Nigeria - A Marriage That Was Designed To Fail?

At Nigeria's Independent Ceremony, October 1 1960 - Princess Alexandra reads the British royal message. Sitting next to The Hon. Lady Ogilvy was Nigeria's first and and only Prime Minister, Late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

By Femi Fani-Kayode

It is very clear that some landmines were placed in our country by our former colonial masters that were designed to ensure that we fail as a united and prosperous nation after they left our shores and granted us independence. This is not only true but it is not even peculiar to Nigeria. As a matter of fact of the three major artificial amalgamations that the British colonialists established and forged into one nation only Nigeria still remains together as one country and from all indications it may not remain that way into the distant future.The other two were the Sudan (which has now broken into the two countries of Southern and Northern Sudan) and India (which broke into the three countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh not too long after independence). Both of them experienced brutal and prolonged civil wars and periods of ethnic and religious tensions and strife before they finally agreed to split up, dissolve the forced marriage and go their separate ways. There were many other former colonies and nation-states (some British and others not) that also broke up after their colonial masters left because they were also incompatible artificial creations and entities that were bound to fail right from the start.

They were also ”forced marriages” which eventually ended up in a divorce. I am talking about Malaysia (which immediately after independence broke into the two separate countries of Singapore and Malaysia), Indonesia (which later broke up into the two countries of Indonesia and East Timor), Czechoslovakia (which later broke up into the two countries of the Czech and Slovak republics), Yugoslavia (which later broke up into the five countries of Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo, Monte Negro and Bosnia- Herzegovina), The Soviet Union (which later broke up into dozens of separate countries) and so on and so forth. Nations that were forced together by insincere and devious colonial masters and empires and that were forged by the whims and caprices of the imperialists do not often do very well or remain together for very long. And when they do it is a constant struggle. It is like being stuck in a bad and abusive marriage. We in Nigeria have actually done very well when compared with the others and this says a lot for us as a people and tells a story about our ability to endure and our natural resilience. We certainly have strong shock absorbers.

Despite a brutal civil war and despite our many regional, ethnic and religious differences and bouts of violence we have still managed to hold things together and not been forced go our separate ways. We have managed and tolerated each other with a smile despite our very real tensions, challenges and differences. However when there are very real and tangible tensions between the north and the south, when there is an unprecedented level of resentment between Christians and Muslims, when there is open disdain and contempt for what is (rightly or wrongly) perceived as the weakness and incompetence of a southern Christian President by the majority of those in the core Muslim north, when a full scale religious war is being waged in Jos between Christians and Muslims and when bombs are being dropped all over the place by Islamist terrorists who wish to establish an Islamic fundamentalist state in the north then all bets are off and the centre cannot possibly hold for much longer.

That is my fear. It is either that this matter is contained quickly and these Islamist terrorists and their backers and allies are exposed and completely crushed by the Federal Government or eventually Nigeria will break up. The choice is ours. I love Nigeria as she is and I do not pray for a break-up but this is the bitter truth. Finally as regards the term ”Poor Husband” and ”Rich Wife” which some have complained about and that I used in my last essay on Nigeria titled ”The Poor Husband, The Rich Wife and Boko Haram”, I can understand the irritation of those that did not like those labels given the fact that most of those that complained were from the north. Nobody likes to be referred to as a ”poor husband” (or indeed a ”rich wife”) and I meant no disrespect to anyone by using such terms. Unfortunately I did not coin these descriptive terms and so I cannot be held responsible for them and neither can I alter them. These were the words and terms which Lord Frederick Lugard himself used to describe the northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria respectively. He labelled the North the ”poor husband” and he labelled the South the ”rich wife”.

Please blame him and his fiancée Flora Shaw (who actually gave Nigeria her name) and not me for these labels, these terms and these choices of words. Permit me to end this contribution by pointing out that when Lugard created these two ugly terms and labels oil had not been discovered in the South (this was in 1914). His generous description of the South as being the ”rich wife” was borne out of his acknowledgement of the fact that the southerners were hard-working, well educated, industrious and therefore relatively wealthy when compared to their northern counterparts. They also had far many more human, natural and mineral resources than the northerners of that day. Yet despite all this they were still only to be the ”wife” and political power was to be preserved for the ”poor husband” of the North who, though poor, was regarded as being far more pliant and easy to deal with by the British colonial masters.


*Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was the spokesperson to President Olusegun Obasanjo; he subsequently became Minister of Tourism & Culture & later served as Aviation Minister for Federal Republic of Nigeria.

One thought on “Nigeria - A Marriage That Was Designed To Fail?

  1. Stephen Olushola

    Femi as far as I believe readying your article the marriage will definitely fail very soon obviously we the southern we have contributed our parts with a very good contributions before the independent and up to date unfortunately those from the north are yet to understand the actual story of Nigeria as long as you Femi Fani-Kayode came out with this your surprised article this year of the 51st independent anniversary of our Nation Nigeria I am very sure the uncomfortable marriage is coming to an end very soon to my comment about the President address at the 66th UN General Assembly I made it clear that “He Mr. President should have notify in his speech to the 66th United Nations General Assembly that he suspected that Nigeria was fraudulently amalgamated in the year 1914 by the European imperialist lead by our British Colonial master they know very well before 1914 that Nigeria was in comparisons of about 250 to 400 ethnic groups as up to the present day those suspected terrorist groups called Boko Haram that are ageist the western education systems of today and they are fighting for the establishments of the sharia courts all over the Federal Republic of Nigeria
    If you could have being in the position of your late father in July 1958 what motion will you have successfully moved? I could remember that I personally I know very well “Fani-Power” those days in the old western region and we used to came across in the Brighton train station on my way to London from my house in Hove East Sussex some time before his death I could also remember that you used to participated in Polo tournaments with some other northern eminent personalities at Ikoyi Polo Club before they finally move to Abuja
    We are thosethat have the same imagination of the future of our country Nigeria today
    Those that think that we are thinking the wrong side of the story probably they are the one that are getting it wrong we live to see the future of our Nigeria independent and the
    Fraudulently amalgamated of the year 1914 that lead to the 1960 Independent that we are have the celebrations of 51st anniversary on the 1st of October 2011

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