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 to always brush serious national issues aside. The reason is because Nigeria has passed through many turbulent times and managed to survive but not without serious and enduring injuries. This attitude of the leaders has more or less postponed the evil day and keeps postponing it while the country remains in limbo. I want to say unequivocally that 100 years is more than enough time for Nigeria to manifest whatever potential 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 because 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 started in 1914 with the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates into one entity called Nigeria. The grafting of the hitherto two separate colonies into one was accomplished by the British colonial overlord, Lord Lugard, the first Governor General of what was reconstituted as the 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 documented in history.
The amalgamation marked an important watershed in Nigeria’s history. It is obvious that the British did it for their own colonial interest and not Nigeria’s. Otherwise, I don’t know what love would make a colonial power to weld different ethnic nationalities into one powerful state that could challenge its authority. If that were the case, the creation of one Nigeria (they were two before 1914), could have been for something other than love. The amalgamation 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, roads, habours 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. For Lugard, the taxation was a form of punishment whereas the northerners were spared. Consequently, the north was bequeathed with the wrong development philosophy, which appears to persist 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 (2014 marked 100 years of amalgamation), the events of the past 57 years since the British relinquished power show that a re-examination of the entire Nigerian structure as conceived by the colonists (not Nigerians) is imperative. That is the only way this behemoth called Nigeria would make headway. After all these decades, Nigeria ought to have become a black super power but she is a laughing stock instead.
I must not fail to say that the British, to a large extent, laid a buildable foundation that would have provided the springboard for Nigeria to shine like the Asian Tigers but all those have been dismantled in the wake of post-independence ethnic rivalry and mistrust. The people do not agree with the British and the post-colonial Nigerian leaders that the grafting of two fundamentally different entities into one by Lord Lugard was the right thing to do. The two regions had laid strong economic foundation for development before they were forcefully merged in 1914. It would have been superb if this experiment had worked. Nigeria’s diversity could have been her greatest asset; but it has turned out to be a thorn on her flesh.
That Nigeria fought a fratricidal war shortly after independence from 1967 to 1970, which was preceded by brutal uprising and killings in the north and south-west, showed that there was pent-up anger throughout the period of British colonial rule that was suppressed. 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? Both Northern and Southern Nigeria would have been like the neighbouring countries in West Africa. Though, these countries haven’t recorded tremendous progress but they have relative peace. Better still, both Northern and Southern Nigeria would have recorded tremendous progress given the abundant agricultural and natural resources endowments now lying untapped.
All the crises the country had 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 57 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. It is more like one day one trouble. These troubles, which are entirely human and avoidable, are responsible for the sordid state of affairs in the country. You cannot develop a country without a workable structure. National development is anchored on a functional structure. So long as the framework or foundation is unstable, there’s nothing anybody can do. Trouble today, trouble tomorrow, 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 would always survive. A person who relapses into bouts of sickness every now and then cannot be said to be healthy. Not until a comprehensive medical examination is carried out to establish the cause of the frequent crisis. To erroneously believe that a cure would always come would lead to unexpected death.
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 is still not bothered! That government knows that there are ethnic “armies” in different places but still goes to sleep is ridiculous.