Nigeria

Nigeria will cease to exist as one country in the foreseeable future unless the dominant northern ruling power block and its enablers recognise the need for serious devolution of powers to the six geopolitical zones

By Douglas Anele

Similarly, staunch apologists or advocates of One Nigeria often insist that given the robust precolonial historical connections and interactions between diverse ethnic nationalities cobbled together by British imperialists to form Nigeria, it is conceivable that the country in its present form would have emerged. According to one such apologist, Farooq Kperogi, “if we related as closely as historical records show that we did, the British merely accelerated what was likely to have happened anyway.”

Really? Is Kperogi arguing for the highly improbable position that left to their own devices without British intervention the Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, the Kanuri, Tiv, Idoma, Igala and others would have formed one country or that the interactions and connections he identified would have inevitable led to the creation of Nigeria?

What then is the point of British systematic conquest of various parts of Nigeria culminating in the infamous amalgamation of 1914? Kporegi’s one-sided historicist reading of the situation is unsound because he not only exaggerated the nation-building potential in the so-called “robust pre-colonial relational intercourses,” downplayed the disruptive effects of the Fulani Jihads of 1804-1817 and precolonial inter ethnic conflicts, he ignored the deep-seated differences in the dominant world views and cultures of the ethnic groups which make the idea of bringing all of them together under one country an almost impossible proposition.

Without being bogged down in the morass of possibilities, the probability of the ethnic nationalities coalescing to form a nation without the intervention of a colonial power like Briain is so vanishingly small that it would be a futile to consider it seriously. Sir James Robertson, the last British governor-general of Nigeria, understood this clearly when he observed in 1956 “That the general outlook of the [northern] people is so different from those in southern Nigeria as to give them practically nothing in common [as a foundation for nation-building].

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There is less difference between an Englishman and Italian both of whom have a common civilisation based on Greek and Roman foundations and on Christianity, than between a muslim villager in Sokoto, Kano and Katsina, and an Igbo, Ijaw or a Kalabari. How can any feeling of common purpose of nationality be built up between people whose culture, religion and mode of living is so completely different? ”in fact, the huge cultural differences between the Fulani who dominate northern Nigeria, the Yoruba and the Igbo was the major reason why indirect rule introduced by Lugard was very successful in the north, partially successful in Yorubaland, but failed in Igboland.

Of course, a case can be made that despite the differences, through sagacious social and political engineering by the dominant ruling class over time a viable nation could be forged out of the estimated 300 ethnic groups in Nigeria. Unfortunately, opportunities for that to happen have been frustrated mostly due to mediocre leadership worsened by interethnic rivalry and mutual suspicion. Kperogi referred to the much bigger and more culturally diverse India as a country created in fairly the same way as Nigeria, but “you don’t hear Indians interminably whining about the unnaturalness of their nation, or about the need to renegotiate the basis of their existence.”

Now, Kperogi’s claim which creates the impression that no Indian is dissatisfied with the political state of affairs in the country is incorrect. For instance, in the north eastern part of India, there were separatist agitations especially in the 1980s and early 1990s. As a result, the country introduced the Armed Forces Special Powers Acts (AFSPA) which protected soldiers from prosecution while quelling insurgency or secession.

The law was extended to Kashmir, Manipur and Jammu. Presently, separatism and insurgency are no longer as popular as they used to be due to lack of public support. But occasionally there is eruption of separatist agitation especially in the north east region, which means that some Indians still resent their status in the country.

Additionally, Kperogi deliberately omitted the fact that Nigeria came into being through the amalgamation of northern and southern protectorates whereas India had existed for centuries as a single subcontinent comprising the Indo-Aryan ethnic group (72%), Dravidians (25%), the Mongoloids and other minority groups (3%); that is quite different from the ethno-demographic configuration of 20% Hausa, Igbo 19%, Yoruba 18%, Fulani 9%, Ibibio 2.8%, Ijaw 2% and so on listed by Wikipedia for Nigeria. Therefore there is no ethnic group in Nigeria demographically equivalent to the Indo-Aryan people of India, which might help explain why Indians are not “whining” as much as people from certain parts of Nigerian regarding the unnaturalness of their country.

The ethno-religious conflicts in India are similar to what obtains in Nigeria but the way their common colonial master, Britain, handled the problem in each case is different.To resolve the crisis in India,at independence on August 15, 1947 Britain allowed the country to be partitioned which led to the emergence of Pakistan with an overwhelming muslim population from which Bangladesh was carved out later in 1971.

In the case of Nigeria the opposite happened: largely because of insincerity by top British officials the crises of January 15, 1966 to July 5, 1967 instead of being resolved amicably through negotiations about how Biafra can coexist with the rest of Nigeria led to a devastating civil war the repercussions of which are still visible today. From the foregoing, it is clear that Kperogi’s reference to India in arguing against those complaining bitterly about Nigeria and clamouring for her to be dismembered is misplaced.

To create Nigeria, independent ethnic nationalities(including the muslim nomadic Fulani who came mostly from Futa Jallon and conquered Hausaland during the 19th century jihads of Usman Dan Fodio) were brought together under a single geopolitical unit, whereas two new countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh, emerged from India which had originally existed as a single nation of different ethnicities. Perhaps, Indians are no longer “interminably whining about the unnaturalness of their nation or about the need to ‘renegotiate’ the basis of their existence” because of that. Overall, the history of modern India actually supports partitioning of Nigeria rather than its continuation as one country.

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Besides, in any multiply plural country where a minority migrant group dominate others politically as the nomadic Fulani have been dominating in Nigeria that country will be unstable and the disadvantaged ethnic groups will continuously agitate for political autarky. Accordingly, what Kperogi described whimsically asirritating complaint about One Nigeria is a legitimate expression of frustration by those who, with good reasons, think that the country is not working for them, that she has mutated into an Animal Farm favouring mostly Fulani caliphate colonialists and their cronies, and that she should be dismembered peacefully or radically reconfigured for things to change for the better.

To be clear, I am Igbo and one of those convinced thatNigeria’s unity is not sacrosanct. I also know that any ethnic nationality or consortium of nationalities have the right to decide their political future through referendum. Irrespective of the weaknesses of Ndigbo identified by Prof. Chinua Achebe in his book,There was a Country, I believe that especially from 1966 to date my people, despite their unsurpassed contributions to the development of Nigeria, have not been treated fairly by the ruling cabal dominated by northerners.

Consequently the increasing demand for restructuring or referendum by a section of Igbo people is justified. Kperogi and those obsessed with retaining Nigeria as created by Lord Lugard more than a century ago are wasting time; Nigeria will cease to exist as one country in the foreseeable future unless the dominant northern ruling power block and its enablers recognise the need for serious devolution of powers to the six geopolitical zones and act accordingly.

To be continued

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