Was Nigeria a Flawed Union From Inception? By Chris Audu
The journey to Nigeria’s independence was rather smooth in comparison to countries like South Africa, it started with some constitutional developments which saw some parts of the county attain self-rule by 1957. I was not born as at 1st of October 1960 when the declaration of Independence was signed, but I believe in the traditional Lagos style there must have been street parties on the Island. In my birth place of Kaduna celebration parties I am told were held at the then famous Kaduna club. Nigerians all over were full of hope for a prosperous future with our destiny in our own hands. Fast forward 52 years later, Nigerians are calling for an annulment of that same union, where did it all go wrong? Was it a flawed union from inception? So many questions, perhaps some answers rest in our history.
The amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates into one on 1st of January 1914 is held by some as the true date of Nigeria’s Independence, seen as a joyful date in which a new nation among the committee of nation was born, others however, see it as the day of an unholy and forced union of various ethnic nationalities that are never and will never live as one with each other. Even the late Sir Tafawa Balewa and chief Awolowo both saw Nigeria as the “mistake of 1914” and “a mere geographical expression”.
Little wonder why they went ahead despite their apprehension was it in a bid to get the British out hoping our differences will be curtailed or was it in the classic Nigerian style still prevalent till date where self-interest remains at the forefront of everything else? The foundation of independence is wildly seen as flawed, the county was never one from inception as it was split into three geopolitical regions of the Western, Eastern and Northern Regions each having its own political party. Remarkably each political party took on the identities and ideology of its region.
Action Group (AG)dominated by the Yoruba who were then the most travelled and educated represented the Western Region, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) represented predominantly by the Igbo from the Eastern Region seen as the industrious breed of Nigerian. The Northern People’s Party (NPC) represented the interest of the north predominantly the Hausa /Fulani seen as the least ambitious and most contented as Islam guided their everyday affairs.
This contented life style is evident and exemplified in the life and actions of Sir Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna of Sokoto the then leader of the NPC, undoubtedly the undisputed and strongest candidate for the position of Prime Minister who instead chose to become Premier of the Northern Region and supported his Deputy Tafawa Balewa’s candidacy for Prime Minister.
The emergence of Tafawa Balewa of NPC as Prime Minister and Head of Government with Namdi Azikiwe as President was seen as yet another classic arrangement for regional appeasement.
Few instances can be mentioned where we have stood tall as one, we are probably lucky to have gone through the dark days of the civil war at a time the nation was still young and our differences not so engrained in our ideologies. One would have thought 52 years after inter-tribal marriages and the concept of unity schools in the name of Federal Government Colleges and the national youth service scheme would have unified us as a Nation. We blame it on failed leadership lacking vision, corrupt government and greedy religious leaders.
Some believe the union failed even before it started. Maybe we should go our separate ways only if that will bring lasting peace and put a stop to the unnecessary waste of human lives. Maybe the oil which despite our output to the world oil market leaves us yet one of the poorest countries in the world, will probably not be a thing to kill each other for.
What are the alternatives? Can the people in the East live together in peace without the others feeling dominated by the Igbo? Can the Western Region with the large number of educated people all live as one without the minority complain of marginalization? Can the north survive without the oil wealth they have become so used to? The answers all rest within, perhaps the north will go back into massive agricultural production and exploration of other mineral resources like Iron Ore, Tin and Nickel, resources that have kept counties like Indonesia growing and far better than Nigeria.
What about the people of places like Jos, Bauchi, Southern Kaduna, Kogi and parts of Adamawa? These people have their own languages besides Hausa and are often predominantly Christians. Will they agree to remain as part of the core north and not feel marginalized?
How about a place like Lagos which remains the only state in Nigeria where dreams are kept alive? Perhaps Lagos which is actually bigger than Singapore will decide to stand on its own as a country. Possibly becoming the economic hub of the West African sub-region just like Singapore is for South East Asia. Perhaps the “republic of Lagos” will attract the foreign investment that Nigeria in its current form has failed to attract.
Whatever we decide to do, it must be a solution that will put an end to the unnecessary destruction of lives. That solution seems bleak, we however should consider discussing how we intend to function as a nation and if no resolution is reached a peaceful separation is possible even if we have to split into 31 countries long as it brings peace, protection of lives and fecund condition for people to live and invest in any of the countries that will emerge from today’s cataclysmic union called Nigeria.
Chris A. Audu resides in the United Kingdom and works as a Corporate Analyst with a leading UK International Bank. He currently works in Singapore as a company Vice President in Commodities.
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