This research is on the issue of Ethnic Militia and National Integration in Nigeria with the activities of the movement for the actualization of the sovereign state of Biafra as a study case. The issues of ethnic Militancy and National Integration have become subject of recurring decimal since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999. Prior to this period, successful administrations had battled with the implementation of various programmes intended to resolve the associated issues fuelling ethnicity and identity crisis that has been threatening the country’s unity and national integration since independence. Government at the centre on various occasions embarked on programmes as well as formulated different policies towards resolving these contending issues which were to no avail in realization of such leading to the formation of various ethnic militias by contending groups whose activities exacerbated identity crisis, ethnic diversity which in all continuous to threaten the needed unity and national integration. Relying on both secondary and primary sources of data and the relative deprivation theoretical framework, the work found out amongst others that conflict can be used to express the feeling of marginalization in the society. More so, there is indication that marginalization of some ethnic groups who are part of the existing state arrangement coupled with the division of the nation along ethnic lines cannot ensure national integration and development needed in Nigeria. Based on the above finding, the work recommends amongst others that the Nigerian government should set up a high-level Peace and Reconciliation Commission to engage with pro-Biafra groups with a view to devising an effective approach to the resolution of the agitation for Biafra. The commission should also undertake consultations with state governments and other relevant stake holders with a view to encouraging them to buy into the peace initiative and identify the specific role they would play in the reconciliation process.
1.1 Background of the Study
Nigeria, a sovereign state with multi-ethnic groups was amalgamated in 1914 by Fredrick Lugard, the then Governor-General of the Federation. Prior to this period, each ethnic group was administered by traditional rulers with basic provision for the existence of effective organs of government in formulation and execution of government policies which the people freely embraced. According to Anifoweshe (2000), the pre-colonial riles in Nigeria promoted strong government that prevented ethnicity and identity crisis among different ethnic groups that made up the amalgamated state. The 1914 amalgamation however signalled eventual introduction of indirect rule system of administration which to some extent promoted unity and national integration among the nationalists of different ethnic groups of the amalgamated protectorates.
Furthermore, the spirit of brotherhood among pre independent nationalist leaders eventually led to successful independence of Nigeria in 1960 with commencement of the first republic which also promoted the needed unity and national integration in Nigeria until 1966 when both the military coup and the Igbo massacre led to the collapse of national unity and marginalization of some ethnic groups in socio, political and economic distribution by the ruling elite despite Gen. Gowon’s declaration of 3Rs and “no victor” and “no vanquished” policies of government shortly after the civil war. The effects of non committed implementation of the policies in Nigeria is the cause of insecurity, ethnicity and the national identity crisis that resulted to the formation of various ethnic militias that is today threatening unity and national integration in Nigeria Anifowoshe (2000). Since 1999 when the country returned to democratic governance, the scenario of the ethnic militia and insurgency has become tragic, spanning from the North, East and South. The emergence of various ethnic groupings clamouring for equity in the sharing of national resources had been attributed to the feeling of marginalization which the groups believe had been going for years without being addressed. This is especially so, in the Niger Delta region, where most of the oil resources of the country are located and the various nationalities within the region feel they had been short changed in the distributional resources which resulted to the formation of different ethnic militias in the Niger Delta area.
According to Okumagba (2009), those who supported such militia groups, justify their existence on the basis of the fact that the region being the location of most of the wealth of the nation, need to demand for fairness and equity in the allocation and distribution of the national wealth. But unfortunately, the dysfunctional nature of the Nigerian federal state, which had not acknowledged the contribution of the region to the national wealth, had therefore been a source of frustration to the groups resulting in their violent conduct that is treating national unity and sustainable economic development.
In south-west Nigeria, the foundation of ethnic militias can be traced to the annulment of June 12 1993 election which was generally believed to be won by Chief M K O Abiola after many unsuccessful attempt by Chief Obafemi Awolowo which was also believed to be denied the assess to power by the Northern oligarch because of his uncompromised principles on national issues. The later resulted in the formation of Odua People’s Congress (OPC) and Renew Agbekoya Parapo with main aim of protecting the Yoruba interests among the committee of nations globally.
In the North, interestingly the Arewa People’s Congress (APC) representing the interest of the North has not been vociferous as the other groups in asking for separate existence for the singular reason that the North has been in control of political power in Nigeria. If anything, the APC works to spoil the separatist agitation of other groups. It is the belief of the other groups that the North has benefited more than any other group from the Nigerian project, having been in control of state power and the largesse accruing from it. Also, the activities of Boko Haram sect which have claimed millions of live in the region cannot be left out. The Obatse Cult activities in Nasarawa state in North Central Nigeria remain so volatile. Equally, the confrontations with security personnel and the deliberate vandalization of public utilities by both ethnic militias and insurgency seriously undermine the safety of lives and properties. Thereby instilling fear and sense of insecurity on the populace. This has impacted negatively on the needed unity and national integration which the country’s founding fathers graciously worked for (Ikyase and Egberi, 2015).
It is against this background to challenges of national unity this study seeks to unravel the phenomenon of ethnicity and ethnic militias in Nigeria as the foremost-causation and then project alternative solution to what has denied the country the expected unity and integration among various ethnic nationalities that compose it. The study is divided into five chapters starting with chapter one, the background of the study. The chapter two discussed some conceptual issues related to the topic under review while chapter three examines the research methods used in collecting data. The fourth chapter is presentation, interpretation and discussion of results and chapter five is dedicated to summary of our findings, conclusion and recommendation for further studies.