Greed, grievances and creed of Biafra struggle by Sheyi Babaekoon

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Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari

“When men hold the same ideas in their minds, nothing can isolate them;not the walls of prison or the sods of cemetery, for single idea and common goal sustain them.”- Karl Max.

The recent agitation by some Igbo people to secede from Nigeria and create the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) should not be taken with levity and President Muhammadu Buhari must not hesitate to listen to their agitation with a view to achieving a lasting peace.

It is in view of this that I intend to take a peep into this rekindled struggle that was first led by the late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba of Nnewi. The civil war that ensued left hundreds of thousands dead, many displaced and valuable properties and monuments worth billions of dollars were destroyed.

The fresh call by Kanu PBI and MOSSOB shows that there is an urgent need to restructure our fiscal federalism; hence this article intends to capture the struggle from three different perspectives which are greed, grievances and creed. They are the driving force of this conflict.

From time immemorial, empirical evidences drawn from similar occurrences in the Niger-Delta,Somalia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Syria, Fulani pastoralists’ and Boko Haram insurgency have shown that the absence of effective government control and inability to exercise basic state functions provided ground for disorder, crime and ultimately armed conflict. Internal violence and armed conflict are major causes of instability and even serve as great catalysts of state failure.

In tandem with the above view, the fragile state of Nigeria is a by-product of dysfunctional government which has failed to provide basic necessity of life to the people, whereupon creating extreme poverty among the citizens.

Nigeria is entrapped in socio-political unrest due to inability of government to provide a conducive environment for her citizens, thereby creating a vacuum which allows the frustrated citizens to express their displeasure and grievances. Their unhappiness is what eventually metamorphosed into conflicts that we are experiencing in the North East and the Eastern part of the country today.

In a seminar paper titled: Greed and Grievance in Civil war, written by Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler in 2002, greed is said to go with aggressive actions so as to accomplish one’s desire. The authors asserted that where there is greed, there is elite competition over valuable natural resource rents, concealed with the fig leaf of collective grievance. The greed of the rebels due to the availability of natural resources causes conflict. The capturing and looting of the resources however has to be augmented by the opportunity to do so.

The above debate within neoclassical economics on the main sources of civil war has crystalised around a simple dichotomy between ‘greed’ and ‘grievance’.

These greed and grievance are more difficult than the debate acknowledges. The greed versus grievance debate within neoclassical economics has helped to popularise the distinction as a way of organizing the analysis of and policy responses to violent conflicts.However, the debate itself is based on a distinction that is conceptually misleading and undermines the usefulness of the concept.

Greed and grievance can be roomies. Where the conditions for greed-rebellion exist but those for grievance-rebellion do not, a group initially motivated by grievance may become dependent upon primary commodity predation for survival, thus transforming itself into a greed-rebellion.

Conversely, greed-rebellions need to manufacture subjective grievance for military cohesion and may find objective grievance an effective basis for generating it. Hence, the presence of primary commodity exports may sustain rebellions which are motivated by the objective grievance, while the presence of objective grievance may sustain rebellions motivated by predation. The sources of grievances are political exclusion and inequality.

In countries that have high-value resources, for instance, oil as in the case of Nigeria, inequitable resources extraction and distribution and the negative local environmental impacts have led to growing tensions. Extractive development policies lead to resource scarcity and environmental stress. This may manifest itself in tensions between the neglected regions.

The demand for a Biafra State must be done with due process known to law, both locally and internationally and a referendum will show the direction to go and the bloodshed must be avoided.

The factionalisation of the union between the Uwazirike and other agitators is an indication that the cause is driven by greed and personal gains, though the environmental degradation and resources scarcity may look as the underlying cause of the conflict. It may significantly aggravate or trigger violence as it was manifested in the emergence of Niger-Delta militants and the invasion of Fulani pastoralists in Jos, Nassarawa, and other Northern States in Nigeria.

The Niger-Delta militant groups claimed that oil exploration, environmental degradation have been the major problem and also the inability of the federal government to remit appropriate percentage of oil-revenue for development of the Niger-Delta areas.

Similarly, before the advent of insurgency in the Delta, peaceful and non-violent protests were carried out by groups in different communities in the Niger Delta. However, they were short-lived as a result of the repressive and brutal acts of military governments that frustrated the agitators.

It was, however, the continuous political and fiscal marginalisation of the oil producing states, environmental degradation, poverty and under-development of the region after the transition to democracy, that spurred the violence in the area and conflict became inevitable.

It is noted that democratisation, which is a more liberal form of governance, contributed to the increased levels of violence within the country. It is also observed that the failure of the Nigerian government to address the crisis in the Eastern region, the consistent siphoning of oil proceeds into personal accounts and the lack of democratic depth are largely responsible for the crisis while there are other frequent clashes between the Fulani pastoralists and the indigenous settlers in Northern Nigeria.

Correspondingly, in Eastern Nigeria, environmental devastation, political and economic marginalisation, should be blamed on the Federal Government for betraying the national values offederalism, equality, and social justice, as well as tampering with the revenue allocation formula.

In the same vein, resource-rich fragile states, where state revenues come directly from nationalised export earnings, governments are often “strong and unwilling” and largely unresponsive to pressures from their own people. In the short-term, these governments may be responsive to top-down, internationally linked accountability initiatives.

However, it is also important to support bottom-up processes to strengthen state-society relations and empower citizens to make demands and hold institutions to account. It is at this local level that citizens tend to experience exclusion, arbitrariness and dispossession from the state, which in turn can lead to fear, frustration and dis-empowerment.

In all sincerity and honesty, the Igbo society has been underdeveloped and marginalised but the violent agitation will never solve the real problems. It would rather take us backward. The lessons of the civil war should have taught us that it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war.To those genuine agitators who believe that Biafra is a task that must be carried out, the looming anarchy should better be avoided. Moreover, President Buhari must, as a matter of urgency, arrest this matter before it gets out of hand.

Sheyi is a Master’s Conflict, Development and Security student, University of Leeds, UK
(Source: The Nation)

 

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