Centenary celebration: Nigerians founded modern Nigeria, not Britain —Unionist

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…says Nigeria existed before amalgamation

The planned centenary celebration of Nigeria’s “nationhood” has continued to elicit mixed reactions from Nigerians and groups. Proponents of the celebration hinge their argument on the 1914 amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates by the Lord Lugard led-colonial administration in Nigeria, while some of the opponents argue that Nigeria existed before the amalgamation. Still, others insist Nigeria’s nationhood truly began in 1960. Follow the debate.

BY VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG

One of the  opponents of the  amalgamation centenary celebration being organized by the Federal Government is  the General Secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, and Vice-President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Issa Aremu.

For the likes of Aremu, who is also Chairman, IndustriALL Global Union, Africa Region, those planning the centenary celebration are not only misinformed, they are also  distorting Nigeria’s history.

In a speech titled “Keeping fit for a Better Nigeria and Greater Africa” to mark his 53rd birthday celebration in Kaduna, Comrade Aremu  recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan, in his New Year message to Nigerians, devoted a great deal to the 100 years of Nigeria’s amalgamation by the British colonial authorities.

According to Aremu, the President  promised a centenary amalgamation celebration  in 2014 but he asked “is Nigeria indeed 100 years old? Is  amalgamation worth being celebrated?”

President must come to terms with Nigeria’s history
“I agree with the legendary Reggae star Bob Marley who in the popular track; Buffalo soldier  sang that; ‘If you know your history,  then you would know where you are coming from’. The point cannot be overstated that Nigeria was in existence well before amalgamation of 1914 by the British. For instance, the first official trade union, Nigeria Civil Service Union, NCSU, was formed in 1912. That was two years before the British administrative amalgamation of the North and Southern protectorates. So, simple common sense shows that there was indeed a country called Nigeria before Lord Lugard and his amalgamation. No wonder that Nigeria has so far outlived the British colonialism which terminated in 1960 after independence.”

File: CENTENARY—From right: Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon; former President Shehu Shagari; former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and President Goodluck Jonathan at the Nigeria Centenary flag-off ceremony in Abuja, Monday. Photo: Abayomi Adeshida.

File: CENTENARY—From right: Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon; former President Shehu Shagari; former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and President Goodluck Jonathan at the Nigeria Centenary flag-off ceremony in Abuja, Monday. Photo: Abayomi Adeshida.

”Of course, 1914 is a landmark in colonial exploitative campaign in Nigeria. However President Jonathan should avoid the pitfall of presenting Lord Lugard as the founding father of modern Nigeria. Lord Lugard (and indeed none of the British colonial masters) was not the founding father of Nigeria! The founding fathers of modern Nigeria are Nigerians themselves.”

Macaulay, not Lord Lugard
The NLC Vice President contended that  a  notable founding father of Nigeria was Herbert Macaulay, declaring that “Macaulay (not Lord Lugard) was one of the first Nigerian nationalists who fought British imperialism for which he was jailed twice. As far back as 1908 he started the struggle to expose European corruption and exploitation and freedom for Nigerians well before Lugard’s arrival in Nigeria. He formed the first Nigerian political party on June 24, 1923, known as the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP). He was popular with the Nigerian masses such that he won all the seats in the popular elections of 1923, 1928 and 1933. Subsequent nationalists like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Raji Abdallah, Aminu Kano, and Tafawa Balewa got inspiration from Macaulay to commendably achieve independence in 1960.”

Nigeria, once a country with uninterrupted power supply
“Winston Churchill, once said “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft”. Some of the achievements of Nigeria’s founding fathers apart from independence are worth celebrating. One notable achievement was massive investment in electricity generation to propel industrialization. It is a sad commentary that Nigeria of 1960s and 70s relatively generated and distributed electricity than Nigeria of 2014. Indeed in the 60s up to 80s, manufacturing and industrialization contributed about 24 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP compared with today when manufacturing contributes less than four per cent. This was because there was relatively better uninterrupted electricity supply compared to present day power outages. Nigeria in recent times has witnessed unacceptable massive industrial divestment due to factories’ closure because of abysmally unstable, expensive power supply and in many cases non-supply at all.”

No industrialization, development without electrification
NUTGTWN recalled  that President Goodluck Jonathan had stated  that his plans for Nigeria in 2014 included minimum of 18 hours electricity supply daily, saying “this is refreshing but not reassuring. For a country that has for over 30 years witnessed unacceptable power outages leading to massive closure of factories, job losses and poverty, 18 hours minimum electricity supply is token, unambitious, patronising, unhelpful and development-blind. What Nigeria and Nigerians want and are prepared to pay for is not another promissory notes or  day-dreaming promises but immediate uninterrupted electricity service delivery to propel Industrialization, productivity, create  decent jobs and eradicate poverty.”

“The truth is that today power supply despite the much taunted privatization, has gone from bad to worse.

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