Nigeria: Mark of the Bills

by Lakunle Jaiyesimi

It’s been 98 solid years since Nigeria, as we know it today, embarked on a 100-year marathon to…one wonders, NOwhere while never preparing for the NOWhere.

Could the British be described as being wise, even wiser than themselves, for merging ‘a’ south and ‘a’ north into a matrimony that was almost too certain not to work and for perfectly riveting that thinking into the heads of the ancient Nigerian oligarchy (some of whom were self-serving to say the least) to a present situation where the latter would assume ownership of the creation of a state called Nigeria; albeit ignorantly.

That this amalgamation is a 100-year experiment, which can thereafter be done away with, if the regions are convinced the union is not working is an open secret. Of what significance was that secret caveat if not a loophole? Or could it have been penned for really considerate reasons; should in case these ‘niggers’ finally wake up to the incongruity of a deliberately mismatched arrangement?

Questions are very important. Why? Because they make us see the dirty, sometimes ugly but essential roots beneath the elaborate chunk that is Tree. In 1914, the world birthed Nigeria – a name suggested in the 1890s by British journalist, Flora Shaw. Nigeria has since then sailed through murky waters, through thick-and-thin traversed deserts. She has seen rough tough times and of course, good smooth times.

It must be noted that in all generations of this new country (new in relation to pre-Christian era, specifically 5th century BC, civilization of constituent regions of what would much later become one nation), there have been similar questions posed. Though slightly modified now and then, they all demanded similar responses. The one question a handful of parties in this generation is asking, irrespective of whatever questions previous generations have asked, is “How are we doing NOWhere?”

This is a unique question posed and yet answered in practical terms by the questioner.
“How are we doing NOWhere?”
“Not good!”
That response, mind you, wasn’t uttered in words but symbolised by the crackles of the guns of dissident (some, well-meaning) well-organised fundamentalist groups. They must have taken cue from the past, especially with respect to events that had the tags of Ifeajuna, Boro, Wiwa, Sergeant Rogers and others who might have been fighting for different causes.

“How are we doing NOWhere?”
We should be able to look around and give informed responses about how well we are doing as a country of less than a hundred years or more than 50 depending on what perspective you need to weigh the question. This is essential because it had been planned at the birth of Nigeria that about this time in the humanistic history of the country, the people must ask questions pertaining to the unity of the country; that is, if we really want to continue to live together or choose, out of discontent, to go our separate ways come 2014 when the country’s experimental timeline expires.

As a country, we have survived many tough times. Times we condescended to making a foreign tongue our lingua franca (I wonder why on earth it should be called that. Microsoft Encarta has the following to say:

lingua franca

lin•gua fran•ca [lìng gwə frángkə](plural lin•gua fran•cas or lin•guae fran•cae [lìng gwee frángkee])
1. language used for convenience: a language or mixture of languages used for communication by people who speak different first languages
2. traders’ language in Mediterranean: the mixed language used chiefly by merchants throughout Mediterranean ports until the 18th century, consisting mainly of Italian with features of French, Spanish, Greek, Arabic, and Turkish
[Late 17th century. < Italian, Frankish tongue]Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Was it intended that any colonised nation must on acquiring independence retain French (Language of French…lingua franca) or any other foreign language for that matter as her official national language? How about if my country uses her mother tongue as the national language, will that still be called lingua franca?

We condescended to adopting a foreign tongue as lingua franca because our diversities, strong as they were, would not permit us to agree on either one or a mixture of our many languages. That could have been a modest opportunity to prove how well we are meant to be together.

Through the years, it has been suspicions of one and the other, acts of diplomatic aggression occasioned by the suspicions, outright offensive against the innocent public by the few Geladas who are always bent on squaring with themselves and a return to suspicions. The circle keeps getting rounder.

With the President’s comments on the country’s centennial celebrations come 2014, Nigerians have been reacting in diverse but unique ways.

Some wonder how the celebration of old age (or young age?) would improve accident-prone roads, power supply, potable water supply, good healthcare delivery, affordable education, affordability of food to the teeming poor?

Former Governor of Osun State and the National Chairman of Action Congress of Nigeria, Chief Bisi Akande recently called the citizenry’s attention to the prevalence of crime, violence and insecurity in the land. “What is there to celebrate about the country’s amalgamation when everything is upside down?” he remarked.

Some leaders feel that though the unity of the nation remains nonnegotiable as she marks 100 years of her amalgamation, some groups have so far not been fairly treated within the confines of the amalgamation. And these groups NOWhere emphasize their legal rights to choose to stay or leave, come 2014.

Further questions NOWhere can only be voiced representations of the acts of violence already perpetrated by the dissident ‘faceless?’ groups , as some would posit probably to make a statement of intolerance. That is, intolerant of other nationalists humping together, saying “We are one Nigeria”. These nationalists would imagine a country of over 160 million heads and more than 250 tongues can and must only be ruled by them, their children or their protégé. “It’s either me or nothing!” While one party is fighting against western education, another is pursuing it with all her might and yet another prefers a separate path – the path of trade.

Somewhere significant down south, there are rearing heads ready to challenge the status quo and walk away with whatever it is they call ‘their own’. Parties are mooting the idea of secession. As ridiculous as that sounds, tossing the idea a few times until it becomes a question should not be a bad idea. How does secession square with our fair expectations and standard quality of life if you know what I mean?

The issue being raised and the public outcry is not actually about the validity of secession of federating units but a return to the status quo, where homogeneity of culture and practices were never put to question. Who doesn’t know that harmony is essential to the survival of any state in the world? And without it, a lot is bound to go wrong.

With what injuries (offences) and scars (memories) shall we celebrate the centennial of Nigeria?

Celebrating this is a statement to the effect that Nigerians are happy, content and ready, in spite of the regional, almost geographical, differences, to go on with the ‘experiment’ of an ad-hoc union of regions while de facto lives are being lost, properties destroyed, tears shed, memories mangled and destinies go up in flames; all feeding the bulging bellies of big sharks.

You may also like

Leave a Comment