About Me

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Hiya! Just a quick intro :) I lived in Nigeria for more than half of my life (so far) before moving to England and I have seen the best and the worst of both worlds. I was greatly inspired by the #OccupyNigeria protests and this blog is my way of #occupying. A lot of us compare African countries to the Western countries and I will mainly be talking about the positive things that I have observed and learnt in my few years of living here. Payme’s 2Cents is for all who dare to dream to see changes in their lifetime. It is for those who dream to see environments where 'helping' thrives. I will be giving my2cents worth on how we can work towards getting things to change for better. It would be great to know your opinions, so please leave comments. Remember to keep sharing posts that you enjoy. Follow @payme_my2cents. Thanks a lot for visiting!!! Enjoy my2cents :).

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Our Nigeria?

♫ Nigeria, my beloved country, working together is our aim ♫

I remember listening to and singing this song as a child, especially on children’s day (May 27). Are those match parades still held? Good times!

I am fully aware of the complexities surrounding Nigeria, from our politics to the economy and I know that the problems will not just disappear neither will one solution suffice. I am not for any political party be it PDP, ACN, ANPP or the labour unions. This is for Nigerians like me - ordinary citizens who are tired of hearing or reading about the same old things. My aim is to get us to think about the place we call home. I still stand by one of my previous posts titled 'Is a united Nigeria feasible?'. However, knowing what I know now, I probably would have written it using a slightly different approach.

Why is it that after nearly 52 years, Nigeria has not developed to the point of having things done in a real democratic way? Can we blame the majority of the Northerners who want to live under Islamic rule? Can we blame the Easterners who want to be able to enjoy the benefits of living in an oil-rich region? Can we blame the Westerners who want more support for their agricultural practices? Can we blame Nigerians who want to be able to practise their religions freely without the fear of being attacked? Can we blame the Nigerians that think each region should go their separate ways? Can there ever be a united Nigeria? Is the Federal government system working? Should Nigeria be broken apart?

This is going to be a long one but I really want to know your opinions and I hope that you would find it thought-provoking, so please stick with me :).  Now friends on my bbm and facebook would know that I have lately been absorbed (overly!!!) in learning about the history of Nigeria. I’m 22 years old and I was quite appalled about how little I knew of the history of my country. Thank God for Youtube! Maybe I should have been more inquisitive and should have done my research a while ago but I do think that our history should have been taught to me while I was in secondary school. It should have been included in our learning curriculums just like Maths, English and Science. I did take social studies classes from JSS1 – JSS3 but all I can remember is being taught things about how Flora Shaw named Nigeria, how the Nigerian flag came about as well as the fact that Nigeria used to be a British Colony (how distant/impersonal does ‘Amalgamation’ sound to a 10 year old child?). How Nigeria in itself came to be? I do not remember being told. I do not remember having any class discussions on if there should even be a Nigeria. The students who actually took history classes in the senior classes SS1 – SS3 probably know more about these details but I strongly believe that this particular aspect of our history should have been taught to everybody. The flaws in our educational system is talk for another day :).
Nigeria has had 14 leaders in 52 years, 6 successful coup d'état in which 2 of the leaders were killed (if we pretend to believe the official version of Abacha’s death - that he died of a heart attack). Up till now, there has not been a single peaceful process of election. The only widely acclaimed and relatively fair election that I have heard of had its results annulled. Lives are regularly wasted as different people jostle to be able to have a bite of the ‘national cake’. I have always queried events from a perspective in which I see Nigeria as one country with people that should see themselves as one. Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic groups but I did not realise the extent and depth of the divisions that exist between the different tribes. I mean, I have always wondered why most things in Nigeria or should I even say Africa have to be linked to where individuals come from. For example, I do not think that I have seen David Cameron talk to Ed Miliband based on where they were born. I believe this is because they both believe in England as one. However, when it comes to British politics, we hear things like ‘the Scottish way, the Welsh way e.t.c Could the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish divisions be compared to Nigerian tribal divisions? (I acknowledge that these lots work together way better than Nigeria does but I do hope you get my point). What would it be like if Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland all become merged into one country? Bear it in mind that some in Scotland even want out of the U.K. When it comes to Nigerian politics, the tribal influence strongly comes into play. This influenced the post-independence political groups (NCNC for the Easterners, AG for the Westerners and NPC for the Northerners). Even with the present legislation barring ethnic discrimination in political parties, the support given to different political aspirants based on where they come from is always obvious. So here's my question: Do we feel Nigerian or do we actually only feel tribal (Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa etc) and just go along with the Nigerian general tag?

The summary of all that I read and watched during my quest is that in the 20th century, Nigeria was ‘assembled’ by the British in their bid to secure their economic interests and make their rule of the colony easier. Assembling Nigeria resulted in bringing together people of different tribes with widely varying traditions, cultures and tongues. Throughout the British rule and up until independence, they did nothing to unify the people in the country that they made. Read a funny comment once that I will just paraphrase “God who used River Benue and River Niger to divide the land knew what he was doing before Lord Lugard decided to go against it by bringing together tuwo, ogbono and ewedu expecting a good meal” Well most people now know that Sir Frederick Lugard was not even bothered about the meal being edible not to talk of it tasting good. The bloodshed that followed the independence was distressing to read about. I am not talking of the ordinary citizens of Nigeria alone here (millions of lives have been lost). I am talking about the resulting deaths of the so called leaders. Coups and assassinations became the norm:

Tafawa Balewa (1st Nigerian post-independence leader as Prime minister) was killed in a coup. The President Nnamdi Azikiwe’s government (central and regional) was overthrown and Aguiyi-Ironsi (not part of the coup) became the military head of state but was then killed following a coup and Gen. Yakubu Gowon was chosen to replace him. Gen. Murtala Mohammed deposed Gowon after a coup before he was himself assassinated. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo was also chosen to replace Gowon. Nigeria returned to democratic rule after about 13 years of military rule and then Alhaji Shehu Shagari was elected to be president. Maj. Gen. Muhammad Buhari overthrew Shagari before Buhari himself was deposed in a coup by Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. He handed over to Ernest Shonekan as interim president but then Gen. Sani Abacha seized power from him. Maj. Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar became Head of State after Abacha died/got killed (who knows?) Most of us are familiar with the rest: Obasanjo became the leader of Nigeria again but this time as a democratically elected president followed by Umaru Yar’Adua (till his death) and then Dr Goodluck Jonathan till present. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President_of_Nigeria.

To prevent divorce after marriage, people are usually advised to ‘look before you leap and make sure you are compatible’. When incompatible people end up being married to each other, they can either decide to divorce, stick with it and make each other miserable or stick with it and work on the relationship in order to improve it. Are there couples who are 100% compatible? I believe the answer is no. Do all Yorubas agree with each other? Are all Igbos, Hausas or even the minority ethnic groups united within them? No. Sir Frederick Lugard brought out his pen and carved out a part of West Africa not minding the complexities of the deeply rooted divisions and he made it one. Nigeria has never really been one in the true sense of it. How can the sense of true national unity be fostered in us? Either practical ways are developed to encourage the unity of the country or the country should be broken. Tribally unbiased politicians in Nigeria are rare if ever they exist.  It is possible to have two siblings peacefully share a room in their parents’ house. Sibling rivalry in some are stronger than others and if this would affect their relationship negatively and there was a spare room in the house, would it not be better to separate them? Then each can respect the other’s space. It does not mean they cannot go into each other’s rooms but there would be increased consideration for the owners of the rooms.
 As humans, we can always find solutions to whatever problems we focus our energy on. Nigerians were not consulted before Nigeria came to be. Now that Nigeria exists, what can be done to keep it going peacefully? I think it is time to stop playing the victim to the happenings of the colonial era. Can there be a time when Cabals would not be the ones ruling Nigeria behind the scenes? Would there ever be a time when a particular tribe will not feel left out of how things are run in Nigeria? On a personal level, what effect would breaking up the country have on the citizens? (People like me who were born into one Nigeria). Would my Igbo and Hausa friends suddenly be tagged as foreigners when they come to Ife? My dad speaks the Hausa language fluently as he was born in the North and he feels very much at home there. What would people like him feel about their identity? No divorce is easy. If Nigeria would be broken, how would it be done and what would happen to the things already identified as Nigerian? Who would get what? Would the Cabals benefitting from this inconvenient marriage kick against any such division with all their might? Would there be another war like the war against Biafra? 

I personally think that working on keeping Nigeria together will be a lot easier than having to tear it apart. Sadly, our leaders appear to be incapable of doing this. I believe that setting up regional governments that would govern the States and work under a central leadership would work better for Nigeria compared to the current federal system (well on paper anyway, we all know how removal of oil subsidy worked really well on paper for Nigeria). But if this is done, how would we not end up with the same group of people running the regions? The Tinubus and Obasanjos in the west, The Abubakars and Babangidas in the North etc. All I know is that in majority of the ‘developed countries’, if not all, the prime minister or president does not control everything – American states have their different laws, Police and Banks in the UK are not under the sole control of the Prime minister. No system is perfect but there are ones that work more than others. 

How long till the citizens decide that they have had enough and demand for freedom from the stranglehold in Nigeria? Would it be better for different regions to govern their own issues with legal policies that respect their cultures and traditions as a people? Would separating Nigeria end the conflicts within a tribe? Would it end the conflicts between different tribes? Can any of the ethnic groups survive on their own? Can the North and West buy oil from the East? Can the East and West buy cattle from the North? Can the North and East buy agricultural produce from the West? Should each region benefit from the federal purse based on what they contribute to it? Should Nigeria cease to exist? Can there be a united Nigeria with little or no corruption?

What do you think?  



musco said...

You must have done loads of research!!!

So many questions we may never find answers to ...

wummy said...

Good observation.let's all work together to make nigeria a better place.

Anonymous said...

Good post Payme. Well we can sit here and talk till eternity about what the colonial government did to us as a people but it's not going to bring much change. This we have now known over the years. So like you said, it's time to forge ahead and find ways to get along. I for one dont mind a split Nigeria but really, we are at a point in the history of time, where we just have to move on and continue to look for practical ways to accept our fate and come together as one. After all when Nigerians go abroad, we see ourselves as 'fellow Nigerians' and interact without tribal prejudice. What I don't understand is why once we get to Murtala Mohammed Intl Airport, our friends suddenly become 'my Igbo friend', 'my Hausa friend'.

Anonymous said...

I must say this is a brilliant write up Pee Pee ;);) this same Britain colonized India n Sudan and today they are divided. If I may ask, are you gonna call them (Sudan and India) 'greener pastures' now? Am gonna go on and on..ℓ☺ℓ ! Basically, Nigerians have got nothing called empathy!!! Leave Leaders out of this please. The Leaders today were once followers and dey asked the same questions about Nigeria and there they are today innit? Bringing about the change(s). Now we are the followers and do you want me to start telling you what Nigerian youths are all passionate about now? MONEY BY ALL MEANS. When they become leaders in a couple of years, they are defo gonna effect their changes as well. Nigeria has got nothing to do with land mass and all. Nigeria has got to do with the living souls in it! The havoc we the S̶̲̥̅Ơ̴̴̴̴̴̴͡ called followers are causing Nigeria can not be quantified. We are all into this and not until the day we start to have open mind to conversations, will we start experiencing some changes. Let's go to the lowest level of "government" which is the family. Most kids are S̶̲̥̅Ơ̴̴̴̴̴̴͡ not happy because they are living the life dictated to them by their parents all because if they try to say NO, den dey r rebellious hence. They are not happy and yet they must live by it.. We need to change our orientation virtually everything in Nigeria.. We people are the problem of Nigeria and until we realise that fact, we r stuck in this problem 4eva n all we do all the time is ask these questions all over again. Payme, social studies teachers shld actually add dis write up in their lesson notes.ℓ☺ℓ God bless Nigeria.

Tunde Ajidahun said...

I strongly believe that the first step in the right direction is when we start practising true federalism, where the states are independent of the Federal Government in policy making and revenue generation. That way, there is reduced burden at the Central and more income generation means is going to be created by the individual states. It is pertinent to realise that we are a large nation and federalism in its true self will make Nigeria a federation of states. Obviously some states will be richer than some other states initially but the poor states will have to try and create income for themselves. Most of the governors only wait for federal allocations to do everything - pay salaries, embark on capital projects. Also, this will create healthy comparison between states and rural - urban migration will surely reduce because, in the process of creating revenue, jobs will be created and some rural areas will be explored.

Ifeoluwa Abiodun said...

Chris Ngwodo wrote- In 1983, Chinua Achebe wrote the classic indictment of his generation arguing that 'the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely leadership.' in the three decades since he made this submission, the plumetting standard...s of governance has continued to validate its prophetic currency. Yet, any nation that has consistently produced bad leadership under various dispensations must surely look beyond the flawed individuals and begin to question the system of leadership that annoints the worst of us to lead! Nigeria's problem is not her diversity but the failure of the state to affirm nigerian citizenship as the ultimate identity superceding all allegiances. It is our failure as citizens, intellectuals and politicians to articulate an all-embra...cing nigerian ethos. Rather, we waste valuable time and energy rebooting hacneyed definitions of nigeria as an artificial creation or a mere geographical expression...nigeria has not been tried and found wanting, we simply have not invested enough of our intellectual and moral energies into actualizing her promise! Eme Awa wrote- If we were to dissolve the federation as is been proposed, a future generation of people will pass the verdict that 'the nigerian elites committed suicide while of unsound mind! I have read and enjoyed ur article tho too detailed from a 22 yrs old, however, i will also ask that you read articles on 'Chris Ngwodo's blog or his facebook wall...about Nigeria, i'll summarize it this way- Cry! My beloved country! Cry!