Monday, January 25, 2010


Written by Prof. Omo Omoruyi

There is the opposite position about creation taken by Chief Richard Akinjide. According to him in the Vanguard of Sunday July 20, 2000

"the so-called Nigeria created in 1914 was a complete fraud". He continued, "It was not created in the interest of Nigeria or of Nigerians but in the interest of the British".

I was elated when Chief Akinjide confirmed the authorities I cited in my book, The Tale of June 12 to address the relationship between the annulment and the British Design for Nigeria. Chief Richard Akinjide would agree with me that Nigeria could not be the creation of God and at the same time, a fraud.

What is troubling to me is President Obasanjo’s notion of God that he parades at all public and essentially partisan political functions. God is perfect and He does not engage in anything fraudulent. Could God be the white man’s God or the white man himself? President Obasanjo seems to be equating God with the white man. With all the imperfections and injustices inflicted on many groups since the white man created Nigeria, how could President Obasanjo justify Nigeria as the work of God?

I had opportunity to examine the papers, which Chief Akinjide was referring to and more. I also examined some of the claims of the Nigerian leaders such as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto on their notion of how Nigeria was founded. I did not see where the British or their successor Nigerian political leaders said that "God created Nigeria". I did not see where they spelled out "God’s purpose for Nigeria". Except the Sardauna who carried his Islamic religious practice to the public realm in the north with a threat of dipping the Koran to the sea, Dr. Azikiwe and Chief Awolowo, both products of Christian Missions schools saw religion differently. Their adherence to Christianity was taken as essentially personal matters that should not be at the expense of other religions. They did not engage in preaching to others in public functions. Dr. Azikiwe and Chief Awolowo were conscious of the multi-religious character of Nigeria and did not set out to offend others with their faith. On prayer, they did not want to be called hypocrites and adhered strictly to the Biblical injunction in Matthew Chapter 6 verses 5 to 7.

On the founding of Nigeria, the British and the Nigerian political leaders were all agreed on one issue that no Nigerian historically or in modern era could claim to be the founder or the creator of Nigeria. All of them are agreed that the founding fathers of Nigeria were the British. Let me use the work of the greatest exponent of them all on how Nigeria was founded. I am referring to Chief Awolowo. The apt expression of Chief Awolowo, the most versatile of the Nigerian political leaders that Nigeria is a "geographical expression" holds true for all time and was borne out of research and reflection. Was this, maybe what President was responding to? Did President Obasanjo read and understand the thesis of Awo? He should read again and again many books starting with the ground breaking one, Nigerian Path to Freedom (1947), which is still a classic on Nigeria. He will be able to understand how the revered exponent of progressive causes came to the apt expression associated with him that "Nigeria is geographical expression". Was this not what was put differently even though in a different context by Sir Ahmadu Bello that the Amalgamation was "the mistake of 1914"?

One should note that Chief Awolowo did not call himself or any of his fellow nationalists Dr. Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello and those below them as the "founding fathers" of Nigeria. Even Dr. Azikiwe hated the term, the "father of the nation". He rejected this term so strongly in 1978. He said the title came from the northern leaders who described him as such when he was the ceremonial Governor General during his official visit to the north. I still recall his response to critics of his decision to return to the "orbit of partisan politics" in December 1978. I knew this from my position as the then Protem National Secretary of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP), when he was reacting to the accusation from some quarters in the north that as "the father of the nation", he should not have come back to partisan politics. They were unfair to the old man, as was confirmed in Shagari’s memoir, the same northern leaders wanted to recruit him to their party but lost to the NPP. Kicking him "upstairs in 1959" was seen by Dr. Azikiwe as one of the greatest fraud that was inflicted on the Nigerian political class. He did not want a repeat of what happened to him 1959 to happen in 1978 in the hand of the northern Nigerian leaders.

Chief Awolowo identified Lord Lugard as the "founding father of Nigeria" and put it succinctly in the following words:

‘To him (Lord Lugard)more than anyone else belongs the credit or discredit for settling Nigeria on a course, which Nigerian Nationalists and patriots feel obliged to pursue All be it with mixed feelings till the present day’.This is from Obafemi Awolowo The People’s Republic (Ibadan, Oxford University Press 1968) p. 17.

This is the popular story we tell our children in schools and not the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden as applicable to Nigeria. We never tell our children that Nigeria is the greatest masterpiece erected by God for the upliftment of the Black world, according to President Obasanjo. I have expressed my worry to some people who are in a position to know what I am talking about that the use of the name of God to justify many things the President is doing in the public realm is a source of disquiet in Nigerian politics. The name of God is constantly being used in vain by footballers in their communication with the President. The President invokes God’s name in his dealings with the National Assembly, even when the issue is the application of the rules governing legislation and the Executive-Legislative relation. All these are statutory matters. President Obasanjo freely uses God’s name in his dealings within the caucus of the ruling political party, the PDP when Christians and non-Christians attend it. It is sad that President Obasanjo even uses the name of God when the political will of the Nigerian people is being subverted.

Maybe Nigerian history is not a compulsory course in the Nigerian military institutions. I doubt that this is the notion of Nigerian history in the military academies. I once had opportunities to interact with many military officers in the Command and Staff College and in many settings including my stint at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). I was not surprised that these officers happen to know the origin of Nigeria, that it is colonial and no one ever said that it was God that created Nigeria. Before now I have never read where officers of the Nigerian army ever said that Nigeria is the "creation of God"; they know that Britain created Nigeria for her purpose and not for the interest of Nigerians who inhabit the four walls of Nigeria. Certainly Britain did not create Nigeria for the Black people of the world, because that was not an issue during the colonial period. Even Sir James Robertson, the last colonial Governor General confessed 14 years after he left Nigeria that Britain underestimated the power of ethnicity. In order to support his claim, he quoted copiously from his diary of 1956. On the north and south in general, he had this to say:

The general outlook of the people (north) is so different from those in the southern Nigeria as to give them practically nothing in common. (underline is mine for emphasis)

Comparing two European countries and Nigerian ethnic nationalities, Sir James noted in his diary:

There is less difference between an Englishman and Italian, both of whom have a common civilization based on Greek and Roman foundations and on Christianity, than between a Muslim villager in Sokoto, Kano,or Katsina and an Ibo, Ijaw or Kalabari.

Posing a rhetorical question on the dilemma faced by him and the future Nigerian leaders who want to build Nigerian nation, Sir James notes in his diary, How can any feeling of common purpose of nationality be built up between people whose culture, religion and mode of living is completely different? (Underline is mine for emphasis) This is from Sir James Robertson, Transition in Africa,(London, 1974) p. 223.

It was obvious from what Sir James noted in his diary in 1956 that the Nigerian project was a failed colonial experiment. What would have been done by successive Nigerian political leaders a conscious plan to evolve Nigerian nation. The mode of governing Nigeria since 1960 should have been approached differently by Nigerian political leaders. How could President Obasanjo call {God's will} what the last colonial Governor General so described as lacking anything on which to build on?

What should be noted was that Sir James never blamed God for the ills of Nigeria. He never blamed the British or her successor in Nigeria for not realizing God’s Will in Nigeria.

Maybe the white man believed that later the political crisis would be resolved for and by Nigerians. Is President Obasanjo trying to run away from the colonial basis of Nigerian problem? He would have to rewrite Nigerian political science texts in Nigeria and abroad that associate Nigerian lingering political problems with the colonial origin of Nigeria. It is colonialism and not God that is at the root of Nigerian crisis. The danger in President Obasanjo’s thesis is that Nigerians should not make any attempt to change the Nigerian state as that would violate God’s purpose for Nigeria. To change it or to agitate for its change would therefore, in the view of President Obasanjo offend God.

My view is that God knows of the injustice in the land today since 1914. God knows that what was left behind in 1960 would not last. It would be in furtherance of God’s work on earth, if President Obasanjo could lead Nigerians to return to the path of justice and equity. Nigeria since 1999 should have made some attempt to address the mistakes of 1814 and 1960. This was what he should have doing since 1999 instead of associating God with his failure to find solution to the lingering political problems as Nigerians move to 2003.

General Obasanjo might not have read history of Nigeria from his High School days as the History taught then was mostly Empire History and of the Age of Discovery etc. But even then, under the Empire History the colonial exploits constituted the major part of the subject and the history of the peoples in the different colonies was de-emphasized. What about the military academies in the United Kingdom? That could not be true as Empire History is a compulsory course in all institutions in the United Kingdom just as Political Science 101 dealing with the US Politics is a compulsory course in the US institutions. Empire History was clear on one fact, the British creation of many colonies including Nigeria.

A lot of the account of how Nigeria was created is declassified in the United Kingdom and they can be found in reputable Universities in the United Kingdom and in the US. Distinguished Nigerian historians of the Ibadan School have copious documents on the origin of Nigeria. Nowhere is the issue of God raised as the basis of the origin of Nigeria.

I am aware that the colonial basis of Nigeria is taught in schools and that is what it should be. Nigeria should not hang on to what the President is telling Nigerians that God created Nigeria. God does not create an unjust setting, which is Nigeria. I had the opportunity to deliver a lecture before an African-American audience in 1996 that Nigeria is "A Case of Failed Colonial Experiment in Africa". Nigerians knew the basis of Nigeria; it is only the President who wants Nigerians to believe that the British for the upliftment of the African people worldwide-created Nigeria. Nigerians expect that when the President speaks, he speaks to them the correct thing. His plan is to rally the people of Nigeria to his plan of recreating Nigeria and bring justice to all. This is what God wants for Nigeria and for Nigerians.

The President should tell Nigerians and the children the truth that the creation of Nigeria was fraudulently put together by the British colonial rulers. He should blame successive Nigerian leaders, civilian and military that did not address the injustice in Nigeria at its creation. If dealing with the imperfection and injustice in the British design is what the President wants to do under his administration, he should tell Nigerians so and he would have the support of many Nigerians including me. Nigerian leaders have since 1999 been calling on him to lead in righting the wrong and injustice from colonialism the imperfections and injustices in the land.

What Chief Akinjide was referring to when he called the Nigerian enterprise a fraud, was a simple question. What did Britain have in mind when amalgamation was considered as the proper policy in the first decade of the 20th Century? Here I would want to improve on what Chief Awolowo, Chief Akinjide and the popular literature on Nigeria told us in schools.

The real founder of Nigeria was not Lord Lugard as it is generally taught in Nigerian schools and in popular discourse. Lord Lugard was the architect of one north as the employee of the Royal Niger Company in the last decade of the 19th Century. His knowledge of the south and of the various states that made up the south in the 19th century and during the first decade of the 20th century was limited to what he knew from other British traders and British foreign representatives to these states. Whatever role he played during the time of amalgamation arose from his role as the messenger of Lord Lewis Harcourt, the British Colonial Secretary.

It was Lord Harcourt who discovered Lord Lugard from his work in the Northern Nigeria and wanted him to undertake a mission on behalf of the British Government. He therefore sent Lord Lugard on the mission to inquire into the prospect of amalgamation of the north and south of Nigeria and submit report to him on how it could be effected if he found the plan feasible.

On the receipt of the Lord Lugard’s report, Lord Harcourt rushed to the House of Commons with the plan that unification of the two "Nigerias" demanded both (a) a man and (b) a method. The man was to be Lord Lugard; the method was amalgamation.

Lord Lugard was elated with the prospect of going back to the two Nigerias, where he was to incorporate the disparate south into a united North. This is a matter, which history books should tell us as the root of the confusion in the south in its dealing with the core north. Since then, the south is fighting its disparate nature that has since mid 60s been complicated by the civil war and the creation of states. The north is still trying to make the north continue as one and indivisible entity despite the creation of many states since 1967.

(culled from First published July 2002)