By virtue of its large population and abundant mineral resources, Nigeria was advertized as a giant and upcoming Africa’s Superpower upon getting its independence from Britain on September 29, 1960. Those claims however turned out to be shallow, as the events of the last fifty years demonstrated. Military coups, endemic corruption, ethnic and religious conflicts and increasing poverty certainly nullify this rosy scenario. Thus September 29, 2010 which was to be a milestone for Nigeria turned into a nightmare when the festivities commemorating that country’s 50th year of political independence from Great Britain were interrupted by twin car bombings that left 12 dead and dozens injured. Unless Black people in general have a peculiar way of commemorating special events, (it reminds me of the sabotaging of Haiti’s bi-centennial by impenitent thugs at the behest of foreign entities), this behavior is unquestionably abnormal and hard to comprehend.
Understandably MEND, (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta), the group behind the bombings has legitimate grievances against the central government. It is fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue and remedial from sustained environmental degradation of the Niger Delta that endangers the livelihood of thousands of farmers and fishermen. As Nigeria remains mired in corruption and successive administrative failures, the statement released by the group is regrettably true “For 50 years, the people of the Niger Delta have had their land and resources stolen from them.” “There is nothing worth celebrating after 50 years of failure.” Perhaps the impenitent Haitians who deliberately sabotaged the bi-centennial of their country’s hard fought independence and facilitated its occupation (2004-?) were thinking along those lines.
Regardless of the justness of their cause, the act was self-centered and ill-timed; those responsible should, upon their capture, be hanged high in Abuja’s Eagle Square. Two days after the bombings, Henry Okah, the ex-leader of MEND, who was freed from a Nigerian prison on humanitarian grounds in July 2009 and moved to South Africa, was arrested by that country’s police. He is facing terrorism charges in connection with the bombing. The group’s unjustifiable action clearly shows that ethnic pride supersedes national interests; it validates the viewpoint of many within and outside of Nigeria that the prematurely named Africa’s Superpower, as presently constituted, cannot conceivably survive as a functional and stable country. Even Muhammad Khaddafi, a passionate advocate of a political union grouping all African states, flaunted the idea of a partition of Nigeria as a solution to its intractable religious problems. The statement emanated from the Nigerian Foreign Ministry in response to Khaddafi’s unsolicited advice was swift and unforgiving: “The insensitive and oftentimes irresponsible utterances of Colonel Gaddafi, his theatrics and grandstanding at every auspicious occasion have become too numerous to recount. These have diminished his status and credibility as a leader to be taken seriously.” Khaddafi’s comment may be undiplomatic, but it highlights an issue that can no longer be ignored. The 1967-70 Biafra War (the Igbo seceded from Nigeria to form an independent state) is an example of what the country could be facing in the near future.
Actually Nigeria is, like all Sub-Saharan countries, fundamentally dysfunctional and should not exist in its present form. A creation of European colonialism, Nigeria is a mosaic of more than 250 ethnic groups, each with its own language and customs, with the largest being the Hausa in the north, the Yoruba and the Igbo in the South, East and Southeastern parts of the country. Though English, the language of the former colonizer, superficially holds this nation together, it is far from being the required solution because it is spoken mostly by the affluent and educated. These facts notwithstanding, the country has to deal with periodic tribal, regional, sectarian and religious violence which certainly make the case for its dismemberment into separate entities. Barring such ideal solution, Nigeria’s problems will endure for centuries because the ethnic and religious divide can never be bridged.
Therefore, the concept of Nigeria becoming the Superpower of Africa in the year 2000 was utopian, as the country was from its inception fundamentally flawed and could never develop a national identity commensurate with the title. Case in point, 50 years after British rule ended, Nigerian barristers and judges still wear white wigs, the colonial era symbol of the authority of the Court. Although the custom is still in use in many Commonwealth countries, Nigeria, one of the leading African nations thus representative of the Continent and its Diaspora, could have discarded this colonial vestige as it is truly a pathetic sight seeing a Black person wearing that wig. More to the point, South Africa, by virtue of its economic and industrial might, has eclipsed Nigeria as the leading African nation and the most likely to get a permanent seat in the U.N Security Council, if that club of powerful nations ever gets an overhaul.
Today’s Nigeria is known to the rest of world as a nation beset by religious and ethnic violence and inhabited by fraudsters and corrupt politicians. In a report released last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that 400 billion of dollars were stolen from Nigeria’s treasury during that country’s five decades of independence. Considering the rolling black-outs and Nigeria’s decrepit infrastructure, this astronomical sum could certainly have been used to better end. Perhaps, the insurgents of the Niger Delta have decided that is enough is enough, the timing of their actions is unjustifiable nevertheless.