“Not everything past is simply nostalgia.”
~ Ibraheem A. Waziri
In an interaction with The Governor of Kaduna State Malam Nasiru Elrufai, he asked, “Was Nigeria designed to fail?”. And I answered in the affirmative stating how the two sections of the country were initially kept separated from each other consciously, considering stark differences in almost everything. But later by virtue of economic considerations and administrative efficiency were welded together in an unconsensual manner.
For context, Amalgamation was first discussed in 1898 by the Selborne committee. The committee suggested that amalgamation should be a goal achievement of which should be an aim for the nearest future. The committee cited reasons for not pursuing the goal with immediacy major among which was the fact that merging the two sections into one would produce a very huge territory which did not have the necessary communication and transportation infrastructure to make possible efficient administration from a center. The committee then suggested that there should be two protectorates(Northern and Southern) which would be administered separately until some of the impediments get curtailed. 16 years after, in 1914, an amalgam called Nigeria was born.
However, having submitted that we were indeed designed to fail, we had the the opportunity of mending this design and transforming it into something that could work between the periods of 1951 to 1966. At least within this period, we had a time where Nigeria was indeed a “federalism” characterized by tri-regional federating units.
Within the period, all other regions were biased towards expedient Nigerianization and ‘forgetting of our differences’ except the North which stood for ‘Understanding of our differences instead of forgetting them’, ‘autonomy of our cultural spaces’ and ‘inward reflection in leveraging of our various advantages to mend our disadvantages’ while we meet at the center to pursue a national front. We had a philosophy in the North; one stepped-down to us by the ‘embodiment of the soul of the North and all what it stands for’ – Sardauna, which could be deciphered from the famous “Nigeria qasa daya ce, amma kowa yasan gidan ubansa” slogan.
Their leaders were tagged as “progressives” and “nationalist” and the likes of Sardauna were said to be just ‘reactionary’, ‘regionalists’ they say!
They fought our philosophy in 1953 when they suggested self-rule by 1956 and we declined on the bases that ‘self-government would mean government by southerners unless postponed until the north ‘caught up’ in education, training and political expertise, and freed itself from southern control of its bureaucracy, commerce and transportation system’ as reported by Larry Diamond. This was a region which within that period constituted less than 10% of the nation’s primary school enrollments, less than 5% of secondary school enrollment and in 1960 accounted for only 57 students out of more than 1000 students studying at the University College Ibadan. Why insist even with such glaring disadvantages that needed correction?
They finally killed and buried our philosophy of governance for Nigeria in 1966. We did not have time to fully experiment our proposed make-up and that, I think is still the missing link.
I always wonder, people like Awolowo and Azikwe, “The Progressives” were never after Nigerianization for Nigerianization sake, we all know it was a scheme towards systematic domination especially through the central bureaucratic structure. They had both at one time or the other voiced out how they truly felt either about the make up of Nigeria or their tribes. They all were “Regionalists” but not in the same way Sardauna was. While Sardauna advocated for looking inward, they prioritized looking outward for where to strike considering their comparative advantage. While Sardauna was never equivocal about our differences and the need to understand them, they were mostly found talking about expedited national integration and the forgetting of differences except in few cases where they made statements that defined them;
For example, Awo once said “NIGERIA IS NOT A NATION; IT IS A MERE GEOGRAPHIC EXPRESSION. THERE ARE NO ‘NIGERIANS’ IN THE SAME SENSE AS THERE ARE ENGLISH or WELSH or FRENCH. THE WORD NIGERIA IS MERELY A DISTINCTIVE APPELLATION TO DISTINGUISH THOSE WHO LIVE WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF NIGERIA FROM THOSE WHO DO NOT.”
And ZIK once said “THE GOD OF AFRICA HAS SPECIALLY CREATED THE IGBO NATION TO LEAD THE CHILDREN OF AFRICA FROM THE BONDAGE OF THE AGES”.
The question about the legitimacy of Nigeria’s ‘artificial’ make-up have rejuvenated yet again with agitation for restructuring mostly coming from the Eastern and Western axis of the country. One could decipher how passionate these regions are in this regard from their representatives’ recent submissions on the subject matter most recently in the Daily Trust Dialogue on Restructuring where Chief Nwodo of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Chief Adenanjo of the Afenifere unequivocally spoke in favour of exigent restructuring of the country’s polity and economy.
We are also currently suffering from a very harsh experience where stereotyping of a particular ethnic group from the North because of crimes which have no ethnic monopoly has led to killings of innocent members of that ethnic group and even others that are historically associated with them in more than one incidences and quarters. All these are pointers towards the need for national reassessment, realignment and restructuring.
The situation however is quite interesting as we are experiencing today a cross-inheritance of ideology, where descendants of Chiefs Azikwe and Awolowo are now the proponents of Sardauna’s preferred system of governance while descendants of Sardauna are now skeptical of his most preferred ways in governance and are more comfortable with the product of the unitary system that was ushered sequel to 15th January 1966 and Decree 34 of Ironsi’s military administration.
It keeps me wondering, “what are we afraid of(The North) and why the sudden agitation(The South)?”
The missing link is “Sardauna”; his dream of a system that would guarantee “‘Understanding of our differences instead of forgetting them’, ‘autonomy of our cultural spaces’ and ‘inward reflection in leveraging of our various advantages to mend our disadvantages’ while we meet at the center to pursue a national front.”. It turns out Sardauna’s at the time was “pragmatism” and not “reactionism”, it was indeed “nationalism”! And in “Sardaunaism”, we might find our answer.
Abdulhaleem Ishaq Ringim is a political and public affairs analyst, he writes from Zaria and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org