THE FACTS AND THE FIGURES
By Yusuf Bala
Centre for Democratic Development Research and Training
The Centre for Democratic Development Research and Training exists to promote, advance, and conduct, scientific research and training for the purpose of providing immediate and long-term solutions to the problems of the democratic, community and national development of the people of Nigeria, the rest of Africa and the African diaspora. The Centre has come to realize that one of the basic political problems facing the people of Nigeria, as they attempt to build and sustain a democratic system of government, is the deliberate and systematic misrepresentation of the nature, and the process of the formation, of their country and its politics and economics, and the origin and inter-relationships of its people.
This campaign of the misrepresentation of what has happened, and what is happening in Nigeria, has, in the context of the ethnic and religious conflicts, which have erupted violently in various parts of the country, since 1987, become a threat to its political stability and to the survival and growth of democracy in it. CEDDERT has, therefore, decided to draw attention to this campaign, with a short background brief, to start bringing out the distortions of the truth about Nigeria and the false assumptions about its nature and its politics, which the campaign disseminates.
This is in order to start informing and enlightening the public with facts and figures, about the real nature of Nigeria and Nigerians. This is to enhance the capacity of the millions of Nigerian citizens committed to democracy and national integration, to more effectively come together to counter this campaign and build the country as a leading member of the African community of nations and of the world comity of nations, whose people, excel in all spheres of human endeavour.
In 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. We have also received the support and encouragement of many Nigerian citizens in the various political parties, the universities and the public services, and from all walks of life.
They are all keen to see that this campaign against the corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is fully exposed so that it can be countered and the people of Nigeria are given a better chance to democratically address the real problems of their country and shoulder their individual and collective responsibilities, in the face of the daunting global challenges of the 21st century.
Yusufu Bala Usman,
Zaria, Monday 29th, May, 2000.
There is no country in the world today, which is not torn by civil war, yet whose basis of corporate existence is being subjected to such vociferous and persistent attacks, by an articulate section of its own politicians, journalists and other opinion leaders, as the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Those attacking the corporate existence of the Nigerian nation-state, have, with the country’s return to, civilian, democratic, rule, last May, become more confident, even though it is becoming increasingly clear to Nigerians, that their arguments and positions, are not backed by the truthful presentation of what has actually happened and what is happening in Nigeria. More and more Nigerians, are realising that these attacks are, almost entirely, based on the misrepresentations of the historical and contemporary realities of Nigeria.
The positions put forward aggressively in these attacks against the existence of the Nigerian nation-state, are derived from very superficial, and distorted, conceptions of, the nature of the Nigerian geographical environment, and of the origins, formation and the composition of its peoples and their linkages, relationships and actual circumstances, today, and over the centuries. But, they fit into certain established mental stereotypes about Nigeria and Nigerians, sufficiently well for them to be effectively used in this campaign to generate fears and insecurity as to the viability of Nigeria as a nation-state, particularly, with the violent communal disturbances which have become more frequent in the urban and rural areas of the country, since about 1987. The back cover of this book is illustrated with a small sample of the type of material used in this campaign, to persistently cast doubts as to the viability of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.I
The Scope of the Brief
This background brief has been produced by CEDDERT, in order to begin to bring out, with facts and figures, the extent of the misrepresentation and distortion of the historical and contemporary realities of Nigeria, in this campaign. This is in order to begin to counter, more systematically, the lies in this campaign, with the truths about Nigeria, as a contribution to the enlightenment of millions of Nigerians committed to democracy and national integration.
These Nigerian citizens, are already seeing through this campaign, and are thirsty for information with which to factually, and coherently, understand the true strengths and weaknesses of their country, so that they can continue to work together more effectively with other citizens, to face up to, and tackle, its problems, and build the country for themselves, their children, grandchildren and great-grand-children. These Nigerians, are determined that, such a narrow-minded, short-sighted, and backward-looking, campaign, will not succeed in breaking up their country and send them running helter-skelter, as refugees and displaced and destitute persons, waiting for foreign emergency food relief, and looking for asylum, or, for a new country to call their own.
The brief starts with the implications of this campaign for the survival and growth of democracy in the country. Getting these implications clear, is very important, because, those who are conducting the campaign, loudly claim to be doing so in the cause of democracy and human rights, and derive lots of benefits, and some political status, inside and outside Nigeria, from these false claims.
After bringing up these implications, the brief then takes up its actual subject matter, which is the misrepresentation of the historical and contemporary realities of Nigeria. It starts with the two most glaring, and revealing, recent, examples of the misrepresentation of the nature of Nigerian politics by those conducting this campaign. These two examples of the misrepresentation of Nigerian politics, are, over what the late Chief Moshood Abiola, and President Olusegun Obasanjo, actually stood for, when they came out, campaigned for the nomination, contested and won, the presidential elections of 12th June, 1993, and 27th February, 1999.
The misrepresentations of Nigerian politics, in the period, 1993-1999, by those conducting this campaign, as brought out over their characterisation of the candidatures of Abiola and Obasanjo, before and after the two elections, are particularly educative, because the inconsistency is so glaring, that it amounted to a complete somersault, a one hundred and eighty degrees turn-around, without any explanation, or, admission of error over their understanding of Nigerian politics, and their judgment, with regards to the two presidential candidates.
But, these two examples of the misrepresentations of Nigerian politics, over the candidature of Abiola and Obasanjo, did not come out like a bolt from the sky, nor were they aberrations. They are products of a distinct outlook on Nigerian politics, which, since the 1940s, insists that this politics has always been, and will always remain, essentially contests between ethnic groups for positions, power and resources. >From this outlook, Nigerian politics is seen as a contest between the Hausa-Fulani, the Igbo and the Yoruba, with the other smaller ethnic groups pursuing their own agenda, on their own, or, attached to one of the major tribes.
Since this outlook forms the background for these, and many other misrepresentations of Nigeria and Nigerian politics, this brief moves on to bring out the factual evidence, that this outlook is derived from a gross simplification of Nigerian politics, which amounts to an actual misrepresentation of its nature and dynamics. The evidence brought up shall be largely from election results since 1951,because these, in spite of all their shortcomings, are a better reflection of the political behaviour of Nigerians then the speeches and statements of politicians and the comments and editorials of journalists.
But, this misleading outlook on Nigerian politics does not stand on its own. It is part of a broader conception of the nature of Nigeria, which sees it as essentially composed of two, distinct, geographical, cultural, economic and political entities, namely, the North, and, the South. These distinct entities, have been, according to this conception, brought together arbitrarily by the British, for their own fiscal reasons, in the 1914 amalgamation of the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria; but that these two entities of, the North and the South, remain, up to today, distinct, different, and, largely, antagonistic, in terms of background, interests and aspirations.
The brief then examines the validity of this conception of Nigeria based on the North-South dichotomy, with factual evidence at the levels of geology, hydrology, climate, vegetation, and ethnic and linguistic geography. It shows that the dichotomy has no basis in the concrete and specific realities of the existence of Nigeria and Nigerians, but is a gross over-simplification, which has come to obscure these realities, and has become a convenience now, almost essential for a powerful form of backward and narrow-minded politics in the country.
The brief shows that the nature and motion of the dense human mosaic that is Nigeria, cannot be understood in terms, of a North-South dichotomy. It also shows that the territorially-based states, constituting the Nigerian Federation, and the territorially-based local government areas, constituting these states, in which every citizen of Nigeria can live, work, vote and be voted for, are, in the light of the past and present realities of the historical and ethnic geography of the country, the most adequate framework for its complex and changing diversity, and for building democracy, and a prosperous, and modern economy in it, in the 21st century.
The brief concludes, by citing a specific example of the misrepresentation of the current, violent, ethnic and religious conflicts. For, in relation to these violent eruptions of communal conflicts, the misrepresentations on which this campaign is built, has a self-fulfilling dynamic, which has to be clearly understood, if these conflicts are to be stopped and democracy given a chance to grow and consolidate itself in this country.
The Implications for Democracy
This campaign against the basis of
the Nigerian nation-state has far-reaching implications for peace, democracy
and political stability in the country and, consequently, for large parts
of Africa. For, there are certain elementary requirements for the growth
and survival of constitutional and democratic systems of government, which
cannot be taken for granted.
In the first place, for any type of constitutional government to operate in a polity, whether, or not, it is a democracy, the leaders of that polity must be able to have disagreements and disputes, and finally come together to settle them and agree to a decision, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution; and not in the event of any disputes and disagreements, resort to attacking the basis of the corporate existence of that polity and call for its dismemberment, and thus, legitimising un-constitutional means for the settlement of disputes and resolving disagreements.
Moreover, when, in the event of a dispute erupting, doubts are cast on the viability of the polity, in a way as to generate insecurity about its, future, the sort of compromises necessary for resolving the dispute, are made almost impossible, because these involve concessions, which are a form of investment in the future, and these investments are pointless, if the polity has no future, and everybody is going to go his own way. And, without concessions and compromises, for the peaceful settlement of disputes, no form of constitutional government, whether democratic, or not, is possible, in Nigeria, or in any new country carved out of Nigeria, or, anywhere else in the world.
But, it is not only the psychological and political pillars of constitutional rule that are being undermined by this campaign against the corporate existence of the Nigerian nation-state. It is also the democratic system of government in the country, which is also being undermined, as this campaign erodes the ground on which its foundations are being rebuilt, even before the blocks and cement used in the reconstruction have started to dry. For, democracy is a political system built on the twin pillars of, the representation of citizens, and accountability to citizens. Without any one of these, there is no democracy. This campaign is actually eroding the ground on which these pillars are being built.
Contrary to what some Nigerian politicians and journalists, many of whom who claim to be pro-democracy, think, family, clan, ethnic and religious affinities and ties, cannot be the basis of the representation of any citizens or, groups of citizens, in a democracy. Democratic representation is solely derived from the exercise by the citizens of the freedom of political association with all other citizens in the country and the exercise of the freedom of political choice between alternative candidates and parties.
In a democracy, nobody can represent his kinsmen, simply because they are his kinsmen. His kinsmen can only be democratically represented when they can freely associate with, or, refuse to associate with him, and associate with a complete stranger; elect him, or, refuse to elect him, and elect a complete stranger. The Nigerian Constitution clearly provides for this, consistent with all the international conventions on democracy and fundamental human rights. Sections 2 and 3 of the Constitution, and the relevant schedule, clearly provide for territorially-based states and local government council areas, as the constituent units of the country, within which, any Nigerian citizen, can live, work, register to vote, vote and be voted for, freely associating with other citizens, irrespective of any ethnic, regional, or, religious origins and affinities.
This conception of the basis of Nigerian nation-state and of its democratic system, codified in the Constitution, is strengthened by the provision of the Land Use Act, entrenched by section 315 of the Constitution, which vests the ownership of all land in the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the people of Nigeria, as a whole, and not in any ethnic, or, religious community. It allows every Nigerian citizen, who collectively shares in the ownership of all land in Nigeria with all other Nigerian citizens, to individually acquire rights of occupancy in any part of the country, irrespective of any ethnic, regional, or, religious, origins and affinities.
Those who are campaigning against the corporate existence of the Nigerian nation-state, attack these provisions in the Constitution, and the Land Use Act, explicitly and implicitly, while loudly proclaiming to be pro-democracy. They insist on and act on the anti-democratic premise that ethnic affinity is the basis of political association and political representation, because, as they falsely claim, ethnic communities, supposedly owning land, are the constituent units of Nigeria and the thirty six states belong to six “geo-political” zones, with each zone belonging to an ethnic group, or, ethnic groups, and, therefore, ethnic solidarity, and ethnic competition, are the bases of politics in Nigeria.
But, it is not only democratic representation that is seriously undermined by this campaign against the corporate existence of the Nigerian nation-state, it is also democratic accountability, the other twin pillar of any democratic system that is undermined. Democratic accountability, not only requires democratic representation, but also requires the political capacity of the citizens who are represented, to come together and hold the elected representative to account for his actions in public office.
In any electoral constituency in which there are different ethnic and sub-ethnic groups, or, clans and lineages, and these are seen as the basic units of political representation, it is very difficult for the voters in that constituency, to call a corrupt, or, incompetent, elected official to order, because, he was elected because of his origin and affinity, and not because of what he can do to promote the security and welfare of all citizens in his constituency. The basis of making him publicly accountable to those who elected him is very weak, because ethnic, or, sub-ethnic, religious, or, sub-religious, representation, does not allow for democratic accountability, and is fundamentally opposed to this pillar of democracy. Those who say that they are pro-democracy and yet insist on ethnically-based political units and ethnic representation, are either trying to fool other people, or, are themselves just confused, and actually do not know what they are talking about.
The 1993 President Elections
Those who are now conducting the campaign against the corporate existence of the Nigerian nation-state have, for over a decade, been misrepresenting Nigerian politics and undermining the cause of democracy in the country. One of the best example of this is the case of the misrepresentation over what the late Chief Moshood Abiola stood for when he contested the June 12th 1993, presidential elections.
Everybody in Nigeria knew that Abiola was personally, politically, and socially, very close to, the then Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida. But, long before Babangida came to power, Abiola had his own political beliefs and ideals, which were NCNC and then NPN. It has never been clear what Babangida’s actual political beliefs and ideals are. Abiola also had a national political status of his own, well before 1985. He was, before his close association with Babangida, also a very wealthy businessman, married to one of the wealthiest businesswomen in Nigeria, the late Alhaja Simbiat Abiola.
He had, over the years, assiduously built an extensive network of business, professional, political, religious and cultural associates; and a chain of friends, allies, clients and partners, all over Nigeria and the rest of the world, which no Nigerian, perhaps even African, had at that time, or, even now. Through his generosity, and the personal warmth and charm with which he does his things, he built a massive amount of goodwill, nation-wide, far more politically significant than the strong distaste with which some Nigerians and foreigners had for his services to, and connections with, ITT, which retarded the development of Nigerian telecommunications for years; and for his general wheeling and dealing.
Very close as some of his business and political interests came to be with those of Babangida and the late Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, Abiola was clearly not an agent, or, a stooge of Babangida, or, Shehu, or any of the soldiers, chiefs, emirs, mallams, babalawos, bureaucrats and businessmen in the northern, or, any states of the country he associated with. He was not anybody’s subordinate in Nigerian affairs, as was obvious from the way he fell in and fell out, with various groupings of politicians and military officers, in a colourful and tumultuous career spanning over thirty five years.
But, from January, 1993, when he declared his intention to seek the nomination of the Social Democratic Party to contest the presidential elections coming up, later that year, he was systematically misrepresented and maligned as a stooge and a quisling of the military in general and Babangida in particular. The transition programme to return the country to civilian rule and the presidential elections, which he wanted to participate in, were denounced as fraudulent attempts to perpetuate northern military denomination by installing a Muslim, Yoruba, stooge as president, after Babangida.
Chief Gani Fawehinmi, prominent Lagos lawyer, gave a number of interviews, condemning the transition programme. One of such interviews was conducted with Nosa Igiebor and Onome Osifo-Whiskey and published in the 9th November 1992 edition of the Tell magazine. In this interview, he described the transition programme as “the largest political fraud.” He went on to say that: First of all, you know that the political parties, they are all Babangida’s clubs. Clubs! They are of inferior status to parastatals and statutory bodies. They are his clubs. They are Babangida Babes. So, he decides what to do to them any time, and since they are his babes, football Babes, he plays the way he want. (p.9) Along similar lines, a veteran politician, Chief Anthony Enahoro, condemned the transition programme. In an interview with Yinka Tella, published in the February 15, 1993 edition of the TheNEWS magazine, he dismissed the two political parties, SDP and NRC as mere outfits of the military government. When he was reminded, by Yinka Tella that some eminent Nigerians, like General Gowon, Chief M. K. O. Abiola, and others, were taking part in the transition programme on the platform of the two parties, he retorted that:
It is a tragedy. Some of the names I see taking part in this charade. I think it is a tragedy that people of that status allow one man to be fooling all of them. (p.26)Barely one month before the conventions by the two political parties to select their Presidential candidates, The African Guardian magazine of March 22, 1993, came out with a cover story titled, Abiola & Tofa: Are They Running For Babangida? The caption of the story, filed by Wale Akin-Aina, was: The King’s Horsemen? In this story, both Abiola and Tofa were accused of being personal friends and stooges of General Babangida. The story went on:
…the news is that speculations have become ripe all over the country that there is more than a passing linkage between their relationships with President Babangida and their presidential bid… Another view, against the background of doubts over Babangida’s willingness to hand over, is that Tofa’s and Abiola’s relationship with the military president as well as the manner of their entry into the race, suggest that they may be willing tools for further extension of the transition programme should they become candidates of their parties. [p.21]The attack on Abiola, as a lackey of General Babangida, was so persistent that the Chief had to come out and defend himself and his integrity. Wale Akin-Aina of The African Guardian of March 22nd, 1993, reported that Abiola angrily told reporters that:
Some people are saying that I am being used by President Babangida. This is an insult on President Babangida, it is an insult on me. I am too big to be used. [p.22]Despite all the denials by Chief Abiola that he was not an agent of General Babangida, The African Guardian persisted in portraying him as such. As soon as the SDP convention was won by Abiola and the NRC’s by Tofa, the magazine went to town with another cover story. Unlike the previous time, this edition, of April 12, 1993, did not have question marks on the cover. It was written, boldly and clearly thus: The President’s Men with the pictures of the two candidates. The story, filed by Chinedu Offor, said that:
…not many Nigerians were taken by surprise at the outcome of the conventions of the two political parties last week. If nothing, for many, the emergence of Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola and Bashir Othman Tofa as presidential candidates of the Social Democratic Party and the National Republican Convention was not only largely expected, it was a confirmation of the wide held speculations that the two men, both multimillionaires but, bosom friends of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida would likely be victorious at the convention. No wonder then that as soon as the results were announced last week, the initial reaction, palpable across the nation was: … And it has come to pass. [p.20]But, when the presidential elections, which Abiola won was annulled on 23rd June 1993, the truth about his candidature forced itself upon those who had misrepresented it. It became clear that, much as the machinations of the military with the lengthy, and regimented transition programme, had enabled him to emerge as the SDP candidate and defeat a weaker NRC opponent, he was not Babangida, or, any ruling military clique’s stooge. The characterisation given to his candidature, to the transition programme and to the June 12th elections, along these lines, were shown to be false. The actual realities of what he stood for in Nigerian politics and what his candidature and victory at the polls meant went beyond his links with powerful military officers, including Babangida.
When this reality about Abiola and the June 12th presidential election and the SDP had to be faced, due to the annulment of the election results, those who had denounced that whole effort to get the military dictatorship to peacefully come to an end, turned around, one hundred and eighty degrees, without an iota of shame, to say that the June 12th presidential election, which they had denounced and boycotted, was the freest and fairest in Nigerian history, and that Abiola had obtained an irrevocable, democratic, mandate to be the president of Nigeria. Overnight, Abiola was transformed from a stooge of Babangida, and of northern military officers into the great champion of democracy in Nigeria and flag-bearer of the rights of the Yoruba race and, or, Southerners. Just as what he stood for before, and up to, 12th June 1993, was misrepresented, so what he stood for after 23rd June 1993, was also misrepresented, with damaging consequences to the democratic cause in Nigeria.
Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who had earlier on vociferously dismissed the transition programme, and had even refused to vote on June 12th, came out to acclaim the presidential election, as the best ever held in Nigeria. In an interview with Dele Omotunde, the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Tell magazine, published in its September, 13th 1993 edition, under the caption, June 12 Is Not Negotiable, he said:
The government is making one mistake, that June 12 election is not extraordinary. Let me say this: It is more spiritual than physical. It was more providential than mundane. It was a judgment delivered by God based on activities in society since 1914 and 1960. Abiola happened to be a messenger used by God for that purpose. I am saying this because that election was extraordinarily peaceful, the peace was not an organised peace, it was a naturally propelled peace. All over the country there was not the usual violence that attends election even in other parts of the world, either beat up or fracas, nothing like that. Secondly, I am not aware of any election either in the pre or post-independence era where in the North, a candidate on a national platform was defeated in his hometown, state and local government. It was like defeating Sardauna in Sokoto or Tafawa Balewa in Bauchi town, Dr.Zik in Onitsha or Awolowo in Ikenne, that could be unthinkable. But God wanted to deliver a conclusive and flawless judgement (p.10).But Gani Fawenhinmi, was not alone in this somersault, on the June 12 election. The veteran politician, Chief Enahoro, who had characterized the transition programme as a charade, came out to extol it when the military regime cancelled the result. He issued a statement, which was published in the July 19, 1993 edition of the Tell magazine. He said:
The second excuse is the shocking one reported in the press and ascribed to General Babangida in a statement at his meeting with the state governors in Abuja on June 29, 1993, that Chief M.K.O.Abiola though popularly elected to be president of Nigeria by the electorate, is unacceptable to some of the military…as regards the crisis on hand, our Movement is strongly of the view that there is no valid case for fresh elections. The announcement of the election results, which was nearly half done, should be completed, and the victor should be recognised as president-elect. This process should take only a few hours (pp.26-27)The African Guardian, owned by Alex Ibru of the powerful and rich Ibru clan, which had persistently misrepresented Abiola as a stooge of the military and of Babangida before the election of June 12, made a quick about-turn and started hailing him as the possessor of a strong democratic mandate. In its edition of June 12th 1998, Fred Ohwahwa wrote that:
Chief Abiola the extremely wealthy Concord publisher had emerged tops in the election. It was a sweeping victory… political observers are already saying that this is the first time a leader would emerge who has an unquestionable national of mandate. Hence the legitimacy Abiola’s administration when he assumes office will not be in doubt. (pp15-16)What had been misrepresented as a fraud and a charade, an arrangee election, is now being hailed as a valid democratic election, giving its winner a solid democratic mandate!
The 1999 Presidential Elections
If the misrepresentation of Chief Moshood Abiola, before and after the annulment on 23rd June, 1993, was part of the tragedy which befell Nigeria, the misrepresentation of what President Olusegun Obasanjo stood for, when he contested and won the 27th February, 1999, presidential elections, started as a farce, but may be preparing the grounds for a tragedy, unless it is exposed and countered effectively.
When in 1998, General Olusegun Obasanjo,
announced his intention to seek the nomination of the People’s Democratic
Party and contest the presidential elections of 27th February, 1999, those
who are now conducting the campaign against the corporate existence of
Nigeria, denounced him even more viciously and vociferously then they had
earlier denounced his fellow Egba chief, Moshood Abiola. Although there
was no clear cut military figure who he could be said to be a tool of,
Obasanjo, was misrepresented as a tool of northerners and a quisling of
the Hausa-Fulani, who wanted to use him to perpetuate their domination
of Nigeria. The following are examples of this campaign of misrepresentation.
In a front page headline, the Sunday Tribune of September 6, 1998, came up with a story captioned, PRESIDENCY: Forces Behind Obasanjo. This story, filed by Tunde Babalola, said:
Even more disturbing is the highly plausible story that 64-year old Obasanjo is only a pawn in the hands of the military. Obviously cashing in on the near consensus that power should shift to the south, Obasanjo’s backers, who according to reports cannot stomach a southern non-military man as head of state, see Obasanjo an answer to many of their problems.… Obasanjo, an international statesman who ones ruled Nigeria without upsetting the apple cart of the North with a political profile oftentimes unpopular with his tribesmen, fits the bill perfectly- a military man in civilian garb. (p.8)A powerful chieftain of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, in an interview with Ayodele Ale, published in Tempo of November 12, 1998, condemned the candidature of Obasanjo, in very explicit terms:
Obasanjo has just come to the show as a spoiler. That is all. There is no genuine intention to serve the people. The people who are pushing him want to use him to divide the Yoruba…I will not vote for him. Voting for him is like voting for a Northerner. That is why I am concerned. I don’t see any difference between Obasanjo and a Northern president and there are many people like me. (p.4)Another piece written along the same lines as that of the AD chieftain, was published in the March 1, 1999, edition of TheNEWS magazine. This article was written by, Ebenezer Obadare, who wrote that:
,.. a large section of the Nigerian populace, a majority of them coming, for reasons which every close follower of the Nigeria scene in the last six years knows, from the Yoruba ethnic constituency, had shown a strong resentment for his candidacy…Even more galling to those who were ready to submit the general’s head before the political…guillotine, was the manner in which Obasanjo himself had carried on, strutting the landscape as if he was the favoured son of a barely obscure northern political machine, the producers of political power since the Nigerian journey kicked-off four decades ago, and the very architects of our exasperating misadventure as a nation…(p.18)This campaign against Obasanjo, as a lackey of a northern clique, was sustained. In an article, titled, Why Yorubas Must Say ‘NO’ to Obasanjo, by Oludamisi Itayemi, published in the October 29, 1998 edition of Tempo; wrote that:
The campaign, in the press, for another Obasanjo presidency seems to be gathering momentum. Those sponsoring the promotion of the retired General’s second coming are apparently the same clique that has always spearheaded previous anti-Yoruba agenda. Their main objective is making the emergence of a Yoruba presidency impossible. If that fails, and Yoruba presidency become inevitable, they want to be in position to choose the Yoruba candidate that will allowed to get the job. Obviously, such candidate would have to be one that would, for them, be maneuverable, their lackey or yes-man. In other will be a Southerner only in name. There would be power-shift only on paper. (p.11)But this campaign of Obasanjo being a northern lackey went as far as accusing him of retiring military officers from the southern states, which transformed the army into a northern army. An executive Editor of the Tell magazine, Dare Babarinsa, in a lead column, titled, A General at the Threshold, published in April 5, 1999 edition, said that:
It may be inaccurate to judge Obasanjo’s new assignment with performance of the old one, but it is necessary to look at the past. He was the man who purged the army of mostly Southern officers to the extent that today the Nigerian army is mostly the Northern army. (p.5)The projection of Obasanjo as a northern stooge was very widespread. In an article by published in the Sunday Tribune of 15, November 1998, Debo Abdulai wrote that: The sons of Oduduwa are not looking for a man who is more at home elsewhere than with his kinsmen; a man who does not share the virtues and clamour of the Yoruba race, clamours that include regionalisation of the army, redesigning and restructuring of the federation, Sovereign National Conference, etc.The Yorubas want someone who will be so bold to speak Yoruba at Aso Rock, cause to be imprinted on any national symbol, a logo of the Yoruba race as the Hausas did on the N20 note with their Arewa logo, a person who will also not shy away from surrounding himself with a kitchen cabinet with his tribesmen as the majority That Obasanjo is saying that he cannot be anything at this stage of his life other than a nationalist is a clear negation of the rules that have always propelled the Hausas into the oval office. All leaders, either military or civilian, who have been at the top, have never pretend to be anything but Hausa, in every colour of that word (p.22) But, within a few days of Obasanjo taking office and starting on some of his programmes, which clearly upset some of the political big shots from the northern states, who had supported him, Obasanjo began to be transformed from a northern stooge, into a Yoruba hero, from a “shege” into a “brother”, and a champion of the Yoruba race and, or, of Southerners. The turn-about over Obasanjo’s presidency were so glaring, as to be theatrical, particularly coming after the somersault over Abiola.
A prominent member of the Alliance for Democracy [AD] Senator Ayo Fasanmi has warned Northern irredentists inciting the North against the almost two months old regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo not to ever contemplate harming the President. Seething with anger, Senator Fasanmi declared that “nothing must happen to him [Obasanjo], otherwise that would be the end of Nigeria.” [p.6]It is not only politicians who changed their positions on Obasanjo. Even one of the loudest pro-democracy journalists, Dare Babarinsa, who attacked Obasanjo, as a lackey of the North, before the elections, as cited on page 25 above, joined in this somersault. In Tell of 12th June, 2000, he wrote that:
… Obasanjo is hailed as the symbol of the new Nigerian democracy. He is the pilot of the Nigerian resorgiment [sic] and a new beginning for Black Africa and the African race… Obasanjo,., is at the centre of a national re-awakening. [ p.7]But, on the basis of the facts and figures of Nigerian politics, particularly as revealed by the political alignments and the actual election results, there is nothing surprising about the candidature and electoral victories of Abiola and Obasanjo, because Nigerian politics is a completely different thing from the ethnic and regional boxing match it is misrepresented to be. This is clear from the empirical evidence of the nature of this politics in the form of the election results, going back to the first nationwide elections in 1951.
The 1951 Elections
It is very significant that, contrary to the misrepresentations of Nigerian political history, the first nation-wide election of 1951 resulted in the NCNC winning 51 seats, in the Western Region but loosing 16 legislatures, who were elected on the platform of organisations allied to it, but declared for the Action Group. As a result, the NCNC was left with 35 seats in the Western Regional House of Assembly. While the Action Group, which had won 29 seats in the election, managed to raise its seats to 45. The NCNC ended up as a formidable opposition in the Western House of Assembly, with its leader, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, a member of that house.
What actually happened in the Eastern Region in the 1951 election has been obscured by the success of the NCNC to quickly, and without much fuss, get the majority of those elected, who were independent, to declare for it. The late Justice Udo Udoma, an active politician in those days, and a distinguished jurist, has brought out what happened in his study of the history of Nigeria, titled, History and the Law of the Constitution of Nigeria, published in 1994. He penetrated behind the false image of Eastern regionalist and Igbo solidarity behind the NCNC in that election, and brought out that:
….after the votes had been collected the NCNC party was only able to win a few seats in the Eastern Region, because of almost total neglect. For instance, in the whole of old Calabar Province out of 13 seats allocated to it, the NCNC party could only win 2 seats, which were seats allocated to Calabar Division and that was because of the influence of Professor Eyo Ita. The rest of the seats allocated to the province were won by independent candidates to the extent that most NCNC party candidates lost their deposit. The situation was the same in most parts of the Eastern Region. For instance, in Orlu Division, Mr Mbonu Ojike, the arch-exponent of NCNC party doctrines and manifesto, was defeated by an old man, Chief Ezerioha, while Dr K.O.Mbadiwe, who had jettisoned Mr Mbonu Ojike in the midst of the campaign and had formed an alliance with the Chief, also won. Mr Reuben.I.Uzoma won in the same constituency as an independent candidate. The story was the same even in Onisha (Ziks home town) where the late Sir Louis Mbanefo won as an independent candidate. (p.113-114).In the Northern Region, the Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU, was the only political party that contested the 1951 election. But the election in the North, like in most parts of Nigeria was indirect and organised in four stages. However, what distinguished the North from the rest of Nigeria was that the British ensured that the election was conducted and heavily contested by Native Authority officials.
In this indirect election system, only the first stage was a product of a direct, election, by the voters. At every stage, after the first stage, the Native Authority was allowed to inject new people into the contest. Most of the people injected by the Native Authorities were the defeated candidates at the previous stage. In many places, NEPU, and pro-NEPU independent candidates, won at the primary stage. Their victory was so decisive that the colonial government’s newspaper, the Nigerian Citizen, even wrote an editorial warning about the “red danger” posed by the NEPU victories. By the time the elections went to the fourth stage, the NEPU victories at the popular level in the first stage were wiped out and not a single NEPU candidate was able to make it to the Northern Regional House of Assembly.
This indirect, and undemocratic, election, was, therefore, won by candidates who were leading officials of the Native Authorities, in charge of the police, the prisons, the courts, taxation, and the whole district administration. The NPC was formed after the elections and then, the new party, persuaded all the 64 successful candidates elected as “independents” to sit in the house as its members. But this NPC majority in the house, is not a result of the votes freely cast by the voters of the Northern Region, as we have shown.
The 1954 Federal Elections
In the 1954 Federal elections, the voters of the Western Region gave the victory in the Region to the NCNC. The NCNC won 23 out of the 42 seats. The AG won 18 seats, despite the advantage of being in office for three years, 1951-1954. The victory of the NCNC over the AG in the Western Region during the 1954 federal, elections into the House of Representatives frightened the AG, the NPC, their British sponsors and patrons. Part of the reason for this fear was that this victory gave the NCNC the chance to nominate for appointment six out of the nine Federal ministers, that is three from the Western Region and three from the Eastern Region
And as the election in the North was being awaited, there was fear and anxiety at the highest levels of the British colonial administration in Nigeria. If the NCNC and its alliance partner, the NEPU, were able to secure about thirty seats from the North, they would have led the government at the centre; relegating both the AG and the NPC to the background. It was this fear that made the British, the Action Group and the NPC to work out a plan for a merger, in order to block the NCNC from dominating the Federal government.
In a top secret correspondence to the Colonial Office No. 26 of 25th November, 1954, the Governor of Nigeria, Sir John Macpherson reported to the Secretary of State for the Colonies that this … “alliance goes to the length of fusion of Action Group and N.P.C. and that the N.P.C. will be entitled to select the leader of the new organization…”Although the merger of the AG and the NPC did not materialize, the British were able to use this to pressurize the NCNC and get an NPC leader, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, appointed as the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, even when the NCNC won the elections in two regions and had six out of the nine ministers at the federal level.
Judging from the evidence in the form of the actual results of these maiden elections at the regional and federal levels in 1951 and 1954, the notion of Nigerian politics being a perpetual ethnic and regional boxing match, from its very beginning, is a misrepresentation and distortion of what actually happened.
The 1956 Western Regional Elections
In the 1956 election into the Western
Regional House of Assembly, the AG won by a narrow percentage margin of
48.3% of the votes cast. This gave the AG, 48 seats in a 70- member legislature.
The NCNC obtained 45.3% of the votes and won 32 seats. The balance of 16.4%
of the votes cast, were shared by four other parties and independent candidates,
all of whom were opposed to the AG, making the anti-AG votes to come to
51.7%, leaving it with a minority of 48.3% of the votes.
Thus, in 1956, the AG formed a minority government, in terms of votes, in the Western Region, after being in office for five years. How do these facts and figures fit in with the picture of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and the Action Group, leading the Yoruba from the very beginning of electoral politics in Nigeria? They clearly do not support this misrepresentation of politics in the Western Region, with its accompanying fabrication of a so-called “mainstream Yoruba” political party.
The 1959 Federal Elections
In the 1959 Federal elections, the NCNC-NEPU alliance secured the highest votes, with 2,592,629, representing 36.1% of the total votes cast in the whole of Nigeria. The NPC came second with 2,027,194, representing 28.2% of the votes cast. The AG came third with 1,980,839 votes, representing 27.6% of the total votes cast. The other parties put together secured 578,893 votes, representing 8.1% of the votes cast. In terms of seats, the NPC came first with 134, followed by the NCNC-NEPU alliance with, 89, the AG with, 73, and the others, 16.
Bolaji Akinyemi, in an article in a book, Ethnic Relations in Nigeria, edited by A.O.Sanda, and published in 1976, questioned the conclusions of some leading political scientists on the electoral behaviour of Nigerians in the 1959 federal elections. Bolaji Akinyemi is now one of the leading intellectuals of the Yoruba racist political organization, the Afenifere. Ken Post and Richard Sklar, among others, had tried to give pre-eminence to the ethnic factor in the support that Nigerian voters gave to the political parties in Nigerian elections. Ken Post said, categorically, in 1963, that:
From 1951 onwards… nearly all Ibos supported the NCNC, most Yorubas backed Action Group, all but a small minority of the Hausa and Fulani were associated, if indirectly, with the NPC.(p.135).In his analyses, Bolaji Akinyemi demonstrated that the figures in the 1959 election did not show that Nigerian voters gave pre-eminence to ethnic considerations. For example, the Northern Region, which, according to Ken Post, was the home base of the NPC, on account of ethnic affiliation, did not give NPC an overwhelming majority support in a significant number of the constituencies. Indeed, out of the region’s 174 federal constituencies, only one third, or, 57 constituencies, returned NPC with over 75% of the votes cast. In 63 constituencies, between 25% and under 50% of the electorate voted against NPC. And in 33 constituencies, the successful candidates returned were non-NPC.
The constituencies that did not vote NPC cut across the minority and the core Hausa-Fulani areas like Sokoto, Kano, Katsina and Zaria Provinces. Indeed, the total votes cast for the NPC and the other parties did not indicate an overwhelming support for the NPC in the, Northern Region. The NPC secured 1,994,045 votes while the other parties obtained 1,264,475 votes, meaning that in the 1959 federal elections, 39% of the voters in the Northern Region voted against the NPC. And 39% is not a small minority by any standard. It meant that four, out of ten, voters in the Northern Region voted against the NPC in that crucial election to determine which party will head the first government of the independent Federation of Nigeria. Where is the “monolithic North” always standing behind the Sardauna, and the NPC?
In the case of the Western Region and Lagos, the margin of the AG victory over the NCNC was small. The AG obtained 933,680 votes that gave it 33 seats, the NCNC had 758,462 votes and 21 seats. Other parties and independents scored 195,067. The position in the Western Region was that the Action Group scored 49.4% of the votes cast while the NCNC and the other parties scored 50.6% of the votes cast, meaning that even in that major election the Action Group was not the majority party in the Western Region and Lagos. Bolaji Akinyemi’s general conclusion was that:
In Post’s study, no reason was adduced for the fact that even in the Yoruba areas, the Action Group could only command majority support in 55% of the constituencies. It seems logical to suggest however that the over-all pattern of voting in the Yoruba area of the Western region did not support the theory that the Yoruba saw the Action Group as a Yoruba party for which their Yorubaness dictated political support.In the Eastern Region, the NCNC, in spite of its control of the local and regional government machinery, won only 64.6% of the votes. That means 35.4%, that is more then a third of the voters, voted against it. But the party’s performance in the Western Region, where it scored 40.2% of the voters and in Northern Region where it scored 17.2%, of the votes, and this national spread and across the Federation of 36.1% of the votes, shows how Ken Post’s position is contrary to the actual empirical evidence of the election results.
While ethnicity, region and religion played, and still play, an important role in politics in Nigeria, as in almost all other countries in the world, there is nothing in the actual empirical evidence from Nigerian election, which justifies the way Nigerian politics is misrepresented as being almost entirely a matter of ethnic and regional solidarity and conflicts. This view is a misrepresentation of the political realities of Nigeria and serves as a basis for the campaign against the corporate existence of the country, and the chronic crippling of the social, political and economic development of its people.
The Post-Independence Regional Elections
The AG was able to secure over 50% of the total votes cast in an election in the Western Region only in 1960. This was the election into the Western Regional House of Assembly. In that election, the AG obtained 53.6% of the votes cast. The NCNC obtained 36.2%. It is, however, quite interesting to note that the situation was in reverse for the other two regions; in both the North and the East, the fortunes of the NPC and NCNC declined in the first post-independence election. In the regional elections held in 1961, NPC’s share of the votes dropped to 69.2% in the Northern Region, even though it secured 160 out of the 170 seats in the House of Assembly.
The AG that was contesting the election into the Northern Region House of Assembly for the first time in 1961 and captured 14.6% of the votes which gave it 9 seats. The NCNC-NEPU alliance also obtained 14.2% of the votes and this gave them just one seat. On its part, the NCNC dropped to 58% in 1961 from 63.26% in the 1957 election into the Eastern Region House of Assembly in 1957. In that election, the AG obtained 14.4% of the votes and this gave the party 15 seats in the House of Assembly. In this election, independent candidates captured 22.2% of the votes and got 20 seats in the House of Assembly. This meant that the opposition was growing in the two regions, exposing as false, the picture, of the ethnicisation of Nigerian voting behaviour.
The Presidential Elections of 1979, 1993 and 1999
In the 1979 elections, the political situation changed to some extent. The voters in the former Western Region voted overwhelmingly for the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, an offshoot of the AG, at all levels of the elections. A major, but rarely mentioned, reason that made the UPN to capture this area had to do with the actions of the governments of Lt. Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, and Colonel Adeyinka Adebayo, the first two Military Governors of the Western State. They allowed Action Group leaders to take over the government machinery in the Western State and to use this machinery to settle scores with the supporters of Chief S. L. Akintola’s NNDP. For the thirteen long years, 1966-1979, the machinery of the governments of the states of the former Western Region was largely in the hands of the Action Group, from the Executive Councils downwards, and it was put to effective use, with the clear sense of purpose, directed at ensuring that Chief Awolowo fulfilled his lifelong ambition to head the government of Nigeria, as soon as the military returned to the barracks.
In the case of the former Eastern and Mid-Western Regions that used to vote NCNC, they did not give that same support to the Nigeria Peoples’ Party, NPP, even though, the party’s presidential candidate was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. The former Mid-West voted largely UPN, while Rivers and Cross River States voted largely for the National Party of Nigeria, NPN. The NPP won in only Imo and Anambra States.
In the former Northern Region, its deep-rooted political plurality, for so long submerged by the Native Authority machinery, used to win elections effectively by the NPC, came out clearly, particularly in the results of the gubernatorial elections. The NPN, that was, largely, an offshoot of the NPC, won in Sokoto, Benue, Kwara, Niger and Bauchi. The PRP won Kaduna and Kano, the NPP won Plateau and the GNPP won Borno and Gongola states. To show how misleading the “One North” political delusion, is, the PRP, GNPP and NPP governors of the five northern states, formed a twelve governors alliance with the governors of the UPN and NPP in the southern states, where these parties won. This alliance was a key factor in shaping the politics of the Second Republic.
Therefore, anyone who thinks that the 1979 elections were decided by ethnicity because of the massive votes which Awolowo, Zik, Aminu Kano and Waziri Ibrahim got in their home area, has not closely studied the votes of the candidate who actually won the presidential elections. For, the candidate who won the elections, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, did so with the votes of states, outside his own Hausa-Fulani home area. In fact, he obtained more percentage votes from some of these states than his home state.
His highest percentage of votes from the states was in this order: Benue 76.38%, Niger 74.88%, Rivers 72.66%, Sokoto 66.58%, Cross River 64.40%, Bauchi 62.48% and Kwara 53.62%. These seven states which are, except Sokoto and Bauchi, not Hausa, or, Fulani, gave him more then 58.9% of the votes he got in the election. Alhaji Shagari obtained, from these seven states, 3,336,600 out of the total of 5,688,857 votes he won in the whole federation, to clinch the presidency. So a crucial fact about the results for the 1979 presidential elections was that the candidate who won, did so, largely, with votes from other ethnic groups, other then his own. Those who got most of their votes from their ethnic groups lost the election!
In the case of the June 12th, 1993 presidential elections, while Chief Abiola of the SDP, defeated Alhaji Bashir Tofa, of the NRC, in the predominantly Yoruba areas, he also defeated him in almost all the states with predominantly Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri voters, and Alhaji Bashir Tofa, is said to be a Hausa-Fulani of Kanuri extraction. In fact, as Abubakar Siddique Mohammed has pointed out, in his paper challenging the twisting and distorting of the significance of the June 12th elections, titled, The June 12th Presidential Election Was Neither Free Nor Fair, of 1998, out of a total registered voters numbering 7.76 million in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo states in 1993, only 3.0 million voted for Chief Abiola. That means that only 38.9% of the voters in these predominantly Yoruba states voted for him, while 61.1% either did not vote, or, voted for the NRC candidate, Alhaji Bashir Tofa. The table of the figures of the 1993 presidential election results in Fig.1 show clearly that the ethnic and regional factors were not important in that election, and that Chief Abiola did not win that election because Yorubas voted for him; and in any case a clear majority of registered Yoruba voters did not vote for him.
The case of the 27th February 1999, presidential election, as the table of its results in Fig.2 shows, is even more glaring. In the six predominantly Yoruba states of Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Eketi, Osun and Oyo, Obasanjo got only 1.09 million votes, This is less then the 1.29 million he got in Kaduna State alone, and barely higher then the 0.96 million he got in Katsina State. He “lost his deposit” by scoring below 25% in five of these six states getting as low as 12% of the votes in Lagos and 16.6% in Ondo!
Yet right now, the leaders of the party the Alliance for Democracy which inflicted such stunning and humiliating defeat on Obasanjo in his home area, have threatened to slaughter those who voted Obasanjo into office, with massive majorities, if he were to drop dead, even from a heart attack! The Katsinawa living in Lagos State of whom 80.80% voted for Obasanjo in that election, stand to be killed by Lagosians who gave him only 12% of their votes if anything untoward is to happen to him! This is the level of irrationality, the misrepresentation of politics in Nigeria has now reached, leaving very little room for political stability and for the political and economic development of the country.
This irrationality provides the fertile
ground for the sort of racism exhibited by one of the leading figures of
the Yoruba racist organisation, the Afenifere, Chief Bola Ige, the Minister
of Justice of Nigeria, who as Abubakar Siddique Mohammed has factually
and systematically brought out in the Ceddert booklet, Chief Bola Ige and
the Destabilisation of Nigeria openly and in writing, endorsed the 1994
genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda and threatened the Fulani with genocide
The misrepresentation of what Obasanjo stood for in that election and the shameless somersaults over what that election produced, and what his presidency stands for, reveals in a very direct way how irrational and short-sighted those campaign against the basis of the corporate existence of Nigeria are.
The Three False Assumptions
But it is not just the realities of Nigerian politics which are misrepresented in this campaign, and the true facts and figures of the election results covered up under layers of untruths and half-truths, even the actual realities of the country’s geography and history, are twisted and distorted to create pictures of the country and its people which are quite different from what they really are. The extent of this misrepresentation, particularly over the last decade, has been such that many people living outside Nigeria, Nigerians and foreigners alike, who follow its affairs on the media, wonder why the country has not yet disintegrated and plunged into a bloody civil war, or, civil wars.
It is only when they hear from, or, read, those who actually live and work in Nigeria, and who have a stake in it, that they begin to realize that there is a big gap, in most of the domestic and foreign media coverage of the country, between, what is actually happening in it, and what is reported about it. This gap is not just a result of sensational reporting, important as that factor is. It is also not just the result of ignorance, important as that is also. It has deeper roots in a distinct outlook on Nigeria and Nigerians.
This outlook arises from the powerful position which three false assumptions about Nigeria and Nigerians have acquired in the minds of those reporting on Nigerian affairs, and even of some of those participating in them. These false assumptions are, firstly, the existence of a fundamental dichotomy between the North and the South of Nigeria. Secondly, the inevitability of competition and conflicts between supposedly monolithic and distinctive ethnic, groups, which are said to have existed as distinct racial entities for millennia, and which are said to be the constituent units of the country. And, thirdly the supposedly inherent antagonism between the Muslims and the Christians of Nigeria.
The misrepresentation of Nigeria in the campaign being conducted against its corporate existence is born out of this misleading outlook on the country, built on these three sets of false assumptions. This outlook is made up of concepts, which are seen as fixed and immutable like the North and the South; the Muslims and the Christians and the Igbo and the Yoruba, for example. These categories, by the very way they are conceived in this outlook, obscure the mosaic plurality of Nigeria and Nigerians and the processes of fusions, diffusions, intermeshing, formations and transformations, which have marked the history of the people of the Nigerian area for millennia, before, and since the country’s formation, and right up to today.
We shall now seek to show how these assumptions are false, starting with the myth of 1914, one of the most twisted bits of Nigerian history, which forms a key part of the gross over-simplification and extreme generalization of Nigerian realities, known as the North-South dichotomy.
The Myth of 1914
The North-South dichotomy has to be understood clearly, in order to grasp its significance in this outlook informing this campaign against the corporate existence of Nigeria. What it is, and what it is not, has to be very clear. It is not being argued here, that this conception is false, because there is no northern part of Nigeria and no southern part of Nigeria. In every space on the surface of the earth, there is a northern part and a southern part, simply because of the fact of the longitude. We even have the compass to show us which is the north and which is the south, in any room.
It is also not being proposed here that, there has not emerged, since about the 1930s, within Nigeria, the sub-national identities of northerners and southerners, in Nigeria, whatever varied, and conflicting, cultural and political contents, different northerners and different southerners, ascribe to these identities at different times, at different place and for different purposes.
The North-South dichotomy goes far beyond these facts of geography and of emerging sub-national political and cultural identities. The North-South dichotomy is the assumption that, the Federal Republic of Nigeria is an amalgam of two, distinct geographical, cultural, economic, social and political entities, namely the North and the South. These distinct entities, have been, according to this conception, brought together by the British, for their own reasons, in the 1914 amalgamation of the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. But, that, these two amalgamated entities have never fused, or, merged into one, but have remained an amalgam of two distinct, and often antagonistic entities, in terms of their background, interests and aspirations.
This conception of Nigeria is false, because the amalgamation of 1914 did not amalgamate two distinct entities, standing apart from one another and having some cohesion on their own. The Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was, in 1914, a variegated collection of distinct colonial entities, which except for Lagos, had just been conquered by the British and were, at that time, being brought under effective colonial military occupation. This entity, which is falsely presented as constituting the South, standing distinct and cohesive apart from the North, at the time of the 1914 amalgamation, was itself produced by a series of amalgamations going back to 1893. In that year the Oil Rivers Protectorate was amalgamated with other territories nearby, which the British had subjugated, to form the Niger Coast Protectorate. This Niger Coast Protectorate, which, only in 1897, came to include the conquered Kingdom of Benin, for example, was, in 1900, amalgamated with a series of protectorates the British had imposed in the immediate hinterland of the Colony of Lagos, to form the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, administered separately from the Colony of Lagos.
Six years later, in 1906, the Colony of Lagos was amalgamated with this Protectorate of Southern Nigeria to form the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, which far from being some cohesive colonial entity, was, largely, a sphere of influence, from which the British kept out other European colonial powers. The military expeditions for colonial occupation, here in fact, continued, right up to 1914, and beyond.
The Protectorate of Northern Nigeria,
proclaimed in 1900, was also just a sphere of influence claimed by the
British. It did not exist as a distinct entity, which could be termed,
the North, up to 1914, and beyond, when military expeditions to establish
it continued. It was a variegated collection of the subjugated, hitherto
largely autonomous, emirates of the Sokoto Caliphate, the subjugated Sheikhdom
of Borno, the Igala and Jukun Kingdoms and numerous independent polities,
which by the time of the 1914 amalgamation cannot be said to have constituted
a distinct entity standing on its own, as the North, distinct from the
This is why, the fable that the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria was amalgamated with the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria because the North was not economically viable, which is so widely disseminated by those who claim to be able to show the historical origins of the North-South dichotomy, is farcical, and only shows ignorance of the actual historical evidence of that process of colonial administrative reorganization. For, in the first place, the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria was largely a British sphere of influence, which was, at that time being occupied by the British therefore, most of the expenditure by the British was on their military expeditions to establish this protectorate.
As that traveller and keen observer of African colonial affairs, E.D.Morel, pointed out in his book Nigeria its People and its Problems, published in 1911, out of a total annual expenditure of 305,000 pounds by the colonial administration in the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, in the years 1906-1909, the sum of 260,000 pounds, that is 85% of the annual expenditure, was military expenditure. This military expenditure was on the Royal West African Frontier Force, whose imperial military responsibilities extended for beyond the protectorate, as its name makes quiet clear. E.D.Morel states categorically that: To say, therefore, that Northern Nigeria is costing the British taxpayer a quarter of a million a year or more is to make a statement which is not in accordance with the fact….let this grant [to Northern Nigeria] under this amalgamation be cancelled and let the imperial government on the other hand foot the bill for the military expenditure” [pp.208-209]. E.D. Morel also dismissed the widespread fabrication that the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria was merged with the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria because the budget of the former was in deficit, as it was poorer and, therefore, had a lower revenue and had to be bailed out by the richer southern colony and protectorate. He pointed out that this situation of budget deficit had an obvious cause. The southern colony and protectorate extended to the coast and its administration collected all the custom dues on the sea-borne export and import trade of the two protectorates. He said that the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria was A vast protectorate shut off from the seaboard by another less than four times its size having no coastline, and the custom dues on whose trade are collected by the latter (p.190) In fact, as various academic studies have shown, the economic and the fiscal policies of the British, before 1914, and after, were driven by the knowledge that the two protectorates formed a largely compact entity, which could not be profitably ruled and exploited in British’s strategic interests, if they were not brought together. The imperatives of economic and political geography which led to the amalgamation of 1893, which created the Niger Coast Protectorate; followed by that in 1900 which created the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria; followed by that of 1906 which created the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, was what also led to the amalgamation of 1914, which created the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.
It is in order to deny these imperatives of economic and political geography, which led to the formation of Nigeria that these series of amalgamations culminating in 1914 are ignored and a huge myth built around 1914. The fabrication of this myth of 1914 goes back to the time when setting northerners against southerners became one of the cardinal political strategies of the British, particularly in order to contain and scatter the Nigerian nationalist movement led by the NCNC, which in 1944-1950 got massive nationwide support for its campaign for independence and for “One Nigeria”, to the great discomfort of the British.
It is, therefore, not true that Nigeria is an amalgam of two distinct entities, the North and the South thrown together by the British in 1914, largely because the North had poorer revenue and had to be bailed out.
The Myth of Nigeria’s Arbitrary Creation
J.F.Ade Ajayi, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Ibadan and E.J. Alagoa, Professor of History at the University of Port Harcourt draw attention to the geographical compactness of Nigeria. It was this compactness, which in the light of Britain’s economic and strategic interest made these series of amalgamations, ending up with Nigeria in 1914, imperative. The two distinguished scholars also bring out facts which lead to the conclusions that, like all countries in the world, Nigeria is indeed a geographical expression, and at that crucial geographical level of human existence, it is not an arbitrary creation, for there were sound geographical factors favouring its formation. In their joint chapter in the book, Groundwork of Nigerian History, published by Heinemann for the Historical Society of Nigeria, in 1980, and edited by Obaro Ikime, they pointed out that:
Nigeria is not a self-contained geographical unit….In spite of the openness of its borders, however, there is a compactness about the Nigerian geographical environment which encouraged greater movement and interaction of peoples within it than with people outside it. The compactness comes principally from two factors. The first is the complementarity of the Sudan Belt and the Forest Zone with the intervening transitional Middle Belt dominated by the Jos Plateau.”. (pp224-225)And, that:
The second factor engendering compactness has been the essential unity of the river systems. Nigeria is really the basin of the lower Niger south of the Bussa rapids with the Benue, their tributaries and the enormous delta spreading out into several creeks and lagoons. The unity of these waterways encouraged a network of relationship within the basin. The river networks provided routes of contact between people cutting across the north and south axis and supplementing it. Accordingly, one must recognize east and west movements of peoples and ideas as well as the north and south movement already suggested by the vegetation zones. It is because of this compactness that despite the fortuitous manner in which the political unity of Nigeria came to be achieved, culturally and economically Nigeria was not really an arbitrary creation (pp.224-225).In fact, it is not only that Nigeria is not an arbitrary creation, as Ajayi and Alagoa cogently make clear, but, its international boundaries are also, largely, not arbitrary, as they are often misrepresented to be. As the late J.C.Anene, Professor of History at the University of Ibadan, when that university was leading the rest of the world in breaking new paths in the study of history, the boundaries of Nigeria were, like all political boundaries, all over the world, and throughout history, artificial, but they were not arbitrary. Anene explained that, all political boundaries are artificial, because they are political demarcations of territory made by political authorities for political purposes, and not by natural, or, cultural processes, even if some may coincide with some geographical feature, or, patterns of cultural geography. In his perceptive and meticulous study, The International Boundaries of Nigeria, 1885-1900: The Framework of An Emergent Nation, published in 1970, Anene concluded that:
….no objective criticism of the boundaries of Nigeria should leave out of account the realities of political and economic conditions which prevailed in the boundary zones at the time the boundaries emerged…If the results of the negotiations are viewed against the background of these conditions one cannot escape the conclusion that the boundaries represented, to a suprising degree, the realities which existed at that time.Those who are attacking the basis of the corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, refuse to face up to the solid evidence in the writings of Nigerian scholars of world renown, such as Anene, Ajayi and Alagoa, which bring out clearly the rational foundations on which the Nigerian nation-state exists. Instead, they disseminate a culture of irrationality, of the evasion of the truth, of compound ignorance and intellectual mediocrity, with which no sustained political stability, or, economic and social development can be attained.
The Geological and Hydrological Realities
The campaign against the corporate existence of the Nigerian nation-state, whether in the name of restructuring, confederation, or, secession, is marked by a refusal to address the issue of the geographical compactness and interdependence of Nigeria, as brought out by Ajayi and Alagoa, and many others.
In fact as the map in Fig.3, brings out clearly, Nigeria is not geologically divided between the North and the South, howsoever, defined. It is divided between the areas of basement complex rock and sedimentary rocks, which do not fall into any North-South division. The Lake Chad Basin, the Sokoto-Rima Basin, the Niger-Benue Basin, the Niger Delta, the Benin-Lagos Coastlands and the Cross River Basin, have more in common with one another geologically, being both made up of sedimentary rocks, as distinct from the Plains of Hausland, the Jos Plateau and the Central Nigerian Uplands, the Yoruba Uplands, the Adamawa and Mandara Mountains, which are made up of the basement complex, and volcanic material.
So, where is this distinctive North and a distinctive South of Nigeria, in terms of the geological basis of the country, which is the foundation on which the soil, the mineral and the water resources, essential for human survival and human development, rest? The geological base of the whole economy of Lagos, Edo, Delta, Anambra Enugu, Imo, Ebonyi, Abia, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, is much more similar to that of Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Borno and Yobe, then any of these are to the geological bases of Oyo, Oshun, Ekiti, Katsina, Kano and Plateau, for example. So where is this North, and where is this South, in, terms of Nigerian geology and natural resource endowment arising from soil types, minerals and water supply?
But even the sedimentary, formations, covering just over 70% of the country, are made up of rocks formed at widely different periods, from the Albian-Cenomanian, about 120 million years ago, to the Holocenle, only about one million years ago. This gives them different characteristic as far as the mineral resources in them, their soils, and hydrology, are concerned. It is this mosaic plurality of the physical realities of Nigeria, which the North-South dichotomy and that whole outlook derived from it, seeks to deny and to cover-up.
But even more significantly, when we closely look at the geology of Nigeria, together with its hydrology, in the map in Fig.4, we realize how closely integrated the river system of the country is; with the Niger-Benue and their tributaries and their watersheds providing the cohesive axis. The fact is that the geology of Nigeria has made its soils, its minerals, fauna and flora and the basic conditions of existence of its people interdependent and inseparable. This did not come about as a result of the amalgamation of 1914. It goes back hundreds of thousands, and millions, of years.
The Formation of the Niger Delta
One of the best examples of the high degree of interdependence between various parts of Nigeria is the geological and hydrological processes of the formation of the Niger Delta and all its soil, water and mineral resources. Far from the Niger Delta being a separate and distinct part of Nigeria, it is not only the most recently formed part of the country, but it has been formed, and is still being formed, by the soil, vegetation, and other organic matter, which the Rivers Niger and Benue, and their tributaries, carry from all over Nigeria and parts of West and Central Africa, and deposit to create the delta where the Niger enters the Atlantic Ocean. Alagoa, has put it succinctly, in his pioneering study, History of the Niger Delta, published in 1972. He said: "The Niger Delta has been built up over ten thousand years from sediments brought down by the Rivers Niger and Benue." (p11). The geological process of the formation of the Niger Delta and of the crude oil and natural gas formed in some of its sedimentary formations, actually goes much further back than ten thousand years. But the reality, which those who are using the issue of the federal control of the petroleum resources found in all parts of Nigeria, including in the Niger Delta, to attack the basis of the cooperate existence of Nigeria, do not want to accept, is that these sediments with which, and in which, this petroleum deposits are found, did not drop from the sky. These sediments are made up of soil containing vegetable, and other organic materials, including human, and animal, faeces and remains, which were washed away from farmland, pasture and forests all over Nigeria and outside and carried by the Niger to form its delta and all the minerals in it.
According to the NEDECO study of the Niger and Benue, of 1959, the Niger and the Benue drain the waters from 60% of the surface area of Nigeria. They also drain large parts of West Africa and the Cameroons. It is from these areas that the organic and inorganic matter is carried away down the tributaries and main channel of the Niger to form the Niger Delta and all the crude oil, natural gas and other minerals in it. This draining away of material to the delta takes place every rainy season, every year, for millennia, up to today.
If other Nigerians, are to resort to the narrow and parochial outlook of those claiming exclusive ownership of the land of the Niger Delta and its mineral resources, against the rest of Nigeria, they could say that, what some people in the Niger Delta are claiming as exclusively their own, has been made, and is being made, from the deprivation of their farmlands, forests and pastures of useful organic and inorganic material by the Niger and its tributaries, all over the 554,226 sq kms. of Nigeria, which they drain, and this has gone on for millennia and is going on today.
In line with this parochialism, it can be demanded, aggressively too, that the basis of the distribution of the revenue in the Federation Account should be changed, in the light of the fact that the organic and inorganic mater, which are the raw material from which crude oil and natural gas are made in the Niger Delta, and its hinterland, are derived from other states of Nigeria, upstream in the Niger-Benue basin.
Therefore, these states, covering 60% of the Nigerian area, should be regarded as the primary oil-producing sates, producing the primary raw material for the making of crude oil and gas; and the states where the oil is now extracted become the secondary oil-producing states. This raw material with which the crude oil is made, is eroded away from the farmlands, pastures and forests, of these upstream states, which as a result, annually, loose their fertile top soils making them suffer from annual ecological degradation and agricultural retardation.
If everybody should take exclusive membership and control of the natural resources in their area, as those attacking the corporate existence of Nigeria are demanding, then 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.
Fig.5, has the table of NEDECO study’s
estimate of the sediment load carried by the Niger over the past 75,000
This massive amount of sediment is from its vast drainage area covering most of Nigeria and beyond, and a substantial portion of this went to the Niger Delta and the immediate coastline behind it, and still does so today. But, this fact about the formation of the Niger Delta, applies equally to other parts of the Niger-Benue Basin, the Lake Chad Basin, the Cross River Basin, and all the other basins and coastal plains in Nigeria. The sediments, which have been, and are still being, deposited to form them, are organic and inorganic matter carried from other parts of Nigeria, West and Central Africa. They are not dropped from the sky as a special gift of the Creator to the people who happen to inhabit these places now. They are products of geographical processes, which, in concrete physical terms, have inter-locked the people of Nigeria and neigbouring areas of Africa with one another, at very fundamental levels of their existence. The hydrological realities of the processes of the formation of the Niger Delta reveal how shallow and short-sighted, those riding on the real sufferings, and genuine grievances, of the Nigerian citizens inhabiting the Niger Delta are, when they use these to attack the basis of the corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
All these definite and specific realities of Nigerian geography are denied and covered-up and the fallacious notion is disseminated 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 the these rights are illegitimately being denied by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
This is a complete misrepresentation of the actual situation. 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. This conquest was not largely the result of British military superiority, real as that was. It was also very much the result of the conflicts tearing apart the societies of most of these polities, their high level of fragmentation, and the economic backwardness, which their role as middlemen in the Atlantic slave trade had inflicted on them. This serious internal weakness which the British took advantage of to conquer the area, was brought out, in the case of the Ogoni polities by the late Ken Saro Wiwa, in his book, Genocide in Nigeria: The Ogoni Tragedy, published in 1992, in which he said:
…in the latter half of the nineteenth century internecine war became the order of the day. By 1900 these wars had virtually destroyed the fabric of Ogoni society and the Ogonis were forced to live in independent villages (p.14)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, starting with the Niger Lands Transfer Act no.2 of 1902 and with Native Rights Act of 1916, whose section 3, provided that: "All native lands and all rights of the same are hereby declared to be under the control and subject to the disposition of the Governor." This was enacted together with the Minerals Act of 1916, whose section 3, unequivocally provided that: "The entire property and control of all minerals and mineral oils, under, or, upon any land in Nigeria, and all rivers, streams and water courses throughout Nigeria is and shall be vested in the Crown."
These sovereign rights, which the British seized and made all of us colonial subjects, were only recovered with the independence struggle, conducted, not by ethnic, or, religious group, but by Nigerian nationalist organisations like the Nigerian Trade Union Congress, the Nigerian Union of Student and the NCNC. The wining of the independence was part of a world-wide movement for national liberation, in the context of the victories of which, we ceased to be colonial subjects and became Nigerian citizens. Moreover, the constitutional conferences at which the constitutional arrangements for decolonisation were worked out, were conferences between the British and delegates representing, not any ethnic, or, religious community, but Nigerian political parties, which, even when they were regional, or, local in scope, attended these conferences as part of national alliances. On 1st October, 1960, the sovereign rights seized by the British were recovered by the government of the Federation of Nigeria on behalf of the people of Nigeria, and not on behalf any ethnic, or, religious community.
The actual realities of geological
and hydrological interdependence of the people of Nigeria, which the formation
of the Niger Delta is a very good example of, provided the solid hard ground
on which this national sovereignty is rooted. These realities are very
much stronger than the racist and tribalist onslaught on this sovereignty
once they are recognised and built upon
The Climate and Vegetation Patterns
We should also look at the climate and vegetation pattern of Nigeria and find out to what extent it support the North-South dichotomy and the view of Nigeria as being made up of separate and distinct parts, merely stitched together by the British, and barely hanging together.
The climate of Nigeria like that of the rest of West Africa is one in which humidity and rainfall decreases as you move from the Atlantic Ocean, in the south, towards the Sahara Desert, in the north. So, there is definitely a basic north-south dimension in the rainfall, and generally, in its climatic pattern. But as the map in Fig.6, of the total annual rainfall of Nigeria clearly reveals, there is no North-South dichotomy made up of a wet Southern Nigeria and a dry Northern Nigeria. In terms of the rainfall pattern, there is not even a North, Middle Belt and South pattern. It is a much more complex pattern, with, for example, Zaria City in the same annual rainfall zone of 40-50 inches with the City of Ibadan, and with Mubi. With Kafanchan in the same zone with Enugu, receiving 60-80 inches of rainfall annually.
But, it is not only that Nigeria does not fall into any simplistic division of North and South, or, North, Middle Belt and South, as far as its rainfall pattern is concerned, but the rain throughout most of the country comes from the movement of two wind systems, the south-west monsoon and north-east trade wind. The rain-bearing capacity of the south-east wind is determined by the weather conditions in the South Atlantic Ocean and on the territory of Nigeria it is blowing over, particularly, how far the dry north-easterly from the Sahara Desert is reaching. The point is that, the humidity, and the other weather conditions, at Lagos, Warri and Port Harcourt directly and daily influence the climate of Birnin Kebbi, Kano and Geidam, and vice-versa.
If conditions, due to human, or, to natural factors arise which cause a process of desiccation at Lagos, Warri and Port Harcourt, this will reduce humidity and rainfall in Birnin Kebbi, Kano and Geidam. Similarly if the latter are to experience much drier weather conditions, it will send the harmattan right down to the latter, with all organic and inorganic substance, toxic and non-toxic, it may carry. The degree of interdependence at the level of these wind systems and what they carry with them, is considerable and is a physical reality which those attacking the basis of the corporate existence of the Nigeria nation-state are not able to face up to. They want to believe that you can simply separate Warri from Birnin Kebbi, or, Lagos from Kano by a political fiat, and the Lagosians and the Kebbawa, for example, can each go their own way, because all that linked them before was a political arrangement which can be made and unmade politically, sitting at a conference table.
They do not seem to be able to understand that the interdependence caused by the pattern of the wind-systems goes higher, and deeper, then any political, or, constitutional arrangement, for it involves, the rapid and massive movements of organic and inorganic matter in the atmosphere, including, not just water, but minerals, toxic and non-toxic chemicals, bacteria, viruses and other pathogens.
Since water is, besides the soil, the most basic of the resource which sustains the lives of Nigerians, those advocating that every ethnic groups should own and control the resources in the areas it inhabits, should realize that this extends not only to the water and its sediments in the rivers and their deltas, as pointed out above, but even to the water, and the minerals and chemicals in the atmosphere over where each ethnic group inhabits. This has far-reaching implications in the light of recent experience with toxic and pathogenic material carried in the atmosphere, in various parts of the world.
This interdependence of the atmospheric conditions over Nigeria and the complex diversity of the annual rainfall pattern, is not simply reproduced in its vegetation. As the map in Fig.7, of the vegetation types of Nigeria reveals, as in the case with geology, hydrology, and rainfall, that there is no North-South dichotomy, or, North-Middle Belt-South pattern.
A forested South and a non-forested North, with an intervening Middle Belt, never existed on the ground, because, not only in Nigeria, but, in the rest of West Africa, the vegetation pattern has never been that simplistic, as those who want to impose a North-South dichotomy on everything about Nigeria would wish.
The Linguistic and Ethnic Geography
Those who are attacking the basis of the corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria do not only run away from the complex diversity and interdependence of its physical geography, but simply refuse to, responsibly, face up to the reality that its linguistic and ethnic geography is even more complex. One of the leading intellectual of Afenifere, the racist Yoruba political organization controlling the Alliance for Democracy, which is very prominent in these attacks on the basis of the corporate existence of the Nigerian nation-state, is Bolaji Akinyemi, formally a Professor of Political Science at the University of Lagos. In a major statement he made late last year, titled, Democracy and Restructuring: The Quest for Stability in Nigeria, published in the Vanguard newspaper of Thursday, 16th December, 1999, Bolaji Akinyemi addressed President Obasanjo, and the new civilian leadership of the country, directly appealing to them to organize a Sovereign National Conference, to restructure the country along the ethnic lines Afenifere has advocated since its emergence. When he came to the basis of representation at this conference, which is to shape the whole future of Nigeria, and which he has been involved in agitating for, for over half a decade, he said:
The representation at the conference will not be based on population. I have no idea how many nationalities are (sic) in this country and nobody else does. To me the solution is to allow each group high (sic) claims to be a distinct nationality to claim its representation of not more than twenty delegates. Each nationality will pay for its delegates during the entire duration of the conference (pp.12-13).The level of evasion of intellectual and political responsibility, and of the refusal to face up to Nigerian realities, brought out in this statement, by Akinyemi is revealing, coming as it does from someone who was a senior academic in the social sciences and a former Foreign Minster of Nigeria, with supposedly a lot of knowledge and experience of conferences, to fashion out constitutions and resolve stresses, tensions and conflicts. How can Akinyemi, and the Afenifere organization he belongs to, expect to be taken seriously by Nigerians and the rest of Africa and the world, when he is insisting on the convening of a very decisive conference on the whole future of this country of 120 million people, at which he does not know, and believes nobody else knows, which entities will be represented, where they are located and what their numbers are?
In the five, or, so years he has been travelling all over the world, urging world leaders to make the Nigerian government convene a Sovereign National Conference to discuss and resolve the country’s crippling problems, Akinyemi had not bothered to conduct the research required, directly, or, indirectly, to establish, even provisionally, how many nationalities there are in Nigeria, even on the basis of claims.
What Akinyemi is actually asking Obasanjo to do, and even throwing quotations from the Holy Bible at him, is to ignite widespread and violent communal conflicts all over the country over the definition and territorial location of the nationalities, as the claims of various grouping, clash over who is who, and who belongs to which and where? If the conference ever starts, the five years he expects it to take, before, as he says, there is agreement by exhaustion, will be taken up with violent accreditation and boundary disputes in the conference and all over the urban and rural areas of Nigeria. This is because Nigerian ethnic groups are not distributed over its territory as separate units, whose spaces can be marked out on a map, with a few boundary problems here and there. The linguistic and ethnic geography of Nigeria is a multi-dimensional mosaic, with origin, kinship, languages, territoriality, religion, cultures, habitation, occupation and identity, over-lapping and over-arching and intermeshing, at so many levels, and changing in response to so many factors. It is not a question of where one ethnic group ends and where one begins, but of exactly what you are talking about when you talk about Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa-Fulani, Ijaw or Efik.
The latest, available list, of Nigerian languages by Keir Hansford, and others, published in Studies in Nigerian Languages no: 5 of 1976, lists 394 languages and over one hundred dialects. But in the list published in Savannah of December 1976, they only listed 125 dialects of some of these languages. They list eight languages, which are said to be extinct. But, it is clear from a more recent work, the book, The Niger-Congo Languages, edited by John-Bendor Samuel, and published in 1989, that a number of the languages listed, without indicating their dialects, have many dialects, meaning that the 125 is too small.
As the study of the Niger-Congo languages reveal, and as Fig.8, listing these 394 languages indicates, the diversity is not only immense, complex, but also multi-lateral and fluid. This is obscured for most of the elite because of the prominence given to the written and standard forms of some of the major languages in religious evangelisation, in schools and in the print and electronic media.
The intermixing, and intermeshing of dialects, and of languages, which has gone on for millennia in this country, has made it obvious that any attempt to use ethnicity as a basis for political representation will not only be economically retrogressive, but be a recipe for a complete political disaster. This is further confirmed by the pattern of settlements and of migration which do not conform with the picture of Nigeria as being constituted by separate blocks of monolithic ethnic groups, each with its own language, identity, separate territory and its own leaders, and spokesmen.
The Definition of Yoruba
The reason why those attacking the basis of the corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, using the Sovereign National Conference formula, like Bolaji Akinyemi, do so, without any sense of responsibility with regards to the security of lives and property of million of Nigerians, and their whole future, may be because they have come to believe in their own misrepresentations of the nature of the ethnic groups of Nigeria, particularly, the large ones like the Yoruba, the Igbo, the Hausa-Fulani. They have, swallowed, hook-line-and sinker, the false image that, at least these groups, if not many of the others, can be fairly well defined, and have distinct territories and posses political cohesion and they have leaders who can negotiate on their behalf.
But the truth of the matter is that when, and if, the Sovereign National Conference comes about, and becomes the forum at which the future of Nigeria will be decided, the reality that even these large ethnic groups do not have any substantially coherent existence, but represent, largely, fluid, modern, identities, which operate at different levels and are always changing in their contents, in their meanings and in their boundaries.
What, for example, is a Yoruba in Nigeria in this first year of the 21st century? Is it someone who can prove his descent, genetically, from Oduduwa, with a genealogical tree and, or, the results of a DNA test? Or, is a Yoruba somebody who can prove his belonging, by birth to a lineage, or, a clan, which belongs to one of the polities, which have come to be called Yoruba? What does this “belonging” here mean? Or, is a Yoruba someone who is recognized by one of the Obas wearing a beaded crown as a Yoruba? Or, is a Yoruba someone who speaks the Yoruba language as his first language and takes part in cultural and social practices, which are now called Yoruba? Or is a Yoruba someone who others who claim to be Yoruba accept that he is Yoruba? Or, is a Yoruba someone who, Senator Abraham Adesanya, the Leader of the Yoruba, recognize as Yoruba?
In the context of the racist politics which Afenifere is practicing and advocating for the rest of Nigeria, when it comes to a Sovereign National Conference, based on representation from ethnic groups, many of the prominent advocates of a confederation, or, the dismemberment of Nigeria, so that the Yoruba, for example, can control their own resources, like Bolaji Akinyemi, will find that their Yorubaness will be challenged. When the ancestry of the Leader of the Yoruba, before Adesanya, the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin, was challenged by Chief Ojomo in Owo, there was, in response to that challenge, a resounding silence!
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 Alfinate 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.
Other names, like “Lukunmi” “Aku”, “Nago” and “Anago” are applied to the same people, but the name “Yoruba” has come to prevail, and even those who complain that Abuja, the Federal Capital has been given a Hausa name, have not yet complained about this Hausa name.
These people, who the dissemination of the written form of Standard of Yoruba, derived from the Oyo dialect, has given a level of common identity, actually speak about twenty dialects. Some of these dialects were barely mutually intelligible. The twenty dialects are, according to some linguists: Bunu, Ife, Ijesha, Ondo, Owo, Igbena, Gbedde, Akono, Ilaje, Awori, Ila, Ijebu, Oyo, Yagba, Egba, Ekiti, Aworo, Ijumu, Kalae, and Owe. The Yoruba ethnic identity, like almost all the others in Nigeria, is a product of the formation of Nigeria in the late 19th and 20th century. This process was not simply one of the integration of communities speaking related dialects. It involves the incorporation of people speaking different languages. The Yoruba inhabitants of Lagos today, for example, are made up of people of Awori, Benin, Egun, Ilaje, Egbema-Ijo, Olodiama-Ijo, Nupe, Hausa, Fanti, Egbado, Ketu and Urhobo origins. This heterogeneity is not just in Ikeja and Ajegunle, but, in Isale-Eko and in the oldest parts of Lagos. As Babatunde Agiri and Sandra Barnes point out, in their chapter on Lagos before 1603, in the book History of the Peoples of Lagos State, edited by Jide Osuntokun, and others, and published in 1987:
….the migrant fisher folk who frequented the lagoon and camped on the shores of Lagos and Iddo Islands no doubt stemmed from many sources, spreading their way of life in the course of their movements. After them the Awori and the Benin peoples added new layers to the population. These influences were neither a beginning, nor an end. The hallmark of Lagos was and still is its ability to absorb many peoples, many languages and many cultural influences. It has done so from time immemorial and it is a process to which there is no predictable end”. (p.30)Agiri and Barnes, here, capture the actual realities of the histories of most of the urban centres and many of the rural areas of Nigeria. This process of intermixing and intermeshing has even intensified in the thirteen years since they wrote the chapter. But all this is misrepresented and Nigeria is made to appear as made up separate ethnic blocks which can be moved away from each other because they have always remained essentially separate and distinct.
This misrepresentation of Nigeria is, however, having one of its major elements exposed as very dubious by the incessant and intense violent conflict between Ife and Modakeke. In fact, this conflict has come to appear to be so intractable that some of the media organs whose writers have made it their business to demean and denounce the Nigerian Army, as a tool for the northern oppression of the rest of Nigeria, are now calling President Obasanjo to send in this army to keep the peace, as happened over the carnage in Warri late last year. A columnist called “Biodun on Saturday”, in the Saturday Tribune, of 13th May 2000, said:
I am inclined to agree with President Olusegun Obasanjo that the time has come to apply a military solution to the lingering bloodletting in Ife-Modakeke. For several months we have all watched helplessly as these kinsmen engaged each other in an insane fratricidal war…. As it were the Ife-Modakeke Pogrom is a big shame to the Yoruba race and I will support any serious effort to a halt to the senseless carnage in the cradle of Yoruba civilization. (p.3)
What Agiri and Barnes bring out so clearly about the historical process of the formation of Lagos and the Lagosians, is what is being blocked in the urban and rural areas around Ile-Ife, by vested interests using conceptions like those of this columnist Biodun in the Saturday Tribune, who at the beginning of the 21st century when the rest of the world is trying to punish, and bury racism, is evoking it as a tool for political identity and mobilization. But this is the 21st century and Yoruba racism has no basis or substance, as the Ife-Modakeke conflict is showing in a violent, destructive, and very tragic fashion.
In the first place, if there exists a “Yoruba Race” and if both the Ifes and Modakekes belong to that race and are all descendants of the founder of Ife, Oduduwa, which makes Ife the cradle of the Yoruba race how can any Yoruba, like the Modakeke be treated as a tenant on the land of his ancestor? If the Modakekes fled back in about 1830, to their core ancestral land and to the cradle of their race, why can’t they join their racial kinsmen in Ife and equally share in the patrimony of their racial ancestor, Oduduwa?
If all Yoruba, or even their dynasties, are descendants of Oduduwa and he founded and lived in Ife, from where his children went forth to spread the Yoruba race, there is no reason why any Yoruba should pay any form of tribute, rent, or to any other due, to anybody in Ife. Far from there been a “Yoruba Race”, descended from Oduduwa, the very name and common identity of Yoruba came out of the nineteenth century processes of war, migration and settlements involving a large part of Nigeria and beyond, which the migration and settlement of the Modakeke was part of. The historical facts are that the Modakeke, fleeing from the metropolitan areas of the Alafinate of Oyo, in c.1830, settled near Ifes and under the Oni of Ife, Abewaila, who is said to have had a Modakeke mother, lived quite well alongside those they found there. But since c.1793, the Ife Kingdom had been unstable with the Onis having short reigns, with suddenly violent ends. War broke out between Ife and Modakeke in 1849. The Modakeke defeated Ife, but treated them leniently, but the Ife chiefs attacked Modakeke again and when they were defeated, about twelve thousand were enslaved and sold into slavery, by the Modakeke. Ile-Ife was destroyed, burnt and completely abandoned and became a ruin. It actually ceased to exist as a kingdom. Its chiefs moved to Isoya.
The whole area came under the new, trading, and warrior city-state of Ibadan and they posted an ajele there to collect tribute and the Ife chiefs sent contingents to the Ibadan army, in the incessant wars of most of the nineteenth century, which had many members of the Yoruba race at each others throats, for almost one hundred years, continuously, from c.1796 to c.1893.Ile-Ife was resettled again in 1858-5 with both itself and Modakeke as vassals of Ibadan. For sixteen years, 1877-1893, there was in fact no Oni of Ife and hardly any Ife Kingdom, but some Ife settlements and chiefs. In December 1882, another Ife-Modakeke war broke out and Ife was roundly defeated, burnt and its settlements destroyed. A British traveller, Higgins, who visited the place on 3rd October 1886, saw the completeness of this defeat and destruction of Ile-Ife. As quoted by I.A.Akinjogbin Professor of History Obasfemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, born in Ile-Ife, in his chapter in the book, The Cradle of a Race, published in 1992, Higgins wrote that: “…so completely had the town been razed to the ground that it was scarcely possible to discover the traces of a single house in the bush and grass which had overgrown the place”. Ile-Ife remained ruined and deserted until after the British occupied the area, with the Hausa Constabulary, from Lagos in 1893.
It is significant that this cradle of the Yoruba race could only have peace restored to it and be recovered from a desolate ruin by the British using their Hausa Constabulary in 1893. And now, about one hundred and seven years, later, the Nigerian Army, which has been denounced as a modern Hausa Constabulary, by those who claim to be the proud members of this race, is being called upon to restore peace to this racial cradle.
The tragedy in Ife-Modakeke should provide a lesson to all those who want to dismantle the present constitutional basis of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and either carve out new sovereign ethnic entities out of it, or, turn it into a confederation of ethnic regions, because these will, by their very political foundations, generate violent conflicts which will make what is happening in Ife and Modakeke, child’s play.
But, it is not certain that even the mayhem in Modakeke-Ife will make some people draw these lessons, because they seem to live in a make-believe world, far removed from our historical experiences and our contemporary realities. Bolaji Akenyemi, who should at least be familiar with Nigerian history, given his academic background and positions as Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affair and the country’s Foreign Minister, seem so oblivious ignorant of some of the most elementary facts about it; even about the history of the Yoruba whom he claims to represent. In the major statement he made last year on the need for Obasanjo to make sure that Nigeria is restructured, he said in setting out the historical background that: " …there were border wars going on between different ethnic groups a the time the British came with their Pax Colonial." This is simply not true. It is a gross misrepresentation of the situation in Nigeria on the eve of the British conquest. Almost all the wars at that time, were not between ethnic groups, but were either wars between polities of predominantly the same ethnic group, or, civil wars within polities. The border wars between ethnic groups were very rare.
But the misrepresentation of history
goes farther than that, and Akinyemi now wants Nigerians, including President
Obasanjo, whose Egba people were profoundly transformed and relocated by
the Yoruba civil wars to forget these century-long wars called Yoruba civil
wars in every secondary school history text book. He said:"At the time
the British were about to impose, the Pax Colonial there was a clash of
cultural aspiration … .the Yoruba empire was at its consolidation and not
What on earth was this “Yoruba empire” which was consolidating in the late
nineteenth century? What was it consolidating? With this level of ignorance
and, or, distortion and misrepresentation of the most obvious of our historical
experiences there is no room for understanding and resolving the Ife-Modakeke
conflict, or, any real political conflict, or, problem!
The Meaning of Igbo
This misrepresentation is applied to
the meaning of Igbo in Nigeria, particularly by distorting the politics
of Eastern Region. It is the role of the Igbo State Union that has been
widely used in this misrepresentation by showing how Zik, as one of its
leaders, was just using the NCNC to pursue the agenda of that organization,
which he was, at one time, the president of. It is also used to build the
impression that the NCNC in the Eastern Region, in 1951-1966 enjoyed solid
Igbo ethnic support, whatever support it had in the West and elsewhere.
But Justice Udo Udoma in the book quoted above has punctured this view
of solid Igbo support for the NCNC in the 1951 election.
The actual empirical evidence shows
that the picture of a monolithic Igbo ethnic group behind Zik and the NCNC
is a gross misrepresentation of the political realities of Nigeria in the
First Republic. This has to do with, among other things, the fact that
Igbo were and still are emerging as a modern ethnic identity in the cause
of the colonization and decolonisation of Nigeria.
The bitter and protracted political
struggles over the control of the Onitsha Urban District Council between
the Onitsha Improvement Union and the Non-Onitsha Igbo Association and
the Aba Urban District Council between the Ngwa and Non-Ngwa Igbo represented,
much more truthfully, the turbulent waters of Eastern Regional politics,
which Zik had to learn to swim and survive in. This politics not only shows
that there was nothing like a monolithic Igbo position, but that Zik and
the NCNC were often challenged, defied and defeated.
What happened in Enugu, which led to
a Fulani cattle- dealer, Alhaji Umaru Altine, elected as the first Mayor
of Enugu in 1956, on the NCNC ticket, and winning again in 1958 against
Zik and the NCNC, is revealing about how fallacious the monolithic Igbo
view of Eastern Regional politics is.
In 1956, Alhaji Umaru Altine, was opposed
by the Udi-Nsukka-Awgu United Front, the UNAUF, but he won, heavily supported
by the non-indigenous Igbo, who constituted over 50% of the population
of Enugu. In the 1958 election, Alhaji Umaru Altine was dropped by the
NCNC and opposed by Zik and his Eastern Sentinel newspaper. But, as the
candidate of the Stranger Element Association, which later was re-named
the Association of One, or, AFON, they defeated the NCNC candidate. He
was backed by most of the leaders of the NCNC in its Eastern Working Committee.
This AFON has Alhaji Baba Sule as its president, and one of its biggest
financiers was Mr O.A Nwandu, Managing Director of the Eastern General
Contractors, the largest Nigerian construction company in Eastern Region.
Dr Michael Okpara was one of supporters of AFON and was attacked by Zik’s
newspapers, leading to a denunciation of the papers by the Owerri Provincial
Union and the Owerri Youth Association.
In actual political terms, the Ibo State Union was more important as bogeyman than as an effective political machine. Audrey Smock, in his study of politics in the Eastern Region, in his chapter in Nigeria: Modernisation and the Politics of Communalism, edited by Robert Melson and Howard Wolpe, published in 1971, pointed this out:
The Ibo State Union did not operate as an effective political force on any level of the political system. While the Ibo State Union theoretically included every branch of all Ibo Unions, only a small fraction of the existing Ibo Unions ever registered, sent delegates to conferences or communicated with the central chapter. Furthermore, the officers of the executive committee of the Ibo state Union never exerted any control over those unions, which did affiliate. (p.322).The outlook on Nigerian politics which gives primacy of place to ethnic boxing matches, particularly between the big three tribes, simply refuses to face up to such realities of Nigerian politics. Even when a distinguished scholar, with a world stature, like the late Professor Kenneth Onwuka Dike, points out that these ethnic groups of Nigeria, like the Igbo are recent formations, this is almost completely ignored, because it goes so much against the grain.
In a book written with Felicia Ekejiuba, titled, The Aro of South -Eastern Nigeria, 1650-1980: A Study of Socio-Economic Formation and Transformation in Nigeria, published in 1980, they brought out that:
…it is often forgotten, or merely mentioned in the footnote, that Igbo is a modern ethnic category which many of the constituent groups have only recently and often reluctantly accepted as their ethnic identity, often on political and administrative grounds. During the period covered by our study, the now twelve million or more ‘Igbo’ distributed over 30,000 square miles of territory east and west of the Niger were variously referred to either as cultural groups (e.g. the Nri, Isuama, Ezza, or Otanzu), or by the ecological zones in which they are found (e.g. Olu or Oru i.e. the riverain people or Adagbe, people of the flood plain); Enugu, people who live on the hills, Aniocha, people who live on heavily leached and eroded solids; Ohozara, people of the savannah; or as occupational groups such as Opi egbe (people who fashion guns), Ndiuzu or Umudioka (blacksmiths, artists and carvers).
Igbo migration, settlement and intermarriage into, and, at, all nooks and corners of Nigeria and all parts of West, Central and Southern Africa, has even made this identity broader and more fluid. It is no longer a question of when, or, whether, the Ikwerre, the Onitsha, the Asaba and the Ika are Igbo, but where to draw the line between this Igbo and the other ethnic groups of the Rivers and Bayelsa States, for example where according to the 1952 census the Igbo constituted about 40% of the population, of Rivers Province, forming the largest single ethnic group.
Since Igbo was used at this time pejoratively to refer to the densely populated uplands, the major sources of slaves, and by extension to slaves, it is not surprisingly that many of these groups have been reluctant to accept the ‘Igbo’ identity.(p.6)
The Notion of the Hausa-Fulani
The illusion peddled around by those who are attacking the basic of the corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that its constituent units are ethnic groups, and, or, races, which, at least for the larger ones can be clearly identified and separated, is as much an illusion for the Yoruba, and the Igbo as it is for the group called the “Hausa-Fulani”. This name cannot meaningfully define an ethnic group, or, a nationality, because Hausa is a language with its associated cultures and identities, distinct from Fulbe, and its associated cultures and identities. Is this Hausa-Fulani a new group with a new language? Or does it mean that people of Fulbe, or, semi-Fulbe origin who now only speak Hausa and have taken on Hausa cultures and identities are the Hausa-Fulani? Or does it mean people of Hausa origin, who now only speak Fulfulde and have taken on Fulbe cultures and identities?
The Hausa and Fulfulde languages do not even have the same origin. Fulbe is closely related genetically to Ibo and Yoruba and to Ijaw and the Bantu languages. It belong to the West Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo family of languages; the family to which all these languages belong. But Hausa is a member of the completely different Chadic family of languages and is much closer to Sayawa, Angas, Margi, and Bachama for example, then it is to Fulfulde and its Niger-Congo relations.
A Pullo, that is a Fulani individual, is a Pullo, precisely because he is not a Kado, that is a non-Pullo; then how could someone be a Pullo and a Kado at the same time? This is a contradiction in terms. It is meaningless.
In any case, the migration of the Fulani during the second millennium A.D, from the River Senegal area, right across West and Central Africa to the Red Sea, led to a great deal of variation in the Fulbe population, not only on the basis of six main dialects namely: Futa Toro, Futu Jallon, Massina, Sokoto, Central Northern Nigerian and Adamawa; but, also on the basis of origin, occupation, religion and social status.
The issue of whether the clan of the Shehu Usman Dan Fodio, the Toronkawa, or, Torodbe, were Fulani, or, only relations of the Fulani, was the subject of a debate in the writings of some of the jihad leaders. Torodbe or Toronkawa just means people of the area of Futa Toro in the Republic of Senegal.
As for the Hausa-speaking people, not only do they have dialects, which were barely mutually intelligible, but they have no tradition of a common origin. Their substantial dialectical, cultural, territorial entities are, Katsinawa, Kanawa, Zagezagi, Gobirawa, Shirawa, Daurawa, Kebbawa, Auyokawa and Zamfarawa, for example; and such groupings are made of people of diverse origin including Nupe, Jukun, Gbagyi, and Yoruba, even before the nineteenth century.
The name “Hausa” itself seems to have
come from the Songhai people of the area to the west of the Sokoto-Rima
basin and it was applied to the people east of the Songhai speaking people
of that area. Until recently in Sokoto Province, “Hausa” meant the Sokoto
area, to the exclusion of Kano, Katsina and all other areas, usually called
Hausaland, nowadays. It is argued, however, that the notion of Hausa-Fulani
has a basis in a common Islamic identity. But as has been pointed out,
again and again, Islam was not and is not a monolithic religion, without
any division and conflict among its adherents, here and elsewhere. In any
case there are people who are called Hausa-Fulani who are not Muslims.
Far from Islam standing apart and contesting or crusading against other religions, including Christianity, the historical facts are that most of the time the Muslim governments of the polities of the Nigerian area were fighting other Muslim governments, sometimes with non-Muslim allies. The British were able to conquer the Sokoto Caliphate and Borno, not only because they recruited Muslims from these states to fight for them, but also because the rulers of these states did not see the nasara (Christian) as their main enemy. These rulers were much more afraid of Rabeh and his mahdist allies like Hayatu Ibn-Said and Mallam Jibrilla of Burmi. The politics and diplomacy of the city-states of Lagos and Ibadan, which in the 19th century were predominantly Muslim, showed the same complex pattern of alliances. This continued in all part of Nigeria during the colonial period and afterwards.
The claim that some state governments are “introducing the shari’a,” while it has actually been part of the laws of this part of the world for centuries is based on a misrepresentation of our history, by manipulating religion to attack the basis of the corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It goes along with the image that is fabricated, that Islam and Christianity have always been antagonistic in Nigeria, by those who want, for narrow and short-sighted political ends, to promote the delusion that there exists a dar-al-Islam (land of Islam) in Nigeria after the facts of the British conquests, and of the independence struggle had brought such a polity, or, polities, to an end.
Those right now groping around for ethnic blocs to fight their battles with, in the contest for power and wealth within the Nigerian elite, are manipulating religion to use as a basis for a sort of non-ethnic ethnicity in which Muslim and Christian are reduced to ethnic identities. The “Hausa-Fulani” notion is being used in that way in the political manipulations going on resulting, for example, in the violent communal conflicts in the Kaduna metropolis. Like all such misrepresentation it is proving useful in the campaign against the basis of the corporate existence of Nigeria, as a recent cover story in TheNEWS magazine vividly illustrates.
TheNEWS Without the News
The cover story of that 15th
May edition of TheNEWS was, Panic in the North: Igbo and Yoruba Flee. The
cover is illustrated with pictures of people in flight. The story is anchored
by the editor of the magazine Sunday Dare, with reports from nine correspondents.
The title of the main story is To Your Tents Oh! Nigerians, and together
with the accompanying interview it takes up nine pages.
The story is very educative because it is a very good example of the sort of news without the news used in the campaign against the bases of the corporate existence of the Nigerian nation-state. It is also one of the most recent examples of the deliberate and systematic misrepresentation of the contemporary realities of Nigeria and of their historical antecedents, by some of the country’s newspapers and magazines. In this story, this distortion of Nigerian realities involves not only the misrepresentation of the background and the general context of the violent communal conflicts whose consequence are being reported upon, but is extended to the misrepresentation of the consequences themselves and even of the nature and scale of the conflicts.
Let us start with how the background and the general context of these ethnic and religious conflicts are set out in the story. Early in the story, it is stated as a matter of fact that: "Nigerians were living in harmony with one another until the exit of the military last May. But no sooner than (sic) the soldiers tails disappeared in the horizon than ethnic tensions blow into the open”.(p.20)This blatant misrepresentation of what has been taking place in Nigeria is repeated, as a matter of fact, in the conclusion to the story, that: "Suddenly cracks hitherto patched up successfully for decades have magnified and the slide may have just begun" (p.31).But, the owners, the editors and the staff of TheNEWS know about and have even reported on these cases of violent communal conflicts in Nigeria, before 29th May, 1999, at:
But in this story, TheNEWS brazenly denies these facts and grossly misrepresent the historical antecedents of the current situation in Nigeria and state, as a mater of fact, that these civil disturbances never occurred under the military, and that things blew into the open with the exit of the military last May!But not only does this story, in TheNEWS, deliberately misrepresent the background, the antecedents and the general context of the current phase of violent ethnic and religious conflicts in Nigeria but it also misrepresents the nature of the conflicts.
- Numan and parts of Adamawa State in 1986-88;
- Kafanchan and parts of Kaduna State in 1987;
- Wukari, Takum and parts of Taraba State since 1990;
- Tafawa Balewa in Bauchi State in 1991;
- Kano City in 1991;
- Zango Kataf and parts of Kaduna State in 1992;
- The Ogoni and Andoni areas of Rivers State in 1993;
- Toto and other parts of Nassarawa State since 1994;
- Ife, Modakeke and parts of Osun State since 1997;
- Okitipupa and parts of Ondo State, since 1998;
- Aguleri and Umuleri in Anambra State in 1999;
- Warri and parts of Delta State since 1998.
The violent civil disturbances in Kano City in July, 1999, which the story covers, had nothing to do with the Shari’a issue which the riots in Kaduna since March, 2000, about eight months later, are largely about. Yet the story lumps them together as “the Shari’a massacre”. But this distortion of the contemporary political and social events in Nigeria in this story, did not stop there. It extended to the misrepresentation of the scale of the consequences of the conflicts, particularly the number of refugees supposedly forced to flee away from where they normally live.
According to this story, 550,000 Yoruba and Igbo refugees were produced by the riots in Kano of July, 1999. Among these 300,000 are said to be Yoruba and 250,000 are said to be Igbo. The story does not state where this large number of refugees are to be found beyond reporting that there were 5,000 in Ogbmosho, 10,000 in Oshogbo and 4,000 in Inisa, and equally “impressive numbers” in Offa, Ilorin, Kabba and Lokoja.
Having identified three locations where 19,000 Yoruba refugees are said to have “returned,” the story has nothing to say about the balance of about 250,000 who did not go to Ogbomosho, Oshogbo, Inisa, Offa, Ilorin, Kabba and Lokoja! This number of refugees even by the standards of contemporary civil wars in Africa and elsewhere in the world, is massive; and since according to the story, they are still being produced, as the chairman of Shagamu Local Government has to send two trailers to Kano and Kaduna to pick three weeks before the story, they must, if they exist constitute a serious problem to the host communities and authorities.
As for the over 250,000 Igbo refugees from Kano, the story has nothing to say about their specific locations, beyond generalizations that they have relocated to Jos and Abuja, where an influx of over 250,000 Igbo “businessmen and traders”, in a ten months period, would create serious problems for the communities and the authorities.
To impress the reader with the extent of the depopulation of Kano and Kaduna, as these hundreds of thousands of refugees supposedly flee, the story carries distortions of the situation at present in these two urban centres that:
The once bustling Sabo-Gari Kano has become a ghost of its former self… .in Kaduna, Kachia and parts of Zaria the depopulation of these areas was palpable…in the whole of Kaduna township zone was the hustle and bustle. (p.20).This is a complete misrepresentation of the situation in these urban centers. In the concluding part of the story it is stated that ":… thousand of Muslim who are living in the Eastern part of country are also moving to the North…(and)…2500 Northerners had fled Delta State." This is not the first time TheNEWS and others like it had engaged in this type of deliberate and systematic misrepresentation of the situation in Nigeria clearly aimed at generating insecurity, fear and distract between the various ethnic and religious groups in the country. In 1993, during the political crisis arising from the annulment of the June 12th presidential election results, TheNEWS along with others, sensationally distorted what was taking place in the country, particularly with regards to the movement of people of different ethnic groups and regions living in different parts of the country.
The TSM magazine in its edition of Sunday 8th August, 1993, for example, had as its cover, Exodus: Time To Go Home, and started the story with lines:
And now, the question is: when are you going? No where… Everybody know what. “Home” of course for those who have chosen to turn tail and scram while the roads are still open (p.10)This distortion has come to be exposed by the findings of the reports, of Nigerian Migration and Urbanisation Survey 1993, carried out by the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) Ibadan, published in 1997. The national coordinator of the survey was the Director-General of NISER, Professor Adedotun Philips and the coordinating principal investigator was Professor P.K.Makinwa Adebusoye, also of NISER.
The survey took place in May-October
1993, when the annulment crises was at its height. One of its findings
is that people were, largely, not fleeing to any ethnic homeland. So, even
in the middle of that crisis, with most of the Nigerian media sensationally
reporting that people are fleeing back to their ethnic homelands, the reality,
as found out by this empirical study on the ground, was completely different.
When Nigerians who had migrated to other part of the country were asked
the question “Do you intend to migrate again? 70.8% of those surveyed said
that they do not intend to migrate again. And 66.8% of them said their
situation in the place they had migrated to was better than it was when
they were living in their places of origin.
The survey found that even among those who had returned home, 67.5% intended to migrate again. This was in the middle of the annulment of June 12th election crisis, when the daily headlines bombarding Nigerians were of doom, bloodshed and darkness. The campaign in May-October 1993 was one of “to your tents oh Israel!”, as is the campaign of misinformation over the current violent communal disturbances. In 1993 “the Israel,” were, mostly, not running to their tents! This seems to be the case now, in May 2000, in spite of everything that is being done to get them to do so, in a purposeful manner.
There has clearly developed a very wide gap between the picture of Nigeria and Nigerians presented in most of the country’s print media and what is actually happening in the country. This gap seems to be becoming wider and is a threat to democracy and to any form of political stability, and economic progress.
This short brief has shown, that, the
current campaign to convince Nigerians that there is no basis for their
country to continue as a Federal Republic, constituted by territorially-based
states, made up of territorially based local governments, is built on the
systematic misrepresentation of the truth about the nature of Nigeria and
Nigerians and what has taken place and is taking place in the country.
This misrepresentation is derived from the politics of very narrow and
backward-looking vested interests, organised in so many open and secret,
parochial, ethnic, regional and religious organisations flourishing nowadays
which are informed with a particular twisted outlook on Nigeria, which,
however, fits into certain long-standing generalizations, and stereotypes
about the country and its people. This has given this campaign a level
of effectiveness, in political terms, which poses a threat to democracy,
political stability and economic progress in the country. All Nigerian
citizens, committed to democracy and national integration, who do not want
their country wrecked and themselves and their families fleeing around
as refugees, have to clearly understand this campaign and consciously counter
its misrepresentation of the country. They must stand up, every time and
everywhere, to oppose this campaign and firmly and counter all attempts
to divide and set Nigerians fighting against each other. They must organise
and work hard, looking far ahead, determined to build a great future for
this country, not only as part of the process of national integration,
but as part of the process of the integration of the Economic Community
of West African States and of the great dream and hope of continent-wide
Union of African States, early in this 21st century.