in the name of federal character. We need a restructured federation where the Igbo man or woman, and indeed, every Nigerian can live and ply his or her business in any part of the country without any form of discrimination, molestation, and destruction of his or her life and property on the flimsiest excuses. Igbos should be better off in a federation where they freely exercise their democratic rights without being hounded and killed by security forces. We need a federal structure that guarantees smart and efficient government. And I believe these are possible if the leaders and constituent parts of the nation come to the table with sincerity of purpose. We should push for that, please.
Way forward Going forward, we need to set up a committee for a continuous engagement and moderation of IPOB, other pro-Biafra organisations and their leaders to avoid hate speeches and reckless statements that will make us lose our friends and sympathisers. We need to send a team of South-east leaders to have yet another meeting with the Presidency, this time to tell them, in clear terms, the need to address the fears and complaints about marginalisation of the people of the South-east by this government, which is fueling the agitation in our region. Government needs to take concrete steps and demonstrate commitment in addressing the said complaints. This will help the South-east leaders to manage the restiveness.