Secession, self-determination, independence; these are vocabularies that aren’t alien to mankind. In fact, they’ve been around ever since humans walked the earth. They’ve truly stood the test of time. It’s unsurprising and as a matter of fact, argument and division are part and parcel of human nature.

Fast forward to the present day, and it’s safe to say that there has certainly been an upsurge of secessionist movements worldwide. From Barcelona to Kurdistan to Scotland and of course, let’s not forget Biafra. 

Fundamentally, they’re all pretty much clamouring for the same thing; the right to self-determination. One could be forgiven if the feeling of sympathy were to creep in. After all, the concept of secession is without a doubt rebellious and romantic in nature; traits that are in resonance with human nature.

However, as is the case with all matters of this world, ‘It’s more than meets the eye’.

If one were to observe the nature of governments and colonies since time immemorial, the secessionist movements have always been frowned against. From the struggle between the British Empire and its former colonies, to the present day tug of war between Spain and Catalonia, the central authority has always been against this notion of self-determination.

The irony of the matter is that there are no clear international rules on secession. The constitutions of most countries are devoid of guidelines for secession. In fact, the word ‘secede’ doesn't even make an appearance in the constitution of Nigeria but rather the words "indivisible" and "indissoluble" sovereign nation. Though international law is silent on the issue, the right to self-determination is a core and fundamental part human rights. Certainly, it can be deduced that there is a dichotomy between politics and principle.

There are indeed success stories in the secessionist literature. An example is Singapore, which used to be a part of Malaysia. Ever since its secession in 1965, there has been swift and unimaginable economic growth for the tiny island nation, thus earning itself a membership into the elite group of nations known as ‘Tiger economies’. A little far north, another tiny island called Taiwan is enjoying unprecedented and rapid economic growth, despite its incessant clashes with its mother nation China in addition to its non-membership of the United Nations. Belgium, Norway and many more are the faces of the success stories in secession.

Notwithstanding, it’s noteworthy that for every success story, there are thousands more stories of utter failure! A perfect example of such which obviously isn't farfetched. On 9th of July 2011, South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan. It was truly a day filled with glee and jubilation! Fast forward to 2017, and the glee and jubilation has transformed into utter disappointment and abject hopelessness. A little bit to the east, and we’ve got Eritrea, a country which gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The situation of the country can be described in 5 words; despotic leader and abject poverty! Let’s not forget Somaliland too!

It’s no wonder that the president of the European Union (EU) commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, observed “If every region had its way, the EU would be unmanageable”.

Its worthy of note that the methodologies  used by some governments against these secessionist movements is indeed quite appalling. Examples include the governments of Spain and Iraq, against the Catalans and Kurds respectively. Let’s not forget the Nigerian government against the Biafrans. 

The government of the UK should be looked upon as a role model in this aspect. Instead of utilizing brute force and unethical tactics against the Scots, they instead quenched their desires by granting them permission to hold a referendum on secession, though the majority of the Scots eventually voted against secession. 

It’s on this final note that the advice of Donald Tusk, president of the EU council, to the government of Spain should be adhered to. He urged Spain to use ‘force of argument, not argument of force’. Dialogue is the only way.

It's in lieu of the pros and the cons, that I deem it pertinent that the question whether or not secession is a blessing or a curse be asked.

Is recession truly a blessing or a curse?

Abdussalam Umar

Is a 400level student(of department of Mechanical engineering) and Senator of the Students' Union representing the faculty of Engineering and technology of University of Ilorin. 


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