Centenary: A celebration of pregnancy or birthday?



I’ve never seen a mother marking anniversary of the day she conceived instead of the day she delivered her baby. Nigeria’s pregnancy was conceived on 1st January, 1914 and delivered on 1st October, 1960. Never in our history as a nation have I heard or read that we had in the past celebrated the day we were amalgamated. How come we did not celebrate 50 (Golden Jubilee), 60, 70, 80 and 90 years of amalgamation?
Apart from Nigeria, how many countries celebrate their colonial era? Who are those thinking for Mr. President? Do we really understand and appreciate our history as a people? To what extent has the amalgamation united us as a people? Do Nigerians themselves actually believe in this forceful marriage of inconvenience?
Major-General Alexander Madiebo, in the introductory part of his book, “The Nigerian Revolution and The Biafran War,” wrote: “The Federation of Nigeria, as it exists today, has never really been one homogeneous country, for its widely differing peoples and tribes are yet to find any basis for true unity. This unfortunate yet obvious fact notwithstanding, the formal Colonial Master had to keep the country one, in order to effectively control its vital economic interests concentrated mainly in the more advanced and “politically unreliable” South. Thus for administrative convenience Northern and Southern Nigeria became amalgamated in 1914. Thereafter, the only thing these peoples had in common became the name of their country. That alone was an insufficient basis for true unity”.
In his “Path to Nigerian Freedom” (1947),Chief Obafemi Awolowo made this often quoted statement “Nigeria is a mere geographical expression” to which life was given by the diabolical amalgamation of 1914, that amalgamation will ever remain the most painful injury a British Government inflicted on Southern Nigeria. In 1948, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in the Legislative Council quipped that “….Nigerian unity is only a British intention for the country they created. It is not for us”.
In his autobiography “My Life”, Sir Ahmadu Bello described the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Provinces as “the mistake of 1914”.
Nigeria and Nigerians had never shown any distinctive mark of a united nation. Can this kind of distortion of history happen in the United States we pretend to emulate in our style of governance and brand of democracy? Come to think of it, what is the Nigerian government celebrating? Consistent power supply? Good road network? Effective education sector? A well equipped health sector? An effective railway system? Kai, what a failure of governance we’ve been experiencing since independence!
That Nigeria is not a developed nation is obvious. That the country is a developing nation is deceitful and misleading as virtually all our sectors ranging from economy, oil, education, security to agriculture have been moving in a retrogressive posture. That we’re under-developing is a new trend that requires our collective concern. We consume everything but produce nothing. So, what are we celebrating? 100 years of servitude or what?
Walter Rodney in his book “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” argued and submitted that African countries were essentially underdeveloped by the Europeans via colonization. But the pertinent question is, for about five decades now that the Colonial Masters had left the shores of Africa and handed over the baton of governance to African nationalists in their various countries, what have we achieved?
The British colonised Nigeria for about a century, at the end of their reign in 1960, in spite of the huge resources carted away to develop their own territory, they left being able to point to significant achievements. They succeeded in giving to us a meaningful and modern road network, constructed several bridges in Lagos, Kaduna, Ibadan, to mention but few. They gave us light, water, hospitals and laid a good foundation for the education of our unborn children; and above all, they discovered our major resources today, oil, shortly before their departure.
But virtually all that was built by the colonial masters were disrupted by our politicians. 53 years after independence, our government cannot celebrate a minute uninterrupted power supply in Nigeria. Our government therefore had to privatize power; arguing that it is privatized in several developed nations of the world, but unintelligently forgetting that most developed nations are not as naturally blessed as Nigeria. In most developed nations, fund generated from power and other sectors are used to bring comfort to the citizens in return. Tax payers’ money does not end up in individual pockets. Their democracy is not as costly as ours.
Our major source of income during colonial era, agriculture, had long ago been neglected. On our independence, the world saw and tipped Nigeria as an emerging power; it was not oil they saw. Very many countries at the same level and virtually same condition with Nigeria few decades ago have grown into such industrialized nations that it may take Nigeria many decades with serious efforts to match up with them.
So many countries that shared the inglorious appellation of poor nations with Nigeria some decades ago have grown into richly industrialized nations. India and China, for instance, are two countries that have posed a huge threat to the U.S. economy because of the rapid growth in their GDPs and per capita income. Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Japan are countries with creativity. These countries attained greatness through sheer hard work.
Virtually all attributes of a failed state have manifested in Nigeria. The leadership is in fact confused. We need more than a routine president in 2015. A president who can think for the country and not the one that is yet to know that ‘Abiku’ doesn’t celebrate birthdays.

Comrade Ishowo is a Research Fellow based in Ilorin

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