On October 1, 2017 we celebrated her 57th Birthday, not just because 57 is a different number and distinct. At 57 most people are planning their retirements and becoming grandparents. But some people who visited me yesterday gave the impression that the Nigeria we were celebrating her 57th Birthday is a “Grown up Grandmother that is still Bedwetting, Stealing, Lazing around, very vocal and oratory but no special skill nor original initiatives of her own”. We all laughed about it and even ate to it but on a serious note it concerned the future of our grandchildren. We were not talking about flooding, the threat of nuclear weapons from North Korea or from the USA, ravaging Boko Haram insurgencies and kidnappings, the rising agitation for restructuring indicating dissatisfaction in the union. Rather we were looking for a country that is heavenly and built with gold streets and perfection. We were discussing our imaginations rather than our realities, our imperfections and limitations. Nigeria needs to go for a deliverance programme either in SCOAN of T B Joshua or elsewhere. Nigeria is a net exporter of religion in the world, the only thing being celebrated perhaps.
However and by definition a country is said to be an independent nation if it (a) is recognized by the United Nations (UN), (b) has legal government, (c) has a constitution and (d) its territory is integral. Hence the question is not whether Nigeria has met a definitional requirement but whether the definition requires a revisit. The emphasis will therefore shift from the definition to the characteristics of an independent nation, to the expectation of the level of individual freedom and development that will enable people take a greater responsibility for themselves and their environment, and to the contributions of Nigeria to its domestic peace and development. Economic development is interwoven in the level of individual freedom and economic emancipation. When nation members are provided for they really won’t need much from the global arena, and a zero sum game would suffice. By a zero sum game we imply that Nigeria takes from the rest of the world only as much as it gives in every area you may turn.
The importance of independence to Nigeria may be the first focus. Nigeria is one of the biggest countries in Africa and has the largest population; in fact about 20% of black Africans are Nigerians in a continent of about 55 nations. In addition there is no nation in the World where a Nigerian cannot be found. Nigerians are known to always being on the move; but to where and why? Nigeria therefore needs her independence to defend its growing population in a unique and peculiar Nigerian way. If Nigeria could successfully manage her independence it might have positive impacts on the African continent and global politics. Meanwhile Nigeria, like her other African nations, had suffered many hundred of years under slavery and weak African kingdom feudal settings in addition to close to another 100 British Colonial rule. Briefly we may remember the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that left some 800,000 deaths within only 100 days. These were not killed by aerial bombardment, weapons of mass destruction, but most of the killing was done with handheld machetes, neighbours. The two warring communities, Hutus and Tutsis, have same religion and same language but were colonized by Germany and Belgium at different times in history. This is similar to Nigeria situation where regions experienced different levels of colonization but were forced together at independence, or exactly the current situation in Cameroun where the English speaking wants a breakaway from the French speaking.
Due to these different regimes and treatments, Nigeria and indeed the whole of Africa, lost in a multiple way. It lost its very strong and able Africans carried away as slaves, those who were not carried away probably hid themselves in caves or mountain tops or they were disabled. The sin of slavery has many components because local hunters hunted for people to sell just as human traffickers are still operating today. The end buyers couldn’t have easily bought any one if the sellers were not cooperating. The African kingdoms practiced in brutality and were actually not economically viable. Only the kings were catered for and most others paying them homage. The system in Egypt may be a fair reference to this point where only Pharaoh has everything. Thereafter came the greedy and heartless Europeans who knew nothing but to steal African wealth if they couldn’t eliminate the entire population. What they did in Southern Africa, in Australia and in to the American Indians would remain a symbol to describe their barbaric brutal regimes. The last blow the British inflicted on Nigeria was their divide-and-rule tactics as instrument of colonial rule; favouring lazy farmers staying home and who gave them information, and their inability to leave a united Nigeria. The Southern Regions had self government on October 1957 and the entire nation October 1960. The seed of disunity was further planted between 1957 and 1960.
Some individuals would like to argue that Nigeria lost in language and in religion but that would not be my opinion. Nigeria has many languages and each language with its varieties. Having the English language, in my own opinion, was probably a unifying approach and a vehicle to the international community. Similarly it was not the colonial governments that brought Christianity to Nigeria or to any part of Africa but the Missionaries. Many people have failed to see the difference between the colonial masters and the missionaries. They were independent and came to Africa for different reasons and times. In fact till date we still have whites as Roman Catholic Priests in Nigeria. The North East, where Boko Haram has chosen as the headquarters of its operation, has missionaries from America and they set up what is still there as EYN. They are very concerned that Boko Haram is attempting to destroy their efforts. In the same vein Islam came to Nigeria through Islamic missioners especially through the desert north. Those that came to Lagos areas and came through the sea were in several companies like returning slaves and Islamic missioners. Unfortunately religion has become part and parcel of Nigeria domestic life and politics.
So what have we learned from this? If we want our culture, language, way of life and traditions to remain with us, then we should keep our country independent. We should learn from our common history and from our collective successes and mistakes. We should love each other rather than fight each other. As the saying in Mongolia that, “Even if God comes to you and asking for some dirt from your land, don’t give it”. The meaning of this is that your country, your motherland is more important than anything else. Hence don’t give in to dirtiness or to evil in your motherland. Our motto here in Nigeria is that “We have no other country to call our home, Home is home”. Corruption, weak institutional frameworks, insecurity, and lack of viable political ideologies, that are now prevailing, shouldn’t be allowed to continue.
Has any nation ever regretted declaring independence? Or has Nigeria got to the stage where it may have to regret being an independent nation from Britain? We don’t know many nations that have regretted becoming independent. For example, Indira Ghandi of India was saddened because he had wanted a united independent India in 1947 but the British gave them two nations which later became three nations. Similarly, just before Suriname became independent from the Netherlands, a sizable portion of the people left Suriname for the Netherlands. Suriname independence was all about politics. It was not supported by a majority of the population. Nigeria’s political problems originated from ethnic and religious differences and not political or economic ideological differences. Africans generally prefer their own ethnic people, people they can simply understand and relate to, people that are related to them, people whose loyalty can be taken for granted. The major reason is lack of trust and lack of understanding between ethnic groupings and where a common religion might be bridging some cap; but only to create another set of its own problems. Hence we have found a number of Nigerians who would prefer the British rule to continue in Nigeria because it provided solutions to ethnic and religious rivalries; even though its socioeconomic inequalities and human dignity were unacceptable and inhuman. The civil war and the ongoing agitations for restructuring are just evidences of lack of national cohesion and enough gum to cement the society. However, it is a common phenomenon in most countries, even in Britain our colonial Lords.
Our argument is not that any country breaks up. However if any group in Nigeria, or elsewhere, wishes to breakaway they may want to know that there is a process on what it takes for a country to become independent. They should avoid violence or disturbing the populist minimally. There are two major ways in which a country could become independent. The first is “With the Consent and Agreement of Parent Country”. This is when the government of the sovereign state which it belongs to allows it to secede at a conference table, either (1) through agreement between the central government and agitators from the part of the country which wants to become independent, such as regional governments or even revolutionary groups, or (2) through a democratic referendum where the population of that region is allowed to express its view.
The second option is “Without the Consent of its Parent Country”, where the authority of the parent country is ignored and the region in question becomes independent. This is commonly known as a “Unilateral Declaration of Independence” (UDI), where it is the region that declares its own independence without the correct authorization. This could occur if the regional government, or agitators within it such as revolutionary groups, declares it on their own or via an unauthorized referendum put to the population. Each situation is different for each country but the situation in Nigeria is similar to what is obtainable in many other regions of the world. The Nigeria Constitution has a provision for the creation of new Local Governments, new States, and by extension referendum for the expression of a district or region wish.
We are not in any doubt that Nigeria may have all the characteristics of an independent nation as she celebrates her 57th Independence on October 1, 2017. The unpronounced colonial masters are allegedly present in the system as internal individuals, cabals, and groups of individuals. This class of people includes former Heads of State, ex-this and ex-that, Emirs and Traditional Rulers, Religious Leaders and the Dangotes of the country. They have unnecessarily monopolized political and economic powers without allowing new players and new ideas. The worst factor on this monopoly is the concept of recycling and perpetration of selves in government, or replacing selves with personalities that are only ready to be loyal to successive outgoing regimes in a cultic manner. The correct agitation must therefore be in the direction of injecting new innovations, paving ways for upcoming generations by intentional grooming and training, politics of economic and military advancements to improve the notion of national independence, and politics that recognizes performance and the abilities of candidates rather than regional aspirations using obsolete candidates because of their past achievements and personal characters. Nigeria may have been misusing her independence for all the years it broke away from Britain as it is seen to be serving only a cohort of persons rather than the entire people, increasing socioeconomic inequalities rather than bringing people to grow above the poverty level, creating insecurity in its different forms and her inability to grow democracy it professes.
Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi