By Femi Fani-Kayode
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.