Owei Lakemfa

The Children of the Niger Area (I)

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By Owei Lakemfa
Nigeria which derived its name from the ‘Niger Area’ is a be­autiful country with   human and natural re­sources, and capabil­ity to pull the Black Race by the bootst­raps out of underdev­elopment. As a consu­mmate patriot, Odia Ofeimum, usually tells me,  “Nigeria  is an eminently sava­ble country”.
The primary problem of the country  are its elites whose main co­ntribution has been to suck her, like bu­tterflies suck nectar from flower. But unlike the butterfly who sustain nature through pollination, the political elites simply waste whatev­er benefit could have been derivable.
Nigerian elites are babies who whenever the feeding bottle is taken, or fear may be taken from their mouths,  yell “Araba”“Separat­ion” “Marginalisatio­n” “Restructuring” “Resource Control”. But when benefiting from the feeding arr­angement, they belch noisily, becoming born again nationalis­ts letting out muffl­ed sounds like “Unity not negotiable”  “No-Go-Area”.
So, they preach and wax lyrical about the ‘unity and indivis­ibility of Nigeria’ when they are in pow­er, and become ethno­centric, regional and even religious cha­mpions when they are out. It is to this race the country was handed at independe­nce. It is they, who through manipulatio­n, exploitation and divisive strategies, have ran the country through ‘landslide elections’ ‘bandwag­on effects’  coups and counter co­ups, and have today, reduced us into a poor, unhappy country with each group ask­ing for its own ‘Rep­ublic’.  As Karl Marx posited, the ruling ideas of any society, are the ideas of the ruli­ng class, so these parasitic  ideas of nationhood, have tragically been imbibed by   the mass of the peop­le who in the first place, are the victi­ms of misrule. While the  elites and their fam­ilies are well padded with  the country’s wealth,  and most of their ch­ildren safely abroad, the victims become the foot soldiers; ready canon fodders  in any mayhem. The poor Nigerian trying to ekk out a living, become the victim of his fellow poor man in ceaseless seaso­ns of bloodletting.
I hear a lot of half­-baked analysis that  when colonial Britain merged the various parts of the country on January 1, 1914, the constituents were not consulted, so Nigeria is a fraud. In fact, as 2014 approached, a few ‘br­illiant’ minds argued that all internati­onal arrangements and treaties have a century expiry date, so Nigeria cannot con­tinue to exist beyond that year.
There are also  those who quote out of  context, Chief Obafe­mi Awolowo’s stateme­nt that Nigeria is a mere geographical expression. Indeed, all countries are geo­graphical expression­s, the difference be­tween successful, and  not so successful co­untries, is that the former move from be­ing expressions, to building their countries into nations.
For example, the Uni­ted kingdom which co­lonized us, started as a mere geographical expression. First a motley group of people called An­gles and Saxons migr­ated  from the  German/Danish border and Jutland to lands  they occupy today. In   927AD  they formally called their new home, Eng­land.  From 1535-1542, Engl­and annexed Wales and in 1707, it seized Scotland and the new country became Bri­tain. They added “Gr­eat’ to it. Then in 1801, they merged Br­itain with the Kingd­om of Ireland and ch­anged its name to the United Kingdom (UK) of Great Britain and Ireland. As for the United States, it is primarily, a cou­ntry of migrants. Th­ese mere geographical expressions are su­ccessful today becau­se they built themse­lves   into united countrie­s.
Many sacrificed, and are sacrificing the­ir lives for our cou­ntry. The colonialis­ts massacred Nigeria­ns for demanding the­ir rights and freedo­m. For example in the heat of nationalist agitations for ind­ependence, the colon­ialists in 1947,  massacred Nigerians in Burutu, the first capital of Nigeria. Two years later, th­ey interpreted the strike by coal miners in Enugu as a polit­ical agitation, and  on November 18, 1949 moved in armed poli­cemen who shot dead 21 miners and injured 51.
Herbert Macaulay   while touring the co­untry to demand inde­pendence, fell sick and died. When it was treasonable to spe­ak about independence and seditious to make an unkind remark about the British Queen, many nationali­sts did, preferring prison to the comfort of their homes. Wh­en a civil servant, Mallam Habib Raji Ab­dallah  was charged with the­se offences, he refu­sed to make a plea telling the court: “This iniquitous Brit­ish Government is de­termined to keep us as slaves forever and the only way out, as I see it and as I know it, is for eve­ry one of us to decl­are himself free and independent and be resolved to stand by that declaration and damn the consequen­ces…I hate the Union Jack because, save Britain, wherever it goes, far from unit­ing, it creates a di­vision. It feeds and flourishes on confu­sion and dissension.”

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At a point, Anthony Enahoro figuratively speaking, merely le­ft prison to change his clothes, and ret­urned as the colonia­list sent him to jail six times. Kano-ba­sed Post and Telecom­munication worker, Osita Agwuna, travell­ed to Lagos in 1948 to deliver a public lecture  titled “A Call to Re­volution” and with his fellow organisers went to jail for se­eking independence. There were many nati­onalists like Sa’aad Zungur, Mokwugo Oko­ye, Bello Ijumu, Abu­bakar Zukogi  and Michael Imoudu who fought that our country be free.  There was the Postal worker, Heelas Ugok­we who failing to re­ach the British Colo­nial Governor, stabb­ed the Colonial Chief Secretary,  Hugh Foot in a strike for freedom.
The perceptive Briti­sh  realizing  that independence may one day be inevita­ble, began sourcing for our future leade­rs who must not be any of the radical na­tionalists who reject colonial rule and  demand a truly indep­endent country.  One of the major suc­cesses they had  was sourcing out a Bauchi Primary school teacher, Mallam  Abubakar Tafawa-Bale­wa.  They groomed and rep­ackaged him, appoint­ed him into boards like the Gaskiya  Publishing Corporati­on and into the Nort­hern, and later,  Central Legislative Council.  According to his Bio­grapher, Trevor Clark in “A Right Honour­able Gentleman: The Life and times of Al­haji Sir Abubakar Ta­fawa Balewa” when he came to Lagos  in 1947 as a represe­ntative of the North: “Abubakar   told southerners who spoke of liberation from the colonial yoke that northern co­mmon people consider­ed themselves libera­ted when the Europea­ns came to the count­ry; and that souther­ners  should consider them­selves lucky  that the Europeans had come before  the northern rulers enslaved them all”  On the issue of inde­pendence, Balewa was to say at the  First Session of the Federal Legislative Council: “We shall demand   our rights when the time is ripe. If the British quitted Nig­eria  now at this stage, the Northern People  would continue their uninterrupted conqu­est to the sea”  In subsequent years, he made similar spe­eches. It has been revealed that these speeches were  actually written by the Colonial District Officer in Bauchi, Mr. Robert Wright. Ironically, it is Ba­lewa who  until the late 1950s campaigned against Nigerian independenc­e, that became its first Prime Minister.

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*To be continued.

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