Thursday, September 30, 2010
THE NIGERIAN EXPERIMENT AT FIFTY
Everyone and every country celebrate birthdays. It is an occasion that brings the life in question into full retrospect, creating an opportunity to question the essence of the actions, choices, outcomes and consequences upon which the celebrant's waking moments have been spent. If this be, Nigeria offers itself as a critic's cadaver this time in history.
I have seen pictures of the moments of joy and euphoria that welcomed the lowering of the Union Jack and the hosting of the Nigerian Flag. I have read some of the flowery and grandiose speeches that heralded the birth of Nigeria. I have also followed closely as Nigeria crawled into statehood but refused to stride into its potential as the Giant of Africa, choosing to remain a toddler in all spheres of development after fifty arduous years . I have participated in the trials and tribulations of Nigeria, experiencing my own unfair share of disappointment, indignation and sometimes; annoyance at the state of Nigeria. I have had cause to question God's fairness in his decision to send to planet earth via Island Maternity Hospital in Lagos Island instead of John Hopkins! I am sure I am not the only one. Many an Andrew actioned their lethargy at the Nigerian Experiment and bade good bye to our land. They chose to give up on the "Nigerian Experiment". Yes, I know you are wondering why I keep using the cliche.
I remember my chemistry laboratory very well although it was a waste of time! I had already decided on my bouquet of ordinary level subjects in class two. I recall the experiments with all kinds of chemicals, reagents and powders. I remember my first titration class and my inability to control the pipette. Every chemist knows that if you cannot control the pipette, your experiment is doomed due to your failure to control the volume of whatever liquid you had in the pipette. I was not the only one who could not get it right in my chemistry laboratory. We all got varying degrees of success and ended up with different results. To save face, we all gave our solutions (the results of our individual and collective ineptitude) various names. We invented funky names for our failures and felt good with ourselves. I coined the term "demolution" for my inadvertent solution while someone called his own.................wait for it......Nigeria.
Nigeria is a British experiment that poured different ethnic groups into a fictitious entity, attempted to use different versions of legalisms (constitutions) to forge (yoke really) them together. The aim was to cover their failure at herding and governing black nations who had varying degrees of sophistication and organisation in ruling themselves so they lumped them together under on phony geographical entity and awarded independence. Every student of Nigerian history knows that some parts of Nigeria had been independent and had highly developed political institutions before the white man came.
It was clear as at 1957 that Nigeria was an experiment in the making. We had mostly regional leaders and no national leader. Our intellectuals who were vying for national positions all named themselves as the leaders of their ethnic nations: Saurdauna, Zik and Awo. They were all reagents trying to dominate the same solution. Other ethnic nationalities in the same experiment just kept quiet and waited for a time when constant temperature and pressure would create a deafening explosion but I rest that for now. Lest I forget, even the name Nigeria was not original and neither was Miss Shaw! You already had a Niger Republic and you sleepily affix "ia" to it and proclaim to your beau that you had solved his insomnia. It is clear to me that some of the problems we face fifty years on were clearly evident in the pangs of parturition that brought forth Nigeria. It was a political experiment, given a random name and pushed on her merry jolly way.
As at 1960, we had huge gulfs in mind-set, expectations, goals and sensibilities. The opiate tendencies of Independence kept us going while different regions kept their separate agendas to themselves and as oil had boosted our confidence, we lapped up the goodwill of the international community and deluded ourselves: All Was Well! It took the coup of 1966 to let jolt everyone to the reality of different reagents and combustible elements occupying space and time in the same test tube. Form that fateful day in 1966, every single decision and action of the Nigeria government has been tainted with the poison of ethnicity. Subsequent military coups followed this pattern of wrestling power from one party and giving it to another party in the experiment. Even when the coup plotters had no such intentions, the public foisted these insinuations on their actions. This military experiments continued until we finally brought another element with the military DNA (Obasanjo) to power in 1999 too see if he could catalyse the development of a homogeneous Nigeria and create a stable solution. We also introduced a coagulant: Peoples Democratic Party. The attendant explosion will be examined tomorrow.