Lovers and haters of Nigeria
One character of the Nigerian political leadership that has become entrenched and which has not been in the overall interest of the country since independence in 1960 is the penchant of the leaders to always brush serious national issues away with the wave of the hand. The reason is because Nigeria has passed through several critical challenges or turbulent times and managed to survive but not without serious wounds. This attitude of the leaders has more or less postponed the evil day and keeps postponing it as the country wallows in limbo. I wish to say, unequivocally, that 100 years is more than enough for Nigeria to manifest whatever potentials she has in every ramification. But that hasn’t happened because the country is not working.
I have anchored the failure of the Nigerian leadership to address fundamental national questions to the period from independence in 1960. That was when Nigerians took full control of the affairs of the country. But it is important to reiterate that Nigeria did not start in 1960. Nigeria, as a country, started in 1914 with the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates into one entity. The grafting of the two hitherto disparate colonies into one was accomplished by the British colonial overlord, Lord Lugard, the first Governor General of the reconstituted new colony of Nigeria. Why and how he did it, including the resistance of people in the south, particularly in Lagos, where it was opposed by the political class and the media are well recorded in history.
The amalgamation marked an important watershed in Nigeria’s history. In one consideration, the British did it out of the love they have for Nigeria. Maybe they wanted to create a sub regional power, for; there is no other country that is as big and potentially powerful in the West Africa sub-region as Nigeria. But I don’t know what love would make a colonial power to weld different nationalities into one powerful state that could challenge its authority. It would be foolhardy to do that. And, if that were the case, the creation of one Nigeria could have been for something other than love. But I won’t call it hate because the amalgamation of Nigeria has its inherent advantages, which I think is actually what the British wanted to exploit. It didn’t work out as expected between 1914 and 1960, a period of 46 years before the British relinquished power to Nigerians.
The British colonial masters did not treat Northern and Southern Nigeria on equal terms. For instance, in the South, the money needed for development projects like railways, harbours and hospitals was raised from taxation on imported goods. But that same taxation was absent in Northern Nigeria, which accounted for the low development situation in that region. That trend has remained till today—more development in the south than in the north, a seed sowed by Lord Lugard. For Lugard, the taxation was a form of punishment; hence, the northerners were spared. Consequently, the north was bequeathed with the wrong development paradigm, which persists till today. The reverse is the case in the south where the people were made to work hard and drive development. The difference between the two regions is glaring.
Even though, the country has managed to survive for over 100-years, the events of the past 58 years since independence show that a reexamination of the entire Nigerian structure as conceived by the colonists (not Nigerians) is needed. That is the only way Nigeria would make headway. By now, Nigeria ought to have become a black super power but she has failed woefully.
I must not fail to say that the British, to a large extent, laid a buildable foundation that could have provided the springboard for development just like the Asian Tigers but all those have been destroyed in the wake of post-independence ethnic rivalry and mistrust. The people do not seem to agree with the British and the post-colonial Nigerian leaders that the grafting of two autonomous entities into one by Lord Lugard was the right thing to do. The two regions had led viable economic foundations for development before they were merged in 1914. It would have been superb if this experiment had worked. Nigeria’s diversity could have been her greatest asset; but alas, it has turned out to be her greatest undoing.
That Nigeria fought a fratricidal civil war shortly after independence from 1967 to 1970, which was preceded by brutal uprising and pogrom in the north, showed that there was pent-up anger throughout the period of British colonial rule which was let loose at the least opportunity. Ever since then, peace and unity have eluded Nigeria, which shows the futility of the amalgamation experiment. What would have been the situation if there was no amalgamation? The worst is that both Northern and Southern Nigeria would have been like Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Benin Republic, their immediate neighbours. Though, these countries haven’t recorded tremendous progress but they have relative peace.
On the contrary, at least Southern Nigeria could have made tremendous progress than these countries given the abundant agricultural and natural resources endowments, which most of the neighbours lack. All the crises the country faced and is still facing today are direct fallouts of the failure to address fundamental national questions of Nigeria’s cooperate existence. The time has come for the leadership to buckle up and rise to the challenge of dealing with the hydra-headed problem, which is at the root of Nigeria’s misfortune. The time to do the inevitable is now since no one knows the illness that will kill the sickly man.
The more than fifty years of Nigeria’s existence as an independent state have been bedeviled with troubles that have often brought her to the precipice. Today the country is on the brink, tomorrow she manages to wriggle out. These troubles, which are entirely human, are responsible for the sordid state of affairs in the country. You cannot develop a country without a workable structure. National development is premised on a functional structure. So long as the framework or foundation is weak, there’s nothing anybody could do. How much longer shall we remain in this quagmire?
The fact that the country has always managed to survive the troubles is no indication that she will always survive. In fact, it is an indication that all is not well. We have got to a point where ethnic nationalities are no longer merely agitating for justice and equity. They have gone to the extent of having armed militias that are ready to fight and defend territorial enclaves. And, the Federal Government appears not to take it serious!
At this juncture, the question is who are the lovers and haters of Nigeria? There are two groups. One is those calling for the restructuring of Nigeria in order to ensure equity, justice and fairness and development. The others are those resisting restructuring out of unfounded fears. Interestingly, majority of Nigerians are calling for restructuring. For me, these are the lovers of Nigeria. The others are the haters of Nigeria.
If Lord Lugard could be bold to restructure the Protectorates into Nigeria, it is ironic that our leaders who have everything to gain are shying away from their onerous responsibility. President Buhari should reflect over this matter once again in the interest of Nigeria.
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