Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Centenary: A Celebration of Colonialism

THE CENTENARY: A CELEBRATION OF COLONIALISM? By Okoye Precious Onyeka History & International Studies, UNN(3/4) As it has been declared by the executive president of the federal republic of Nigeria, president goodluck jonathan,the Nigerian state was born in January 1, 1914 when lord lugard amalgamated the northern and southern protectorates. The theme of the centenary is “ 100 years of Nationhood, National Development and Challenges for the future.” To commemorate the event, 100 heritage sites in nigeria have been identified as national monuments especially those related to the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates. Also akwa ibom state has been selected as the face of nigerias centenary because of her historical significance as the place where the signing of the amalgamation treaty by sir lord lugard in the present day ikot abasi took place. It is obvious that the centenary celebration has become a contentious issue; some are in favour of the celebration while some are seriously kicking against it. This article attempts to present the two sides of the argument and at the same time, drawing a plausible conclusion from the available analysis. Those in favour of the celebration are of the view that the Nigerian state was born in January 1, 1914 when lord lugard amalgamated the northern and southern protectorates and even though there were pockets of kingdoms and empires like the benin kingdom, and oyo empire existing before the time of amalgamation. The act of bringing two separate protectorates into a union conferred on Nigeria the status of a state. According to them, the people living in the “Nigerian” territory prior to the coming of the whites were not known by any name and so, had no recognition in the world but the amalgamation gave Nigerians a place in the global sphere. There are some sentimental critics anyway, who believe that the centenary is a suitable platform to discuss their problems and profer solutions to them; and that even though Nigeria is not at her best economically, politically and even socio economically, it shoud not deter us from celebrating the union of the separate blocs in Nigeria; some even cite instances of the north and south America of the slave era that were so different economically but who eventually stayed together in the union of the united states of America. However, the critics of the centenary celebration seem to have countered their opponent’s points. According to them, the centenary celebration is both a waste of time and resources. The ayes posit that given the amalgamation of 1914, the status of a state was conferred on Nigeria but this is a fallacy. A state, as two of its major characteristics should possess sovereignity and independence from foreign rule. In 1914 and until 1960, Nigeria was not independent, talk more of attaining sovereignity. This, in effect, implies that the Nigeria that was allegedly born in 1914 is not the modern state we know now but a union of separate administrations. Also, the assertion that Nigeria was born in 1914 is a distortion of history because the Nigerian prople were living in the Nigerian territory centuries before the whites came. Is it then logical to dismiss their predated existence and say the country came into existence whrn the british arrived? This view advocates the hermitic hypothesis that believes Africa was a dark continent before the coming of the whites. On the other hand, a childs age is not counted from the time visitors come to see him or give him a name but from the day he is born into the world. If this be so, then Nigeria is over 1000 years old because it is the people tjhat make a country and not otherwise. Sadly enough, there are ongoing plans for the centenary celebration while there are more pressing issues the Nigerian government should tackle- alarming unemployment rate, poor electricity supply, insecurity, poorinfrastructure and so on. These should receive premium attention from the Nigerian government but this is not the case. By late February, the centenary celebration will kick off in all glamour, also, by October 1st, another memorable event shall be celebrated. Are these not frivolities that can be susprnded for a while until the important issues are taken care of? Celebrations should come after hardwork not before. What are we celebrating by the way? Colonialism? We should not cekebrate the day Britain established her rule over the country. We ought to celebrate independence from british rule which we gained in October, 1960. In the words of Alhaji Lateef Okunnu, former Federal Commissioner for Works and Housing: “it is absolutely idiotic for anyone to want to celebrate 100 years of bondage or to celebrate the occasion where we were under colonialism. I have never heard of a country celebrating colonialism or the birth of colonialism. If thry want to celebrate the days oif british entrepreneurs and british traders, it is their business but to me, it is absolute idiocy. If they want to celebrate the Portuguese who came before the british, that is their business.” As to the issue of north and south America; distinct and unique economies that have remained together even after the civil war of 1865, they can celebrate their unionism if they choose to because it was europes expansionist motive that led to the discovery of the New World by Amerigos Vespucci, a Spanish explorer. The incorporation of northern and southerm America into a union was undertaken by the people themselves. But Nigerias case is different, a foreigner came to the country, without prior knowledge of the organisatioan and structure of the pre existing communities unifies two different entities and we have been asked to celebrate this. Richard Akinola in his ‘’fellow country men’’ asserted that the almagamation is a colonial fiat that sought to wield into one, several distinct groups whose autonomy had been in existence for centuries. The british almagamated the administration of the north and south not the people. This is the root cause of nigeria’s problems. When the almagamation took place, the british government sealed off the south from the north. Between 1914 and 1960/40 years/ the british allowed minimum contact between the north and south because it was not in british interest that the north be allowed to be polluted by the educated south and the dichotomy between the north and south has remained ever since. Taking into consideration the aforementioned points,I deem it right to say that Nigeria is wrong for celebrating a centenary; the situation of the country not withstanding. Nigeria can celebrate 46 years(1914-1960) of the british occupation if she wishes but not a 100 years. The civil war and secession of Biafra are clear indications that there was no union between the north and south in the first instance. Fellow country,we should not celebrate a man whose interest it was to promote british economic and expansionist motives in Africa Nigeria especially. Colonialism is not worth celebrating.

1 comment:

  1. I do not care whose ox is gored, I speak for the Nigerian people.