THE MISCHIEF OF HISTORY:
BALA USMANíS UNMAKING OF NIGERIAN HISTORY
By Peter Ekeh
Chair, Urhobo Historical Society
In the week of April 18th through 25th, 2001, the Nigerian internet community received an ample supply of Bala Usmanís essay provocatively titled ďIgnorance, Knowledge and Democratic Politics in Nigeria." It is the text of his presentation at a symposium at Bayero University, Kano, on Tuesday, 17th April 2001. As he himself affirms in this much-publicized essay, it is only a sequel to a longer document published in the same venue in the internet at http://www.ceddert.com/. Bala Usman acknowledged the following assistance in the preparation of the earlier document: ďIn preparing this brief, we have benefited from the support and assistance of our colleague Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, and our staff, Sunday Jonathan and Garba Wada.Ē The authorship is thus Bala Usmanís in the main.
Titled "The Misrepresentation of Nigeria: The Facts and Figures,Ē the earlier essay was a frontal attack on the notion that the Yoruba and Igbo had their own autonomous history, independent of Nigeria. It also took a swipe at the claim that the Niger Delta had its own destiny to worry about. The latter ďIgnorance" essay took on the Urhobo of the Niger Delta. For whatever reason he embarked on this course of action, this essay was an exercise in insults and ridicule of a whole ethnic group that Bala Usman viewed as representative of the Niger Delta.
In both of these essays, Bala Usman marches on as a soldier of truth. He does not hesitate about the veracity of his declarations -- from the Hausa origins of the name ďYoruba" to the British invention of the term ďUrhobo" in 1938! He picks sentences and fragments of paragraphs from Kenneth Dike, Ade Ajayi, J. Alogoa, Obaro Ikime, Onigu Otite, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and many others to show that these authors, dead and alive, support his campaign for the enthronement of the primacy of the Nigerian State. In this wonderful campaign against the evil of ignorance, there is only one solemn truth. It is that Nigeria owns all of us. No other entity matters. Bala Usman, the Truth Master, even labels as fascists those who do not subscribe to this idea of the supremacy and absolutism of the Nigerian State. Those who question the right of the Federal Government to take the resources of their people are accused of undermining the foundations of democracy in Nigeria! G. G. Darah of The Guardian is declared the epitome of ignorance because he dares to suggest that human existence in Urhoboland, in the Niger Delta, is up to six thousand years of age. This brand of history is different from the modesty-infested historiography that offers tentative truth-propositions.
I will leave it to Ade Ajayi, Adiele Afigbo, and others
who study Igbo and Yoruba histories to accept or contest the claims made
by Bala Usman regarding the Igbo and the Yoruba. But I will not wait for
these influential historians before I challenge Bala Usman on his ill-mission
on behalf of the Nigerian State. Let me state clearly my reasons for responding
to Bala Usmanís two essays, especially the latter piece in which he is
so scornful of the Urhobo and the Niger Delta. My reasons are four. First,
I believe that Bala Usman has employed a defective methodology of history,
in which the role of the British conquest of Nigeria is the only thing
that counts. Second, I believe Bala Usman has used historiography as a
tool for mischief-making. History is an ennobling discipline that empowers
people's cultures. In Bala Usmanís hands, however, history has become a
tool for dividing people into their little clans, instead of employing
it as an intellectual implement for uniting them. Third, Bala Usman
is completely wrong about the facts of Urhobo history. He is also wrong
in his assumptions about human existence in the Niger Delta. Yet he turns
around to accuse Darah and others of ignorance about the history of their
own people. Fourth, and most importantly, Bala Usman and his team of intellectuals
are turning the Nigerian State into a monster that is waging a war against
the Nigerian people. These are serious issues that can only be ignored
at Nigeriansí peril.
THE TREVOR-ROPER SYNDROME:
THE ILLS OF IMPERIALIST HISTORIOGRAPHY
History can be a tool for intellectual mischief-making. Indeed, it has been so for most of the years in which imperial history has been written. Imperial history belittles all previous historical experiences in order, quite deliberately, to enhance its own presence. Conquering other people is an aggressive act that offends their inherent sense of justice. It is in order to create some measure of justification for imperial acts of conquest that imperial historians strive to invent the illusion that all pre-imperial times were also pre-historical. The moments worthy of historical epochs are said to begin with imperialism. This was as much the case with Roman imperialism as it was with English and British conquests and imperialism in Ireland and Africa.
It was not by accident that the principal apostle of the campaign for establishing the notion that Africans had no history, except the history of Europeans in Africa, was a British scholar of Roman imperialism. Regius Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper, for a long time now a distinguished member of the House of Lords, was the man who was writing about the Roman Empire when he veered off, unprovoked, into a spiteful attack on the notion that Africa had any history worth studying. His infamous words deserve to be recalled:
Undergraduates, seduced . . . by . . . journalistic fashion, demand that they be taught the history of black Africa. Perhaps, in the future, there will be some African history to teach. But at present there is none, or very little: there is only the history of the Europeans in Africa. The rest is largely darkness, like the history of pre-European, pre-Columbian America . . . Please do not misunderstand me. I do not deny that men existed even in dark countries and dark centuries, nor that they had political life and culture, interesting to sociologists and anthropologists; but history, I believe, is essentially a form of movement, and purposive movement too (Trevor-Roper 1965: 9).
It is a strange piece of irony that a man who has self-consciously worn the progressive label all his life may end up as a disciple of imperialist historian Trevor-Roper. No matter however one cuts it, Bala Usman is telling us in his two essays that the Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw, and Urhobo -- his principal examples -- had no histories until they were created by British imperialism. His words hauntingly parallel Trevor-Roperís and will probably cause Kenneth Dike to turn in his grave. He says,
Anybody who has read the scholarly writings that have come out of the University of Ibadan from the early 1950ís knows that there has never been and there is nothing like a Yoruba "Race". Anyone who is familiar with the works of Professor Kenneth Dike, one of the greatest academics of the 20th century, knows that there is nothing like the Igbo nation. These, like the Hausa-Fulani, Ijaw, and the other nationalities of Nigeria, came to be formed in the course of the formation of Nigeria in the 19th and 20th centuries, as we have brought out in the Ceddert publication. "The Misrepresentation of Nigeria: The Facts and the Figures.Ē
This campaign aimed at undermining the autonomy of the history of Nigerian ethnic nationalities is especially painful and puzzling in the case of Bala Usman who has spent a robust intellectual life (apart from his political writings, such as the essays under review here) arguing for the vastness of not only the history of the Sokoto Caliphate but of that of his own ruling dynasty in Katsina. It is intriguing that what he challenges about his own people is the wrongful coupling of Hausa and Fulani as one compound ethnic group. But it would be foolish to argue that the Hausa people who produced the Kano Chronicle had no pre-British history of their own. Clearly, the Hausa had a splendid history. Nor can anybody argue that the Fulani and Kanuri, who signed a peace treaty in 1812, had no history before the British arrived.
So what is Bala Usmanís point? Is it not to show that the rest of us had no history before the British arrived? His words make it clear that all the history that counts in contemporary Nigerian affairs is the British conquest. In strong approval, Bala Usman says, "The British did not conquer the pre-colonial polities of Nigeria only to leave alone their land and minerals. They took full control over these, as the sovereign power." What an apologia of British imperialism in Africa!
METHOD AND MISCHIEF IN BALA USMANíS
DENUNCIATION OF PRE-BRITISH HISTORY OF NIGERIA
Usman was not merely making declaratory statements in order to uphold his campaign that British conquest of Nigeria offers the paramount definition of the history of southern communities. He carefully chose examples to demonstrate his point. Missing from his discussion are any Northern ethnic groups, such as the Kanuri, Tiv, or Jukun. Nor has he gone after every Southern Nigerian ethnic group. He has chosen his examples most carefully. First and foremost, he trains his mischief-making at the Yoruba, the ethnic behemoth of the South. He was less aggressive with the Igbo. Then he goes after the Niger Delta with especial vehemence. Inside the Niger Delta he chose to ridicule the Urhobo. There is ample guile in the historical method of Bala Usmanís mischief. It is a political craft that he has perfected to a brilliance.
I will leave the Yoruba to defend themselves. But it is noteworthy that Bala Usman chose Bolaji Akiyemi as a spokesman for the Yoruba, making mincemeat from his weak presentation of the Yoruba case. Even his detractors must acknowledge that Bala Usmanís campaign against the integrity of the history of Yoruba has masterful cruelty in it. It questions the origins of the name "Yoruba." As far as Bala Usman is concerned, that name was an imperial donation from the North. I am intrigued by Usmanís argument on this score. Note his words well. He says,
The fact is that, the earliest record we have of the use of the very name "Yoruba" was in the Hausa language and it seems to have applied to the people of the Alafinate of Oyo. This came from the writings of the seventeenth century Katsina scholar, Dan Masani (1595-1667), who wrote a book on Muslim scholars of the 'Yarriba.' But it was from a book of the Sarkin Musulmi Bello, written in the early nineteenth century, that the name became more widely used. The Bishop Ajayi Crowther, the Reverend Samuel Johnson, and his brother Obadiah Johnson, among others, came, in the nineteenth century, to widely spread this Hausa name to the people who now bear it, in their writings.
So what is Bala Usmanís proof that the name "Yoruba" is an "Hausa name"? It is so, to repeat, because, he says, "the earliest record [sic] we have of the use of the very name 'Yoruba' was in the Hausa language" -- from the writings of a man born in 1595! But in fact the name Yoruba was used by a Timbucktu theologian, Ahmad Baba, who was already a distinguished scholar long before Dan Masani was born in 1595. Moreover, Ahmad Baba (1556-1627) wrote in Arabic, not in the Hausa language. Ahmad Baba was captured along with other Songhai intellectuals by Moroccan Arab invaders of Songhai in 1591 Ė four years before Bala Usmanís Dan Masani was born -- and was taken to the Maghreb. On his return from captivity, Ahmad Baba complained bitterly, saying Muslims, Arab or African, were not supposed to be enslaved, as he was: "The Muslims among [the Blacks], like the people of Kano, Katsina, Bornu, Gobir, and all of Songhai are Muslims, who are not to be owned. Yet some [Muslims] transgress on the others unjustly by invasion as do the Arabs, Bedouins, who transgress on free Muslims and sell them unjustly" (see Hilliard 1985: 162). But in further argument with Arabs, Ahmad Baba allowed that non-Moslem Blacks, on account of their lack of faith, could be enslaved. Among these were the Yoruba. Ahmad Baba's infamous words were as follows:
Those who come to you from the following [sic] clans: the Mossi, the Gurma, the Busa, the Yorko, the Kutukul, the Yoruba, the Tanbugbu, the Bobo are considered non-believers who still adhere to non-belief until now.... You are allowed to own all these without questioning. This is the ruling about these clans, and Allah, the Highest, knows and judges (please see Baba c1622: 137).These words were penned when Bala Usmanís Dan Masani was a teenager. There is no evidence whatsoever that Ahmad Baba knew of the Yoruba through the Hausa or the Fulani who, like Dan Masani, spoke and wrote the Hausa language.
I have gone into this matter of the allegation that
the name Yoruba was an Hausa derivation because I can see no evidence for
it. Of course, if it is repeated frequently enough, it will become the
"truth." Let those, like Bala Usman, who shop it around, come up with a
better proof than the incorrect allegation that it first appeared in an
Hausa writing. My second reason for delving into this matter is that Bala
Usman has sought to humiliate the Urhobo by alleging that their name was
given to them by the British in 1938, using another version of the insult
he hurled on the Yoruba. As I will demonstrate later, his allegation about
the Urhobo name is even more vacuous than his proof of the Hausa origin
of the name "Yoruba." But first, I must turn to the strangest theory from
Bala Usman, namely, why the Niger Delta does not belong to Niger Deltans.
SO WHO OWNS THE NIGER DELTA?
Bala Usman has now moved beyond General Olusegun Obasanjoís Land Use Decree of 1978 to offer reasons why Niger Deltans do not own their lands and waters. His answer is straightforward. The Niger Delta belongs to the State of Nigeria. By that he means the Federal Government of Nigeria. This self-professed democrat offers two reasons for his arguments on why the Niger Delta does not belong to Niger Deltans. First, by right of conquest, it ceased to belong to its owners and was taken over by the British conquerors who then handed it over to the Nigerian State at Independence. His second reason flows from his unique theory of the geological formation of the Niger Delta. The waters and debris that form the natural wealth of the Niger Delta come from up North. We will consider these theories from a man who says he is fighting for Nigerian democracy, in reverse order.
Bala Usmanís Theory of the Formation of the Niger Delta. Imperialists have been known to be very creative in justifying their imperial ambitions. But none can match Bala Usmanís imagination. According to him, Niger Delta lands are only the secondary producers of oil and gas. The primary producers of these products are up North from where the Niger and the Benue drain farmlands, dead bodies, feces, etc., from which the minerals in the Niger Delta are made. Therefore, quoting his words now, "those states of Nigeria, upstream from the delta, in the Niger-Benue basin, should take exclusive ownership and control of the river water and its sediments drained away from them to form the delta and its hinterland, and demand their share from the returns from the export of crude oil and gas in proportion to what their vegetation, faeces, dead bodies, animal remains and fertile soil, generally contributed to the making of these minerals for hundred of thousands, and even millions, of years."
How does one argue against this bent of mind? And yet it would be dangerous to say Bala Usman does not know what he is talking about. On the contrary, he does. He throws up these incredible theories. If they are not refuted, he insists that they should inform policies. If they are refuted convincingly, he moves on to other areas. But always, he has the ears of the powerful. So we must regard him as a spokesman for powerful interests in Abuja and Northern Nigeria.
First, let us grant him his argument. By the same token two consequences would follow. First, those countries from which and through which the Nile River flows would lay claim to Egypt and its wealth. Uganda, even Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia would lay historic claims to the resources of the Nile Delta. But obviously, that is not Bala Usmanís intention. The dynamics are different. Second, if his argument is correct, then the farmlands in the Benue-Niger valleys that benefit from the flow of the Niger and Benue from and through Guinea, Mali, Cameroon, and Niger should be claimed by those other countries from which their fertility is derived. But of course, that is not what Bala Usman has in mind. What he has in mind is the wealth of the Niger Delta: how to distribute it in such a way so that his people will have the lion share. Then Bala Usman, the Truth Master, will declare to the world that Niger Deltans love democracy.
I think the rest of the country should understand that the barely hidden goal behind this theory is to instigate conflict between the people of the Benue Valley and the Niger Delta. Bala Usman will not be able to show anywhere in the world where his theory has been tried out. He has no scientific basis for his theory. His sole aim is to threaten the people of the Niger Delta and then sow much confusion in the body politic. Bala Usmanís two essays are laced with threats. Either the people he speaks for will have their way or there will be chaos. In other words, this is an exercise in intimidation.
There is no rationality behind these strange theories. If Bala Usmanís theory had any credibility, then we should have oil and gas in every delta region in the world. The Congo drains much the same sediments from upland countries. How much oil is there in the Congo Delta? Or conversely, why would there be any oil in the Sahara from which debris from other regions are not possible? No, this is not a rational theory. It is all part of mischief-making.
The Right of Conquest. Bala Usman is very angry at claims "that the modern ethnic groups of Nigeria, like the Ogoni, the Ijaw and the Urhobo, have some autochthonous sovereign rights over the land and minerals of the Niger Delta and its coastal hinterland; and [that] these rights are illegitimately being denied by the Federal Republic of Nigeria." But what are his grounds for saying that these lands do not belong to these ethnic groups or the state governments that run their affairs? Shamelessly, Bala Usman plays one of his imperialism cards, again. Hear him: "Whatever sovereign rights the governments of the pre-colonial polities of the Niger Delta and its hinterland had, over the soil, water, and minerals of the area, were destroyed by the British conquest." Bala Usman then goes into a recitation of Lugardian decrees that sought to model the Amalgamation after the British conquest of the Sokoto Caliphate and the rest of Northern Nigeria.
For the avoidance of doubt, let it be clearly stated that the British colonization of Southern Nigeria did not include the alienation of lands from their communities and even individuals. The British called the colonized region Protectorate because the Imperial Government said it was protecting its peoples and lands from hostile forces for the future benefits of the "natives." In Warri Province, for instance, British colonial officers leased lands from communities in signed agreements that were accepted and respected by British courts, up to the Privy Council. Why would the British lease lands from Southern Nigerians if they assumed that their colonization included the alienation of lands and its resources? The British also signed agreements, so-called "treaties of protection," with various communities in the Niger Delta. Each of them had nine clauses. None of these treaties talked of conquest nor alienation of lands from these communities.
The picture that Bala Usman is presenting did cover what happened in the Sokoto Caliphate and much of Northern Nigeria. There Frederick Lugard conquered the Sokoto Empire and imposed on it a condition that was merely repeating what its previous Fulani conquerors had put in place. The Fulani conquest of the Hausa kingdoms in the jihad that began in 1804 concluded with the alienation of Hausa lands by the Fulani State. Frederick Lugard imitated the Fulani conquerors by alienating the lands in the North. Lugardís attempt to extend that regime of land alienation to the South was resisted everywhere in the South during his Amalgamation ventures. And he abandoned it. For instance in creating a Department of Forestry for the South, he fully acknowledged and respected the communal rights over lands in the South. As Lugard (1912-1919: 167) himself put it, [When] "The Ordinance of 1917 . . . empowered the Government to create forest reserves . . . [t]he rights of the natives who claimed communal ownership . . . were safeguarded."
Bala Usman is stating the correct situation of what obtained with the British conquest of the North. But that was not what happened in the South. It is sheer revisionist history to impose retrospectively the land situation in the North unto the South. It was under the regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1978 that the Northern land usages were imposed on the South under military fiat. For that Olusegun Obasanjo will for ever have a question to answer in Nigerian history. But even so, the land in the 1978 Land Use Decree is vested in the states, not in the Federal Government of Nigeria. Why should a self-styled democrat like Bala Usman be afraid of the powers of local governments and the decentralization of powers over land rights to the States?
The Niger Delta belongs to Niger Deltans. We have no share
whatsoever of Katsina. Bala Usman and his people should leave the Niger
G. G. DARAH AND THE URHOBO OF THE NIGER DELTA
Bullies have a way of seeking to teach their victims lessons. There is very little doubt in my mind that Bala Usman was deliberately determined to teach Darah and his Urhobo people a lesson from the whip of his pen. His venom was particularly toxic in a mean-spirited attack on Darah as an ignorant man. And yet Bala Usman has tripped all over in stating facts about a place he only knows by reading a few scattered books. Bala Usmanís knowledge of Urhobo and the Niger Delta is essentially fragmentary and is entirely bookish. If he were a humble man he would state his case with caution. Instead, he went for the jugular.
To start with, Bala Usman thought he must ridicule the Urhobo. Hear him: "As for the Urhobos being there before Nigeria, this is just laughable, if it is not so much part of the anti-democratic campaign of peddling ignorance to make for the rise of fascist political organisations in Nigeria." One wonders where the ignorance lies. One wonders where fascism lies. Or has fascism changed its meaning?
Bala Usman labours through a series of partial citations from Obaro Ikime and Onigu Otite to prove his point that the Urhobo were not there before Nigeria! There was nowhere any of these scholars said so. The hardest evidence that Bala Usman could muster is a strange interpretation of the redesignation of "Sobo" to Urhobo in 1938 by the British Colonial Government. He says, "The emergence of the Urhobo as a nationality took place within Nigeria and one of the major steps towards this was the Government Notice No. 1228 published in the Nigeria Gazette No. 49, Vol. 25 of 8th September, 1938 which with effect from 1st October, 1938 changed the name of Sobo Division of Warri Province to 'Urhobo Division.'" Far be it from me to call a fellow academic an ignorant man, no matter however badly he has offended history. But this is plainly ridiculous.
The British had enormous difficulties handling Urhobo names. They changed Urhiapele to Sapele, Avwraka to Abrakar, Uhwokori to Kokori, etc. Urhobo have tried hard to recover the original names. In 1938 Urhobo Progress Union was able to prevail on the Colonial Government to change the corrupted name "Sobo" to its original Urhobo. Urhobo thought that was an important achievement. Instead, Bala Usman is giving the impression that the British donated that name to the Urhobo! How very ridiculous. All other ethnic groups in the Western Niger Delta were having the same problems with the way British colonial officers brutalized their ethnic names. The Urhobo were the first to succeed in changing theirs. But Ukwuani was corrupted by the British to Kuale. The Itsekiri were variously called Jekri, Jakri, and Jekeri -- until they changed to their correct name, Itsekiri. The Izon have had greater difficulties. They have been called Ijo, Ijaw, Ezon, and Izon. These are the cultural casualties of colonialism. Of course, Bala Usman would not know these facts from the isolated books that he reads about the Niger Delta.
If the Urhobo did not have a knowledge of themselves before the British came, why would they resent the name that the British called them and ask for a correction? Urhobo Brotherly Society and Urhobo Progress Union dating back to 1931 never bore the name "Sobo." Shouldn't Bala Usman do a little more exploration of Urhobo history before he so spitefully accuses Darah of ignorance of the history of his own people?
The ethnic composition of the Western Niger Delta has not changed since the Portuguese made their first voyage through the shores of the Atlantic into the interior regions of the Western Niger Delta more than five centuries ago. The same books of Obaro Ikime (and those by Peter Lloyd and quite a few others) that Bala Usman has apparently read are consistent in reporting what the Captain of the Portuguese premier voyage to the Western Niger Delta reported. Apart from the Benin, in 1485 he identified two ethnic groups in the region: "Jos" (for Ijaw) and ďSoubo" (for Urhobo). The Portuguese did not meet all the "clans" of the Urhobo that Bala Usman now touts. They met only the Agbarha-Ame. But they did not so identify the people they met. They knew them as "Soubo," probably a corruption from the Benin word for Urhobo which is "Uhobo." The Benin knew the Urhobo as a people for centuries before the Portuguese arrived in Western Niger Delta in the 1480s. They did not need the Portuguese nor the British to tell them who the Urhobo were. As a student of Fulani history, Bala Usman should not be surprised that the Urhobo are called different names by different people or that they call themselves a name different from what others call them. The French call the Fulani "Peul" whereas the English call them Fulani. The Fulani are called several other names in other regions of Africa. Yet they are the same people.
If the Urhobo had a composite ethnic identity five centuries ago, why would British conquest and imperialism dissolve it in the 1890s? I daresay that it is the Trevor-Roper syndrome that governs Bala Usmanís perception of the history of the Western Niger Delta. But that would not be called ignorance. No, imperialists are never ignorant!
There are other accusations of ignorance that Bala Usman mounted against Darah. I will handle two of these that especially exercised Bala Usman. First, he says that Darah inflated the amount of petroleum that was pumped under the aegis of the Federal Government from Urhobo lands. He incredulously asked why the Federal Government would be making so little money if the figure mentioned by Darah was correct. Is it possible that Bala Usman has never heard of oil bunkering? Does Bala Usman really believe the Federal Government's figures? Bala Usman is anything but naive. It is more likely that he has decided to feign ignorance about the amount of oil pumped from the Niger Delta, legitimately, or otherwise stolen by the exploiting companies, with collusion from Nigerians, and also stolen by Nigerians themselves. Blessed are those who feign ignorance for they shall be close to the seat of power in Abuja.
Bala Usman also chastises Darah for suggesting that the
Urhobo have been in the Western Niger Delta for some six thousand years.
In a very strange, but unexplained, view of the Niger Delta, he mysteriously
asks, "In fact, were there any inhabitants in that area in that period,
given what is now known about the formation of the Niger-Delta and the
climatic changes in this part of West Africa?" What is he talking about?
Science and human history have established beyond any shadow of doubt that
humankind began in Africa, only a few thousand miles from the Niger Delta.
Homo sapiens is at least 200,000 years old on the African continent. He
and she have wondered all around Africa. There were no toxic wastes from
Shell-BP and Chevron to drive away humans from reaching the Niger Delta
tens of thousands of years ago. Sure, migrants may have joined aborigines
of these lands. But it makes no sense to imagine that humans were absent
from the lands now occupied by the Urhobo and other Niger Deltans many
thousand years ago. If there is anything to complain about, it is the mentality
that timidly concedes age of existence to Asia Minor, or the Middle East.
Abraham and Noah; Moses and Jacob; Jesus Christ and Mohammed; Jerusalem
and Mecca: these are important instances of the history of humankind. But
they are not as old as the human experience on the African continent. Nor
are we in the Niger Delta prepared to rule ourselves out of the African
heritage. By the Grace of God, we are as old as humankind gets.
SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
Nigerian affairs have reached a point which calls for the invocation of an olden distinction between the State and the Nation. A State is the organization that runs the political affairs of a country, with its rulers and its bureaucracy. The people themselves and their history and cultures, their mores and ethical lives, constitute the Nation. When the social and political affairs of a country are well managed by leaders who are responsible and are respected by the people, there is a congruence between the State and the Nation. In such circumstances, there is no need for a distinction between the two.
Sadly, Nigerian affairs compel us to separate the Nigerian Nation from the monster that has emerged as the Nigerian State. Increasingly, the Nigerian Nation is being victimized by the Nigerian State. Indeed, in the Niger Delta the Nigerian State is waging a war against a fragment of the Nigerian Nation. The Nigerian State has stolen the lands and resources of the people. With these resources, it now recruits foot soldiers in its immoral campaigns against the Nigerian Nation.
Bala Usmanís two essays demonstrate that he is an important recruit in Abuja's struggles against the Nigerian Nation. In his campaigns on behalf of the Nigerian State, Bala Usman has emerged as a fearless defender of British imperialism because, he argues, the Nigerian State inherited its powers from British conquest and colonization of Nigerian polities and ethnic groups. How very sad!
As for democracy, its invocation has become very profitable as a way of showing Jimmy Carter and the Americans as well as Britain's Tony Blair that the Nigerian State cares about its peopleís welfare. How can those who designed and now support the theft of peopleís lands through the instrument of a Land Use Decree be called democrats? How can those who invaded and destroyed Odi Town talk of democracy? There are those who will cut off a hand from an Hausa peasant for stealing a goat for a decent pot of soup but then turn around to turban public officials who have stolen billions of dollars from public funds. They make a mockery of justice and destroy the foundation of democracy. Indeed they are waging a war against human decency.
If Bala Usman wants to be counted among the ranks of the
Nigerian State's forces, that is his choice to make. But he should stop
parading himself as a defender of Nigerian democracy. The forces that he
seeks to promote are undermining democracy on a daily basis.
Baba, Ahmad. c1622. "The Mi'raj: a Legal Treatise on Slavery by Ahmad Baba." Translated and edited by Bernard Barbour and Michelle Jacobs. Pp. 125-138 in John Ralph Willis, ed., Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa. Volume I: Islam and the Ideology of Enslavement. London: Frank Cass.
Hilliard, Constance. 1985. "Zuhur al-Basatin and Ta'rikh al- Turubbe: Some Legal and Ethical Aspects of Slavery In the Sudan as Seen in the Works of Shaykh Musa Kamara." Pp. 160-181 in John Ralph Willis, ed., Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa. Volume I: Islam and the Ideology of Enslavement. London: Frank Cass.
Lugard, Sir F. D. 1912-1919. Lugard and the Amalgamation of Nigeria. A Documentary Record. Compiled and Introduced by A. H. M. Kirk-Greene. London.
Trevor-Roper, Hugh. 1965. The Rise of Christian
Europe. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.
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