“The triumph of written word is often attained when the writer achieves union and trust with the reader, who then becomes ready to be drawn deep into unfamiliar territory, walking in borrowed literary shoes so to speak, toward a deeper understanding of self or society, or of foreign peoples, cultures, and situations.”
-Chinua Achebe, from ‘There Was A Country’.
I’ve always been passionate about the happenings in Nigeria, but my generation, somewhat, has lost interest in politics and are walking already in the shady footsteps of power-hungry politicians. I understand that power is something that every race, culture, society, and peoples crave– with the degree of need being varied and each having different motives.
I had tweeted about the need for history to be studied. To be of utmost importance the way Mathematics and English are, as it’s the only way a brutally hurt country can pick up pieces of its shattered self.
I’ve understood that Nigeria is composed of different nations juxtaposed into one formidable country– as there is none like it– for the sole purpose of exploitation. But we cannot completely blame the colonial masters– I’m not in anyway justifying colonisation, but their language– The English Language– has become our official language and is one of the major things that has kept this fragile country together for this long.
The Nigerian civil war of late sixties was a great disaster, but the failure of Nigerians to learn from this, is a great tragedy. Their failure to ask the ‘Whys’, the ‘What really happened’, and the ‘hows’ only emphasise this tragedy. Nigerians are marching to the polls 2015. Threats and scepticism hovering in the minds of individuals, with religious leaders and groups praying fervently. The prayers and cries are needed, but people have failed to understand– the current leaders especially– that what is at stake is greater than what they can imagine. Call me pessimistic, but the truth remains that the things happening in the country now- especially the killings in the Northern region, is as a result of the failure of past leaders to tackle thoughtfully the problems the hit-hard a newly independent nation.
The northern part of Nigeria is not literally and figuratively on fire because God is angry with the moslems, or because Nigerians are not praying hard enough– because I know blocking Lagos-Ibadan express way all in the name of ‘prayer camp’ is enough to attract God’s attention, but because this sect– Boko Haram– and their Kingpins are looking for ways to restore the old ‘Northern Empire’–To return to its former glory of being The Empire of a group of states, each governed by the teachings of the Koran. To be the basic ‘Muslim religious federation’. To return to it’s original size as the kingdom of Borno and the Sokoto Caliphate together covered an area rather larger than present-day nothern Nigeria. To convert pagans and infidels. To be the feudalists that they were– to dominate. In it, too, is the need to still avenge the coup led by a group of junior officers, known as the ‘Nzeogwu coup’– Major Kaduna Nzeogwu who was from the northern city of Kaduna– that led to death of the Sarduana– Ahmadu Bello. That night of January 15 1966, is something Nigeria has never really recovered from.
Sir Ahmadu Bello was able to control northern Nigeria politically by feeding the fears of the ruling emirs and a small elite group of Western-educated northerners. His ever-effective mantra was that in other to protect the mainly feudal North’s hegemonic interests it was critical to form a political party capable of resisting the growing power of Southern politicians. Ahmadu Bello and his henchmen shared little in terms of ideological or political aspirations with their southern counterparts. With the south split between Azikiwe’s National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) and Awolowo’s Action Group, his ability to hold the North together meant that the NPC in essence became Nigeria’s ruling party. A testamant of its success is the fact that the NPC later would not only hold majority of seats in the post-independence parliament, but as a consequence would be called upon to name the first prime minister of Nigeria.
There is still hatred between the northern and southern people– igbos especially, as a result of the pogroms of the late sixties. The thing is just this: That there is tension everywhere because we’ve been cheated by the colonial masters. It’s worse now because we accepted their lies and disdainful remarks about who we were– a people without culture –That explains why some aspects of it is dying; a people without art; an uncivilised people- black people- monkeys; a people without religion. A people without history. We became a people who had to re-learn the European version of our history. A history teaching us that Mungo Park discovered river Niger, as if the people around the Niger hadn’t been fishing there before Mungo Park’s great-grandfather was born.
An Igbo proverb tells us that a man who does not know where the rain began to beat him cannot say where he dried his body.
The rain that beat [Nigeria] began four to five hundred years ago, from the discovery of Africa by Europe, through the transatlantic slave trade, to the Berlin conference of 1885. That controversial gathering of the world’s leading European powers precipitated what we now call the Scramble for Africa, which created new bounderies that did violence to [Nigeria’s] ancient societies and resulted in tension-prone modern states. It took place without [Nigeria’s] consultation or representation, to say the least. Therefore, [Nigeria’s] postcolonial disposition is the result of a people who have lost the habit of ruling themselves. We have also had difficulty running the new systems foisted upon us at the dawn of independence by our “Colonial masters”
The average Nigerian, knows nothing about the Civil war, not to talk of Nigeria’s history, and if they knew, it wouldn’t be more than the ABC’s, with its validity in question. The everyday Nigerian thinks Babangida was the one who brought corruption to Nigeria, but the truth is that it started with the British, when our first election was rigged. Since then, till now, the social malaise in Nigerian society [is] political corruption. The structure of the country [is] such that there [is] an inbuilt power struggle among the ethnic groups, and of course those who were(are) in power wanted to stay in power. The easiest and simplest way to retain it, even in a limited area, [is] to appeal to tribal sentiments. So, those who know Nigeria are not very surprised when there’s a conflict, because part of the way to respond to confusion in Nigeria is to blame those from the other ethnic group or other side of the country. One found some ethnic or religious element supporting whatever one was trying to make sense of.
I’ve had monologues about the need for a confederation. showed my outright disgust for the centenary celebrations, talked about the unending of the massacres in the north. What I did not know was this: That a literary legend, whose writing had influenced writers that I so much admire- Chimamanda Adichie, Ben Okri (Whose works I’m yet to read) and many others across the continent, had written and seen these things long before me.
Chinua Achebe’s ‘There Was A Country- A Personal History Of Biafra’ opened my eyes, made me understand certain things. Answered some of my ‘whys?’ and left me still in the dark at the same time. At least, I have tried to find answers. But most Nigerians don’t. They just take the simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. They’ve refused to be inquisitive– to be insigthful– to think deep. They take whatever kind of answer as the truth– never doubting. Just praying, like God will come in a limo and speak “Nigeria, be still!”
I’ve blamed Lugard for amalgamating different peoples of totally different cultural backgrounds, art, religion and history together, but now I’m faced with conflicting thoughts about the rightness of what this English man had done– Should the protectorate of Northern Nigeria and the protectorate of Southern Nigeria have been joined together?, Are we better off as a unified country? Does this have a hand in the never-ending massacres in Northern Nigeria? Why is the nothern region given so much power in the country? Why do the northern people want power more than anything?
The answers to some I have discovered. Nigeria would have been better off as this: The Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria. But now that we are a unified country of people constantly antagonising our tribes, religions and traditions, I think we would be better off as a confederation.
I think around March 1968, when we were in a position to achieve a confederation, we should have accepted the chance or oppurtunity. When we were insisting that Biafran sovereignty was not negotiable, as the government thought at that time, we ought to have been much better if we had a confederation of four to six states– Northern province( with the 15 nothern states), Eastern province( with the 4 Igbo-speaking states), Western province( with the 5 Yoruba-speaking states), Southern province( with the 6 riverine states), the province of the Middle-belt (with the 3 middle-belt nations of Nigeria), Abuja ( The capital. The only neutral ground in charge of defense, maritime and diplomatic relations)– other than what we have now. Around the time of the Kampala talks there were definite signs that a confederation could be achieved. The Biafran side was adamant on the fact of sovereignty being nonnegotiable.
The British were well aware of the inter-ethnic tensions and posturing for power among the three main groups. By 1951 they had divided the country into the Northern, Eastern, and Western Regions, with their own respective houses of assembly, to contain [the] rising threat. The Richards Constitution of 1954 set up three Regional governments in Nigeria: one in Ibadan for the western region, one in Enugu for the eastern region and one in Kaduna for the northern region. In each of these places there was a regional House of Assembly. It was planned that each Regional government should be its own master in matters which concern the private citizen, such as health, education and public works. Other matters which concern all regions equally such as roads, railways, harbours, customs and the Army were the business of the Federal Government at Lagos. It was carefully thought out by the British government before handing over to the anxious new country- Nigeria. The Richards consitution was laid down, however, that no Regional government should do anything to destroy the federal unity of Nigeria– One Nigeria!
I’m sure of this: Incompetence of the Nigerian ruling class, ethnic rivalry, the misconceptions on various issues, A poor grasp of history and even the neglect on the value of history itself, failure of the people of ask the never-asked-questions– not to take NO for an answer, and the go-ahead granted to corruption to thrive in Nigeria since the rigging of the first Nigerian election by the British and nothern people “So that its compliant friends in [Northern Nigeria] would win power, dominate the country, and serve British interests after independence.”, the ruling class, stunted by ineptitude, distracted by power games and the pursuit of material comforts, have in bits and pieces, led to the political chaos of modern day Nigeria. Nigeria of the Regional years was much better as there was progress in southern Nigeria especially, and here is a piece of Heresy: The British governed their colony of Nigeria with considerable care.
There is hope for ethnic and politically complex Nigeria. If the election of 2015 would work out fine– no rigging, to be as near-free and fair as possible. For a leader to be chosen-democratically– only because the people of Nigeria trust him, and He be, intellectually, emotionally, socially capable of leading Nigerians. I believe, that with these conditions, Nigeria will be unstoppable.
Forgive this poor citation, but some of my thought is being supported by writings of Chinua Achebe and John. D. Clarke. I’m not yay-ing plagiarism, but I’m just awfully lazy to do it! I hope you enjoyed reading?! 🙂 aand I think the title is weird, suggestions please?