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But compromise much better


Muhammadu Buhari

When we look at the history of the country what causes change in the country? What changes have occurred in the country called Nigeria? It is this later second question that we need to answer before we can attempt the first question.

Researchers at our Roadside University have been working on the two questions. In a recent multi disciplinary seminar, the two teams were brought together and joint product is worth looking at in detail.

In the beginning was British founding of Nigeria for the purpose of their British Empire. Although this founding fact was accepted and hardly disputed, a particular professor of geological anthropology insisted that it could have been any founder; that it was British and the hand of Chance.


Professor Bamgbapo insists that the hand of Chance must be acknowledged in the founding of Nigeria.

Elaborating further, he said it could have been founded by the Germans who were near in Togo. Or the French who were nearer in Dahomey. Or even the Fulani who were nearest us in Oyo-Ile! To get the seminar going his point was accepted.

So, it was agreed that the country was founded by the British and by Chance.

Therefore, out of hundreds of ethnic communities speaking their own languages Nigeria was formed. This is the first change to happen and what made it happen? Britain and Chance. What purpose was it supposed to serve this Nigeria?

There were two purposes for founding Nigeria. The British needed the pride and the ego boost that owning Nigeria gave them. This thing about pride and ego is really difficult to measure and it disappears as it is mentioned. But it is mentionable. And it is often mentioned.

The second purpose it was supposed to serve was that of trade, internal trade and external trade. It was to be called legitimate trade unlike the illegitimate trade in human beings.

What was the link between pride, ego and trade and setting up of governments? Couldn’t we have these without governing these numerous tribes? Why could they not be left to do their own thing while the British had their pride and trade?

It is at this point that a professor of history came forward with the idea that anybody who is interested in trade in a place ends up being interested in the politics of the place. Hence the governance of the country could not be left to Chance. The British ruled the country.

The next change came and that change drove the British away. How did this happen? What caused this major change?

Over the next fifty years or so, two wars ravaged Europe including Britain, which had meanwhile added Great to its name and was known as Great Britain. Great because of that pride and ego thing as well as trade. The two wars ravaged the countries of Europe.

The countries founded around the world like Nigeria picked up the pride and ego and trade thing and before you could say little England there were Nigerians and Indians and Brazilians wanting to rule their countries, can you imagine it, their countries without the help of the Europeans.

And so Independence came, arrived in some places on platters of gold and in some other places through the barrel of rusty rebellious guns.

Before it arrived in Nigeria the Fulani said they were on their imperial horse race before the British interrupted them. Therefore, in leaving Nigeria the British should leave the country to them.

Which the British accepted since the census said they were more than everybody in the country and their piece of land was the largest in the Nigerian world.

Immediately, the principle was established that the North was born to rule. This is a delicate issue and few Nigerians are comfortable discussing this principle especially with foreigners like Dafida Trouble.

But it was established in a book called something like just before yawn or tawn, something like that, that whoever wins the North rules Nigeria.

Ever since then, whenever the North that is born to rule is challenged crisis arises in Nigeria. After the coming of independence, the next thing to arrive is military rule.

This arrived on the morning of January 15 or 16 1966. It followed the crisis of the challenge of the North to rule the country. Elections were won without electorates although there were votes delivered by angels.


Some soldiers were not happy. They killed some people who were suspected of playing voting angels and left some other people unkilled who were as bad. This was the first compromise.

A good compromise gives both sides some of what they want. So, the South wants to rule okay, South rule but all the symbols of power and prestige will remain in the North, thank you.

Where there had been a federation before there was now a unitary government. Where the federations units had had the upper hand, the unitary system gave that upper hand to the power at the centre.

This continued until the next crisis – the crisis of military misrule. Once more it played itself out through a southern challenge to Northern power.

It was tied to getting the military to give up power because the military should not be ruling the country, northern or not. That led to the crisis of June 12 1993. Three people did not like the winner of the election and so the election was cancelled and the winner thrown into prison.

Sufferings, blood, deaths followed and over time compromise arrived smiling. South wants to rule, okay. Civilian wants to rule, fine here is someone who has a bit of this and a bit of that. Which is how compromise works. Every side gets a little bit of what they want and the crisis is kicked into the future.

Yet, the crisis of the future is already here and it is no longer about North continuing to rule or South ruling sometimes. The third contender for power is Corruption. Crisis arises, Compromise arrives and Corruption declares that ruling is impossible.

Pride and ego and trade are impossible. Professor, what happens when Corruption is interested in the trade of a place, and actually takes over the governance of the country? North and South irrelevant in the face of Corruption? Principle irrelevant? Compromise irrelevant?

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