I have carefully, not to try to refer, the main subject of our discussion, as a country because ‘there was really no country’ to call Nigeria. Fortunately, and out of recurrent frustrations, Achebe before he exited had written that ‘there was a country’ before he exited the failed contraption erroneously referred to as a country. The context of Achebe’s use of words about Nigeria is ever clear even to the most foolish minds. Since I am not trying to be artistic like Achebe, I would rather choose to be blunt as a Social Scientist and I conclude that was never a country called Nigeria.
By extension, there is no one who is a Nigerian as those who concocted the idea of a Nigeria would want the world to know, believe and run with. However, since it was difficult to give their baby the real name, which was Corruption, they chose a closer name that has no known meaning, obvious to any sane mind, other than a meaning that can be attached to some people residing around a corrupt creation.
Corruption in Nigeria and about Nigeria is one of the most researched concepts by scholars and professionals alike in development studies and crime. While abundant literature exist on this, the root of Nigeria as a corrupt entity birthed, nurtured, and weaned by professional corrupt British Colonial Government seems to have received less attention in properly situating the most corrupt nation created by the Britons sixty (60) years ago.
There is, therefore, no need to perambulate anymore if scholars and professionals are really interested in tackling the problems headlong. All efforts at attacking the ringworm while we all leave leprosy- the main root of corruption- to thrive must be anchored on new thoughts, ideas, narratives, theory and practices.
The birth and institutionalisation of corruption in Nigeria was wrapped around elections, aside other means, by the fantastically corrupt British Colonial Government. At Nigeria’s birth, no one was actually interested in the concept of democracy. The Northerners did not and were not excited about Nigeria from the outset hence their very reluctant move towards the so-called Independence of Nigeria. The East, under the leadership of Azikiwe, was only interested in the transfer of power to few educated ones. Democracy as conceived in the West, was not part of the lifestyle of the Easterners being an acephalous or a ‘headless’ society. The West was interested in wresting power from the impostors back to the original owner, which were the people over whom no leader could do anything without their general approval as a people.
From the beginning the British knew that they were only trading but using elections a smokescreen to hand over fraudulent democratic entity and process they jealously birthed, supervised, and handed over to their Emir friends as favours and collaborators. In the words of Harold Smith, the Labour Officer in the Department of Labour of Nigeria in 1959, “British repay favours. We don’t call that corruption by counting votes to favour our friends’. For him, the British Government rigged the first and most important election in Nigeria in 1959 in favour of the North with the intension that the North should rule Nigeria.
To be fair to the North, in recognition of their area of weakness, which is lack of capacity to rule a new Nigeria, and their strength that was in agriculture, they were not really prepared to join Nigeria as a new nation being experimented by the corrupt Colonial British Government. Smith noted that in 1956, prior to the general elections, ‘the Northern Nigerian leaders were very proud that they could not run Nigeria and they might not join Nigeria. They queried how they would have to leave their agriculture for Nigeria’.
He further stated that ‘the agenda of the creator of Nigeria was very clear, so they agreed (the Governor General) that North could not rule but quickly settle for a partner to team up with the uninterested and weak North i.e. Igbo and Yoruba’. ‘What the Governor General did not want was for both Igbo and Yoruba to form a government. If that happened, the North might actually not join and this will run contrary to the agenda of the British to form the fraud called Nigeria’.
It was this mindset and an agenda for creation of a fraudulent Nigeria by the fantastically corrupt British that led to the great manipulation of a people through the election fixing of 1959. The fixing of the election was told to Mr. Harold Smith by the Governor General himself. The likes of Awolowo and Enahoro queried the figures of the election as it ran out of the expected normal curve by their own intelligent estimation as enlightened people.
Answer to the queries raised by Awolowo and others could be found in Harold Smith’s submission “I have to tell you in the process of counting of votes’ “Loyalty is a big thing to the British”. “And the Emirs are our friends”. “The British cannot be trusted” “They look after their friends”. “We looked at people like Enohoro, and Awolowo as dangerous people who might even be Communists”. Sixty years later, Harold Smith was of the view that the statement of the British Government about Awolowo and Enahoro was a ridiculous thing to have been made.
The Europeans (not in Government) too were not stupid; we suspected what was going on. It was a unique election we were hoping for but we were all surprised. Harold Smith’s position on the rigged elections was supported by Prof Anderson and Dr. Patrick Wilmot. Mr. Smith was actually warned by his Senior Officer Major Bunker. He was directed to take all the direct staff of Ministry of Labour to help in the voting process. He was not going to do that and he resigned but they persuaded him to withdraw his resignation. He was thereafter sacked. That was expected anyway.
Why the Fear on Nigeria? For Smith, the British knew the North would be an agent of “do as I said after independence”. “When the British flag was lowered and Nigerian flag was hoisted none of the known Nigerian National Political actors was there. This was unreliable. Those who wanted independence were not there and those who did not want independence were there. This was a farce. We were disgusted. That was no honest of conduct, cheap, low and criminal”, Smith submitted after sixty years of British injustice to all the independent autonomous ethnic nationalities coerced and forcefully rammed into the fraud called Nigeria.
Sixty year on, Nigeria is more divided than ever before, this is why Alliyu and his colleagues have reasons to conclude that “There is no amount of credible elections conducted in such a fractured structure that will deliver good governance, effective political accountability, and enable Nigerians to fulfil their hopes and aspirations just as several ethnic nationalities agitate for a National Conference. Elections have been held in the past and they have failed to meet the yearnings of the majority of the people as reflected in the demands by the groups over the years, because of the structural defects. It is only a structural change and transformation that address the structural defects and meet the desires of the people that can secure the future of Nigeria before any credible election can be of any useful importance as a tool of transiting from one government to another”. Alliyu, Obioha and Lawal 2016.
Other notable Nigerians who have made conclusive statements about the precarious state of Nigeria at sixty include: Professor Wole Soyinka (Nobel Laureate) According to him, “there is an urgent need to restructure and re-configure the country in a way that would suit all sections in Nigeria. Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/05/theres-urgent-need-re-configure-restructure-nigeria-soyinka/
Similarly, Professor Banji Akintoye, a Historian, has opined that Nigeria is likely to if it does not urgently restructure. If Nigeria does not take steps to urgently restructure itself and return to the federal system, the federal system that we saw in the 1950s up till 1965, Nigeria is very likely to break up. https://punchng.com/nigeria-going-nowhere-without-restructuring-anyaoku-adebanjo-lekwot-nwodo-others/
Professor Obatunde Adetola
1st October, 2020