IS a Union sacred and inviolable?
Whether a constitutionally governed nation is to exist in perpetuity, sacred and inviolable even by the existential realities of irredeemable socio-cultural fault lines, is a matter for the conjecture of the jurisprudence of law and of morality. The question being: should a democratic society be presumed immune – legally-speaking or morally so- even from the rumbling dissent of self-determined minorities bent on opting out of the union?
Or put another way: does a part of a constitutionally governed nation- whether it be a state or a section comprising of states- have a right to unilaterally seek, by whatever means, to opt out of that union and to form another? Or the converse of that may be asked: should a president in a constitutionally governed society be constrained by law or morality –or by both- to allow a part secede from the territory he is legally elected to govern?
Will he be obligated –by the Constitution or by the unwritten universal laws of nature, or by both- to fight to keep the union for which he was inaugurated into office to preserve, protect and defend? These questions have continued to agitate the minds of jurists and of political scientists and there does not seem to be a single jurisprudential solution to the question of ethnic or other classes of minorities and their presumed right to self-determination or their duty of fidelity to an existing statehood to which they are fated by the circumstances of socio-political history to belong.
Yet proponents of the ‘right’ of ‘might’ to willful self-assertion say that any minority section of a constitutionally governed nation can secede from an existing state it no longer desires to be part of, -if not by a constitutional process, at the very worst by ‘force’.
Or is ‘Might’ the only ‘Right’?
Provided a seceding minority has the ‘will’, the ‘grit’ and the ‘fighting power’ to force its way out of the union; and provided thereafter it has the ‘might’ to defend its new sovereignty, -either against the revolting anger of un-yielding irredentists or against potentially emergent new rebellions from its very own. But the reverse is also the case, that even as a MINORITY section of a democratic entity has recourse to the moral justification of the use of force to assert the inalienable right to self-determination, so does a democratic MAJORITY of a constitutionally governed nation have legitimate recourse to the use of force –if it can- to preserve the union.
Thus, in actual fact the question of who is right between the majority fighting to preserve the union and the minority fighting to opt out of it, will simply be located in who is able to assert both ‘will’ and ‘firepower’ and not necessarily in who has the moral justification to so to do. It can thus be seen that any argument by an existing political order in favour of the ‘right’ –legally or morally- to preserve a union is always concurrent with the arrogation by it of the ‘right’ to deny the seceding party its presumed ‘right’ to opt out of the union.
look at Nigeria’s map
And the reverse is equally the case, that secessionists, in arrogating to themselves the presumed ‘right’ to willful self-determination, also tend to deny the ‘right’ of the existing political order to fulfill its constitutional obligation of preserving, protecting and defending the union. And so going by the doctrine of the ‘right’ of ‘might’ to forceful secession, it can be said that for the agitators of Biafra to secede from Nigeria, the section that they purport to agitate for –namely the South-East- must not only be able to outgun, or at the very least match the fire power of the existing political order, it must be able, permanently, to sustain and enforce its breakaway.
But going by the logic of those who insist that in all circumstances only ‘right’ should be ‘might’, no minority section of a constitutionally governed nation has the right to force its way out of a legal union except by the leave of the majority in that union through the due process of law and not on the sentiments of moral considerations.
The right of the Igbo ‘minority’ or any other ‘minority’ for that matter, to secede from a constitutionally governed Nigeria must be located in the complex hyacinth of this jurisprudential argument. And in all honesty it is a right concurrent with –if not inferior to- the right of the democratic ‘majority’ to deny.
Read the rest at Vanguard