Nigeria 71

I was going to entitle this blog post “The Trouble With Nigeria”, but that would require a book not a blog. Probably several volumes.

I spent four years of my life in Nigeria, and one reason I seldom blog about it is that I do not wish to upset my many Nigerian friends, who tend to find my views unpalatable (and it is their country, not mine).

It is only in recent years that I have come to the view that so many of the problems of the world come from colonial boundaries. If the 20th century was The Age of the Nation State – and I think that characterisation has merit – then so many of those nation states, arguably the majority, are defined by frontiers imposed by colonial outsiders. Often the ethnic and social ties of the inhabitants were among the least important factors in the minds of the colonialists carving up maps.

But the extraordinary thing is the way that entirely artificial national boudaries work, in the sense of creating national loyalties. Ethnic Ewes view themselves as first or foremost Ghanaian or Togolese, and indeed speak different official languages from their cousins in the next village. The creation of independent nations in Central Asia from deliberately unworkable borders (a power ploy by Stalin) is sufficiently recent for the genuine taking hold of strong national loyalties, cutting across ethnicity and geography, to be able to have been closely studied – the work of Olivier Roy is fascinating.

The title of The Catholic Orangemen of Togo takes an amusing example of the distortion on peoples of colonial legacy in Africa, but the book considers much more serious ones.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, and the hostage killings today result directly from tensions arising from Nigeria’s entirely artificial colonial borders. This is going to upset my Nigerian friends, but unfortunately the forcing together by the British of the Sultanate of Sokoto, Emirate of Kano, half of the territories of the Lamido of Adamawa etc with the Kingdom of Benin, and the Yoruba confederation, with the Ibo and other chieftaincies and at least sixty other ethnicities, was always an extraordinary and perilous construct.

I described the government of Nigeria in The Catholic Orangemen as a simple pump, by which military controlled governments dominated by Northern generals moved cash relentlessly and only northwards, from the populous and productive South to the comparatively empty and barren North. The demands of “Democracy” required a whole history of ludicrously false censuses and electoral registers to negate the obvious truth, that the South is vastly, vastly more populous than the North.

Two southern Presidents in a row – Obasanjo and Jonathan – have reduced the permanent flow of money northwards. Not stopped, but reduced. Most of that wealth anyway ended up in London or Geneva, but it did have some social spread in the Northern populations. That has also reduced, and that is why the violence by Northern based terrorist groups has increased. It has nothing to do with Al Qaida, despite the nonsense on our television screens.

I have not here discussed the terrible effect of oil in promoting the World’s worst corruption, or the currency overvaluation that destroyed a once great agricultural economy. I have not discussed the resulting urban flight, despair and poverty, or the corrosive effect of a totally corrupt elite in encouraging a whole urban society to view fraud as the normal means of transaction. I have not covered the dignity of the remaining rural population, the despoilation of the oil areas, or the greater social cohesion of Northern society. You can learn a little on each in The Catholic Orangemen (the purchase button on the right is working again). Chinua Achebe remains indispensable to understanding.

I am dreadfully sorry for the dead construction workers, British and Italian. But the heart of the matter is a false colonial national construct.

My Nigerian friends are proud of their country, but I am afraid to say Nigeria’s existence a a single entity is a great British error.

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71 thoughts on “Nigeria

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  • nevermind

    MSM issues, nothing but MSM issues. No doubt a few quick articles will sufice to keep the buggers chatting to each other whilst I’m going to see some original Indian nighlife.

    Any news as to when that PE article on A Werritty will appear?

  • Chris Louis

    I am a proud Nigerian and we are so unhappy what has become of that country.
    However, let me thank you so much that we still have people like you and F. Forsythe who knew how Britain, our so called colonial masters in the years past and still have continued to ensure that that entity called Nigeria does not progress.
    Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and so many current and ex government officials are always in Nigeria for one business or the other.
    Britain created a situation where the Northern Nigeria not only feel that they are more populated than Southern Nigeria, but that the rulership of the country belonged to them.
    Remember, the first census as well as the first election in the country were rigged in favour of the Northerns by the so called colonial masters.
    Since then, this has been the problem of the country.

  • havantaclu

    ‘It is only in recent years that I have come to the view that so many of the problems of the world come from colonial boundaries.’
    Only in recent years, Craig? It’s been clear to many geographers for the last fifty years or more. You just have to look at straight-line boundaries cutting across the topography, ethnography, economy … They were never meant to be anything but a means of control – and now that is still what they are doing, as a new nationalism takes them for granted.
    What could be done about it is another question – we can’t reverse history. And it’s the people on the ground now who must count – they’re the ones whose opinions must prevail.

  • Mary

    The employers of the unfortunate Briton and Italian. Many changes in the boardroom!
    Were any ransoms demanded? There seems to have been complete media silence from the beginning and not even the Italian government were told of the botched rescue attempt until it had started. Wonder what part Boy Hague played in all of this. Trying to acquire a macho image perhaps.
    9 March 2012
    Nigeria deaths: Italian anger at UK over rescue bid
    The family of Chris McManus said they were devastated by his death
    Italian politicians have complained that David Cameron did not consult Italy before approving a failed bid to rescue a Briton and Italian in Nigeria.

    Corera again on the old Alki Ada theme – ‘believe..’ ‘a suspicion..’ ‘may have also been..’ ‘may be closer..’ All conjecture and spin as usual.

    Gordon Corera

    Security correspondent, BBC News

    British officials believe a splinter group of Boko Haram was involved in the kidnapping. Boko Haram has become more violent and capable in recent years and there is a suspicion that this may be a sign of the growing influence of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [North Africa].
    The splinter cell involved may be closer to al-Qaeda’s ideology and methodology than Boko Haram as a whole. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb also has a track record in kidnapping westerners in north Africa and trying to extract ransom payments to fund their violent activities which may also have been the case in Nigeria.
    So far Boko Haram’s activities have not spilled out of Nigeria, but this incident will raise concerns for the future.

  • Anon

    “Colonial boundaries” = Divide and Rule. The effects linger on.

    “It has nothing to do with Al Qaida, despite the nonsense on our television screens… I have not here discussed the terrible effect of oil…”

    Oil? Then Al Qaida is likely to be imported (compare Iraq, Libya, Syria), and then the TV News will look like it was right from the beginning.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    “but I am afraid to say Nigeria’s existence a a single entity is a great British error.”
    And not the only one. Drawing borders of a state thousands miles away without taking into account cultural, religious, ethnic, socio-economic factors has led to many post-colonial bloodshed and I afraid to say will lead to much more.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Most probably it has been done on purpose. Drawing border in such way as to seed potential conflicts in the future, so that new nations are not consolidated but involved in a conflict, so that it is easier to apply Divide and Rule doctrine. This is what certainly was done by Soviets in Central Asia and Caucasus.
    It is most likely that it was certainly something that was done by British in South Asia and Africa.

  • kingfelix

    Uzbek, you miss my point, but fair enough. (And ‘natural’ was supposed to be ‘national’, maybe that’s why)

  • Mary

    O/T ‘You can’t touch me. I’m an MP.’ That was Eric Joyce to the police. Sums up the mindset of MPs that they think they are special.
    BREAKING NEWS:MP Eric Joyce given a community order for 12 months, and is banned from any bar for three months
    Any one of us would probably have gone to prison for doing what he did. Why the special treatment from Westminster Magistrates’ Court? Joyce is not leaving the Commons until 2015 so he picks up three more years’ salary and then goes off with the usual leaving allowance.

  • Fedup

    Davy boy was trying to act tough, after all it was not this arse on the line, so now that the whole affair has gone south, it is time to start shouting; Al Qaeda, was Al Qaeda there, Al Qaeda getting Al Qaeda ready, Al Qaeda to Al Qaeda over Al Qaeda……..
    Fact that Italians have been left in the dark is an indication of such an ambition. Evidently Emily Bliar has set the bar for “commander in chief”.

  • CanSpeccy

    I’d say you were fucking the English again, except you said on the last thread you implied a preference for foreign women.

    But what’s wrong with straight-line borders that ignore ethnic boundaries? You’re all for mass immigration of other ethnicities to Britain, so what’s the problem with mixing ethnicities in Africa?

    Your ideas about nationalism and race seem entirely confused, or do you deliberately maintain a double standard?

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ Craig,
    The revolutionary leader from Grenada, Maurice Bishop, wrote about what he termed “flag independence”. His choice of phrase should be sufficiently graphic and self-explanatory. However, lest it is not, one can weigh the main post-colonial forces governing our world and leading to the types of problems one finds in the Caribbean, Nigeria and indeed most former colonies. Starting in the West Indies, one finds an answer to the question – where did the wealth come from and where did it end up:-
    The truth of Beckford’s capital accumulation is in a more academic sense detailed in “Capitalism and Slavery” by Eric Williams.
    Africa finds itself as the alpha point of colonial exploitation, and all that you say about the corruptive forces of Nigerian oil and its boundary, ethnic ( read: tribal), religious problems ( even if in a general sense you implied them – are true). While moving towards omega, the process of corruption certainly does not assist in resolution of the other problems – boundary, ethnic ( read: tribal), religious.
    I once met someone who worked with a large American oil company operating in Nigeria. She had an official job as a geologist, but she explained that her “work” also had another element. The nature of the business was that unless certain sums were paid to certain political interests on a regular basis, then the business could not operate smoothly. She mentioned certain offshore discoveries of oil, but explained that her bosses took a particular approach, for as the bribe money increased so did the end production costs ( i.e. the sums paid out were so staggering that the payments hit the entire production costs).
    On the other side of the Atlantic, the “flag independence” nations of the Caribbean found either balanced budgets or a miniscule surplus once the Union Jack came down on independence day. The next step was loans from the IMF and World Bank, dictate in terms of the “Washington Agenda”, and to this day the system of confinement within the “debt trap” has not seen the islands really actualise their true potential for their peoples’ welfare. This might better explain:-
    The powers that be are not designed to assist the majority of countries in the world resolve their economic problems. The banking and financial processes operating in the world are primarily operating to ensure that the banking sector is paid ( what happens to the people is secondary to banking sector loan repayments). The Greek debt problem confirms this. Goldman Sachs along with corrupt Greek politicians facilitated an entry in the EU by selling toxic and worthless bonds and literally cooked the books to satisfy the EU that Greek was ready for entry. Now, the corruption comes back full circle, not to punish the crimes of Goldman Sachs or the politicians, but to facilitate more loans that in no way will be a contributor to growth of the Greek economy, nor will such loans operate as anything more than a “kick the can down the road – solution” to prolong the period when the true position of Greek debt default has to be faced. By so doing more money is owed to the international bankers, and the Greek problem is only worsened, not solved. As with the slave legacy in the Caribbean, there is a certain global injustice, that is anathema to the solutions needed for the majority of people in the world.
    There may be nothing much to share. I am also not blind, that I am not able to perceive that there is decay everywhere. Children, who are regarded as minors have not hidden their disdains for the amorphous appearances; from the endless struggle they see of their parents, the hi-tech passion for affluence amongst themselves, to the hopes that appear deem; there appears to be nothing much to share. All the same, I say congratulations to all Nigerians. Congratulations to the people of Osun. That we have life and that we have not all been consumed, O JA SOPE.
    When there is a ceremony that calls for celebration ahead, the people concerned become ecstatic. The atmosphere is filled with certain aura because of the expectations people have: Hearts will be joyous that certain hurdle has been crossed, or that a landmark achievement has been recorded. Individual tensions that have been doused make hearts to be merry, because the overall overwhelming effect has subjugated individual mono dislocations that can be tackled after the period of general jubilee. Many nations have crossed the rubicon. States have broken jinx and many countless individuals have surmounted seeming intractable problems. How then have we faired as a Nation, bearing in mind that what Sunday will look like would be reflected through the events of the preceeding day (Saturday)?
    No doubt, we have had it wrong since independence. Years preceeding our independence were highly tumultuous because of some irreconcilable differences between the North and the South. While the North were propounding the theory of practicability, the south spoke with one voice to get reprieve from imperial hegemony in 1957. It was a divine intervention that enabled Nigeria to get a belated independence on October 1, 1960.
    The British government intended to maintain its grip by installing a liberal political actor as the Governor General. Dr Nnamdi Azikwe (of blessed memory) was no doubt a man that knew his onions. He was a key figure in the fight against the continued stay of foreigners as administrators in Nigeria. Through his newspaper – The West Africa pilot – he gave The British government the fight of its life. The permissive nature that the great Zik harboured however suited the imperialists, and the realization of their ambition came handy as a house that is against itself can never stand. Nigerians have never spoken with one voice since then and that has been our major undoing.
    The west had been well structured with a good majority accepting the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the leader. Though there were few dissidents, they also still felt the colossal influence that Awo wielded. Education was regarded as the best legacy that could be bequeathed. Every child was encouraged to go to school free of charge. Structural master plan was put in place with sectoral functions well coordinated in a manner that beat human imagination. Infrastructural facilities were planned for, with rolling plan to take care of future growth in population. Farm settlements were fashioned in a way that literate youths and middle aged folk were attracted into them because what could not be found in formal localities were provided. I was living in Ijebujesa in the 1960’s but the first time I went to Esaoke/Esa Odo farm settlement, it was like staying permanently with the farm settlers because as big as Ijebu-Jesa was then, the standard of living their was not comparable with theirs. Taps were always running and the building accommodations were special.
    The grand conspiracy from the other parts of the country, especially the North did not allow this legacy to go round the whole country. Few dissidents from the south east (eastern region as it was known then) and their south west counterparts joined hands with the North to ensure that peace and continued focus became elusive in the West until the military took over in 1967. Chief Obafemi Awolowo could not continue in his region, but his impact in the federation as minister of finance is still a subject of discussion today. His managerial acumen aided the country to pass through the turbulent period of the civil war without indebtedness by way of borrowing for its prosecution. He later became the best president Nigeria never had.
    I have told many stories about Nigeria in the past but I think this one is also needful to sensitize some of us who never witnessed how some people laboured in the past in order to put in place some legacies. That will call to question some of the ways we do things in Nigeria today. It is needful to tell our youth that we were not orientated to imbibe the culture of greed and avarice which implants the get-rich-quick syndrome in our national leaders. The dearth of social amenities and physical infrastructure was not in our form and creation.
    It was a negative evolutionary trend that prompted the leaders of today to forget that increase in population over the years is indeed a hidden blessing that would have created ready market for products of purposeful planning that would have made Nigeria an industrialized nation. Some of the political leaders today are quick to say that the free education policy of Chief Awolowo and by extension those of his followers like Chief Bola Ige, Adekunle Ajasin, Cornelius Adebayo, Bisi Onabanjo (all of blessed memory except one) and so on succeeded because the population then was not much. It is disgusting that the world was not a global village then; yet, the leaders then grew excess natural products that were exported to strengthen our local currency such that a pound was exchanged for as low as fifteen shillings and a dollar for as low as eight shillings. The situation now would have alleviated the trouble of exporting excess products when the huge population could have provided ready made market.
    It is 49 years already that we became an independent nation. How have we fared? My submission is that we have fared badly. The purposeful leadership provided by the past leaders brought us joy and fame today, the leaders don’t regard themselves as leaders but as a group of opportunists who have been exposed to serious corrupt practices by their colleagues who were formerly military men and women but have transmuted into personalities who are parading the corridors of power in flowing gowns (Agbada or Babariga) but are agents of disorientation and de-culturation. There is no sanity and sanctity to bequeath because they, themselves are rotten to the bone marrow. They are not only agents of corruption; they are grossly corruptible and corrupt with insipid rottenness.
    They are happy the students are not in school presently because many of the female students are easy preys to their lustfulness, who in turn get part of the stolen national cake as a ransom for defilement. We are in an era when female students leave their base in Zaria and travel to Lagos to meet a politician boyfriend for a night or Ibadan for Abuja for the same reason. The decay every where does not bother our politicians so long as they can get their (un)fair share of the national cake leaving the vast majority to abject penury.
    The legislators at all levels of governance only debate and pass bills on issues that yield personal democracy derivatives. They in turn keep their heads by not legislating on bills that can expose their ineptitude. The freedom of information (FOI) bill is suffering from legislative kwashiorkor because they know that if passed, they will subject themselves to overt ridicule that can not be remedied either by overrule or summon. They are fully aware that unbridled access to information will force them out of office and out of booty; only to be exposed to the same vagaries of life to which they are also subjecting the masses. They are direct beneficiaries of polling frauds. Many of them aided and abetted in electoral malpractices. I still cannot fathom it that the same set of people will want to tamper with a fraud called electoral process that enthroned them in the first place.
    The executive arm is not faring better. They are only in a process of goose chase if they desire to sanitize the system. The president has openly attested to the fact that the election that brought him into power was marred with serious irregularities. Today, he has not resigned and he is timid to give any move the bite it deserves because he is seen not to be in control. Policies become emblematic because they will not reach the point of thorough execution. From Lagos to Kano; from Ibadan to Port Harcourt; from Akure to Maiduguri, death toll is on the increase everyday because all these roads are bedeviled with gullies that are not supposed to be on ordinary feeder roads. We are not surprised that things have become horrible because executed projects are not true reflections of money appropriated for such ends. Executive laxities have corrupted the educational sector.
    All federal schools from the primary through the secondary to the tertiary are all in compulsory break due to strikes by their tutors who are clamouring for standardization of the sector and improved conditions of service. In the midst of all these, the president was so audacious as to pay official visit to Saudi Arabia, where he departed from few days earlier after an Islamic injunction of umrah, only to return there for mere commissioning of a university when the same sector was comatose back at home; and when there was the all important United Nations (UN) general assembly meeting to attend.
    The judiciary is only seen to be improving because of the landmark judgments they have given in places like Anambra (Andy Uba Vs Peter Obi), Edo (Oshiomhole Vs Osunbor), Ondo (Mimiko Vs Agagu), and few others in places like River State and Imo. However, the bad eggs are still prevalent. Many wrong judgments have emanated and such have cast aspersion on the good name the judiciary tries to earn itself.
    The problems on ground are products of hydra-headed pervasive corruption. The fear of God has been lost to selfishness and over-ambition. Laudable ideas and policies abound but the manifestation of such in concrete utilities remains a sham. We have heard of vision 2010, we have heard of vision 2015, while the latest is vision 20-20-20. Visions have remained white elephant projections because the political will is absolutely lacking. The energy sector that is supposed to provide the visions with lifelines are non-existent and they are not worked upon to put them in place. The ills are endemic and there seems to be no way out.
    50th year is a year of jubilee and that is just 365 days away from now. The magic wand of transformation must be installed in order for us to really jubilate. Deadly blows must be struck at our corruptible nature through genuine repentance as against a process of systemic re-branding that is fleshed with electoral and other systemic malpractices. We may have pleaded month after month without evidence of answer, we may for this reason be humbled after we have been bashed; and our suffering ought to have led us to undiluted contrition. The tokens for good shall surely be given and we shall rise as prevailing princes, to enjoy the mercy we have sought in agonizing supplication. Amen.”

  • Jives

    “But what’s wrong with straight-line borders that ignore ethnic boundaries? ”
    Whats’ right with them?

  • guano

    At £35k minimum salary requirement for entry, most of the UK will be on the return flight being expelled, Thatcherspawn

  • anonomania

    “You’re all for mass immigration of other ethnicities to Britain, so what’s the problem with mixing ethnicities in Africa?”

    I think that’s a fair question, so who’s got the answer? Is it something to do with low expectations concerning Africa and its tribalism?

  • DownWithThisSortOfThing

    Jive: “But what’s wrong with straight-line borders that ignore ethnic boundaries? ”
    Whats’ right with them?

    The concept of internationally recognised borders was an attempt at preventing territorial disputes escalating into war in Europe and to provide a mechanism for separating large populations from their natural resources outside of Europe.
    A 50% success rate is not to be scoffed at.

  • Mike

    DWTSOT – “The concept of internationally recognised borders was an attempt at preventing territorial disputes escalating into war in Europe and to provide a mechanism for separating large populations from their natural resources outside of Europe.”
    Not quite true. What about Kosovo?
    That was recognizing international borders where none had previously existed in order to appropriate the largest known mineral reserves in Europe for the West from those Russian loving Serbs.

  • Ron

    I bet the Italian guy was shitting his pants when he realised his fellow hostage was British. Obviously that piece of crap Cameron was going to try something and obviously he was going to fuck it up.

  • DownWithThisSortOfThing

    No doubt Cameron went rushing in for a bit of personal glory and a feel-good story following the recent deaths in Afghanistan. I say that because the last time this happened, with Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan, it was William Hague that did the dirty. He probably told Cameron to shove it this time.
    He must have been aware that the Italians were trying to open up channels to the kidnappers (as they always do) and would have balked at the idea of a ‘rescue’ mission. The parallels between this story and the Linda Norgrove story should not be overlooked. Same response from the same government to near identical situations.
    But a senior security official in Nigeria said the two hostages apparently died in the crossfire.
    No Boko Haram, no executions. Just an entirely predictable outcome to a rash decision made by a man who has not got a clue.

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