“Man is nothing but history after his demise. Therefore, endeavour to be a veritable archive of reference from which others can learn lessons after you might have left the stage”. By an Arab poet
Man is both a product and a producer of history. He lives by history and leaves history behind, as his legacy, at the time of his departure from this ephemeral world. This confirms the fact that man and history are like Siamese twins. The one cannot do without the other. History makes man just as man makes history. The synergy, between the two, makes them look like a pair of scissors in which one blade cannot effectively function without getting attached to the other.
NECESSITY OF HISTORY
This is a period, in Nigeria, when recalling history is a necessity. And, that necessity has raised some vital questions which require some cogent answers. LHow did Nigeria come into being as a country and how did she come to be so named? Is this name fitting and appropriate for the country that bears it? Can the name be changed and, if changed can there be any reasonable difference? These are some of the questions that ‘The Message’ column seeks to answer here today. The highly respected readers of this column can also provide answers from their own thoughts.
ACCIDENT OF HISTORY
On January 8, 1897, an article appeared in The Financial Times, of England, which suggested a name for the vast area of land, around river Niger. Earlier on, this land had been colonized, by the Royal Niger Company, on behalf of the British Government. The suggested name given to it in the referred article was Nigeria. And, that name was coined from the word Niger. How the word Niger itself came into existence is another story to be told on another day. Meanwhile the author of the said article was one Miss Flora Shaw, a 45-year old British journalist who was then the colonial editor of The Financial Times as well as the writer of a weekly column named ‘The Colony’ in that newspaper. In coining the name ‘Nigeria’, Flora Shaw logically took certain facts into consideration. But those facts were more to the benefit of the British Empire than to that of the inhabitants of the territory named Nigeria.
WHO WAS FLORA SHAW?
The British woman called Flora Shaw was born at N0 2, Dundas Terrace, Woolwich, England, on December 19, 1852, Miss Flora Shaw, was the fourth of her parent’s fourteen children. She was a novelist and a versatile female journalist, who gained fame through her pungent analyses of African colonial economy. She was later to answer to Honourable Dame Flora Lugard, the wife of Frederick John Deatry Lugard of Abinger who colonized the southern and northern parts of the area now called Nigeria, and later merged them together in the name of amalgamation, in 1914.
Flora was six years older than Frederick who was born in India on January 22, 1858. The two historic personalities married in 1902 and lived together without children for the rest of their lives.
FACTS TO NOTE
Four historical facts are notable in the profiles of these two personalities that became a couple. Those facts are as follows:
1. The name Nigeria was coined far away in England, long before the country that now bears that name, became a country.
2. The name was coined five years before Flora Shaw married Frederick Lugard. (Therefore, contrary to the general misconception in Nigeria, that it was Mrs. Lugard who named our country Nigeria, Flora was Miss Shaw and not Mrs. Lugard when she coined the name).
3. It can be said that Nigeria came into existence through the efforts of a bachelor and a spinster who later jointly became a couple.
4. By sheer coincidence, Nigeria’s indigenous First Lady, Flora Azikiwe, the wife of Nigeria’s first President, shared the same first name, ‘FLORA’, with the wife of Lord Lugard.
PROFILE OF LUGARD
Lord Frederick Lugard was the British agent who amalgamated the the Northern and the Southern parts of Nigeria in 1914. He was a military adventurer and an ardent administrator who played a major part in Britain’s colonial history between 1888 and 1945. He served in East Africa, West Africa, and Hong Kong. His glorious name, in history, is particularly associated with Nigeria, where he served as High Commissioner (1900–06) as well as Governor and Governor-General from 1912 to19. He was knighted, in 1901, and promoted to the peerage in 1928.
As at the time of Lugard’s military incursion into this territory, in the late 19th century, most of the vast land of over 300,000 square miles or 800,000 square km was still unoccupied and even unexplored by Europeans. In the southern areas, at that time, were mostly animists while in the northern areas were multitudes of Muslims with city-states and large walled cities.
After colonizing the two areas, Lugard’s intention was to merge the two peoples with diverse cultures and different spiritual inclinations together to enable him manage them as a single people in a single nation. Within three years of his expedition, he had established a British control over this large territory, by diplomacy on one hand, and, by swift use of his meager military force, on the other.
Although in hastening to take the major states of Kano and Sokoto he met resistance and local revolts in some areas of the North, nevertheless, he succeeded in his mission. And, the success of that mission is what we call Nigeria today. Those who are now desperately thinking of overturning that mission should also think of possible deversatating implications of their inordinate ambition.
THE LUGARD’S HISTORIC MARRIAGE
After Lord Lugard’s marriage to Flora Shaw in 1902 and the latter could not cope with the Nigerian climate, he felt obliged to leave Africa and accept a junior position of the governorship of Hong Kong which he held from 1907 to 1912. It was like stepping down as president, to accept the position of a Governor.
In Hong Kong, the bushwhacker from Africa achieved a surprising degree of success as, on his own initiative, founded today’s famous University of Hong Kong.
Thereafter, Lugard and his wife managed to ensure the amalgamation of the Northern and the Southern parts of Nigeria in an historic marriage that is yet to produce a child of perfect harmony.
As if in a nightmare, at a time, we suddenly found ourselves in a rigmarolling situation where figure 16 was considered higher than figure 19 and open day theft was officially defined and treated as a lesser crime than corruption in the framework of politics. Yet, the blame of that is being laid at the door step of amalgamation as if without amalgamation, those crimes would subsist.
Today, like in the recent past, billions of dollars are disappearing, daily, from our national and State treasuries just as our foreign reserves are rapidly being depleted directly and in directly by our government officials. Yet, we blame all these on Nigeria’s amalgamation of 1914. Who is fooling who?
For any well intentioned President or Governor, a period of four years is long enough in a democratic tenure of governance. It is long enough to lay a solid foundation for a Nation or a State. It is long enough to build a formidable edifice of politics that can be inherited from generation to generation. We do not need to look far for examples of this. They can be historically found here in Nigeria. For instance the late , General Murtala Muhammad’s six months governance as a military Head of State at the national level or, the late Alhaji Lateef Jakande as a civilian Governor for four years during Nigeria’s second republic are enough as yardstick for economic progress and political advancement. Also, a template of good governance can be drawn from Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s eight year tenure as Governor of Lagos State in NIGERIA’S fourth republic. The phenomenal growth of that State is what makes it almost half of Nigeria today, economically and politically.
But in a situation where the fist 16 years of democracy could not fetch any reasonable democratic benefit in Nigeria, it became doubtful that one century of governance of the same style could fetch anything besides despair. If a journey of one year cannot take a traveler beyond the port of embarkation, who does not know that 10 years of such a will not take him somewhere near the port of disembarkation? The result of a political misadventure is what Nigeria is unfortunately grappling with today, in terms of terorism and general insecurity.
MISAPPLICATION OF WEALTH
As an OPEC country, Nigeria has abundant oil wealth, but as managers of that wealth, we must import refined fuel for domestic consumption. And, with our reckless maladministration, uncured a massive army of unemployed youths for whom we cannot provide electricity to enable them to be self-employed. Yet, we are insisting that we must continue this way even as billions of dollars are being devilishly siphoned out of the country daily, in favour of certain political vampires, through the tunnel of corruption. Where are we going from here?
In his direct presidential address to Nigerian populace on Tuesday, March 24, 2015, the then American President, Barrack Obama said of the following day election in Nigeria and the subsequent ones. Here is how he put it: “Hello. Today, I want to speak directly to you—the people of Nigeria. Nigeria is a great nation and you can be proud of the progress you’ve made. Together, you won your independence, emerged from military rule, and strengthened democratic institutions. You’ve strived to overcome division and to turn Nigeria’s diversity into a source of strength. You’ve worked hard to improve the lives of your families and to build the largest economy in Africa.
Now, you have a historic opportunity to help write the next chapter of Nigeria’s progress—by voting in the upcoming elections. For elections to be credible, they must be free, fair and peaceful. All Nigerians must be able to cast their votes without intimidation or fear.
So I call on all leaders and candidates to make it clear to their supporters that violence has no place in democratic elections—and that they should not incite, support or engage in any kind of violence—before, during, or after the votes are counted.
I call on all Nigerians to peacefully express your views and to reject the voices of those who call for violence. And, when elections are free and fair, it is the responsibility of all citizens to help keep the peace, no matter who wins.
Successful elections and democratic progress will help Nigeria meet the urgent challenges you face today. Boko Haram—a brutal terrorist group that kills innocent men, women and children—must be stopped.
Hundreds of kidnapped children deserve to be returned to their families. Nigerians who have been forced to flee deserve to return to their homes. Boko Haram wants to destroy Nigeria and all that you have worked to build. By casting your ballot, you can help secure your nation’s progress.
I’m told that there is a saying in your country: “to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done”. Today, I urge all Nigerians—from all religions, all ethnic groups, and all regions—to come together and keep Nigeria one. And, in this task of advancing the security, prosperity, and human rights of all Nigerians, you will continue to have a friend and partner in the United States of America”.
Ordinarily, such a cross-Atlantic presidential speech, by Barrack Obama, would have been unnecessary if we had learnt from the examples of great African leaders such as Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Sam Njoma of Namibia, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Ahmadu Ahidjo of Cameroon.
But since the uncheckable greed in Nigerian politicians will not allow us to learn from the cited good examples, we were forced to listen to an American Obama who talked to Nigerians rather than talk with Nigerians.
At this stage, calling for disintegration or changing the name of Nigeria cannot make any sensible difference. Unless the shrewd in the wild animal called leopard is tamed, it will always be a leopard. The hood does not make the monk. Rather than planning to eat out common cake and still have it,we should jointly resolve never to relent in saying: GOD SAVE NIGERIA!
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