I tread softly writing this particular article, the reason being that right now, it may be an unpopular line of thought but time may prove it right. Not that I want to be proven right though, it is a call for reflection.
Before anyone calls for my head, let me first state that I love my country. I love Nigeria and Nigerians so much I often refuse to be identified with any particular state/tribe. My allegiance is firstly to Nigeria before any state. Those who know me can testify to how I have pressed severally for the abolishment of ‘state of origin’ from official documents. I refused to ‘work’ my youth service so that I could better understand other people that make up the country Nigeria. I’ve volunteered for humanitarian projects in virtually every zone in Nigeria. In short, I love my country.
How did we get here? Why is there so much wrangling in the constituent regions that make up Nigeria? Are we really “One Nigeria”? Are those suggesting a break-up enemies of Nigeria or are they just foreseeing a necessary end? Let’s go back in history.
Long before orthodox historical records of Nigeria can account for, several tribes around the last 1000 km of the River Niger have dwelt within their territories with occasional interactions in the form of trade and/or war. The delicate balance between the co-existing tribes remained un-altered for a long time, everything being determined by the natural forces of societal evolution. In the areas north of the Niger, the people live a life much similar to that of Bedouin tribes. They live in clusters and are administered by rule from a sovereign leader called the Sultan of the Caliphate. All other rulers received their titles from the Caliphate. They were mostly Muslims.
Further south and west of the Niger were several groups of similar people who each had their system of government but with no real paramount ruler. Subservience was gotten by war efforts. They were mostly traditional worshippers. East of the Niger were another group of people who were known for their commerce and sense of independence and who had no widely accepted paramount ruler, each man ruled his household there was a committee that mediated disputes. They were traditional worshippers too.
Then came the Portuguese, the British and other Europeans. They brought Christianity into the south. They south embraced almost everything the Europeans brought. Colonialism began. The Colonial masters didn’t find it easy to rule up north so they instituted what was called ‘indirect rule’: they ruled through the emirs. The south advanced quickly in education and adoption of western ways but the north changed little.
In 1914, the Northern and Southern Protectorates were ‘amalgamated’ by the then Governor-General: Lord Frederick Lugard, who was originally just an employee of a company around the Niger. The southern protectorate was easily formed Jan 1, 1900 while the northern protectorate could not be formed until the defeat of Sokoto in 1903. The British interests at that time were purely economical. Remember the word used was ‘AMALGAMATION’. The word is often used to describe the mixture of two METALS without changing the characteristics of either metal. The amalgamation was to harmonise the governments of both protectorates and not the peoples. The two protectorates remained separate entities even after the amalgamation until October 1, 1960. Our first interaction as one nation came as power was handed over to Tafawa Balewa and Nnamdi Azikwe. Technically, there was no Nigeria until October 1st, 1960. The first republic leaders inherited a disjointed territory. Former attorney-general, Pa Richard Akinjide SAN, has written severally about the events and the politics of the pre-independence era. His write-ups are replete with more historical facts about that time.
From one republic to another, it has been mutual suspicion and distrust along the lines of the north and the south. Even the military coup d’etats have a colouring along that line. The annulment of was used to be considered the freest and fairest election in Nigeria: June 12, 1993 was due to feelers that a southerner was coming to power. Mass killing of southerners especially of the Ibo extraction at many points in our national timeline point to a North/South divide.
Here we are, 51 years down the line and the fault lines are deepening further and further. Does it make perfect sense to pay blind allegiance to something that never was? Can we sustain or SHOULD we sustain this forced relationship? While the answer to this question may not be an easy one, it sure calls for more reflection and decisive action. The north seems to be more homogenic than the south which may possibly fragment into two or more. Northerners can accept rule from one of their own while the south can sort themselves out.
The truth about the matter is this, US in the person of their former ambassador have predicted that Nigeria would not be one entity by 2015. Whether they have gone ahead to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy or some Nigerian people are working tirelessly to ensure it happens, what we know is that we have a critical situations in our hands. I read an article recently that reports that the US have already concluded their line of action in case war breaks out in Nigeria through a WAR GAME simulation as far back as 2008.
Will we hold on? Can we hold on? The impact of another civil war in Nigeria WILL be catastrophic for the African continent. T. Y. Danjuma is known to have said that “No country can survive two civil wars”. Can we dissolve this country quietly through a referendum as Sudan just did or is it going to happen by the force of war.
The other option, which we have clamoured for since MKO Abiola was cheated out of his presidency, is if “we the people” can have a Sovereign National Conference to determine how we stay as one country. If we still refuse this option that is still on the table, we have already signed the death warrant of a country in the wake of its centennial anniversary. In JF Kennedy’s words: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”.
Whatever the decision Nigerians arrive at, President Goodluck Jonathan may be the man in the eye of the storm. Posterity will judge his decisions but right now he has the opportunity to institute reforms (not just presidential committees) that will take Nigeria through this difficult period. The buck ends at his table, he has the force of the Federal Republic behind him and if indeed his hands are tied by some people, he should do the honourable thing: expose them and resign. Nigerians will remember him for that.
Nigeria’s Amalgamation was a fraud: Richard Akinjide
Follow on twitter: @holamiju