Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy Amalgamation

‘Yes, Nigeria was amalgamated by our colonial masters in 1914. By 1st January next year, Nigeria as a state will be 100 years old. But I totally agree with our man of God that it was not by chance, it was ordained by God.’
                                                                                         President Goodluck Jonathan

According to one reading of history, we will be one hundred come tomorrow. That was when the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was amalgamated with the Northern Nigeria Protectorate to realize the country we now have. The Jonathan administration is set to mark it in grand style, which means that a coterie of the usual suspects is in for another bonanza. Meanwhile, there is much discussion concerning whether the document which amalgamated us has an opt-out clause; and, if so, whether that means the end of Nigeria as presently constituted. Nobody seems to know the details, including the many professors in our proliferating universities who should have long since provided us with footnoted tomes on what would appear to be an issue of some importance, at least on the surface, which is what Nigeria is all about anyway, hence the impending celebrations with nothing to celebrate.
More troubling again is that nobody seems particularly perturbed by the secrecy surrounding what should otherwise be regarded as a fairly basic document given its implications for our future, especially since the amalgamation itself has been controversial since it was first enacted. It is indicative, for instance, that not a single newspaper appears to have considered invoking the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy, content as they are to merely repeat what everybody else is saying, and so much for their reputation for confronting ‘duly constituted authority’, as the saying has it.
As to whether there is such a thing as a north-south divide is open to question. Indeed, one may go further and see it as one of the many myths we labour under in a nation that is itself a fiction, hence our inability to cohere in any meaningful way. The so-called ‘north’ and the so-called ‘south’ were themselves the results of a series of amalgamations of disparate kingdoms (or fiefdoms, or republics, or whatever you will) until they took the final shapes they did in order to be finally brought together under one jurisdiction, the logical end of the imperial project the president now equates with God, rather like Moses handing down the Ten Commandments. It is written in stone and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. No wonder only the chosen are privy to its contents.
Indeed, the problem isn’t with the document per se, which might stay in the British Foreign Office (or wherever it is archived) for the next century for all it ought to matter to us, only it does matter, which is at the heart of the tragedy of a country which promises so much but delivers so little. Nor is it the only illegitimate document which continues to hoodwink us. Absolutely everybody is in agreement that the ‘We, The People’ preamble to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which is easily downloadable in PDF, tells a lie against itself, including the fact that we somehow operate a federal republic modelled on America, where every local government maintains its own police force, while our own state governments are even forbidden from counting the people (I almost said citizens) they are supposed to govern.
Not that the majority of Nigerians believe in any of this, not being able to read anyway, as was designed to be the case, and which will yet backfire on this coterie which perpetuates the myths it feeds on, the senate president himself being either north-central or middle-belt, depending on the source of your livelihood. Call us a wretched people if you like, which everybody else believes anyway. And why wouldn’t they, what with the domestic epistles flying about that are our excuse for the long-awaited national discourse we are intent on evading, perhaps waiting on God – or ‘our colonial masters’ – evoked by a president who appears to believe them synonymous; who believes, in other words, in the sanctity of a document which apparently birthed us, and under which we have been labouring an entire century in order to deliver a stillbirth.
So what is to be done? This was the exasperated question Lenin asked on the eve of the Russian revolution, whereupon the revolution happened. Few would doubt that Nigeria is ripe for such an eventuality, caught as we are between an impervious, decadent ruling class and the teeming, impoverished masses with precious little hope in any forward movement that will alleviate their blighted lives any time soon. Added to the frenzy already attendant on the approaching 2015 elections, which can only be expected to ratchet up once we slip into 2014, and the likelihood of an implosion next year seems like an attractive bet.
Not that I would wish for it. Any student of history knows only too well that the terror always follows quickly in its wake but then the study of history is not something we have encouraged in this country (and deliberately so), which is why we don’t appear bothered by the absence of even the most rudimentary documents that brought us together and are content instead with speculation and hearsay – and any number of opinions - over the facts.
On that note: Happy Amalgamation.
© Adewale Maja-Pearce
Adewale Maja-Pearce is the author of several books, including Loyalties
and Other Stories, In My Father's Country, How many miles to Babylon?, A
Mask Dancing, Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, From Khaki to Agbada,
Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays, A Peculiar Tragedy, and
Counting the Cost, as well as the 1998 and 1999 annual reports on human
rights violations in Nigeria. He also edited The Heinemann Book of African
Poetry in English, Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal, Christopher Okigbo:
Collected Poems, The New Gong Book of New Nigerian Short Stories,
and Dream Chasers.

Click here to see Maja-Pearce's
amazon.com page: http://www.amazon.com/Adewale-Maja-Pearce/e/B001HPKIOU


  1. Great point about the absence of research/researchers (although a lot of university staff claim to "conduct researches". What is to be done is to raise many who would ask questions and care about truth...
    Happy 2014 to you. Thank you for your kindness over the past couple of years.