s the tragedy in Syria and Palestine unfolds and blurs the boundary between the good and bad guys, it is perhaps appropriate to examine what possible object lessons it may have for others whose perception of injustice give them justification for arm struggle to achieve the freedom they crave. Not so much because I have any obsession with the matter, but simply because I value human lives, individual freedom, security, autonomy, and consider them so important that I believe that decisions which would affect or threaten them in any way or manner; should not be taken lightly or from consideration propelled by emotion alone. They are very important ingredients of a good life which all are entitled. Moreover, I wish to address the issues raised in some of the mails I have received. I hope that those who have the time to read my long and rambling articles would know where I stand on the Nigeria problems and satisfied that I communicate my concerns and perspectives, in ways that may contribute to the right solutions.
I have drawn the worst irate mails from people who believe that I betray the Biafra cause by my articles. I am often emotionally blackmailed and sometimes out rightly threatened for questioning the wisdom and rightness of the cause of my people. I cannot do otherwise; a man is not my brother because we share the same ancestral origin but because we share the same values, world view and morality. I wish that the Nigerian debate can be conducted in civil manner and in polite language to decrease the inflammation of passion and emotion. The question is how a people can want to start a long journey without first counting the cost and alternative ways of achieving the same objective.
Many of the opponents of the Nigerian nation assert their right to self-determination which I also believe in. Unfortunately they have all failed to provide any argument in favour of their belief that theirs preferred means of achieving it is the correct, right and approprite one. They have also not re-examined the way, manner, method, motive and timing of their struggle. Their total silence on the cost of their struggle in terms of human and materials remains a big concern. I maintain that self-determination is the wrong solution to problems that have their roots in human greed, corruption, ethnic and religious prejudices, intolerance and ignorance. As the cost of the Syrian uprising rises and the world count the cost of the Libyan, Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for sufficient appraisal of cost of struggles is made obvious. How can we justify the number of innocent women, children young and elderly people who pay the blood price of revolutions with the outcomes in these countries? Does the change of government we have seen in these countries worth the blood price?
As the graves of Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans Syrians, American and British soldiers lengthen in their respective countries’ Military cemeteries, their economies falters from the cost of war and Baghdad, Kabul and Damascus continues to burns, we need to pause and count the cost of violence, war and self-determination. How longer can we ignore these stark reminders that there are no winners in wars, but only losers? How long will the world turn a blind eye to the fact that those who live by the sword, die by the sword. Violence is rarely a good or right solution to human problems. We need to wake up and stop growing pains. Heaven is on earth, we just need the common sense to do it on earth as it is in heaven.
There is a seduction in arm struggle which those who champion it and those who pay the blood prices appear to have missed. This is the fact that in any struggle, those who benefit from it extol its virtues and minimise its cost, while those who pay the price are more circumspect and often more realistic in their views. The leaders often gain from self-determination than the people they claim to liberate. They often come out with positions in the new government which guarantees their future and place in history, while the people are damaged by the trauma and loss of war in which many of their loved ones paid the ultimate price. Moreover, as history has shown, many of the new government turn out to be nothing but the exchange of one tyrant for another. We have watched the same scene played out in Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Congo and now in South Sudan. Leaders of liberation struggles tend to have overvalued idea of their role in the struggle and a consequent sense of entitlement that does not accommodate the fact that others have a right to the leadership of the country which they believe they liberated. Consequently, they almost always turn into dictators with devastating consequences for the people. This has been the experience of Africa and I have no reason to believe that it would be different in a Biafra liberated by arm struggle, or any other nation that exits from Nigeria in a violent manner. Dictatorship seems to be the bane of Africa. African leaders have proved to have a primitive conception and relationship with power, and often have used it to serve basest of human instincts, instead of the noblest of values. The experience of Nigeria would seem to support this disturbing and unfortunately probably true perception of the state of our relationship with power.
I therefore, posit that, there are two types of freedom fighters, the Mandelas and the Mugabes, and will now examine the characteristics of these leaders. Both types of leaders claim to love their people, offer liberation struggle as a means of achieving freedom from tyranny and demonstrate this by their willingness to fight the common enemy. Unfortunately this is where the similarities end. The Mandelas are first very prepared to seek democratic and civil means for their cause and willing to make compromises to minimise human cost, while the Mugabes believe that no cost is too high for freedom and are more intransigent and uncompromising, making arm struggle inevitable. When arm struggle becomes inevitable as a legitimate means of the struggle, the Mandela priority is on methods that minimise loss of human lives like sabotaging infrastructures and paralysing the economy. However, the Mugabes tend to prefer methods that sow fear in the people and intimidate people to concede to their demands. The Mugabes’ approach is used by many terrorist groups while Mandela approach is used by true freedom fighters. To the Mugabes anything, including suicide bombing of innocent citizens is justified, while the Mandelas make distinction between the government and the people.
In addition, the Mandelas are often honest, and give to the struggle in terms of their material resources, time and life; while the Mugabes arrange the liberation struggle in a way that enables them benefit materially from the struggle. If one looks at the way many political parties and organisations are formed and structured in Nigeria, one would see the point I am attempting to make. They are virtually unaccountable to no one and dominated by few or single individual who has no place for change of leadership in their dictionary. The Mugabes play the ethnic and religious cards, while the Mandela play the card of human values, fundamental human rights, justice equality and democracy.
The Mugabes emphasise the ‘they and us divide; claim to be patriotic while pursuing a nationalistic agenda. They easily resort to force to settle differences even amongst their people. There are frequent executions of traitors. They are autocratic and have no room for descent. They see violence as a necessary instrument of liberation, while the Mandelas are compelled to use violence in the face of threat of extermination. the Mugabes run their liberation organisation as a quasi-private organisation in which they are unaccountable, while the Mandelas always puts themselves under the organisation. The Mugabes are not accountable to no one while the Mandelas are accountable to the organisation. Every organ of the liberation struggle soon loses their obligation to the cause and serves the interest of the leader of the struggle. They both become the struggle. However the Mandelas demonstrate that indeed, the struggle is their lives while it is the business of the Mugabes.
These fundamental differences in attitude to the self-determination would seem to make the difference in outcomes. When the struggle is over, the Mandelas build strong institutions which hold individuals to account and protects the values they fought for, while the Mugabes become strong leaders who consolidate their hold on power, defend their personal interests and ensure that their role in the struggle becomes a reason for their tyranny. Unfortunately, most liberation struggles are headed by Mugabes, especially in Africa and Middle East. These are hot-headed egoistic, hubristic and power crazy megalomaniacs; who see in liberation struggle a means to achieve their self-consuming ambition to dominate all. They therefore are willing to resort to violence and care very little about the human cost of their cause. In reality they are psychopaths who see in the desire for justice a means to satisfy their self-serving ambitions
In Sudan, this led to more than 30 years of earth scotching civil war and loss of millions of lives which has only delivered a hollow victory. This new nation is already crippled by corruption and in conflict with Sudan over resource allocation and access to the sea. In Biafra, it led to the death of 3 million people over three years and emasculation and marginalisation of Igbos afterwards. In Libya, it first led to 40 years of tyranny by Gadhafi’s one man show and now to the emerging extreme Islamic government that has very little regard for true freedom which they claimed they were fighting for. In Sri Lanker, it led to the vanquish of the Tamils.
The battle for Syria rages on and only time will reveal who the victor would be and what they would do to freedom and rule of law. I love freedom, I love justice, and I love equality and civil society. I hate it when evil triumphs. I also hate it when men hide behind liberation to feed their greed. These are why I believe in due and democratic process and prefers to pursue self-determination in open, honest and democratic way and manner. In this way, the possible reasons which would have been used as justification for war can be discussed openly and alternative solution reached. I do not have fixed positions but only fixed principles which satisfy the demands of justice as fairness. I want a government that is accountable and a democratic society under the rule of law.
I do not suppose it should matter what a name a country is called or who presides over its affairs as long as the country is free, its government democratic and accountable, rule of law supreme , equality and justice cherished and respect for fundamental human rights and individual liberty respected. These are the values that make great countries and not ethnic nationalistic prejudices that seek to prove that a people are superior in some way simply by the virtue of their ethnicity which is what all ethnic nationalism is all about. At the moment, what I see in many of the ethnic leaders who are clamouring for self-determination reminds me too much of what I saw during the struggle for the independence of Zimbabwe and the same thing that has led to the destruction of that beautiful country. It is the same thing I saw in Museveni which is now driving him to ensure that his wife succeeds him. It is the same disease that led to the death of Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Fall of Mubarak and now threaten Assad of Syria.
Nigeria’s self-appointed liberators who saturate the air waves and newspapers with sentiments that would be more at home in Nazi Germany than in Nigeria, need to read history again to review what motivates them. Nigerian ethnic liberators need to pause and ask themselves what motivates them. The injustices their people are subjected to, the values of democracy, and civil society or need to control what belongs to all and use it as they like. They need to ask themselves what drives them whether need for power or desire to change the country for good and enable all fulfil their potentials? Is it freedom for the people or desire for supremacy? These are the inconvenient questions which I believe we have to answer. In Nigeria we have liberation struggle millionaires, who have more in common with Mugabe than Mandela. I write because Mugabes usually go on to destroy anything they cannot control, while Mandelas create environment for plurality of views, freedom and democracy to flourish. Mugabes honour themselves, the world honour Mandelas.
Nigerians should look at those agitating for liberation from her to understand the issues they raise to address them and to expose what their real motives are. By their fruits we shall know them. We need to separate the Mugabes from the Mandelas, if we will succeed. We need to examine the track records of the leaders of liberation movement to understand what it tells us about them and their motives and what type of leaders they would make. This is how the future is predicted in civilised and developed societies. Developed countries do not need charlatans who masquerade as prophet to tell them what would happen in the future. They predict their future from studying their past and present. Prophets are symptomatic of primitive and ignorant societies. Those who love the people fight for the freedom of all, irrespective of ethnicity, sex and orientations. They are ready to give way to let other make contributions. They do not seek to locate in themselves unique qualities or rights that make them indispensable.
They play a part and then give way for others, knowing that a country is not built by an individual no matter how intelligent. The Mugabes are not like that. They hide behind the fight for freedom to usurp power and amass wealth, and then impose tyranny on the people. They claim to fight for freedom but supress it, and never allow it to flourish once they gain power. Next time you meet a liberation politician telling you that your people are being slaughtered and that you should donate money for liberation cause, please first find out who his organisation is accountable to before you give. First, find out if he is a Mugabe, Mobutu, Gaddafi, Museveni or a Patrick Lumumba, Nelson Mandela or Julius Nyerere. The character and personality of the leader are the factors which decide whether the people are liberated or enslaved. It is what determines if the people are liberated or exchange a foreign tyrant to a home grown one. I hope that Nigerians will use this window of opportunity to save her freedom, democracy and corporate existence by taking steps to create a true federation which is the only thing that will stop its balkanisation. Otherwise, the ethnic nationalists masquerading as liberators will use their ethnic and religious prejudices and propagandas to divide the people and drive the country to a point of no return. I hope Nigeria survives.