It will surprise the reader to know that the very idea, conception and formation of Nigeria deprives her the opportunity to be a nation. This is the first problem of Nigeria – the problem of foundation.
Before the 1914 amalgamation of northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria, there were no similarities in the history, culture, language and territorial homogeneity or any confluence of interests whatsoever amongst the different ethnic nationalities that were to be lumped together and named Nigeria. The only similarities that existed were shared in the far northern side within the boundaries of the ancient cities of Masino, Timbuktu, Bambara, Segu and Hamdala.
These nations were conquered in one swoop by the Tukulor Empire that emerged from the upper Niger highlands of Futu Toro in a series of conquests that began in 1855 by Jihadi forces under the leadership of Al-Hajj Umar Tall. In the near northern part of the Sahara, the Hausa-Muslim nations of Kano, Rano, Katsina, Zaria and Daura, spread further east to Borno which was the oldest Hausa-Muslim state in Nigeria.
These near northern nations were conquered and disorganized by another Jihadi forces led by Uthman Dan Fodio, who came from Western Sudan. They destroyed the harmony of these homogeneous ethnic nationalities in an expedition which started in 1804, the same way Al-Hajj Umar Tall destroyed the far northern nations which are today spread and lumped together across Guinea, Senegal and Mali.
In the south was the Bight of Biafra, encompassing all of South Eastern Nigeria stretching further to the Niger Delta area and dipping down to Southern Cameroon. The Bakasi Island that was negotiated away to the Cameroons by General Yakubu Gowon to win the war against Biafra is at the Nigeria verge of Bight of Biafra.
Like the Northern part of Nigeria had what can appropriately be defined as homogenous nations, the Bight of Biafra was also a homogenous nation. I will save our time here not to say much about the descendants of Oduduwa, the Yorubas of the South West and the Binis of the MidWest because being the most coherent nation state down the Sahara, they had developed a culture, tradition, language and religion long before the north and southern parts of Nigeria. The resilience of Ifa worship, the natural religion of the Yorubas is such that it flourishes alongside the two foreign religions of Christianity and Islam till date.
In a nutshel, the Fulanis in West African countries, including Guinea, Senegal, Mali and Nigeria, etc, came much later in 1804 and 1855 through the Jihadist forces of Uthman Dan Fodio and Al-hajj Umar Tall, respectively.
Historically, countries not sharing the same history, same culture, same language and territorial homogeny are better off, not as a nation, but as a loose association of people under a distant government recognized by them as a figurehead. An example is the United States of America.
Conversely, a perfect example of a nation-state is Israel which exhibits all the strengths derivable from a homogenous nation.
Obviously challenged with the imperatives of nationhood, Britain which crafty lumped together neighboring members of different ethnic nationalities as Nigeria in the spirit of the exercise of their share from the 1864/65 Berlin Conference scramble of Africa by America and the Western Europe (which was the foundation of the modern parasitic economic order of capitalism), allowed different administrative formats in her jurisdiction to differentiate between the Briton the Scottish, and the Irish.
Driven by her internal circumstances, Britain knows that you do not have to lump different groups of people together and pretend to have one nation. This is why a man from Scotland will excuse you to remind you that he is Scottish if you mistakenly refer to him as an Englishman. The same goes with the man from Ireland who will insist that he is of Irish descent, if you make the mistake of addressing him as English. Yet the greater irony is that these three distinct groups of people share greater affinity in religion, culture, and language than the highly-separated groups in Nigeria, who share nothing but bad blood and mutual suspicion amongst themselves.
Nigeria really needs to learn something from the social-political structure of Britain and America who continue to deceive her to believe that she can survive as a nation. As a matter of fact, this is what wisdom and common sense demands of us now to do because there can never be any problem in life to which a template has not been secured in the history of man. Man only needs to visit history and learn from it. Not surprisingly, scientists are coming to terms with recognizing the pattern of universal replication of templates and the cyclic nature of all life phenomena – a factor which historians from the ages past understood.
Not until Nigeria decides to restructure her government along the natural process of loose bonding of uneven and unequal parts that can never stick together, her aspiration to attain the greatness that accompanies the status of nationhood will continue to be both a mirage and a pyrrhic possibility.
It is on the basis of the above understanding that I, as a political and public affairs analyst of some experience see June 12 as an important milestone in Nigeria, after the previous effort of some young military officers failed in January 1966 to loosely stitch Nigeria to portray a semblance of a nation.
Let me give an example of one of the things that gives the June 12 1993 mandate the unique appeal in Nigeria. The SDP (Social Democratic Party) Presidential Candidate, Chief M.K.O Abiola ran a Muslim-Muslim ticket with Babagana Kingibe as his Vice Presidential Candidate and locked horns with the Presidential Candidate of the NRC (National Republican Convention), Alhaji Bashir Tofa, who also is a Muslim. Historically incomparable with any other election in Nigeria, Nigerians were so united in the Presidential election of June 12 1993 that both tribal, language, and religious sentiments were swept aside to embrace unity.
That election was another deliberate choice for Nigerians to become a detribalized nation, after the young officers of the January 15th coup d’etat led by a detribalized Nigerian son who was born a Christian but grew up as a Muslim, the revered and highly patriotic, Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, had failed to unite Nigeria.
The consequence of these two failures (the failures of the January 1966 coup and annulment of June 12 1993 Presidential election mandate) is that Nigeria is left now with one of two options – to disintegrate our government or disintegrate our components. But the question is: how about re-visiting the original nature and status of the different ethnic nationalities in Nigeria with a view to modifying it?
It is never too late to change one’s direction if one discovers that he is on the wrong path, because a wrong path can never take one to the right destination.
Abuchi Onuora can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org