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One country, different systems


(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 11, 2018 US President Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore. – US President Donald Trump said on December 1, 2018, he hoped to organize a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in early 2019, perhaps as soon as January or February. Trump told reporters traveling home to Washington with him aboard Air Force One from Argentina that “three sites” were in consideration for the meeting, a follow-up to their historic summit in Singapore in June. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Around the time Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un were falling in love, the idea was mooted of a reunification of North and South Korea.

So, what if it happens? What would a Korean unification look like? The closest example of what may happen is Germany’s reunification in 1990.

After the Allies defeated Nazi Germany in 1945, Germany was divided into four zones of occupation by the Americans, British, French and Soviets.


Berlin, the country’s capital was similarly divided. With the Berlin blockade of 1948 forcing issues, the Western Allies soon merged their zones of occupation, and as relations between the West and East chilled, and the Iron Curtain descended over Europe, the Soviet zone and East Berlin was increasingly cut off from other zones of occupation.

By 1949, the other 3 zones had become the Federal Republic of Germany while the Soviet Zone became the Democratic Republic of Germany.

Naturally, both countries adopted the economic models of their sponsors with West Germany adopting a capitalist model while East Germany was a centrally planned Communist state with government control of everything.

Forward a decade, and with price controls and perpetual queues for even the most basic of luxuries, more people fled the East for greener pastures.

To stem the tide, the Communist government built the Berlin Wall, a small part of an elaborate barricade that covered the entire boundary between the two nations.

Over the next four decades, the Berlin Wall became ground zero of the hostility between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

Neither German government recognised the other till the 1970s, and by the time of reunification just over 20 years after mutual recognition, two completely different countries had developed with significant differences in political, legal, social and economic cultures.

While the West was prosperous and had become the darling of the world for its reliable machines and its manufacturing efficiency, the East, like the rest of the Soviet bloc had regressed with inefficient factories, poor social infrastructure, very little individual freedoms and was far behind the West in every social index.


Germany’s reunification, while hailed as a merger of equals, was, in commercial terms, an acquisition, of the GDR by West Germany.

The legal, political and security apparatus of East Germany collapsed and were absorbed into West Germany. Suddenly, communist bureaucrats saw themselves being forced to adapt to a new system and new practices.

The biggest problem though was the unification of two economies that couldn’t be more different.

East German businesses closed at an alarming rate because they simply couldn’t compete with their West German counterparts, forcing the new unified German government to embark on a gigantic programme of essentially subsidizing eastern German states with medical interventions and a massive rebuilding of roads, bridges to the tune of $70 billion annually.

Today, 30 years after reunification, the differences between the parts are still massive. GDP per capita in areas of former East Germany is now €27,000 compared to €41,000 for West German areas.

Even in football, West German teams dominate the Bundesliga. By 2016, only five former East German teams had ever reached the top flight of German football.

In Die Maanschaft, Toni Kroos was the only player of East German descent in the 2010 and 2014 World Cup squads.

In politics, fringe and hardline parties are more entrenched in the East while moderate parties do better in the West, one of the many examples that radicalism fares better under a bad economy.


So how does this matter to Nigeria?

The 1914 amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria brought together at least three distinct social and political cultures with hundreds of ethnic groups and sub-identities.

In broad terms, while to the North there existed a feudal economic culture with strong hereditary monarchies, the South-West centered on traditional monarchies supported by more expansive political structures, and social welfare, and the South-East was grounded on a republican and capitalist philosophy where the individual was king.

This bringing together of different peoples, who in many cases had been historically antagonistic, can be likened to the challenge of bringing together the Germans after four decades of taking divergent paths, and the peoples of what became Nigeria were not even one nation at any point in antiquity.

So, as you enjoy your New Year chicken, for those who can still afford such luxuries, consider that the challenges of managing these diverse values, particularly under a unitary system, can be blamed for the continued failure of Nigeria to forge a strong, collective sense of nationhood.

Ultimately, the lesson from the Germans is that when you have had differing systems ingrained into the DNA of different peoples for a period, a unitary system is not the way to go. That has been Nigeria’s mistake.

In two future pieces, we will talk first about how the Eastern and Western blocs shaped one of Nigeria’s biggest debates today, and about the country that we ought to model ourselves after.

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