Thoughts Lead To Appreciation
Twice have I heard activists justify the inclusion of the right to self-determination in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Each speaker – the first, Igbo and the other, Yoruba – cited the case of Ethiopia and the 1995 Constitution.
Which Ethiopia? I wondered. – The one in the horn of Africa or another one?
One asserted the section – Article 39 – on self-determination has facilitated the harmonious existence of nations within Ethiopia leading to the loss of need for secession.
Imagine that! I could not believe my ears.
I was certain I had heard some years ago of a people, the Oromo to be precise, who want nothing to do with Ethiopia and who were repeatedly crushed by the then regime of Meles Zenawi.
I resolved to find out more through intensive research.
AlHamduliLlah (Praise be to Allah) for the inventors of the internet who made it available to the people.
The Oromo are not alone in the quest for disunion with Ethiopia.
The Somali people of Ogaden in Eastern Ethiopia have for over four decades advocated independence.
How did Ogaden and Oromia become entrapped in Ethiopia?, one may wonder.
The straight answer is the recurring decimal – colonization.
Unlike Nigeria, the various components of Ethiopia were annexed by military conquest. This time, Ethiopia is the imperial master, the colonialist.
Ethiopia’s annexation of other nations served to exploit the resources of the conquered.
The conquered were a marginalised people whose property and land were seized by Ethiopians.
No component of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reserves the right to an inch of the ancestral homeland of another component.
Yes, during the civil war the property of my people Ndi Igbo (Igbo people) were confiscated.
As heart-rendering as that is, one question must be answered by the elders of Ndi Igbo:
When the leader behind the war demanded and successfully regained his property, did they ask him why he failed to make a similar request on their behalf?
If Ndi Igbo out of admiration preferred reticence to confrontation of their leadership, why do Ndi Igbo infect the younger generation with tales of marginalization to exploit the emotions and agility of young Igbo men and women?
Until recently, conquered nations of Ethiopia experienced forced assimilation and had to pretend to be of the dominant ethnicity, Amhara, to gain access to resources.
Someone, a non-Hausa-Fulani indigene of Northern Nigeria, whose ethnicity will remain unpublished for security concerns, lamented the domination of the North by the Hausa-Fulani.
However, that person conceded that non-Hausa-Fulanis aggravate and perpetuate the status quo, so long as they retain Hausa language as their lingua franca.
This author’s experiences corroborate those two positions – active domination and willing connivance.
The 1995 Constitution, however, does highlight some merits.
The Positives Of Ethiopia’s 1995 Law Of Self-Determination:
1) Decentralization Of Power: Each of the divisions of Ethiopia effect self-rule. The reality of domination has diminished.
Nigeria’s structure of governance exhibits a similar devolution of power – federal, state and local.
The state and local governments are administered by indigenes and at times, with one or two commissioners who are long-term residents.
At the federal level in Ethiopia, until recently only one ethnicity, the Amhara, occupied the presidency. Nigeria is miles ahead of Ethiopia.
Any citizen can vie for the highest office. Since independence, Nigeria has had a rainbow presentation of presidents and heads of state:
Ethnicity, Region – Number Of Presidential Observations:
A) Igbo, South-East – twice;
B) Ngas, North-Central – once;
C) Hausa-Fulani, North-West, North-East – 4 times;
D) Gwari, North-Central – once;
E) Yoruba, South-West – twice;
F) Ijaw, South-South – once.
It is worth noting that Ijaw is an ethnic minority and Ngas a minority of ethnic minorities.
2) Freedom Of Identity: The oppressed peoples need no longer assume a foreign name or converse in a foreign tongue.
Finally, even if one were to argue in favour of the integrity of the 1995 law of self-determination, the applicability of that law is so far as to grant each component independence from colonialists.
It is clear the law of self-determination is not relevant to Nigeria, for Nigeria is independent – not colonial – with indigenous rule of her components.
From the words of Ethiopians, one will further agree that the law of self-determination is a mere plastic surgery performed to glamourize a horrible case of tyranny.
The law is not expected to be actualized for the very reason that for a component to secede, assent must be granted by the rest of the components.