At The Bewitching Hour: Nigeria Clocks In At 100 Still In Denial
Time was when the British colonialists were accused of creating one-Nigeria in total ignorance of the stark differences existing between the different peoples that erstwhile lived independently and as neighbors in the geospace currently occupied by “Nigeria” prior to 1914. But, as we will learn from the following information, colonial Britain was well aware, or at least was well-informed, of these differences. Therefore, the crime of colonial Britain with regards to one-Nigeria formation, besides the general inhumanity of colonialism, is not that of perhaps pardonable ignorance, but of deliberate neglect, insensitivity, carelessness and impunity typical of colonial overlords. The result is the perpetual devastating dysfunction of that awful creation which manages to cling to life one hundred years later, its sole function to continue to torment, to ruin the life and times of peoples directly and indirectly affected by Nigeria.
According to “Revealed: Lugard's 1914 report on amalgamated Nigeria” of December 31, 2013 (http://transparencyng.com/index.php/news-categories/130-reports/8658-revealed-lugard-s-1914-report-on-amalgamated-nigeria-tribune), in 1914, the Right Honorable A Bonar Law, the Governor General [of Nigeria], wrote a note prefacing a report of the status of Nigeria immediately post Amalgamation. In that note, he identified the serious problems facing colonial rule and administration of Nigeria, for which the challenged colonialists must / had to make allowances both then and in the future:
The principal change at Amalgamation, according to this document, was that the “Colony of Southern Nigeria” became the “Colony of Nigeria” to be ruled by the single Government of Nigeria, under a governor-general. “The Legislative Council [of the now Colony of Nigeria] remained, but its powers of legislation were restricted to the Colony” since “…it would be manifestly unjust to place Mohammedan emirates of the north and the mining interest of the Bauchi plateau under a Council sitting on the coast [in south], in which they could have no representation…”
Did you catch that? Huge fundamental problem, “fudged” over by the British, right from the beginning. So, why even attempt Amalgamation—why force on Amalgamation at all?
The colonial administration could not administer a “unified” Nigeria as one and had to divide it into Southern and Northern Province, because of “…the difficulty presented by the fact that they were each subject to a different set of laws, in some cases widely divergent and differ essentially in many matters of policy and administration.” Really!? We ask the same question, why proceed with Amalgamation? Continuing:
“The system of land tenure and the prerogative of the Crown in respect to lands, the system of taxation, of the court of law, and the method of native administration were fundamentally different- and the adoption of any other method of sub-division, such as been suggested, would therefore have produces any initial chaos.” You must be kidding—insisting on Amalgamation. And…
“The division actually adopted, pending the unification of the laws and the evolution of a uniform policy, with such local variations as differences in race, in degree of civilization, in religion and environment, which might prove to be necessary for Nigeria, in no way precluded a later adjustment of this spheres.” Oh yes, hoping for “later adjustment”? Right! More:
“Southern Nigeria, on the other hand, presented a picture which was in almost all points the exact converse of that in the North. Here the material prosperity had been extraordinary.” And so while Northern Nigeria was devoting itself to building up a system of Native Administration and laboriously raising a revenue by direct taxation, Southern Nigeria had found itself engrossed in material development.” Wow! Knowing all this, the British still went ahead with the forced Amalgamation.
It is therefore accurate to conclude that no one or entity understood the fixed, unbridgeable differences between those whom the British would force together as one country more than the British themselves: they knew. Here, we've read about how they deftly adjusted their tactics accordingly to respect and navigate Nigeria's insoluble divisions—a divided Nigeria—while at the same time forcing Nigeria to be “unified.”
PRESENT-DAY OFFENDERS IGNORE EVIDENT REALITY
And, time was when colonial Britain was deservedly blamed for creating the problem that is her baby, unworkable one-Nigeria. Today, the crime of continuing to allow (or more accurately, of using) impossibly one-Nigeria to snuff the life out of peoples living in Nigeria is to be blamed on Nigeria's so-called leaders, along with the “followership” otherwise known as “citizens.” With the help of post-colonial Britain, Nigerian leaders have foisted and sustained a failed State on brutalized and bruised citizenry; a failure resulting from their attempting to “ignore away” the known insurmountable differences between the peoples. And, even though history, facts and experience show that these differences can never be wished away or pretended away, this pernicious exercise of sustaining one-Nigeria continues today, which brings us to up to date: January 2014.
Today, a political party called APC is promising to rescue a Nigeria divided of its own essence; APC is trying to sell this promise by preaching unity, progress, patriotism, democracy and rule of law, while at the same time lambasting the government of the day (PDP) which it accuses of doing the opposite. It only takes an infant to remind APC that it has all the same players who, from within and or without, contributed to the ongoing mess and cesspool called Nigeria, to the lawlessness of the land, to the corruption that same APC, in unbridled hypocrisy, is now shrill about. APC is even now proudly parading these same criminal and inane players in public in a flaunting show of either complete ignorance of contemporary history and experience, or senile forgetfulness or most likely, in-your-face impunity: after all, what can the masses really do to APC and to these players? A fifteen year-old will remind APC and Nigeria that he or she is the same age as PDP; and that the same unfulfilled promises made by PDP originally on his or her birthdate are those which APC is making today, which by all accounts and looks will undoubtedly never see the light of day, be it in another fifteen years or even in fifteen decades.
But mature reasoning should show APC and Nigeria that the problem with Nigeria is one-Nigeria: it is not Jonathan or PDP. It is not possible or workable to unify Nigeria, owing to the well-known and unchanging differences, differences which no one really should have any reason or cause to be ashamed of—or, for that matter, be afraid of. By the same token, no sane person should ignore or dismiss these differences for the sake of pursuing unity in certain futility. Promises can be made, but experience, facts and history prove that no promises can be kept under one-Nigeria because in Nigeria “…each [Region is] subject to a different set of laws, in some cases widely divergent and differ essentially in many matters of policy and administration” “…the system of taxation, of the court of law, and the method of native administration were fundamentally different” “…differences in race, in degree of civilization, in religion and environment…” These differences were originally catalogued by the creators of Nigeria; they understood, and realizing this, made administrative changes to acknowledge, respect and cleverly accommodate divided Nigeria in order to navigate these differences even while pretending to enforce one-Nigeria. Thanks to the referenced article, it is now clear. But is APC or even PDP listening? Do they understand—APC, PDP or whatever strutters are on the political stage? Is Nigeria—are Nigerians—any wiser?
CAUSE OF CORRUPTION (AND OTHER PROBLEMS) IN NIGERIA IDENTIFIED
Every person harps about “Corruption” in Nigeria, and every aspiring government, political party (including obviously clueless APC) or “leader” promises to do something to abolish it. As much as one may argue that corruption is inherent in human nature, let's look at some facts about how Corruption was introduced and then sustained in Nigeria. Do you read how “the Right Honorable A Bonar Law, the Governor General [of Nigeria],” described the pre-Amalgamation regions, “North” and “South”, in the referenced document? Here, see for yourself:
“Southern Nigeria, on the other hand, presented a picture which was in almost all points the exact converse of that in the North. Here the material prosperity had been extraordinary. The revenue had almost doubled itself in a period of five years. The surplus balances exceeded a million and a half”… ”And so while Northern Nigeria was devoting itself to building up a system of Native Administration and laboriously raising a revenue by direct taxation, Southern Nigeria had found itself engrossed in material development.”
This was 1914: did you read the Governor-General complain of corruption in either the North or the South? No. I didn't, either. If there was corruption, in his characteristic candor and professionalism, he would have mentioned it.
In 1966, though, the very first policy of the Aguiyi-Ironsi-led government announced on January 28 1966 (as reported by New York Times in “Ironsi Announces Sweeping Reforms”, of the same date) stated that the Military government “would stamp out corruption 'with ruthless efficiency' and initiate investigations of those 'who abused their public offices through the acquisition of state lands and financial deals.'” (Taken from The Untold History of the Nigeria-Biafra War by Dr. Luke Aneke. Triumph Publishing New York 2007 p.34). (It is a good bet that all current leaders and officials of APC and PDP would have had a “rough” time during that regime!) So, within fifty years of Amalgamation, Corruption had infested Nigeria and had become so rampant and so ugly that the first order of business for that military government was a plan to deal with it militarily! How did this happen?
In one word: “one-Nigeria-nization”! Amalgamation! This is an analogy of what Amalgamation did: The colonialist, Smith, in order to fully exploit rich and prosperous Peter and his non-materially-minded erstwhile neighbor, Abdul, forces them into a relationship—without their consent. Smith takes Peter's wealth and resources and uses a lot of it to entice and keep Abdul in the relationship, and, on top of that, as an added incentive, places Abdul in charge of the relationship over Peter while he, Smith, is the undisputed overall boss. This sick relationship leads to entitlement mentality on the part of Abdul: he does not have to work for anything; he is guaranteed the best of the products of the relationship and also, “born to rule” status. Peter is demoralized: merit means nothing; why work that hard if the fruits of his labor will be taken away from him and given to his “under-master”, Abdul, while the rest is wrested from him by the big bad Master Smith? On his part, Smith is all too happy: he is in colonial heaven: he is in full control; he has it all; he rules over Peter and Abdul. In this arrangement, merit and hard work are no longer recognized or encouraged as values, only replaced by favoritism. Productive and progressive healthy competition is replaced by naked exploitation. Finally, it becomes clear to Peter: three can play that game—get whatever you can without ever working for it, any way you can, any time, all the time. Nepotism? Add that, naturally. Impunity? But, of course: don't they all go together? That's the essence of corruption, isn't it? This is in fact corruption.
There is no rocket science to it. Corruption in Nigeria is a result of the way colonial Britain originally put Nigeria—with its obvious unworkable incompatibilities—together and Governor-General Law told us exactly how they put Nigeria together in 1914. Kill merit, take away by force the fruit of the labors of hard work, give such away to the non-deserving, and then deliberately place the hard-worker under the control of the free rider. Finally, oversee the whole lopsided relation with the heavy hand and force of colonialism. Corruption is the only outcome of this type of arrangement. Corruption today in Nigeria cannot be gotten rid of or even controlled as long as there is one-Nigeria, where one-Nigeria represents the ongoing exploitative and corrupting relationship originally set up by colonial Britain. Pre-colonization, the British acknowledged Southern prosperity and progress: remember, today's almighty Oil was not even part of that picture. With colonization, the South and the North became pits of corruption, devoid of productivity incentive; the wealth left the South to the North and ultimately mostly to colonial Britain. By the post-colonialism era, corruption, like a virus, flourished and completely displaced Southern prosperity. Today, corruption is no longer the colonial problem: it is now the problem of the neo-colonized—peoples who inherit the structures created, operated and left behind by colonial masters which the natives are now in charge of. Prior to 1914, there was no corruption in this Bio-space. After one-Nigeria, corruption corrupted Nigeria thoroughly. Today, the ongoing support of the structure of one-Nigeria encourages, deepens, spreads and strengthens corruption.
As for the argument about Corruption not being peculiar to Nigeria, that is entirely correct. What is unique about Nigeria and corruption is that Nigeria presents to the world a real and practical study in the origins and process of Corruption. A “snapshot” in 1914 shows an astonishingly prosperous and progressive Independent South; a second snapshot in 1966 reveals a disgusting and alarmingly corrupt Nigeria after it had subsumed the said South by colonial fiat. What transpired?
1) Merit: You have two systems. One has merit as part of its value set. The other does not even have merit in its vocabulary. Alone, both are content. Force the two systems together, without their consent. To accommodate the forced relationship, banish merit entirely.
2) Hard work and its reward: You have two systems. One has hard work as part of its ethic; it looks forward to and enjoys the rewards, even if materialistic, of its hard work. To the other system, hard work is not recognized and reward for hard work is an alien concept. By itself, each is system is content. Force the two systems together without their consent and to make that stick, take the rewards away from the hard worker and give them to the other.
3) Subordination: You have two systems. Each is independent. One is progressive and prosperous, and that's important to it. The other does not recognize progressiveness and prosperity and has a different valuation system regarding these things. Force them together in a relationship, and decide to place the progressive under the authority and power of the other.
4) Institutionalization: You have two systems. They are starkly different and that is well known. Without their consent, force them into a relationship; apply the above three conditions, and formalize the forced relationship as a country and the conditions above as the norm and law of the land, with impunity.
This is what transpired in Nigeria. It is not clear if any one of the conditions above can cause corruption all by itself; or what combinations thereof will birth corruption. What is known is that all four occurred together during the Amalgamation of Nigeria and prosperity and progressiveness turned into corruption. These conditions still exist today, and aptly define one-Nigeria.
(By the same token, [good] leadership cannot exist in Nigeria for the same reason of forcing on one-Nigeria. The way Nigeria is forced together ignoring its unmanageable deep fissures and their consequences yet pretending to maintain “unity” will never foster leadership. Neither can free and fair elections happen in Nigeria, where, at the end of the day of ugly politicking experiences, a handpicked candidate-“winner” is imposed on the electorate with glee and impunity, predetermined by the differences between the peoples, which differences Nigerians pretend are not operative.)
INCAPABLE OF LEARNING OR INCAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING?
Comes now President Jonathan with the statement of his patriotic fervor on the desirability and inevitability of one-Nigeria which (he hopes) is to be finally formally rigged into ratification by his Sovereign National Conference (SNC) planned for later this year, as if the consequences of trying to keep Nigeria one are either new or nothing to him. It was hoped that with the SNC, Nigeria would stop denying its irreconcilable differences, accept them, and summarily deal with them by the peoples freely choosing for themselves and by themselves whether to stay together or to leave. Alas, President Jonathan has chosen the path of Gowon who recognized and acknowledged in 1966 that there is truly no basis for unity of Nigeria, yet went to war and committed Genocide against Biafra along the way just to keep Nigeria one, only in the end snatching a pyrrhic victory: Nigeria is still not one today and is still at war with itself. President Jonathan failed to learn from his godfather turned nemesis, General Obasanjo, who, under pressure to convene an SNC, placed the discussion of the structure / restructuring of Nigeria out of bounds and rather tried to use the conference to advance his third term ambitions in futility. Having missed that opportunity to let the people choose, Obasanjo was saddling Nigeria with even more crippling dysfunction and destruction (which, like a typical amnesic Nigerian leader, he now blames on Jonathan!). In 1966, General Ironsi was a zealot for one-Nigeria; he failed to heed the call to re-think and re-direct; it caused him his life and threw Nigeria into a new but equally destructive trajectory still tracing out to today. As a matter of fact, many of the players running around now in the political and social arenas had a direct or indirect hand in his murder; they still style themselves as “patriots.”
For that matter, how is it that President Jonathan does not understand why his PDP party is hated in Nigeria for having achieved practically nothing, whether this performance or lack thereof is a result of perception (which is as good as reality with people) or fact? Can he not see why no party and why no leader, no matter how earnest and honest, can work effectively in Nigeria given the context of one-Nigeria? Can he not see APC and chuckle, knowing that fifteen years ago, PDP started the same way, with lofty goals and a noble cast who soon were destroyed by one-Nigeria and ended up achieving nothing of substance? (Well, truth be told, APC is not exactly starting with a noble cast, just recycled proven selfish hypocrites, opportunists and born-to-rulers masquerading as “statesmen” and patriots; and it does not have any discernible goals except to get rid of Jonathan and hand power back to the North. Yet, all the dysfunctional frenzy can be traced to one point: the atmosphere created by one-Nigeria.)
President Jonathan should read more into what is happening with his PDP. All these defections and coups (yes, these PDP defections enabled by Obasanjo and abetted by some Northern leaders are in fact “soft” coups. When late President Yar'Adua was practically dead for one year and his kitchen cabinet and wife with their outside supporters ran Nigeria while refusing to allow the VP to succeed him in complete violation of the constitution, and the PDP-dominated NASS said nothing, that was certainly a coup—all these defections and coups—) are possible because of the incorrigible dysfunction resulting from one-Nigeria: people truly responding in the interest of and loyalty to their known deep differences while pretending they are unified. In any case, these players and events are servicing the divided politics and divided political class of Nigeria, while doing nothing to solve the common problems of the divided masses, another good example of corruption. All this can be attributed to the conditions created by the friction from forcing together of peoples known to have deep differences and divisions, and attempting to maintain such a fake and forced “unity”. Surely. President Jonathan and his wise counsellors know this.
For these and other reasons, President Jonathan ought to reconsider his stance on the Sovereign National Conference. First, this, while not being a rare opportunity, is still the best opportunity to hear directly from the peoples, without the imposition of a pre-fixed government agenda and outcome. Second, it should be a conference where the peoples come to ratify each their respective ethnic sovereignties and, re-vested as such with that natural power and natural authority, decide for themselves whether to form a union or not, and whom to “union with,” if. It is called Self Determination. While there is still goodwill—is there, or is it just pretense, typical for Nigeria?
President Jonathan will have to decide on emulating the life-saving and culture-preserving bravery of Mikhail Gorbachev of then Soviet Union or the destructive nationalism of Slobodan Milosevic of then Yugoslavia. History has vivid records. Soviet Union broke up peacefully and orderly—thanks largely to Mr. Gorbachev—without triggering the feared Armageddon among the parties. But, break up it did, and the different nations are engaged in life and living activities today, including building new relationships even among themselves. Contrast that with Yugoslavia which also broke up, but not until Mr. Milosevic insisted and had dragged it and the entire surrounding region through the brutality and destruction of another war in Europe, complete with genocide and ethnic cleansing—again, for Europe. The “new” nations forge ahead, with lingering bitterness, sadness and lack of goodwill; but move on they must.
For Nigeria, there is no getting away from the fact that the problem of Nigeria is one-Nigeria. The problem of Nigeria has never been the stark differences between the peoples: that's rather obvious and natural. The issue is that Nigeria wants to gloss over or ignore those differences—the huge white elephant sitting in the room—as if they are minor or do not exist. Then, Nigeria refuses to admit that its problems stem from such pretense. It is one thing to be playing with a square peg and a round hole and pretend that they will fit; it is another thing to refuse to understand why they will never fit; yet another thing to keep pretending that it is someone desirable or preferable to force them to fit when they will never. Blinded in this exercise in futility, like a hypnotized laboratory subject, Nigeria fails to ask the real question: how else can obviously different peoples who cannot force on a unity among themselves form different kinds of mutually beneficial, rewarding and consenting relationships? There are obviously ways; models exist in the world at large. The peoples have to have a chance to say yes or no to continuing with this impoverishing, life-sucking arrangement called one-Nigeria. NO, the peoples have a DUTY so to do.
THE HOUR COMETH
January is the bewitching hour for Nigeria. The Ides of March are come, indeed. With the likes of Obansanjo let loose and roaming the plantation pandering to sycophants and opportunists, mischief is already afoot. Whatever path it follows cannot bode well for the peoples. It is hoped that in the end, all things will nevertheless work together for the good to rescue a trapped peoples from the vicious and bruising relationship which has only been bringing out the very worst in them for 100 years. In spite of the kingmakers, chiefs, thieves, swindlers, rascals, haters and their minions.
A VISION FOR 2014 AND BEYOND
Once upon a time…
“Southern Nigeria… presented a picture… of… material prosperity [which] had been extraordinary. The revenue had almost doubled itself in a period of five years. The surplus balances exceeded a million and a half. The trade of the interior had been greatly developed by the construction of a splendid system of roads, and by the opening to navigation of waterways hitherto chocked with vegetation, while railways, harbor works, waterworks, and other capital expenditure, aggregating many millions of loan commitments, were in process. Ad valorem duties… were abolished on one class of imports after another, and for the most part only specific duties were retained. And… Southern Nigeria had found itself engrossed in material development.
(—culled from the Right Honorable A Bonar Law, the Governor General [of Nigeria]'s note (Ibid), 100 years ago.)
Let's share this Vision for ALL: Every Region, Independent, prospers according to its own definition of prosperity.
By: Oguchi Nkwocha, MD
A Biafran Citizen