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POLITICAL ACTION AND SECESSION MOVEMENT IN NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
Change in political administration plays a significant role in the proliferation of conflicts in Nigeria; ranging from Boko-haram, Niger-delta crises and Biafra agitation.
Many keen observers of political development in Nigeria will agree to the fact that, one of the greatest challenges the country is currently facing is the seemingly unending spate of crises across the entire land (Egwu, 2002).
Today, the country parades several yet-to-be-resolved crises, including those of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East of Nigeria since 2009; intermittent religious clashes between Muslims and Christians which have claimed many lives, especially in Kaduna State since 2016; incessant conflict between farmers and herdsmen which was somewhat limited to the north initially, but now a nightmare in several communities in South-East and South-West; the resumption of ethnic militancy through the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) in the South-South, which has almost crippled the nation’s economy; and of course, the continuous agitation for the creation of the state of Biafra separate from the Nigerian State by emerging groups like the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in South-East.
Apart from the general sense of insecurity created by these protracted crises, other associated problems include inter-ethnic tension, economic depression, religious intolerance, bureaucratic corruption and many more. Studies, including those of Eteng (1998); Naanen (1995); Kukah (1993); Osadolor (2004); Olufemi (2005); and Egwu (2005); have however shown that many of these crises are highly rooted in age-long dissatisfaction and discontents against successive government policies and actions by the masses across the country. For instance, there were pockets of resistance and criticism against the structural imbalance of Nigeria’s federalism since independence, controversial revenue sharing formula, ethnicity and ethnic politics, religious intolerance and violence, human rights abuse during the first and second republics.
The passage of time equally witnessed mind provoking issues like agitation for resource control, complaints of political marginalization, demand for power shift and rotational presidency, etc. Many of these agitations remained unresolved till today. The study wishes to examine political action and secession movement in Nigeria using Biafra as the case study.
1.2 THEORITICAL FRAMEWORK
The relative deprivation theory will be used for the purpose of the research work. The theory is based upon the view that the fundamental causes of political violence are the social and economic forces that operates within society.
1.2.1 Relative deprivation theory
The relative deprivation theory was first developed by Runciman to explain attitudes of social inequality in twentieth-century England. The major tenet of relative deprivation theory describes that people deprived of the things of high importance or necessity in their society – such as status, money, rights and justice among others – tend to join social movements with the hope or expectation that their grievances or dissatisfaction will be attended to. Thus, Runciman recognise ‘egoistic deprivation which refers to a single individual’s feeling of comparative deprivation and fraternal deprivation, also called group deprivation… refers to the discontent arising from the status of the entire group as compared to a referent group.’ Flynn see Singer noted that fraternal deprivation may strengthen a group’s collective identify. Flynn argued that relative deprivation theory belongs to the larger body of interdisciplinary work known as social movement theory. Social movement theory, as described by Flynn, began in the late 19th century and includes the study of social mobilization, including its social, cultural, political manifestation and consequences.
This theory has been critiqued by scholars for failing to explain the reason that some people who feel marginalised do not take action by joining social movements. This theory has been further contested by researchers of relative deprivation theory, who point out that the factors of the theory fail to indicate another unseen factor that moves individuals or groups of people towards social movement, which is ‘the will or their will.’32 The ‘will’ suggests that individuals are propelled into, or determine to join, a social movement whose activity they believe can address their discontent or marginality within society and work to resolve the prejudices they face. In other words, individuals engaged in social movements activities believe in the strength of their ‘willpower’ to help them achieve meaningful results. A denial or removal of this willpower prevents some individuals from joining, despite facing the same problems or issues as those who join social movement activities. On the other hand, Gurr explains relative deprivation in relation to the psychological frustration-aggression theory which argues that the ‘raison d’etre’ of human attitude to violence is the mechanism inherent in frustration-aggression. Though Gurr notes that frustration does not explicitly imply violence, when it is sufficient and prolonged it often leads to anger which degenerates into violence. The ‘relative deprivation’ hypothesis of Gurr portrays the discrepancy between what people think they deserve and what they can actually get. Gurr emphasise that the propensity for collective violence strongly differs with the intensity and scope of relative deprivation among collective members. Making inferences from Gurr’s ideas concerning relative depravation theory, it becomes evident that the struggle for a separate Biafra is the expression of frustrations held in common by collective members of relative ‘homogeneous’ societies. The frustrations and agitations conveyed by the members of Biafra is not always or inherently violent, as explained by Gurr, but can take on violent dimensions when prolonged. The primary grievances among those who struggle for Biafra varies; some of these variations manifest in what the peoples of Biafra feel they deserve, such as good standard of living in society, or else what they hope to achieve if such demands are not met, such as separation from Nigeria in order to address these issues through a new government of their own – one which shows due concern for its people.
Rationale behind the Choice of Relative Deprivation Theory on the Biafra Case Study
Relative deprivation theory describes an individual or group experience that occurs when people are deprived of something they either hold dear or feel entitled to. It explains the economic, political and social deprivation that is relative rather than absolute; based on perceptions of justice and self-worth just as much as on the need to fulfill basic human rights. Moreover, relative depravation theory highlights poverty and social exclusion. The consequences of relative deprivation manifest through behaviours and attitudes, feelings of stress, political attitudes and participation in collective action. The grievances as defined through the deprivation aspect of this theory are considered instrumental in analysing the convolutions of inequality and the ‘raison d’être’ of the Biafran separatist movement and agitations in Nigeria. In other words, the theory explains the Biafra agitations as responses to deprivation and inequality that led to Biafran grievances, and explains in part the motivations for protests and rebellion against the state which is perceived as failing or insecure
1.3 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF BIAFRA
In 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Six years later, the Muslim Hausas in northern Nigeria began massacring the Christian Igbos in the region, prompting tens of thousands of Igbos to flee to the east, where their people were the dominant ethnic group. The Igbos doubted that Nigeria’s oppressive military government would allow them to develop, or even survive, so on May 30, 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu and other non-Igbo representatives of the area established the Republic of Biafra, comprising several states of Nigeria.
After diplomatic efforts by Nigeria failed to reunite the country, war between Nigeria and Biafra broke out in July 1967. Ojukwu’s forces made some initial advances, but Nigeria’s superior military strength gradually reduced Biafran territory. The state lost its oil fields–its main source of revenue–and without the funds to import food, an estimated one million of its civilians died as a result of severe malnutrition. On January 11, 1970, Nigerian forces captured the provincial capital of Owerri, one of the last Biafran strongholds, and Ojukwu was forced to flee to the Ivory Coast. Four days later, Biafra surrendered to Nigeria.
1.4 STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM
The study came up due to the bottled-up problems that are directly or indirectly linked with cases of secessionist movements and threats of secession in Nigeria’s federation in the recent past. To drive this point home, we wish to recall here that Ralph Nowazuirike’s MASSOB declaration of Biafra State in 2000 was an immediate response to the Sharia crisis which resulted into the killings of many Ibos in the North same year (Awofeso, 2005). Likewise, the Yoruba leaders rose from a meeting on October 8, 2015 at Ibadan to issue a communiqué tantamount to threat of secession in reaction to the kidnapping and maltreatment of one of their leaders, Chief Olu Falae, by the Fulani herdsmen in South-west. Part of the communique issued at the end of the meeting which called for urgent restructuring of Nigeria to reflect true federalism reads thus:
If we do not see any step in this direction within a reasonable time, the Yoruba may consider their place in a union that cannot protect them and would not allow them to protect themselves and use all legitimate and peaceful means to attain self-determination (The Paradigm: October 9, 2015). Another major concern for other researchers is that several research has been done on crises, separation and secession movement in Nigeria but not even a single study has been done on political action and secession movement in Nigeria; hence a gap in the literature.
1.5 THE AIM OF THE STUDY
The main aim of the research work is to examine the political action and secession movement in Nigeria.
1.6 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
Other specific objectives of study include:
1.7 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The study came up with research questions so as to ascertain the above stated objectives. The specific research questions for the study are stated below as follows:
1.8 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Qualitative research with an instrumental case study approach was adopted for this study. This study is an exploratory study focused on learning about and depicting a theoretical idea in a real life context. It is a study of a particular experience of the phenomenon of separatist agitations/movements, with a view to further exploration of the indicators of human security and, conversely, state failure. The instrumental case study provides an insight into the resurgence of the Biafra separatist agitation phenomenon, insight which might help to inform academic and political leaders wishing to dissolve separatist agitations through inclusive developmental projects that foster harmony in this heterogeneous nation. The adoption of an instrumental approach for this study helps to refine the theory adapted to the specific context of the historic Biafran movement.
1.9 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
The study on political action and secession movement in Nigeria will be of immense benefit to the federal government of Nigeria, the south-south, south east, south-west, the entire Biafrans, the oduduwa, the arewa and other researchers that wishes to carry out similar research on the above topic as the findings of the study will educate the masses on the major cause of secession movement and political actions in Nigeria, the study will also proffer solution to the causes of secession in Nigeria. The study will also contribute to the body of the existing literature.
1.10 SCOPE OF STUDY
The study on political action and secession movement in Nigeria is focused on Biafra and the secession movement. The study will cover other areas like the major cause of secession movement and political actions in Nigeria; the study will also cover the role of the federal government of Nigeria in the resolution of secession movement in Nigeria
1.11 LIMITATION OF STUDY
Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet).
Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work
1.12 DEFINITION OF TERMS
SECESSION MOVEMENT: is the withdrawal of a group from a larger entity, especially a political entity (a country), but also any organization, union or military alliance.
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