The third part of this work delves deeper into discussions on the imperatives of nationhood with a view to finding out why Nigeria had had it very rough in socio-economic growth since the amalgamation of the so called and British-carved Northern and Southern Protectorates of the Niger Area.
I must say immediately that the association of people in the pre-Nigeria period was done on thrust and mutual understanding. There were inter-ethnic and inter-tribunal wars which were caused mainly by land disputes and some cultural misunderstanding especially in inter-tribal and inter-ethnic marriages. Yet basically, there was understanding amongst the people so much that the isolated skirmishes did not affect their neighborliness.
Apart from their common ancestries, there were pockets of Kingdoms in the pre-Nigeria ethnic nationalities already in parentage. Examples are the Egbas in Yoruba land, the Opobos in South South Nigeria, the Binis in the Midwest, the Tivs in the Middle Belt, the Jukuns and all the other more than two hundred and fifty such identities across Nigeria.
The spirit of cooperation by the early owners and settlers of the land mass referred to as Nigeria provided the platform that allowed their mutual co-existence. Nobody considered conquest and plunder because everybody had its own armies to protect themselves and the compares directly opposite to the present army of occupation raised at the expense of Nigerian ethnic nationalities to suppress them further.
Every ethnic or tribal unit in the Pre-Nigeria era was autonomous and self-governing within larger units that never exerted undue influence on the constituting units. It was something like being allies amongst themselves to serve their outside large purposes.
Apart from the indigenous people who can still be identified, most of the people in the area presently called the Middle Belt and some parts of the Niger Delta area migrated from both East and West, some coming from the ancient Bini kingdom while others came from the Eastern part of Nigeria.
They went there either for farming (those from the East because of its landlocked geographical position) or trading (people from the ancient Bini Kingdom), the later going to Bini Kingdom because of the sprawling commerce in the ancient kingdom.
Just as the Kingdom of the Oba of Bini – Omo n’ Oba n’ Edo Uku Okpolokpolo – (The Oba of Bini Kingdom and the Domains) extended to some parts of the Middle Belt and parts of the Midwest, the kingdom of Nri and Eri as both the spiritual and administrative cradles respectively, of the Igbo ethnic nationality, had her sons and daughters migrated as farmers to the more arable lands of the Middle Belt and parts of the Niger State.
Custodians of tradition in both the Palace of Igwe Umu Nri and that of Atah of Igala understand what I am saying, because there can never be a serious traditional rite in any of these two Palaces without one extending fraternal right and privileges to the other.
In contrast to all I have said before now about Pre-Nigerian settlements, the latest migrants, the Fulani, came settling in Nigeria in batches of military colonies and Jihadist expeditionists in conquest which started in 1804. Being war-like with clear-cut agenda to conquer and plunder, they were able to mask under religious expansionism in the same manner of King Leopard, the founder of Democratic Republic of Congo, who masked in Christian religion to plunder Congo, killing more than 10 million Africans to cart away her resources and lay the foundation of the present day Western European country of Belgium.
The Fulani Jihadists were very organized. They replicated this in the Pre-Nigeria North and was fully in charge for sixty years before the Berlin Conference of 1864/65 gave the Queen and the British government the authority to own this part of the world which the girlfriend of Fredrick Lugard named ‘Nigeria’. Before the advent of the British in the Niger Area, there was already an established administrative machinery overseen by the representative of the Jihadists, the Sokoto Caliphate, for effective governance and taxation. Like I have traced the origin of other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. I am sure that the Fulani of Nigeria can still trace their origin to Southern Sudan like the Igbos, the Yorubas, and other Nigeria ethnic nationalities who came to Nigeria much earlier than the Fulani can trace their origin to various places. It was on the basis of administrative convenience, therefore, that the British government found it easy to institute their unique colonialist administrative structure of ‘divide and rule’ with the Caliphate as her supervisory agency.
Upon this discordant background, it can be said that Nigerias’ journey to nationhood actually started with the January 1966 military coup d’etat when Britain thought they had finished with Nigeria with the fake ‘Independence’ of 1960 and the suspicious attainment of a ‘Republic’ in 1963.
I shall prove as we proceed that this coup d’etat was betrayed, subversed, thwarted and misdirected by the same hegemonist forces that assembled the Middle Beltans and South Western support to prosecute the civil war as the Nigerian forces against the Biafra forces – the same hegemonist forces that still holds the country on its jugular in a ceaseless effort to strangulate her.
A similar experience of what Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu wanted for Nigeria was replicated in Ghana by Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings. His masterstroke succeeded at the last minute when he almost would have been set ablaze mid-air for shortage of aviation fuel in his air machine. He was timely assisted by other patriotic Ghanaian military personals, including a brave Ghanaian female military officer to re-take positions that were already lost to reactional elements who had almost foiled the operation.
In an interview he granted Orient Daily Newspaper, the octogenarian former Chief of Staff to General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Colonial Emmanuel Nworah Nwobosi, who was also a key actor in Nigerian first coup d’etat of 15th January 1966, said “Nigerians should be interested in what caused the January 1966 coup and the civil war and not just keep saying it is an Igbo Coup”
Col. Nwobosi asked his interviewer, “After 50 years (of civil war), how much backward has Nigeria moved?” He continued, “Different ethnic groups joined the first military coup. There were Igbo people, there were Hausa, Yoruba, Efik, among others.”
I have read many accounts – as many as have been published that I have been able to lay my hands on – of the Civil war and researched extensively on the civil war. I also experienced the civil war. As a boy in Biafra approaching the teenage age for ‘Boys Company’ (Youth Regiment of teenagers being prepared to be drafted to the war front), we were versatile in house camouflaging rudiments to distract attention from the incessant air raids. We also knew how to construct different layers of trenches as every household was advised by the Biafra government to have some ready within the compound to escape alive even if the buildings were pulverized, as happened very often.
Some of our age mates living close to the war area were taught how to do espionage and reconnaissance missions on enemy territories. We listened to the news always to keep abreast of the huge machinery of propaganda dished to us by Onwuzuruigbo Umezuruike and others under the Information Ministerial watch of Uche Chukwumerije. Though our family had enough to eat and even give out because my father’s servants were sent on ‘attack’ (‘attack’ was the Biafra slang for trading within enemy territories, and coming back with the Nigerian pounds which was more valuable than the Biafra currency that was stashed in salt bags).
I was very aware of the civil war as a boy that I cried my heart out when we lost my childhood mentor, Patrick Onyeizugbo in one of the battlefield massacres of the Biafran soldiers. In my research work on the civil war, I found out that the only two reasons for the reprisal coup of July, 1966 were:
Ethnic bad blood generated as a result of the partial success of the coup in Southern Nigeria as compared to the total success it recorded in Northern Nigeria.
Jealousy as a result of the Igbo factor. General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi who was the highest military officer and of Igbo extraction was invited by the coup plotters to take over the reins of government. Many up-coming young military officers in Nigeria at that time were of Igbo extraction.
It was because of these two reasons that the homogenous Northern officers (nothing like a homogenous North exists now), including officers from the Middle Belt and the indigenous Hausa officers joined forces with the highly favored and strategically placed Fulani officers, most of whom were sons of the oligarchs and others hand-picked by Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and drafted to the military services, to prosecute the civil war against Biafra for Nigeria, which to them, was an inherited property from the British government. We have heard several expressions of this feeling from some elders of Fulani ethnic nationality. Secondly, time has unveiled this mask of deceit because the chicken seems to have come to roost. The laid-down agenda of the oligarchs is becoming clearer by the day as more ethnic nationalities in Nigeria continue to experience exclusion from core issues of governance and access to the resources of the country.
(To be continued)
Abuchi Obiora can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org