God of justice not associated with an unjust political order! Appeal to President Obasanjo not to rewrite Nigerian History.
WHAT OUR BOOKS TELL US ABOUT NIGERIA
I once had the occasion to challenge the assertion of President Olusegun Obasanjo on the origin of Nigeria in my essay published by Vanguard. In the essay, I reviewed the contribution of Chief Richard Akinjide on the same subject. While President Obasanjo attributed the creation of Nigeria to God, Chief Akinjide called what the British did in Nigeria a colossal fraud. I thought the President of Nigeria was just joking and maybe trying out an idea that he knew would have a problem making it to stick. Why did he not drop the matter when everyone in Nigeria seems to be convinced that the Nigerian project since its creation is acknowledged as patently unjust to many groups in Nigeria? Should it not have been obvious that since God is a just God any unjust project like Nigeria should not have been associated with God? God is a just God and could not therefore be associated with an unjust act. But recently there has been a persistent attribution of God as the creator of Nigeria to the extent that anyone who dares to question the colonial basis of Nigeria the President quickly calls one all kinds of names. In fact, those who question President mischaracterization of what Britain did in Nigeria are deemed to have committed a sin in the eyes of President Obasanjo. It is this persistent attribution that God is the creator of Nigeria that is making me to further do this essay.
This essay is not meant to question the fact that God is the source of knowledge and of human understanding and the giver of all things. But we see the “gilded tomb with worms infold” and we call it the work of God! That is not fair. Which God, one may ask? I am arguing that God means different thing to a different faith. But President Obasanjo is a Christian. As a Christian, I know what God means that revealed Himself to believers in three different ways through the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Christians do not invoke the name of God in vain so I was taught on my first day of being exposed to the Bible. This is one of the Ten Commandments. The Holy Bible is clear on this as
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain – Exodus 20:7
I am worried with the way the Nigerian President plays with God’s name in virtually everything he does.
WHAT WE ARE TOLD IN SCHOOL ABOUT NIGERIA
There are two senses when we talk about “Nigeria”. In the first sense, we are concerned with the name, Nigeria, This is like all human beings that must be given names as a way of differentiating one from the other. Who gave us the name Nigeria? We should ask the President that tough question. Was it God? We could ask, how do we come about the name we carry in our daily lives?
The second sense is that we are concerned with how the territory that goes by the name Nigeria came into being? There is no doubt that the name has no meaning in various languages as far as I know. To many people the name does not invoke positive sentiments. In fact it invokes negative sentiments such as neglect, oppression in the hand of some officials that go by that name such as the Nigerian Police or the Nigerian Army.
NIGERIA AS A NAME
In the literature on the origin of Nigeria as a name, it first appeared in The Times of London on January 8, 1897 in an essay written by Miss Flora Shaw, who later became the wife of Lord Lugard. Was she sent by God to come up with the term in the word of President Obasanjo? Maybe she was but she did not say so in her essay.
In her essay she was making a case for a shorter term that would be used for the “agglomeration of pagan and Mahomedan States” that was functioning under the official title, “Royal Niger Company Territories”. She thought that the term, Royal Niger Company Territories” was too long to be used as a name of a Real Estate Property under the Trading Company in that part of Africa. She was right. That has nothing to do with the people in that part of Africa. What is important in Flora Shaw’s article was that she was in search of a new name and she coined “Nigeria” in preference to such terms as “Central Sudan” that was associated with some geographers and travelers. She thought that the term “Sudan” at this time was associated with a territory in the Nile basin. She then put forward this argument in the Financial Times of London of January 8, 1897 thus:
The name Nigeria applying to no other part of Africa may without offence to any neighbours be accepted as co-extensive with the territories over which the Royal Niger Company has extended British influence , and may serve to differentiate them equally from the colonies of Lagos and the Niger Protectorate on the coast and from the French territories of the Upper Niger.
What is important in the name coined by Miss Flora Shaw were the following facts:
- That Nigeria was to apply to the “agglomeration of pagan and Mahomedan States” meaning the North as we know it today;
- That the term, Nigeria was to serve to differentiate the area of the Royal Niger Company from other areas. This means that Nigeria was not to apply to Lagos colonies and other Protectorates in the south, meaning the current southern states;
- That the term Nigeria was to apply to the Royal Niger Company Territories. It should be noted that Sir Frederick Lugard was hired by the Royal Niger Company to bring together under his administration the “Pagan and Mahomedan States”.
- That the name later assumed by the collection of territories amalgamated in 1914 was actually incorporation of the two systems of administration in the south (Lagos Colony and Protectorate) into an existing entity put together under the Royal Niger Company called Nigeria.
- That the use of a name that was already assumed by the British territories in the north for all the territories amounted to a colossal fraud.
NIGERIA AS A COUNTRY
In the literature on the origin of Nigeria as a country, we are told that it was of a colonial creation, meaning that it was created by the colonial power, the British. This is what we are all told as young people in schools. This is what we, as teachers, have been telling our students. This is what parents should be telling their children. How could anyone associate God with the creation of Nigeria under the following circumstances?
- The many unjust acts associated with the way the idea of Nigeria was conceived by the British officials;
- The way the British ran Nigeria and eventually handed over to the preferred group at independence;
- The way the successive governments ran this country since independence;
- The way the government of the day is running the affairs of Nigeria since 1999.
Could all the foregoing be associated with God? Could this be one way of punishing Nigerians? How could one associate Nigeria with the work of God? The widening inequality every day ought to have been obvious to the President that it would be unchristian to associate God with an unjust economic or political order.
In more sophisticated reasoning, we are told that following the “scramble for Africa” in the late 19th Century, Africa was “partitioned” into “real estate property” by and for the Europeans. After the “partitioning of Africa”, the present area called Nigeria was allocated to Britain. Consequently, the area occupied by present-day Nigeria was allocated to Britain at the Berlin Conference, Britain like other European powers, France, Belgium, Portugal, Germany, Italy and Spain, set out after 1885 to establish an “effective occupation” of her “real estate property”. One could recall the many studies on this subject such as Saadia Touval, The Boundary Politics in Independent Africa (Harvard University Press, 1972).
“EFFECTIVE OCCUPATION” OF NIGERIA BY BRITAIN
The method of “effective occupation” by Britain varied from one part of the “real estate” to another. Some by outright fraud called “treaty of protection”, some by “conquest” and other a mixture of both. Even though in international law there ought to have been a difference, the two forms of “effective occupation” were misapplied in the eventual colonization of Nigeria. What I am trying to say is that the method of “effective occupation” applied by Britain between 1885 and 1900 was different from one part of the “real estate” to another.
What is important was that in the exploitation of the “real estate”, the different peoples inhabiting the different areas were taken as part of the real estate, materials and objects of exploitation. Eventually, the people developed into the status of “British Subjects”. The people inhabiting the British enclave called Nigeria were called “British Subjects” before October 1, 1960. It was under this status that Nigerians qualified to be Knighted and adorned with the title of Queen Counsel. Have we forgotten that our Armed Forces were called the “Queen’s Own” Nigerian Regiment”, etc., etc? President Obasanjo like many officers of his generation was not recruited into the Nigerian Army but into the Queens Own Nigerian Army. Those who were Knighted and given other Honors from London were proud to call themselves “Sir this” and “Sir that” or QC. They did not know or they ought to have known that they were being conferred titles as “British Subjects” and not as “Nigerian Citizens”, because there was nothing so-called until after October 1, 1960. Nigeria as an actor on the international scene commenced with the formal granting of independence by Britain to the people of the colony on October 1, 1960. A lot of ignorance abounds in Nigeria. Instead of trying to resolve the matter, we are further complicating it by the attribution of God to the origin of Nigeria.
I had to face my colleagues in the Constituent Assembly with this fact in 1978. The Murtala/Obasanjo military regime had passed a decree on disqualification of persons from the successful election and made it effective from January 15, 1866. I was shocked that this found its way into the Draft Constitution Bill that we were to consider in the Constituent Assembly. The date was discriminatory as the date January 15, 1966, only applied to the date of the first military coup in Nigeria. This was why I pushed for the amendment to the Section of the Draft Constitution on the argument that if the military was interested in cleaning Nigeria of whatever past conduct it found unacceptable, the date should be the date when Nigeria was born. I genuinely believed then and still do so today that the only level playing field in any legislation that purports to treat Nigerians as Nigerians should start from October 1, 1960, and not from any artificial date after then. I am referring to the military’s plan to bar certain persons from January 15, 1966, and my successful amendment in the Constituent Assembly on the ground that the military’s date was discriminatory and did not accord with the historical fact of Nigerians as commencing from October 1, 1960. By an overwhelming vote of 121 to 16, my amendment was carried and the effective date was moved from January 15, 1966, to October 1, 1960. See Volume Three, The Proceedings of the Constituent Assembly 1977/78.
Another important issue we should note was that the method of “effective occupation” of the British “real estate” by Britain did not lead to one British territory called Nigeria. What Britain had in her “real estate” in this part of Africa between 1885 and 1912 were many pieces of “real estate”, territories. It should be noted that there was one huge British territory in the north, called the British Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and there were many British territories in the south.
What we should also note that the fact that we had one huge northern territory did not mean that there were one people. Rather there were many northern peoples that were to be made to be subservient to the Sokoto Caliphate with the Headquarters at Kaduna. Britain did not anticipate that a situation would arise where the non-members of the north would aspire to be of the same political status as the members of the Caliphate. The way Lord Lugard characterized the relationship between the Muslim north and others is intriguing. He paid tribute to the unity of the Emirs and the beautiful “dancers of the pagans”. He did not see the possibility of the “pagan” i.e. the present-day Middle-Belt aspiring to rule in the north. That the “pagans” took to Christianity was as a result of the fact Christian missions were barred from the Muslim north with the school system. In the Middle-Belt the Church was accompanied with the ability to read and write in English that was primarily required in the propagation of the faith. The Hausa/Fulani who took to Christianity along with the pagans became the light in the Muslim north such the Dr RAB Dikko and Professor Ishaya Audu.
The other unanswered question was whether the original object of “effective occupation” of the area was to make the Muslim component of the Sokoto Caliphate the only permanent ruler of the north. What about the Muslim component outside the Sokoto Caliphate such as the Borno area that could lay claim to Islam independent of the Sokoto caliphate? This was an issue in 1978 when Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim thought it was the turn of the Kanuri and not of the Fulani to assume the leadership of Nigeria as a candidate of the north. He referred to the pact between the late Sardauna of Sokoto and his father in law, Sir Kashim Ibrahim that leadership of the north would rotate between Sokoto and Borno. He told us in the leadership of the Nigerian people’s party that that was the basis of his decision to vie for the office of President of Nigeria. The then Sultan of Sokoto Sir Saddique Abubakar was privy to this pact hence, Alhaji Waziri had so many supporters among the princes in Sokoto during the 1978/79 elections. In fact, one of the sons of the Sultan of Sokoto, Sarkin Fada who was the leader of the Waziri campaign team in the north died in a motor accident during this period. This was why Alhaji Waziri’s party had a foothold in Sokoto during the 1979 election. I am saying this much to debunk Alhaji Shagari’s account in his memoir of why the north did not support Alhaji Waziri in 1979.
I was privy to why Alhaji Waziri decided to run as the candidate of the north in the 1979 presidential election. He genuinely believed that it was the turn of the Kanuri with the Muslim North in accordance with the pact between Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim on the way the northern leader should rotate between the Caliphate and Borno. As noted above, the north was further complicated by the emergence of Christianity in the non-Caliphate enclave in Plateau, Adamawa, Benue and Niger. Later there were attempts by successors of Britain in the north to make the land and the people of the north into “one-north”, “one people” and with “one destiny” especially in their dealing with the rest of Nigeria. I was a witness to the way the non-Muslim elements in the north in these States asserted themselves in 1977/78 in the Constituent Assembly and after in the name of the Council of Understanding and Solidarity (CUS) led by Chief Solomon D. Lar.
NIGERIA, “A GEOGRAPHICAL EXPRESSION”
Arising from the way Nigeria was put together by Britain, the literature on Nigeria is replete with such terms as “Nigeria is a geographical entity” or “Nigeria is a geographical expression” or “Nigeria is an artificial creation” or “Nigeria is a colonial creation”. Let us examine two issues that arose from the foregoing.
One, at independence, there was nothing original to the term, Nigeria as that term was conferred on the British “amalgamated real estate” by the wife of the first colonial Governor-General, Lady Lugard.
Second, at independence, Nigeria was born but Nigerians were still to be born even up till today. What we needed since independence was a plan by her leaders, civilian or military to make Nigeria command the loyalty of her citizens from all the ethnic nationalities. Nigerians never did.
There are three senses in which the effort at developing Nigerians should have been met and how we fell short since October 1, 1960.
- One would have thought that our political leaders would have striven to make Nigeria “a self-sufficient system of action’, as the Sociologist would say.
- One would have thought that its leaders would have tried to create a more perfect union’, as the American would say.
- One would have thought that its leaders would have made it a nation in the tradition of the nation-state in Europe.
Did the leaders who succeeded the British succeed in building a “self-sufficient system of action” or “a more perfect union” or “a nation-state” since October 1, 1960? The answer to these issues should be obvious by now. They failed to create Nigerians up till today.
The military intervention in politics since 1966 did not only complicate the above issues, it further divided the Nigerian society into two classes of the permanent rulers and the permanent ruled and followers. Worse still the military created a new class of Nigerian leaders called in the country in general in the south in particular “militicians”? Consequently, we now have in Nigeria a civilian political class that has low self-esteem of itself and feels it cannot rule except with the leadership provided by the same retired military officers that “pauperized” the civilian political class, misruled the country and plundered the Nigerian oil economy since 1966. This is the level of political development of Nigeria today.
The so-called political class today should be embarrassed that no one is mentioning their names as potential presidential candidates. Aren’t they embarrassed that the only persons that are being discussed as potential presidential candidates and as competitors with President Obasanjo in 2003 are the same political generals of yesterday, Generals Babangida, Buhari and Nwachukwu)? I have nothing against any retired military officers who want to run for political office now or in the future. There are basic questions that should have been asked that are never asked by Nigerians. What do they stand for? We do not know and no one is asking. What are the visions of these former “political generals” for Nigeria’s future from their past? They have not told the Nigerian people the relationship between their past, their present and their plan for the future of Nigeria.
Unfortunately, the media columnists are not asking them some tough questions about the relationship between their past, their present and their vision for the future of Nigeria. I raised some of the issues in the past in my essay “After Obasanjo Who/What” and in my five-part essay under the rubric, “The Generals Are Coming: Should they be Welcome” and I do not want to rehash the issues in this medium. The points I made in these essays are still valid and I would call readers’ attention to the archives of WWW. Nigerdeltacongress.com, www.nigeriaworld.com, and in the Nigerian newspapers such as This Day, Vanguard and Guardian.
RE-EXAMINATION OF TWO THEORIES OF CREATION
Recently Nigerians are faced with the theory of the creation of Nigeria advanced by the Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that God created it. This is in sharp contrast with what we were told in schools and what is still being taught in schools today in Nigeria and all over the world that attributes the founding of Nigeria to British colonialism. It was on the latter score that Chief Richard Akinjide’s theory should be appreciated. Nigeria, according to Chief Richard Akinjide who paid tribute to me for being able to use the documents about the amalgamation to explain the annulment of the June 12, 1993, Presidential election. He was very blunt after examining the documents that led to the amalgamation that I used in my book, The Tale of June 12 that after all what Britain did in Nigeria was a “fraud”.
Chief Akinjide, like other political leaders from the south, wallowed in the same fraud for too long. They, as politicians suffered this fraud for so long; they accepted the status quo for so long hence one is amazed by their new position that everything should be done to recreate Nigeria so as to make it meaningful to all ethnic nationalities. This is the position I consistently argued for since 1993. This was based on my view from what I knew about the issues in the annulment that Nigeria would never be the same again unless these issues were resolved. One should acknowledge that this is also the position advanced by such eminent jurist as Chief Rotimi Williams leading the “Frontiers” and other eminent Nigerians, such as Chiefs Emeka Anyaoku and Ola Vincent and Alhaji Babatunde Jose. But our President dismissed these people in his usual language that I would not like to repeat here. He told Nigerians that he is the sovereign by virtue of the fact that the Nigerian people elected him in 1999. Hence, he argued that there was no reason for another body to be convened to discuss and resolve the lingering political issues afflicting the country since 1993. Time will prove him wrong. His legacy would be measured by the way he abandoned the need for bringing about the fundamental restructuring of Nigeria during his first term in office.
What is embarrassing is President Obasanjo’s new theory that he propounded on May 29, 2002, which is his self-proclaimed “Democracy Day” that “God is a Nigerian”. To paraphrase him, he opined that God must have a purpose for putting so many black people under one roof called Nigeria and consequently, he further opined that God created Nigeria, a huge state for the upliftment of Black people in the world. I am surprised that up till now no one has called the President to order.
A content analysis of the pronouncements of the President and other members of the political class and the developments in the country since 1999 leads one to one conclusion. It should be obvious that God is a “Just God” could not sanction the “unjust political order” that characterizes what we have in Nigeria since 1960. The picture of what is going on in the various parts of the country does not show that God blesses the injustice all over the country.
As part of the Democracy Day activities, he attended the Special Lecture at Abuja. He was surrounded by Ahmed Salim of Tanzania, a non-believer in “one person and one vote” or in the “multi-party system” all his adult life as a politician in Tanzania and Chief Tony Enahoro who has no faith in the Presidential System that took some of us our political life in the Constituent Assembly in 1977/78 to evolve because it is good for the minorities in the country. Mr./ Ahmed Salim was the Keynote Speaker and Chief Enahoro was the Chairman of the occasion. Did President Obasanjo appreciate that while he was having his celebration at Abuja, the country was not in the jubilating mood? Some of them were openly asking what was their democracy dividend? The mood of the country as gathered from the content analysis of the various complaints in the media as summed up by the President on October 1 2001 is one of dismay. In fact, this was summarized by the Herald Tribune of February 25, 2002, that
Obasanjo is highly admired as an eloquent spokesman for African democracy and development. Regrettably, his record at home is far less impressive.
Shouldn’t one come to the conclusion that May 29 is not history but “histrionics”, because they are playing games with a serious issue? This is why one should call May 29 the “DEMONCRAZY DAY“.
I am aware of the many requests made to the President, especially on June 12 every year for the President to make history by recognizing June 12 and not May 29 as Democracy Day. Those who are making this demand on President Obasanjo realized how he quickly recognized General Shehu Yar’Adua immediately he assumed office. Without attempting to denigrate the life of General Shehu Yar’ Adua, I found many contradictions in the attitude of General Yar’Adua to democracy, especially after the annulment. Did the President know that General Yar’Adua flipped flopped on his defence of democratic rights of Nigerians arising from June 12? Even though he supported Chief Abiola for June 12 and immediately after, he colluded with the military President to sustain the annulment on the erroneous belief and assurance from General Babangida that an opportunity would arise for him to run for the office. This is the explanation for his sustaining the annulment and the evolution of the Interim National Government (ING). This is a matter of record and not of hearsay. This is what history would say of his commitment to democracy. He buckled under after some time and he never explained the reason for this until he died.
The question one is still asking President Obasanjo till today is why could President Obasanjo not recognize Chief Abiola? Those who are asking this question are not just asking him to do the impossible. They are asking him to do what God told him to do that he confessed to after his release from the Abacha’s Gulag. To God everything just is possible.
Those who are demanding that President Obasanjo should recognize MKO Abiola ought to or should have appreciated the basis of Chief Obasanjo’s coming to power. President Obasanjo is of the view that for him to recognize June 12 would have amounted to a betrayal of the pact he entered into with the clique that brought him into the office and could have amounted to a counterrevolutionary act. Would this have amounted to a conflict of religions or a conflict of civilizations as some would put it today after the 9:11 in the US? God told Obasanjo in the Gulag that a solution based on justice should be found by June 12. On the other hand, Allah told the annullist that June 12 should be denied the winner of that election and that justice based on that election should be denied.
For Obasanjo to yield to what God told him in the Gulag could trigger a backlash from the anti-June 12 zealots in the military to force him out of office. In any case, those who managed his election such as Chief Tony Anenih, the former Chairman of the party that gave away the June 12 in July 1993 was around to make him recognize the danger of non-recognition of the June 12. Of course, his security handlers and serving with him in the Presidency such as General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, the National Security Adviser to the President, who was in the clique that annulled the June 12 would cry foul if the President should attempt to recognize the June 12. The question is why should the distinguished Chief from Egba land agree to be the candidate of the PDP on the anti-June 12 platforms?
What bothers me is not in his decision to accept the invitation. What bothers me is that the President does not seem to see the injustice in what he is doing in pretending that June 12 did not exist as a historical fact. He should have appreciated that it is odd for him not to accord recognition to June 12.
What bothers me is the hypocrisy in the profession of faith in God in whatever he does and failing to carry out what he told Nigerians as originating from God. The President who talks about God in everything he does, ought to or should have appreciated that it is not in furtherance of God’s work on earth to ignore the voice of the people as recorded in their vote of June 12, 1993. Is the President saying that what God blessed on June 12, 1993, should be ignored? Does the President not acknowledge the saying that the voice of the people is the voice of God? What is a better determination of the voice of the people beside their vote?
Nigerians are asking the critical question of when does the President acknowledge and do what God says? He seems to pick and choose events when he likes.
Nigerians are asking the President if he forgets what he told Nigerians on June 20, 1998, at the Baptist Church, Abeokuta? I am referring to what Nigerians once heard from the mouth of preacher Obasanjo himself before a packed Church in Abeokuta on June 20, 1998, immediately he was released from Abacha’s Gulag. He told Nigerians in clear language what God told him in Abacha’s Gulag about serious issues.
God told Preacher Obasanjo something about the June 12, as follows:
Once again as God has given me the opportunity I will comment on the election of June 12. I have always held the view that the non-resolution of the issue will remain an indelible blot on our body politic and a bad and dangerous precedent for political development in this country. It forebodes ill for the destiny of Nigeria.
Preacher Obasanjo warned: Sweeping it under the carpet, and pretending that it does not exist does not solve it; rather it makes it to incubate and fester.
Preacher Obasanjo then warned: Let it not be said that by an act of omission or commission there are two classes of Nigerians as far political, economic and social participation are concerned.
Preacher Obasanjo then pleaded with the power of God on the pulpit in the following words: Let all Nigerians have a sense of belonging and a stake in the affairs of Nigeria. Peace and unity, which are preconditions for development and progress must be founded on justice, equality of opportunity and equity.
Finally, Preacher Obasanjo left his listeners with what God told him about the non-resolution of June 12 in the following words: Without the resolution of the events of June 12, we may not have a firm and solid foundation to erect the structure of democracy on a lasting basis, apart from the implications for unity, and stability in the country.
On the military, God told Preacher Obasanjo to tell the Nigerian people the followings: Today we are all victims and eyewitnesses, Let me venture and to give another warning no matter what names I may be called or what threat or danger may be involved. Our military personnel have generally become inured to corruption, lying, selfishness, lack of patriotism, avarice, and character and behaviour unbecoming of a good military.
On what should be done about the military in order to have democracy, Preacher Obasanjo had this to tell the Nigerian people: They must change and be motivated by ideals of patriotism, nationalism, morality, and the good of the nation, rather than the good of themselves at the expense of the country politically and economically.
Making a case for the good ones in the military, Preacher Obasanjo had this to say about the bad influence of the bad ones: In the recent past, the bad ones have gained ascendancy.
Preacher Obasanjo then appealed to the Nigerian people as to what should be done in future, if the military made that early morning announcement about taking over of government. Preacher Obasanjo told Nigerians what they should do in the following words:
Nigerians must resolve that any future military adventurism into our political life must be met with non-violent resistance and total withdrawal of services
–public and private—
-non-fraternization and non-cooperation.
Preacher Obasanjo then recommended to the future lawmaker what should be done in the following words: Stiff punishment must be prescribed for those who covertly or overtly break this national resolve.
On the mode of resolving the lingering political crisis arising from the annulment Preacher Obasanjo had this to say: I believe that it is never too late for patriotic men and women of goodwill in this country to get together and dialogue to find a generally acceptable solution to this unnecessary problem.
For the above see Kayode Olarenwaju’s account in the Vanguard June 21, 1998, with such quotes from the Sermon by Preacher Obasanjo as “Fadile begged me in prison”; “No Democracy without June 12” and “God used me to save others”.
Nigerians should ask their President some tough questions such as:
- Why did he forget what God told him in Abacha’s Gulag?
- What happened to his prophecies of June 1998 when those who made him President approached him?
- Was he lying when he made those prophecies?
- Why does he now believe that Nigerians who heard him in June 1998 say one thing about what God told him and abandoned it after he became the President and was in a position to implement the prophecy?
- Does he not know that this is at the root of the credibility crisis facing him today?
Arising from the foregoing questions, I was forced to remind the President in a two-part essay in 2000 that he should go back to that sermon that I called in the essay, “Sermon on Olumo Rock”. When President Obasanjo uses God’s name today in what he does in office, he forgets that he once used God’s name immediately after he was released from prison. How long would he be allowed to use God’s name in vain?
IMPLICATION OF OBASANJO’S THEORY OF CREATION
General Olusegun Obasanjo, the President in the Vanguard of July 19, 2000, opined, “God knows why Nigeria was created”. He went on to argue that “God created Nigeria for Nigeria to be a great country where no tribe will dominate or subjugate others”. Is this true? What is the President’s authority for this assertion, when Nigerians are feeling some kind of subjugation here and there?
Another very dangerous impression, in fact, a dangerous claim in the President’s theory is that his Presidency was ordained by God or that he was sent by God to save Nigeria from many years of misrule in the hands of bad leaders. Consequently, he told Nigerians that since Nigeria was God’s creation and since God ordained his Presidency, he would refuse to be a bad leader. Finally, he prayed to God “to take him away from this job if he became a bad leader”. How this would come about is not made clear. He would never yield to public opinion because the opinion of Nigerian people may be at variance with what God is telling him. This is why his constant refrain, of all that call for “prayer fasting and seeking God’s face before announcing his “self-succession” was very disturbing to me. I am sure to many Christians, this was also disturbing.
It is my view that the issue is not whether one believes in the efficacy of prayer, fasting and seeking God’s face. The issue is how one goes about it so as not to become a “hypocrite” as defined by Jesus Christ in Matthew 6.5. I have no doubt that Chief Obasanjo knows what a “hypocrite’ is in the Bible. He ought to have known this from the lessons he received from various settings under the Baptist Mission in Abeokuta on how to pray. He should have known that how to pray is a serious matter in the Holy Bible. Does President Obasanjo know that he is daily breaching what Jesus teaches us Christians on how to pray in the Gospel according to St. Matthew 6: 5-7? Does he know that he is behaving like a “hypocrite”? Jesus defined hypocrites as those who “Pray——- on the corners of the streets That they may be seen by men”. (Matthew 6:5).
Jesus also warned Christians about vain repetition……..for the Father knows the things you have need of before you ask him”. (Matthew 6:7).
On what Christians should do if they want to pray, Jesus enjoins Christians to do the followings: Go to your room; And when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who in the secret place; And Your father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:6)
It is after all these that we commence the Lord’s Prayer.
I recall another disturbing incident during the reconciliatory dance or exchange of partners or wives between the President and the former Senate President, Dr Chuba Okadigbo during the house warming ceremony. The President wanted to show off his knowledge of the Bible in a gathering involving Christians, Muslim and others. On that occasion, President Obasanjo likened the Official Residence of the Senate President that he was opening to a country and he then introduced the Biblical injunction that unless God builds a house all the work of the builders might be in vain. This is true; did the President know that this Biblical injunction also applied to the country? He should have alerted the leaders of Nigeria that Nigeria as was put together did not have the blessing of God. The only way to explain the lingering problems afflicting the country since 1960 is that since God does not bless the country at its creation, those who have been labouring in it since 1960 have been labouring in vain. God does not bless the country conceived in injustice/ Maybe what God has been telling the leaders of Nigeria, military and civilian is that Nigeria should be renegotiated and recreated and made a system of justice.
OBASANJO’S “THEORY” OF STATE
I was asked a question once by an American student what was the authority on which President Obasanjo based his “theory of state”. I could not readily answer the question. His handlers are still to come to grip with this elementary question. Merely asserting without demonstrating how “God is a Nigerian” is not only dangerous for the multi-religious society of Nigeria, it is too simplistic and sometime borne out of laziness and maybe frustration. This is when one simply stop planning and thinking and relying on calling on God. We should pray that God should give us the ability to think plan and resolve issues. Why do we use God to explain many unjust acts of men?
What the President does too often in the name of God reminds one of the usual explanation of Muslim friends in the north that “Allah gives power to who so ever Allah wants and Allah can take that power away when He likes”. I first heard of this from my former Chairman, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule in 1993 after the annulment. This was recently attributed to him Dr Alex Ekwueme as the basis for Alhaji Maitama Sule’s decision to withdraw in favour of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the December 1978 presidential race. This kind of reasoning goes against all grains of democratic thought that are anchored on the wishes of the people of all faiths (Christians, Muslim and Believers in African Traditional Religion) at the election.
Allah’s wish was unfortunately used as the justification of coups in the past since these successful coups had been an “intra-Muslim” affair or an “intra-clique” affair. Could this be true? What would be the interpretation by Christians? Those who offered this simplistic explanation or justification seemed to ignore the implication of the coup. Did Allah bless the shedding of the blood of fellow Nigerians, Muslims and non-Muslims alike in the name of power? This is what a coup is about. It is about the violent seizure of power. It is about killing for power or bloodletting for power, simple. The officeholders and their supporters are meant to be killed if they resist. This is the conduct of military officers in the name of Allah in the past. Again this is a conflict of civilizations. Christianity would not approve of coups that involve the shedding of innocent blood.
What is disturbing to me whenever I recall how many coups were conceived and announced in the past is the role of Christian political generals as the implementers of Allah’s wish. I still recall the coup of 1975 and 1985 announced by Col. Joseph Garba and Col. Joshua Dongayaro both Christians respectively ushering General Murtala and General Babangida both Muslims respectively. Muslims take their faith seriously but Christians pay a lukewarm attitude to their faith.
There is another disturbing aspect to the use of God to justify the unjust act of public officials. This is why it is disturbing for President Obasanjo to argue in this manner. It is dangerous and akin to the terrorists who justify all manner of killing in the name of Allah if he is not careful with his rhetoric.
DOES ALLAH JUSTIFY COUP AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
Nigeria never heard of the hand of Allah or God in the emergence of Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon in 1966. We did not read of Allah/God in his overthrow by General Murtala Muhammed. Policy issues were used to justify the actions of the coup plotters in the coup speeches of 1966 and 1975 respectively.
One started to read of the work of Allah in the intra-Muslim affairs from the coup in December 1983 led by General Muhamadu Buhari. He had to find justifications in moving against a fellow Muslim who Allah gave power through the ballot box. Later what General Babangida did on August 27, 1985, in getting rid of General Buhari on a Sallah Day also had Allah’s blessing. One recalls on this occasion, the three Majors sent to arrest General Buhari met him before he commenced his prayer. On this occasion, the ram General Buhari killed was still to be eaten and the beneficiary of the coup was planning to go to the prayer ground at Minna. Did Allah sanction these acts both in Lagos and in Minna?
Another disturbing issue was whether Allah blessed the catalogue of injustices in the land under these rulers? Alhaji Shagari’s account in his memoir did not attribute what he suffered in the hands of General Buhari to Allah. Allah could not have commanded General Buhari to inflict untold human right violations on fellow Muslims in 1984.
We may also ask why did the same northern leaders who rejected what General Buhari did to them as the work of Satan and in 1993 justify the actions of the political generals when it came to June 12?
What happened to June 12 and his winner in the hands of the clique even though justified by those who preached Allah, did not have the blessing of God or the blessing of those who practise African Traditional Religion. The former Sultan of Sokoto and many Muslim clerics in the north appealed to their colleagues in the south especially in the Yoruba land that “If Allah wanted Abiola to be the President nobody would have stopped him”! The meaning of this kind of religious justification of annulment and of the detention unto death of the winner of that election and other human rights violations was in bad taste. Again there was a conflict of civilization never appreciated. What did God tell Preacher Obasanjo in Abacha’s Gulag?
Incidentally, God told Chief Obasanjo the opposite of this in Abacha’s Gulag and Preacher/Chief Obasanjo told Nigerians and the international community so in June 1998 that the issues in the annulment should be resolved so as to move the country forward. Why did President Obasanjo abandon what God told him in Abacha’s Gulag as soon as he stepped into the Aso Rock?
What the Muslims were telling the Nigerian voters when Muslim political generals were inflicting inhuman treatment on fellow Nigerians was frightening. One wonders if this could be true in Islamic political thought. Few questions will be pertinent here.
Are they saying that Allah used the annullists to deny Nigerians their democratic rights in 1993?
Are they saying that Allah used General Buhari to sack the elected President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari?
Are they saying that Allah used General Babangida to sack the military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari in 1985?
Are they saying that Allah used General Babangida to cancel the presidential primaries in November 1992?
Is there some continuity in Allah’s acts between the act of annulment and the Address to the Nigerian people and the international community on the new transition program by General Abdulsalami Abubakar on July 20, 1998?
There was; one only needs to read the analogy General Abubakar drew between what happened in the past and the act of annulment as his basis for asking Nigerians to forget about the injustice in the annulment.
What Nigerians should have been asking is whether Allah inflicted on the country the most horrendous crime on the Nigerian people through the denial of their right to human dignity under General Abacha between 1993 and 1998?
Aren’t they concerned that Allah could be said to bless the reign of General Abacha?
In all the Churches I attended and in all the prayer groups I participated in Nigeria before I left the country in 1995, the reign of General Abacha was the subject of prayer. I was told that this practice continued in Churches after 1993 until General Abacha died in June 1998. Chief Obasanjo confessed to the power of God when he was in Abacha’s Gulag. In all the Churches he attended after his release, fellow worshippers told him of the power of God and he too confessed and danced because it was made manifest in his life. This is the way Christians see life in general and this was the way they saw the reign of General Abacha. To Christians, the reign of General Abacha was not of God even if it received Allah’s blessing. This again was a conflict of civilization. General Abacha sacked one Sultan and installed another all in the name of Allah. Just as the former Sultan was the representative of the former Muslim political general and led Nigeria to assume the full membership status of the OIC, the new Sultan also assumed the same role as the representative of General Abacha at the OIC meeting in Iran.
Of course, when the “prince of Kano”, General Sani Abacha died in June 1998 through the intervention of God, Allah again appeared to the geo-ethno-military ruling clique counselling a new strategy.
Allah counseled the clique not to go for another member of the clique either from the military wing or civilian wing of the clique.
Allah told the clique not to go for an Igbo. We saw how Dr Alex Ekwueme was humiliated in the party of which he was a part founder. We saw how the Igbo leaders have pushed aside in the APP, even though, they as former agents of the political generals who annulled the June 12 and sustained it between 1993 and 1998 under General Abacha, thought that they were the faithful allies of the clique.
We saw how Allah told the clique to go for an Egba Chief that was put in the Gulag according to the wishes of Allah.
If within-the-clique succession was not of Allah after the death of General Abacha, Allah told them that going for the Egba Chief to reign for a given period was seen as a tactical retreat within the overall strategy of permanent northern control of Nigeria. What was the given time frame, a period? This has become the question since 1999 especially when the important members of the clique are no longer happy with President Obasanjo. When and how will the clique come up with a scheme to inflict on the country another member of the clique? This was why I raised the question in the past, what did Chief Obasanjo promise the clique? President Obasanjo never answered this question. The question was as relevant then as it is today when the key members of the clique such as President Shagari and other key leaders of the Arewa Consultative Forum openly started talking of marginalization of the north and the betrayal of the north and all that.
One would have expected President Obasanjo to respond to the northern assertion and accusation. Maybe he would do so as part of his campaign for the 2003 election. He has to as he faces so many competitors from the north on the platform of Sharia and on the platform of how to reverse the northern marginalisation.
President Obasanjo would also say what he did for other areas. He would also say how he responded to the problems of other areas such as the quest for resource control by the people of the oil-producing areas. He would have to say what he did for the Igbo. Of course, Nigerians at large would want him to tell them the effort he made to resolve the lingering political problems since 1999.
ALLAH or GOD: DIFFERENT THINGS FOR NIGERIANS
I do not want to start a controversy; there is definitely a contrasting notion of right and wrong and in the origin, purpose and end of the State in Christian and Islamic political thought on the one hand and between these two religions and the African Traditional Religion on the other. Every community in Nigeria has its own history. Every community has a clear notion of what is right and wrong with the Nigerian project. Also, every ethnic community in Nigeria has a clear notion of creation and of the creator of Nigeria. Let me speak of my people, the Edo people.
EDO PEOPLE HAVE THEIR HISTORY
The Edo people to which I belong have a history of how the world began and of the position of the Edo people in it up till this day. I recall listening to the Oba of Benin addressing a crowd of people at St. Matthews Church compound in 1952 on the need for the people of Benin and Delta to reclaim their right in Nigeria. He was very emphatic that the people of Benin and Delta must have a state of their own. I recall this incident very well as that was my first time hearing the Oba speak in public. This was the first time I heard of the betrayal of his people by the British. He told his audience that Britain never told his father that they would be substituting one colonial rule for another one. These were profound statements that didn’t dawn on me as they did not form the subject of discussion in my home even though politics was well discussed in my home. These were not issues that formed the subject of discussion in schools. The year 1952 was the beginning of a new system of government that brought in Ministers.
The following year, the Oba of Benin carried this campaign to the leaders of the Benin and Delta provinces. He was very definite that in dealing with the British, his people were never told through their traditional leaders that at some point they would be made to serve under the Yoruba. In a powerful address to the leaders of the people of Benin and Delta Provinces in Benin on September 18, 1953, the Oba of Benin made a case for a new State for the people of Benin and Delta Provinces because all
…………want to get freedom, not only from the white man, but from foreign African Nation (YORUBA).
The Oba had in mind two forms of colonialism and therefore two forms of liberation. While Nigerians, in general, were fighting for liberation from the British colonial order, the different ethnic nationalities that found themselves in the artificial political regions (North, East and West) should also seek liberation from the “African Nation”. This was a distinction never appreciated until later by other ethnic nationalities in the north and in the east. Today, at the national level, the minorities in the north and in the south are confused as to how Nigerian politics can be moved beyond the tripod. We tried to experiment with how the minorities in the north and in the south could form the Fourth Dimension and move the country beyond the tripod. This is the subject of my book, Beyond the Tripod in Nigerian Politics.
One would recall how the Oba of Benin challenged his people as follows:
I hope everyone will pull his weight in this National Struggle because at this critical time when all the Nations of this country called Nigeria are fighting hard to assert their National status, it will be unwise for Benin-Delta to do nothing about asserting its own”.
The Oba made another profound statement as follows:
The unity of Old Nigeria can only be maintained by the type of regionalization the London Constitutional Conference has recommended.
He went on: Benin-Delta was a sovereign Nation before the occupation of the country by the British; that is why Britain cannot annex it (Benin-Delta Nation) to the Yoruba State”.
The above is from Michael Vickers: Ethnicity and Sub-Nationalism in Nigeria (Oxford 2001)
From the above, the Oba of Benin was clear that the people of Benin and Delta Provinces were one people before colonialism created the two artificial Provinces. He further said that the Benin and Delta Provinces were sovereign people before the British occupation and that the British deprived them of their sovereignty. The Oba of Benin was very definite that this was made worse with the creation of the artificial region that placed the people of Benin and Delta Provinces under the Yoruba, another “African Nation”.
What the Oba of Benin was saying was what Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo said later in books. According to the Oba of Benin, Nigeria was made of many Nations before the white man came to amalgamate the different parts into one Nigeria. As the Oba put it, amalgamation did not mean the process of annexing one Nation to another State as the successors of the British in different parts of Nigerian attempted to do in the old regions of the North, the West and the East.
The Oba of Benin was reacting to the statement of the Alake of Abeokuta during the opening of the House of Assembly on January 7, 1952. It should be noted that after the Speech from the Throne delivered by the Lt. Governor, Sir Hugo Marshall, the Alake of Abeokuta rose to speak and commenced his speech as follows:
“On my right sits the Oni of Ife….. On my left, the leader of our Government, Obafemi Awolowo….. The voice of the West is complete”. (Hansard of the Western House of Assembly January 7, 1952)
Did the Alake appreciate that Nigeria was made up of Nations brought together in the three political regions by the British?
Did the Alake know that besides the Yoruba Nation there was another Nation in the West? Did Alake know that his speech was offensive to the non-Yoruba in the region?
Where did he place the Oba of Benin and the Olu of Warri? How could the Alake of Abeokuta say that the voice of the
West was complete after naming three Yoruba? Where were the Benin and Delta Provinces who were though part of the Western Region was occupied by non-Yoruba people artificially put in the same Region by the British?
Who would recognize them? For how long would they go unrecognized?
Arising from this incident, the non-Yoruba in the House of Assembly made up their mind to agitate for a home of theirs, a new Region that later became the Midwestern Region as the Fourth Region in Nigeria.
Reading the report of Lord Lugard’s visit to the southern states before he proceeded with the amalgamation, it was obvious that the issue of making one ethnic nationality to serve under another was never raised with the leaders of the communities in the south. But that was what Lugard proceeded to do in 1914 and after; it was this injustice that formed the basis of the north-south relation after independence. Lugard’s plan was to make one part of the country to serve under another part. That was never raised with the leaders of the south.
What the Oba of Benin was saying was that the Edo people have a history of creation or of their place in history. The Edo people lived in an independent country with diplomatic relation with Portugal in the 15th Century before the British people ever stepped on any part of Nigeria. Even at the commencement of the amalgamation project, the British had a treaty relation called the “Treaty of Protection”. In fact, when the British Governor-General to the two “Nigeria” visited Benin he had this to say about Benin and its administration.
The Binis are intelligent and law abiding. They had like the Buganda established a regular form of government.
Lord Lugard went on: Benin must be an ancient kingdom dating back to the 14th and 13th century and the home of the highest art discovered in Africa outside Egypt, I suppose.
Narrating the subject of discussion when he paid a visit to the Benin traditional ruler and the leaders during the time he was planning his amalgamation, Lord Lugard had this to say in his letter to his wife:
Of course, we (he and the Benin leaders) talked much of the massacre and of the subsequent army under Dawson, which broke the power of Benin.
Appreciating the military prowess of the Benin military he had this to say in his letter to his wife: It took a strong upwards of 2,000 blue jackets with artillery etc. and they had heavy fighting. That was 1897, just when I came from South Africa to raise the West African Frontier Force.
Lord Lugard also acknowledged the level of political awareness of the Bini people and the development of Benin during his visit to Benin. According to him,
The Bini Chiefs, who presented themselves stripped to the waist, only raised one question, the water rate as Benin had laid on water supply.
For the above, see Margery Perham, Lugard: The Years of Authority (London Collins 1960) p. 405.a
All the foregoing about the Benin attitude to the way Nigeria was formed by the British and the place of Benin in Nigeria during the visit of Lord Lugard contrast sharply with the notion of creation in the Bible and with the notion of creation of Nigeria in the theory of Obasanjo. I am aware that the Yoruba people of which the President is a part have a clear notion of creation and the place of the Yoruba in the past, the present and the future. These ethnic positions are not necessarily anti-Nigeria.
I still recall what Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the sage of Nigerian politics said that one has to be a good Yoruba before being a good Nigerian and not the other way round. Even Lord Lugard avoided the Yoruba elites in Lagos Abeokuta and Ibadan like a plague. Of the Yoruba of Lagos, Lord Lugard said in a letter to his wife:
I am somewhat baffled as to how to get in touch with the educated native….. to start with. I am not in sympathy with him. His loud and arrogant conceit is distasteful to me, the lack of natural dignity and courtesy antagonize me.
Of the Yoruba in Ibadan Lord Lugard had this to say:
You will see the class I had to deal with. They say that Lagos people will not be reduced to the futile condition of north Nigeria without a protest and a big noise; they had emissaries all over Ibadan, Oyo and all the Yoruba towns stirring up the people to resist loss of their lands and taxation. They regard it with suspicion if I blow my nose, and think it means some deep-seated plot. I am beginning to think that they are hopeless and that any attempt to make any reform with their cooperation is impossible.
The above is also from Margery Perham p. 389 and 390.
What should be noted was that at this time, the Yoruba could boast of many Lawyers, Doctors and Engineers, more educated that Lord Lugard and he knew so. He also knew that these Lagos educated natives who have been to Europe and studied in England had access to world news. He knew that they were conversant with the plan of the British to amalgamate the two “Nigeria” as they were able to read what was said in the British Parliament on the matter. This was why he wanted to move the capital of amalgamated Nigeria to the north, Zungeru or Kaduna, a plan that was later executed by General Murtala Muhammed.
The “Lugard’s children”, as the northern political leaders were called by the Lagos elite, are still of the view of Lord Lugard today. This is Nigerian’s history; General Obasanjo did not tell us, which one he was referring to.
President Obasanjo is a Christian and a spirit-filled he professes. One should be of the opinion that whenever he refers to God, he actually means the Christian God. The interpretation in the north is that when Obasanjo says that God created Nigeria he is actually referring to the Christian God. The implication of this kind of reasoning is dangerous in a multi-religious society like Nigeria.
And that God is the God of Justice and Mercy that saw him through the period in the Gulag. Why does the President not say so that the God he serves is God of Justice and Mercy that abhors what in the Nigerian military under General Abacha was blessed by Allah? Chief Obasanjo was a victim of what was dubbed “SET UP”. The notion of “SET UP” is a special way of framing colleagues through suggestions For the meaning of the setup phenomenon, see the copious instances in General Chris M. Alli memoir, The Federal Republic of Nigerian Army (Lagos Malthouse Press 2001) pp. 356-360. It is fascinating how it operated under the regime of General Abacha. When it leads to a successful coup not necessary bloodless or to the framing up of colleagues, it is characterized as receiving the blessing of Allah. But when it fails, it is also said that Allah prevented it. Allah worked both ways. This was part of the teaching of the military institutions and academies and in the barracks in Nigeria during this period of the military regime.
It was after reviewing the foregoing that I once suggested that the only solution to the politicization and ethnicization of the armed forces was total scrapping of the military and the starting of a new one all over again. It was my view that that was the only way we can have representative and accountable armed forces in a democratic Nigeria.
One should have expected President Obasanjo to keep the above distinction in mind. He should have been in a position to say so in a gathering of his fellow believers as General TY Danjuma recently did. One would recall how General Danjuma spoke to a gathering of Northern (Nigeria) Christian Elders Forum on April 20, 2002, on the crisis facing the Christians in the North. According to the General, the Christian Religion was and is still under assault in Nigeria with the admission that the Muslims are planning to take over the country. See www. WorthyNews.com of May 24, 2002. He did not say so in the gathering of Nigerians in his office or in the barrack as President does in public function involving Christians, Muslims and practitioners of African Traditional Religion. General Danjuma spoke to the faithful in a Christian gathering and not in a public meeting of Christians and non-Christians. Does the President know that this is the proper thing to do?
STATE TO CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS
One should have expected President Obasanjo to refer to the original notion of the State in Christian political thought that it was created because of the original sin of man. He should have cited the works of the great theologians, St. Augustine of Hippo or Thomas Aquinas, who are the greatest exponents of the divine justification of the origin and purpose of the state. He did not cite the link between this tradition and the later exponent of the secular nature of the modern state. Only Israel of all the Judaic/Christian related states, that have religion as its basis. This is understandable.
But the President did not address the fact that Islamic political thought is different from Christian political thought. Does the President appreciate that in the Islamic political thought, there is nothing called the separation of the Mosque and State? Does President Obasanjo know that some key Islamic States in the world is organized according to the Koran except Turkey? Turkey has strict rules about secularism as a commitment to “Westernization”. The Turkish political class must defend secularism as one of Ataturk’s Imperatives. A government would risk being sacked if it toyed with it, as forcefully enunciated by the founder of modern Turkey, Ataturk. Does the Nigerian President know that many of the key Islamic States are prefixed with the term Islamic Republic of this or that? This is the basis of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
Nigeria is a full member of OIC. I recall that the Nigerian President found himself attending a D8 Meeting of Islamic Leaders that has nothing to contribute to Nigeria economic development, except join them in the anti-Western rhetoric. While the Islamic leaders were harping on their concern with the West, President Obasanjo used the occasion to sing his hackneyed song of “Debt Relief”. Debt relief from Egypt or Bangladesh or what! This was why I tried to help President Obasanjo that he should not do what the former Islamic political generals of the past who got Nigeria into OIC would not do in public because they knew in their heart that “Nigeria is neither an Islamic nor a Christian State”.
When President Obasanjo said that Nigeria is a creation of God, he failed to address his notion of the origin of Nigeria within the context of the debate about Sharia and the fears of Christian who want Nigeria to return unto Caesar the things that are Caesars and unto God the things that are Gods. This notion is alien to the Islamic notion of State.
BRITISH DESIGN AS A COMPLETE FRAUD
There is the opposite position about creation taken by Chief Richard Akinjide. According to him in the Vanguard of Sunday July 20, 2000
“so-called Nigeria created in 1914 was a complete fraud”. He continued, “It was not created in the interest of Nigeria or of Nigerians but in the interest of the British”.
I was elated when Chief Akinjide confirmed the authorities I cited in my book, The Tale of June 12 to address the relationship between the annulment and the British Design for Nigeria. Chief Richard Akinjide would agree with me that Nigeria could not be the creation of God and at the same time, a fraud.
What is troubling to me is President Obasanjo’s notion of God that he parades at all public and essentially partisan political functions. God is perfect and He does not engage in anything fraudulent. Could God be the white man’s God or the white man himself? President Obasanjo seems to be equating God with the white man. With all the imperfections and injustices inflicted on many groups since the white man created Nigeria, how could President Obasanjo justify Nigeria as the work of God?
FOUNDERS OF NIGERIA
I had the opportunity to examine the papers, which Chief Akinjide was referring to and more. I also examined some of the claims of the Nigerian leaders such as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto on their notion of how Nigeria was founded. I did not see where the British or their successor Nigerian political leaders said that “God created Nigeria”. I did not see where they spelt out “God’s purpose for Nigeria”. Except for the Sardauna who carried his Islamic religious practice to the public realm in the north with a threat of dipping the Koran to the sea, Dr Azikiwe and Chief Awolowo, both products of Christian Missions schools saw religion differently. Their adherence to Christianity was taken as essentially personal matters that should not be at the expense of other religions. They did not engage in preaching to others in public functions. Dr Azikiwe and Chief Awolowo were conscious of the multi-religious character of Nigeria and did not set out to offend others with their faith. On prayer, they did not want to be called hypocrites and adhered strictly to the Biblical injunction in Matthew Chapter 6 verses 5 to 7.
On the founding of Nigeria, the British and the Nigerian political leaders were all agreed on one issue that no Nigerian historically or in the modern era could claim to be the founder or the creator of Nigeria. All of them are agreed that the founding fathers of Nigeria were the British. Let me use the work of the greatest exponent of them all on how Nigeria was founded. I am referring to Chief Awolowo. The apt expression of Chief Awolowo, the most versatile of the Nigerian political leaders that Nigeria is a “geographical expression” holds true for all time and was borne out of research and reflection. Was this, maybe what President was responding to? Did President Obasanjo read and understand the thesis of Awo? He should read again and again many books starting with the groundbreaking one, Nigerian Path to Freedom (1947), which is still a classic on Nigeria. He will be able to understand how the revered exponent of progressive causes came to the apt expression associated with him that “Nigeria is a geographical expression”. Was this not what was put differently even though in a different context by Sir Ahmadu Bello that the Amalgamation was “the mistake of 1914”?
One should note that Chief Awolowo did not call himself or any of his fellow nationalists Dr Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello and those below them as the “founding fathers” of Nigeria. Even Dr Azikiwe hated the term, the “father of the nation”. He rejected this term so strongly in 1978. He said the title came from the northern leaders who described him as such when he was the ceremonial Governor-General during his official visit to the north. I still recall his response to critics of his decision to return to the “orbit of partisan politics” in December 1978. I knew this from my position as the then Protem National Secretary of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) when he was reacting to the accusation from some quarters in the north that as “the father of the nation”, he should not have come back to partisan politics. They were unfair to the old man, as was confirmed in Shagari’s memoir, the same northern leaders wanted to recruit him to their party but lost to the NPP. Kicking him “upstairs in 1959” was seen by Dr Azikiwe as one of the greatest fraud that was inflicted on the Nigerian political class. He did not want a repeat of what happened to him in 1959 to happen in 1978 in the hand of the northern Nigerian leaders.
Chief Awolowo identified Lord Lugard as the “founding father of Nigeria” and put it succinctly in the following words:
‘To him (Lord Lugard) more than anyone else belongs the credit or discredit for settling Nigeria on a course, which Nigerian Nationalists and patriots feel obliged to pursue. All be it with mixed feelings till the present day’.
This is from Obafemi Awolowo The People’s Republic (Ibadan, Oxford University Press 1968) p. 17.
This is the popular story we tell our children in schools and not the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden as applicable to Nigeria. We never tell our children that Nigeria is the greatest masterpiece erected by God for the upliftment of the Black world, according to President Obasanjo. I have expressed my worry to some people who are in a position to know what I am talking about that the use of the name of God to justify many things the President is doing in the public realm is a source of disquiet in Nigerian politics. The name of God is constantly being used in vain by footballers in their communication with the President. The President invokes God’s name in his dealings with the National Assembly, even when the issue is the application of the rules governing legislation and the Executive-Legislative relation. All these are statutory matters. President Obasanjo freely uses God’s name in his dealings within the caucus of the ruling political party, the PDP when Christians and non-Christians attend it. It is sad that President Obasanjo even uses the name of God when the political will of the Nigerian people is being subverted.
Maybe Nigerian history is not a compulsory course in Nigerian military institutions. I doubt that this is the notion of Nigerian history in the military academies. I once had opportunities to interact with many military officers in the Command and Staff College and in many settings including my stint at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). I was not surprised that these officers happen to know the origin of Nigeria, that it is colonial and no one ever said that it was God that created Nigeria. Before now I have never read where officers of the Nigerian army ever said that Nigeria is the “creation of God”; they know that Britain created Nigeria for her purpose and not for the interest of Nigerians who inhabit the four walls of Nigeria. Certainly, Britain did not create Nigeria for the Black people of the world, because that was not an issue during the colonial period. Even Sir James Robertson, the last colonial Governor-General confessed 14 years after he left Nigeria that Britain underestimated the power of ethnicity. In order to support his claim, he quoted copiously from his diary of 1956. On the north and south in general, he had this to say:
The general outlook of the people (north) is so different from those in southern Nigeria as to give them practically nothing in common. (underline is mine for emphasis)
Comparing two European countries and Nigerian ethnic nationalities, Sir James noted in his diary:
There is less difference between an Englishman and Italian, both of whom have a common civilization based on Greek and Roman foundations and on Christianity, than between a Muslim villager in Sokoto, Kano, or Katsina and an Ibo, Ijaw or Kabari
Posing a rhetorical question on the dilemma faced by him and the future Nigerian leaders who want to build Nigerian nation, Sir James notes in his diary,
How can any feeling of common purpose of nationality be built up between people whose culture, religion and mode of living is completely different? (Underline is mine for emphasis)
This is from Sir James Robertson, Transition in Africa,(London, 1974) p. 223.
It was obvious from what Sir James noted in his diary in 1956 that the Nigerian project was a failed colonial experiment. What would have been done by successive Nigerian political leaders a conscious plan to evolve the Nigerian nation. The mode of governing Nigeria since 1960 should have been approached differently by Nigerian political leaders. How could President Obasanjo call what the last colonial Governor-General so described as lacking anything on which to build on?
What should be noted was that Sir James never blamed God for the ills of Nigeria. He never blamed the British or her successor in Nigeria for not realizing God’s Will in Nigeria.
Maybe the white man believed that later the political crisis would be resolved for and by Nigerians. Is President Obasanjo trying to run away from the colonial basis of the Nigerian problem? He would have to rewrite Nigerian political science texts in Nigeria and abroad that associate Nigerian lingering political problems with the colonial origin of Nigeria. It is colonialism and not God that is at the root of the Nigerian crisis. The danger in President Obasanjo’s thesis is that Nigerians should not make any attempt to change the Nigerian state as that would violate God’s purpose for Nigeria. To change it or to agitate for its change would, therefore, in the view of President Obasanjo offend God.
WHAT GOD WANTS IS JUSTICE; IT IS ABSENT TODAY
My view is that God knows of the injustice in the land today since 1914. God knows that what was left behind in 1960 would not last. It would be in furtherance of God’s work on earth if President Obasanjo could lead Nigerians to return to the path of justice and equity. Nigeria since 1999 should have made some attempt to address the mistakes of 1814 and 1960. This was what he should have doing since 1999 instead of associating God with his failure to find a solution to the lingering political problems as Nigerians move to 2003.
General Obasanjo might not have read the history of Nigeria from his High School days as the History taught then was mostly Empire History and of the Age of Discovery etc. But even then, under Empire History, the colonial exploits constituted the major part of the subject and the history of the peoples in the different colonies was de-emphasized. What about the military academies in the United Kingdom? That could not be true as Empire History is a compulsory course in all institutions in the United Kingdom just as Political Science 101 dealing with US Politics is a compulsory course in the US institutions. Empire History was clear on one fact, the British creation of many colonies including Nigeria.
A lot of the account of how Nigeria was created is declassified in the United Kingdom and they can be found in reputable Universities in the United Kingdom and in the US. Distinguished Nigerian historians of the Ibadan School have copious documents on the origin of Nigeria. Nowhere is the issue of God raised as the basis of the origin of Nigeria.
I am aware that the colonial basis of Nigeria is taught in schools and that is what it should be. Nigeria should not hang on to what the President is telling Nigerians that God created Nigeria. God does not create an unjust setting, which is Nigeria. I had the opportunity to deliver a lecture before an African-American audience in 1996 that Nigeria is “A Case of Failed Colonial Experiment in Africa“. Nigerians knew the basis of Nigeria; it is only the President who wants Nigerians to believe that the British for the upliftment of the African people worldwide-created Nigeria. Nigerians expect that when the President speaks, he speaks to them the correct thing. His plan is to rally the people of Nigeria to his plan of recreating Nigeria and bring justice to all. This is what God wants for Nigeria and for Nigerians.
The President should tell Nigerians and the children the truth that the creation of Nigeria was fraudulently put together by the British colonial rulers. He should blame successive Nigerian leaders, civilian and military that did not address the injustice in Nigeria at its creation. If dealing with the imperfection and injustice in the British design is what the President wants to do under his administration, he should tell Nigerians so and he would have the support of many Nigerians including me. Nigerian leaders have since 1999 been calling on him to lead in righting the wrong and injustice from colonialism the imperfections and injustices in the land.
REAL FOUNDERS OF NIGERIA
What Chief Akinjide was referring to when he called the Nigerian enterprise a fraud, was a simple question. What did Britain have in mind when amalgamation was considered as the proper policy in the first decade of the 20th Century? Here I would want to improve on what Chief Awolowo, Chief Akinjide and the popular literature on Nigeria told us in schools.
The real founder of Nigeria was not Lord Lugard as it is generally taught in Nigerian schools and in popular discourse. Lord Lugard was the architect of one-north as an employee of the Royal Niger Company in the last decade of the 19thCentury. His knowledge of the south and of the various states that made up the south in the 19th century and during the first decade of the 20th century was limited to what he knew from other British traders and British foreign representatives to these states. Whatever role he played during the time of amalgamation arose from his role as the messenger of Lord Lewis Harcourt, the British Colonial Secretary.
It was Lord Harcourt who discovered Lord Lugard from his work in Northern Nigeria and wanted him to undertake a mission on behalf of the British Government. He, therefore, sent Lord Lugard on the mission to inquire into the prospect of amalgamation of the north and south of Nigeria and submit a report to him on how it could be affected if he found the plan feasible.
On the receipt of Lord Lugard’s report, Lord Harcourt rushed to the House of Commons with the plan that unification of the two “Nigeria” demanded both (a) a man and (b) a method. The man was to be Lord Lugard; the method was amalgamation.
Lord Lugard was elated with the prospect of going back to the two Nigeria, where he was to incorporate the disparatesouth into a united North. This is a matter, which history books should tell us as the root of the confusion in the south in its dealing with the core north. Since then, the south is fighting its disparate nature that has since the mid-60s been complicated by the civil war and the creation of states. The north is still trying to make the north continue as one and indivisible entity despite the creation of many states since 1967.
SOUTHERN DISUNITY NOT FACTOR OF ZIK-AWO RIFT
The southern disunity has for too long been associated with a lack of rigorous scholarship with the rift between Dr Azikiwe and Chief Awolowo. Unfortunately, the followers of these two Nigerian leaders have since then attributed the southern disunity with the rift between the Igbo and the Yoruba at various stages in Nigerian history. It is deeper than these two rifts. In my view, if the two rifts were resolved at any time in the past, the disunity in the south would still be there for obvious reasons.
SOUTH IS MORE THAN YORUBA AND IGBO
We constantly make the error as to what constitutes the south. We should appreciate that the south is not made up of the Igbo and the Yoruba alone. Even Dr Azikiwe and Chief Awolowo in their various writing acknowledged that the regions over which they presided were not homogenous. They, therefore, knew that the south was more than the sum of Igbo and the Yoruba. Why did their followers make the error of believing that the south was made up of two ethnic nationalities? The southern solidarity or unity or disunity is therefore not contingent upon the unity of the two political leaders. It could help. There are today six states with their claim to autonomy and independence of action whether the Yoruba and Igbo decide to work together.
What has not been emphasized is the colonial basis of the southern disunity that for too long gave the two majority ethnic nationalities power that they did not deserve. In fairness to the Yoruba or the Igbo, they did not lay claim to other peoples’ territories before the colonial creation of the three regions in Nigeria.
There was no reason why the Yoruba should be made to lord it over the Benin and Delta Provinces during the colonial period.
There was no reason why the Igbo should be made the overlord of the non-Igbo peoples in the old Eastern Region.
STATES IN SOUTH AS HOMES TO MINORITIES ARE FACT
In fairness to the Yoruba, they since 1964 accepted the fact that the old Bendel State was not part of the Western Region. They accepted the fact that there are two distinct entities the Yoruba States and the non-Yoruba States that could meet on the basis of a progressive platform. This was why Chief Awolowo could use his Four Cardinal Program to rally the people of Bendel to his party in 1979.
Unfortunately, the Igbo leaders since the end of the Civil War have not reconciled themselves with the fact that there are four states in the non-Igbo part of the old Eastern Region. Even when they accepted that fact, the Igbo leaders are still to accept that the non-Igbo States in the old Eastern Region are endowed with the power to determine their future and who to work within Nigeria.
The Igbo leaders are still unhappy that the non-Igbo people were ever excised from the old Eastern Region the way it was done in 1967.
The Igbo leaders are unhappy that the Igbo states are landlocked even though that would have been the case without colonialism.
The mistrust between the Igbo and the non-Igbo in the old Eastern region on the one hand and between the Igbo and the non-Yoruba sector of the West (Midwest) on the other is real. I experienced it during the campaign in 1979 when the former Premier of Eastern Nigeria Dr Azikiwe became a candidate. The non-Igbo people rejected him and supported candidates from other areas.
While the Yoruba leaders are realistic enough not to promote a pan-Western Region plan in form of a return to the old Western Region, I find that Igbo leaders are unrealistic to me when they are bent on a union of Eastern and South-South, a euphemism for the old Eastern Region.
IGNORANCE ABOUNDS ABOUT NIGERIA’S PAST
There is a lot of ignorance and gaps in Nigeria among the political class about the colonial aspects of Nigeria. Therefore when President Obasanjo decides to tell the cock and bull story about God and the origin of Nigeria, some members of the political class could believe him because they too have no independent source of knowledge. Let me use one case to illustrate this point.
THE CASE OF PORT HARCOURT
How many Nigerians know the origin of Port Harcourt? As a mark of gratitude to his patron, Lord Harcourt, Lord Lugard founded the Port town in the southeastern part of Nigeria and named it after his master, Lord Harcourt. That is the origin of the town named, Port Harcourt. Port Harcourt is named after Lord Harcourt, the oppressor and the creator of Nigeria.
It is sad that a Commissioner in Katsina State (Alhaji M. Shehu Maikai) like many politicians of his generation displayed his ignorance of this vital aspect of Nigerian history. I am referring to when he wanted Port Harcourt to be renamed after Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe in place of the “British explorer”. Lord Lewis Harcourt, a British Explorer! See Tell of June 19, 1996 p. 17. The distinguished State Commissioner genuinely thought that he was making valuable suggestions to how best to immortalize the sage, Dr Azikiwe after his death. But he displayed his ignorance in the process.
If the Commissioner could be this ignorant, what do you expect of the school children under his charge? One wonders what is being taught in schools in Katsina State in the name of Nigerian history. Would the Nigerian schools be told to imbibe the new doctrine of the President, that God created Nigeria? Incidentally, Katsina produced one of the finest historians in Nigeria, Dr Bala Usman. I am sure he would readily correct the Commissioner if he had consulted him before making what to him was a profound suggestion. One wonders how many mistakes are made from such ignorance? President Obasanjo is not helping the political class with his “godism”.
As to the real purpose of the Port and the building of the Eastern Railway line, it was meant to make the north less dependent on the southwestern political leaders who from the beginning were distrusted by the British officials. This distrust by the British was extended to the successive northern political leaders. Did the British trust the Igbo and others in the Eastern Region? Why did the British not trust the Yoruba and the Western Region? Some Igbo politicians extended this false love of the British for the Igbo and hate for the Yoruba to a trustful relationship between the north and the East. This was at the root of the many coalition arrangements between the north and the east since 1959. The northern political leaders saw themselves buying the British prejudice against the Yoruba and the British indifference toward the Igbo as a basis of the coalition behaviour between the Igbo-led political parties and the Hausa-led political parties in the First and Second Republic.
NORTH AND SOUTH: SUPERORDINATE-SUBORDINATE!
Lord Harcourt was so happy that he appeared at a Dinner Party and made a profound statement, which has implications for modern Nigeria. According to Lord Harcourt,
‘We have released Northern Nigeria from the leading-strings of the treasury. The ‘promising and well-conducted youth’(North) is now on an allowance on his own and is about to effect an alliance with a ‘Southern Lady of means.
Lord Harcourt went on I have issued the special license and Sir Frederick Lugard will perform the ‘marriage’ ceremony.
For the interest of President Obasanjo, Nigeria in the plan of the founder was to be a marriage between the north (husband) and the south (wife). This was the plan at the birth of Nigeria when there was no oil. This has been the way the north saw Nigeria since 1914. From records, this was the way successive Colonial Governors-General from Lord Lugard to Sir James Robertson organized Nigeria and handed over to the north on October 1, 1960. This was the intention of the departing British colonial regime in the days leading to independence and finally at independence.
“The Lady of Means”, the Wife (South) since 1958 had oil to the bargain in the marriage. “The Promising Youth”, the Husband (North) is poorer since then. Since then the north and Nigeria have become more dependent on oil than what was originally anticipated at the time of amalgamation.
The next issue, which became evident in June 1993, was whether the wife and the husband could alternate position in the conjugal power structure through the fact of a ‘one man’ ‘one vote’. The north did not see the husband becoming the wife by the fiat of an election. To put it clearly is the fact of a husband and wife not permanent? This means that the north as the husband and not the south, the wife would continue to be the permanent ruler of Nigeria.
Those who would be wondering why the June 12, Presidential election, which through the democratic process produced a southerner (wife) for the first time faced annulment in the hands of the husband should read The Tale of June 12. This is an aspect of the issues in the annulment of the June 12, 1993, Presidential election.
We can see the conjugal power structure manifesting itself in the call for the north to be prepared to reclaim its rightful place (the Presidency) after the one term of General Obasanjo. I can see this challenge in the outburst of Alhaji Lawal Kaita, the former Governor of Kaduna in the Vanguard of July 10, 2000. He was emphatic in the highly provocative article that President Obasanjo was made the President on the voluntary decision of the core north and not through the Constitutional means or through force. The question one would ask is whether in the next time around the core north would claim its rightful place, the President?
CHIEF SD LR AND GENERAL TY DANJUMA TO THE RESCUE
I can also see the challenge to the myth of the divine rule of kings among the northern leaders. President Obasanjo is copying this when he keeps telling people that God made him President and would rule in furtherance of God on earth. The way the President is carrying on, he would not be able to challenge the Buhari Platform of returning Nigeria to what Allah wished for the country, an Islamic State.
Does President Obasanjo appreciate one important fact of politics that his frequent use of God by him (President Obasanjo) could be used as the basis of Buhari Islamic revivalism in the North? He should heed the warning of the Chairman Council of Ulama of Kano, Dr Datti Ahmed that it is the Christian God that Obasanjo is referring to whenever he uses the name of God. The northern leaders even accused President Obasanjo of inviting US President Clinton in order to send to the West a message that Nigeria had become a Christian sphere of influence. That would be contrary to the view held during the period of past Muslim political generals who took Nigeria to OIC and gave the impression that Nigeria is an Islamic State.
Does President Obasanjo appreciate another fact of politics that his frequent use of God’s name is not only disturbing, but it would constitute a threat to the secular status of Nigeria? Secularism does not mean a “Godless State”; it means as we conceived it in the Constituent Assembly in 1977/78 that Nigeria shall not adopt any religion as State Religion. The word State here does not mean the public administration at the federal level of government. It means the conduct of Nigerian political life at all levels, federal, state and local government. The picture painted recently by the Minister of Defense, Lt. General TY Danjuma of the administration in certain parts of the north violates the spirit of the Constitution.
Where are the retired political generals from the north? If General Shehu Yar “Adua were alive and aspiring to politics as he did in the past, he would have dissociated himself from the policies of the northern states that openly discriminate against non-Muslims. I would have expected some of the retired political generals aspiring to lead Nigeria again through the process of one person one vote would frown at the Islamization of education in the north at the public expense and to the exclusion of other religions. Why should a state Government cancel the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge, as a discipline while making the teaching of Islamic Religious Knowledge a compulsory subject for Muslims and Non-Muslims including Christians? While the Islamic students are not be exposed to the world religions because it is a sin, I have Christian friends at Ibadan who did Arabic and Islamic Studies. That is why the Bible is a prohibited commodity in some Islamic Republic. I am afraid that this is gradually being extended to some parts of the north.
I would like to appeal to the leaders of the Middle-Belt, where Christianity is on trial in the north to educate the southern Christians who are actually “Chrislam” or believers of anything goes. They are in a position to redirect the President to face Nigerian problems squarely. In this context, I hope Chief Solomon D. Lar and General TY Danjuma led some of us to appreciate the danger in the politicization of religion. This was why some of us fought to delete the Federal Sharia in the Constitution in 1977/78. Chief SD Lar and General Danjuma I pray and hope would prevail on President Obasanjo to appreciate the danger in the politicization of religion.
AS NIGERIA WITH POLITICAL PARTIES FACES 2003
Now that the country is faced with six political parties with the possibility of having six Presidential candidates, six senators and House candidates at the Federal level and six Governors and six Assembly candidates at the State level in 2003, a new behavior is demanded of all candidates. One would expect that all candidates would face electioneering politics without invoking the name of God or Allah or the African Traditional Religion in the campaign.
God ordains competition among politicians with contrasting visions for our people to choose from. What is common or should be common to all Nigerians is the quest for a Just Society. Christianity, Islam and African Traditional Religion sanction this quest. It should be pursued in our own way without forcing one’s faith on the other as the President unwittingly does from time to time. I leave this to Mr. President.
By Professor Omo Omoruyi,
A Research Fellow at African Studies Center at Boston University Boston, MA, USA. He is also CEO, Advancing Democracy in Africa (ADA)
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