SOURCE: BBC AFRICA
Nigeria is marking a century of its existence following the amalgamation of the mainly Muslim north and Christian and animist south under British colonial rule in 1914.
The country has since been hit by religious and ethnic conflict, threatening the unity of the state, which gained its independence in 1960. Following a weekend of celebrations to mark the centenary, a cross-section of Nigerians share their views on the anniversary and the country’s future.
Adewale Maja-Pearce, writer based in Lagos
Of all the different groups that make up Nigeria there is no group that actually buys into the idea of Nigeria, they all buy into the idea of kingdoms and fiefdoms. There’s no commitment to the idea of Nigeria as Nigeria, it is just seen as a kind of hotchpotch that you try and grab what you can from because of the good luck of oil.
In 1966 in the lead up to the civil war the northerners were actually demanding that they leave the union until they were told that if they did they would lose access to the oil money and they would become like another Niger.
The southerners, who like the northerners are not a cohesive group, also don’t understand why we should be yoked with another part of the country which is practising Islamic law, for instance.
We need a sovereign national conference in which all the elements that make up this union sit down and decide if they want to stay together and if so what kind of arrangement they want.
Ibrahim Adamu Tudundoki, civil rights activist based in Sokoto
I support Nigeria’s existence as a corporate entity because both north and south comprise people of diverse ethnic nationalities and faiths.
So even if north or south becomes an independent nation it cannot be a homogenous society; then what [would be] the sense of seceding?
Another reason is that north and south are interdependent on each other.
We supply food to them and we benefit from the oil revenue which is found down south. Jobless unskilled youth from the north migrate to south in search of menial jobs while the southerners benefit from their cheap labour, which otherwise would not be not available.
Faruk Umar, media consultant based in Sokoto
Honestly I don’t support the continuation of Nigeria as one entity.
If you look at it since amalgamation [of Britain’s northern and southern protectorates] until today, what did we achieve from being one Nigeria?
We only end up having not only political but also religious and tribal resentments and crises all over.
By the mere reading of newspapers and listening to the radio you can understand that there are serious problems existing between north and south.
For example, the recent sacking of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s governor is seen as witch-hunting here in the north while almost everybody in the south sees it as right thing, in the right direction.
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, writer from Enugu based in Abuja
The festivities are probably some smart chap’s idea to siphon public funds; nevertheless, Nigerians have a lot to celebrate. Variegated talents from the different ethnic groups that were amalgamated by the British have combined to give Nigeria its present cannot-be-ignored status in Africa and the world.
Some Nigerians continue to argue for the country’s breakup. These advocates often find a way to link each latest tribulation to the purely selfish interests that motivated the colonial creation of Nigeria.
But I have witnessed the same knotty issues that play out regularly on the national stage plague the states and local government areas with equal vehemence. If Nigeria were to split, the same corruption, clannishness and miscellaneous chafes would accompany each division.
The centenary is a good time to finally stop pointing fingers. We may not be able to change yesterday, but we can take steps today that will alter what tomorrow will bring. The key is to look inward.
Erabanabari Kobah, environmental campaigner based in Port Harcourt
I am not celebrating anything – the amalgamation coerced people into a relationship that they did not bargain for and within periods of this marriage the legal, social, environmental and political rights of ethnic minorities have been undermined.
The levels of division today go beyond religious lines – for example some Christians in the south and in the east are sometimes not satisfied with the way the Christians in the west handle situations. Nigeria only exists as one country today because those who are angry don’t have the resources or level of political recognition that can make them stand up to say: “It is enough.”
The oil resources of the Niger Delta are taken to develop other parts, and yet we suffer 100% from environmental hazards that the government does not tackle.
I see the centenary as presenting a false picture that all is normal to impress the majority, yet I foresee more insecurity nationwide, more heated agitation for control of resources and a suffering economy.
Solomon Selcap Dalung, barrister and lecturer based in Jos
The celebration is a time of great mourning in view of loss of lives of innocent people and the massive corruption that is going on in the country. However, I’m against anything that can lead to the balkanisation of this country.
I believe that a united, great formidable and indivisible Nigeria is the best for us but our problem has been the absence of leadership that will exploit its great potentials.
We have been brought together from diverse cultures, people and ethnic nationalities as a country but certainly we have not been able to manage the goodwill of those who conceived amalgamation. So 100 years on, we are still in the dark and without a direction.
If things continue the way they are today, the existence of Nigeria as a single entity is quite doubtful because the capacity of leadership to maintain unity… if it continues like this then it may not even last the next 10 or 15 years, you may say it will end as soon as 2015.