BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Many scholars believe the Aburi question and its implication on the Nigerian Civil War has its origin in the creation of the Nigerian state. That is, the debate over the implementation of the Aburi agreement was the problem of how the origin of the Nigerian state became tied to the issue of the future association of the constituent units within the nation. In the views of Adebayo Oluoshi and Osita Agbu (1996), “the attempt by the military officers to prevent the nation from experiencing a bloody conflict merely fudged the question of Aburi and complicated it further with the consequences of civil war”.
Precisely, on January 1, 1914, Britain, a former colonial power gave birth to the nation, Nigeria through series of diplomatic initiatives and conquests that led to the amalgamation of the ethnically and cultural incongruent Northern and Southern Protectorates. This, unquestionably, according to Eleazu, explains that Nigeria became a British colony as a result of the diplomacy of imperialism than a matter of choice for any of the peoples that were to be enclosed within this grid that came to be recognized and administered as one territorial unit called Nigeria (Eleazu, 195:61-71). From the time of its amalgamation in 1914, to independence in 1960 and beyond, the nation’s stuttering part to survival was marred by a quantum of serious conflict issues that climaxed into the civil war that took place between 1967-1970. Obviously, this history of crises was a result of the decision to merge the various incompatible entities as one.
Incompatibility among the various groups was further aggravated by political disturbances that engulfed the Nigerian especially the early post-independence years. Threatened by a state of total collapse after a period of bloody military coups the Nigerian Army went to Aburi in search of peace. Aburi, Ghana and the failure to implement Aburi ratifications regarding the country’s unity, resulted in the 30 months civil war. Many years after the war the present leaders of the nation ought to have learnt a great lesson of history. But religion politics and the economy have remained virtually unchanged and in almost the same guise as in the pre-civil war years, the country seem also to be on the part of disintegration The obvious pointers to these assumption are the general state of insecurity and political instability characterized by regular abrogation of the rule of law, official corruption and incompetence, kidnapping, armed robbery, militancy, vandalizing of crude oil flow stations and pipeline that almost crippled the economic mainstay of Nigerian economy, the unabated religious/ethnic conflicts in Jos. More recently, a new form of crisis reminiscent of the 1966 pogrom is engulfing other states in the north including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja (Amamkpa:2012:6). A Muslim fundamentalist sect going by the name Jama’atahl al-sunna li-da’wawa-l-quital, popularly known as Boko Haram (Western Education is forbidden), has gained a stranglehold on the region unleashing terror most especially on non-Muslim indigenes of the North. Very unfortunately, 46 years after Aburi and the civil war, the current trend of insecurity still cast shadows of doubts on national unity prompting plethora of demands for national conference, sovereign national confab, true federalism, political autonomy, restructuring Nigeria into six geo-political zones, financial autonomy to local government and a resistance to any change of status quo.
In a build-up to Aburi and the Civil war, 1967-1970, scholars and experts have reeled out a number of factors responsible for crises of those ominous years. These factors which include: political, social, economic, religious, etc are interwoven and could not be considered as terra incognita as far as the geo-political developments in Nigeria are concerned. Amidst the myriad of political sub-factors, the role of Aburi Accord in starting the war was, more often than not, considered the last straw. One of the oft-quoted statements of this period was reflected in Obasanjo’s My Command: [Aburi]…was the last ditch of effort to save Nigeria from collapse (Obasanjo, 1980:145). This statement was corroborated by several other scholars who pointed to the Aburi Accord as the last gap in that circle of conflict.
In a build-up to the Aburi conference, Nigeria was dragged to the brink of the abyss by two military coups in 1966. One of the far-reaching implications was a stalemate between two military leaders (Gowon and Ojukwu). The reason for the face-off, which invariably dominated the agenda of the Aburi conference, was predicated on the following:
After several unfruitful attempts to bring (Gowon and Ojukwu) to the negotiating table, Aburi, a more secured venue, in Ghana, was mutually agreed upon by both parties while General Ankrah offered to host them in a bid to restore the country from the brink. Given this obvious national exigency, it was expected that both parties will have the ample time to iron out any seemingly irreconcilable differences and as such must be armed to the teeth in terms of preparation. However, by one party’s lack of preparedness and more, the Accord, (though duly acknowledged by the negotiators), came under a serious scrutiny from (the spoilers) those who felt Ojukwu took undue advantage of his academic prowess to negotiate in favour of the Eastern region government. The implication of the bargaining capabilities of Federal side in the negotiation entailed, rather, another more besetting monster of the Nigerian system- the challenge of policy implementation. Failure to implement the agreement accordingly simply highlighted the obvious: Nigeria’s bad records of policy implementation. And historical excursion into the annals of public policy in Nigeria reveals that, if all the policies formulated in the country over the years were implemented accordingly, Nigeria, no doubt, would have been on a fast lane of development. It conjures the meaning that a full implementation of the Aburi Accord could have saved the country a great deal of human and material resources lost during the civil war.
Finally, the major fault line of the Accord was the policy frame itself which was in very many ways considered by its formulators as significant and strategic to the survival of Nigeria but following a post-conference appraisal from (spoilers) “experts”, was delineated with mixed feelings. Apparently, this prospective tool of unity incidentally became an apple of discord among Nigerians. The nexus between the exponents and contrary opinions generated around the Accord is what this study is set to explore.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The decision by the warring parties (Ojukwu led Eastern government and Gowon led Nigerian government) to meet at Aburi in Ghana brought glimmers of hope for the much bartered entity called Nigeria. To many Scholars, this decision was the last chance towards avoiding war and evolving a more stable and peaceful entity /achieving peace. In finding the answer, it required, in part, a political dialogue to reach a consensus on how best the ethnic bodies would exist without having unnecessary frictions This was the main thrust of the Aburi Agreement. Against the background of full implementation of the accord, the Nigerian government therefore resorted to the famous lines of John F. Kennedy: “he, who makes peaceful resolution of conflict impossible, makes war inevitable”… (Afflerbach:2007).. Quasi-implementation of the Aburi Accord, overtime, became the oft-quoted instance for the Civil war. However, a little stretch beyond this hackneyed conclusion has revealed otherwise that conceding to the demands of decree number 13 was capable also to rip the country apart. This study highlights the misinterpretation of the Aburi document; proposes important constitutional variables needing urgent national attention.
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