The geographical space that is today called Nigeria, was once looked upon as a mere trade outpost on the lower Niger by her majesty’s monarchical government. The Royal Niger Company (RNC), a mercantile company chartered by the British empire to enable her establish control over the area was instrumental to the formation of Colonial Nigeria. The Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria formed in 1914 by the amalgamation of RNC-controlled territories of the Southern and Northern Protectorates was what morphed into the entity now referred to as the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1963.
When people argue that Nigeria as a nation was a still birth, they often point to the fact that imperial Britain lumped together many ethnic nationalities and mosaic cultural identities, speaking more than 250 different languages. Whereas one cannot totally dismiss the premise of that argument, the gospel truth is that Africa’s clay-footed giant would have had at least a modicum of chance to succeed had there been a consideration of her future at conception. But no, it was a union stitched together to advance a foreign economic interest and for administrative convenience.
It’s almost impossible to objectively look at all the wars, conflicts and strife engulfing the world today without tracing it back to the ugly underbelly of her majesty’s territorial conquests. From failed States in Africa to the hydra-headed Middle East conflict and to the uneasy relationship between India and her Muslim neighbour in Karachi.
I have always been fascinated by the complicated politics of the Middle East resulting in decades upon decades of unending war particularly between the nation of Israel and Palestinians. From the Camp David Accord to Oslo Declaration, successive United States administrations had attempted to mediate albeit unsuccessfully in this unending conflict. The war has become so intractable and its ramification so pervasive that it has churned out more deadly terror organisation than anyone can count.
The Jewish State of Israel came into existence in the year 1948. This was many years after 1917 when the British government in what was later known as the Balfour Declaration announced the support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. The area at the time was under the Ottoman Empire with only a small minority Jewish population and by far a majority Palestinians. Before then, the Jewish diaspora led by Theodore Herzl and later Chaim Weizmann had envisioned the establishment of a homeland for the children of Zion following many years of rising anti-Semitism in Europe.
The problem was not that the Jews came to be in a place they believe is a fulfillment of God’s promise to them. History thought us that no single religion or group can claim exclusive ownership of this land. This is why the city of Jerusalem harbours the holiest sites of three of the world’s biggest religions. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher which marks the spot where Jesus was crucified is one of the two holiest sites in Christianity. The Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism is regarded as the place where God’s divine presence is manifested more and where Jews turn towards during prayer.
For the Muslims, it’s the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam from where it was believed Mohammed was transported to the sacred Mosque in Mecca during the Night Journey. In fact, before the turn of century and at different periods in history both the Jews, Christians and Muslim have inhabited this space called Palestine. The problem was that the creation of the State of Israel by the British mandate saw to the massive displacement of Palestinians in a place their fathers and grandfathers lived for years and in some cases still hold title to the land. All of a sudden, these Arabs became strangers in their own land and refugees scattered all over the face of the earth. Herein lies the crux of the matter.
Suffice it to say that the then British Prime Minister Lloyd George’s declaration of support for the creation of Israel wasn’t borne out of love for the Jewish people. It was part of a war strategy that ultimately saw to the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and handed victory to the Allied Powers in the First World War. Whereas the Jews were lucky to have benefitted from the British intrigues, the Arabs on the other hand were seriously short-changed in the process till this day. The Israeli victory in the Yom-Kippur war and a slew of others continued to worsen the situation…a stateless Palestinian people yearning for a piece of their homeland. It’s hard to argue that there would be no conflict in the Middle East without the British. It is a known fact, however, that had she put a little more consideration outside of that which benefitted her imperialist ambition, things would have turned out at least a little better.
And so, the British problem was replicated far and wide. In Nigeria, the imperial government was successful in pitting one tribe against the other making it difficult for the young independent nation to achieve true statehood. It was clear that a prosperous and truly independent Nigeria is a threat to her Majesty’s dominion. In the horrible Biafra civil war that saw to the killing of estimated two million Igbos, Great Britain was a willing accomplice.
In Asia, the story was no different. The Kashmir conflict, another creation of the British during the partition for India, continues to consume lives between the two countries of India and Pakistan. The constant bickering between the two nuclear nation puts the world on edge and the area has become a terror hotspot.
And so, as you journey from east to west, north to south, you can’t fail but notice what unchecked greed, grave injustice, divide and rule, conquer and intimidate have cost humanity. One wonders if the International Court in Hague will ever listen to all these crime against humanity committed by her majesty’s government. The statute of limitation should not apply here.
•Dr. Agbo, a Public Affairs analyst is the coordinator of African Center for Transparency and Convener of Save Nigeria Project. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org