Nigeria: Indigenous People and their Right to Self-Determination

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Nigeria: Indigenous People and their Right to Self-Determination
Ndidi Uwechue
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28th September 2020

 

Between years 2000 and 2002, a full one-third of the states of Nigeria declared that they would be governed by Islamic Sharia. These are twelve adjoining states in the core north also known as the Arewa region.  In taking up Sharia for themselves, Arewa took up their entitlement to self-determination, and were not criminalised or penalised for it. In characteristic Nigerian fashion of confusing matters, although the 1999 Constitution (Section 10) that it operates mandates that Nigeria must be a secular country, it is also known that this Constitution is a forgery, thus null and void, and invalid. Therefore could it be that Arewa simply ignored the Constitution being unwilling to keep to the demands of an illegitimate social contract? What is clear is that Arewa wanted self-determination so Arewa took up self-determination and used Sharia to do so! Sharia had been in practice in Arewa long before the British colonial era, and there, it is taken as an indispensable part of Islamic living and Moslem rights. So far, only Arewa has used their right to self-determination. None of the other regions of Nigeria have done so, but the clamour for self-determination by various ethnic nationalities that started before the Biafra Civil War in 1967 is increasing and seems quite determined. And why not? Arewa has achieved it, plus it is the right of indigenous people to practice self-determination.

 

Self-determination is the will matched with the ability to decide and then do, for self, or group, or nation. The opposite of self-determination is slavery.

An individual or a nation can be enslaved. When a nation is enslaved the people have nothing to look forward to. Their hopes, dreams and desires will never be realised. Their God-given potentials will be wasted or be used in the service of others, who are their masters. An enslaved people are made to know that their life counts for nothing, and their frustrations and pain will go unheeded and unaddressed. To worsen it all, an enslaved people also know that their children will suffer a similar fate, of wasted lives.

 

In Nigeria, the systems have been structured so that the powers-that-be actively deny the people those things that are for their progress and welfare such as electricity, security, normal medical services, proper educational institutions, and all the basic infrastructure such as waste management, housing, roads, public transport, sanitation, potable water, and a sense of purposeful existence.

 

There are various forms of abuse, neglect is one of them. When a helpless infant cries for care but those cries are completely ignored, and the infant left to suffer, he soon learns to be silent because help and care will not come. Many in Nigeria have retreated into silence in the face of the abusive environment created and maintained by those in leadership positions. This is exactly what the ruling elite want. They want the enslaved to suffer in silence (so they themselves can cavort in peace).

 

Nevertheless, whenever a people have been bound down, there are always those very few whose minds and spirits refuse the injustices heaped upon the people and who are convinced that since all men are born free, they therefore must live free, and that means having self-determination. The right to self-determination is the right of a people to determine their own way of life and their destiny. It is defined as “the right of a country and its people to choose their own government and political systems.”

 

Self-determination is recognized as a basic human right that allows peaceful coexistence between nations, and it is a pillar of the United Nations (UN). The UN Charter consists of a preamble and nineteen chapters that are divided into 111 articles. Chapter 1, article 1 emphasises the principle of self-determination viz, “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples…”

 

As life in Nigeria becomes increasingly burdensome, ethnic nationalities particularly in the Middle Belt and South – Arewa already having self-determination by virtue of Sharia – concluded that self-determination is the way forward for them too. Thus, earlier in 2020, the Yoruba nation (through the advocacy of the Yoruba World Congress), and the Igbo nation (through the advocacy of Biafra Independence Movement) became the 45th and 46th members respectively of the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization (UNPO). On this development, Professor Banji Akintoye, of the Yoruba World Congress speaking about the UNPO said, “[It] is an international membership-based organization established to empower the voices of unrepresented and marginalized peoples worldwide and to protect their fundamental human rights. It was formed on 11 February 1991 in The Hague, Netherlands. Its members consist of indigenous peoples, minorities, unrecognized peoples or peoples of occupied territories. UNPO works to develop understanding of, and respect for, the right to self-determination, provides advice and support related to questions of international recognition and political autonomy; trains groups on how to advocate their causes effectively, legally, devoid of violence; and directly advocates an international response to human rights violations perpetrated against UNPO member nations or groups.” Furthermore, given all they suffer in the Union with Nigeria, the Ogoni became a member of the UNPO as far back as in 1993, through the advocacy of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People.

 

It is the imposed sham 1999 Nigeria Constitution not made by “we the people” as it falsely claims, that denies the people self-determination. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this Constitution brings about a system of Apartheid particularly against the indigenous people of the Middle Belt and South. By all developmental indices, they have been denied the right to promote the economic, educational, social and cultural well-being of their ancestral lands. Just as had been the case for Apartheid South Africa, any honest observer of Nigeria would see that the system imposed on Nigerian people “constitutes a violation of the fundamental rights of that people, a crime against humanity and a threat to regional peace and security”.

 

In conclusion, the self-determination that our forefathers had insisted upon as a condition to be in the Union called Nigeria has been removed by an imposed sham 1999 Constitution that enslaves the people of Nigeria. Many have fled the country, but since we cannot all escape Nigeria and head to Europe, the Americas, the Orient and Arabia to become a burden on others, we must fix this territory. Arewa has already obtained self-determination with its Sharia. The Middle Belt and South must also now seek their own right to self-determination. There is a  multi-ethnic Alliance working towards self-determination, the Movement for New Nigeria that comprises several groups going by the names of Yoruba World Congress, Middle Belt Congress, and Lower Niger Congress (South-East and South-South together), working under the aegis of the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS).

 

The state of Nigeria, with a disgracefully obtained Constitution are evidence of wrong things having been done. For the sake of the next generation, and the security of Western Africa, we now must live out an Alternative Culture that chooses to do the right thing. The UN Charter as well as the African Union, plus international law, all make self-determination a cardinal principle for indigenous people in their ancestral lands.

 

Leaders and politicians should recognise that this is a new open world where human rights and civil rights count. Where the use of state power to threaten, harass and kill citizens in their peaceful pursuit of their rights, will bring international consequences on those responsible. Nigeria now fits the description of a Rogue State made possible by denial of self-determination for indigenous ethnic nationalities, who, had they the power over their own destiny, would have prevented such. The world is watching. Actions and inactions are being recorded. So let’s do the right thing.

This post was written by Ndidi Uwechue.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.

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