Nigeria At 53: Is There Any Hope
By Abiola Akintunde
Some weeks ago, I had a conversation with a cousin of mine who travelled to Germany few years ago and we really talked. He asked about my welfare and that of the whole family without a sigh until he asked if Nigeria has change for good when it comes to leadership and service by taking a cue from world leading economies. When I was about to answer his $100 trillion question, I could feel how expectant he was but I wasn’t able to massage his
expectancy when I said ‘NO’ only for him to burst into tears while telling me how we are so far from civilisation. He never knew he will forced out tears from my eyes too until he asked me if there is any hope?, which consequently put an end to our conversation. The conversation might have ended few
weeks ago but the feeling of a citizen that is grossly disappointed in his country could not be forgotten, which now prompts me to approach the question that every average Nigerian asks daily; Is there any hope? Since experience is the best teacher as they put it, I have decided to tap into our great treasury of history to examine how we can become the change we are hoping for through familiarising with our past and fully understanding our pesent to know who we really are and where we ought to be and most importantly what we will have to do as a people. It will be worthy to note that my reflections of the past is strictly selective to serve the purpose of this article which is void of sentiments of any sort. For us to have a good insight
into the above events, I have the pleasure to reveal our pre-colonial societies and their acievements, our colonial era and post colonial society that the bricks of time had covered up.
Nigeria is a country that have within its boundary over a hundred languages with associated different ethnic nationals, with some of them being around since ninth century. These ethnic nationals had their own religion and socio-political structure that guaranteed the sovereignity, political and
economic independence of these nations which consequently secured the prosperity and happiness of their people and the enshrinement of an ultimate
sense of belonging to its political institution and processes in its people. Nigeria is a country whose ethnic nations had once been the greatest and
strongest empires in West Africa long before the arrival of Europeans and Jihadists in the nineteenth century. These nations most especially the Yoruba,
Hausa, and later the Fulani were successful with military might and economic buoyancy, that their invaders (Jihadists and Europeans) were astounded by what they met and saw. These economy were so strong that almost a century war could not cripple it. I will briefly review the socio-political structure that made these nations to work effectively to benefit their people, enriched the national (empire) treasury and built a powerful military might that preserve and protect these nations for almost a millenium despite their challenges using the Hausa States and Oyo Empire as a case study.
Before the conquest of the Hausa states, it was noted that these states were economically bouyant, politically stable and sovereign. These was possible because individual state was responsible for their economy, defense, religion and political structure without foreign (even neighboiring Hausa states) influence which can also be regarded as a “loose confederacy without central government”. The economic buoyancy of these States as a people were imprinted on their survival from ninth century to their peak at fifteenth century when they were as vibrant as the Kanem-Bornu and Mali Empire and up to the beginning of the nineteenth century when they were invaded by the Fulani. The begining of the nineteenth century witnessed the conquest of Hausa states by the Fulani under the command of Usman dan Fodio which was only successful because the Hausa political leaders (Kings) were in the habit of quarelling and warring against one another; there is lack of unity which made it difficult for them to co-operate and synergise their military power effectively to resist and conquer the Fulani menace. It will be unjust not to state the major reason for the successful campaign by the Fulani which is a fight for self-preservation and survival aroused from an interest to possess state power to protect themselves from their general oppression and persecution in the various Hausa states.
The Oyo (Yoruba) Empire was also with strong political institutions which stretched from Benin in the east to the western frontiers in Togo in the west and from Nupe in the north to the mangrove swamps in the south. The Empire (Oyo) achieved a military capability and efficiency which is responsible for expansion and suppression of internal strifes and revolts, it also achieved a sound economy based on agriculture, trade, lucrative industries and wealth from taxes and tributes; an economy that was undermined by the arrival of Europeans and slave trade thereafter. The capital of the Empire was Oyo governed by the Alaafin (King) while the Oyo-mesi and Ogboni serve as check-mate to him. The king governed along side his Chiefs (Ministers), and the religious groups were there to curtail the excesses of the political class. This well structured and responsible society explains how so much prosperity and happiness ruled the land, and again it will be worthy to note that it was a loose confederacy system that was being practiced here but one with a able and capable central government. It also accounted for their existence which spanned almost a millenium, and their recorded history of the greatest known Empire in the west africa region and that which fall in the mid-nineteenth century was owed to no one than internal strifes between political leaders. Consequently the confederate states gained independence and were able to survive independently and also defend their borders; maintaining sovereignity, political and economical independence with strong military capability and efficiency which forced the British government to maintain a distance from taking over these states despite their presence in Lagos until these states willingly signed treaty agreements with the British government without knowing what they were doing as at the time they signed the treaty. The Oyo Empire political structure was so successful that emerging confederate states like Ibadan, Ijaye, Egbaland e.t.c espoused it for themselves.
Following the the refusal (both in the southern and northern Nigeria) to accept the British rule by the people, the Emirs and Obas because of the fear of loosing their political independence and sovereignity, the British government realised they can’t easily control the people and their state with force especially when they can’t win a war against them. The British government resulted into the famous “colonial indirect rule” which literally meant buying over the leadership of these states by appeasing the northern leaders with travelling abroad and visiting other regions of Nigeria; especially Lagos, while they guarantee the political independence of the Yoruba states and the introduction of educated elements (which were wards of the Obas and their Chiefs) into Native Authority councils, and also by creating a virile enviroment for religion to flourish the more (Christianity in the South and
Islam in the North) in order to control the peoples mind by proxy (God) which marks the first landslide abandonment of the people by their leaders (Monarchs) on the altar of their selfish greed. This atonement by the colonial power secured the acceptance of its “indirect rule”. However, they implemented an economic policy that encouraged the Nigeria colony to manufacture raw materials for export to the metropolitan country which result cosequently into the interest of Nigeria colony being subservient to its colonial power; a situation which meant economical doom for an average Nigeria-colony person and disaster for the native state treasury.
The average Nigeria-colony man who ate first-hand in the basket full of economic doom and disaster stood to protest the political and economic control in the guise of assertion of right to self-rule by the colonial power most especially in the Yoruba states because the economic doom triggered the need for pollitical and economic independence once again. What actually intrigued me was the rise to the clarion call by the intelligentsia of the Nigeria-colony and their struggle for an independent country with their swift actions written in the formation of The Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) by Herbert Samuel Heeles Macauly (Grandson of Samuel Ajayi Crowther) in 1923, of The Nigerian Youth Movement in 1934 by the likes of Dr J.C Vaughan, Ernest Ikoli, Samuel Akinsanya, Nnamdi Azikwe and H.O Davies, and also the drastic awareness by the people of the need for an independent country. The passion of the struggle for self-government was re-awakened by the emergence of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens(N.C.N.C) which its objective can be simply described as the achievement of national unity without any ethnic , tribal or religious intolerance and sentiments, security and social equality for the people of Nigeria, spreading of political education, and standing for the people which in turn actively involve Nigerians and thus, enjoy popularity. As we all know, the rest is history.
The first six years of political independence meant a turn around for the Nigeria people and within that six years, the greatest economic boom and
developments were seen before the military stepped in to control what they said was corruption and political chaos. Before the military intervention in 1966, the Nigeria people have enjoyed freedom,economic stability, prosperity and happiness until the khakhi men march in and decided to put an end to what they call political crisis. At this point, an end was put to the immeasurable goodness of political indepence since the economic effects of military rule were disastrous. The traditional agricultural based economy was abandoned and they became extremely dependent on exports of oil which due to frequent fluctuations in oil prices led to an unstable economy. The Babangida regime was characterised by gross incompetence and unbridled, waste and mismanagement, the privatisation of public office and public resources, the neglect of non-oil sectors and misplaced priorities. Essentially the focus was on the private sector as opposed to the good of the nation. As a result of the military economic policy, almost half of foreign-exchange earnings were going into debt servicing and there was no or very little growth. This led to a rise in poverty, crime, child abuse, disease, institutional decay and urban dislocation. The Abacha military junta ensure the alienation of Nigerians from the participation in their government and contributing into how they were being governed. It was as if the woes and ghost of slavery followed us into the new begining, when we were made to forgot what freedom is like, what life is, what rights really meant, what it is to be economically independent, what prosperity and happiness looks like while they successfully plant authoriarianism and impunity in us which is now manifesting fully during our return to democracy from 1999 till now. We the people of Nigera are yet to notice the difference between democratic rule and military rule in all aspect, be it economy or health or food security or respect of human rights or security of lives and property except for the fact that the khakhi men that walked our streets then are now found wanting. Some of our international neighbours said we are no one but they got it wrong because we are a people traumatised and left to suffer, we are a people born to live but are finding it difficult to survive, we are people deprived of our rights, we are a people that loose our tongues if not lives when we ask for CHANGE. Yes! We are a people with dreams that will rarely be fulfilled, we are a people that offers supreme being as a legacy to our younger generations just because we have nothing to give them, we are a people that has been neglected and abandoned, we are a people that is the product of selfishness and greediness.
Our religious leaders has refused to check the excesses of our political leaders in exchange for the buoyant tithes, offerings, alms and gifts (like
private jet) and has turned what the political leaders will call Nigeria Money-Making Limited to Nigeria Money-Making Incorporated. In Nigeria of today,
those who speaks against corruption are atheists as they are perceived to hate God also, for corruption is now as sacred as God which everything is right about it. Our youths aspire to belong to the political class and they are now as corrupt as GEJ is said to be and thus, corruption have become the Nigerian way of life. However, I am not surprised by the role our religious leaders played in the fight against corruption since religion is the single most
powerful instrument used in the execution of the greatest fraud (colonialism) that the world ever knew.
By now, I hope you don’t have to be reminded of our glorious past when we were not greedy, not selfish but love our land, I don’t have to remind you of how we stood up and fight for our land, for our culture, for our sovereignity as a people. I believe you don’t have to be told again, the role of the intelligentsia during the British government, of how they spread political education to awaken the political consciousness of our people. You know how they formed the political fronts responsible for the preservation and protection of our peoples right. It was the intelligensia of the society then
that join the rest of the world in the fight which forced the British government to return unto us our sovereignity as one political unit (Nigeria) and not as separate ethnic nations. However, I know as much as you know that the ordeal and suffering of the Nigeria people can’t ever be over emphasised
and there is an urgent need for CHANGE in order to bring smiles back on the face of our people as they enjoy prosperity in happiness.
It is to this end, that I write fellow compatriots and most especially every single soul that belongs to the intelligentsia to rise up on this day to the
clarion call of uplifting our country, of securing the freedom, prosperity and hapiness of our people by educating them politically and desisting from being the trumpet of our nightmare givers (politicians), by reminding those in government that the power they hold is delegatorial for we the people are the rightful owner and as delegates they must utmostly represent us through their actions and inactions for the benefit of we the people. If we want to witness a Nigeria we truly deserve then we must nuture the political will to fight resiliently for freedom, for good governance, for the prosperity and happiness of our people, for a country that will be envied by all and that which will sit among the comity of world powers, and above all we must love this country; our fatherland. At this juncture, calling upon good meaning Nigerians is now a necessity in the interest of our people: whose sweats and tears, pains and blood plead and ask for a country where the proper use of power is not to plunder, to exploit and rape the society nor to impoverish the people. Where it is not to promote inequality and injustice but to uphold the dignity of all and sundry, to protect and respect the rights of everyone that finds himself/herself within its boundary, to posper their people and to promote justice, equity and transparency. This is the only hope for Nigeria to become the country we will be proud of as a people without being violent nor unleashing the khakhi people.
The writer is on twitter as @Aabiolat