The Federal Government is reported to be planning to mark the 100th anniversary of the amalgamation of Nigeria to form a single political entity.
It was Labaran Maku, the Information Minister, who first gave this hint when in 2011, he had said “when Nigeria clocks 100 years in 2014, counting from Lord Fredrick Lugard’s 1914 amalgamation of the North and South protectorates, we will have a full scale centenary celebration.”
This was also contained in a communiqué issued at the end of a two-day state visit by President Goodluck Jonathan to Jamaica when the country was celebrating its 50th independence anniversary and the 178th anniversary of the abolition of slavery (christened Emancipation Day). The communiqué quoted Jonathan as saying that the celebration of the epoch-making event would be a year-long series of events at which the participation of Jamaica would be welcome. “An invitation was extended from President Goodluck Jonathan to Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller to visit Nigeria in 2014 for the centenary of the formation of modern Nigeria. The invitation was accepted by her,” the communique further said.
IT is rather interesting that a grandiose plan for the celebration of Lugard’s discretion —or lack of it — had to be brought to the knowledge of Nigerians in a communiqué issued on the President’s visit to far-away Jamaica.
Nigeria is today in dire straits. This is why we consider it unthinkable that a country that should be preoccupied with how to contend with its assortment of challenges can be planning for celebrations when there is nothing to celebrate. I. F. Nicolson, a Briton, wrote in his Political Administration of Nigeria 1914-1960 that “the most remarkable thing about the amalgamation was that it never really took place.”
THE situation in Nigeria today makes it incumbent on government at every level to have a scale of priorities in which the myriad of problems facing the country will be diligently catalogued and addressed in order of importance. During her visit to Nigeria, the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, cancelled some of the engagements scheduled for her in the capital city – Abuja – for reasons that were not unconnected with security while the Mubi massacre is still fresh in Nigerian’s memory. President Jonathan, in spite of everything at his disposal, said in his last media chat that he could not visit some states of the federation also for security reasons. The Boko Haram extremists keep killing and maiming with their bombs and guns. Armed robbers and kidnappers are not relenting in their nefarious activities. The Fulani robbers and herdsmen have become a menace in certain parts of the country. The climate of fear is palpable almost everywhere. Is this the right atmosphere to start planning for a celebration that will last a whole year?
NIGERIA has the problem of massive unemployment to contend with. The various forms of criminality being witnessed in the country are not unconnected with the large pool of idle hands. The vast majority of products of tertiary institutions are roaming the streets in search of jobs that are not there. More and more of the country’s youth are succumbing to deleterious influences by taking to crime. The resources that should have been channeled into productive ventures for the purpose of correcting the errors of the past will, in the year 2014, be committed to a meaningless celebration if reason does not prevail.
NIGERIA’S plight is known to be self-inflicted because it is a case of willful mismanagement. A country that should be in flourishing circumstances has been wallowing in self pity. Successive generations have witnessed the emergence of cliques that have been riding roughshod over the rest of the population. Projects that will be beneficial to the populace are rarely completed because the objective is not the interest of the people but the percentage cut of the initiators.
ON the other hand, all hands are always on deck in the organisation of ceremonies and fanfares that add no value to the people’s lives because they provide opportunities for those involved to line their pockets. The 2014 celebration cannot be a difference.
The questions that therefore arise are: What sense does it make for a government that has been borrowing to balance its budget to conceive the idea of such a celebration? How rational is it to think of celebrating the amalgamation of 1914 when Nigerians are calling for a national conference to redefine the terms of association of the diverse ethnic nationalities that were welded together without consultation and regard for the people’s interests and preferences? Does Jonathan have the magic wand to solve all the problems facing Nigeria before 2014 so that there can be a real cause for celebration?