The Nuremberg incident involving former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and members of the Indegenous People of Biafra in which the distinguished senator was manhandled is still fresh news.
While many have been calling for the assailants of Sen. Ekweramadu to be brought to justice probably an equal number of people are calling for them to be honoured. Most Nigerians are not even bothered or overtly concerned about the incident.
At this point, I don’t think the most important question should be if or how the perpetrators would be punished. It’s not certain if Ekweremadu intends to press charges against his attackers and unless he decides to press charges the German authorities cannot make a meaningful case against them.
The most important question at this point is, “how did we get here?” How did we get to the point where a sitting senator is being manhandled by his kinsmen on foreign soil? The saying goes that “a hungry man is an angry man” but it is safe to conclude that those who attacked Sen. Ekweremadu are not hungry yet they were very angry.
No right thinking individual should condone any form of violence so when violence erupts, it’s not enough to bring the perpetrators to justice it also makes sense to examine the cause of the violence with a view to preventing it from happening again.
The cause of violence in this case is the agitation for Biafran independence.
What the federal government of Nigeria needs to realise is that Biafra has developed into an idea in the minds of people that cannot be extinguished.
Most of the agitators for Biafran independence will argue that the name “Biafra” pre-dates “Nigeria” by at least a hundred years. Early European explorers to Africa named a region, which is now part of Western Cameroon, “Biafra” after a town called Mafra in Southern Portugal. A town which is still in existence.
The coastline stretching from the eastern part of Nigeria to Gabon was named Bight of Biafra but by a federal government decree in 1975 it was renamed Bight of Bonny.
At the end of the Civil War in 1970 when the then Head-of-State, Yakubu Gowon, declared “No victor, no vanquished” those who thought the Biafran dream was over were terribly mistaken as recent events have shown that the dream is still alive.
Nigeria is supposed to be a democracy so will it really hurt the federal government to call for a referendum on Biafran independence? The referendum will determine how many Igbo indigenes actually want a separate nation of their own.
Our leaders know how to travel abroad for medical treatment but refuse to learn from their foreign counterparts how to lead.
In the last five to six years there have been two major issues in the United Kingdom decided by a referendum.
1.) In 2014, a referendum was held on the Scottish Independence. Scots went to the polls to decide whether they wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom or become an independent nation. The major political parties wanted Scotland to remain part of the UK but allowed them to hold the vote.
In the end the 55% of Scots voted to remain part of the UK while 45% voted for independence, which is why Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom today.
2.) The more popular and by far more controversial referendum was the one held in 2016 to determine Great Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. Membership of the union was met with stiff opposition right from the first day the United Kingdom became a member of the European Economic Council, as it was then known, on 1st January 1973 and the opposition grew larger until it culminated in a vote to leave the Union 43-years later.
That vote to leave the EU has resulted in a renewed agitation for another Scottish independence referendum – these things never end.
Those who called for the first Scottish referendum and a referendum of EU membership were not hounded like animals and thrown in jail by the government but treated like reasonable members of the society who simply disagreed with the direction the government of the day was heading.
3.) Finally, there is the Irish Unification vote: The Island of Ireland is divided into the Republic of Ireland, which is a separate independent country from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, which form part of the United Kingdom. Two different countries on one Island.
This arrangement caused continuous violence between those who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom known as the Unionists and those who wanted Northern Ireland to unify with the Republic of Ireland and they are known as Nationalists.
A referendum was held to determine this matter in 1973 but was only held in Northern Ireland and not in the Republic of Ireland so the Nationalists boycotted the polls and 99% of those who voted in Northern Ireland chose to remain in the United Kingdom.
A new agreement known as “The Goodfriday Agreement” has, however, been drawn, which makes provision for another unification referendum to be held in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The signing of the Goodfriday Agreement led to the cessation of hostilities between the two factions in Northern Ireland and there has been peace in that part of the world since then.
Every government that is concerned about the welfare of its people must learn to dialogue once in a while and realise that governance should not be a “winner-takes-all” affair. Every dialogue must be entered into with a view to achieving a “win-win” outcome.