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The Last Straw (Part 1)

This column has commented so many times on the socio-political and economic ailments of Nigeria and considered different methods to apply the healing balm. In all the considerations of solutions to Nigeria’s problems, the option of going back to the drawing board has always appeared to be the best and appropriate measure to take.

I have said this much in sundry publications since the June 12 1993 election annulment when Nigerians were disenfranchised. One of these publications featured in the REFLECTION Column of the Guardian on Sunday of February 13, 1994 in a work titled “SOLVING NIGERIA’S POLITICAL EQUATION”.

In that work, I presented, as always, a case in favor of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC), which will give the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria an opportunity to decide, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, how they want to stay together.

Up till now, consecutive governments of Nigeria have dribbled Nigerians on this issue as they host jamborees in different forms of National Conferences, avoiding to hit the nail on the head.

Now, more than ever before, Nigeria is at the crossroad as the condition of Nigeria and Nigerians degenerate by the day.

The last straw that broke the camel’s back surfaced in the document of the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigerian, which is now in the public domain. I was shocked going through the document as I observed that the information therein leaves Nigeria with one and only one option to solve her socio-political and economic problems.

I was also frightened because the knowledge of the information by the elitist Nigerian politicians and public servants may be the reason for the intractability of corruption in a country whose tenor is in question.

This fear may explain their irresistible penchant to move straight on to mop-up the financial resources of Nigeria immediately they are sworn into office.

Shortly before the election that ushered in the Mohammadu Buhari’s Presidency in 2015, there was information said to have filtered out from one of the most effective intelligence organizations in the world that Nigeria as a corporate entity may disintegrate and cease to exist before the 2015 hand-over of power to a new government. So many things went through my mind when I read that information. But I was sure that the resilience of Nigeria, a well-endowed and blessed country described by the German Christian evangelist, Reinhadt Bonnke, as the trigger of the African gun that refuses to shoot out and manifest the glory of the African continent, will see her through as always.

Now, I understand that the information may have actually been the silent unvoiced position of ‘let-us-watch-and-see’ by the international community of what Nigerians can make out of their country in the face of an impending expiration of the tenor of the 1914 amalgamation treaty that bonded Nigeria together.

That information which was supplied from the rumor mills has been collaborated by the facts contained in the 1914 amalgamation document supervised by Lord Fredrick Luggard. In the document, part of which has been excerpted in this work, the corporate entity called Nigeria, which derived its existence from the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates of Niger areas, will expire (expired) in 2014. This is because the expiable (not permanent) entity called Nigeria, which was brought into existence by the 1914 amalgamation, had a 100-year tenor clause attached to it.

Six Nigerians signed the Amalgamation treaty. These personalities were:

1. HRH Maiturare, Sarkin Mussulumi, the Sultan of Sokoto.

2. Usman Dan Maje, who later became the Emir of Kano.

3. Sir Kitoyi Ajasa, a Lawyer.

4. HRH Oladigbolu, Alaafin of Oyo.

5. HRH R. Henshaw, the Obong of Calabar.

6. HRH Alhaji Abubakar, the Shehu of Bornu

Among the six Nigerians who signed the Amalgamation document, two were Fulani, two were Yorubas, one was Kanuri, and one was Efik.

Twenty-eight personalities attended the meeting, out of which the other 22 personalities present were British citizens. Most importantly, the 1914 amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates of the Niger area stipulated that after 100 years, (by 2014), both parties, the homogenous Northern Nigeria, and the homogenous Southern Nigeria, should re-convene, re-evaluate and determine if they still wanted to continue staying together, or path ways. In order words, the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates of the people living in the Niger area was an experiment which allowed either of the two parties to opt out, after a period of 100 years, if that party so desired.

The Amalgamation document was signed in Zungeru, a major train hub maintained by the colonial masters to cart away slaves, industrial fiber, agricultural produce, and other natural resources from Northern Nigeria to Lagos, Calabar, Warri, Koko and Port Harcourt sea ports and water ways.

Zungeru was also the capital of the British protectorate of Northern Nigeria between 1902 and 1916 while Calabar was the capital of the British protectorate of Southern Nigeria. This explains the presence of the Obong of Calabar in the meeting as the most important traditional ruler from the South.

What is not clear is, why were there was no representation from the Oba of Lagos, the sprawling city that headquartered the seat of government of the Colony of Lagos?

So, I assume that either the Oba sent Kitoyi Ajasa, a lawyer and a Lagosian from his Kingdom as his representative, or that Kitoyi Ajasa was invited by the colonial authorities as a Nigerian lawyer to stand on the stead of Nigeria’s legal representation in his capacity as a lawyer wherefore his fees were paid him thereafter.

The presence of the Olubadan in the meeting as a representative of the South West is also understandable because the Oni of Ife as the living ancestral father of the Oduduwa Kingdom was yet to assert his total authority over the Oduduwa kingdom in 1914.

The absence of a representative from the Igbo, one of the three major ethnic nationalities in Nigeria during the meeting is very obvious and unclear. One can only speculate that either the Igbos were not invited, or they declined the invitation to participate. It was also possible that the colonial authorities could have assumed that the presence of the Obong of Calabar covered the interest of the South East, especially as Nigeria had not yet recognized a geographical space called South-South in1914.

Another plausible reason that may be adduced for the presence of the Alaafin in the Meeting could be the fact that Alaafin is the primus inter pares amongst all the first class traditional rulers in Oyo, the oldest empire in that sub region where Ibadan, the political seat of the South Western Nigeria, is located.

This line of thought also goes for the presence of the Emir of Borno, representing another old empire in the Northern sub-regional part of Nigeria, the ancient empire of Kar’nem Bornu. These representations by His Royal Highnesses drawn from these parts of Nigeria shows that even the British recognized the different histories of the ethnic nationalities in the Niger area. The point I make here is that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. If the British had failed to recognized the presence of other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria because they did not know that the ethnic nationalities existed, I think a Sovereign National Conference in Nigeria should now recognize them.

My understanding from the above is that the manner, setting, terms, conditions and representations in the hushed amalgamation of 1914, with a name, Nigeria, given to her by Miss Florence Shaw, who was Fredrick Luggards’s girlfriend in an unblessed, immoral relationship, was the worst foundation any new country can have. Above all, this illicit background did not enlist the support of the vast majority of the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria.

I have said so many things before about the sandy foundation of Nigeria. The next question one will ask is: what is in a name? I believe any Nigerian Christian Pastor or Islamic Imam can supply an answer to this question in the villages, streets and cities of Nigeria.

In comparison with many countries, including the United States of America who worked hard to grow their union, Nigeria as a country has a dubious foundation that was arranged in total exclusion and independent constituting ethnic nationalities. Unlike Nigeria, America which formally came into existence by the auspices of American patriots and nationalists whose signatures as true representatives of their people can still be seen in the document, was launched with everybody’s knowledge and support on  July 4th, 1776.

The American document can be accessed by any American who desires to do that any day Nigerian government should emulate this by making the amalgamation document widely available to Nigerians in specific online sites that will serve as archives for accessing national treasure.

In America, other autonomous States who seeing the progress made joined the union to constitute the present 50 States while still maintaining its history, culture and tradition. Alaska and Hawai were the last States to join the union willingly and without duress in 1959. Previously in November 1907, January 1912, and February 1912, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona had joined the union respectively in that order.

In the light of the above explanations, the opinion expressed in this contribution to search for peace stability and progress of people living in the Niger area becomes tenable as Nigeria speeds dangerously towards the breaking point because of mutual suspicion amongst the constituting parts.

Before we get down to the gist of my opinion, let us quickly look at one incidental factor that have added impetus to the urgent need for the ultimate realization of the collective aspirations of Nigerians to be free from the neo-colonialist grip of the hegemonists.

We shall take an analysis of reason by examining the two National Anthems – Past and Present – of Nigeria, to buttress the critical issues that I have always held sacrosanct as the things to address in Nigeria, in order to solve the problems of under-development of the people living in the Niger area.

The first Stanzas of the two National Anthems are:

THE OLD:

“Nigeria, we hail thee….
Our own dear native land….
Though tribe and tongue may differ….
In brotherhood we stand….
Nigerians, we are all proud….
To serve our fatherland”

THE NEW:

“Arise, oh compatriots….
Nigeria’s call obey….
To serve our father land….
With love and strength and faith….
The labor of our heroes past….
Shall never be in vain….
To serve with heart and might….
One Nation, bound in freedom….
Peace and Unity”

The Independence, pre-civil war National Anthem acknowledges the diverse ethnic composition of Nigeria while the post-civil war ‘imposed’ National Anthem forces all Nigerians to accept Nigeria in her new status of a ‘victor and a vanquished’ people.  This, obviously, is in the spirit of the conquest of the Southern protectorate, of Niger area through war, rendering the 1914 amalgamation treaty useless and untenable. The truth is that the champions of hegemony of the Northern protectorate actually hid under the guise of “One Nigeria” to prosecute the civil war against the Southern protectorate who forcibly wanted to opt out of the amalgamation treaty before the expiry date of 2014.

…To be continued

ABUCHI OBIORA can be reached through abuchiobiora@gmail.com

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