- Category: POLITICS
- Published on Saturday, 25 August 2012 15:40
- Written by Dr. C. Kingston Ekeke
Nigeria is in perilous times - an era of cleavages, of fragmentation, of radical violence, religious ignorance and intolerance, authoritarian and corrupt political leadership, secessionists and anarchists. Nigeria is also rapidly falling apart and disintegrating and the rulers care less about it. The truth is that Nigeria is faced with serious challenges
of nationhood and that is something fundamentally wrong with Nigeria. And most Nigerians don’t want to hear it.
Since the return to democratic government in 1999, Nigeria has allowed itself to wallow in religious and sectarian violence, political leadership failure, economic crisis, moral crisis, and corruption and security challenges. The nation will not stand and cannot survive as currently constituted and governed. The ethnic bias and hatred, injustice and manner of governing at the federal level are evil and mischievous. And if the anomalies are not eliminated or curtailed through a candid dialogue of all the stakeholders, Nigeria’s disintegration will be just a matter of time. For Nigeria to remain a united, indivisible nation with its rich diversity, endowed natural resources and blessed human power, the anomalies and injustices in the system must be eradicated or rectified. The rectification of these anomalies is not going to happen by a bunch of greedy politicians behind the doors of the National House of Assembly amending the 1999 constitution. Frankly, the entire 1999 constitution needs to be re-written to accommodate the desires and aspirations of all the variant groups that make up Nigeria.
Nigeria is rapidly falling apart and disintegrating, and if we are to go by the United States Federal Bureau Intelligence on Nigeria’s demise in 2015, one would agree that their prophetic pronouncement is eventually becoming a reality. Earlier this month, on August 2, 2012, the Ogni General Assembly declared for self government and political autonomy from Nigeria. Dr. Goodluck Diigbo, the leader of MOSOP said I quote: “By this declaration of political autonomy, we, the Ogoni people are determined to enforce the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, without fear or retreat,” He further said, “I am very delighted to announce that the Ogoni autonomy is irreversible.” Thousands of Ogonis marched and participated in the conference to celebrate their freedom from a tyrannical and evil government of Nigeria.
A week after the Ogni self-government, the Chief Press Secretary to Baysela State Governor, the home state of President Jonathan, unveiled its State Flag, Coat of Arms and Anthem, as a way to promote Ijaw integration and fundamental interest. Although many do not see this as a threat to secession, however, many questioned why now. Three days later, the oil rich peninsula of Nigeria, Bakassi Island, which General Gowon ceded to Cameroun in the 1960’s to punish General Ojukwu and the Southeast, also declared own secession from Nigeria. A group know as Bakassi Self-determination Front (BSDF) announced its secession from Nigeria, established its own flag and radio station. The Commander-General of the BSDF, Ekpe Ekpenyong Oku, said arrangements had been made with some international liberation groups to assist the Bakassi natives in the battle with Cameroun who is sending in troops to quell the declaration of independence by the group.”
Earlier this week, a splinter group known as Biafra Zionist Movement, BZM, led by Mr. Ben Onwuka gave justification why his group applied to United Nations (U.N) and African Union (AU) for recognition as a member group. This action he believes will lead to the actualization of Biafra republic, which Chief Ralph Uwazurike, leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, has been fighting for years. At the meantime, the Boko haram jihadist sect has not ceased to maim and massacre innocent Nigerians in the Northern part of the country. recent authoritative pronouncement by its leaders claims they are fighting not just to Islamize the North, but to Islamize the entire Nigeria and enthrone Sharia Constitution. This is clearly calling for the “Somalization” or “Senegalization” of Nigeria. They are clearly aspiring for Nigeria to become an Islamic state – although their vision is a “Mission Impossible.” God forbid! It will be “all-out” religious warfare never seen in human history.
IBB attempted this evil desire in the eighties when he enrolled Nigeria as a full- member of Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). However, due to his poor foreign leadership, the political and economic benefits of that enrolment never yielded many results. Recently, the Central Bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a radical Islamic scholar, who was smuggled in to head the Central Bank of Nigeria is largely pursuing the economic islamization of Nigeria through his radical Islamic banking polices and reforms. Time will tell, if Christians, animists and atheists will do business with those kinds of banks adhering to Islamic laws and principles.
But, let look back to history to investigate how and why Nigeria got to this perilous period of her existence. When nations around the globe – especially in this 21st century high technology world - are prospering, educating their young generations and motivating them to achieve great things, Nigeria is lagging behind and enemies of progress like Boko haram, ethnic jingoism, bias, and hatred, injustice, poor leaders, and corrupt politicians, looting of public treasury, money laundering and monumental corruption buffet every aspect of the nation’s life.
Brief History of Amalgamation – Variant Groups Were Coerced to Live Together
One cannot count the cost and consequences of amalgamation of Nigeria without looking briefly at the history. How did the variant and distinct groups of empires and kingdoms come together to become a nation known as Nigeria? It is an established historical fact that before the Europeans especially the British, French and Portuguese invaded the continent of Africa in search of slaves and mineral resources during the later 19th century, the kingdoms of Oyo, Bornu, Hausa, Benin, Bonny, Jukun, Idah, Aro and Ibo in the Western Coastline of Africa lived in peace and traded among themselves. These peoples and kingdoms had existed hundreds of years even before the coming of the Europeans. The peoples of these kingdoms and empires had deep political, social, religious, tribal and linguistic differences. By the later part of 1890’s when the British invaded and conquered these kingdoms; they created a monstrous nation for their political and economic interest and power rivalry with the French. And so, the peoples of Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri, Ibo, Yoruba, Kalabari, and Ijaw were forced to live together without a well-defined set of core values that addressed national unity, patriotism and parameters to discourage social, cultural, religious and linguistic differences between the peoples of this new nation. Flora Shaw, the wife of Lord Lugard, Nigeria’s second governor general, suggested the name “Nigeria” for these variant groups of kingdoms and territories around the Niger over which Britain had established a Protectorate.
Imposition of Indirect Rule – And Why the Nationalist Leaders Allowed It
After conquering these unique African kingdoms and empires, the British forcefully merged them together and imposed a system government and administration popularly know as “Indirect Rule” in which the local affairs were largely left in the hands of the traditional rulers such as the Emirs, Obas and Chiefs, while the national affairs were completely controlled by the British officials. Also, the political structure was intended to preserve the tribal distinctions in her new found colonial empire. The North without hesitation, accepted the “Indirect Rule, “ while some local traditional leaders from the West, East and South , who had managed to receive some education through British established missionary schools in the Southern Nigeria, began to challenge the British system of Indirect Rule.
Some years later, a good number of Southern leaders including some Northern leaders aspired to share in the national government, which was the exclusive preserve of the British. Those elected to the congress were all British officials and the nationalists thought that the national administration did not represent the Nigerian masses and therefore protested against the British government to revise the 1922 constitution to include Nigerians in the Legislative Council. Nationalist leaders such as such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Belwa, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Ernest Ikoli, H. O. Davis, Chief S. L. Akintola, Dr. M. I. Okpara, Solanke, and Eyo Ita among many others wisely challenged British style of government which was established for the people of Nigeria and most of Africa then. Through their struggle and pressure against the British colonial rule, Nigeria's independence was granted due to the activities of people like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, who were the pioneers of the nationalist grievances against the British system of indirect rule. Nigeria received her independence from Britain in October 1, 1960, and became a Republic in 1963 under a British Parliamentary system of Government.
The Turbulent Period that Led to Nigeria’s Civil War and Ethnic Jingoism
Sir James Robertson became the first Governor-General of the Independent federation of Nigeria. While Alhaji Hon. Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sarduna of Sokoto, premier of Northern Nigeria and President- General of the Northern Nigeria People’s Congress, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the national president of N.C.N.C, was elected President of the Senate. Chief S. L. Akintola became the Premier of Western Nigeria and Deputy Leader of the Action Group, Dr. M. I. Okpara, Premier of Eastern Nigeria, and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Action Group. The nationalist leaders established the parliamentary system of government, in which Sir Abubakar Tafawa Belwa became the first Prime Minister of Nigeria and Dr. Nnamdi Azkike, the first indigenous governor general of Nigeria.
That arrangement did not last before tribal politics and religious sentiments led to the truncation of the parliamentary system. The first Nigerian military coup was planned and in 1965, Sir Abubaka Tafawa Belwa was assassinated. Major Agui Ironsi became the military head of State. Within six months, he was assassinated by a group of Northern military boys, who revenged against the killing of Sir Abubaka Tafawa Belewa. The activities led to the horrendous pogrom against innocent easterners living in the Northern states in which more than 300,000 Ibos were massacred. The events of that turbulent period 1965-9167 led to the political crisis, tribal and religious violence that led to unforgettable genocidal civil war of 1967-70 that decimated more than two million lives and left so much bitterness, anger and hatred among the peoples of Nigeria. Before the civil war, Nigeria had established three regional government regions – North, West and Eastern regions.
After the war, General Gowon became the head of State of Nigeria. In the 1970’s with the oil price at all time high, oil coming primarily from Eastern region, yet General Gowon through his finance minister, Chief Abafemi Awolowo, introduced monetary policies that were purely punitive and spiteful treatment of the so-called enemies of the Nigerian state, that kept the majority of the people from the Eastern region people poorer than they were during the civil war. Nine years of spite and punitive rule against the people of Biafra despite the end of War Slogan, “No Victor NO Vanquished”, and the military peacefully ousted him, but the short-lived administration of General Murtala Mohammed paved the way for General Obasanjo to head the government. Despite the excess external reserves in the billions of dollars from oil revenue during that time, General Obasanjo surprisingly introduced austerity measures and prudent fiscal measures which had severe effects on millions of people from the Eastern region. Poverty, pandemic diseases including quasiokor and other health hazards of the war era became rampant and afflicted many Southeasterners especially the children and elderly.
Look-out for Part-2 of this essay. I will be continuing with the consequences of Amalgamation discussing the Era of Military Juntas, the Return to Civilian and Democratic System of Government, the Rise of Political Hooligans and Lawlessness, Niger Delta Militancy, Boko haram Jihadist Sect, Insecurity & Internal Terrorism and the Way Forward – Remedies to remain as one indivisible Nation or separate into manageable Nation States.
C. Kingston Ekeke, Ph.D., is a public theologian, author, consultant and leadership scholar. He is the president of Leadership Wisdom Institute.