By Aloy Ejimakor
Before Nigeria became a unitary State, while still pretending to be a federation, regional security was mostly within the purview of regional authorities, not the Federal Government. And it worked pretty well.
The arrangement was not by chance but by design. Nigeria’s indigenous founding fathers and the departing British colonists knew too well that you cannot internally secure a people without their participation.
In a diverse federation of equals, Northern Nigerians shouldn’t be the ones internally securing Western or Eastern Nigeria and vice versa. When you do that, it becomes counter-intuitive to security and begins to look like an act of occupation, a conquest or worse. And it stokes popular resistance, overtly or covertly.
The historical dangers of a tribally-imbalanced security leadership for Nigeria, even in its present unitary form, terrified the framers of the 1999 Constitution to the point that they enacted at Section 217(3) that “the composition of the officer corps and other ranks of the Armed Forces of the Federation shall reflect the federal character of Nigeria.”
In plain terms, it means that no region, including the South East, shall be excluded from securing Nigeria or any part thereof, especially its own part. But today, the opposite is the case as South East officers and other ranks are significantly redlined from all security formations, particularly the ones based in the South East. What is more worrisome is that this brazen unconstitutionality seems to sit well with Nigerians who desire the nation to still remain one. They feign blindness to the naked fact that there’s no better contradiction to the oneness of Nigeria than this profound injustice.
Additionally, Section 14(3) of the same 1999 Constitution provides that, “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies shall ensure that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies.”
Again, this means that the South East shall be equal partakers in the opportunities of the Nigerian enterprise. But it is not. That is probably why each time the witch cries at night in the South East and the baby dies in the morning, the authorities jump to conclusions that it’s the witch that killed the baby. The recent Owerri jailbreak comes to mind.
To be sure, it is uncanny and somewhat sinister that, since 2015, those that are ruling Nigeria have deliberately violated the Constitution by notoriously excluding South East personnel from the security architecture of Nigeria. When you add the other open and notorious exclusions levied against the South East, you begin to see why the agitation for restoration of Biafra is gaining currency and garnering more millions by the day. The rising popularity of the Eastern Security Network completes the picture of the rampant sense of alienation in the South East, all thanks to deliberate political decisions that make no single sense.
•Ejimakor, a lawyer, writes from Alaigbo