Sunday Perspectives

August 21, 2020

Justification for resuscitating the sovereign state of Biafra (2)

Saying it as it is

By Douglas Anele

It is as clear as daylight that so-called Nigerian leaders have failed to create a viable nation since the end of British colonisation. As a result, the country has staggered haphazardly from one incompetent government to another dominated by northern Fulani with the support of lackeys from other parts of the country.

British colonial administration put Nigeria on the path of diminishing leadership potential or capability when it mischievously handed power at the federal level to a scion of the caliphate whose merit-destroying northernisation programme set the stage for mediocrity and quota system that have been crippling the country since 1960.

The late icon of African literature, Prof. Chinua Achebe, put his finger squarely on this aspect of decadent Nigerian leadership when he wrote: “Nations enshrine mediocrity as their modus operandi, and create the fertile ground for the rise of tyrants and other base elements of the society by silently assenting to the dismantling of systems of excellence because they do not immediately benefit one specific ethnic, racial, political or special-interest group.”

No one in his right senses would question the correctness of Prof. Achebe’s diagnosis of the main trouble with Nigeria, and why calls for restructuring, confederation or peaceful dismemberment remains a recurrent theme in this country.

A major reason that justifies the quest for the re-emergence or resurrection of Biafra is the immoral transactional origin of Nigeria as a single geographical entity coupled with the lopsided geopolitical architectonic created by Britain which unduly favoured the north – an indication that statements such as “Nigeria’s unity is sacrosanct,” “Nigerian unity is non-negotiable,”

“To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done” and so on are either false, extremely misleading, or manifestation of jarring ignorance about Nigerian history. Objectively considered, there is absolutely nothing sacrosanct about the country: those who think otherwise or invoke the divine or supernatural to endorse what is essentially a big mistake by British imperialists are either stupid or pigs in our version of the animal farm called “Niger area.”

The emergence of Nigeria can be traced to the Berlin conference of 1884-1885 when European powers partitioned Africa into colonies or “spheres of influence” without the consent of, or input from, indigenous peoples. Such imposition of artificial nations and boundaries with impunity exemplifies the deep-seated contempt Europeans have for black people. Before the conference, the Royal Niger Company (RNC) headed by George Tubman Goldie controlled the lucrative trade in the Oil Rivers that eventually became southern Nigeria.

To ward off competition from other European countries such as France and Germany, the British government revoked RNC’s charter on December 31, 1899 and paid the company 865,000 pounds as compensation, thus cementing the transfer of control to the British Crown proper.

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After years of conquest and deceit, Lord Lugard extended British rule to the areas named “Nigeria” by his wife, Flora Shaw. Details of how Lugard and a small contingent of soldiers with Maxim guns subdued autochthonous communities seriatim, which would make any reasonable Nigerian think twice about One Nigeria, have been presented in many well-written books on Nigerian history. The crucial point to note at this juncture is that Lugard’s amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates on January 1, 1914, is the most important event in Nigerian history.

But why did he do it? Answer: because Britain wanted to shift the financial cost or burden of running northern Nigeria from her treasury to the south which had consistently demonstrated its economic viability through lucrative commerce and industry. Again, a unified administrative framework was more convenient and in tandem with British intention of maximum exploitation of the human and material resources in the colonial contraption.

However, in creating Nigeria Lugard and his cohorts ignored or underestimated the potential for instability due to the multiply plural nature of their new creation. The foundation could not carry the load placed on it, which caused the edifice to collapse about six years after independence. This pachydermatous tendency and insularity to inconvenient facts was even more evident in the responses of British officials to the north’s persistent rejection of closer integration with the south.

For instance, during the constitutional conference held in 1953, northern Nigeria advocated a constitutional “structure which would give the regions the greatest possible freedom of movement and action; a structure which would reduce the powers of the Centre to the absolute minimum.”

Incidentally, what the north demanded was remarkably similar to the main thrust of the Aburi Accord that Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon refused to implement fourteen years later in 1967. Moreover, after Alhaji Tafawa Balewa became Prime Minister, the dominant faction of the northern ruling elite changed its position and started insisting on a highly centralised union.

In order to maximise the advantages of existing emirate system British officials created an unbalanced geopolitical structure which gave rise to the myth of a monolithic northern Nigeria that occupies over two-thirds of the country’s landmass much bigger than the eastern and western regions combined.

And because northern political leaders often used the threat of secession to get concessions from colonial administrators and from their southern counterparts passionate about a unified Nigeria, the north actually got more than half the seats in the post-independent parliament. Evidently, the tripod created by Britain was flawed: the regional parties that emerged therefrom ensured, as Max Siollun wryly puts it, “that ethnic conflict was only a matter of time away.”

On the one hand, colonial administrators wanted the north to control Nigeria since the traditional ultraconservative system there was more amenable and congenial to manipulation even after independence might have been achieved. But southerners, especially the Igbo, were rebellious; they led the nationalist movements that gained momentum in the 1930s and 40s.

The main reason why Sir James Robertson did not give the post of Prime Minister to the more qualified Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe whose party came first in the 1959 general elections but opted for Alhaji Tafawa Balewa instead was because the British hated the “uppity” Igbo for uncompromisingly rejecting British colonisation and their relentless battles against it.

Additionally, Ndigbo are republican, highly competitive and assertive, attributes that are quite different from the unquestioning submissiveness of typical northerners to their emirs. Of course, the British and their northern “friends” would not have succeeded without the acquiescence of some leading southern political figures.

From the foregoing, it can be deduced that Nigeria was not founded by the British as a result of genuine desire or altruistic moral inclination to create a great black nation whose achievements could potentially refute conclusively the white supremacist argument that black people are inferior to the white race. Rather, she was created mainly to cater for Britain’s economic interests.

To be continued…