Nigeria through the years: 54 years of what?

The political history of Nigeria can be divided into three- pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial phases, all of which have had manifestations that define the current state of the country. According to Thomas Hodgkin, the Nigerian past has many pasts, not one. This means Nigeria is a conglomeration of diverse histories, civilizations, cultures of peoples and ethnic groups that had their distinct political systems, commonly constitutional monarchy, say Yoruba of present Southwest, theocratic absolute monarchy, say Hausa/Fulani in the present Northern Nigeria or acephalous republicanism as in the case of Igbo in the present Southeast Nigeria. However, a defining feature of collective history of several groups of which Nigeria is constituted is that their pasts were linked through trade, myths of origin, for instance Yoruba and Edo, trade and religion. Thus, slur is cast on the notion that several groups that constitute Nigeria can never and should never live together.

Although, the place now known as Nigeria had contacted Europe since the 15th century, the 1914 amalgamation of Southern and Northern Nigeria by Britain marked the formal colonial administration of Nigeria as a single, some say contrived, geopolitical entity. Having gone through four colonial constitutions – Clifford constitution of 1922 which introduced limited elective principle; the 1946 Richards constitution which brought regional consciousness into Nigeria politics having divided Nigeria into three regions of North, West and East along the lines of major ethnic groups- Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo respectively; the Macpherson constitution of 1951 credited for allowing wide participation of Nigerians during its draft processes; and the 1954 Littleton
constitution which effectively made Nigeria a federal system, amidst nationalist activities  spearheaded by political parties as well as trade unions, given impetus by such international circumstances as World War 11, Pan African Conference as well as the August 1941 Atlantic Charter and involving organized violent resistance against initial colonial occupation (Okoye, 1983), including Satiru rebellion in Sokoto (1905), the Iseyin uprising (1916), Adubi uprising (1918) and Aba women riot 1929), Nigeria attained independence on October 1, 1960 but retained the Queen of England as head of state, thus making the country a commonwealth realm and monarchical parliamentary. That was to change on October 1, 1963 as the country became a republic. The three regions became internally self-governing separately. Eastern and Western regions attained self-government in 1957 while Northern region had its in 1959.

54 years after, Nigeria’s story has been that of disappointment and unceasing
presentation of tragedy of underdevelopment, as she remains a social construct defined by its failures. We have experimented with different National Development Plans, yet national prosperity remains unobtainable; constitutions but rule of law and constitutionalism would just not be features of a democratic Nigeria; and four republics, still we continue to show civil rule is an invitation to military rule as it promotes anarchy, misuse of power and corruption.

With our paradox of emptiness in the midst of fullness and lack in spite of plenty, we have confirmed the Modernisation school’s hypothesis that natural resources is after all not essential determinant of development, but effective governance, investment in schooling, R and D, economic infrastructures and innovations.

Nigeria and Nigerians have had the misfortune of being led by dregs, rogues, thieves who suffer(ed) from incurable poverty of how to raise capacities to harness our resources, address our challenges and embark on transformational task like Kuan Yew Lee in Singapore and a host of others in that region. Regrettably, countries of South east Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore, China and others like Brazil and UAE within the Southern hemisphere of the earth where on the same pedestal of development with Nigeria, as Third World poor economies, decades ago. But today, these countries have not climbed up development platform, developed develop their capacities over the years to rival the West in terms of income and development but also they now set their sights on becoming the globe’s next economic powers. Singapore’s progress is most magical: miniscule population (now 5.3 million people), no natural resources, no industrial capitalists at independence, with national trauma of being ejected from the Federation of Malaysia in I965, yet  it has some of the most efficient infrastructures in the world and has indeed become truly developed by all standards. What has become of Nigeria and Nigerians with all resources of these world under our feet?  Theft apparatus. Towering disgrace to every right thinking and decent Nigerian. Hunger, poverty, violence, impunity, inefficiency.

Now, Whereas, Nigeria’s raison d’état, that is essence and primary purpose, is the security and welfare of citizens following principle of democracy and social justice, as guaranteed by the Chapter 11, Section 14 (Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy) of our constitution, years of failed government has ripened into chaos, terrorism, kidnapping and general insecurity. In terms of human development and citizens‟ welfare, the state‟s role is limited to perfunctory provision of education and healthcare while showing increased inability to help the vast majority that face poverty, hunger and unemployment. The point here is that, in the absence of social security and safety packages, the inevitable inequalities of societal existence and capitalism has sunk majority of Nigerians beneath basic necessities of life, thereby constraining them from being productive and useful to the economy. The absence of social security measures and generally low commitment to citizens‟ welfare also affect psycho-political perception of the Nigeria state by citizens who do not have the psychological fulfilment that they have a responsive and responsible state and in turn the average Nigerian citizen hardly feels obliged to make any sacrifice for and contribution to the country. Consequently, the state is, ‟alienatory and basically an illegitimate construct in the reckoning of most Nigerians” (Mimiko, 2010 pp. 49) and as such, it is incapable of eliciting from the Nigerian people neither affective nor normative support (Macridis and Berg, 1991 cited in Mimiko, 2010 pp. 49).

The devastating and severe crisis the country faces in its economic, political and social development can not be divorced from the fundamental problem of pandemic corruption. Thus, as corruption has become the defining variable in the determination of who gets what, when and how and allocation of resources in Nigeria, it is indeed the major explanation for the seemingly insolvable problem of poverty, diseases, hunger, unemployment, poor infrastructures and general acute development tragedy in the country. Since 1960, corruption has been a characteristic feature of Nigeria state. From its mild manifestations in the 1960s, corruption has grown ubiquitously and rapidly to become the characteristic feature of Nigerian state. Corruption, in the course of 54 years, has become normative, official and effectively a key principle of state affairs.

The tragedy of Nigeria is not that the knowledge of disaster which the country has become is lost on Nigerians and the government but it is that the hope of coming out of the tragedy languorously ceases to be lustrous everyday. Under PDP, Nigeria will continue to be a clay-footed giant that can never realise her potentials. The opposition operates like organised crime syndicate. The youths are supporters of those whose atrocities have brought us here. Journalism is an appendage of one establishment or the other, while the civil society is not so different.

But we must still keep the hope alive; hope is what is left when every other thing is lost. However, we never must make the mistake that the present political class will cause the change. They hardly can destroy a structure that sustains their mad accumulation of wealth at the expense of public welfare and development. It, therefore, is about people who have appreciated our challenges, truthfully dare for a New Nigeria to embark on orientation of new values and right civic culture that frowns on corruption and sharp practices; that demands transparency and accountability; and that would elect based on performance and credibility and not identity sentiments. Let us keep speaking to our people to have mind revolution as requirement for societal revolution. Perhaps, through this way, a new leadership, that is transformative in agenda, egalitarian in orientation and nationalistic in scope  can emerge.

Adebayo Taiwo Hassan-Justice.

Hassan Adebayo


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