Nigeria – with 160 Million people, 250 different tribal tongues and a landmass of 1 million square kilometers (600,000.00 square miles) – is a diverse country with competing customs, cultures and histories amongst its citizens. Formally united in 1914 it was one of the many colonies around the globe that made a truism of the word, “The sun never sets on the United Kingdom”. The continent of Africa was colonized under the Livingstone mantra, ”Christianity, Commerce, Civilization”, (note the order.)
Nigeria was a construct to formally advance the enlightened self-interest of Great Britain. No doubt the UK has brought many great things to the continent of Africa but one of the negatives as far as I can see is the “slave mentality” in leadership. The hallmarks are easily identifiable. At its highest levels we see myopic, short term self-interest, with the associated problems of corruption, tribalism, and nepotism.
“Big fish chop little fish” is well understood by those with their hands on the mechanisms of control, and as soldiers who give orders understand they in turn bend low to do the bidding of external masters and influencers. Hence I’m sad to say when ever I see good, (proliferation of computer and mobile telephony technology) or bad (civil war or intercine activity) I ask myself the question, “in whose interest does this action or intervention serve?”
It has not always been this way. I used to have a romantic view of humanity and that in essence the base instincts of man (generic sense) operated under “utilitarian ethics” and wanted to do things to serve the common good. I suspect though that the seeds of doubt where sown for me as a young boy when I got caught up in the Biafran war, albeit that I was living in the UK some 3,000 miles away.
People 50 years old or more may remember first hand the pictures the western world saw of mass famine and starvation on British TV as the Igbo victims of the bloody civil war in Nigeria 1967-70 were displayed in our living rooms through the television news broadcasts. The Pogroms (ethnic cleansing) in the north in ‘66/67’ were the antecedents to Lt Col Ojukwu declaring the eastern states of Nigeria the “Biafra Republic” in an attempt to protect the Igbos and provide a safe and secure homeland.
At the end of the war when the Igbos were forced to surrender to Nigeria due to the ravages of famine, brought on by a blockade, the declaration of “No Victor No Vanquished” seemed quiet hollow to those in the eastern part of the country. Nigeria sits in an uneasy federal relationship, where divide and rule (as learned through their colonial origins) has been the order of the day. The three states at Independence 1st October 1960, today are carved up into 36 states, and the five south eastern states have cried marginalization on a regular basis as they lose out in the fight for a slice of resources from the national cake.
When I hear that Muslims in Nigeria are slaughtering Christians my mind involuntarily conjures up memories of the Hausa/Fulani northern hegemony, purging the land of its Igbo visitors in the background of “enlightened self-interest.”
Nigeria is an oil producing country and the majority of this ‘black gold’ is situated in the south east peninsula. Nigeria is the 6th largest exporter of oil in the world. According to Wikipedia:
“Nigeria has a maximum production capacity of 3 million barrels per day. In 2006, Nigeria averaged approximately 2.45 million barrels per day of production.”
Oil has been at the center of many disputes worldwide for most of the 20th century but in this century in the last couple of years we have seen Western interested oil related conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan; is this now going to be the case in Nigeria?
See my conclusions in Part Two of this article.