Of Kurds, Referendums, Nigeria Senate, and Biafra -By Ozuomba Egwuonwu

Filed under: Democracy & Governance |


The major observation that would be most relevant to Nigerian political watchers in the ongoing Iraqi Kurdish referendum is that Referendums could as well emerge as an independent political choice of a people or peoples irrespective of the non-deference of the host sovereign entity. In other words, in the case of Nigerian, IPOB needed not have demanded for referendum from Nigeria. Like the Kurds are currently doing with Iraqi government, IPOB could have just as well gone ahead and organized a referendum provided that the peoples concerned would have been willing to participate in the process and that it made adequate arrangement towards arriving at credible and independently verifiable results
This observation coupled with the altercations emanating from the Senate and the Eastern Governors on the one hand and feedbacks reportedly from US, Europe, and by extension the international community on the other hand on IPOB, leaves Nigerian open to all sorts of possible effect of consequences of some kind of referendum on the Biafran question.

As things stand, there lurks in the horizon three, presently equal pathways to a referendum on the Biafra question, the destinations and their consequences however would be anything but equal.
Pathway one emerges in the event that the South East Peoples and or states achieves some form of united and cohesive front on the Biafran question. These scenario lurks as a possible options giving the widespread following IPOB has achieved in the South East states and the recent inevitable talks that had already begun between South East Governors and IPOB leadership. This pathway would ultimately lead to the current Iraqi Kurd referendum scenario where, through the politico-social dynamics that buoys their accepted narratives, a people or peoples seems compelled by historical and contemporary forces, to go for a referendum independent of the Sovereign state they are located in. The Governors situation would ultimately have come to Iraqi Kurd Leader Masoud Berzani assertion that the Kurd referendum was “no longer in his hands.”

Pathway two would follow in the event that a couple or more of IPOB/ Army Aba September imbroglio reoccurs in Biafra lands. This Scenario would see the Nigerian State stampeded by international pressure to a referendum. With political and legislative caucuses in Europe and US, the Sudan referendum readily comes to mind here. Watchers of international Community opinion crystallization would know that this pathway has already entered the incubation stage waiting for the initial mentioned scenarios for activation. Two recent phenomena would be cited here to buttress this- phenomena 1: An early day parliamentary motion was filed by British MPs Tom Elliott and Danny Kinahan ….that this “House recognizes the calls for the independence of territories that constituted the Biafran republic.” “The Biafran issue could be improved with the co-operation of the Nigerian government by offering a referendum; and urges the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to use its diplomatic strength to assist in the resolution of this matter…”

The second phenomena is two screaming headlines: Biafra: US Constitional Scholar Wants ICC to Investigate Buhari, Burutai; Seeks Nigeria’s Expulsion from UN, And Biafra: US sends two attorneys to Nigeria, probes agitators’ killings
There are countries known to be resilient in holding out to international pressures but sadly Nigeria is not one of them. This is not unconnected to the precarious situation our leaders put themselves and our Country with respect to most things foreign, from foreign aid to foreign luxury and everything in between. We saw a firsthand demonstration of this during the Charles Taylor Asylum imbroglio with the Obasanjo regime,( which maybe why the old man recently did a turn around to advice the government to dialogue with IPOB after previously opining that Biafra is dead). In fact, we were so pathetic in that instance that Nigerian handed over Taylor based on US and Europe noise and body language alone without any actual threat from them or the international community.

This brings me to the third pathway of Referendum Consequences for Nigeria: A Nigerian Senate preemptive initiative on Biafran referendum. The consequences of this Pathway would be most favourable to Nigeria no matter the outcome. For one thing it would serve as a deflection of the obviously less favourable consequences of the two other mentioned pathways, for another it is the only pathway that have the potential of delivering a more united and stable Nigeria.

As highlighted for the other pathways the incubation of this possible pathway is already with us also. The senate president, Bukola Saraki’s press briefing on IPOB, Federal Government, The constitution and the Army sets the stage for this possible pathway: A senate drawn timeframe/Highlights to Nigeria Referendum(s)-The timeline could follow something like this 2017-2019- Review of all Constitutional Conferences from the return to Democracy till date
2019-2021 – Consultations, public hearings on modality, content and scope of Nigerian referendums 2021-2023- Constitutional Amendments to accommodate preferred form(s) of referendums in the Nigerian Constitution 2024 onwards – possible holdings of Nigerian Referendums. Like the UK did with Northern Ireland in 1973, political overtures (read here: possible restructurings) prior to the actual referendum could have reached such stage where most peoples that makes up the sovereign entity especially the agitators would not mind postponement of such referendums or would predictably vote to remain in more just, and inclusive reworked political relationships and Sovereign Entity.

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