The nation now called Nigeria were separate tribes brought together by circumstances of the slave trade. The world had known these dominant tribes as far back as Hanno’s Voyage in 520BC for the sole purpose of trade. The slave traders (Portuguese and Spaniards) started in 1441 and the British joined in 1556. Then, from 1861 Britain annexed Lagos, for the West Afrikan Frontier Forces operations which stopped the slave trade in 1901. Thence, Britain made the areas thereof as its outlets and brides to her Empire. It is important to stress that these dominant tribes (Oyo Empire, Benin Empire, Biafra Kingdom, Tiv Kingdom and Bornu-Kanem Empire) were neither consulted by the colonial master nor were involved in the process that brought them under one political umbrella. The proposals at the time were colonially hegemonised to serve a political leverage for their coming together.
An African tribe or region is governed by a set of rules, norms, dialects, cultures and traditions that have been developed and practised for centuries. Some of these cultural traits would have been developed internally and otherwise borrowed or copied from neighbouring regions through tribal and regional trade. However, the fundamentals stay the same – these tribal groupings were clearly very distinguished from one another. In merging these tribes or peoples to form a country, it is rather paramount that these differences are taken into consideration in ascertaining compatibility, suitability and sustainability. The latter are the main salient features from which disputes originate – that by and large end up producing far more diabolical consequences than the initial tiff was about.
The most constructive (productive) nations in the world are also classified by regional or geographic traits and boundaries. The political dynamics of Britain, USA, China, Russia etcetera come to mind. These successful nations nurture their citizens through rules and norms that are considered by all and sundry to be fair and just. This fabric that encapsulates a nation is the medium that make sure adequate checks and balances are in place to correct errors and deviations from the norms. Ideological doctrines – Socialism, Communism, Capitalism and the likes will not exist if this fabric is porous or broken. Human beings by their very nature be it from God or genetically coded (DNA), will often thrive to better themselves. Thus, good governance fosters good citizenship. Good governance is an arrangement of the people and their leaders to work towards common good. Britain amalgamated for its convenience; it is Nigerians' duty to adopt for their convenience. The implementation of a part is a keystone to rest the case, which cannot be overreached by any constitution; I mean, the 1911 proposals for Amalgamation.
Nigeria is not an exceptional country except that the mentality and feelings of Nigerians differ from acceptable approaches under the current dynamism. The United Kingdom, Nigeria’s Godfather agreed in 1707 and 1801 respectively to be one nation but forces in national dynamics led to Regionalism in 1997. Britain is still the United Kingdom irrespective of these regional changes. Yes, Scotland is demanding more from the United Kingdom, which it is entitled to, provided, the rest of the kingdom is not disadvantaged. This is the political dynamic that can cause havoc if nationalistic sentiments override common sense and the common good.
If you are a Nigerian aged above 48 years, you might still have lingering and
nightmarish memories of the “Civil
that caused diabolical and inhumane sufferings to the populace especially those associated with the vanquished party (Eastern
Region/Biafra/Igbo).To give the younger ones some perspective,
consider the carnage in Rwanda
July 1994 and multiply the atrocity effect by a factor
- that gives you some idea of how bad it was.
The slave trade ended in Lagos (West) in 1886, Bight of Benin in 1897 and Bight of Biafra in 1901. The West (Yoruba) was merged with the Bight of Benin (Benin) in 1906. In 1908, the West and East (Igbo) became a protectorate of the South while the North of Benue/Niger (Tiv/Hausa) has been a Protectorate since 1885 of the Berlin Conference. Thus, Nigeria was not a premature or accidental birth. Its conception and birth were known as shown below. Not many people know when they were born but some grew to know better and adjust even best. When the colonial master decided to manage these tribes for their own colonial objectives, it became apparent that these disparate tribes had to be merged to become a state. In their wisdom, a proposal for amalgamation was written with the objectives as outlined below.
The Proposals of 1911 that gave rise to Nigeria:
- 1 Instil Good Sound Financial Management aimed not only at meeting present needs but at providing for the future;
- 2 Put Qualified and Professional Personnel to fill the important and onerous posts of the Governor- General/Prime Minister/President;
- 3 Divide the territory into provinces consistent as far as possible with the natural geographical boundaries and existing political conditions, involving as few changes as possible;
- 4 Build a comprehensive scheme of public works.
In 1911, the Proposals for amalgamation of the North and South were agreed. Then, on 1st January 1914 (eve of the First World War), the South (West and East) and North (Central and North merged as one instead of two regions) were named Nigeria thus making three instead of four regions as depicted in fig1 below. Therefore, however implemented, Nigeria is not a pre-mature or accidental birth. The missing dimensions of Nigeria are the differences between what were proposed listed above and what was implemented by Lord Lugard (1914) and others (1991). In my impartial view, if the proposals were implemented fully, there is no better heaven on earth than Nigeria with its wide sphere, peoples, lands and sea to tap from. The work of nationalism does not end but the nation must be in proper shape to benefit from the work. Do these people know what it means to hold massive dominion of people, land, sea and air - endless work and employment? I can bet in seeking for self-harmony; if Nigeria locks its borders of trade, there will be enough internal activities to stimulate them to create or die off. But this saying only serves in enabling the nation to scrutinize its national abilities and competences to deal or check anti-social or progressive developments.
Fig1 - Regions as in 1911 proposals
In my humble opinion as exemplified herein, the future of Nigeria hangs on the aforementioned proposals (1911) for suitability because, it contains the reasons of ‘Being’ and the ‘Purpose of Nigeria’. It is our mistaking ‘the Purposes’ that is challenging the ‘Being’. When the maker gave reasons for his making, it is unwise to deviate. The reasons for Nigeria were given in 1911 and the reasons were for four regions and the relocation of the Capital from Lagos to Abuja, which came through in 1991. When things are together, it is inequitable to pick and choose. If the capital moved in theory 1911 and practice in 1991 respectively, the next step is implementing the regions and taking the thoughts impartially as proposed; thus, implementing the regions to tap from the grassroots. It is too hasty a climb to bring about a center without the rooting landmarks and backgrounds.
What arrangement did Nigeria make for a sustainable good living together of families, villages, towns, divisions, local authorities, states, regions and nation? What sense did it make when the Ministers are throwing monies when the needy, orphans and widows are starving and young people are driven out to false exiles, migrations and if possible drown in sea? Nigeria missed all her key targets in the first ten years of its independence; having no benchmarks left her fussy and hoodwinked to keep the erstwhile colonial mentality of I won the election with no comprehensive national agenda. It continued with diabolical corruption of raising up its head to spit and lowering it to receive the spittle. The oil boomed out shamefully, now leaving the same suffering masses to the bear the brunt of the mismanagement. Nigeria needs a big structural change like the seven regions in the USA or six in the UK, Nigeria's 36 states have served as dens of corruption.
The current 36 states incorporated in a Federal Structure is likened to throwing bags of salts in the sea - it won’t savour or yield any satisfactory taste. The states cannot even function well without regional connections, plans and arrangements.The new capital has seated for twenty-four years. There should be no more ‘Constitutional Conference’ but regional consultations for regional implementations.
The proposals were made with informed knowledge and wisdom to challenge every section of Nigeria to own up from the grassroots. This has not happened because Nigerians are primarily about who governs instead of making the country well. The governors and leaders prefer to talk down on the people rather than motivating the people to work. There is dignity in labour but Nigerian leaders prefer to frustrate Nigerian labour to encourage unnecessary migration. Holding down - how long will the rising population be held down for?
The regions are vast such that even if the officials at the center came from one region, it will not spur the regions. Therefore, the struggle for ministerial posts is not the solution but as was said in the proposals: the aims were to remove inconveniences and facilitate administrative efficiency. That, there are differences in mentality are usual of humans; hence, the models of approach need to focus on the people at each location to secure national awareness and commitment. By 1935 only the Oil Protectorate (East) was producing Oil produce. By 1952, the West had acquired cocoa from Gold Coast to add on and the North contributed Hides, skins and columbites and Nigerians did not starve but challenged. As far as all the fingers are not equal nobody would expect equal contribution but a model to engage the people to work the country is eminent. What sustains a people is not what was ate but the spirit with which they ate. Harmony makes the food go round; what is promoting greed and corruption in Nigeria?
The regional approach to the national well-being is indeed the best solution to Nigeria’s problems. Effective regionalism and Centralism will provide far better governance with adequate checks and balances. Regionalism will reduce corruption and fascist groups such as Boko Haram, Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra and Odua Splint Group (Ibid.) because regional empowerments will task differently. The Proposals had great impartial foresight and no one shall overreach them to promote something else without full implementation and trial. These tribes still celebrate their local festivals; retain their names and customs; what is wrong in these grassroot developments?
The present federalism is too expensive, inefficient and wasteful (Centre, State and Local Authority) but a Unitary System of Region to the Local Authorities would save a lot. It will free the Centre from day-to-day choruses to concentrate on strategic issues. Leaving day-to-day choruses to the regions who understand the local people thus, would galvanise and strengthen bases for administrative efficiency.
This article is an excerpt from a new version of the book “The Future of Nigeria” which was published in 2004; this new version will be published at the end of January 2016 by the firm New Era Dimensions Books -www.nedbooks.uk
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