NIGERIA AT 51 THE JOURNEY SO FAR
I am extremely happy to be alive to witness Nigeria celebrating her 51st Independence Anniversary. I therefore join fellow Nigerians in wishing the country a Independence Anniversary. Such anniversary and the celebrations that go with it are certainly necessary. Because Nigeria survived 51 years of existence, despite the multifarious obstacles to national unity and peaceful co-existence in the Nigerian State, I sincerely send to the country, my CONGRATULATIONS!
On the other hand, since the country can hardly be said to have achieved much structural-cum-economic development during the fifty years of Independence, even in spite of the billions of petro-dollars earned, I send to Nigeria, with deep sorrow, my SYMPATHY! I am far from happy saying this; still, the hard facts stare us all in the face.
The nation of India received political independence from British rule in 1947, which is 63 years ago. India has a population of over one billion people, which is more than the population of the entire Continent of Africa. India also has a larger land mass than Nigeria. But while India does not produce the quantity of crude oil that Nigeria produces, she has, within 63 years of independence, become a world-class economic power, a world-class military power, and indeed, the world’s largest democracy. Can Nigeria, in thirteen years’ from now, get to where India is today? Of course, the answer is a resounding No! Nigeria, clearly, has more than any other black African country, abundant human and material resources necessary for nation building and economic development. Still, Nigeria has refused to develop economically and politically. What went wrong? Are there possible solutions?
THE JOURNEY SO FAR (October 1, 1960 – October 1, 2011)
The picture that emerges so far reflects the strange uniqueness of the people of Nigeria, a country that received political Independence from British rule on October 1st, 1960. Recognizing the country’s particular multi-ethnic configuration or diversity, the British Government established for Nigeria a Federal structure of government, with three regions. Each of the three regions had its own constitution and a good measure of autonomy, while there was a fairly weak Federal Government at the centre. The three regions were the Northern Region, the Western Region and the Eastern Region. However as the British flag, the Union Jack, was lowered and the green white green Nigerian flag was hoisted up in its place, the glue theory became evident. The British colonial government was the glue holding the different ethnic nationalities in the country together.
No sooner, therefore, the British colonial government departed than the different ethnic nationalities in the country began to fall apart, like a pack of cards. Soon to manifest was the national question, an issue that is guaranteed to arise once two or more different ethnic nationalities or socio-economic formations are brought together under one political domination or formation. Indeed, the common pattern is that one of such groupings sooner endeavours to impose its hegemony on the others, while the latter, of course, resists any such attempts at domination.
Usually the dominant ethnic group uses patterns of domination in addition to employing one or two of the micro-variables or recipes for ethnic conflict readily available to galvanize its ethnic group against the others. Such micro-variables or recipes include language, culture, religion, history, and geography.
It should be remembered that India, which was also a creation of British colonial rule, had suffered a similar experience. What was called India before 1947, when independence was granted by Britain, consisted of present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But before independence in August 1947, JINAH led the predominantly Moslem section of India to establish a separate, independent nation of Pakistan which received independence on the 14th day of August 1947, while India received its own independence on the 15th day of August 1947, that is, one day later. What is now Bangladesh was within Pakistan. Of course, it is now history that the nation of Bangladesh came into existence in the 1970’s, having seceded from Pakistan. So, from the original India, have emerged three separate countries, namely India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It would thus appear that India had paid her dues by completing its process of disintegration.
In the case of Nigeria, the forces of disintegration also began to manifest after Independence. Between October 1960 and late 1961, charges of treasonable felony were being made against leaders of the Action Group, the Yoruba ethnic-based political party. In 1962, criminal proceedings against Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Yoruba ethnic group and the leaders of his Action Group party had begun. At the end of the trial, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and some members of his party were convicted and given varying prison sentences. As a young lawyer, in fact, I regularly attended the trial proceedings at the High court in Lagos, at which the Honourable Justice George S. Sowemimo was the presiding judge.
It was clear that the newly-born Nigerian nation had begun to totter. In 1963, a national population census exercise was conducted for the country. Because of the politicization of the exercise, even the introduction of religion into it, the entire process was regarded as unsatisfactory, and became disputed. New territories and villages and new ethnic nationalities were being discovered in certain parts of Nigeria as if such people were the pre-historical cave men. All these were in an attempt to inflate the Census figures.
In 1964, Federal Government elections were to be held, so as to elect the Prime Minister and members of the National Assembly. Again, because of intractable problems that bedevilled the election processes, the Eastern Region, one of the four Regions of Nigeria, decided to boycott the elections.
Nigeria had become four Regions since Independence in 1960, following the creation of the Mid-western Region in 1963. The crisis following the elections was eventually resolved, and in March 1965 a mini-Federal election was held for the Eastern Region of Nigeria. Thereafter, the first post-independence National Assembly convened and began full legislative duties. But the tottering Nigerian nation was already developing into a political tinderbox. In 1965, the Western Region Government was in crisis and the Federal Government had to declare a State of emergency in the whole of the Western Region. This led to the appointment of Senator Dr. Moses Majekodunmi as Sole Administrator for the Western Region. Both the Government and the Western Region House of Assembly were also dissolved.
Inevitably, the country was already sitting on kegs of gunpowder. It is therefore not surprising that on Saturday, 15th January 1966, the political tinderbox finally exploded. A group in the Nigerian Army, led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, had struck in a bloody military coup d’état, overthrowing the Government of Nigeria - both at the Federal and Regional levels. The coup was certainly a first in the history of Nigeria. As I did not know that there had been a military coup, I had my chauffeur drive me in my Mercedes Benz car that Saturday morning to the National Assembly. This is because we were to sit that morning, as Nigeria at that time, operated a six-day working week, which included Saturday.
That morning, something strange happened. My car was stopped at a military check-point at Onikan, near Lagos Island club, by very stern- looking soldiers. Although I was allowed to proceed to the National Assembly, it was an unusual scene because there were usually no military check-points on the streets of Lagos. It was on my arrival at the National Assembly that I learnt of the coup, which had now taken the lives of the Prime Minister, Sir Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, the Minister of Finance, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, the Premier of the Northern Region Sir Alhaji Ahmadu Bello (the Sardauna of Sokoto), and Chief S. L. Akintola, the premier of the Western Region. Also killed were some senior military officers, mainly of Northern Nigerian origin.
I really wept; not because I had lost my position as a member of the House of Representatives, but because the political leaders and the senior military officers who lost their lives could justifiably be described as the very best, indeed, la crème de la crème of Nigeria at that time. Something in me told me that Nigeria may never be the same again for a long time. Major General J. T. Aguiyi-Ironsi, the highest-ranking military officer in Nigeria at that time, became the Military Head of State of Nigeria. This coup was widely seen by observers as an Igbo-sponsored coup, and the people of the Northern Region were widely seen as the victims or major targets. Major General J. T. Aguiyi-Ironsi’s regime was to be short-lived. On 29th July 1966, military elements of the Northern Region struck in a counter-coup, overthrew the Government of Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi, and killed him in Ibadan, where he was on a state visit.
Lt. Colonel (as he then was) Yakubu Gowon became the new military Head of State of Nigeria. In a state broadcast, Lt. Col. Gowon announced that there was no basis for unity in Nigeria. This coup was widely seen as sponsored by the Northern Region of Nigeria, while members of the Igbo ethnic group of the Eastern Region were widely seen as the intended victims. For some time, Nigeria was drifting like a rudderless vessel, while the military sought possible solutions to the country’s problems.
Early in 1967, the search for solutions took Lt. Col. Gowon, Lt. Col. Ojukwu, and members of their Governments to Aburi in Ghana for peace talks. Ghana’s military Head of State had invited them over. Although some measure of decisions thought to accommodate the fears of the various ethnic groups in Nigeria and thus able to keep Nigeria together were reached. But these decisions were repudiated by the Nigerian side to the peace talks on their arrival back to Nigeria from Ghana, thus bringing the parties to their status quo ante.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Yoruba political leader who had been convicted for treasonable felony, was released from Calabar prisons. On the 27th day of May 1967, the Nigerian Military Government, in a political masterstroke intended to break the backbone of the Eastern Region military government, announced the creation of 12 states in Nigeria with a Military Governor at the head of each State Government. The Eastern Region was broken into three states namely; East-Central State, which consisted of the Igbo ethnic group, the South-Eastern State, which consisted of the Ogoja, Calabar and Akwa Ibom people, and finally, the Rivers State, which consisted of the Ijaws in the Eastern part of Nigeria, and some non-Ijaw groups such as the Ikwerres, the Ogonis, the Etches, the Ekpeyes, the Abua people, the Ogba people, and others. With the Federal Government giving autonomy to the South-Eastern State people and the Rivers State people - all in the Eastern Region - the backbone of the Eastern Region previously as an entity had been broken. In a swift reaction on the 30th of May 1967, to this action taken by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Col. Ojukwu, who was the Military Governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria, declared the Region an independent state of Biafra, and dubbed it the land of the rising sun.
In reaction to this, the Federal Government of Nigeria declared a police action against the Eastern Region of Nigeria. By police action, the Federal Government meant to take a mild military action short of war against the Eastern Region, with a view to bringing it back to Nigeria and having it renounce its declaration of independence. When the police action did not work, the Federal Government of Nigeria, on the 6th of July 1967, declared a full-scale war against the Eastern Region of Nigeria, otherwise known as the Republic of Biafra. For 30 months the war raged, recording heavy casualties on both sides, but more on the Biafran side.
Several attempts were made to settle the dispute through peace talks, such as the one that was held in Kampala, Uganda. Still, every peace talk failed. Thus the only solution lay in the defeat of either side to the battle. After much fighting, however, Biafra surrendered to Nigeria, on the 15th of January 1970. Once the war ended, Nigeria announced a programme of the three “R”s -Reconciliation, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction, for the defeated Biafra. The Federal Government also announced that there was no victor, no vanquished; Nobody from Biafra was prosecuted for taking part in the war. This action made General Gowon the Abraham Lincoln of Nigeria.
The country became mended and united again, at least so it appeared. In July 1975, however, a military coup led by Brigadier Murtala Mohammed, overthrew General Yakubu Gowon’s Government while the latter was in Kampala, Uganda, attending a meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). So, General Murtala Mohammed became the Nigerian post civil war military leader, at least from July 1975. On the 13th of February, 1976, however, Major Dimka staged an unsuccessful military coup against the Murtala Mohammed Government.
Although the coup was unsuccessful, Murtala Mohammed was killed on his way to the office. His second-in-command, Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo, was sworn in as the new military Head of State of Nigeria. On October 1, 1979, General Obansanjo handed over power to a duly elected civilian president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Shehu Shagari held the reins of power until 31st December, 1983, when General Mohammadu Buhari overthrew him and his civilian Administration in a military coup, Major General Buhari established a reign of terror, descending heavily on Nigerians during his 20 months’ leadership. Under Decrees 2 and 4 promulgated by him, which enabled his government to detain anybody indefinitely without trial, he arrested and detained many Nigerians. Similarly, political leaders, governors, and ministers were tried in kangaroo tribunals established by his government. Some of such persons received jail terms ranging from 40years to 60 years. Southern Nigerians were his target and thus the greatest victims of his GESTAPO style of Government.
Apart from the January 1966 coup, Gen. Buhari is the only person who has overthrown a democratically-elected Government of Nigeria, as all other coups were against military governments. As soon as young men of Southern Nigerian origin (Mr. Owoh and Mr. Ogedengbe) were arrested at Ikeja Airport for being in possession of cocaine, they were quickly tried and promptly executed. But when General Buhari’s relation, an Assistant Inspector General of police was found in possession of cocaine, he was merely put under house arrest. He was never tried until he was released.
Such a figure as the internationally-acclaimed musician, Fela Anikulakpo-Kuti, was not spared. He was arrested while travelling abroad with his band, then jailed for being in possession of some meagre foreign currency, which was meant for their upkeep during the trip. Nigeria was really held under siege for 20 whole months during General Buhari’s reign of terror. Indeed, his human rights abuses should be collated, documented and sent to the HAGUE, so he can be tried appropriately. The end came soon enough, as in August 1985, General Buhari was overthrown in a military coup, led by Major General Ibrahim Babangida.
From the month of August 1985, General Babangida tried to repair some of the damage done by Buhari, with activities and initiatives especially geared towards assuring Southern Nigerians that they were still very much part of Nigeria. He released many Nigerians who had been either illegally detained or jailed. For this particular reason, Nigerians ought to appreciate General Babangida, indeed, be grateful to him. In 1990, however, Major Gideon Okar led an unsuccessful, but very bloody coup against General Babangida’s Government. Although General Babangida survived the coup, there were really heavy casualties. In 1993, General Babangida’s Government conducted Federal elections to choose a civilian President as well as members of a civilian National Assembly. Unfortunately, Chief M. K. O. Abiola, the presumed winner of the election, which has been considered the most credible, free and fair election in the history of Nigerian, was not declared as the winner. Rather than declare Chief M. K. O. Abiola as the winner of the election, General Babangida’s Government, on the 12th of June 1993, annulled the result of the elections.
Public opinion and protests – both national and international – were mounting against the action of General Babangida and his Government. In an attempt to make amends, therefore, the General decided to step aside from office. He then appointed a civilian, Chief Ernest Shonekan, to step into his place, as Head of what was styled an Interim National Government. It should be noted that Chief Ernest Shonekan comes from the same town (Abeokuta) as Chief M. K. O. Abiola, who was denied his mandate. Drafting in Chief Ernest Shonekan was possibly intended to assuage the feelings of not only the Yorubas in general, but also of the Egbas (i.e. the people of Abeokuta origin), in particular. This is in regard to the injury or injustice done to Chief Abiola, their own son.
But Chief Ernest Shonekan’s Government was to be short-lived. In fact, Chief Ernest Shonekan had barely spent six months in governance when General Sani Abacha overthrew him in a palace coup, in November 1993. Thereafter, General Abacha had himself sworn in as the new military Head of state of Nigeria.
It is noteworthy that General Abacha adopted a style of Government that was similar to that of General Buhari. In fact, General Abacha followed the pattern of also arresting and detaining all perceived enemies of his Government. For example, General Obasanjo and General Shehu Yar’Adua were both arrested, detained, and eventually prosecuted for alleged coup plot. Of course, they were both eventually convicted. It is history now that General Shehu Yar’Adua died in prison, while General Obasanjo survived. Whatever may be the ills of General Abacha’s government, Nigerians should simultaneously appreciate him for creating a homogenous Ijaw State of Bayelsa which has now produced President Goodluck Jonathan. The creation of Bayelsa State has enabled the Ijaw ethnic group (the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria) to join the league of major ethnic groups that had produced Presidents of Nigeria. We should also appreciate him for creating the six geopolitical zones which includes the South–South Zone. Hitherto Nigeria’s geopolitical zone or region was an incomplete compass of North, East and West without a South. Abacha filled the gap by adding the South.
On the 8th of June 1998, General Abacha died in his sleep at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja. General Abdulsalam Abubakar, who until then was Chief of Defence Staff, was then sworn in as the new military Head of State of Nigeria. Then followed the release from prison, of both General Obasanjo and Chief M. K. O. Abiola. A few days after their release, however, Chief M. K. O. Abiola died mysteriously in Abuja, after drinking a cup of tea. General Abdulsalam Abubakar announced that he would hand over power to a civilian Government of Nigeria in May 1999.
Thus, between June 1998 when he took office, and May 29th 1999, Nigeria received a Constitution through his instrumentality. He also put in place, structures for political party formation, as well as for new voters’ registration, even structures for an Independent Electoral Commission. Finally, then, he conducted elections in February 1999. General Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) emerged the winner of the presidential election and was sworn in as the civilian president of Nigeria, on the 29th of May 1999.
Between 1999 and 2003 the new civilian Government was faced by a myriad of problems.
For example, the city of Warri, in Delta State of Nigeria, was permanently at war, as rival ethnic groups constantly clashed, a scenario which lasted for more than two years. Similarly, the city of Shagamu, in Lagos State, was a scene of slaughter of persons of Northern Nigerian origin for violating the ORO cult tradition. Lagos, the capital of Lagos State itself, was also under siege by the dreaded ODUA (Oduduwa) Peoples Congress (OPC), which killed and maimed people from other ethnic groups. Nor was Bayelsa State spared; there was indeed a scene of total annihilation, ransacking, and sacking of a whole village called ODI. This was perpetrated by the Nigerian Army, on the instructions of the Federal Government. Zakibiam Village, in Benue State, was also a scene of slaughter of civilians by the Nigerian army, on the authority of the Federal Government. Jos, the capital of Plateau State, as well as its environs, became scenes of slaughter and ethnic cleansing of other groups.
Nor was that all. The city of Kano and other cities of the Northern parts of Nigeria were frequently scenes of religious violence by Moslems, against Christians. By the end of 2003, the Presidency itself was in disarray as the President and the Vice-President were quite embroiled in a quarrel. The Vice-President was, in fact, considering contesting as a presidential candidate in his own right, at the approaching 2004 elections.
This period, of course, also saw the introduction into Nigerian politics of assassinations of political opponents, even of members of the same party, if they were perceived as enemies.
The second term of (2004-2007) of the civilian administration in Nigeria witnessed a new dimension in Nigerian politics; the criminalization of politics and the politicization of crimes. It also saw the arming of youths by politicians, who had the intention of terrorizing the electorate, and rigging the elections. Politics became a zero sum game. During this period also, came the crisis in the oil-rich Niger Delta Region of Nigeria. This involved the establishment of armed militia who terrorized the oil companies and the civilian population and disrupted oil operations in the Niger Delta Region to the extent that Nigeria’s production had plummeted by about 50%. This second term of the civilian government also saw an attempt to elongate the Presidential term of office. This proved abortive eventually, as the National Assembly successfully challenged and foiled the attempt.
However, President Obasanjo’s administration must be credited with the following:-
1. Nigeria’s pariah state status was lifted through successful image laundering.
2. The licensing of GSM telephone operators in Nigeria – thus launching Nigeria into the GSM global network system.
3. The recovery from over seas monies looted from the Nigerian treasury.
4. The building up of Nigeria’s Foreign Exchange Reserves to an all time high level of over 40 billion U.S. dollars.
5. The raising of the credit status of Nigeria by paying off Nigeria’s external debts of over 30 billion U.S. dollars.
6. The re-capitalization of the share capital base of Nigerian banks so as to prevent bank liquidations which hitherto was common place.
For the 2007-2010 Presidential term election, Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua, previously Governor of Katsina State contested under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). For his running mate, he chose Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, previously Governor of Bayelsa State. Not only did they win the election, they were sworn in on the 29th of May 2007, as President and Vice-President, respectively.
The crisis in the Niger Delta escalated and indeed disrupted the operations of the oil companies and almost destabilized the Federal Government which of course relies for its income heavily on the sales revenue from oil. Still, crisis in other areas like Jos, the capital of Plateau State, continued to gain momentum, while religious riots in other parts of the Northern States escalated. A new religious group, known as Boko Haram, suddenly appeared from nowhere, sacking police stations, and killing and maiming innocent civilians.
In an attempt to make peace, President Yar’Adua granted total amnesty to the armed militia groups in the Niger Delta Region. This attempt, to some extent, doused the activities in the area and peace was actually in sight. Unfortunately, however, on the 5th of May 2010, President Yar’Adua died of a medical condition for which he had for long been receiving treatment. Because of the nature of the country, some groups engaged in efforts aimed at preventing the Vice-President from automatically stepping into office, even as is clearly stipulated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Eventually, however, good sense prevailed and the Vice-President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was sworn in as the new Civilian President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, at least until 2011, when the next round of elections will hold.
From the foregoing, it is clear that the journey from October 1, 1960 - October 1, 2010 has been anything but easy or smooth. The road has been rough and the ride quite a bumpy one. No other African country can be said to have gone through an experience of such magnitude. Now, the question I pose is simple: Do Nigerians want to travel this same road in the next 50 years? On the other hand, shall Nigerians look for an alternative road to travel? Nigerians, of course, have the right to choose their own destiny, even now. Clearly, it was British colonial rule that lumped a diversity of ethnic nationalities into one country, thus establishing multi-national states, instead of one State. By this action, Nigerians were made victims of destiny.
The various Military governments that ruled Nigeria have created thirty- six (36) States, in an attempt to bring Nigerians within their ethnic groups, as much as possible. For these actions, Nigerians should appreciate the Military. But the Military erred grievously, by essentially concentrating power at the centre, as in a unitary system of government, a pattern which they also handed to subsequent civilian governments. Because of Nigeria’s particular multi-ethnic configuration, greater autonomy should have been given to the States, with the centre regulating and supervising the States, and controlling national affairs. Nigerians should also appreciate the Military for being able to keep Nigeria one when powerful disintegrating forces were at work, quite determined to have Nigeria break up.
3. AND THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
For five centuries (from 1500-1900) Europe inflicted indelible injuries on the
African continent. This was done in three different ways namely:-
(a) The Slave Trade
(b) Exploitation and plundering of mineral and agricultural produce of Africa.
(c) The partition / balkanization of the African continent.
A. THE SLAVE TRADE
After the discovery of America by Columbus, there was a mad rush by Europeans to migrate to the newly-found country, for economic reasons. Others, of course, went for reasons of political and religious freedom. Because of the hot climate of the Southern part of the United States which was suitable for the cultivation of cotton, tobacco, sugar cane and other tropical plants, it was necessary to bring people from countries with similar hot climate for the farming activities. Initially, Indians and Italians were brought to the Southern part of United States for purposes of cultivating these tropical economic plants.
It soon became obvious, however, that of all races, Africans were the ones best suited by the climate of this part of the United States. Thus, the Slave Trade – the ignoble business of capturing and shipping men and women from the African continent to the United States – began. For obvious reasons, the Africans that were so captured or transported had to be able-bodied men and women. In other words, they had to be fit both in health and physique to work in the plantations. It has been estimated that no fewer than 10 million able-bodied Africans were shipped to the United States of America during the Slave Trade. The immediate effect of the trade or human trafficking on Africa was the depopulation of the Continent. Of course, a reduction of total economic output of the African continent became imperative, as the young, able-bodied and productive men and women had been forcibly taken away to America.
After the abolition of the Slave Trade in the late 19th century, Europe applied other methods of injury on the African continent. It is noteworthy that till date, neither Europe nor the United States has apologized or paid any reparations to Africa. It was only France that admitted five years ago that her involvement in the Slave Trade was indeed a terrible evil.
France has gone on to set the 10th of May every year as a day for remembering its involvement in the Slave Trade. It must be stated, however, that the stance of the United States is both contradictory and hypocritical, especially as the preamble to the American Constitution states thatall men are created equal. Indeed, as President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln waged a Civil War from 1861 to 1864, involving the Union and the Southern Confederacy, on the issue of the abolition of the Slave Trade.
The Southern part of the United States, where these agricultural produce were cultivated, did not want the abolition of the Slave Trade. So the country was split into two and then waged a civil war against slavery. The Union defeated the Southern part and the slaves were liberated. Still, now that the war has been won, slaves freed, and also in spite of the fact that the American Constitution considers all men as created equal, Article 1 Sections 2 and 3 of the same Constitution provides for unequal racial representation. While, also, the Slave Trade has been abolished, the scars still remain, as its intended psychological effect is to make the black race feel inferior to the white.
B. EXPLOITATION AND PLUNDERING OF AFRICAN MINERALS AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCE
I now come to the second area of injury inflicted on the African Continent. After the abolition of the Slave Trade, Europeans turned to the exploitation of African minerals, such as gold, silver, and diamonds. Indeed such minerals were looted and carted away with reckless abandon to Europe, thereby making Africa much poorer, as these natural resources are not renewable. The Europeans did not stop with the mineral resources; they also turned to agricultural produce, which they now shipped as raw materials.
By shipping such raw materials from Africa to Europe, the Europeans paid little or next to nothing for them. They did not process them in Africa because value would be added, a situation they considered undesirable, as it would attract higher prices. Another reason the raw materials were not processed here in Africa is to avoid creating employment for Africans. Sending raw materials to Europe for processing obviously meant creating jobs and employment for the whites themselves and their own Continent. By not having industries cited on the Continent and not having jobs created for the blacks, Africa was left quite high and dry.
The capital cities of Europe were known as the metropolis while the African countries where the goods were produced were known as the Satellites. So, from the Satellites these goods were sent to the metropolis and the Satellites were bled dry. The Satellites were meant to depend on the metropolis because after the goods were processed in the metropolis, they were sent back to the Satellites and sold at exorbitant prices because value had been added. So the Satellites were meant to depend on the metropolis.
Latin American economists called this process of exploitation the Dependency Theory, while Indian economists termed it the Drain Theory. It is the sum total of this exercise that can be described as how Europe underdeveloped Africa. Such injury or exploitation meant that Europe became industrialized, and far wealthier, at the very expense of Africa. While Europe had now added value to the raw materials, Africa was left with nothing, because she had sold her goods as raw materials.
The reason for the foregoing account or commentary cannot be far to seek. It is to inform and educate the younger generation of Africans regarding what tragedies had befallen their Continent in the past. In other words, the aim is not to lament over such unfortunate incidents, but to encourage, indeed remind, this generation of Africans that it has simply become imperative for them to work ten times harder, if they are ever to catch up with the other Continents of the world.
C. THE PARTITION OR BALKANIZATION OF AFRICA.
After the Berlin Conference of 1885, European nations agreed to partition Africa into territories for each European nation’s trading interest. The countries that were notably involved in such balkanization included United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, and Portugal.
Thus, they exclusively owned such territories, specifically for trading and exploitation purposes. But the injuries – intended or accidental - caused by the Europeans and this exercise cannot but be associated with devastating effects on the African countries so carved out, even till today. The problem was that in the process of carving out territories for themselves, the Europeans lumped together, a bewildering multiplicity of ethnic groups with different linguistic, cultural, and religious accoutrements into a single state or territory.
Under such an arrangement, the strong sentimental feeling of belonging to a nation of one people of common descent is lacking. A nation is defined as a large aggregate of people having a common descent, culture or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory. On the basis of this definition, what appears to be the case of an African State so created by the partition exercise is nothing but a large aggregate of peoples. In other words, while such peoples inhabited a particular State or territory, they had neither a common descent, a common culture, nor a common language. For the different ethnic groups inhabiting a typical African State, the notion of a State appears artificial, while the notion of ethnicity appears more natural. Ethnicity denotes origin by birth or descent, rather than by present nationality.
Ethnicity relates to having consanguinity, that is, ethnic solidarity, even a sense of common identity. Obviously, such ethnic solidarity and a sense of common identity remains an inherent attribute of humanity. As a matter of fact, having a nation is not an inherent attribute of humanity. After all, it was only after World War 1 that the possibly misguided efforts of President Woodrow Wilson of USA helped to form European States out of what earlier had been no more than provinces striving for ethnic autonomy. Woodrow Wilson asserted international leadership in building a new world order. In 1917, he proclaimed American entrance into World War I “a crusade to make the world safe for democracy.” In all, it is therefore to be emphasized that the concept of Nation States with clearly defined territorial boundaries and external relations is only a modern phenomenon.
Colonial rule in Africa therefore, and as the foregoing analyses makes clear, in founding one state from several erstwhile autonomous ethnic groups, created multi-national States or States Nation, but certainly not homogenous States. Thus, what was created amounts to one State with many peoples - which can only be sustained by tyrannical regimes. This is one reason why unity, peace, stability and democracy have not found Africa a suitable climate for their growth.
The colonial experiment and expectation of founding one nation out of many different ethnic groups as in the case of the United States experiment was totally misplaced. In the case of America, the various European nationals that migrated to America went there with settlement in mind. They had uprooted themselves and said goodbye to their original countries and became prepared to found a new country, with a new culture, in all, a new experience in the new country called America.
In the case of Africa, on the other hand, the autonomous ethnic nationalities had always been there – well rooted and settled with their culture, traditions. In other words, they had simply no intention of abandoning their culture, language, or tradition. So the whole concept of throwing away ones culture, settling in another country, or adopting a new culture or language does not apply at all to Africa, as the people never left their countries. Instead, they maintained their culture and language, and were not prepared to do away with them. Therefore, the comparison with the case of the United States is a one that is grossly misplaced.
I restate the major argument here: the multi-national nature of the African states as created in the partition of Africa exercise remains essentially the source of the instability in Africa today. In fact, I consider this the very bane of all African countries established in the partition process.
What, then, is to be done? To broach this question, I make the initial point that our founding fathers and political midwives did not do their initial home work. Unfortunately, they mistook as real unity the seeming unity that the different ethnic nationalities displayed in their common endeavour to get rid of the white oppressors or colonial masters, as a prelude to the attainment of Independence. In effect, therefore, this was only a unity of purpose and action, specifically geared towards the expulsion of the foreign intruders. This was thought to be a unity of their soul and spirit, as if the different ethnic nationalities in the country were now one. No, they were stilldifferent people. They only came together, as here emphasized, for the purpose of expelling the common enemy. Once the common enemy had been successfully dislodged, our founding fathers ought to have sat down to determine whether the different ethnic groups desired to go their separate ways, or continue as one country, as conceived or fabricated by the colonial masters.
If the latter route was favoured or chosen, then the terms and conditions for such corporate existence would have been clearly spelt out. This would have entailed identifying areas of differences between the ethnic groups, regarding, say, the history, geography, anthropology, culture, religion and language of each of them. It is obvious that such areas of differences could easily ignite conflict among the different groups. Several micro-variables, even recipes for ethnic or inter-group conflicts, should have been carefully identified and examined, with a view to neutralizing the conflict-generating capacities of such micro-variables. These would have been embodied in a Constitution for the people of the various ethnic nationalities, to adequately accommodate each ethnic group and allay any fears of marginalization by the other.
It is unfortunate that our founding fathers disregarded a crucial factor: A constitution must be the product of the people, never that of a government. It was simply an error for them to inherit government from the colonial masters, then continue to run the country along exactly the same lines as the former had done. The big mistake of failing to do their homework amounts to what Professor Ali Mazrui calls a “truncation of politics or turning politics up-side down.” The fact that our founding fathers continued to run the country in the manner the colonial masters left it for them easily engendered problems, conflicts, and overall instability.
The case of Nigeria was particularly delicate and thus, demanding of greater caution. As if the overall partitioning exercise, even the lumping together of different ethnic nationalities did not create enough problems, the British created separate regions, namely the Southern Protectorate and the Northern Protectorate. Worse still, then, on the 1st day of January 1914, Lord Lugard went on to amalgamate the two Protectorates into one country, to which his friend, Miss Flora Shaw, then gave the name Nigeria. Obviously, the amalgamation increased the total number of different ethnic nationalities in the new country.
Because the Southern Protectorate was predominantly Christian and the Northern predominantly Moslem, the amalgamation brought about religious polarization in the new country. Inevitably, the two different Protectorates harboured different concepts of government. In Christianity, Church and State are separated, which is not the case in Islam. In Islam, therefore, the Religious leader is superior to the Head of Government.
By the amalgamation, these two contradictory concepts of government were expected to reside in one country. Not surprisingly, such a “marriage” added another problem to the already existing ones of multi-ethnicity and religious polarization.
With the singular act of amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates by Lord Lugard on the 1st day of January, 1914, Lugard “joined together by chemistry what God had previously put asunder”.
If according to LEROME BENNETT Jnr. (in the Road not taken)….
“ a nation is a choice”, then the amalgamation exercise without the prior consent of the people of the two protectorates could not be said to be their choice. Certainly, not the choice of the minority ethnic nationalities that found themselves in Nigeria as a result of the amalgamation. For them, the 1st day of January 1914 remains a cursed date in the Gregorian Christian Calendar.
The amalgamation created a permanent in-built instability and marginalization of the minority groups in Nigeria.
The amalgamation by Lord Lugard, without a referendum or plebiscite to ascertain the wishes of the Southern and Northern Protectorates, was quite a portentous event. Two quotations clearly illustrate this tragedy of Nigeria.
1. “Assuming that the impossible were feasible – that this collection of self-contained and mutually independent Native States, separated from one another, as many of them are, by great distances, by differences of history and traditions and by ethno-logical, racial, tribal, political, social and religious barriers, were indeed capable of being welded into homogeneous nation-a deadly blow would thereby be struck at the very root of national self government in Nigeria, which secures to each separate people the right to maintain its identity, its individuality, and its nationality; its own chosen form of government, and the peculiar political and social institution which have been evolved for it by the wisdom and by the accumulated experience of generations of its forbearers.” Sir Hugh (Hugh Clifford), former Governor-General of Nigeria.
2. “Nigeria has actually pursued the politics of ethnic, religious, and regional cleavages to the point of violent, bloody and disintegrating civil war. In a way, Nigeria represents the most troubling and most complex aggregation of all the structural problems in African politics today … Nigeria deserves special mention. Since independence, Nigeria has witnessed chronic elite and communal instability, ethnic riots, rebellions, several coups d’etats, ethnic pogroms, and a thirty-month bloody civil war. The country was in the grip of chronic disintegration forces from 1962-1970. Of all countries in Africa, Nigeria is unique in its special combination and convergence of chronic regionalism, ethnic exclusivity and intolerance, religious polarization; and political organizational power drives within a structure of ruthless, even banal competition” (Raymond L. Hall).
Ethnic discord constitutes the most widespread, protracted, and violent form of inter-group conflict in the modern world. The desire for ethnic autonomy is present in almost all heterogeneous societies in the modern world and takes many forms
In every African country that suffered colonial rule, as already seen, there exists a seeming unity of the different ethnic groups, as they fought to chase away the colonial masters. At the departure of the colonial masters, such united groups saw themselves as political parties. In the actual sense, they are to be seen as liberation movements, rather than as political parties, say, in the sense of political parties in Europe. The origin of political parties in Europe was the struggle between the capitalists/employers of labour and the working classes.
(1) Here, there is an ideological divide between the two classes.
(2) Here also, the conflict was internal that is, the working classes were fighting the capitalist classes within their country. So, the workers had to galvanize themselves into a powerful group to be able to press their points and achieve their demands. The employers of labour and the capitalist class also had to galvanize themselves to avoid being overthrown. This brought about polarization or an ideological divide.
In Africa, on the other hand, the aggression of the liberation struggle was against the external enemy, and not an internal enemy. Also, the liberation movements did not have any ideological divide, as they were simply groups of agitators concerned with liberating themselves by expelling the external enemy. In all, therefore, it can be said that in Africa, political parties have no ideological divide. Even though some of the groups claimed to be progressives or socialists, this is only to the extent of their radicalism in their agitation or liberation struggle. Still, their efforts contributed immensely in bringing colonialism down.
It bears repetition that the mistake of assuming that the unity displayed by the different ethnic groups in an African State towards driving away the colonial masters had crystallized into the unity of a single ethnic nationality contributed to the failure of African political leaders to govern their States effectively. Problems were bound to arise once any of the ethnic nationalities asserted its uniqueness and interests, that is, against the other ethnic nationalities. From the analyses so far, therefore, the problems caused by the partition/balkanization of Africa can effectively be summarized as follows:
(a) That partition/balkanization exercise created multi-national States in Africa, and not homogeneous States.
(b) That multi-national States are bound to suffer the problems of the National question.
(c) That the National question causes instability in a State.
(d) That political and social integrations are more difficult to achieve in a multi-national State, as the citizens of the State are more sentimentally inclined to their ethnic origins, than to their national identity.
(e) That it is difficult to effectively govern a multi-national State if the micro-variables or recipes for ethnic conflicts within the State have not been identified, neutralized or diluted by the introduction of certain structural and institutional safeguards.
(f) That political leaders of most African States failed to identify the micro-variables for ethnic conflicts within their States, hence the failure of most African governments.
(g) That of all the injuries inflicted on Africa by Europe, the problem created by the partition/balkanization of Africa is the one that has proved most destructive to the cause of Africa till today.
(h) That it is the sole responsibility of African political leaders to engage in the necessary political-cum-social engineering to neutralize the micro-variables for ethnic conflicts in their States in order to establish stable governments and make meaningful developmental progress. The political and social engineering of neutralizing the micro-variables for ethnic conflicts in the State are the very foundations of Justice and Equity that must be laid before other structures.
There is no doubt that the effect of the partition/balkanization exercise varies from one African country to another. However, it is easy to identify the countries that have suffered most, in fact, recorded the heaviest casualties. They are Nigeria, Congo DRC, and the Sudan.
First world countries that have multi-national problems have taken measures to cope with them. In July 1708, England signed the Act of the Union with Scotland. As a result of this, Scotland has its own Parliament, as well as currency – the Scottish pound. Also, it was under Scottish law, not English law, that the Libyan Lockerbie bomber was released from prison. Each of the four kingdoms of the United Kingdom has some measure of autonomy.
On the other hand, Switzerland, which has four distinct ethnic nationalities, has adopted a con-federal system of government. Even the United States, which has only immigrant multi-nationality has adopted a Federal system, with a great measure of autonomy for the federating states.
First World countries that failed to take such structural and institutional steps have paid dearly for such a failing and have suffered disintegration. Examples are Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the sixteen Republics of the former USSR.
The million-naira question here then is, What lessons can Nigeria learn from all these? For some time now, Western Intelligence Agencies have predicted that Nigeria could disintegrate within the next fifteen years. Giving the well-known problems of the country, which were created by the Partitioning of Africa, the Amalgamation in 1914, religious polarization, multi-ethnicity, even the country’s particular multi-cultural and multilingual configuration, is it not necessary that we should, as Nigerians, undertake a surgical solution to all these identifiable problems. Is such an attempt or exercise not obviously more logical and more sensible than attempting to sweep the multiplicity of our problems under one huge carpet? Isn’t the latter a certain way of postponing the sad but inevitable end?
I opt for a surgical solution so that we can preserve Nigeria. It is better to preserve Nigeria because there are so many advantages in numbers and diversity. Many Nigerians are hardly aware that the Northern part of Nigeria has more renewable economic resources than the South. The crude oil in the South is a finite resource. In any case, the big economies of the world neither produce nor sell oil. And having crude oil resources is by no means a pre-condition for nationhood. Indeed, if every nation had crude oil, it would become far less valuable. Just as if everybody is somebody, then nobody is anybody.
The USA is the world’s biggest economy; yet, the country does not sell oil. Japan, the second biggest economy, neither produces nor sells oil. Nor does China, the third biggest economy in the world.
Even the richest individuals in the world as published by FORBES magazine do not sell oil. Take Bill Gates (Microsoft), Mittall (Steel) worth £14 billion, Donald Trump (Real Estate).
The Northern parts of Nigeria can be easily commercially cultivated and dotted with agro-allied industries for processing the crops produced and stored in temperature-regulated silos. Simple crops such as maize, groundnuts, tomatoes, rice, millet, and Beans etc. For power generation, Solar Energy Panels farms can be established in Kano, Sokoto, and Maiduguri areas, while those of Nassarawa, Plateau and Bauchi States could be opened up for Tourism. Such African countries as Kenya, Gambia, and South Africa earn quite huge foreign exchange from tourism. There is, of course, a variety of solid minerals in different areas of the Northern part of Nigeria.
Considering the particularly peculiar problems of Nigeria, I submit that there are only two systems of government that Nigeria can adopt, namely Dictatorship or Confederation. But clearly, Confederation remains far preferable to Dictatorship.
Issues of Revenue from the confederating States to the centre could be ironed out and embodied in a con-federal Constitution. In any event, we started with a Federal system from 1960. This was destroyed by the military in 1966, when a Military Unitary System was established. It has continued till date, while the people of Nigeria have never made a Constitution of their choice.
France used to have unstable governments because of problems of ethnicity, multi party and regional problems to the extent that every newly elected government collapsed almost immediately. But with General De Gaulle’s efforts and the ingenuity and drafting skill of Michel Debre in 1958, a Constitution was produced, which took care of the problems of France. Till today, France can be considered a very stable nation in Europe.
If the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria were allowed to decide or make a Constitution of their choice they would invariably choose a Confederal System, which guarantees to each ethnic nationality their autonomy, their religion, their culture, their values and priorities and the pace with which to achieve them. Such a Constitution would guarantee equality for even the smallest ethnic nationality and freedom from fear of marginalization for the little Emeka. It would also end the agony of the people of the Niger Delta Region who, for over 50 years, have been systematically and progressively marginalized.
During a CIVICS lesson, a primary school lady teacher had explained the meaning of the word Unitywith illustrations to eight-year old pupils. She ended the illustration with the Bible story of thewhale swallowing Jonah. After Jonah had been swallowed, according to her, Jonah had become united with the whale. When she asked the questions (a) “Have you now understood the meaning of unity? (b) Who would like Nigeria to be united?’’ Little Emeka, who is eight years old, stood up. But instead of answering the question, he demanded first from the lady teacher, “who would be theJonah if Nigeria was united”? Obviously, little Emeka was terrified by this type of unity. But a con-federal system of government for Nigeria would not swallow little Emeka. In all, it is surprising that since our Independence on October 1, 1960, the con-federal system of government remains the only one that has not yet been tried, despite all the guarantees it offers all the various ethnic nationalities. It is very strange that it is the only road not taken by Nigeria.
It is particularly apropos to quote Lerome Bennett, Jnr here:
“ … a nation is an amalgam of critical decisions made at crucial forks in the road. A nation is a choice. It chooses itself at fateful forks in the road by turning left or right, by giving up something or taking something – and in the giving up and the taking, in the deciding and not deciding, the nation becomes. And even afterwards, the people and the nation are defined by the fork, and the decision that was made there, as well as the decision that was not made engraves itself into things, into institutions, nerves, muscles, tendons and the first decision requires a second decision and the second requires a third, and it goes on and on until one day the people wake up and discover that they are mad, and corrupt and divided, and that they built war and hate and blood into the very air they breathe” (Lerome Bennett, Jnr., in “The Road not Taken.”
NIGERIANS, FRIENDS, AND LOVERS OF NIGERIA should, as a matter of urgency, examine The Road Not Taken. I consider one point imperative: the debate for a re-structuring of our dear country, Nigeria, with a view to saving it from disintegration, must begin now. I deem this not only crucial, but also urgent. This exercise need not affect the forthcoming elections, planned for the country early in 2011, as long as the outcome of the exercise would, by the year 2014 (when Nigeria would be 100 years old), give birth to a new, stronger, more stable, and progressive Nigeria. In all free and democratic countries, the Political Agenda-setting role of the press is well established. The Nigerian Press should stand up to its responsibilities by calling for a debate to examinethe premises and the promises of a confederal system of government for Nigeria.
The Nigerian National Assembly and the States Houses of Assembly in Nigeria should in the over all interest of Nigeria be courageous and patriotic enough to pass the necessary legislation.
Written by Ambassador CD Orike.