Nigeria @ 56: A rogue state, a slave nation
Nigeria is a special facility created by Britain to service special interests! Nigeria can at best be described as a ‘one chance vehicle’. That is, vehicle (car, bus…) usually deployed by rogues to entice travellers and once the mistake of falling for them by boarding the vehicle is made, the victims are robbed midway through the journey and either killed or pushed out and left stranded in the middle of nowhere. This is what Nigeria as designed, created and patented by Britain and handed over to its trusted indigenous ‘colonizers/inheritors’ was, and still is. A note on usage: ‘rogue’ means thief in its ordinary meaning but the term is often employed by Western nations to describe those countries that differ or disagree from or with them in ideology and other international real-politick issues and praxis. ‘Slave’ means just that: a slave!”
British imperial interests necessitated the creation of Nigeria and its colonization by Britain. It is already known that British interference with the affairs of the hitherto independent pre-colonial Nigerian communities started with Lagos, where it played one ruling family against the other and on the pretext of its anti-slavery campaign, and pursuant to terms of the fraudulent treaty already secured against King Kosoko, waged a war against him, deposed him and installed Akitoye who was later replaced with his son, Dosunmu. And having conquered Lagos, it was declared a colony in 1862. The Industrial Revolution sweeping England required raw materials for the metropolitan industries, as well as, markets for the finished products. It was in line with these objects that George Taubman Goldie took over his family business and sought to consolidate its business in palm produce in the Niger Coast region and beyond. Having taken over the company but seeing the fierce and destructive competition among, and between English firms and other European firms, he brokered a truce and sought to form them as a combine – and he succeeded. The new company formed and chartered as a result of the amalgamation underwent mutations and finally became known as the Royal Niger Company.
Having succeeded in unifying the British companies he used rough tactics to subdue other European firms and virtually ran them out of the vast areas of the Niger Coast and the Upper and Lower Niger interiors, stretching from the present Bayelsa State to Kogi State. To check the European states’ fierce competition for colonies, German Chancellor Bismarck summoned the Berlin Conference of 1884/1885. The resolution of that conference was the partition of Africa into bits of territories and shared out to European states on the basis of prior “effective occupation.” Britain due largely to the activities of the Royal Niger Company got Nigeria. Consequently, Britain revoked the company’s charter and assumed direct control and administrations on January 1, 1900. The company in exchange for the vast territory it had acquired for its business and now ceded to Britain got compensation of £865,000 and granted half of all mining revenue from the ceded areas yearly being royalty for 99 years and some tracts of land for its business. Meanwhile, George Taubman Goldie, had in furtherance of its business interest in Nigeria scouted out and hired a soldier of fortune in the person of Captain Fredrick Lugard, who had seen action in the Uganda and other East African countries as his company’s chief security man. With the maxim guns and other instruments of violence, Lugard had led several expeditions against Nigerian communities, conquered and subdued them for the company. So when Britain took control of the company’s areas of operation it naturally fell back on Lugard as the administrator of the area starting from Northern Nigeria as the High Commissioner. This is not without precedent as the same strategy of ruling colonies with military men had been applied in America when pursuant to the full colonization/centralization of the administration of the 13 colonies that became the U.S. Britain had appointed Captain George Andros for the task. Lugard was posted out later, but recalled again and in 1914 based on the Selbourne Committee Report and at Lugard’s proposals the British possessions were amalgamated and christened ‘Nigeria’ on January 1, 1914.
It is pertinent to note that before Lugard, the different areas had been differently organised and administered based on their socio-cultural and political experiences. But after the amalgamation, Lugard imported the Fulani Caliphate theocratic feudal governance structure, which he had used to govern the Northern Protectorate and imposed same on the new country, regardless of their differences. This system of governance was termed “Indirect Rule System.” Apart from the dearth of personnel and other difficulties in administering the vast area, one major factor in unifying the areas under a unitary system of Indirect Rule was to extract the surplus income generated in the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria to offset and service the Northern Protectorate that Britain had been running on deficit – thereby removing an unwanted financial drain in the British Imperial Office’s purse. Indirect Rule suffered serious setback in the republican and egalitarian communities of the present Southeast and South-south and culminated in the 1929 Aba Women’s Riots. Indirect Rule being a vicious governance model was condemned by Lord Lugard’s successor, Sir Hugh Clifford, who denounced Lugard’s implementation of the policy by declaring that imposing Indirect Rule on Southern Nigeria as “untrammeled autocracy” not found anywhere else in British West Africa and its imposition on Southern Nigeria amounted to conquest and internal colonization. But Sir Clifford had by this act incurred the wrath of the British Imperial Office, which promptly reprimanded him and got him posted out of Nigeria before he did more damage to the carefully planned intrigue and perfidy in Nigeria. All subsequent colonial governors retained the Lugardic template of unitary rule. And the leadership Britain chose out of the lot was the Sokoto Caliphate theocratic rulership, which was purely extractive and feudal just like Britain. Having settled on what type of leadership it can cultivate and trust went ahead to rig the political infrastructure of state mainly the census with the electoral delineations to ensure that the North remains the dominant political bloc.
Having settled for this feudal and extractive governance model for Nigeria, it was like confirming Britain in its fears of losing the long-term dependence of the colony of Nigeria on the mother-country, Britain when southern educated elite started agitating for self-determination. This irked the British establishment to the point of devising a counter stratagem to neutralize this threat. This was accomplished by surreptitiously igniting ethnic irredentism against the budding nationalists massed in the NCNC led by Herbert Macaulay and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. So between 1949 and 1951 the Mutanen Arewa and the Egbe Omo Oduduwa have been formed and transformed into political parties to permanently fracture and divide the pan-Nigerian nationalist fervor ignited by the NCNC. So from then on, Britain was looking with satisfied amusement as the fire of tribalism it ignited started burning during the 1951, 1954, 1959 elections into regional and central governments in Nigeria and after independence, the 1964 general election became a catalyst that ignited instability and civil war that suffocated Nigeria. Thereafter, as a result of the inter-ethnic distrust sown by British officials, the hunter became the hunted and Britain, which was the butt of harassments by Nigerian nationalists was spared the headache and in role-reversal became the mediator/reconciler of the squabbling Nigerian ethnic jingoists.
It was in the confusion of the unsettling political climate induced by the British Colonial Office and it officials in Nigeria between 1914 and 1959 that the fundamental questions of the structure and praxis of the Nigerian-Nation State and its institutions, especially the government that the British Colonial Office and its governors from Lyttleton to Robertson had the opportunity to rework, fine-tune and implant the devices that were to ensure that Nigeria remain a rogue-state and a slave-nation – ever beholden and dependent on Britain and its allies, especially the USA for survival and continuance. As the political structures and institutional infrastructures (especially the census data and electoral delineations based on them) had been skewed and lopsidedly determined in favour of the North controlled by the Hausa/Fulani Aristocracy, Britain and its officials to make assurances doubly-sure descended on the arena by directly rigging the Independence Elections of 1959 in favour of its favoured-group, that was the Northern People’s Congress. Sir James Robertson had committed a treasonable felony by forcing British civil servants to rig the elections. One of the high-ranking officials – Harold Smith had objected to the stratagem and indeed refused to comply with the order and he incurred the wrath of the Governor, Sir Robertson and the British Government, which threatened to punish him and indeed went ahead to punish the man by declaring him “persona non grata” in the UK. The confession of the man and the declassified British Imperial Record are now in the public sphere to affix a stamp of authenticity on the stratagem.
This British-designed highly-explosive device exploded between 1964 and 1966, when the army, which had been designed as a toll for conquest, exploitation and enslavement of the Nigerian communities re-enacted the late 19th Century and early 20th Century (1859-1914) military expeditions and pacification of the country on January 15 and July 29, 1966. While the January 15, 1966 coup was condemnable for its bloodletting, which was slanted against the Hausa/Fulani military and political leaders and their allies, that of the July 29, 1966 Revenge Coup was abominable as it made no pretensions about righting any national wrongs, but to exact revenge against the Igbo and destroy Nigeria by taking out the North by secession. But Britain and United States in discharge of its self-assumed role of ‘guarantors of the unity of Nigeria’ dissuaded the July 29, 1966 coupists as the then British High Commissioner Sir Francis Cummings-Bruce and US ambassador Mr. Elbert Matthews insisted against Murtala clique’s stubborn plan of ‘araba’ that Nigeria must be preserved and encouraged the coup-makers to institute a government with General Yakubu Gowon as Head of State. The same encouragement was not given to Major General JTU Aguiyi Ironsi when he formed government after the failure of the Major Nzeogwu’s coup of January 15, 1966.
Since after the July 29, 1966 coup and the civil war, which Britain and its allies instigated, supervised and prosecuted with unlimited support as admitted by no less a person than General Olusegun Obasanjo in his book “My Command” Nigeria has been hijacked and turned into a private estate by the Nigerian standing military force and the special interests it serves with the nation-wide clientele they created, sublimated and beholden to the caste of rulers that has been forced on the polity. The war officially ended on January 15, 1970, after over two million lives, four-fifth of who were Igbo civilian population, the victors secured the country and ran it as a private estate of the conquerors now massed in the Nigerian Army and its civilian acolytes who helped in designing, formulating policies and implementing them. For the period the military interregnum last (1966-1979 and 1983-1999) it has been an army of occupation ruling Nigeria as Kleptocracy. After conquering Biafra, it had also conquered the Nigerian civil society to avoid its irritations. It was this nature of society wallowing as a conquered and enslaved entity that Professor Wole Soyinka observed immediately after alighting from the plane at Ibadan Airport in 1969, after his release from prison and condemned in his book “You Must Set Forth at Dawn” as a people living in slavery but pride themselves as victors and triumphant. Ever since the July 29, 1966, the coup planners/executors and allies that prosecuted the civil war have converted Nigeria into a fiefdom serving a most pernicious, feudal and patrimonial state, institutions and officials. What manner of crimes (euphemistically sometimes termed corruption) have the custodians of this feudal and prebendal state not committed to maintain the status quo with each succeeding regime alleging that its predecessor cornered and stole the state and its resources?
General Murtala Mohammed toppled General Gowon and accused that government of corrupt enrichment and even probed its principal officers and governors whose property and money were confiscated, even though these were later returned to the looters under General Babangida’s regime. The Shagari regime, was also toppled on the basis of alleged corruption and many of its ministers and governors were convicted for long prison terms, while the Buhari/Babangida/Abacha regimes simply institutionalized corruption, forcing General Salihu Ibrahim to cry out that the very institution he served as Army Chief of Staff was an “Army of Anything Goes!!” This sad epithet was taken further by General Mohammed Chris Ali, also former Chief of Army Staff, who wrote a book (Federal Republic of Nigerian Army: The Siege of a Nation) denouncing the Nigerian Armed Forces as having hijacked the Nigerian State and converted it to its private property for exploitation and despoliation.
After disgracing itself from political power, the armed forces had instituted a civil regime founded on a military decree No.24 of 1999, which it termed The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The civil government is anything but a government of the people as the government is no different from the military, and in any case, the personnel recruited since 1999 have been either retired military generals or their appendages, carefully groomed since July 29, 1966 to date. All of them share one thing in common; they owed their political origin or wealth to the military regimes as former political office holders or contractors, and in any case, they combine both and function accordingly. And it is the intricate web woven during the long military rule and the pernicious corrupt system engendered that has made it impossible to change the system, because the majority of the people has been effectively impoverished and held in violent check by a standing army that is no different from the Lugardic West African Frontier Force. Having reduced every Nigerian to the status of a slave with the slave wage that has impoverished and forced everyone to be corrupt and to become a thief, what everybody struggles for is to be allowed to be part of the munificence trickling down from the top to the bottom.
Every Nigerian government had always pretended that it was fighting corruption but corruption is actually the lubricant oiling the institutional engines of the State and without it the state would have collapsed. It will be difficult to restore the state to the level of integrity and coherence because the forces that are presently holding the state and society down are widespread in its tentacles as every fabric or segments of the society has been corrupted and sucked into the dysfunctional state. The local government system is worse than the Indirect Rule System, and the social services sectors have collapsed. The society is daily inundated with stories of all kinds of unimaginable crimes. Government pretends it is formulating policies to counteract these ills, but every keen observer knows that the state has failed and that the government is merely keeping motions and holding the delicate balance between state failure and (state) regicide.
The only remedy available to save this tottering giant (?) created by Britain to service its imperial designs as has been disclosed in declassified British Imperial Records, is to admit that despite Britain and America’s selfish desires to maintain and sustain Nigeria as a special purpose facility to serve neo-imperial interests, the country cannot be sustained for long on this feudal governance template. That for Nigeria to survive, all the ethnic nationalities must be allowed to congregate on equal terms to decide whether they want to stay together in a free union and on what terms. It is only this remedy that can save Nigeria, otherwise greater upheavals more destabilizing than the Niger Delta crisis, the Boko Harm insurgency, the Igbo self-determination struggles and soaking of the Nigerian society with crimes will continue until the country unravels and disintegrates one way or the other.
• Onwe former Political and Legislative Adviser to the Governor of Ebonyi State (2001 – 2011 and Doctoral Student of Law) wrote from Igbeze Chambers, 4B, Ogoja Road, Abakaliki.