When the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria Was Amalgamated In 1914 by the British colonialists and imperialists, the country, Christened Nigeria, despite her numerous contraptions and multi-ethnic dimensions, was set on the part of growth and prosperity even when the motives of the imperialists were not in tandem with that of the new Nation.
The territory called Nigeria, before the demonic Berlin conference of 1884, where Africa was balkanized, was adorned with the strongest kingdoms and Empires ever seen by humankind with their own political and indigenous knowledge-based systems, which propelled these autonomous states to enviable heights. The Benin Empire, the Oyo Empire, the Borno Empire, the Saurata Emirates in the North and the Igbo quasi-federal units; were evidence of thriving nations.
From 1914 to 1960, the British held sway for forty-six years. Nigeria was set on a solid foundation economically, even though most of the infrastructures aided Britain’s Looting of our natural resources. The Eastern Railway was built to Port Harcourt between 1913 and 1916. This railway was extended to Kaduna in 1927, connecting the Eastern Railway to the Lagos–Kano Railway. The Eastern Railway was extended to its northeastern terminus of Maiduguri between 1958 and 1964. Agriculture thrived and was the mainstay of our national economy.
Interestingly, as Britain was building a solid economic foundation for the new Nation, it failed to build it politically. They saw our politics from the microcosm of the three major ethnic groups instead of present-day Nigeria’s different nations. The first problem we had was Britain’s inability to understand the terrain of Nigeria before they lobbied to lord over us at the Berlin conference. And to further amplify this political abnormality, our pre-colonial leaders, led by Sir Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and Sir Obafemi Awolowo, never practised politics outside their respective regions. Every infrastructure they did and every political move they made were for their separate regions and not for Nigeria.
These three leaders were exemplary in providing leadership for their people and were always interested in controlling the central government. All except the Sardauna took a shot to be the head of the central government.
Sir Ahmadu Bello, because of his firm conviction for a United North, was not interested in the central government but sponsored Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who later became the first Prime Minister of Nigeria. If we had not copied the British parliamentary system and United States presidential systems. Nigeria would have been a prosperous nation. Our regional leaders were already operating a confederal system, where power was concentrated in the component units, the three regions at that time. So why didn’t we continue in that direction?
If we had genuine autonomy for these regions, the issue of Biafra secession wouldn’t have arisen, and every part would have been a mini country with strong provinces divided along major ethnic groups that makes up these regions.
The post-civil war Nigeria from 1970-1999 marked the darkest years of our Nation’s history. That was when the Nigerian political elites and Military officers unceremoniously designed the Nigerian State to fail. This period marked the birth of many military interregna riddled with draconian decrees and economic policies inconsistent with human reasoning and rationality. The structural adjustment program SAP was initiated. We gladly took loans from the IMF and World Bank with strings attached, such as the devaluation of our currency and reduction of government control of the economy. The IBB Military Junta may have initiated the SAP in good faith, but its outcome will hunt Nigeria Forever.
We are failing because we are not learning from history. Since the democratic political dispensation from 1999 till date, we still repeatedly do the same things, expecting different results. Our leaders and followers have failed. The problems of Nigeria were orchestrated decades ago, but they aren’t impossible to solve like our elites make us believe. We cannot thrive when 52.68% of our national wealth goes to the central government while a meagre 26.72% and 20.60% go to the states and local governments.
We need to discard the 1999 constitution as amended and enact a constitution that can help us solve this political and economic imbroglio. The challenges we faced years back are different, and they have struck us with new dimensions we haven’t seen in years. Banditry is now prominent in the northwest; rape was never as rampant as it has been, kidnapping, unemployment, cow rustling, herdsmen-farmers crises, militancy, corruption and bad leadership can be effectively checked with laws. But, alas, we aren’t ready; our legislators are only interested in getting new cars for oversight functions and renovating their palace of inactivity.
We are not ready to move forward. How do you intend to develop without a national vision? This is different from party manifestoes. We need to shift away from the mindset of primordial proclivities to a more national mindset, where national interest supersedes personal and tribal values.
Let’s be Nigerians first before we think of being Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Nupe, Edo, Itshekiri, Bachama, Ibibio, etc. The United States has a larger area and is more populated with aboriginal populations than Nigeria, yet they strive. Why is Nigeria different? What are we doing wrong? and who is responsible for the current state of our dear Nation? These questions are not only for our leaders to answer but for all Nigerians. When we initiate conversations around these questions, awareness would be created, issues would be raised, solutions would be proffered, and Nigeria would be great.
written by A.D.S