Monday Discourse (184)
The House of Lugard
What really would have happened had the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria been allowed to remain separate and evolve as different countries? Would the South – stretching from Lagos to Calabar – have been one of the best countries in the World and North one of the poorest, like its Northern neighbours – Chad and Niger?
The answer from many Southerners is that they would have been far better of without the North. Since the South is richer, the North can only have a dilution effect on the quality of life of the South, holding it back from attaining economic prosperity. Moreover, in terms of human development the North is lagging fifity years behind the South. Added to this is the difficulty of covering its expanse of land with modern infrastructure. The discovery of oil has aggravated this belief. Imagine if all our oil revenues were invested in the South alone and combine that with the nature of its people who love hard work and industry. It would have been, undoubtedly, one of the richest areas in the world. This is the predominant thinking in the South if one is to go by the content of its media and utterances of many of its scholars.
The fate of Northern Nigeria in the above scenario would have been a complete mess. As a landlocked country the North would not have prospered without the South; it would not have gone beyond a peasant economy; it would have had the education and infrastructure it enjoys now; it would have remained entrenched in tradition, feudalism and Islam, none of which would have served to advance its economy. Economy, economy. Ratatatatata.
In addition to this economic calculation there is another one, ethnicity, expounded by scholars of disintegration, a product of primitivism. I cannot imagine how a renowned scholar from the Southwest became so reckless to say that he is ashamed of sharing a passport with the Sultan of Sokoto. This level of unguarded stupidity can only be accommodated by a mind heavily infested by primitive evil of ethnic and racial hatred. Here, the scholar did not rise above the level of the uncivilized elite who featured as a guest on AIT and who degenerated into asking what contribution does a cow make to the economy of this country. That illiterate was saying, “let us hold our oil and let them go with their cows.” Something, certainly foolish and evil, continues to tell this species of Southerners that they have a right to insult others who are simply not their kind in tribe or region.
I find it too shallow for anyone, given our experience since independence, to think that the South would have been better of as a separate country. What guarantee can such people give us that the evil of corruption and ethnicity that have crushed Nigeria today would not have featured in their dream Republic of Southern Nigeria? Would they have used their cocoa, cassava and oil intelligibly to harness their lives or would their wealth have been a major source of corruption and instability? In fact, would they have been allowed to decide their fate with many agents of imperialism in their midst? What affinity binds the Yoruba with the man in Niger-Delta? Would not have led a parasitic life on the wealth of the Niger-Delta as he is presently doing in Nigeria?
Southern Nigeria is not the only place in Africa that is rich. There are many parts of Africa that are richer but still living poorer for the simple reason that wealth has often led to disaster than to the progress of humanity. In fact the existence of cheap wealth, like oil, is the more reason why imperialism will be interested in the republic, dividing its people and looting its treasures. Zaire and Sierra Leone are not poor, neither is Iraq; but forces of imperialism are interested in their instability in order to exploit their resources. I doubt if the Niger-Delta would have been different. In fact, in the dream country of Southern Nigeria, the peoples of the Niger-Delta will be under intense pressure to surrender their resources to the Igbo and the Yoruba. The peoples of the Niger-Delta need not be reminded about the inevitable dominance of Igbo in Eastern Nigeria; for the Yoruba, if we must remind them, the risk of instability is very high because they are people who fought themselves almost to the point of extinction few centuries ago on nothing but a market quarrel over a piece of alligator pepper. I wonder what their zeal would be when they are involved in a disagreement over oil, as it will certainly happen, in the Republic of Southern Nigeria.
No, someone would say. The Yoruba are not interested in a Republic of Southern Nigeria; they want a nation of their own. Their population is over 25 million, and have an almost total control of the Nigerian economy: industries, banks, insurance houses, port, stock market, law, etc. Moreover, Baba Aremu has done his best to patronize them in the past six years such that they will have enough to live with only marginal pain in a re-structured Nigeria. This stupidity of this prevalent thought in the Southwest is not far-fetched. One, I do not know of any time in history when a Yoruba nation existed. Yoruba did not even have a common name as a tribe. When the Hausa first came in contact with them, he must have found enormous difficulty in dealing with a nameless mass of people. Thus he gave them a name, Yarba, which they started to pronounce as Yoruba. I feel the Hausa should claim propriety over that name and demand a fee for the good service of his grand parents.
Two, what will the citizens of the Oduduwa Republic do with the fratricidal instinct that has been the hallmark of their history? Or do they think there will not be reasons to disagree over issues bigger than alligator pepper? What form of constitution will they adopt and modus of power sharing? Again, they are betrayed by their history. A recent review done by one of their scholars shows no harmony among their various clans in their conception of leadership throughout their history.
Three, I quite agree that they have cornered the largest part of our industries. Oduduwa-centred intellectuals think that these industries alone can sustain a republic and satiate the appetite of one of the most aggrandizing elite in Africa. But that is forgetting that the banks, insurance houses, stock market, industries and the large cities that they boast of may be flourishing today only because of two reasons: the presence of oil commission and, two, the immediate market of over 120 million people who are ready, or have no choice but, to receive their sub-standard products. They have forgotten that at de-amalgamation they will bid farewell to that unfettered access and be forced to compete with cheaper and better products from Asia. The city of Lagos, we are often told, generates hundreds of millions of naira every month. How much will it generate when other Nigerians withdraw their capital at the inception of the Oduduwa Republic? What will its yield be reduced to in the absence of monthly allocation from the centre which now stands in billions of naira? Will that yield be enough to sustain the city’s roads and supply of water, electricity, security and other services essential to the survival of the dream Oduduwa Republic? What will the market look like for the sub-standard Nigerian products of the Southwest industries if their outreach is reduced from 120 million people to only 25 million descendants of Oduduwa, the greatest of all races?
No. Another would say, we neither mean Republic of Southern Nigeria nor of Oduduwa. What we mean is a return to regional governments with each region controlling its resources. Aha. You are only clever by half. You want a monopoly over your resources while enjoying the security and market of other Nigerians. The Niger-Delta man wants to control his oil resources but while enjoying the security of a united Nigeria which he expects to protect him against the avarice of his immediate neighbours. The Yoruba wants to control his VAT and service driven economy that is patronized by over of 120 million people, sustained by an oil economy and a large peasantry. Wayo.
The Igbo has always depended on his enterprising acumen. He has mastered the art of commerce without reading The Wealth of Nations. He has reasserted his position in the Nigerian economy in spite of the Civil War. Unfortunately, he lends his ear, once again, to the voice of disintegration. That is the same voice that instigated him to commit the sincere blunder of declaring Biafra. Immediately afterwards, the voice turned round against him and advised that he could be subjected to hunger as a weapon of war. At the end of the war it recommended a paltry £20 as the only equitable compensation for his loss. He did not realize until it was too late that the same voice has always seen him as a most veritable competitor in grabbing the resources of post-independence Nigeria. War would only alienate him and set him backwards. That goal has been achieved.
He might also be tempted to think that, like before or during the civil war, he can dominate the Niger-Delta and appropriate its resources. This is illusory. I doubt if the markets in Onitcha and Aba will flourish when their customers are reduced only to citizens of Biafra which I am not sure the Niger-Delta will be ready to belong. And if they are forcefully annexed, as it happened before the war, modern warfare, especially with the abundance of oil money, will empower them to raise thousands Asaris to precipitate a mayhem in which no non-Deltan will benefit from its oil resources.
Then, lastly, here come the Malam and his other northern brothers. Where does he fit in the equation of a disintegrated Nigeria? He does not mine oil like the Niger-Deltan; he is not in control of the economy like the Yoruba; and he does not share the commercial shrewdness of the Igbo. He is regarded a parasite. What does he do when he becomes detached from his host?
Sometimes, I feel his best bet is not in a restructured Nigeria but in what I call a de-amalgamated one. When the line of statutory allocations is cut, certainly, the elite in the North will suffer a decade of despair while his peasant brother will remain relatively untouched, enjoying the bounty of rain on which he has survived for centuries. The elite will be forced to use his knowledge to boost the productivity of the region through the adoption of modern agricultural techniques and exploitation of the natural resources – both human and material – in the expanse of land and of the variety of people who surrounds him. The stability of his Arewa nation will derive principally from three sources: the poor state of his economy that will fail to attract the attention of gluttons and imperialists; his long standing traditional institutions of governance that will subsidize the cost of security and prevent conflict; and his bent for religion, both Christianity and Islam, which will be used to expel the insidious culture of corruption that devastated the defunct Nigeria.
It is then, instigated by his deprivation and expulsion from Nigeria, he will start a true journey to nationhood. His petty quarrels will dissolve and never will they return until he is comfortable enough to be the fool that will be lured into killing his brother. After walking alone for a decade or two, free from the encumbrance of national politics that has impeded his progress in the Nigeria of the past, he will stumble on the heap of prosperity that he abandoned for a century or so. Then, he will realize that the parasitic life he led and the abuses he earned as a result were colonial creations perpetuated by the corrupt Nigerian state. It may not be his intention now to walk this path; but if forced to do so he will tread it with the courage and perseverance it deserves.
The future of Nigeria remains uncertain, if not bleak. The vision of Lugard of a united Nigeria, therefore, still remains a dream waiting to be realized by the prudence of our elite or abandoned by the stupidity of their sentiments. Ask for my opinion and I will say, head or tail, I will survive. Duk mijin Iya baba ne.