Nigeria is 105 years old. The territorial unit was created in 1914 at the pleasure of His Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Nigeria was not made by Nigerians. The amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates (with the Lagos Colony) in 1914 – the formal existence of Nigeria (?) – was purely and exclusively colonial affairs. It was completely short of participation by the sons of the soil, i.e the indigenes, otherwise known by the British as “the natives.”
In my Open Letter last year, I wrote: “now, it is undiluted believe that that was where the first injustice is done to the natives peoples that make up the just-conceived baby ‘Nigeria’. There are certain things left out, and the foremost of them all is the non-consultation with the natives. The question dying for answer is, ‘‘who signed the Amalgamation pact on behalf of the ‘Nigerians’?’’ Because in 1914 Chief Obafem Awolowo was just 5 years old, Ahamadu Bello was 4, Tafawa Balewa was 2, Nnamdi Azikwe was 10; Aminu Kano and Joseph Tarka were yet to be born. Thus, if these founding fathers were obviously not signatories to the 1914 pact, then it’s either the Colonial Masters ‘match-made’ us themselves, or gathered some indigenes and made them sign what they [the indigenes] could never understand. Either way, it is evident the decisions on us were made for us. No wonder it has been avalanche of discomforts on the peoples from the onset.”
Concurrent with its forcible colonialist creation, the struggle for One Nigeria also commenced in 1914. To some One Nigeria is a farce, to some a dream that cannot be, to some an idea that must not become a reality. However, it’s laudable to note that: against the British colonialism, Nigeria fought for political independence in One Nigeria. Now, our country is said to be free i.e sovereign, but the struggle for One Nigeria continues.
When we attained the status of political sovereign on October 1, 1960, we proudly hoisted our flag and broadcast the national anthem of the First Republic.
It short-lived for it was alterated six (6) years later. Inta alias The First Republic National Anthem noted that “though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”. In other words, we knew we have a country, otherwise called a state. But neither a nation nor a country.
Today, Nigeria is 59 years old, as a sovereign state. Since October, 1960, Nigerians have been governing Nigerians. Yet, Nigeria eludes Nigerians. This is a strange paradox.
Nigerians aspire to be Nigerians. Nigerians want a sense of belonging to Nigeria. Nigeria despise Nigerians because Nigerians come from different parts of different parts of Nigeria. Nigerians killed Nigerians for and against Nigeria, in the catalogue of struggles to break Nigeria and keep Nigeria (as) One at the same time. In spite of the foregoing, Nigerians still struggle for One Nigeria.
We tried “Unity in Diversity” from 1960 to 1966. That was in the First Republic, modelled after Westminister Parliamentary democracy. According to a founding father of Nigeria, that “unity in diversity” was won on a “platter of gold.” From gold, Nigeria’s value fell to silver. The experiment failed.
Then came the military who supervised the funeral ceremony of the Firts Republic in January, 1966.
Next, we tried “unitary” government from January, 1966 to July, 1966. It was an abortive attempt by a short-lived military administration to run Nigeria as a totality of providence, the boundaries of which were the handiwork of the pre-1960 Colonial administration. It (also) failed. And fatally too.
But we did not stop there.
Then we tried sucession in the name of Biafra, from 1967-1970. We experimented the maxim that war is the extension of the polities as polities is the extension of war. It failed. This time most fatally. It took a horrible tolls in lives, wanton destruction of properties horrendous expenditure of cash to keep Nigeria One.
We even tried a “diarchy” from 1967 to 1970 also. It was a tacit agreement or contract where to fore the military dispensed political affairs with the support of civilians. The result? Fail, it did.
Next, we passed through the Era of the great “oil boom” – first in the silent township of Oloibiri – which by 1975, had become a curse: “oil doom”.
Our country was as rich in cash as it was poor in soul. This seems to be biblically prophetic: it became easier for the head of a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for rich Nigeria to pay its way into the much-needed state of political sanity.
July 29, 1975 brought in its wake a sober military administration, under late General Murtala Muhammed, who died for our sins on a Nigerian street, not even State House. Thanks to his foresight and steadfastness of the Supreme Military Council (SMC), Nigerians were gingered to try return again to democracy.
Let us note here: it is interesting to recognise the coincidences of the February 13, 1976 coup with that of July 29, 1967.
In each of the coups, Head of state and one Military Governor were assassinated. General Aguiyi Ironsi (Head of State) and Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi (Governor, West) in 1967; and General Murtala Muhammed (Head of state) and colonel Ibrahim Taiwo (Governor, Kwara state) in 1976, respectively.
Both Murtala and Ironsi died with the rank for “Army General” while Fajuyi and Taiwo, both Yoruba and combatants soldiers, died as Colonels. While Ironsi and Fajuyi were both Christians; Murtala and Taiwo were both Muslims and had just before their death returned performed the holy pilgrimage to Mecca.
Is it not surprising how history seems to repeat itself in Nigeria’s political experience, when one observes developments and counter-development in this country since independence up to date?
But do Nigerians learn from history?
In September 1978, efforts were made towards restoration of the reign of the ballot, in place of the tyranny of the bullets. The fundamental one million naira question are: could we rise to the occasion? Could we expect One Nigeria; free, fair, just, virile and Nigerian at last? And those questions, as we later come to realise, were a matter of life and death, given its chequered history.
In 1978, when the ban on political activities was lifted, bizarre explosion of political “parties” was witnessed. By December 1978, there were 52 political “parties” or announcements to that effect. Nigerians were again up to some mischief, as if they had learned nothing from the chequered history of our truncated struggle for One Nigeria.
There came to be announced so many associations in quest of power or its pre-requisites. For instance, there was a part, exclusive for youth or newbreeds. There was another headed by an Afro-beats kings and supported by his 27 wives who are called Queens. There was even one named You-Chop-I-Chop Party, etc. A wild proliferation indeed. But the FEDECO (Federal Electoral Commission), empowered by the military government to supervise the electoral process, the spiraling list of “parties” was trimmed down to five. Each with its fielded answers to the fundamental questions of One Nigeria, out of this: the NPN emerged, with its Presidential candidate Alhaji Sheu Shagari and Dr. Alex Ekwueme as Vice President. That democratic dispensation did not last. Again.
Noticeable again is the annulled 1993 Presidential Election of Chief Bashorun M.K.O Abiola, by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, self-designated ”Evil Genius”(?) IBB, a Northern, denied Nigerians the right to elect their own leader (a Southerner). It was a rape of Democracy.
For 5 years, he beat his chest over that crime (1993-1998) before he confessed his regrets about the annulllment in an interview published by The New York Times in 1998.
Next was General Sani Abacha regime. Abacha was indeed evil personified, a blood thirsty, sadistic general who derived unwholesome kicks from inflict wounds – both physical and psychological – on both enemies and friends.
In his unbridled ambition to become Nigeria’s Mobutu Sese Seko, he reportedly gave orders for the liquidation of imprisonment of innocent Nigerians through security reports and frame-up charges.
His death in 1998 was celebrated nation-wide.
General Abdulsalam Abubakar took over from him. He is our George Washington, ‘the great emancipator’. He freed all political prisoners. And jailed El-Mustapha and Sergent Roger – Abacha’s killers’ machines.
The comic aspect was when El-Mustapha (a Northerner) asked the late Human Rights Activist-Lawyer Gani Fawehinmi (a Southerner) should come and defend his case (in court of law).
Abubakar handed over to General Olusẹgun Ọbasanjọ. So much hope was placed on him that he was almost called the next Jesus – our messiah. We believed he would restore democracy and give voice to reasoning. We even commisserated with him and helped to denounced, ridicule law makers who wanted to ‘gang-raped’ democracy by removing OBJ on the eve of June 12, 2000. Acter a year only in office.
But what did we eventually have? Partisan politics, corruptly gained wealth under his monitoring. Election rigging was introduced. After two terms of 8 years, there was nothing to show for it. Except greed and overambition that birthed Third Term Bid.
He handed over to Umar Musa Yar’Adua, the ex-Kaduna state governor made moves to transform this country but his ailing health alternated his course. He died with his 7-Points Agenda. Amnesty seemed his most evident achievement. He died in Saudi Arabia.
And, as expected, Nigeria played politics with his death.
His carefree, meek, opportunistic ridden Vice, an Ijaw man took over the reins. His administration is said to be more corrupt than Abacha’s. I read his book, ‘My Transition Hours’. It was a book in which he blamed everybody but himself for the woes.
Next is General Muhammadu Buhari. We hear of Fulani herdsmen….
N.B This is prelude to “NIGERIA IS NOT A COUNTRY”, which is the 2019 Submission (Thesis) of Jimson Jaat Taofik, as his 2019 Social Responsibility Effort, which is annual.
The full thesis will be released soon.
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