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Nigeria’s stagnation: Historical and logical understanding


Today, after 56 years of independent life, Nigeria is best described as a failing nation. Nigerian federal, state and local governments cannot pay salaries as when due. Nigerians are hungry. The nation has been confronted by mass unemployment and poverty for decades. There is strife in virtually all the regions of Nigeria. The nation produces only agricultural goods; the nation does not produce manufactured goods.

There is no category of infrastructure in good state and providing the service for which it was set up, efficiently and effectively. Nigeria has always implemented economic programmes conceived in the West. Why is this the situation in Nigeria? Why is Nigeria stagnating?

I find it difficult to associate anything said about wisdom in the dictionary or in the bible with the Nigerian experience. If wisdom had characterised Nigeria’s development endeavour, at Independence on October 1, 1960 and thereafter, Nigerians would have asked many questions to start with. Some of the questions would have been: Who are Nigerians and other people of the Black race? Why independence? How do nations develop, what is the experience of other more advanced nations? The purpose of this article is to provide a historical and logical understanding for Nigeria’s stagnation with a view to suggesting a way forward.


Nigerians would have found out that the Black people have always populated the African continent. Brace (1971), then Curator of the physical anthropology at the University of Michigan’s museum, United States of America, writing about what had been learnt about the origin of man, articulated that culture is central to man’s evolutionary success; culture includes not only the high points of arts, music and literature, but also all those things that result from cumulative effort of other people and previous generations. Man is not just an animal that possesses a culture, but also an animal that cannot survive without the culture. Brace also theorised that man could not exist, if each had to discover anew the control of fire, the manufacture of clothing and shelter, the sources of edible substances, and the guidelines for workable interrelationships. Brace also wrote that man originated in Africa and all his forbearers were black and through adaptation, some people became what is now called white.

Why Independence in 1960? The Cartage Empire was the unchallenged world power during the period 750-264 B. C. (Allcroft and Mason, 1958). Carthage formed close links amounting to effective predominance over most of the areas in North Africa and all directions in the Mediterranean during the period. Carthage and Rome fought the First Punic War about 264 B. C., when Rome had no navy. Rome built a navy and rivalled Carthage. By 146 B. C., Rome had destroyed Carthage and became the world power (Errington, 1972). Rome later expanded to include most of the areas occupied by modern Europe. The area now occupied by Western Europe was harnessed into the Roman Empire by 55 B. C. (Carrington and Jackson, 1954).

The period 500-147 A. D. witnessed the flourishing of independent states and empires in West Africa. Among these were the Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Bornu, Benin and Oyo empires, and the Hausa states, which were clustered along the southern frontiers of the Sahara (De-Graft Johnson, 1955 and Clark, 1971). The last empire in West Africa was the Songhai, which existed during the period 1488-1591.


The western portion of the Roman Empire was smashed by Germanic tribes in 406 A. D. (Carrington and Jackson, 1954; and Blakeley and Collins, 1975). Europe then broke up into small kingdoms. Islam was introduced into the Iberian Peninsula by Arabs and Berbers in 711 A. D. (Webber and Hussey, 1941). An independent Arab emirate was established in the Peninsula and became a Caliphate in 929. The capital, Cordova became a centre of art, learning and refinement. The Arabs developed the Peninsula to the extent that it was the most advanced part of Europe until the end of the seventeenth century.

Europe and America were not among the Great Medieval Civilisations (GMCs). The GMCs were India, Africa and the Islamic world (Gottschalk, et al., 1969). The Medieval period was the period before 1500 A. D. Before 1300, the level of scientific and technological development in many aspects was lower in the Western world than in the GMCs; in those civilisations, science had flourished during the Dark Ages of the West. The West did not immediately begin to make the great scientific strides that it later showed itself capable of making; there was a centuries-long plateau between the absorption of oriental, Islamic and African scientific knowledge and independent Western science (Gottschalk, et al., 1969). During the period, African Empires flourished and occupied southern Europe, European history shows that Africans were very generous; the African willingly transferred his inventions and those of other GMCs like China and India to Europe (Cardwell, 1974).

The Iberian Peninsula broke up into two kingdoms, Spain and Portugal, in 1497. Spain and Portugal were the two nations, which were strong enough to champion the so-called Discovery Voyages in which Africa and America (the New World) were re-discovered by Europeans. The special advantage, which the Iberians derived from their Arab-African association, underlay their special performance in those voyages. The Iberians had been trained in seafaring by Arabs and Africans. The voyages marked the beginning of the period since Westerners began to exert strong influence on African since the 15th century.


The African-Caucasian encounter since the 15th century can be subdivided into three phases. The first phase covered the period 1440-1850. This is the period the Caucasians forcefully removed millions of Africans to America, Europe, and West Indies into slavery. The enslavement was explained in terms of Darwin-Malthus theory of the survival of the fittest. The second phase covered the period Westerners partitioned Africa into the units now called nations as it pleased them.

The third phase covered the period 1950-now. This is the period Westerners granted African nations independence and began to indoctrinate and plan for the slaves they returned to the continent and the Africans whom they had colonised for over a century in the African continent. The principal instrument for indoctrinating Africans to think and do things the way they ought not to think and do, has been Western education, which all African nations have as a colonial heritage. If African intelligentsia/intellectuals were not indoctrinated, they would ask why Africans were enslaved and colonised and would not allow Europe and America to plan for Africa. As Nzimiro (1976), observed, a nation whose soul is controlled by models of thoughts beamed from a society with a different historical experience, social structure and world outlook, is bound to suffocate its youths and thinkers. Such a nation, because the thought process of its citizens is guided from abroad, cannot question the basis of its existence. Nigeria’s stagnation: intellectually, economically, socially and politically is explained.

The way forward is to review the Nigerian educational system. I suggest that social sciences and social sciences-related courses be offered at the postgraduate level alone, to strengthen the educational system. A practical skills-acquiring framework should be established to complement the educational system. All able men and women unemployed today especially scientists and engineers, should be mobilised to learn in artisan/craftsmen workshops, farms, factory floor work setting and all other place where opportunities for acquiring practical skills abound.

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