India, Pakistan and Bangladesh used to be one country called British India before 1947. Like Nigeria, they were under British Colonial rule, imperial Governance succeeding commercial interests. And, like Nigeria, British India was divided along religious lines; the two dominant, fiercely competing religions being Hindu and Islam.
The Hindus dominated that part of British India now called India, and the Muslims dominated the part now called Pakistan and Bangladesh. Because of the fractious nature of their relationship, Britain had to partition British India into two self-governing countries in 1947: Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Did separate governance solve the problem of the two countries? No! Whereas India was for decades plagued by political crisis, Pakistan is still steeped in religious crises. Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan in 1971.
Every continent has a list of regions and countries that have experienced the separatist knife. In Africa the latest is Sudan. South Sudan became a sovereign state on July 9, 2011. Before breaking away from the Republic of Sudan, it was thought that independence would bequeath it peace and prosperity. It is, however, doubtful whether “separateness/independence” has changed the fortune of the people of Southern Sudan.
The Congo region has also failed to make a case for separateness or corroborated agitations for separation. From Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) through the Republic of Congo to the Cabinda and Zaire Provinces of Angola, peace is still a prized commodity. Somali has also given a damning case for separatist agitations.
The former Russian countries of Eastern Europe have not been saved from Russian imperialism by the European Union. Separateness has not insulated them against Russian overbearing influence and interference.
Nigeria has had several political and administrative experimentations, all in the effort to address or minimize separatist agitations. The country has moved from regional political and administrative divisions to states. The expansion of states to 36 and the inclusion of the Local Government system are all conscious, deliberate efforts against the rigid centrifugation of the country.
In an article entitled “Patterns of Ethnic Separatism” published in the Journal of Comparative Studies and History (1981), Donald L. Horowitz, the James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science at the Duke Law School and Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, United States, submitted that one of the two approaches to the analysis of separatism and secession is to ask the following intriguing question: what forces are responsible for the general surge in secessionist movements — from Burma to Biafra and Bangladesh, from Corsica to Quebec, and from Eritrea to Southern Philippines? Although his work provided an insight into the forces behind separatist agitations, I believe that Psychologists and Sociologists have their jobs cut out for them by his question.
The following depiction by Wikipedia is not only instructive but gives us a peep into separatist mentality: a “common definition of separatism is that it is the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. While it often refers to full political secession, separatist groups may seek nothing more than greater autonomy. Separatist groups practise a form of identity politics, “political activity and theorising, founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups”. Such groups believe that attempts at integration with dominant groups compromise their identity and ability to pursue greater self-determination.
However, economic and political factors usually are critical in creating strong separatist movements as opposed to less ambitious identity movements.”
Unfortunately, human wants are insatiable. Economists aver that humanity has no sufficient resources to satisfy all of human wants, which explains why there is no ideal country, where the state is said to satisfy the wants, needs and desires of all of its constituents; it explains why peace has eluded newly-formed countries like Sudan.
Where the economic factors are the driving force of separatist agitation, one may say that economic equity and fairness on the side of the state may calm nerves. Quebec’s agitations were motivated by the desire to protect the French language and not so much about economics, as the region may only be second to Ontario out of the 13 provinces of Canada in terms of economic viability and prosperity. The agitation of Quebec has been assuaged by policies meant to protect the French language from English preponderance.
Where the agitations are motivated by ethnic ego and pride, the issue is quite complicated. The Catalans of Spain are still finding it difficult to surrender to Spanish suzerainty, on account of their desire to preserve the Catalan language. Agitations propelled by idealism or unbridled radicalism are by far the worse because they are directionless.
Separatism is hardly an answer to ethnic, socio-cultural, economic injustices; and separatist agitations need not to be violent. History has taught us that violence would always yield to reason. Brawny and vulgar agitations are definitive of the warped, chaotic minds of their promoters.
The greatest revolutions are masterminded by intelligent, refined, cautious individuals. The Christians are proud of the Lord Jesus Christ because he conquered the world’s worst adversary with superior intellect and values. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Ghandi) is a revolutionary legend, not because he shed blood, but because he subdued the adversary of India with nonviolent but persuasive civil disobedience values.
The assassinated African American clergyman, Martin Luther King, Jr. broke racial barriers through peaceful social change advocacy. South African Nelson Mandela defeated apartheid with superior intellect and ethereal moral values.
To call one’s people to take up arms against other people in a country in the name of separatist agitation is, to my mind, insane. Humanity must grow and develop beyond the use of arms to pass across messages or express a point.
We must strive to develop ourselves to the position of seeing conflict as a challenge that must be addressed with artistic refinement. State functionaries must see agitations as legitimate calls for attention — not necessarily a confrontation.
Seeing agitators as enemies does not improve the value of a Government’s stock in the public or global exchange. Equitable distribution, utilisation of state resources and fair treatment of all ethnic nationalities is a panacea for separatist agitations.