By Dr. Emma Enekwechi.
??????????? And so it was that on January 1 1914 a British soldier called Fredrick Lugard, appointed by the government of Britain to oversee a big swatch of African territory whose peoples the British had conquered, subjugated, and colonized; people who were vastly, often breathtakingly different from one another in their ethnicity, religion, geography, culture, world views, philosophy of life, beliefs, values, etc amalgamated (not unified) them into a country that his girlfriend had given the name ?Nigeria?. The people ranged from the Kanem Bornu in the North East with very strong Arab influence and culture, to the numerous Hausa States conquered and Islamized by the Fulani who having established Caliphates exercised suzerainty over the areas covering Sokoto, Kano, and as far south as Bauchi, and Ilorin; to the Nupe, Kwararafa, Jukun, Tiv ?in the middle; to the Oyo, Ekiti, Ijebu, Ife and the kingdom of Benin in the South West; to the Aro Confederacy in the South East – stretching from Calabar, Opobo, Bonny, Nembe, Sapele, Agbor, Equatorial Guinea, Southern Cameroons to as far north as Idoma, and Igala, maintaining a Constitutional Monarchy but comprising of fiercely autonomous states that had organized themselves through military conquest, alliances, and treaties into a Confederation of autonomous states. ????
These were the peoples who Fredrick Lugard under the direction of the British government amalgamated into one country called Nigeria. But why did Lugard amalgamate the peoples of what the British called the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria (including the Colony and Protectorate of Lagos) into one country? Was it to weld the people into one sovereign nation? No. Was it to help the different peoples develop economically or politically? No. Did he do this in consultation and agreement with the governments of the people the British had conquered and overthrown? No. Did he even attempt to consult the leaders of the different political and social units to seek their input and opinion? No. So, why did Lugard amalgamate them without as much as consulting the people concerned? In amalgamating these widely divergent peoples, Lugard and the British had one goal and only one goal in mind and that was to create, enhance and advance British trade in the vast territory it had conquered and occupied. The creation and advancement of British trade and the protection of British financial interest against other European competitors in the newly acquired territory was the sole goal of the tragedy called Nigeria. The amalgamation had zero consideration for the interests, welfare, and progress of the inhabitants of the areas amalgamated.
What did Lugard and subsequent British administrations do to enhance unity and understanding among the amalgamated states? The autonomous states of the Aro Confederacy of the Eastern Region and the Kingdom of Benin had given the British invaders nightmares in the fight over rights, concessions and regulations in trade in palm oil and other commodities along the Atlantic coastline. The bloody conflicts of the Aro and Benin expeditions were not to be easily forgotten by the British who now regarded the fiercely independent and assertive inhabitants of the Niger Coast with disdain and hatred and branded them ?trouble makers.? It didn?t matter that many of these people who had their traditional religion or were animists had embraced Christianity, and converted to the religion brought by European missionaries.
In the North, British colonialists were thrilled that Islam was a religion of obedience and that the masses will without question obediently carry out instructions given by their religious leaders. They also found that Northern leaders were not only suspicious of western education and Christianity but actually rejected both in preference for Koranic education and Islam. In essence the North despised democracy, western education and Christianity preferring feudalism, Koranic education and Islam.? Their leaders extracted unquestioning obedience from the masses making it easy for the colonialists to control those masses without having to interact with them directly. Conversely the peoples of the south especially the South East had a long history of self-determination and democracy, loved and embraced western education and massively converted to Christianity which not surprisingly was theologically very close to their traditional religion. However, the British reasoned that these attributes, beliefs and values of Easterners though a mirror image of their own made it difficult to control the masses of these colonized people since it required direct negotiations and dealings with individual communities, and groups.
The British also noted that subjects of the Fulani ruling aristocracy lived a primarily nomadic existence with little attachment to particular pieces of land or ancestral holdings. The peoples of the South East maintained a settled agrarian lifestyle with strong attachment to their land usually handed down from parent to offspring and from one generation to another. The British reasoned that it would be easier for the colonial government to exploit natural resources if rulers with nomadic culture and non attachment to the land were in control of the government in Nigeria.
The colonial government then translated these tenets into government policies designed to achieve the objectives of the British administration: the creation, enhancement and advancement of British trade and the protection of British financial interests in Nigeria against other competitors during both the colonial and post colonial eras. To this end the British resolved to:
- Support and adopt Northern feudal system of government, export it to the south, and destroy the democratic system that was well developed in the south east. They introduced what they called ?indirect rule? in both the south west and the south east. It succeeded in the south west but failed miserably in the south east as Easterners clung to their long held democratic tradition. This infuriated not only the British administrators but also northern aristocrats. It was not a surprise when the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello said, ?the Igbo (generic term for Easterners) have never been friends of the North and never will be.?
- Place northern political leaders in an ascendant position to permanently control the government of Nigeria especially after Nigeria achieves independence. To this end the British government allegedly instructed her colonial officers in Nigeria to dramatically inflate the population of the north during the last census it conducted as a colonial master to assure that even in a democratic dispensation their northern friends will still control the government of Nigeria thereby giving them the much desired guarantee of effective control, enhancement and creation of trade opportunities and protection of British financial interests in Nigeria. By this act British colonial masters made it impossible to conduct a reliable census in Nigeria.
- Grant any and all requests by northern aristocrats so as to make them allies of the British administration and propagate the belief that their southern counterparts especially from the south east were their enemies whose motives were to destabilize northern feudal society, turn their masses against them, wrestle power from them and flush them from their choice positions of influence and power. So when the northern aristocrats demanded the restriction of Christian evangelization in the north, the British colonial government granted it without question. However it did not impose similar restriction on Islamic expansion in the south. Also when the northern aristocrats demanded that western education because of its alleged corrupting influence be restricted to just a handful of her citizens, essentially the children of northern leaders, the British colonial government acquiesced. Koranic schools became the model in the north while western education flourished in the south. Did the British colonial masters sow the seeds for the tragedy of Boko Haram of today? You be the judge.
- Reward the loyal feudal government in the north with funds from the south. To this end British colonial government transferred massive amounts of funds from the south to the north for the purposes of administering the north. Proceeds from palm oil trade and taxes in the Niger Coast Protectorate which by the early 1900 had topped 1.5 million pounds sterling were transferred to the north to run the government of northern Nigeria and maintain the lifestyle of the northern aristocracy. In fact this massive transfer of funds from the south to the north was one of the main reasons for the amalgamation of the North and South. Massive transfer of funds (now euphemistically called revenue allocation) from the south east to the north is still the tragedy that is Nigeria today.
After implementing these policies the British colonial government decided to seal them with one last deadly slab ? bribery and corruption. As a matter of policy the British colonial government corruptly enriched all those in politics, government, and public service who were loyal to the colonial administration. Loyalty to the colonial administration was rewarded with juicy contracts, and access to the finances of the treasury. The colonial government called these loyal locals ?our boys.? This practice was across the board ? mostly in the north, but also in the west and east and continued among political office holders, and public servants after Nigeria became independent, with devastating consequences. This is the genesis of the terminal cancer of corruption and bribery that has metastasized to every organ in the body of Nigeria and devoured the heart of Nigeria to this day.
This was how the British colonial government designed and created Nigeria to be a perpetual human tragedy with intractable problems and unending internal bloody conflicts. It has remained so for one hundred years and counting. Nation states with functioning dictatorships were forcibly lumped together with confederation of autonomous states that loved, cherished, and practiced democratic governance and these were then yoked on to feudal theocracies that hated democracy and progressive ideas and squashed individual freedoms like irritating bugs. How to weld these divergent sociopolitical, economic, and philosophical systems into a workable union was never given serious consideration. Rather all that was done was to amalgamate them through the barrel of the Maxim gun and a wicked scheme that set one group against the other in a deadly cycle of never ending feud and an orgy of unending violence and bloodbath.
And so in 2014 we find that all the problems that beset Nigeria in 1914 are still plaguing her and have been magnified to the point where the Nigerian state has been so overwhelmed by the problems that the state exists only through the barrel of AK47?s and massive military weaponry ?just as was the case in 1914. The Arab leaning people of Kanem Boronu have clearly stated their hatred of democracy and western education and values, expressed their rejection of western judicial system and preference for Sharia legal and judicial systems. They have been joined by their brothers from Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna, to Minna and Bauchi who share similar beliefs and values. They have taken up arms to press their release from the forced union. They made their point clearly in 1914 just as they are making it today one hundred years later. What has been the response of the Nigerian state? Send in the army to force them to accept democracy, and western education, for which they have expressed their deep hatred.
In one of my previous essays I discussed democracy thus: ?Let us be clear about one thing. Democracy is not a haphazard aggregation of anemic and crazily run institutions. After all Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin Dada, Mobutu Sese Seko, Jean- Bedel Bokassa, Francisco Macias Nguema, Teodoro Obian Nguema Mbasogo, Olusegun Obasanjo, Sanni Abacha, and several others had parliaments supposedly making laws, judiciary interpreting the laws and rendering judgments, government departments conducting day to day public services; had army and police formations to defend the country and ?protect the people?; they even organized elections, census, and conducted other affairs of state. But everyone knew that they did not run any democratic governments. It is not these institutions that make democracy. Democracy is a state of mind, a set of beliefs, values, and attitudes rooted in deep philosophical precepts that form the core of a people?s concept of the relationship between men, women, children, social groups, and communities. These attitudes are mediated by clear, internally reinforced beliefs about the ?self? in relation to ?other? in social, interpersonal, and international relationships. Such beliefs as these: (I am a free person entitled to my freedom, liberty and individual rights; other persons are equally entitled to their freedom, liberty and individual rights. I have a right to own and control my private property and so do other persons. I have to work hard using my talents, skills, and abilities in order to make achievements which will attract requisite rewards based on merit for my labor. Other persons are entitled to be rewarded based on merit for their labor and achievement when they work hard using their talents, skills and abilities; the society I live in is governed by laws which are applicable to everyone and no one is above the law.) These beliefs are etched indelibly in the minds of citizens of democratic societies and form the core, the moral compass by which they navigate complex interpersonal and intergroup relationships.? Justice, peace, and economic prosperity derive from the unshakable belief in, robust enforcement and defense of these fundamental principles of interpersonal, inter-communal, and international relationships.
In the process of safeguarding and propagating these high democratic principles, social groups, communities, nations, establish institutions that protect, defend, and guarantee the observance of these high democratic precepts. Such institutions include independent, impartial judiciary, freely elected representatives, executives, as well as legislators, to form a government of the people, for the people by the people; diligent, honest government security agents (police, and other uniformed services); free and unencumbered press that guarantees free access to information; and honest and efficient public servants among others. The mere existence of these institutions especially if they are corrupted and denatured does not constitute ?democracy?. It is the belief in, and honest application of these principles, as well as their robust enforcement through these democratic institutions that qualify a political system to be described as a ?democracy.?
Throughout the colonial period, the British colonial government wisely allowed much of Northern Nigeria to operate a dictatorial feudal system of government while maintaining a veneer of ?elections? and ?democracy?. Since independence Southern Nigerian political leaders have been trying to impose democracy and democratic ideals on the people of Northern Nigeria with tragic consequences. These southern political leaders have not learned one simple lesson ? that democracy is not a suit or dress you put on to look democratic. Secondly, whenever you attempt to foist democracy on a people who do not believe in it and especially its underlying principles and philosophy, the result is a tragic failure that usually boomerangs on the people doing the imposing. This has been evident in feudal northern Nigeria for fifty years and southern political leaders still have not learned their lesson.
In 1966 and 1967, Nigerians slaughtered tens of thousands of people of Eastern Nigeria living in other parts of Nigeria, especially northern Nigeria. They destroyed and looted their property and drove them out of other parts of Nigeria back to their homeland in Eastern Nigeria. Nigerian government, her security agents and public servants participated in this mass slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. When Easterners realized after several pleas to the Nigerian government for protection that the Nigerian government was unwilling to fulfill the most fundamental responsibility a state has towards her citizens – protection of life and property, Easterners asserted their right to self-determination and declared the sovereign independent State of Biafra. The Nigerian government headed by General Yakubu Gowon responded by declaring a genocidal war on Biafra, and with the help of the British government imposed total blockade of Biafran territory denying any inflow of food and even medicines to children. The result was catastrophic genocide the likes of which have not been seen in Africa before or since. Nigeria starved to death more than one million babies, children, pregnant women, old women and old men. Today Yakubu Gowon is ranked number ten on the list of the worst mass murderers in the history of mankind. Harold Wilson, the British Prime Minister who egged Yakubu Gowon on as he mass murdered more than one million Biafrans is not on that list. In fact his biography has been cleaned up and sanitized.
The fundamental principle underlying successful evolution is the ability to learn and adapt. Humans will certainly rank at the top of this evolutionary skill ? we learn and we adapt. Have Nigerian political leaders in the past fifty years demonstrated an ability to learn and adapt? Before 1960 as a colonized people Nigerian political leaders from the north and south were not able to agree on regaining their freedom through self-government. The south wanted it, but the north wanted to remain colonized. Since independence Nigeria has not been able to organize even one free and fair federal election. No one knows the population of Nigeria because Nigeria has never been able to organize a simple, honest head count. The North threatened to secede from Nigeria but was bribed into staying. Today the north is threatening to secede. The west threatened and was also bribed. Today the west is giving every sign that it too wants to break away. The East seceded and was forced back under the barrel of the gun. Today the people of Eastern Nigeria are demanding as strongly as ever to break away from Nigeria. The nation states that made up Nigeria before British occupation have been demanding to be let out of the bondage peacefully but the leaders of Nigeria have always answered with bombs and machine guns. Why can?t they learn?
Yet as you look at Nigeria today all you see is a pathetic, miserable, bumbling state that perceives its primary responsibility to be crushing the individual rights of her citizens, grinding them into abject poverty, and slaughtering millions of them in a perpetual cycle of barbaric violence. Sadly as the state wallows in this tragic buffoonery all the seedlings of self-destruction present and planted at the time the British government amalgamated disparate independent nations into the unworkable boondoggle called Nigeria have grown and matured into giant man eating trees armed with poisonous thorns. Ethnic chauvinism is stronger now than at independence and blind ethnic hatred is at an all time high. Virulent ethnic hatred has become the currency for achieving political and economic power. There are really no Nigerians. Religious intolerance accompanied by outright denial of religious freedom has become the order of the day. The fight by powerful Nigerian political and economic elite to seize, steal, and control the natural resources belonging to people and communities in Eastern Nigeria has become fierce and deadly. The swashbuckling and the intrigues have simply become mind boggling. The brazen manner with which people treat as their right the act of stealing and taking total control of the resources belonging to other people and communities makes ?justice? explode into a million pieces. Autonomy and the right to control ones destiny at the family, community or ethnic level have been taken away and flushed down the tube. Everything including the private lives of individuals is now controlled from Nigeria?s federal capital, Abuja often by a handful of mindless goons. In Nigeria, the wishes of the people amount to nothing. The consequence is the unbearable tyranny of the oligarchs and plutocrats. Bribery and corruption have reached such levels that in the international community Nigeria has become the poster child for corruption. The fight between feudalism and the fake democracy currently practiced remains intense and unabated. The cultural divide among the major cleavages in Nigeria have turned into chasms. ?Philosophies, world views, beliefs, values, ideologies have crystallized into distinct and often antagonistic and irreconcilable configurations. Nigeria, a country created one century ago by the British colonial government purely for British selfish financial and economic interests remains a tragic mess today with the lives of millions of innocent citizens sacrificed on the altar of this greed.
So, what lessons can be drawn from this mess. First, attempts to force people into a union or amalgamation against their will whether at the individual level such as marriage or a national level such as a country will be met with continued resistance until the people regain their freedom. This is true whether you go as far back as the biblical Jews in the land of Egypt?s pharaoh, the former Soviet Union gobbling up fourteen independent countries of the Caucuses, or Nigeria forcing Biafra back into One Nigeria and holding other nations in Nigeria hostage. Second, the ongoing subjugation hurts both the subjugator and the subjugated and none gets out of the situation a winner. Therefore the attempt to force people into a union against their will is futile and the sooner this foolishness is abandoned the better for everyone involved.
Europeans learned these lessons long ago after centuries of warfare in which one kingdom or empire tried to subjugate, dominate, and swallow another. They learned that only through negotiations and treaties voluntarily entered into can two or more groups come together in unity and peace as members of one political entity. They also learned that the population of a group should not determine whether or not that group should be accorded the status of a sovereign state, or country rather the economic viability of the group should be the determining factor. This is why in Europe today only fourteen countries have a national population of ten million or more, while more than two dozen have a population of five million or less (about the population of Anambra State). All these countries are members of the United Nations and some of the smallest among them have the highest GDP per capita in the world. Other parts of the world have copied the European approach to state evolution. In the early 1990 the former Soviet Union dissolved into the fifteen independent states. Today they live peacefully as neighbors with each developing at her pace. Former Yugoslavia forced together through the barrel of the gun broke into seven independent countries. Since their break up in the 1990?s they have lived peacefully as neighbors with each independent nation developing at her pace. Altogether since 1990 the world has seen the emergence of about thirty three new countries. Twenty of these new countries were created in Europe, six in Asia, three in Asia-Pacific, one in the Middle East, and three ? Namibia, Eritrea, and South Sudan in Africa. In which parts of the world today are thousands of people being slaughtered in declared and undeclared wars? It is in the Middle East and Africa. So what lesson has Europe learned that Africa and especially Nigeria has refused to learn?
The British government prevailed on Nigerian leaders to kill millions of her citizens rather than allow the different groups to exercise their right to self-determination. Ironically the same Britain is now in the process of splitting into two countries as Scotland prepares to conduct a referendum to enable her citizens decide on sovereign independent status for Scotland. During the Nigeria-Biafra war a British diplomat stated that killing one million Igbo to keep Nigeria one will not be a bad sacrifice. When an American diplomat was sent to Britain to consult Queen Elizabeth II on the immorality of her majesty?s government being complicit in the genocidal act of starving hundreds of thousands of Biafran children to death her only comment reportedly was: ?we have eight hundred million pounds investment in that territory.? That ended the discussion and sealed the fate of millions of poor innocent children.
Let me conclude this essay by appealing to President Goodluck Jonathan. Please do not write your name in the same book that Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo and other mindless mass murderers did. As you can see in this essay leaders all over the world especially in Europe have realized the absolute idiocy of trying to force a people into a union or association that they have expressly opposed. If the citizens of Bornu and their brothers in Yobe, Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna, Minna, Bauchi, and Gombe decide that they do not want democracy, western education, European legal system, and don?t want to be part of Nigeria, that is their right and they should be free to exercise that right. If the Igbo, Efik, Ijaw, Esan, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Tiv, Jukun, Edo, Yoruba and other nations in the south decide that they do not want to be part of the political entity called Nigeria, that is their right and they too should be free to exercise that right. The best you can do is to create the environment that will enable them express this God given right, and then go on to negotiate and sign treaties of association that will enable them organize and establish political associations of their choosing.
Careful analysis of the political situation in Nigeria today shows that different groups in Nigeria have once again formed political alliances reminiscent of the situation in 1965. I hope that you will read the handwriting on the wall. In spite of your efforts you have now been defined as Igbo and the same treatment usually reserved for the Igbo will be meted to you ? and so to every Easterner. At least one million Easterners were killed by Nigeria during the Nigeria ? Biafra war. More than one hundred thousand Easterners have been slaughtered in different parts of Northern Nigeria from 1980 to date. No sane Easterner now lives, runs a business, goes to Church and moves about freely in Maiduguri, Damaturu, Potiskum, Nguru, and several towns and cities in Bornu, Yobe, Bauchi, and Gombe.? This situation will spread to Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kaduna, Adamawa, and eventually Plateau, Taraba, and Nassarawa. Clearly the greatest losers in the One Nigeria tragedy are the Igbo and their cousins in Eastern Nigeria. Any Easterner who continues to be blinded by selfish, unbridled quest for money, property, or political power and thus still believes in and preaches One Nigeria must accept that he or she is now complicit in the destruction of the Igbo and their cousins in Eastern Nigeria.
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