Nightmares For My Father
by, Apr 8, 2012 at 10:06 PM (1088 Views)
The following is an excerpt from chapter one of my upcoming book "Nightmares For My Father"- a historical cum political memoir.
At the time when i decided to embark upon this extraordinary literary journey, my country is on the edge of collapse, with deteriorating security, a failed society and a fake democracy. With the exception of the clergy, the Military and the oil industry, all the basic institutions of state are no longer functioning. Our leaders continue to boast that we are an emerging economy, yet the citizenry see nothing but massive decay in government and every aspect of our social life. The level of unemployment is a testimony to the fact that our industries are virtually non-existent. At the same time, most of our politicians have adopted the same method with which the British colonialists raped our land and they continue to do so with feverish intensity. This "divide and rule" strategy polarized our unity in diversity and paved the way for the emergence of radical Islam, terrorism and a culture where crime is the order of the day.
The root of our problems lie with the failure of our Leaders to plant the seeds of a collective Nigerian dream. Thus, the promises given to us on 1st October 1960 were never fulfilled. This essay is not a criticism of our past nor a conclusive assessment of our present, it is simply a wake-up call to my People. Its message is clear and precise, that the time has come for us to make the ultimate choice; Should we stay victims of a turbulent past or should we rise above tribal interests to build a nation where our Children's Children will live with pride?
The hour of decision is come upon us at last.
PART I: TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
Nigeria is a colonial idea. An idea that was conceived during the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. It was an era when Europe was rising and waking up to the realities of the Industrial revolution. In order to fuel the fire of its progress, cheap raw materials and a market for its inferior goods is of great importance. Following in the footsteps of infamous explorers, Europe launched a chaotic rush for Africa and its resources.
Intoxicated by the wine of Imperialism, the Europeans sat down at a table in Germany and shared the African continent among themselves without any consideration for consequences of their actions, they divided people, destroyed ancient Empires and merged rival others without any thought for the historical animosity that exists between those rival cultures. Nigeria is one such creation, before its amalgamation in 1914, it was demarcated into three separate and unique parts; the Northern Protectorate (composed of the bulk of the Fulani Caliphate and the lands surrounding the river Niger), the Southern Protectorate (From the Atlantic Ocean to the lower banks of the River Niger and the River Benue), and the Colony of Lagos-a port town that had been annexed by the British in 1862. Following the pacification of the land by British expeditionary forces, the protectorates and the colony were unified into a single political unit.
For the entire colonial period, the differences between the diverse population of this multi-cultural country were exploited by the Europeans to distract the natives from the injustices of the system.
However, The British with all their faults were better than the French in their colonial rule on the African Continent, French administration was nothing but a cultural genocide; With their policy of Assimilation, they aimed to destroy African heritage and replace it with their alien values.
In Nigeria, the British choose a different approach. Their policy was association, they appreciated the indigenous people's rich traditions and as such allowed it to flourish. Their methodology was indirect rule- a system where Britain administered its provinces through already established institutions such as the northern Emirates and the Yoruba Oba courts. The system was tried and tested in India by Lord Lugard, the same person who was appointed Governor-General of Nigeria and who duly imported it to his new station. It became so successful that its later manifestation the Native Authority lasted right into the first 15 years of independence.
In the early 1920s, following the enactment of the McPherson constitution of 1922, there emerged a new class of Nigerians; highly educated and politicized, they agitated for greater participation in running their affairs. Their leader was Herbert McCauley-The father of Nigerian Nationalism. Their activism paved the way for another group in the 1940s led by Nnamdi Azikwe, Obafami Awolowo, J.S Tarka, Maitama Sule, Abubakar Imam and others- these illustrious individuals were encouraged by the post World War 1 Human Rights Charter and the experiences of their fellow countrymen who fought in the battlefields of the Second World War. They led an arduous campaign for independence. The Nationalists were eventually rewarded for their tireless struggle when Great Britain granted Nigeria self-rule on 1st October 1960, they became the Leaders of the Nation's post-colonial government now known as the First Republic. It is important to note that the Election of 1958 which ushered in those leaders was a clear reflection of the population's sentiments, nearly every Nigerian voted along regional lines. The northerners voted for the NPC, the Easterners for NCNC and the Westerners elected Awolowo's A.G. It was an Irony that while all the parties were led by Nationalists, none of them became a national party. It was apparent that the allegience of Nigeria's citizens to the center was at best fragile. So it became the responsibility of our founding fathers to forge a united nation out of the diverse ethnicities that formed the young federation, for God, Queen and Country.
(At that time, Nigeria was not yet a Republic. Even after independence, The British Queen was still our Head of State until the enactment of the Republican Constitution in October 1963)
The First Republic with all its many shortcomings is considered by most people as a true democracy. Yes they disagreed, they quarrelled, but they also laid the foundation for a nation that even the international media grudgingly called "Africa's one and only hope for greatness."
If only they knew the trials that lie ahead and the tragedy awaiting our people.
The Times that Try Men's Soul
On 15th January 1966, Major Kaduna Nzeogwu and five other junior officers of the Nigerian Army launched a coup de etat that ousted and killed most of the nation's civilian leaders including the premier of the Northern region, The premier of the West was killed, but the premier of the Eastern region where most of the plotters were from was forgotten. On the Federal level the Prime Minister was killed, the Finance Minister the number 3 man was killed but the number 2 man who "coincidentally" happened to be from the same region as the plotters "escaped the killing". This circumstantial evidence painted the coup plotters as tribal conspiracists rather than Nationalistic patriots. The violence of that Saturday night opened the Pandora's Box and started a chain of events that eventually put Nigeria on the path to civil war.
The dreams of the Founding Fathers turned into a bloody nightmare.
To be continued.
Next on Nightmares for My Father: The Curse of Oil.