Opinion / Editorial

It’s Morning Yet On Biafra! by Olisa Akukwe

Yesterday, I wrote and published in the social media, my opinion on the call for boycott of Anambra election and call for Referendum.

In the ensuing debate, I read all sorts of arguments on why Referendum will come from boycott, amidst dollops of unhinged insults!!

Initially I took some of the arguments as mere attempts to win a diatribe with cheap shots. But as I began to read similar lines of dissection from even those I expected to know, I concluded that the discourse needed more depth. Of course the retailers in insults are still welcome.

Let me clearly state that I am a believer in a free Igbo nation, if it is democratic, meritocratic and free market oriented. Currently, I don’t think Ndi Igbo has really held a Confab to decide what they really want. This is the reason for the apparently discordant tunes from Ohanaeze, IPOB, Bilie Human Rights, MASSOB etc.

Back to the self determination issue. One of the arguments proposed was that Bakassi peninsula was excised from Nigeria, without Referendum. Likewise, it has become a precedence for Biafra leaving Nigeria. I attempted to set that record straight in the follow up comments. However for clarity, I will repeat it here.

Bakassi case has nothing in common with the Biafran struggle, sui generis. Bakassi matter was a case between two sovereign nations, Nigeria and Cameroun. Biafra case is not. In Bakassi matter, Cameroun took Nigeria to the international court of justice in Hague on March 28 1994, over her claims on Bakassi peninsula. The case lasted till October 2, 2002 when the ICJ ruled in favour of Cameroun. Both countries had already agreed to abide by the judgement before the case ensued.

It is important to note that the ICJ entertains only cases between Sovereign nations!! ICJ cannot, under any international law, entertain a case brought by Biafra advocates against Nigeria. This is law, not sentiments. Biafra is not a Sovereign nation, yet!

Another argument projected, under thunderous insults, was how any Constitution that stands in variance with international Human Rights laws of UN cannot stand!! This argument was repeated with such certainty. I found it crazily esoteric!

I wondered how come North Korea still exist? I wondered how come Myanmar still operate? I wondered how come all the military govts in Nigeria existed? I wondered how all the dictatorial govts in the world existed? When it’s obvious they do not conform to international Human Rights laws? I discovered that even well learned Igbo persons are now substituting propaganda & conjecture, for knowledge and facts.

The much touted International Bill of Rights, was inaugurated via the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by UN on 10, December 1948. It was followed in 1968 by the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights, AND the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights. These three Covenant form the International Bill of Rights or the International Human Rights.

Self determination is the Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights AND on the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights. Self determination in these Covenants did not mandate specific policies, just like other rights in those Covenants and Declaration! In fact from the practice, judgements and deliberations of UN human rights committee and Court, countries retain wide latitude on how they put all human rights into practice.

All pragmatic leaders in this struggle must acknowledge that UN charter proclaims that it is based on “sovereign equality of all members”! The ICJ has no police force to enforce it’s judgement. It relies on the willing submission of member states. In extreme cases, on the force of powerful states against weak states.

So people who are thinking or feeling that UN will force Nigeria or compell Nigeria to conduct Referendum, are in dreamland! Nigeria and every country in the world break the laws contained in the International Bill of Rights. Each country break different ones, at different times depending on prevailing circumstances.

Let us take Nigeria vs Nnamdi Kanu’s case. Nigeria broke several of the International Bill of Rights, of which she is signatory, several times in the course of about 82 weeks Mazi Kanu was in detention! What did UN do? Nothing!!

Nnamdi Kanu was arbitrarily arrested and detained. This was against Article 9 of Universal Declaration and Article 9 of Covenant on Cultural & Political Rights. What did UN do? Nothing.

Hearing before Independent & Impartial Judiciary is Article 10 of both Universal Declaration AND Covenant on Political Rights. Was it applied for Mazi Kanu? No. Did UN sanction Nigeria, No!

Presumption of innocence is Article 11 of the Universal Declaration and Article 15 of Covenant on Political Rights. Buhari, while Kanu was in detention, declared him guilty in a nationally televised interview. And vowed to keep Kanu jailed, irrespective of court ruling. A promise he kept. Did UN sanction him? No!
I can go on and on!!

The point is that these international Human Rights are often breached by Sovereign member nations of UN. Without consequences. Sovereignty often trump human rights in international politics! That is real politics. UN never sanctioned China over Tiannamen square incident. Only powerful nations like US imposed salutary sanctions, that were lifted not long after.

Nigeria has breached and continues to breach a lot of the International Bill of Rights, which she is signatory to. Nigeria yet remains an influential UN member state. We need to know that it is only astute politics that can grant ndi Igbo Biafra, if that is really what we want. Not boycotting politics. That call for boycott is simply an exercise in ego. Even after boycott, we must go back to politics to pursue actualisation.

It took the separatist movements of Spain 20 years to get devolution of power, and inclusion of Referendum in their statute. Every body that follows International history will remember that the ETA aka Basque separatist movement used to be one of the most dreaded terrorist group in the world. They arose in the struggle for self determination for Basque country in Spain. However it took the formation of political parties that won control of Basque region in several elections, to engage Madrid & accomplish acceptance of Referendum.

Today I hear about Catalan Referendum. This was also achieved through political parties and political process, and like I pointed out earlier, took about 2 decades to be achieved.
It was not done or accomplished by UN. It was by politics!!

We are not the only indigenous people seeking for self determination, globally. We know the Scots are. The Quebecs are. Of course the Basques and Catalonians. For these regions, their Constitution or laws recognise Referendum.

However there is even an ethnic nation with a more compelling case for self determination. They have been fighting for it for decades , yet UN has not been the knight in shining armour some people try to make them in Biafra’s case. I am talking of the Kurds of South East Turkey.

The Kurds are not even allowed to use Kurdish language in the schools in their region. They are not allowed to practice their cultural identity. The Turkish courts prevent Kurds from even giving their kids Kurdish names. If you broadcast in Kurdish you can go to jail. It is fair to say the Kurds probably are more discriminated against than the Igbos of Nigeria.
Yet, UN has not rallied to force Turkey to grant them self determination or conduct Referendum for them. Turkey simply doesn’t want to. And the Kurds after trying militancy via the PKK, has not fully unified in politics of emancipation. Hence they continue to suffer in the full glare of the world and UN!!

The point of this message is to tell Ndi Igbo that self determination can only come through political process. May we not waste the political capital of the Biafran movement. UN is not about to come and organise any Referendum. Neither are they going to force Nigeria to organise one. It is only by pulling our full political weight, as a people, through political negotiations with other ethnic nationalities that we can get Referendum into our Statutes. It can only come via political process. Except some people are secretly pining for war!!

Even after all boycottables are boycotted, we must make recourse to political process. Under the laws of Nigeria. Why not approach the struggle in a multi-faceted way? With pragmatic idealism.

As Prof Chinua Achebe of hallowed memory wrote, “It’s morning yet on creation day”!

Olisa Akukwe

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