Undoubtedly, Nigeria has entered a period of political uncertainty. With the next presidential election fast approaching, some politicians and experts are strongly advocating for, among others, a constitutional review considered as the best way to preserve peace and ensure stability in the country. The reviewed constitution will take into account the ethnic diversity and provide for equal representation of southern and eastern regions in the federal system of governance.
In an early September interview, Maazi OluchiIbe, a historian and a former lecturer at Gregory University, a private educational institution named after Pope Gregory, located in Uturu, Abia State of Nigeria, talks to Kester Kenn Klomegah, about the political developments, the reasons for economic disparity and the Biafrans’ unquenchable desire for political freedom and self-determination.
Do you consider an urgent constitutional review as the first step towards national integration in the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
I think it is better to look at this issue from the perspective of who, in the present-day Nigeria, wants integration. If the Hausa, Fulani, or Yoruba want integration or re-integration for that matter, they are welcomed to it. There is a section of Nigeria that has long gone beyond the idea of integration. That part is the Biafra which has been under forceful military occupation by Nigeria since 1970. Biafra gave Nigeria a clear, unambiguous path to integration at Aburi in 1967. What Biafrans saw clearly in 1967 is what the rest of Nigeria is contemplating today. Biafrans are also telling Nigerians today that that we saw 53 years ago is no longer tenable. Possibly in a couple of decades, Nigeria will wake up to that reality too.
The net minimum for any look at the Nigerian constitution is a simple declaration for a plebiscite amongst the people of Biafra for self-determination. That remains the only basis. However, it is important we let those who feel concerned and who think that a mere constitutional review will solve the Nigerian quagmire, to know that history our guide. Every Nigerian constitution was watered on the blood of Biafrans. From 1945, to as recent as August 25th, 2020 when young Biafrans holding a peaceful meeting were shot to death at Emene Enugu, it has been genocide and countless killings of Biafrans. What then is the guarantee that the next constitutional review will not follow suit?
We will not cease saying that what ails Nigeria is beyond constitution making and reviews. What ails Nigeria is the forceful amalgamation of incompatible entities into a geographical expression. Is it not callous that pre-war Europe made up of multi-ethnic nations who were mired in ceaseless wars until they unbundled through the creation of ethnic nations will turn round in Africa and create exactly what made old Europe unstable for centuries? Even the two Germans that were separated in 1945 have joined back together as one nation. That is the natural order of things. Same Europeans came to African and forced ethnic nation, some as twice the population of an average European nation, into forceful unions with others as large and they think it will stand? No, it will not stand as the former USSR has proved, ditto, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and in Africa, Eritrea, and Sudan. To further muddle the waters, the British allowed two contentious expansionist religions that are almost equal in population to live in one geographical space called Nigeria. What sort of idiotic experiment was that? Imagine what it has caused since 1914 in terms of human lives, mainly the lives of innocent Biafrans. No, it is not a constitutional review matter.
Why are there rising blatant criticisms about the current constitution adopted in 1999?
Simply because Nigeria has never had a constitution. Even the so called ‘famed’ 1963 Republican constitution was a gross failure and that was why the army step in a mere three years after its proclamation. The current infamous 1999 constitution was merely a baring of the fangs that in the past were covered with a glove. The ‘good’ thing about this constitution was that its criminal creators did not hide the fact that it was a creation of a military decree. Imagine the impunity and the blood cuddling guts of declaring a military decree as emanating from ‘We the People!’ That very first statement in that piece of paper was and is a blatant lie and they are not hiding the fact.
What are the narratives and the reasons for underdevelopment in the Biafra State?
Some of the greatest disaster that befell Biafra from the war of independence were so subtle that an unconscious mind will hardly notice them, while many were so conspicuous that they scream to the high heaves for all to see. For instance, the divide and rule system introduced by the British colonizers where perfected by the Fulani oligarchy that took over Nigeria with Biafrans at the receiving end.
Across a once peaceful land compared to what was obtainable in other sections of Nigeria, the conquering caliphate army imposed all sorts of divisions, ethnic, geographic, demographic, and so on. That is why today, they would rather want Biafrans to fight within themselves over artificial boundaries they created to divide us, like their British did. Such externally imposed divisive tendencies does not call for economic development. But, we are more conscious of such subtleties now.
In addition, there is what Professor Chidi Osuagwu, defined as the deprivation of Knowledge and its concomitant effect over the decades on Biafran economy. Professor Chidi Osuagwu, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo state, had done an article on Igbo deprivations in Nigeria from where the excerpt on the missionary school’s take over came from. Immediately after the war, the Nigerian caliphate government struck at the lifeblood of Biafran development, that is, the Missionary Schools. They took over the mission schools after the war aimed at slowing down and degrading the booming educational Sector in Biafraland that was the driver of Biafran progress. Today, the state of education in Biafralandviz-a-viz what was obtainable pre-Biafran war of independence speaks volume.
By consciously shutting down economic activities in Biafraland through strangulatory policies, significant amongst them the £20 policy, that is, giving Biafrans only £20 without putting into consideration whatever holdings Biafrans held in their prewar bank accounts which the conquering army confiscated. Their nationalization decree of 1972 that turned over all major companies and conglomerated into the Nigerian caliphate governments’ hands. Other examples are the policy of importing from far away Lagos instead of nearby Port Harcourt and other natural seaports available in Biafraland. Mind you, Port Harcourt seaport was opened as far back as 1917, but today lies fallow. The cumulative effect of these policies was the forceful dispersal of Biafran youths from our homeland. Today they remain the largest economic migrant group the whole of Africa.
These glaring constraints naturally forced an implosion leading to insecurities which were in turn blamed on the people and used as an excuse to militarize the land. Biafra is the most militarized region today in West Africa, if not the whole of Africa. Why not militarize the North with an ongoing war that has lasted over ten years?
Let us also not forget that by consciously imposing political leadership akin to the warrant chiefs the British imposed on Biafraland during the colonial period, the present Nigerian system has a grip on what gets done and what does not in Biafraland. What brings home the truth of the parlous economic situation in Biafraland today is not to compare it with what obtains in Northern Nigeria but to recall the fact the pre 1967 economic indices showed the then Eastern region (Biafra) as the fastest developing economy in the world.
How do you envisage women’s role in the current struggle for freedom, peace, and development in Biafra State?
Biafran women are the most resilient in Africa if not world over. Possibly no other group of women have passed through what they did and are still passing through in contemporary history. These were women who lost children, siblings, husbands, fathers, and mothers in the genocidal war Nigeria imposed on Biafra in 1967. 53 years after they are still forced to endure rapine, and harassment in their very homes and farms by terrorist herdsmen buoyed by Nigerian government. Yes, they are very patient but whenever their patience dissipates as it has, you are going to be confronted with a different level of struggle. No other people know this more than the British who thinking that Biafran women were as docile as their British counterpart of the early 20thcentury crossed the invisible line. The now famous Aba women war of 1929, remember was fought solely by Biafran women based on same issues as has been confronting their nation since 1970.
It is only in this part of the world that you have women having equal if not superior rights to men. That was why when confronted by the British judicial panel over the Aba women’s war, on why the women listened to their menfolk and went on rampage, the angry women leaders of the revolution had retorted, ‘here, men do not speak for us!’ This, when published in the British press in the 1930s was picked up by British women suffragettes and became their catchphrase, ‘here men do not speak for us, as reported by Harry Gailey. Gailey authored “The Road to Aba: A Study of British Administrative Policy in Eastern Nigeria” and was published by New York University Press in 1970.
Is human rights violations becoming a thorny issue in Nigeria? Why armed northern Islamic attacks on Christian-dominated southwestern and southeastern States?
Human rights violations and armed Northern Islamic attacks on Christians have gone beyond the description, ‘thorny.’ It is now an existential threat. It is a choreographed, preplanned attempt at not just ethnic cleansing but a grand Islamization conquest in their quest to ‘deep the Koran into the Atlantic,’ as promised them by their forebears. This is happening with impunity with tens of thousands killed as the world watch without lifting a finger. What did we do? Is it wrong to be Christian and Biafran? What makes our own Christianity different from that of the rest of the world that they have refused to help? How come all the international news media have refused mentioning the daily carnage? Who says Biafra with its 95% Christian population, an ancient democratic and republican system, sharing the best of contemporary Western ideas cannot be helped to be a bastion against militant Islamism that poses a great threat not just to Biafrans but the rest of the world? It is unbelievable.
Does Buhari’s administration recognize all the issues you have discussed above?
How can someone who subscribes to the philosophy that ‘Western knowledge’ is bad recognize any of these issues? These issues are diametrically opposed to his ideals and what he has come to execute. He has been sincere in stating, in clear terms, all he has been doing are pro-militant Islam and anti-westernization and modernity. Buhari’s administration is completely blind to these important facts. The federal government would rather exacerbate them than otherwise.
What are the expectations from regional organizations, especially the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and of course, the African Union?
They do not exist. There is no point wasting energy on things that do not exist unless we want to get entangled in an empty academic exercise. When last for instance did ECOWAS or African union make a statement on the daily bloodshed in Nigeria?
Unfortunately for ECOWAS, Africa and the Western world that have refused to raise a finger and are all seating on the sideline waiting for Nigeria to implode, that implosion will come sooner or later and when 200 million refuges start streaming all over Africa and into the Western world, a world that could not handle six million Syrian refuges, maybe, then all our eyes will open. This is the time for the world to halt the recalcitrant marauding Nigerian legal and illegal security forces bent on decapitating everything on their path to the total domination of our space.
This is the time for the world to force Nigeria to a round table. This forced amalgamation of 1914 has not worked and will never work. Our situation is not that of a window dressed constitutional review. We are all worlds apart. There is simply two diametrically opposed cosmological views that cannot live side by side in this space. It happened in India and in 1947/8, the British did the right thing – separated Hindu India and Islamic Pakistan. That right thing – separation, is our minimum demand.
West Africa: Extreme poverty rises nearly 3 per cent due to COVID-19
Extreme poverty in West Africa rose by nearly three per cent in 2020, another fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, a UN-backed report launched on Thursday that looks at the socio-impact of the crisis has revealed.
The proportion of people living on less than $1.90 a day jumped from 2.3 per cent last year to 2.9 per cent in 2021, while the debt burden of countries increased amid slow economic recovery, shrinking fiscal space and weak resource mobilization.
More than 25 million across the region are struggling to meet their basic food needs.
The study was published by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in partnership with the West Africa Sub-Regional Office for the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
Sekou Sangare, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water resources, said the pandemic has, in particular, annihilated benefits gained in fighting food insecurity and malnutrition.
“Even if we are happy with the governments’ response through the mitigation actions they have taken, we have to worry about the residual effects of the health and economic crisis as they are likely to continue disturbing our food systems for a long time while compromising populations access to food, due to multiple factors,” he said.
The report highlights the effects of measures aimed at preventing coronavirus spread, such as border closures, movement restrictions and disruption of supply chains.
Forced to sell
These measures had an impact on income-generating activities, and on food prices in markets, with small traders, street vendors and casual workers most affected.
The deteriorating economic situation has adversely affected food security and nutrition in West Africa.
More than 25 million people are unable to meet their basic food needs, a nearly 35 per cent increase compared to 2020. People have been forced to sell their assets and livelihoods in order to get enough to eat.
The situation is most severe in those areas affected by conflict, such as the Lake Chad Basin region, the Sahel, and the Liptako-Gourma region, which borders Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
Strengthen social protection
The partners hope the report will encourage public and private response to address the pandemic’s negative impacts on the people of West Africa.
Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa, underscored the need for immediate and concerted action.
“This report clearly shows the urgent need for Governments and partners to deliberately increase investments to strengthen and increase social protection programs, social safety-nets such as school meals, and other livelihoods-enhancing programs with particular emphasis on women and youth,” he said.
The Director of the ECA’s Sub-Regional Office, Ngone Diop, pointed to one of the strengths of the partnership, namely the ability to carry out an online survey which mobilized nearly 8,000 respondents.
Moreover, she said “basing our analyses on primary, first-hand data from households directly impacted by the health crisis makes it possible to offer decision-makers at the regional and national levels with relevant and better-targeted policy options.”
Responding to needs
Since the outbreak of the pandemic nearly three years ago, ECOWAS and its partners have implemented several economic and financial measures to respond to the increasing needs in the region.
ECOWAS Member States, with support from WFP and other technical partners, have also expanded social protection programmes, as well as food distributions, for the most vulnerable communities.
For example, In Mali and Niger, they are supporting some 1.4 million people and helping to strengthen national social protection systems.
“WFP is committed to engage more with ECOWAS in enhancing coordination and facilitating experience sharing among countries, with the aim to ensure social protection systems in the region support food security and nutrition and provide resilience to shocks,” said Mr. Nikoi.
Pragmatic Proposals to Optimize Russia’s Pledged Rehabilitation of Ethiopia
Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Evgeny Terekhin pledged that his homeland will help rehabilitate his hosts after getting a clearer understanding of the full extent of the damage that the terrorist-designated Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) inflicted on the northern part of the country throughout the course of its approximately half-year-long occupation of the Afar and Amhara Regions. China’s Xinhua recently cited official Ethiopian government statistics about this which claim that the Amhara Region suffered damages upwards of approximately $5.7 billion.
According to their data, the TPLF partially or fully damaged 1,466 health facilities and vandalized water, electricity, and transport infrastructure. 1.9 million children are out of school in that region after more than 4,000 schools were damaged by the group. Over 1.8 million people were displaced from the Afar and Amhara Regions while 8.3 million there are suffering from food insecurity. The scale of this humanitarian crisis is massive and the direct result of the US-led West’s Hybrid War on Ethiopia that was waged to punish the country for its balanced foreign policy between the US and China.
It’s here where Russia can rely on its recent experiences in helping to rehabilitate Syria and the Central African Republic (CAR) in order to optimize its pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopian. Those two countries are much more war-torn than Ethiopia is, the latter of which only saw fighting in its northern regions instead of the entirety of its territory like the prior two did. The most urgent task is to ensure security in the liberated areas, which can be advanced by summer 2021’s military cooperation agreement between Russia and Ethiopia.
This pact could potentially see Russia sharing more details of its earlier mentioned experiences in order to enhance the Ethiopian National Defense Force’s (ENDF) security and stabilization operations in the northern part of the country. Syria and the CAR survived very intense Hybrid Wars that utilized cutting-edge military tactics and strategies against them similar to those that were subsequently directed against Ethiopia by the TPLF. It would help the ENDF to learn more about the challenges connected to ensuring security in areas that have been liberated from such contemporary Hybrid War forces.
The next order of business is to help the many victims of that country’s humanitarian crisis. Russia’s experience with assisting Syria in this respect, which suffered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in decades, can be of use to Ethiopia. This is especially the case when it comes to aiding its internally displaced people. Their immediate needs must be met and maintained, which might require urgent support from that country’s trusted partners such as Russia. Provisioning such in an effective and timely manner can also improve Russia’s international reputation too, especially among Africans.
Northern Ethiopia’s post-war rehabilitation must be comprehensive and sustainable. The country’s Medemer philosophy — which has been translated as “coming together” – will form the basis of these efforts. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed touched upon this in his 2019 Nobel Peace Prize speech and his book of the same name that was released earlier that year. Its English translation hasn’t yet been published but Medemer was explained at length by high-level Ethiopian officials during an early 2020 US Institute of Peace panel talk and in Ethiopian writer Linda Yohannes’ insightful book review.
An oversimplification of it in the economic context is that Medemer preaches the need for comprehensive, inclusive, and sustainable growth through public-private and other partnerships that bring prosperity to all of its people, which in turn strengthens socio-political relations between them. It seeks to apply positive aspects of foreign models while avoiding the bad ones. The Medemer mentality aspires to balance cooperation with competition, constantly improving itself as needed, in order to synchronize and synergize Ethiopia’s natural economic advantages in people, location, and resources.
In practice, this could see Russian public and private companies partnering with Ethiopia’s primarily public ones to rehabilitate the northern regions’ damaged infrastructure. Since sustainable growth is one of Medemer’s key concepts, the country’s Russian partners could also train more laborers, social workers, teachers, and doctors throughout the course of these projects while offering scholarships to some internally displaced youth for example. In that way, Russia and Ethiopia could truly embody the Medemer spirit by literally bringing their people closer together as a result of these noble efforts.
All the while, Russia’s international media flagships of RT and Sputnik should be active on the ground documenting the entire experience. The immense influence that Moscow has in shaping global perceptions can be put to positive use in exposing the foreign-backed TPLF’s countless crimes against humanity in northern Ethiopia. This can powerfully counteract the US-led West’s information warfare campaign against its government, which misportrays the TPLF as innocent victims of the “genocidal” ENDF, exactly as similar Russian media efforts have done in debunking Western lies against Syria.
The world wouldn’t only benefit by learning more about the US-led West’s lies against Ethiopia, but also in seeing how effectively Russia is working to reverse the damage that their TPLF proxies inflicted in the northern part of that country. Russia is also a victim of their information warfare campaign, which misportrays the Kremlin as a dangerous and irresponsible international actor. The truth, however, is that Russia is a peaceful and responsible international actor that has a documented track record of cleaning up the West’s Hybrid War messes in Syria, the CAR, and prospectively soon even Ethiopia too.
Upon taking the lead in rehabilitating northern Ethiopia, Russia should diversify the stakeholders in that country’s prosperity in coordination with its hosts. It’s in Ethiopia’s interests as well to receive assistance from as many responsible and trusted partners as possible. Russia can help by requesting that relevant aid and multilateral rehabilitation efforts be placed on the agenda of the proposed heads of state meeting between the Russian, Indian, and Chinese (RIC) leaders that presidential aide Yury Ushakov said was discussed for early 2022 during President Putin’s latest video call with President Xi in December.
The RIC countries stood with in solidarity with Ethiopia at the United Nations in the face of the US-led West’s subversive attempts to weaponize international law against it. They’re strong economies in their own right, not to mention through their cooperation via BRICS and the SCO, the latter organization of which also has anti-terrorist and other security dimensions. These two multipolar platforms could potentially be used to extend economic, financial, humanitarian, and security cooperation to their Ethiopian partner to complement bilateral and trilateral efforts in this respect.
Russia’s increasingly strategic ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could also lead to Moscow working more closely with Abu Dhabi on related rehabilitation matters with their shared partners in Addis Ababa. Observers shouldn’t forget that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ) played a crucial role in brokering peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2018. He even awarded their leaders his country’s highest civil honor when they both visited the UAE that summer. Furthermore, Al Jazeera alleges that the UAE has maintained a humanitarian (and possibly even military) air bridge to Ethiopia.
Regardless of whether or not the military aspect of this reported bridge is true or not, there’s no denying that the UAE has emerged as a major stakeholder in Ethiopia’s success. It deposited $1 billion in Ethiopia’s central bank in summer 2018 as part of its $3 billion aid and investment pledge at the time. The UAE also plans to build an Eritrean-Ethiopian oil pipeline in order to help the latter export its newly tapped reserves in the southeast. Additionally, DP World signed a memorandum with Ethiopia in May 2021 to build a $1 billion trade and logistics corridor to separatist Somaliland’s Berbera port.
Considering the closeness of Emirati-Ethiopian relations, it would therefore be fitting for RIC to incorporate the UAE as an equal partner into any potential multilateral plan that those countries might come up with during their proposed heads of state summit sometime in early 2022. It enjoys excellent relations with all three of them so it’s a perfect fit for complementing their shared efforts. Plus, the UAE has the available capital needed to invest in high-quality, long-term, but sometimes very expensive infrastructure projects, which can ensure northern Ethiopia’s sustainable rehabilitation.
It’s pivotal for Russia to prioritize its pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia ahead of the second triennial Russia-Africa Summit that’s expected to take place in October or November after fall 2019’s first-ever summit saw Russia return to Africa following a nearly three-decade-long hiatus. Coincidentally, Ethiopia requested last April to hold the next event in Addis Ababa. That would be a sensible choice since its capital city hosts the African Union headquarters, has sufficient infrastructure, and can serve most of the continent through its Ethiopian Airlines, which regularly wins awards as Africa’s best airline.
The interest that Ethiopian Ambassador to Russia Alemayehu Tegunu recently expressed in courting more Russian investment ahead of the next summit goes perfectly well with Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Terekhin’s vow to heighten cooperation between those countries’ ruling parties. This in turn raises the chances that the present piece’s proposals could hopefully serve as the blueprint for beginning relevant discussions as soon as possible on Russia’s pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia with a view towards achieving tangible successes ahead of the next Russia-Africa Summit.
That timing is so important since Russia mustn’t miss the opportunity to showcase its bespoke “Democratic Security” model in Ethiopia. This emerging concept refers to the comprehensive thwarting of Hybrid War threats through economic, informational, military, and other tactics and strategies such as the action plan that was proposed in the present piece. “Democratic Security” approaches vary by country as evidenced from the differing ones that Russia’s practicing in Syria and the CAR, but the concept could attract many more African partners if it’s successful in Ethiopia by next fall’s summit.
Russia must therefore do everything in its power to bring this best-case scenario about. Rehabilitating Ethiopia won’t just improve millions of lives, expose the war crimes committed by the US-led West’s TPLF proxies, and enable Russia to showcase its “Democratic Security” model to other African countries, but ensure that the continent’s historical fountainhead of anti-imperialism and pan-Africanism survives its existential struggle. Upon that happening, Ethiopia can then serve to inspire a revival of these ideas all across Africa through its complementary Medemer concept and thus strengthen multipolarity.
From our partner RIAC
Decade of Sahel conflict leaves 2.5 million people displaced
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on Friday for concerted international action to end armed conflict in Africa’s central Sahel region, which has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee their homes in the last decade.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the agency’s spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov, informed that internal displacement has increased tenfold since 2013, going from 217,000 to a staggering 2.1 million by late last year.
The number of refugees in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger now stands at 410,000, and the majority comes from Mali, where major civil conflict erupted in 2012, leading to a failed coup and an on-going extremist insurgency.
Increase in one year
Just last year, a surge in violent attacks across the region displaced nearly 500,000 people (figures for December still pending).
According to estimates from UN partners, armed groups carried out more than 800 deadly attacks in 2021.
This violence uprooted some 450,000 people within their countries and forced a further 36,000 to flee into a neighbouring country.
In Burkina Faso alone, the total number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) rose to more than 1.5 million by the end of the year. Six in ten of the Sahel’s displaced are now from this country.
In Niger, the number of IDPs in the regions of Tillabéri and Tahoua has increased by 53 per cent in the last 12 months. In Mali, more than 400,000 people are displaced internally, representing a 30 per cent increase from the previous year.
Climate, humanitarian crisis
Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating with crises on multiple fronts.
Insecurity is the main driver, made worse by extreme poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the climate crisis are also felt more strongly in the region, with temperatures rising 1.5 times faster than the global average.
Women and children are often the worst affected and disproportionately exposed to extreme vulnerability and the threat of gender-based violence.
According to the UNHCR spokesperson, “host communities have continued to show resilience and solidarity in welcoming displaced families, despite their own scant resources.”
He also said that Government authorities have demonstrated “unwavering commitment” to assisting the displaced, but they are now “buckling under increasing pressure.”
UNHCR and humanitarian partners face mounting challenges to deliver assistance, and continue to be the target of road attacks, ambushes, and carjacking.
In this context, the agency is calling on the international community to take “bold action and spare no effort” in supporting these countries.
UNHCR is also leading the joint efforts of UN agencies and NGOs to provide emergency shelter, manage displacement sites and deliver vital protection services, including combating gender-based violence and improving access to civil documentation.
In 2021, more than a third of the agency’s Central Sahel funding needs were unmet.
This year, to mount an effective response in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, the agency needs $307 million.
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