Nigeria News

Nigeria Centenary Celebration: Count me out

Slaves“We had betrayed the Nigerians and undermined their democracy! We had taken millions of slaves from this area of Africa and shipped them in dehumanising conditions to America, and now we were pretending to be decent, the good old British were giving independence and behaving properly, but we weren’t! It was the same bloody dirty games we had been playing for centuries.” – Harold Smith

“Entire histories have been completely erased from the record. Take for example the British role in Nigeria….. a complete account of one of the many ‘hidden histories’ of British machinations on the ‘dark continent’.

This particular history haunts Africa to this day and one that the British Establishment have yet to pay for, for it resulted in the deaths of millions and almost led to the break-up of Nigeria. The results determined the nature of the Nigeria of today including all the talk about post-colonial ‘corruption’. And, it should not surprise readers that lusting after oil was the primary reason.”-William Bowles in investigating Imperialism • Saturday, 24 June, 2006

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I have long decided not to join in the Nigerian centenary celebration because the very essence of it insults everything I know and believe. It is also a mockery of our existence as a nation and African people.

It beats me how a country will roll out the drums to celebrate the humiliation and manipulation of it’s people by a foreign power that came from a distant land to conquer, pillage and appropriate its resources while forcing the people to live forever under an arrangement that they all feel is not working but must pretend that all is well. Whereas everything is bad and progressively worsening.

What exactly are we celebrating?

That a British colonial master forcefully imposed himself and his government on us and gave us a fancy name that his girlfriend thought best represents us-inhabitants of Nigga (Niger) area? Knowing that the amalgamation was done solely to benefit the invading colonial master is even a compelling reason to curse rather than celebrate the day Flora Shaw named us Nigeria. As is clearly obvious from the quoted comments of Harold Smith and William Bowles, there was nothing altruistic about the 1914 amalgamation.

Why then are we celebrating amalgamation of northern and southern protectorates of a British colony?

Not many of us know that same Colonial master, Britain, colonized India and partitioned what was then known as British Indian Empire in 1947. The Administrators of India (Lord Luggard’s equivalent) took note of the cultural and religious differences of the people that made up that area and created Pakistan (predominantly Muslims) and Union of India. Pakistan later split into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh with both existing separately from the later Republic of India (predominantly hindus). With this arrangement that ensured high level of religious and cultural homogeneity, it was easy for the emerging nations to advance without having to contend with debilitating ethno-religious divisions and accompanying struggles and conflicts as in the case of Lord Luggard’s Nigeria. Have you ever bothered to imagine how things would have been if 4 independent nations emerged from the northern and southern protectorate that included parts of Cameron? My best guess is that one or two of those countries would, in the least, have been among the emerging global economic and military powers.

To add insult to injury, the British executed a series of deceitful manipulations that ensured that the emergent nation called Nigeria was perpetually subservient to them, with or without political independence. Histories were doctored and in some cases out rightly re-written, census figures manipulated and all manner of schemes executed with the result “that determined the nature of the Nigeria of today including all the talk about post-colonial ‘corruption’. And, it should not surprise readers that lusting after oil was the primary reason.” (William Bowles). Simply put, everything that happened before and in 1914 were aimed at ensuring that the British gain and maintain economic benefits from Nigeria “for life”. It was never about the people or their short/long term benefit and well being.

Just British interest.

The centenary celebration appears to me to be basically a celebration of British interest, hegemony and activities in Nigeria and Africa. By simple extension, we are celebrating slave trade, forced labour, subjugation, manipulation of census figures, stealing and/or exploitation of our natural resources etc, all for the benefit of the British. No wonder the number one to three centenary “honorees” from the list released by the federal government are all British colonial masters:
1. Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II
2. Frederick John Dealtry Lugard
3. Dame Flora Louise Shaw, Lady Lugard.

How shameful that we are rolling out the drums and popping champagne to celebrate the same people that forcefully took our lands and forced us to exist like a people without history groping from one problem to another for 100 years. Mugabe must hear this.

If you further want to see nationalized hypocrisy, go through the rest of the list of honorees of our centenary celebration. Apart from a few great scholars and genuine nationalists, it is populated by the same people we claim mis-ruled Nigeria at various times in the past 53 years and counting. If you ask a Nigerian child in primary school what the greatest problem of Nigeria is, he or she will most likely say “leadership”. Yet we are gearing up to celebrate all those who led Nigeria: including those that shot themselves to power against our will, rigged elections to force themselves on us, super intended genocide against Nigerian people, deepened our ethnic divisions for selfish reasons, looted our common patrimony and ensured that we remain a nation in darkness, literally and figuratively.

Haba Nigerians!

Why on earth will I want to honor a man who lined up innocent civilians and shot them at point blank range? How do I explain to my children that a man from whom we recovered billions of stolen dollars was honored by my generation? How many of the honorees truly believe in Nigeria beyond rhetoric? How many of them did not participate in foisting and perpetuating falsification of national census figures to benefit his ethnic group? Which of them has not exploited Nigeria economically for personal and group benefits?

Ihukwam celebration and “honor list”?

Each time I read through that list I shake my head so many times that I fear it might fall off my neck. One word keeps ringing in my badly shaken ears-HYPOCRISY. How come a country that produced more than 97 great men/women in 100 years is still crawling like a child? What exactly did the former “leaders” achieve for our people if we still accept that Nigeria’s problem is bad leadership? Who then are the bad leaders since we are honoring all our leaders?

If after 100 years of forced “marriage” supervised by an unmarried couple who were living in sin (Luggard and Flora) we still cannot sit down and discuss our marriage without fear of break up, what exactly are we celebrating in our centenary marriage anniversary? Just the other day, the government of the day announced a national conference of the marriage partners and insisted that the partners must discuss without mentioning separation or divorce. Is it by force to marry and live together?

That the current leaders of Nigeria even believe that if we meet to talk we will likely decide to go our separate ways is a sure confirmation of the hypocrisy of the celebrations we are about to start. For the avoidance of doubt, I personally do not believe that an unfettered national dialogue will lead to break up. For one, this marriage has long turned to a marriage of convenience for all those involved. It will be difficult to isolate an ethnic group, in my view, that has not (and is still) benefiting from Luggard’s contraption in one form or another. Albeit, inequitably and disproportionately. What I feel is that they want to sign a prenuptial agreement, as equal partners, that will govern how the union will be sustained. Such an agreement should equitably spread the benefit of the union across the country and maximize the benefits of the marriage partners.

Until you allow Nigerians to truly say “we the people of Nigeria have decided to come together under the following conditions..” you don’t have a country yet. Such decisions may be negotiated by the leaders of the ethnic groups but must necessarily be affirmed through a national referendum to make it our union as against a British imposed union. Even in marriage ceremonies, after the couples’ parents have affirmed agreement you will still need to ask the couple to confirm if they wish to enter into the marriage. Why can’t Nigerian people be allowed to say “I do” before you start celebrating centenary anniversary?

A clear sign that all is not well with Lord Luggard’s Nigeria should be the violence currently going on in the North Eastern part of the country. While we can downplay it somewhat by calling it terrorism, the truth is that some people want to have a different country from British amalgamated Nigeria. It doesn’t matter that in their utopian country “boko” must be “haram”. It is also derisive and insincere to think that the feeling is not pervasive in that part of Luggard’s country. It takes majority concurrence, or at worst ambivalence, to sustain an armed struggle for such a long time. A good percentage of the people of north eastern Nigeria must feel that the British were wrong in not creating a “Pakistan” for them from the British Nigerian Empire of pre-1914. A national conference that does not address that feeling is at best a jamboree.

Whichever way you prefer to look at it, the truth is that they are not alone in their discontent. There is a group in the south east that will rather have Republic of Biafra while another group in the south west want to have Odua Republic. Even an Ijaw Republic is not off the radar of many in the Niger Delta. Across the land, there exists visible and measurable pockets of discontent with Lord Luggard’s Nigeria and it appears to me that only those benefiting from the skewed and hypocritical federation still shout “one Nigeria” in public. It is also safe to say that once they leave power and lose the associated perks they will join the not so silent agitation for divorce or new marriage arrangement. After all a serving deputy governor of a north eastern state told the media yesterday that Boko Haram members “have a good cause”. Suffice it to also note that even one of the ex-leaders in our “honors list” have since losing power assumed the role of an ethnic/religious champion who speaks for his area that he feels it’s miscreants are not getting equal good treatment with miscreants from another area of Luggardland.

But we can yet have a real “united states of Nigeria” whose centenary will be celebrated by our children and children’s children if we determine today to end the hypocrisy and simply create our own union from the ashes of the British contraption. The starting point should be to allow those that will gather for the forthcoming national conference to discuss anything and everything under the sun and then subject their report to a national referendum only. If and when that is done, we will have a new nation created by free Nigerian people. Not a country created for bonded slaves and conquered people.

Surely, the centenary celebration of that new nation will not have British imperialists among it’s honorees but will likely feature men like President Goodluck Jonathan if he fearlessly convokes an unfettered national conference to give birth to the new Nigeria.

It might even honor a certain JOK that wrote this piece while rejecting a hypocritical centenary celebration. (Malaria no good o)

JOK 26/2/14

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.

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