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August 16, 2018

Nigeria on the edge of a precipice (1)

Nigeria on the edge of a precipice
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PREAMBLE

Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus was the Emperor of Rome from 54 to 68 AD. His name at birth was Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. Nero was so notoriously cruel and depraved that he ingloriously earned the first position in the world book of infamy listing the seven most wicked men. He unleashed a reign of persecution on Christians. History stated that a conflagration erupted within the confines of the Palatine and Celius of Rome and ravaged the city for six days and seven nights. Nero blamed Christians for the fire. The cruelty visited on those that the wicked Emperor held responsible for the incident was unparalleled in the history of Christian persecution. Some of the victims were torn to pieces by wild beasts intentionally starved for the occasion; some had wax spread over them and set ablaze to serve as torches. To compound his wickedness, Nero fiddled while Rome burnt. Some historians said that it was Nero who set Rome ablaze and blamed that action on Christians. The question arises: Why do we position Nero as a take off point for this article?

Before answering, let us pointedly state that:

  1. Rome was burning and the ruler rather than extinguish the conflagration, fiddled. That was as sadistic as it was absolute negligence.
  2. Assuming that Nero did not ignite Rome, rather than look for ways to extinguish the fire, he indulged in a game of blame; buck-passing as Americans would say.
  3. He cruelly persecuted Christians. Saints Peter and Paul were amongst the victims – the Early Martyrs of the Church.

We have chosen that extreme character, Nero, to absolutely make a case that Nigerian leaders are pushing Nigeria to the edge of a precipice and are pretending that all is well. They are rather blaming those groaning under the weight of injustice, struggling to break the shackles of exploitation, oppression and bondage foisted on them as trying to break-up the country.

 

NIGERIA AS A GEOGRAPHICAL EXPRESSION

It is common knowledge that Nigeria is a British creation to serve the economic needs of Britain. In 1914, Britain amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates into one, and Lord Lugard’s girl friend, a journalist, who later became his wife, named the amalgamation Nigeria. Nigerian leaders from the Sardauna of Sokoto to Muhammadu Buhari have failed to demonstrate true patriotism for Nigeria and have been paying lip service to the concept of founding a truly united Nation.

Martin Meredith in his book titled The State of Africa, had this to say: “the principal Northern leader, the Sardauna of Sokoto, after travelling to Lagos for the first time in 1949, had to say: ‘The whole place was alien to our ideas and we found the members of the other regions might well belong to another world as far as we were concerned.’

Sir Abubarkar Tafawa Balewa, who was to become the first federal prime minister remarked in 1948: “ Since 1914 the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show themselves any signs of willingness to unite… Nigerian unity is only a British invention.”

In a book published in 1947, the Yoruba leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who dominated Western Nigerian politics for more than thirty years, wrote: “Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense as there are “English”, “Welsh”, or “French”. The word “Nigerian” is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.”

In 1948, Sir Arthur Richards, who was later known as Lord Milverton, who governed Nigeria after the retirement of Sir Bernard Boudillon in 1943 had said thus: “It is only the accident of British suzerainty which had made Nigeria one country. It is far from being one country or one nation socially or even economically… socially and politically there are deep differences between the major tribal groups. They do not speak the same language and they have highly divergent customs and ways of life and they represent different stages of culture.”

In 1950, the Northern delegation to the constitutional conference threatened that “unless the Northern region was allotted 50 per cent of the seats in the central legislature it would ask for separation from the rest of Nigeria on the arrangements existing before 1914.”

In 1953, the Western Region threatened to secede over the issue of revenue allocation and the separation of Lagos from the West as Federal capital. In his telegram to the Colonial Secretary, Awolowo was quoted as saying: “I challenge you to deny that the people of the Western region have the right of self-determination and are free to decide whether or not they remain in the proposed Nigerian Federation.”

According to information from the State House diary, the Eastern region threatened to secede consequent to the controversy that ensued during the 1964 federal elections. However, the issue was then resolved. But in 1967, the genocide that took the lives of many Easterners particularly of Igbo extraction engendered the declaration of Biafra. It must be made abundantly clear that the abysmal failure of Nigerian leaders consequent to the January 15, and July 29, 1966 coups caused the secession bid by the Eastern region. The British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, mischievously informed the world that the January 15, 1966, coup was an “Ibo coup.” It was not. The coup was executed by individual military officers that included those of Igbo and non-Igbo origin. Igbos as a group were not involved in planning what was exclusively military affair. Indeed, the coup was effectively contained by military officers of Igbo origin namely General Aguiyi Ironsi and Col. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.

General Yakubu Gowon once said that “the basis for Nigerian unity does not exist.’ In another breath he said: “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.” What a contradiction! The Arewa Youths supported by some Northern leaders gave quit notice to Igbos. They say that they have withdrawn the quit notice. But hate Igbo songs, subtly sponsored by same group are circulating.

In his book titled The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War, Alexander A. Madiebo has this to say about Major Murtala Muhammed who later became the Military head of state of Nigeria: “Northern army officers were very bitter against Ironsi and expressed this feeling inside Army Headquarters. Major Murtala Muhammed was particularly bitter, and on the few occasions when he visited me in my office, he made it clear that Northern Nigeria would deal with Ironsi and his regime ruthlessly. He went as far as to call Ironsi a “fool” for ever conceiving the ideas contained in Decree no. 34. He said the people of the North were prepared to fight with their bows and poisoned arrows on their horsebacks against Ironsi’s army if he tried to implement his Decree. According to him, neither Katsina nor any other Northern senior officials would be allowed to leave the North to other Regions in the name of unity of one Nigeria.” (emphasis added).


Patrick Chukwukere

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