Every 15th of January in Nigeria is celebrated as Armed Forces and Remembrance Day. That date is unique because of two landmark events in the history of the Nigerian military. First, it was the first time the military staged a successful coup in 1966. Second, it was a day of victory for the Armed Forces over the former secessionist Biafran forces. For obvious reasons, we should forget about the second partly because of the emotions that comes with it. The question of self-determination is now been chorused loud in some parts of the country that it is in fact, a right!
Last year, I wrote under the title, Can Biafra Be Achieved Through a Referendum? In response to the article, I got some obvious replies. The reply from one Chris, looks like the most intellectually sound. I decided to engage him in what I thought was an intellectual discourse on WhatsApp, but was left disappointed when Chris resorted to insults and name-calling, like many ill-educated persons that have engaged me on the subject of self-determination. At that point, I stopped replying his messages, even after saying: “I am sorry for insulting you, Lekan.”
The simple question Chris struggled with is: What will the world look like if every nation of fifty thousand people is granted the right to statehood? I will come back to this later.
After the Leave campaigners won the referendum for Britain to exit the European Union (EU) last year, code-named, #BrExit, some pro-Biafra supporters here in Nigeria celebrated it as a “major victory.” They saw it as something that should be used as a basis for a sovereign state for Biafra. That was, and will never be, because there is absolutely no relationship between both political phenomena.
For those who do not understand the issues clearly, Britain voluntarily joined the EU, then known as the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. Under the EU Constitution, a member state is free at anytime to exit the Union. This is not secession; neither does it look like it. The decision to leave the Union is at the sole discretion of the member state ONLY. Britain was not the first the leave the EU, and may not be the last!
The EU, just like its African counterpart, African Union (AU) has Nigeria has a member state. If Nigeria decides to leave the AU today, that is simply at the discretion of the Nigerian state, which elected to join the Union voluntarily at inception in 1963.
In parenthesis, Morocco had since 1984 left the AU, then known as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) over the controversial issue of the status of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Till data, Morocco is yet to rejoin the Union and it is doing just fine as an independent African state. The question I asked one of those using #BrExit to justify Biafran agitation is: What is the relationship between Morocco’s exit from the OAU in 1984 and the struggle for Eritrean independence in 1993 or of South Sudan in 2012?
Those who called for referendum to determine the Biafra’s continued existence as part of Nigeria will probably have to wait longer. This is because the issues like Biafra are largely political, not legal. If it were that easy as some people want us to believe, Cataluña in Spain conducted referendum as recently as 2012, but as at when I checked this morning, Cataluña is still part of Spain. We need to add that the struggle for Catalan independence dates back to the 17th century. Can you now see why I said it is not that easy to solve like a simple algebraic equation.
In 2001, East Timor, formerly part of Indonesia, after over three decades of struggle for independence, was granted independence by President Suharto. The new country soon descended into a Civil War less than five years after its independence with the agitation for “West-East-Timor” to become a sovereign state. Those who knew (about East Timor) understood the fact that German philosopher, Immanuel Kant asked: “What if everybody did that?”
After thinking about Kant’s statement, I ask myself what the world will look like if Igbominas in Kwara suddenly make a claim for self-determination, and file to the United Nations for a sovereign state? What will the world look like if every 100,000 people file for sovereign state, there will probably be a world of complicated 8000 states. This is what happens when every group file for self-determination as a right!
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