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We have failed our founding fathers

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Protest. PHOTO: AFP

“To fight against untruth and falsehood,
…to fight for our memory;
for our memory of what things were like –
that is the task of the artist.
A people who no longer remembers
has lost its history and its soul.”
– Alekzander Solzhentsyn’

Lest we forget, once upon a time, precisely on August 13, 1947, a group of Nigerian patriots was at the London Office of the British Colonial Secretary, Arthur Creech-Jones to demand for the country’s political independence. They also used the opportunity to openly criticize the anti-people’s Richards Constitution. These worthy Nigerians included Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nyong Essien, P.M. Kale (from the Eastern Region).Others were Abubakar Dipcharima (Northern Region), Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Dr. Olorun-Nimbe and Adeleke Adedoyin (Western Region). They were delegates of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) political party.

But what was the colonialist’s response? “Go home and cooperate with the Nigerian Government,” he said.

Yet, they were not deterred. Instead, they held several meetings in places such as London, Oxford, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dublin to convince the British public that they meant serious business-that Nigeria was ripe enough for independence. Interestingly, they had tacit support from the West African Students Union, the Pan African Federation and the League of Coloured People.

So effective was their clamour that the British Press became hostile to them and their mission. For instance, the Daily Mail stated that it “can’t understand why Zik spends so much publicising himself” and “will remain a globe-trotter peddling racial hatred whenever he may roam.” On its part, the Daily Mirror described Zik as a two diametrically opposed persona. On one hand, it saw him as “ six feet of charm, of eloquence, of dignity, of ability.” On the other, it said our own Zik was “six feet of stupidity, of folly, of hate-blended prejudice.” And to put the icing on the cake of sarcasm, Sir Arthur Richards described the members of the said delegation as “self-appointed messiahs.”

It was in that same year, 1947 that Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the then Secretary -General of the Egbe Omodudwa which was formed under the leadership of Sir Adeyemo Alakija published his book, “Path too Nigerian Freedom”.

So, how would these noble citizens, who put their country before any form of self-serving whims and caprices, feel, if it was possible to bring them back to life in our own 2017 Nigeria? Without doubt, they would be outraged by the obscene level of the current inter-ethnic disharmony bedeviling the nation.

Or, how else would one explain the recent odious order given by a group of Northern youths, who know next to nothing about our founding fathers’ struggles, asking the Igbos to quit their land? How would they react to the unpatriotic support given to such order by the Prof. Ango Abdullahi-led Northern Elders Forum? Perhaps, the Igbos should keep sealed lips and fold their arms when they feel politically marginalised. After all had the respected General Yakubu Gowon not welcome them back after the civil war in 1970, “without any victor or vanquished?”

The time has come therefore, for our ignorant youths to be weaned on the milk of nationalism, just as it obtains in the United States, Europe, China, Russia, Japan, North and South Korea. They should be told that all because King Jaja of Opobo vehemently resisted the bid by European merchants to increase the price of palm oil he was deported to Accra, Ghana on 15th August, 1887 and died mysteriously four years later at Teneriffe.

They need to know that Lord Lugard effectively used the West African Frontier Force formed under the Anglo-French Convention of 14th June, 1889 to conquer the country we now call Nigeria. First, he ensured that the charter of the Niger Company was revoked on 1st of January, 1900. Next, the Protectorates of the Northern and Southern Nigeria were proclaimed with headquarters in Zungeru and Calabar. Lagos was added in February 1906. From then on the Force ran roughshod over Kontangora, Bida, Ilorin, Yola before claiming Bauchi and Borno.

Though the British commander of the Force was killed as the war raged from Kano to Sokoto, with the local soldiers using poisoned arrows, they were nonetheless eventually conquered. That was up North.

The surging wave of British intrusion swept down South. From Onitsha through Owerri, Bende, Ngwa, Ikot Ekpene, Uyo and Abak they never stopped until they added Nnewi, Obosi, Dunukofia and Agulu. Popular uprisings in Egbaland, Sokoto and Kwale were suppressed. Eventually, Lugard succeeded with the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914, purely for economic benefits of the British Empire.

Our children need to know that none of our fathers who opposed the British, especially the Jajas, Zuberus and Ovaremis was spared. Our soldiers who they used to fight the First and Second World Wars against the Germans were neglected thereafter. Herbert Macaulay, the great intellectual who formed the first political party, the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) in 1922 was equally antagonised by the colonialists. But the party went on to win the three seats allocated to Lagos as made available by the Clifford Constitution in 1923.

It was he, along with other patriots that used the newspaper as a veritable vehicle to champion the cause of political freedom for Nigeria. These were the Lagos Weekly Record (1891) owned by Thomas Harito Jackson, The Dawn (1910, published in Calabar), Cousin Labour, Lagos Daily News by Macaulay and the Daily Times (1926) by Ernest Ikoli. Their efforts were complemented by that of the returnees in the mid-thirties including the Eyo Itas, Olu Alakijas and Nnamidi Azikiwes.

Though the hearts of our patriots bleed on daily basis that the political independence which came in October 1960 has not benefitted the common Nigeria for which our fathers fought, it is no reason to dismember it by our ego, selfishness or greed for personal gains. No!

Though over $400 billion dollars of our oil wealth has been stolen by the rapacious run of locusts garbed in political gowns of different colours, we can still fix this nation. Though such crimes have left Nigeria ranked 152 out of 182 countries by UNIDO on the Human Development Index (HDI) and access to sound health delivery, quality education, stable infrastructure remain distant, nebulous dreams, we can turn our fortunes for the better.

As we drive towards a proper restructuring of the country, as the best way forward out of our current political quagmire all hands should be on deck. Together we have to wage the war against ignorance, preventable poverty, diseases, corruption and nepotism .They know no north or south, east or west. They, along with greedy politicians are our common enemies and not any tribe, religion or place of origin. We must all learn to place national interest above selfish inclinations.



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