The world apart from Nigeria had long realized that history is the basket where solved and unsolved human issues are stored for easy retrieval to be used in solving contemporary problems. As George Orwell reminded us, “he who controls the past, controls the future.” Meaning that it is the interpretation given to Nigerian history by its contemporary leaders, in this case the Fulani that determines the direction the country goes. For instance, they have come out boldly to claim the middle belt as their land by tradition and conquest and so have a right to free grazing. If this history is sustained, what right does the middle belt have in opposing the Fulani claim to grazing? This brings home the claim of history as the most critical source in solving contemporary problems.
There is no denying the fact that most of us gathered here today are conversant with the chequered history of Nigeria, after all, a simple googling will pop-up millions of dossiers on your screen, but whose version of history?
I will not bore you with this long history. However, in the British colonial tradition, which has a long history; they annexed territories either as colonies or protectorates. In the case of Nigeria, there were the colony of Lagos and two protectorates i.e. the north and the south, each ran as autonomous territories. In 1914 Lord Frederick Lugard, joined the three together forming the colony and protectorate of Nigeria that later became the independent republic of Nigeria but has largely remained on a death wish and so this summit.
What we are doing here today i.e. discussing the way out of the country’s death wish has a long history. The first was by the then few elites, like you today living in the Lagos colony who vehemently opposed the amalgamation of 1914. And of course their agitation failed and so many agitations since then have come to naught.
Within and without Nigeria, Nigerians and some interested parties in the world have talked about everything that needs be talked about Nigeria.
In different forum on Nigeria, we have ended up talking about all we have talked about. Why I was interested in this particular summit was because this is a highly proactive group that wants to achieve results and not interested in talking about all we have talked about in the past like a yo-yo without walking the talks. As has been showcased with the last conference in 2013, this group did achieve a milestone in getting the then ravaging Boko Haram declared as a terrorist group when most of the present leadership of Nigeria refused vehemently to get it done.
Few issues I will like to mention for our general guide as we deliberate include the following:
How well do we know our country and how well do they to whom we appeal to for help i.e. the international community know our country? The truth of this question is that Nigerians do not know much about their country and so what do you expect? For majority of southerners, anyone after Onitsha/Asaba axis is a Hausa/Fulani and a Muslim and therefore a potential enemy. Same for the Yoruba, anyone after Ilorin is the enemy. This confusion is even worse from the northern prism as anyone not from the north is an enemy. That our books claim we have over four hundred and fifty tribes and tongues, each unique and independent minded and struggling for the necessities of life like the next group is irrelevant to the average Nigerian, even the ones considered enlightened. Same with religion. Everyone from a particular area is believed to be either Christian or Muslim. The worst case scenario is the purposeful refusal by government to do any meaningful thing about this situation or by teaching basic history to her citizens and that tells you that some leaders are truly out to distort the narrative.
For the outside world, especially Britain and the United States, they do know the size and depth of the Nigerian quagmire as they were the creators of the confusion, especially Britain that birthed Nigeria as a commercial enterprise and the US that has sustained this company for maximum dividend. Nigerian elites often think that these countries have consistently pursued the wrong policies on Nigeria. My thinking is different. They actually know what they have been doing. For instance, the West has consistently adopted persons with wrong democratic cultures to always leader Nigeria. It is important that we understand Western thought and policies on Nigeria for us to know how to approach them and convince them on the real historical issues, how they impact our contemporary world and the present and future consequences.
This presentation is more of a critique of what I call American ‘establishment’s’ conventional thoughts, policies and believes about Nigeria. In 1997, the American Air Force, and of course you know it is one of their elite institutions, established The Air Force Center for Strategy and Technology (CSAT) at The Air War College in Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base. Its purpose was to engage in long-term strategic thinking through academic research, and publications to support national strategy and policy. In 2011, this elite institution published their researched finding on Nigeria as an example of a failed state and the consequences of it’s failing on the United States of America. The authors collectively spent a year researching and traveling across Nigeria to ascertain what range of challenges a failed state may present to the United States noting what capabilities and technologies the US would require to effectively deal with this situation.
Their findings and report should be of serious interest to every patriotic Nigerian especially Christian and southern Nigerians and a guide on how we should approach and court the United States. This same strategic group had in 2008 published reports from their “best and brightest officers from the Air Force and the sister services” on “a resurgent Russia, a peer China, a successful jihadist insurgency against a friendly state in the Middle East….” All their reports have come to pass including the recent ISIS insurgency ravaging the Middle East. So you need worry about their report and position on Nigeria.
An excerpt from this document will help bring this home. “in the year 20…the social contract between the weakened federal government and the Nigerian people is effectively broken. An attempt to restore confidence through a national election sweeps the electorally dominant Islamic political structure into power. Buoyed by its electoral success, the new government threatens to ruin family criminal enterprises and confiscate the wealth of the business oligarchs. Its ultimate end state is to rebrand Nigeria as an Islamic republic. The culmination of these negative trends and political actions sparks a violent reaction from the non-Islamic population, the criminal family enterprises, and the oligarchs.” Does this sound familiar?
This document went ahead to describe Nigeria in her raw details. For this American think-tank, state failure results in “an increase in the rise of suppressed nationalisms, ethnic or religious violence, humanitarian disasters, major catalytic regional crises, and the spread of dangerous weapons.” For the Western world, “failed states are a danger not only to their own people but also to their regional neighbors, and in a highly globalized world, they are a probable danger to the world economy and the vital interests of other nations.” While the overriding interest of the West is about what becomes of their economic interest, for me and you who live in this failed state, it is not about definitions, it is about what we pass through each day of our lives.
While most of what this report said is playing out right in front of us, their survey contains some more frightening scenario. But my worry is the process through which these experts arrived at some of their various conclusions. And that was why in the beginning I posed the fundamental question of whose version of story or history are you reading or taking. The truth of this report is that the American ‘establishment’ has been sold to the British position of sacrificing Nigeria with its millions of Christians and long culture of western civilization to the Muslims as a guarantee for “sweet oil” and a less radicalized Islamic bastion to counter the extreme radicalization expanding from the Middle East.
“Nigeria”, as the report noted “is the sixth largest Muslim population in the world, with a nearly equal balance of Muslims and Christians. THIS BALANCE IS CURRENTLY AT A TIPPING POINT BECAUSE OF THE FASTER POPULATION GROWTH IN THE ISLAMIC NORTH, WHICH IS RULED UNDER SHAR’IA LAW. By 2030 Nigeria’s Islamic population will comprise a majority of the federal electorate; this will precipitate a fundamental change in Nigeria’s domestic political situation.” Hasn’t hat day already come with the last elections and with what the Independent Electoral Commission has published as the current Nigerian electoral demographics?
Continuing, the researchers stated “As the Muslim population in the north grows, the combination of traditional values will keep the restive youth in the conservative north primed for conflict against the more liberal south. These northern “have-nots,” possibly radicalized and angry, will likely foment the rise of civil conflict in years ahead.” We can see they were actually the people mobilized by the present government to harass and intimidate voters into succumbing to a Muslim faith accomplice at the last general elections. Remember the “if we loss bloods of monkeys and baboons will flow…”
Praising their assumed type of conservative Islam the West believe exist in northern Nigeria, the report was ebullient in stating that “Any attempted inroads into West Africa by al-Qaeda or similar jihadist Salafist groups will likely be successfully thwarted by a resurgent Sokoto caliphate which may issue fatwas rejecting the violent jihadist ideology of these outsiders. The caliphate may go so far as to brand any attempt by al-Qaeda to either sanction attacks or destroy Nigeria’s oil production capacity as an attack on the Islamic people of northern Nigeria, since the north will continue to depend on oil revenues for basic goods and services beyond 2030. Because of its interest in maintaining a stable [conservative Islamic] Nigeria and its need for Nigerian oil, the United States will continue aggressive measures to combat terrorism in West Africa and in the Pan-Sahel region.”
More worrisome is the reports characterization of the entire south (Christians) as corrupt and corrupters of Nigeria visa-avis he north. An average Nigeria will laugh over this, but it is on believes like this that Western policies on Nigeria have been built and the consequences are the bloodletting and violence we are witnessing. Hear the report “In the face of increasing corruption in federal and state institutions, it is possible the caliphate will restrict efforts by Islamic political leaders to gain power for a time, in order to highlight the corruption of the southern leadership. Its intent will likely be to allow these non-Islamic leaders to continue to abuse their power so that they discredit themselves in the eyes of Nigerians and in front of international financial and good-governance institutions like Transparency International. By 2030, with criminality and corruption permeating all facets of government at levels unimaginable by today’s standards, the people will lose faith in their government. This could stoke ethnic nationalism across the country, particularly in the Islamic north. With discontent among the then-Islamic majority reaching a fever pitch, the stage will be set for wholesale political change.” However, instead of 2030, the change has come a decade earlier with devastating consequences.
Not done yet, the report had gone ahead to say that while Christians will represent the majority of the electorate through the mid-2020s, the Islamic electorate, by sheer population growth, will likely compose the majority before 2030. Christian-led governments… client patronage and other forms of corruption will likely continue unabated throughout the federal, state, and local governmental systems. The Sokoto caliphate will win a majority election late in this time frame. When its majority is sufficiently robust, it will seek to enshrine elements of the Islamic judicial code into law. As justification for its actions, it will point to a long and tarnished history of corrupt Christian-led rule.”
The report continued by stating that “The corruption in the south will be a marked contrast from the governance in the north, which, regardless of religious overtones, will appear more responsive to the people than a national government beholden to client patronage. The likely result is that the Islamic leaders will, in time, be confident of their numerical majority and moral superiority. When this occurs, an election result that ostensibly rejects the corruption of the past will bring into power a government supportive of Islamic reforms that will purify the corrupt state. This could lead to a nationwide establishment of Islamic schools and a gradual transformation of Nigeria and the Sokoto caliphate into the center of subSaharan Islam. Such a government would likely attempt rapid reform by eradicating previous administrations’ graft and corruption. Such actions could include seizing assets of those deemed most corrupt, particularly the southern oligarchs, and the government officials they supported.”
If a famed American think-tank like the Air Force Strategic group whose research findings are according to them distributed to US agencies for strategic policies have these ideas about Nigeria, what then is the fate of Nigeria and her tens of millions of Christians? Would they be sacrificed as Biafra was sacrificed as the West watched genocide committed against a people? Our job then as the intelligentsia and Nigeria elites is cut out for us and that is to rewrite the narratives as quickly as possible before more harm as predicated by the Americans comes to pass.
And what are the harms? Basing their analysis on wrong premise and biased narratives, the worst case scenario is that the report did not even emphasis how the Nigerian impasse could be solved so that a united, peaceful Nigeria where equity and fair play will reign. Rather, the report went ahead to marshal out all the military hard and software that will be needed to secure what the report consistently called the “Sweet oil” of Nigeria. What this should bring home to you and me is that America has passed beyond looking for salvation for Nigeria, rather she is ready for when the country will “fail and shatter” like a “China plate”, as reported in their own words.
If we want to have that Nigeria of our dream within our lifetimes, if we want to avoid these violence and bloodbath and the worst case scenario as painted by Western think-tanks, if we do not want our children to face Mecca tomorrow nodding foreheads on the ground and chanting Allah Akbar, not that I have anything against Muslims, then there is work to be done in convincing the American establishment that they have swallowed the wrong narrative about Nigeria. We must be detailed and persuasive. I have not delved into our own narratives for our Western friends to consider, because I do know that will be the central thesis of some of the lectures that have and will be delivered here today.
However, there are local and international standards on how this can be achieved. This organization must turn itself into a strong permanent lobby group here in Washington and it must find the adequate resources to play this lobby. Those who know are aware that our traducers in the Nigerian system had had the strongest lobby of all here in Washington since 1960, but this journey is not about how long but about how far. As Nigerians will say ‘whenever a man wakes is his morning’. We have woken to the idea of strong lobby; we must make the best out of it.
Our job also should not be limited to coming to Washington to shed tears, no, there are other practical things we can do back home. There are more good men and women in Nigeria than the bad. The only thing we lack is a fearless leadership. So how do we recreate the type of fiery men and women that won our independence from Britain? How do we recreate the heroes of Nigeria that dared death and prison to free us from the clutches of military dictatorship through NADECO? Where do we go and source the new Wole Soyinkas, Gani Fawehimi, Beko Ransom Kutis et al? I sincerely do not know but I also think that the leaders we are waiting for to lead this struggle are us.
The intellectual materials need for this struggle is also available and the means to deliver them to the local target audience is there and even cheaper compared to yesterdays. We have ICT and the social media. Most importantly we still have the ubiquitous radio that can be used to deliver our messages directly to the more confused and traumatized Nigerians of the north. Wean the large and sundry small ethnic groups in the north off their Fulani slave masters our work would have been half done. Confer, IPOB and Nnamdi Kanu’s Radio Biafra. What the famed American report writers failed to understand is that cut off from the rest of Nigeria they have held in a death bind since 1914, the insignificant 9% Fulanis will be done for and their idea of Nigeria as a cattle colony for world Fulaninry will die.
Dear brethren, Nigeria remains that fraudulent business company created by Britain for maximal profit. As far as they are concerned, Nigeria was a carefully set up business entity whose profit margin is determined by the level of internal disequilibrium. The more there are internal north/south, Christian/Muslim, Hausa-Fulani/Yoruba/Igbo conflicts, the more petrol dollars flow easily and unchallenged into the coffers of Western capitalist capitals of London, Paris and New York. But like all human creations with evil intent, it has run its course and now set to consume itself and so this report of how and when Nigeria will ‘fail and shatter.’ But we assure the world that a peacefully restructured Nigeria will be more productive and more ‘sweet oil’ money will be earned by the world allowing the ordinary traumatized citizens of Nigeria to live out their fleeting lives peacefully.
Despite the mistake of its creation, Nigeria is our home and we want to make it feel like a home that will shelter and protect us. But when a home becomes inhospitable, will you rather wait for it to collapse on your head as has been variously predicted? Is it not better to pack out peacefully? That capacity to pack out peacefully is there if we can make some compromises and create new understandings. That new understanding will involve America’s ‘sweet oil.’ We need to reassure them that under a new Nigeria of autonomous nations, their ‘sweet oil’ will flow better and become sweeter. It is a concession we must make as a lot will ride on this oil until the next century and beyond.
In conclusion, I have tried to re-inform us of the value of narrating our own story ourselves. For a long time, our story has been told by our enemies with negative intent. These wrong narratives have been turned into international policies of engagement by the West to our chagrin.
The consequences are the bloodbath and violence that is visited on Christians and the minorities each day. This narrative is wrong and the policy of sacrificing southern Nigeria and its millions of Christians to a so called conservative Islam, whose leadership is less corrupt, that will guarantee the free flow of oil, that will be a bastion of conservative Islam and a counterpoise to the extremism from the Middle East is dangerous and wrongheaded. The world is courting a greater disaster. As my grandfather will admonish, tomorrow is far, which the Whiteman interpreted to mean ‘the urgency of now.’
Gerald Oluchi Ibe