The Amalgamation Of Nigeria And Nationhood
By Olakunle Agboola
Nationhood is an aggregation of people or peoples of one or more cultures, races, etc., organized into a single government.
All nations grew out of disparate tribes. Some trace their origins to several distinct nationalities. Many nations, including the Americans, were formed not only from different ethnic groups but even from different races.
In the chronicles of Nigeria’s history; one chapter that has remained till today (date) controversial and very elusive to candid clarification is the amalgamation of 1914. The ill-conceived connubial resolution that brought Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria together in 1914 is up till today being debated to be the basis of the problems we are facing as a Nation. Some have argued that the union has created an endless animosity between the two protectorates (the Southern state and the northern state), because none of them was prepared for it. The union is seen as a forced marriage due to economic control but masked in the phase of political will.
The Governor-General Frederick Lugard who took office in 1914 was responsible for overseeing the unification. He worked under close supervision to see the marriage was successful tampering on cultural milieu and economy disposition of the two protectorate. The resultant of the 1914 amalgamation is what the two protectorates which are now represented on the basis of three major ethnic groups are battling with today. It has always being a cat and mouse relationship in which every ethnic group tries to outsmart one another in an existential “rat race’.
The bitter truth is that the 1914 amalgamation between the North and the South is morbidly reflecting in all our ways of life even as a sovereign nation today. At various stages of this matrimony; we have recorded series of events including a civil war, Niger/Delta crises, Biafra emancipation and also Boko Haram menace. Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo have focused on every reason why they should separate and each be on their own as a nation.
The late Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was reported in a speech in 1952, at the Northern House of Assembly, Kaduna, that `the Southern people who are swarming into this region daily in large numbers are really intruders. We don`t want them and they are not welcome here in the North. Also the on-going agitation for Biafra Nation is an evidence that Nigeria is still suffering from the forced marriage of 1914.
Some scholars also have argued that it will be difficult for Nigeria to assume nationhood due to the baseless matrimony of 1914. They could not see the reason for amalgamation when the two protectorate before amalgamation were doing well both in trade, commerce and governance.
At the public presentation of the book “Fellow Country Men- the story of Coup D’etats in Nigeria by Richard Akinnola, June 2000, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), first and second Republic Minister made a laudatory speech while he insightfully made known the purpose of Lord Lugard in Nigeria and also BRITISH interest in staging the amalgamation of 1914. The excerpt:
Lord Lugard came here about 1894 and many people did not know that Major Lugard was not originally employed by the British government. He was employed by companies. He was first employed by East Indian Company, by the Royal East African Company and then by the Royal Niger Company. It was from the Royal Niger Company that he transferred to the British government.
The interest of the Europeans in Africa and indeed in Nigeria was economic and it’s still economic. They have no permanent friends and no permanent interest. Neither their interest nor their friends are permanent. Nigeria was created as British sphere of interests for business.
When Lugard formed the West African Frontier Force with 2,000 troops, about 90 percent of them were from the North mainly from the middle belt. And his dispatches to London between that time and January 1914 was extremely interesting. Lugard came here for a purpose and that purpose was British interest.
Between 1898 and 1914, he sent a number of dispatches to London which led to the Amalgamation of 1914. The Order-in-Council was drawn up in November 1913, signed and came into force in January 1914. In those dispatches, Lugard said a number of things which are the root causes of yesterday and today’s problems. The British needed the Railway from the North to the Coast in the interest of British business. Amalgamation of the South (not of the people) became of crucial importance to British business interest.
When the amalgamation took effect, the British government sealed off the South from the North. And between 1914 and 1960, that’s a period of 46 years, the British allowed minimum contact between the North and South because it was not in the British interest that the North be allowed to be polluted by the educated South. That was the basis on which we got our independence in 1960.
When the North formed a political party, the Northern leaders called it Northern People’s Congress (NPC). They didn’t call it Nigeria’s people Congress. That was in accordance with the dictum and policies of Lugard. When Aminu Kano formed his own party, it was called Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) not Nigerian Elements Progressive Union. It was only Awolowo and Zik who were mistaken that there was anything called Nigeria. In fact, the so-called Nigeria created in 1914 was a complete fraud. It was created not in the interest of Nigeria or Nigerians but in the interest of the British. And what were the structures created? The structures created were as follows: Northern Nigeria was to represent England; Western Nigeria like Wales; Eastern Nigeria was to be like Scotland.
History is so important in our daily lives and without it we are lost as individuals and also as a nation. We need to know where we are coming from and probably where we are going. The marriage of Nigeria might be wrong or born out of selfish motives and gain, but it is up to us to create a new path to nationhood or we remain where we are. At times, marriage is not all about compatibility but how we resolve incompatibility. We are left to make a choice of a new nation that will surpass parochial ethnicity, religion, culture, language barrier, and geographical boundaries. We can live beyond the selfish marriage of 1914 to create the path of harmony, love and unity.
Ernest Renan (1823–1892), a French historian is known for his idea of nationhood. He was praised in the eighteenth century for his achievements in regards to humanity and the restoration of the pure identity of man, one which was free from misconceptions and socially established variances. Renan discredits the theory that race is the basis for the unification of people.
Renan also asserts that neither language nor religion are basis for solidarity because language “invites people to unite, but does not force them to do so” and “religion has become an individual matter” For example, the United States and England both speak English but do not constitute a single, united nation and countries no longer operate on the notion of religions operating against each other, forcing people to choose between one or the other.
Renan will also be remembered for his ideas of Forgetfulness: Historical errors, are essential in the creation of a nation. “Historical research, by revealing unwanted truths, can even endanger nationhood”. All nations, even the most benevolent in later practice, are founded on acts of violence, which are then forgotten.
This leads to one of the most frequently quoted statements in his speech:
Yet the essence of a nation is that all individuals have many things in common, and also that they have forgotten many things. No French citizen knows whether he is a Burgundian, an Alan, a Taifale, or a Visigoth, yet every French citizen has to have forgotten the massacre of Saint Bartholomew, or the massacre that took place in the South in the thirteenth century.
Modern nationhood also cannot be based on religion, which Renan observes, is currently practiced according to individual belief. “You can be French, English, German, yet Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or practicing no religion”. Mutuality of interests is fine for corporations and their affiliates, but nationality is based on sentiment. Geography merely leads us astray, and often to violence: “Mountains don’t know how to carve out countries”.
It is obvious that Nigeria as a nation can work, and that is forgetting why we have to divide and embrace the path of love, peace and unity in diversity. It is possible we look beyond the past as we transcend geographical boundaries, ethnicity, religions, and culture to assume nationhood.