How to avoid Nigeria’s upcoming secession crisis

Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo
5 min readFeb 11, 2020

The old conventional wisdom is that only the North can secede from Nigeria without a finger of opposition raised or a shot fired to stop it. That conventional wisdom is so yesterday. There has been a paradigm shift. The only trouble is that the infamous ‘Nigerian stakeholders’ have their heads still buried in the past.

The problem with Nigeria is simple and fundamental. The tribes and religions are already in place as the default status. What is needed to gradually bring these different competing personalities to the center in a seamless way was the kind of federalism that was negotiated in the 1950s, which led to Nigeria’s independence in 1960. It is the very structure that went away with the coup of 1966 and the unitary government that successive military administrations put in place, including the 1999 constitution they handed over to us with the big fat lie that it came from “we, the people.”

In 20 years of the fourth Republic experiment, it has become clear to everyone that the constitution, the Nigerian foundation, cannot carry the building, the Nigerian nation. From Sharia to Amotekun, from Niger Delta militancy to Boko Haram insurgency, the Nigerian constitution has shown gross inadequacies. At one point, there was the hope that the faulty foundation could be reinforced without tearing down the whole structure. But even that hope is fading as more and more beams are cracking and the foundation is sinking, making any work on the building to look like mere patch-patch. Simply put, the structural integrity of the Nigerian nation is now suspect.

In the age of Brexit, the new conventional wisdom is that it is not only the North that can secede from Nigeria and no shot will be fired. A coordinated exit by consecutive wings of the country can leave the union helpless in stopping it. Any attempt to forcefully prevent it may trigger a controlled demolition. The bombs are already in place under several wings of the Nigerian building. It is a matter of syncing the ignition. Those who have their eyes on the pro-Biafrans are ignoring the groups who are ready with their constitutions, flags, national anthems, armies and embassies.

The people who believe that secession is the only solution to the failure of the Nigerian state have already moved on. They are not interested in state police as a compromise for security that the federal government cannot provide. They are not interested in devolving power as an antidote for unfairness of a…

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Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo is the author of "This American Life Sef."