The 1914 myth and de-legitimisation of Nigeria

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A Nigerian fan cheers prior to Argentina vs Nigeria

I SHARE the indignation which informed VANGUARD’s editorial of Monday, May 7th, 2012, titled “NIGERIA-MISTAKE SINCE WHEN?” The editorial noted that “contenders for disintegrating Nigeria are increasing” and the latest recruit into this cast was Prof. AngoAbdullahi, former Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

The 73-year old Professor told the audience at Sam Nda-Isaiah’s 50th birthday ceremony, that the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, was “a fundamental mistake” adding most pessimistically that ‘the question of a likely disintegration is not a too distant future”.

Abdullahi warned “the Southerners that are propounding dividing the country should know that it is also not something that the north will not want.

We can be on our own…That the north is keeping quiet doesn’t mean we don’t know what we are doing. We want peace and unity but no one can intimidate us…”

VANGUARD’s editorial asked “what part did 1914 play in the quality education and attendant privileges Abdullahi and his generation had? Is 1914 responsible for insecurity in Nigeria? How did 1914 make millions of children- the leaders of tomorrow- street urchins?

Surely, a country with some of the world’s best professors of agriculture is unable to feed itself because of 1914…Matters are more depressing when Gen. Danjuma, a key player in Nigerian affairs joins the debate…Danjuma preached. Who was he trying to deceive? Can governors who do not command a single policeman be the chief security officer[SIC] of anything? Which state has not failed?”

In truth, factions of the Nigerian ruling elite seem to hold 1914 rather like a sword of threat against the progress of Nigeria; they wave it threateningly on occasions, depending on how deep their current frustration is, about the slice of the national cake they are able to get. It is like the proverbial spoilt child at play; and for too long we have lived with this attempted de-legitimisation of our country.

Reject the platform

The narrative is that Nigerians had nothing in common until the 1914 amalgamation by the British. That might be good political talk to mobilise a captive emotion constituency, but the facts of history vigorously reject the platform. The works of the Jihadist scholars, Usmanu Dan Fodio, Abdullahi Fodio and Muhammed Bello vitiate this narrative. The pioneering historical works of Prof. Kenneth Dike and others also show the rich, relentless historical forces at work in the Nigeria area before colonialism. But we do not teach history in our schools anymore, so those able to purvey a reactionary, revisionist versions of history, located in the ethnic jingoism  we have spoken about today, have taken over the national space, manipulating the fault-lines of history to de-legitimise the country. There is a romantic delusion that somehow, Nigeria can be broken up to allow ethnic entrepreneurs to claim fiefs to preside over, in a post-Nigeria, ethnic ‘paradise’. Some even romanticise ethnic wars, apparently oblivious of recent human history!

One of the failures of the Nigerian elite, is the inability to settle into a nation-building mode for constructing the country.

Every crisis becomes a reason to seek the disintegration of the country as a preferred solution. I’ve always wondered if our elites know the number of low intensity warfare and socio-economic and political crises which India deals with each day, yet its elite does not canvass the disintegration of the country.

Those who have taken so much from Nigeria turn around to advocate its disintegration. I come from an empire-building background with forefathers who helped in the construction of the great empires of old West Africa.

The lessons of history teach that to build complex countries, such as Nigeria, has never been a tea party. The ruling elite must be responsible and committed. Nigeria’s tragedy is to be saddled with an irresponsible elite; they take so much from the country and when disadvantaged, threaten us with ‘the mistake of 1914’.

The Nigerian people must reclaim our country and its history from its fraudulent elites! 1914 was not a mistake; it was the culmination of a historical process which the dynamics of colonialism merely hastened and used for imperialism’s purpose. We can turn that purpose into a triumphant nation building agenda!


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