Recently, at an event at Golden Gate Restaurant, Ikoyi, I made a new friend. His name is Charles and as he told me, he is from Arochuckwu in Abia state. As we got talking, I fell in love with his deep knowledge of history and politics. He seems to have a firm grasp of several political-cum-historical topics, ranging from terrorism to US politics. We both agreed on every topic raised, until one of us brought up the issue of Biafra!

I wasn’t surprised to know that Charles, like many Igbos I know, is a pro-Biafra supporter, when I asked about his views on the arrest of the director of the pirate Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu. But unlike most pro-Biafran agitators that I know, he has read several books written about both sides of the Nigeria-Biafran War, before coming to conclusions on the matter.

On Kanu’s arrest and continued detention by the Directorate of State Service (DSS), my new friend brought out the traditional pro-Biafran argument of “marriage incompatibility”. He argued: if a marriage is no longer working, the best solution is to part ways or divorce peacefully. For my friend Charles, he told me, he didn’t witness the war, but bloodshed is way out of the cards as far as achieving “self-determination” for Biafra is concerned. He argued that the solution is just too simple. The solution he proposed is for Nigeria to conduct a United Nations (UN) supervised referendum to decide the future of Biafrans.

I made him realise that I am not really against Biafra as such, although he found this difficult to believe. I informed him that what I am against is the fact that the agitations by people like Kanu is only filled with political opportunism, which the President Jonathan administration represented. I quoted Carl von Clausewitz, the great Prussian general, in his classic On War, where he writes, “Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult. These difficulties accumulate and produce a friction, which no man can imagine exactly who has not seen war.”

I reminded my friend that the struggle for Catalan independence in Spain dates back as far as 1640, with the unsuccessful first Catalan Republic after the Reaper’s War. In the subsequent War of the Spanish Succession, Catalans hoped to salvage their institutions of home rule, in the face of a centralising Bourbon pretender, rather than outright independence. And support for Catalan independence, unlike that of Biafra, is based on the thesis that from the 19th century that Catalonia has been a nation, derived from contemporary political and cultural ideology based on the Catalan history, its language and unique culture. If things were that simple, we will have had an independent Catalonia today.

Still on Catalonia, I informed him that if it were by conducting referendum, the Catalan Government had conducted a referendum on independence on November 9, 2014. And, since the Spanish government has refused to recognise the outcome of the referendum which returned over 80 percent “Yes” vote in favour of independence, a “Republic of Catalonia” would probably have to wait longer.

In 1973, the a referendum was held on the question Northern Ireland’s continued existence within the United Kingdom (also known as the Border Poll). That was the first time that a major referendum had been held in a region of the UK. The vote resulted in an overwhelming majority stating they wished to remain in the UK. The nationalist, Catholics and other pro-Independent groups boycotted the poll which led to a turnout of only 58.7 percent of the electorate. Gerry Fitt, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader called on his supporters “to ignore completely the referendum and reject this extremely irresponsible decision by the British Government”. In addition to taking a majority of votes cast, supporters of the “UK option” received the support of 57.5 percent of the total electorate.

The Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 is an Act of the Scottish Parliament, which was passed on November 14, 2013 and came into force on December 18. Together with the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013, it enabled the Scottish independence referendum of 2014.

In November 14, 2013 the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, setting out the arrangements for the referendum, was passed by the Scottish Parliament into he Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013, coming into force on December 18, and enabling the Independence referendum of 2014. There were serious fears in other parts of the UK that should Scotland attain its independence, Northern Ireland, with a history of violent attacks against British authorities, would highly likely to go as well. One wonders why the Westminster government granted the Scottish government’s request for such referendum which it could not grant to Northern Island. Ulster is, after all, far more of a Scottish colony than an English one, demographically speaking. From the reign of King James VI of Scotland (who also became James I of England in 1603), Ulster was disproportionately colonised by the Scots (many of whom later left for America to become ‘Scot-Irish’), which explains why Presbyterianism was always a more popular denomination in Ulster than the Church of Ireland. The Scottish legacy is also reflected in efforts in recent decades among Protestants to cement an ‘Ulster-Scots’ culture and language.

While you will see the Scottish saltire at Orange Order marches, you won’t see an empty-handed Cross of St George. The two lands are united in their love of and hatred of Glasgow’s two football teams and by simmering sectarianism. The Scottish National Party (SNP) was very keen to jump on the Braveheart bandwagon. Why not go even further back in time? Parts of Ulster and Scotland were once united in the sixth and seventh century in the kingdom of Dalriada. The revival of this ancient kingdom, should Scotland vote ‘Yes’, would make much more sense than Northern Ireland’s continued bondage under England. After all, most English people are notoriously ignorant about Ulster. During the Troubles, the English regarded the province with a mixture of irritation and indifference, which is why the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the 1970s knew that England would only take notice if there were bombs on the mainland. ‘They’re both as bad as each other’ and ‘fancy fighting about religion’ were the two common reactions. To the English, the Northern Irish are a foreign people, which is why they found the grating, mangled accents of John Cole and Ian Paisley so amusing. So, if it is about agitation, or referendum, we probably will either have had Northern Ireland joined their brothers under the Dublin government or forming a sovereign state of its own.

After several years of conflicts, some say since 1955, the Sudanese government approved the request for a referendum for Southern Sudan in 2011, on whether the region should remain a part of Sudan or become independent. The referendum was one of the consequences of the 2005 Naivasha Agreement between the Khartoum central government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M). Expectedly, the final results of the referendum show that over 90 percent voted in favour of South Sudan’s independence. No one prays for the situation the new country finds itself today. Most people will probably not recall that it took over 20 years of protracted conflicts for the country to part through a referendum. If things can be so simple!

Let us bother ourselves with Quebec, a province in Canada. It has always been the sole majority French-speaking province. Long ruled by forces that focused on affirmation of the province’s French and Catholic identity within Canada, the Quiet Revolution of the early 1960s prompted a surge in civic and economic nationalism, as well as voices calling for the separation of the province and the establishment of a nation state of its own. After arriving in power in 1976, the government held a referendum in 1980 seeking a mandate to negotiate “sovereignty-association” with Canada that was decisively defeated. It is instructive to note that the Canadian Supreme Court, in 1998, ruled that Quebec has the right to secede (which is not unilateral), but one can easily say “Twinkle, twinkle little star”; Quebec remains firmly part of Canada.

The American Civil War (1861-65) was fought to determine the survival of the Union or independence for the Confederacy. Among the 34 states in January 1861, seven Southern slave states individually declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America. The war had its origin in the factious issue of slavery, especially the extension of slavery into the western territories. After four years of combat, which left over 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead and destroyed much of the South’s infrastructure, the Confederacy collapsed and slavery was abolished.

It will be difficult to compare the Confederate fighters with pro-Biafran agitators. The colonies, the 11 states that wanted to secede joined the Union VOLUNTARILY, like the original 13 states, so one would argue they have the “right to secede” voluntarily. The fact that the gallant US Military rose to its duty cannot be faulted. Can things be that simple?

Like the statement I quoted earlier from Clausewitz, things look so simple, can be said so simply; can be looked at as “simple”, but they are not always so simple. This was what I told my friend and I hoped he agreed.

Follow me on twitter: @adgorwell

Source: Premium Times