President Muhammadu Buhari in his 2017 Independence Day broadcast demonstrated true qualities of a humble leader when he admitted his participation in the Civil War. The Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War (July 6, 1967 – January 13, 1970) was a political conflict caused by the attempted secession of the southeastern provinces of Nigeria as the self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra. An estimated two million people were killed during the war with multimillion naira worth of properties destroyed.

The war came to an end when then President Yakubu Gowon signed a truce with the Biafran army led by Gen. Effiong after they were captured by then Col. Olusegun Obasanjo. The separatists movement was called off and the Biafran Republic dissolved while the arrowhead of the movement, Odumegwu Ojukwu was away on exile.

Perhaps force was the key instrument used to end the war and agitations of the Biafrans. However, a combination of conflict sensitive approaches were used to check its reoccurrence. Gen. Gowon after declaring the war closed with the popular slogan, "No victor, no vanquished" embarked on series of reconstruction, reconciliation and rehabilitation programmes. The emergence of Unity schools and the National Youth Service Corpse (NYSC) were all part of the move to ensure the country bounced back on its feet after the devastations caused by the war in terms of capital development and peaceful coexistence.

The approach employed worked quite well in keeping the "One Nigeria" dream of the then government. However, many young Nigerians at that time had already been radicalized through the utterances and teachings of some leaders then. Several instances abound where hate speeches were propagated and promoted by highly influential persons. In fact, for people like Sir Ahmadu Bello, anyone who was not a northerner had no share in the country called Nigeria. He began spreading and propagating such sentiments and ideologies as early as the 1950s when he became Premiere of the Northern region. Bello was the first to initiate what is now regarded as the Islamization agenda. He first birthed it as the "Northernization Policy" where he made sure only core northerners occupied key positions in the nation's socioeconomic structure. According to him, in a TV interview, the Sardauna of Sokoto said, "it has to be a northerner first."

Sir Ahmadu Bello, the closest ally of the first Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa particularly said the Igbo's were a group of people that always had the tendency to dominate and therefore must not be given a chance. His comments perhaps followed a statement by a popular Igbo politician in the 50s who said Igbo's were the most productive set of people in the country. Bello said that after being asked by the white interviewer why the Igbo's were so much hated in the north.

The nation's first military coup led by a group of Igbo officers in 1966 which saw the emergence of Maj. Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi as first military president was perhaps fueled by those sentiments. Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa and a host of military and political officers were killed during the nationwide revolution. The Biafra war that followed was in turn sparked by widespread perceptions that the coup was part of the domination moves of the Igbos.

Tribal tensions thus increased after the military coup in 1966 which was followed by an alleged northerner-led counter coup a few months later. Aguiyi-Ironsi was thus killed and widespread reprisals were reportedly unleashed against the Igbo.

Consequently, as the New World Encyclopedia puts it, fearing marginalization within the state, on May 30, 1967 the Igbo-majority province declared its independence as the Republic of Biafra. Of course, created as a colonial entity by the British, Nigeria was divided between a mainly Muslim north and a mainly Christian and animist south.

Following independence in 1960, three provinces were formed along tribal lines, the Hausa and Fulani (north), Yoruba (south-west), and Igbo or Ibo (south-east). Meanwhile, the core north had been rooted in the colonial government until independence.

The north was the only province operating the monarchically totalitarian system of government suitable for the colonialists' ambitions. They wanted a system where they would decide the present and future of the country without being questioned. The core north being predominantly monarchical unlike the south, especially the Southeast which operated a Democratic system of government (with its village assembly which opposed autocratic decisions) comes in handy given that a traditional ruler is equally a religious and political leader whose decisions are sacrosanct.

Penetrating the north thus implies penetrating the entire country since the northern region was larger than the southeast and southwest put together. Therefore, Nnamdi Azikiwe coming into office as the first president in the first republic had no option than to swear allegiance to the Queen of England. The conference of missionary organizatiins in Edinburgh in 1912 had prepared the grounds for the silencing of Christians on all political matters as it resolved to pass teachings that prevented the church from rising against the government in order for the colonialists to have a smooth ride in their exploitative ambitions. That therefore made it easy for the predominantly Christian Middle belt and South to withdraw from anything politics, giving way for the north to have domination.

By and large, the question of restructuring is reappearing today largely because of those same issues of marginalization that became institutionalized in the country's political structure right from the start. The colonialists gave so much privileges to the north, so much that Ahmadu Bello and others in the Northern Peoples Party (NPP) did not want independence. The Action Group (AG) started canvassing for it in 1953 through its leader, Anthony Enahoro under the inspiration of Obafemi Awolowo, the founder of the party and Premiere of the Southwest. The AG parliamentarians in fact walked out of session when the NPP led by Ahmadu Bello insisted that the question of sovereign national government was unnecessary as advocated in the 1953 McPherson constitution review. The NPP insisted that the North was not ready for independence. Perhaps it was based on those considerations that Tafawa Balewa was considered as Prime Minister in order that the idea would not be seen as an attempt to institute some specific individuals in government, though Awolowo had ambitions.

The current violent strategy employed in the pursuit of restructuring in some areas is no doubt condemnable. However, what does one expect when one insists that unity is not to be negotiated? Remember, aside the fact that no consultations were made before the amalgamation of the three protectorates in the country, the issues of tribal sentiments have continued since the 60s. Truth remains, conflict often arises from a combination of factors, which might be deep rooted in the very existence of a people, and mostly historical.

If Nigeria wants restructuring in a peaceful manner, the deep rooted historical grievances of the parties involved which might not even have any connection to the things being advocated for must be addressed. The Biafran movement could have its roots in the earlier mentioned sentiments spread by the then northern leaders which led to widespread perceived marginalization and must be addressed for any headway to be made.

Unfortunately, some of these sentiments might never die as some of the sons of the north still propagate same. The recent eviction notices and some hateful languages used by some religious fanatics in their preachments and social interactions call for concern. They possibly could have been acquired from the values transfered to them from their forefathers. Culture no doubt is a combination of values, attitudes and artifacts among others acquired over time through social interaction among others. And conflict starts from little issues of concern or feelings, and degenerates to expressed disaffection and eventually violence when not handled properly. Handling conflict properly implies opening the doors for negotiations, dialogues and compromise.

The last National Conference in 2014 was one great step towards identifying and resolving some of these issues. It was an opportunity for citizens to agree on their own, not under force to stay together, and even agree on dos and don'ts  governing the union. Unfortunately it has been dropped and people are still being forced to maintain peace and stay together. Social psychologists see this as negative peace which will always remain practicable under force and violence and might never even be guaranteed as the underlying issues are still unresolved and breeding within the parties concerned.

If the conflict must be permanently resolved, the issues underlying it must be brought to the table in a peaceful, free and fair dialogue. Let the agitators be allowed to say why they want to be free and be guaranteed that the issues will be resolved. That is the only way to stop the current violence and agitations.