Augustine C. OhanweMonday, May 17, 2010



s days slide into weeks, and weeks into months, the swift ripples generated by Ghaddafi’s political statement, that Nigeria be split into religious/ethnic nationalities will continue to swirl around. I do not have the purpose in this short piece to criticize or to display ill-temper, indignation or resentment against Ghaddafi and those who have decorated his hat with eagle feathers, but to analyze the implications of his statement with the lens of international relations and its norms.


What has surprised me most is that while the Libyan leader has received many kudos for his statement, none of those who has showered him with petals of rose has grasped that it is not what is said, but who said it that constitutes the bone of contention. Instead of engaging in profound analysis of the implications of the Libyan leader’s statement, they allowed themselves to be swept away by euphoric tide.

The most recent piece I have read, in reaction to Ghaddafi’s statement is ”Nigeria: One Territory Two Constitutions: A case for religious polarity”, by Jude O. Ezeanokwasa. In his essay, he laid bare, often hauntingly, sometimes with profound pessimistic view about finding solution to constant religious upheavals and structural anomalies in our political system. But his support for Ghaddafi as a mentor was too emotional and without recourse to the legal implications of the Libyan leader’s statement. He embraced Ghaddifi’s statement in its entirety as could seen below:

”The call for Ghaddafi for the split of the country along religious line should be an invitation for a sober reflection on Muslims and Christians relationship instead of being greeted by diatribe.”

As a lawyer, I expected Dr Ezeanokwasa’s reaction to Ghaddafi’s statement to be different from others. He should have known that Nigeria is a sovereign state, and that Ghaddafi has no legal justification to dictate to Nigeria how the nation should solve its religious, ethnic or economic inequalities. He should have realised that Ghaddafi crossed the Rubicon and breached the bedrock of international relations. Yes. he indeed violated the United Nations and African Union’s Charters which stipulate that no member states should interfere in other’s domestic affairs.

A Libyan, a Canadian or a South African citizen can tell Nigerians to toe the part of Czechoslovakia, or follow the route India and Pakistan have trodden; or even instigate Nigeria to follow the path of the Former Yugoslavia. Opinions from such individuals will not raise concern between Nigeria and the governments of the countries from where such controversial statements emanated. But if the legitimate leaders of Canada, Libya, South Africa or any other nation say the same thing, it would undoubtedly bring about a diplomatic rupture between Nigeria and any of those countries. When a top civil servant makes a damaging or controversial remark against another country effort should be made to ascertain his or her position in the ladder of power hierarchy. This approach will help us to understand whether his pronouncement is his or her own opinion or whether he or she is the mouthpiece of the government. A controversial statement from a Libyan citizen differs from that of its leader. Dr Ezeanokwasa piece failed to grasp this fact.

How would you, the reader of this piece feel, if I suggest to you to divorce your husband/wife because of constant bickering and nagging between two of you? If you are a hot-tempered person, and I happen to be at a close range to you, you might probably release a terrible blow that could send me into a comatose. If, on the other hand, you are a level-headed one, you might use verbal canons or body language to pigeonhole me where you think I should belong. The humiliation meted out to me in this regard would easily be seen as a result of my having meddled in your private, matrimonial affairs, which in fact, I have no right to get involved unless my advice is sought for.

But if your father/mother or siblings had said the same expression I made that provoked you, you would probably put on your thinking cap and engage in a sober reflection. It again boils down to, not what is said but who who said it.

Dr Ezeanokwasa ended his interesting essay by advancing a painful and humiliating verdict:

”…it is only after such efforts are made that Ghaddafi’s call for splitting Nigeria between Muslims and Christians would be fit for garbage bin. Until this is done the true enemy of Nigeria is not Ghaddafi but those who castigate him …”

The stakes on the above expression are myriads in nature. First, it is pertinent to ask whether it is worthwhile to take a lecture from an external power on how to solve our intermittent religious, ethnic, or economic problems. Even if the person has Nigeria’s future well-being at heart, their a diplomatic channel through which such recommendation should be made.

It is true that Nigeria has witnessed gory episodes of religious intolerance resulting in violence midwifed by extremists. Nigeria has also witnessed how different faiths got entangled with the complications of economic inequality, blended with ethnic and geopolitical rivalries to create anarchic scenes. Would it be sufficient reason for Ghaddafi to meddle in Nigeria’s affair? Should Dr Ezeanokwasa says yes to this query, it then carries the signature of humiliation for Nigerians to adopt a resolution made in Tripoli. Suppose after seeing the level euphoria his statement had produced amongst Nigerian, and he, Ghaddafi goes further with another resolution advising us to introduce free education and to disrobe our corrupt officials and make them dance naked in the street, would his suggestions be greeted with another euphoria? If we do, it does mean that we suffer from bouts of mental lethargy and unable to construct our own political compass.

Canada has two main ethnic nationalities – the English speaking and their French speaking people of Quebec. Belgium has experienced a bitter political conflict between its two ethnic nationalities too – the Dutch-speaking Flemish population and the French-speaking Walloons. In Britain, the Irish in the Northern Ireland, the Scots, and the Welsh are asserting their ethnic identities. In France, the Corsicans are reasserting their ethnic identity. In Spain, we have the case of the Basques and the Catalans. In Sudan, we have a serious dichotomy between North – South. The list is long. Should the Nigerian President tells any of these nations to break up, in order to achieve an enduring peace, they will not hesitate to recall their ambassadors to Nigeria, and it will take Nigeria an uphill diplomatic route to repair the damages. The ongoing Libyan – Nigerian discourse should be seen in the same light. It should be left to those nations to split as different nations; become autonomous states or stay together fighting themselves.

Many well-meaning Nigerians have criticized the 1999 Constitution and have called for it to be amended. Many have also called for a national conference that would offer a political space for Nigerians to ventilate their discontent with regard to some structural anomalies that had clogged up the nation’s internal peace and dwarfed the nation’s vertical mobility. Why then should Ghaddafi’s voice sound more sonorous, and his suggestion allowed to gain ascendancy over those of the sons and daughters of Nigeria? The floor is yours, Dr Ezeanokwasa.