By Rev. Fr. David Asonye Ihenacho
All over the world, an Independence Day anniversary of a formerly colonized nation is usually reserved for real celebration of joy and freedom because of a genuine political freedom attained. It is the celebration of some real taste of political independence and disengagement from a formerly oppressive colonial administration. Such a day is usually observed as sort of a harvest of genuine fruits of political independence by a people that are truly free and who are making the most of their political freedom.
Think about July 4, in the United States of America, May 5, in Mexico (a.k.a. Cinco Mayo), July 1, in Canada, and January 26, in Australia, to mention but these few. If one is in any of these countries on their days of independence anniversary celebration, there would be no need for anybody to tell the one how much such people love and value their country.
In a country that knows and cares about her history, independence day anniversary is a day for some extravagant show of patriotism and genuine gratitude to the founding fathers who sacrificed to achieve it. It is a day citizens are somehow obligated to show some love to their country, their founding fathers and all those who have been keeping faith with the freedom that was achieved through the political independence of their nation.
But come to Nigeria, October 1, which is celebrated every year as our nation’s Independence Day anniversary is usually one of the saddest days in the year for many Nigerians. It is hard to see any reasonable Nigerian to whom October 1 is a day of true celebration and joy as it would be in most other countries. Rather, October 1 in Nigeria only evokes memories of a fraud and a grand deceit that was foisted on modern day Nigerians by the various colonial forces that have played some roles in her, some of which are still hard at work in her till today.
In actual fact, many Nigerians would rather curse their so-called founding fathers on this day of their so-called independence day anniversary than praise and show some gratitude to them because of what they believe to be a deceit they either wrought or aided and abetted into existence in the name of one Nigeria for which the entire nation continues to suffer till today.
In truth and reality, for any Nigerian who has read the so-called Nigerian history critically, October 1 should be a day of a monumental sadness, shame and anger. It is a day in which any sensible Nigerian must reflect and agonize about what would have, could have and should have been if the various ethnic groups that were forcefully and deceitfully cobbled together to form the Nigeria of today had been allowed to freely choose their own destinies and gradually transform into modern states on their own terms. But that was not to be because some extraneous forces conspired to establish a fraudulent contraption that was christened Nigeria that will remain hobbled forever only for the benefits of the colonizers and their co-conspirators.
However, what has remained tragically sad is that the people of the so-called Nigeria have remained blind and hypnotized till today. Other countries that were equally deceived and hypnotized by their colonizers have since woken up and have taken their destinies into their own hands. But Nigeria and Nigerians have remained hypnotized and bamboozled for more than one hundred years thereby making themselves a permanent prey to mindless colonialists that have been pillaging them for more than two hundred years.
Let us cast our minds back to a little more than five hundred years ago. In the fifteen century when some Portuguese traders and explorers arrived at the shores of the Atlantic Coast which they later nicknamed Gulf of Guinea, they met and interacted with only two known kingdoms, namely, Biafra and Benin. They might have heard a hint of an obscure kingdom up north called Zamfara. But there is hardly any record indicating that they ever met the people of that kingdom or did any business with them. But at the same time, some Arab traders from the northern part of the continent and from the westernmost part of Africa were beginning to infiltrate some northern part of what is called Nigeria today. This would remain the situation of this part of the continent of Africa for about three hundred years.
But all that would change at the beginning of the 19th century, 1804, to be exact, when a warlord called Othman Dan Fodio deceived the king of Gobir to allow him a grazing space for him and his nomadic people. The compassionate king of Gobir allowed them in to his and his people’s eternal regret. What followed the benevolence of the former king of Gobir were the wiping out of the original people of the kingdom by Othman Dan Fodio and his invading Fulani nomads, the changing of Gobir city to Sokoto and the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate that set its goal to invade all territories in the northern part of today’s Nigeria.
However, even though the invaders took over most of today’s northern Nigeria, they always felt that their mission was not complete until they had set foot and planted their flag at the Atlantic Ocean Coast in the southernmost part of Nigeria.
While the Fulani invaded and colonized the northern part of today’s Nigeria and cast their furtive eyes on the southern part up to the coast, the British were running their slavery cartel in the south which was later turned into trading on palm oil and other goods. At the turn of the 20th century, the British became more aggressive. They took over the administration of the territories they had previously granted as trading concessions to the various British trading companies and decided instead to begin some full blown direct political administration in them. Their man, Frederick Lugard, an ex-soldier, and some would describe him as a mercenary, who was once charged with the protection of trade up north, they promoted and upgraded to the rank of a political Governor General. Subsequently Lugard made a secret deal with the then colonizers of the northern part of Nigeria, namely, the descendants of the war lord called Othman Dan Fodio. That deal would enable Lugard to amalgamate the two parts of the vast territories into a new contraption he labeled as Nigeria in 1914.
The substance of the deal was that when the British finished their reign and got all that they were looking for from the territory they labelled as Nigeria, they would hand it back to the Fulani colonizers of the north who would be free to continue their campaign to overrun the rest of southern Nigeria down to the Atlantic Coast. Sir Ahmad Bello, the Saduana of Sokoto said or implied as much in speeches on the eve and shortly after Nigeria’s independence in 1960.
The British did indeed fulfill their part of the deal in October 1, 1960, when they pulled all stops and hatched all tricks in the book to make sure they returned power to the Fulani colonizers thereby liberating them to continue invading and conquering the rest of Nigeria. October 1, 1960, was in fact the independence day for the Fulani of Nigeria. For the rest of the non-Fulani Nigeria, it amounted to a transition to another form and layer of colonialism. In reality, October 1 independence anniversary is more meaningful to the wandering Fulani than to the rest of Nigeria.
But what is most amazing and even scandalous is that the rest of Nigeria has allowed this latter colonialism to thrive for nearly sixty years unchallenged. The modern colonizers of the nation of Nigeria number a little below or in a generous excess of ten million out of the nearly 200 million Nigerians. They constitute the most backward and most poorly educated Nigerians. So, where did they get the guts; how is it that the Fulanis who are the most recent migrants into Nigeria have this legendary skill to continue colonizing the rest of Nigeria for nearly six decades? The answer has to be that the rest of Nigeria has been hypnotized.
The wandering Fulanis cast a dangerous spell on the rest of Nigeria that has held solid for nearly sixty years. There is no other way to explain the current situation of Nigeria whereby a group of wandering and uneducated nomads seized the political reins of the nation and have been dominating her for nearly six decades now than to postulate that the nearly two hundred million Nigerians are in a state of a permanent hypnosis and stupor. What a sad situation indeed!
There are two ways the rest of Nigeria can wake up from their stupor and hypnosis. First, they must with one voice demand that Nigerian censuses and elections be credible and of international standards. These have not been credible since the 1950s when the British started plotting their exit strategy in which they would turn over the reins of Nigeria to their co-colonizers. If elections and censuses are made credible through the adoption of efficient electronic voting system patterned after bank ATM’s, it will ensure that Nigerian leaders can emerge from any ethnic group that could produce visionary and competent leaders. Second, the rest of Nigeria must with one voice demand the permanent restructuring of the nation. This will enable the various zones and regions of Nigeria to choose the cultures and traditions they are most comfortable with and follow them. To allow the whole nation to continue thriving under a gobbled contraption that has proved amorphous and unworkable for nearly sixty years is a clear sign of hypnosis and a people permanently dwelling in stupor.
If Nigerians want to show that they have overcome their criminal hypnosis that has held them back and made them a permanent prey to the wandering Fulanis for six decades, they must redefine the structure on which this country was put together by their fraudulent colonizers of both the past and present.
David Asonye Ihenacho is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara Mbaise, Imo State, Nigeria.
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