By Douglas Anele
One of the immanent genetic defects that have stunted the growth of Nigeria was the duplicitous political inequality between the North and the South created by the departing British administrators.
In his book, The Tale of June 12: The Betrayal of the Democratic Rights of Nigerians, Omo Omoruyi, pioneer Director-General, Centre for Democratic Studies, argued that the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria was carried out by the British to subordinate the South to the North.
In this connection, British colonial administrators such as Lord Lewis Harcourt and Sir Bryan Sharwood Smith conceived the relationship between Northern and Southern Nigeria as analogous to that between a husband and his wife respectively.
Harcourt declared that the British “has released Northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the Treasury. The promising and well-conducted youth is now on allowance on his own and is about to effect an alliance with a Southern lady of means.
I have issued the special license and Sir Frederick Lugard will perform the ceremony. May the union be fruitful and the couple constant.” Smith, a former colonial governor of Northern Nigeria, defended the unjust and pigheaded geographical and demographic shenanigans of British imperialism which made the North virtually twice the size of the South with the following propositions:
“Britain has from time to time been criticised for leaving Nigeria with one region, the North, larger and more populous than the remainder combined
. It is forgotten that to the North numerical advantage was the sole defence against political and economic domination by the more advanced South and that, without this defence, nothing would have persuaded them to become partners in an independent Nigeria.”
In 1992, thirty-two years after independence, Maitama Sule, an expired Northern politician, underscored the skewed mentality of the British imperialists by claiming that: “Northerners are endowed with leadership qualities. The Yoruba man knows how to earn a living and has diplomatic qualities.
The Igbo man is gifted in commerce, trade and technological innovation. God so created us individually for a purpose and with different gifts.”
These remarks throw some light on the origin and motivation of political domination at the centre by the North which, until recently, had become so entrenched that for decades the ruling military cabal dominated by Northerners occluded the Igbo from the topmost political and military positions in the country.
The British deliberately orchestrated disunity in Nigeria by instilling fear of Southern domination into Northern leaders. As a result prominent Northerners became paranoid about holding tight to political power at the federal level to the detriment of national unity.
It is interesting to observe that since crude oil extracted from the South became the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, members of the ruling cabal in the North have consistently opposed any proposal for devolution of power and fiscal federalism.
But ironically, after the military coup of January 15, 1966, Northerners were persistently demanding for secession (or araba) from the rest of Nigeria.
The evil seed of political distrust and suspicion which the British sowed as they were leaving has metamorphosed into political inequalities and disunity that characterise our disfigured federation up to this time. It also accounts for the obsession by some prominent members of the Northern ruling military and civilian class to maintain their stranglehold on political power.
It must be remarked that the situation of Nigeria would have been far better than it is today if Yakubu Gowon, Shehu Shagari, Ibrahim Babangida and late Sani Abacha had used their leadership position to launch Nigeria on the path to sustainable development through massive industrialisation and political engineering for the practice of “true federalism.”
At the very least these leaders could have developed the North educationally and economically in order to reduce Northern Nigeria’s educational backwardness and dependence on revenue from the South.
That was never going to happen anyway, because the quest for political control at the centre by the Northern ruling cabal has always been motivated by love of power and primitive accumulation to maintain the obsolete Islamic theocracy that has emasculated the masses since inveterate jihadists led by Usman Dan Fodio conquered most parts of Northern Nigeria in the 19th century.
Therefore, the almajiris, the “wretched of the earth” have never really benefited from the North’s domination of political power since 1967, which goes to show the degree of wickedness prominent Northerners have visited on their own people all these years.
Fifty-one years after independence, the dream by foremost nationalist, Nnamdi Azikiwe, of a solid united Nigerian nation which will stand tall in the comity of nations as the greatest Black country on earth, is light years away from concrete actualisation.
This does not imply that no iota of integration has been achieved since 1960. Inevitably, the tempo of interactions between different ethnic nationalities which Ade-Ajayi identified as key factors that led to amalgamation has increased.
However, lack of a national icon or folk hero whose acceptability cuts across ethnic cleavages, the absence of a controlling myth and set of core nationalist values which can provide the psychological backbone for nationalism – all these have militated against the emergence of a truly united Nigeria.
Primordial ethnic sentiments have been a leitmotif in all the national elections conducted thus far since independence, and in decisions about who gets what and when in the distribution of key political and military offices.
Also, distortions in distribution of political power and access to economic resources engendered the emergence of a vicious military-political-business class with members drawn from across different ethnic groupings intent on dominating the political and economic machinery of Nigeria.
Hence, there are internal colonialists exploiting the anomalies in the system for their own selfish interests and for the interests of shady foreign businessmen and dubious multi-national companies. When all is said and done, the question that forms the title of our discourse can be answered from different perspectives.
For the British Nigeria’s independence meant relinquishing political control to Nigerians while retaining surreptitious influence on the political and economic fortunes of the country; for genuine nationalists and patriots it provided an opportunity for harnessing the country’s human and natural resources to create a great Black nation that will be the pride of the Black race; whereas for the ruling cabal that emerged after the civil war, the internal colonialists, Nigeria is just a treasure-trove for maximum selfish exploitation. Nigeria we hail thee!