“ The common man prays, ‘I want a cookie right now!’ And God responds, ‘If you’d listen to what I say, tomorrow it will bring you 100 cookies.”
– Criss Jami
The cloud is forming for the 59th Nigerian independence celebration. But it looks like the country is not free from both internal and external forces.
To write on this national issue posed to be an enormous task and risk for me. Indeed, I was not close to being a Nigerian by the time the sung heroes and unsung heroes of this Nation fought for our independence. Many would consider me unqualified to put into ink such an article as this; I considered it too. But I followed my heart rather than my momentary emotions. As from the time I was born, I’ve never witnessed a period where Nigerians weren’t complaining. We may want to give in, tagging it a “Nigerian syndrome” with complaints and impatience as its components.
This article is not to condescend the efforts of our National heroes – both the sung and unsung. I am just writing from my heart and to encourage everyone reading this to think through before taking crucial decisions. I know many articles will be written about this issue for eons. This article is not a fight for superiority. My views aren’t superior or inferior to anyone’s opinions. Yet, I’m inclined to my own opinions.
” In our common desire to win Independence, many VITAL problems were left unsolved. One of these outstanding problems was the creation of more states which would have provided a more lasting foundation for stability of the Federation of Nigeria… On reflection, Nigerian leaders have admitted that the British were right and they were wrong on this VITAL issue in hurrying to Independence without solving the problem of stability of the Federation. “
Adapted from The Struggle for One Nigeria ( Federal Ministry of Information, Lagos, 1967) page 3 in the book MY COMMAND By Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo
Seven years after independence, an article was released by the Ministry of Information and that is an excerpt from it. The Nigerian leaders conceded if we had waited for better, things would have been different 7 years after. They were only saying 7 years after then, but even now things would have been better after 59 years.
If the article released stated that the problems left unsolved were “just” problems, I think the room would have been guaranteed that sometimes we don’t see all the room until we move. But it stated that the problems left unsolved were “vital” problems. So the Nigerian car wasn’t in a good state before we gained our independence. A “regional” Nigeria was pushed for independence by the regional leaders who had self ambitions even though it was crystal clear the country was not in a stable state when Independence came. Let’s take a look at the state of the country before Independence.
Until 1990, the now Nigeria existed as a number of independent national states with different linguistic and cultural differences.
“Nigeria is a collection of independent native States, separated from one another… By great distances, by differences… And by ethnological, racial, tribal, political, social and religious barriers”
Sir Hugh Clifford
During the Second World War, about 1940, the country was divided into 4 administrative units : Colony of Lagos and the Northern, Eastern and Western provinces. This separateness was deepened by Sir Arthur Richard’s constitution of 1946. And with Macpherson’s constitution of 1951,the regional autonomy was increased. The country at that time was in a state of political instability and there was a possibility of 3 countries emerging from Nigeria; Lagos later joined western province.
Later, there were constitutional conferences of 1954, 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960 which resulted in the 1960 Independence.
The failure to create more states in 1958 planted the most viable seed of anarchy into the evolution of the country.
This is a wonderful day, and it is all the more wonderful because we have awaited it with increasing impatience, compelled to watch one country after another overtaking us on the road when we had so nearly reached our goal.
Adapted from The Speech Declaring Nigeria’s Independence by Nigeria’s First Prime Minister Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa – October 1, 1960
The center was weak. But the regional leaders had each fortified their regions. Tribalism and regionalism went viral in the political system of the country. The people fighting for independence were blindfolded by their regional power and forgot to harness a single Nigeria. Tribalism and regionalism were serving the opposite purpose of unity. The only united voice the leaders had was on Independence from the British.
Finally, the push for an independent 3 Nigeria was successful in 1960. The tribalism rode and it accumulated to the imbroglio that resulted in the 1967 civil war. The effect of the civil war as since then being a force pulling Nigeria to and from since then. The bad blood between the Eastern and Northern regions is still affecting the Nation till date. The great grand children of the Eastern leaders are still in the fight, bombing pipelines everyday. All these has crippled the Nigeria economy. A wait and creation of more states could have averted all these chaos.
No gainsaying that the European were not only exploiting our country for cheap labour and our resources, but it was this same people that encouraged us to actively use our hoe and cutlass. In order to facilitate the easy transport and processing of agricultural and mineral products, they built many infrastructure.
To aid communication, post offices and telecommunication facilities were built. At the same time, we started using money. They exploiting us but indirectly they were building us. A little stay with us could have made the infrastructure we are still struggling with today grew better. Even a blind person wouldn’t dispute the commanding lead of South Africa in Africa in all developmental areas. What was the cause? It is because of the prolonged White influences.
Until the 1960 Independence, the Nigeria economy was majored on agriculture. Independence came and agriculture was being gradually swept under the carpet. We found oil and forgot what even the European saw in us and came to exploit. The same instability that was not taken care of in 1960 led to 1967 civil war and that has posed major problems to the oil centered economy of ours. This same oil was one of the fundamental causes of the civil war. With oil production crippled, we are now turning back to agriculture.
Even the infrastructure left by the colonial masters was badly handled. It’s glaring we weren’t equipped to take over when the independence came. If we had waited a bit more, we could also have benefited what the United States of America and South Africa are enjoying now. We rushed and the political leaders fight was driven by their silent intention to take over the rulership of Nigeria and enforce their tribe upon the country. Why not sacrifice more and let them refine us more since they had the tools to do so and we didn’t? Why did we deceive ourselves into another form of slavery?
Except Botswana, no African country has since achieved anything near the world standard with the hands of the Europeans. South Africa isn’t near us in population, in amount of mineral resources yet, they better than us in every aspect and now they have the best economy in Africa. Now, South Africa is a dream nation for many Nigerians.
To say the Europeans exploited us will be to condescend the human nature of selfishness. They were helping us while achieving their self interests. Had they stayed longer, I’m confident things would have turned out better. Even though people who planted the seeds might not have really eaten from it but their great grand children wouldn’t be suffering now.