By owei Lakefma
NIGERIA which derived its name from the ‘Niger Area’ is a beautiful country with human and natural resources, and capability to pull the Black Race by the bootstraps out of underdevelopment. As a consummate patriot, Odia Ofeimum usually tells me, “Nigeria is an eminently savable country”.
The primary problem of the country are its elites whose main contribution has been to suck her, like butterflies suck nectar from flower. But unlike the butterfly who sustain nature through pollination, the political elites simply waste whatever benefit could have been derivable.
Nigerian elites are babies who whenever the feeding bottle is taken, or fear may be taken from their mouths, yell “Araba”“Separation” “Marginalisation” “Restructuring” “Resource Control”. But when benefiting from the feeding arrangement, they belch noisily, becoming born again nationalists letting out muffled sounds like “Unity not negotiable” “No-Go-Area”
So, they preach and wax lyrical about the ‘unity and indivisibility of Nigeria’ when they are in power, and become ethnocentric, regional and even religious champions when they are out. It is to this race the country was handed at independence. It is they, who through manipulation, exploitation and divisive strategies, have ran the country through ‘landslide elections’ ‘bandwagon effects’ coups and counter coups, and have today, reduced us into a poor, unhappy country with each group asking for its own ‘Republic’. As Karl Marx posited, the ruling ideas of any society, are the ideas of the ruling class, so these parasitic ideas of nationhood, have tragically been imbibed by the mass of the people who in the first place, are the victims of misrule. While the elites and their families are well padded with the country’s wealth, and most of their children safely abroad, the victims become the foot soldiers; ready canon fodders in any mayhem. The poor Nigerian trying to ekk out a living, become the victim of his fellow poor man in ceaseless seasons of bloodletting.
I hear a lot of half-baked analysis that when Colonial Britain merged the various parts of the country on January 1, 1914, the constituents were not consulted, so Nigeria is a fraud. In fact, as 2014 approached, a few ‘brilliant’ minds argued that all international arrangements and treaties have a century expiry date, so Nigeria cannot continue to exist beyond that year.
There are also those who quote out of context, Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s statement that Nigeria is a mere geographical expression. Indeed, all countries are geographical expressions, the difference between successful, and not so successful countries, is that the former move from being expressions, to building their countries into nations.
For example, the United kingdom which colonised us, started as a mere geographical expression. First a motley group of people called Angles and Saxons migrated from the German/Danish border and Jutland to lands they occupy today. In 927AD, they formally called their new home, England. From 1535-1542, England annexed Wales and in 1707, it seized Scotland and the new country became Britain. They added “Great’ to it. Then in 1801, they merged Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland and changed its name to the United Kingdom, UK, of Great Britain and Ireland. As for the United States, it is primarily, a country of migrants. These mere geographical expressions are successful today because they built themselves into united countries.
Many sacrificed, and are sacrificing their lives for our country. The colonialists massacred Nigerians for demanding their rights and freedom. For example, in the heat of nationalist agitations for independence, the colonialists in 1947, massacred Nigerians in Burutu, the first capital of Nigeria. Two years later, they interpreted the strike by coal miners in Enugu as a political agitation, and on November 18, 1949 moved in armed policemen who shot dead 21 miners and injured 51.
Herbert Macaulay while touring the country to demand independence, fell sick and died. When it was treasonable to speak about independence and seditious to make an unkind remark about the British Queen, many nationalists did, preferring prison to the comfort of their homes. When a civil servant, Mallam Habib Raji Abdallah was charged with these offences, he refused to make a plea telling the court: “This iniquitous British Government is determined to keep us as slaves forever and the only way out, as I see it and as I know it, is for every one of us to declare himself free and independent and be resolved to stand by that declaration and damn the consequences…I hate the Union Jack because, save Britain, wherever it goes, far from uniting, it creates a division. It feeds and flourishes on confusion and dissension.”
At a point, Anthony Enahoro figuratively speaking, merely left prison to change his clothes, and returned as the colonialist sent him to jail six times. Kano-based Post and Telecommunication worker, Osita Agwuna, travelled to Lagos in 1948 to deliver a public lecture titled “A Call to Revolution” and with his fellow organisers went to jail for seeking independence. There were many nationalists like Sa’aad Zungur, Mokwugo Okoye, Bello Ijumu, Abubakar Zukogi and Michael Imoudu who fought that our country be free. There was the Postal worker, Heelas Ugokwe who failing to reach the British Colonial Governor, stabbed the Colonial Chief Secretary, Hugh Foot in a strike for freedom.
The perceptive British realising that independence may one day be inevitable, began sourcing for our future leaders who must not be any of the radical nationalists who reject colonial rule and demand a truly independent country. One of the major successes they had was sourcing out a Bauchi Primary school teacher, Mallam Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa. They groomed and repackaged him, appointed him into boards like the Gaskiya Publishing Corporation and into the Northern, and later, Central Legislative Council. According to his Biographer, Trevor Clark in “A Right Honourable Gentleman: The Life and times of Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa” when he came to Lagos in 1947 as a representative of the North: “Abubakar told southerners who spoke of liberation from the colonial yoke that northern common people considered themselves liberated when the Europeans came to the country; and that southerners should consider themselves lucky that the Europeans had come before the northern rulers enslaved them all”. On the issue of independence, Balewa was to say at the First Session of the Federal Legislative Council: “We shall demand our rights when the time is ripe. If the British quitted Nigeria now at this stage, the Northern People would continue their uninterrupted conquest to the sea”. In subsequent years, he made similar speeches. It has been revealed that these speeches were actually written by the Colonial District Officer in Bauchi, Mr. Robert Wright. Ironically, it is Balewa who until the late 1950s campaigned against Nigerian independence, that became its first Prime Minister.