By: Timi Olagunju
Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” – Chinua Achebe
For some time now, I have taken time to conduct research on the question of ‘what or who is the architect (root) of Nigeria’s failure?’ By root (or architect), I mean ‘the origin’. Along these lines, I have also asked the question “what or who is the real enemy of Biafra (or Nigeria)?
In attempting these questions, I have discovered that some believe that the enemy of ‘Biafra’ (or Nigeria) is ‘the Fulani’, some say ‘the Yoruba’, and some believe ‘Igbos’ are the enemies. In all of these, I do not have all the answers, but would you like to join me on a journey in finding the real enemy?
As far back as 1400, there was a grand plan to increase commerce in European nations, and further leverage an opportunity to devalue Africans, for commercial reasons. As at 1787, the Encyclopedia Britannica which was read by students across Europe described the African man, as ‘ugly’. This was later maliciously consolidated by Charles Darwin, who postulated theories to push the commercial interest of slavery (against the logic of science or humanity) to affirm Africans as not fully evolved – thus it’s wide European acceptance because of its commercial value.
Further to that, as at 1806, Africans were displayed in Zoos across Europe, with the teeth sharpened to look more like an Orangutan’s teeth. All this in itself was to prepare for exploitation of the black race for monetary and commercial purposes, which is absolutely unnatural to the human conscience. But how else could the perpetrators with an insatiable love for money allow their people believe such evil? It had to be through structured and well planned attempts at one thing: “indoctrination” or “programming”. It was easier to perpetuate such devaluing of the black woman and man, because of the significantly clear difference in skin color.
With these we can establish that the black race was programmed by default to fail and be considered a failure for personal gains of a few nations. And the saying goes ‘tell a lie often, and soon thereafter, it becomes true’.
Now, back to finding the real enemy of Biafra (or Nigeria). Quickly, you would remember that the current day Nigerian Army has it umbilical connection or birth from the 1900 Royal West Africa Frontier Force (RWAFF) made up of Nigeria, Gold Coast (Ghana), Sierra Leone, and Gambia. In 1956 (four years before Independence), the Nigerian Regiment of RWAFF was renamed the Nigerian Military Forces (NMF). Have you asked why all the countries that constituted the RWAFF, had military coup immediately after independence? It couldn’t have been coincidental, so what was it? Again, I do not claim to have all the answers, but let me explain.
Firstly, military coups were foreign to our tradition – and the military made up of extremely passionate and bright individuals, were trained to protect the British territorial and commercial interest, not necessarily that of their newly independent countries. If you remember, some of brightest military minds, were taken for training in places such as The Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, Surrey, to receive further training ahead of independence. Using the old European strategy of indoctrination (which we established earlier) and the well established British strategy of “Divide and Rule” that worked in English speaking West Africa (including Nigeria), the military minds that made up the first Republic, were armed with the knowledge of military coups, as well as heavy indoctrination around the concepts of the ‘divide and rule’ of power, ahead of the independence of their countries including Nigeria. These trainings were not received until the British perceived the imminence of independence through the efforts of civilian “freedom fighters” such as the Nkrumahs, the Azikiwes, the Awolowos, the Balewas, the Macaulays, the Enahoroas, to wrestle power off them, knowing so well that both the independence leaders and the military were themselves not immune to the ‘divide and rule’ programming inherited from the colonialists.
Now, why did I bring the programming of the Nigerian military into this? This is because the attempted secession of the Biafra region in 1967 was caused by the pogrom that was committed against the Igbo and other Biafrans living in the north in revenge of what the northerners termed the assassination of northern leaders by a group of young soldiers led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, an Igbo, in Nigeria’s first military coup early on 15 January 1966 which was followed by another coup that resulted in the death of the new head of state Major Gen JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi, also an Igbo, the same year.
Now, do we see the military as the enemy? No. The young military minds at that time, unaware of the subtle programming of their minds, exercised impatience and used what they had; knowledge of coups and barrels of the gun to topple civilian regimes, further dividing Nigeria along ethnic lines. Same scenario played out in other African countries after independence.
Some have argued that the reason for the Biafra secession was because Nigeria was birthed from an unholy union. That might be a point. However, by geographical and natural coincidence, most of the countries that form the current day Nigeria, were around the “Niger area”, whether the South, East, West, or North. So could nature be wrong? “No”. In fact, the popular history that starts the chronology of Nigeria from Lord Lugard’s amalgamation is wrong. Nigeria was already in the hands of one ‘George Goldie’(except for Lagos and a few other places), who sold Nigerian to the British for £865,000 on 1 January 1900, as the Royal Niger Company. As at that time, the North and South were described as the lower and upper Niger, but the British employed Lugard, Goldie’s bodyguard to further Goldie’s work in the Niger area, because it was felt that he would understand the area better, since he worked and walked with Goldie.
Let’s not be deceived by using the same programming and divide and rule trap to hold ourselves hostage along dividing lines. Nature and geography supported Nigeria – if not our culture or believes.
It is worthy of note that the divide and rule strategy inherited from colonialists is the same indoctrination our military were programmed to inherit – the root case of our woes. Even the leaders were themselves designed by default to fail, because the divide and rule programming was already ingrained in their minds, not realizing that they simply inherited a failed system, that will further the interest of colonial governments. Well the question is ‘could this same scenario have been a coincidence across Africa?’. Mathematical probability states otherwise – it is the effect of subtle programming for commercial purposes. See, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, South Africa (with the blacks taking on blacks who stood by them during the apartheid). That same trend is what is being perpetuated in Nigeria? Building a history of distrust, disharmony, and a lack of believe in oneneness, at least first as Africans, whether Igbo, Yoruba, or Hausa, or Fulani, or Ibibio.
On Biafra, let me proceed with a brief on geography and history. It is stated that Biafra got its original name from what is known as the Bight of Biafra – and it is true. The name ‘Biafra’ (a Portuguese name) was given by the Portuguese for commercial delineation of a large part of the present day Cameroon, as well as some parts of Eastern Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon – mostly counties within the Eastern area of Western Africa. The name lost its use after parts of these were given to the British and French colonies. In declaring secession in Eastern Nigeria in 1967, the name ‘Biafra’ was chosen for strategic reasons – as it brings back the historical naming by the Portuguese and the other nations that share historical roots to the Bight of Biafra – which was the more reason why Portugal, Gabon and countries within the Bight supported the secession plan. It was historical for them.
Now, laying all these before us, I must state that the agitation for Biafra, could propel Nigeria to discuss the core issues of its existence. This is good prima facie, but only scratches the surface. The root enemy is the early programming and indoctrination of the Nigerian mind along ‘dividing lines’, whether ethnic or religious, forgetting the ‘African’ roots. This is the real enemy of Nigeria (or Biafra), not the Yorubas, or Fulanis, or Hausas, or Igbos – and restructuring is not the way forward.
The way forward for Nigeria, Biafra (or the African race as a whole; including the diaspora) is a need for “Corrective Design”, not restructuring or a call for secession. Restructuring looks to the past to lead the future, but designing looks to the future and learns from the past to create alternative solutions. For example, if you want to be debt-free, you could either restructure or redesign the way forward. If you restructure a debt, it means you only spread the same debt over a period of time, but designing would require not only spreading the debt but also looking for alternative means of income (as well reducing excess spending) to be debt free.
By corrective design, which I plan to expand upon in my forth book “Corrective Design: The Path to Africa’s Prosperity”, we need to identify and agree there is a problem with our programming as Nigerians (Africans), and then begin a structured conversation and redesigning. That conversation should not be a politically motivated ‘National Conference’, it should be a dialogue from the 774 local governments in Nigeria, to the State and regional levels, and lastly, the National level – a bottom up conversation, as against a top bottom.
For Nnamdi Kanu (and IPOB), if you decide to drive a movement that brings to live these conversations (not only in Nigeria but across Africa), then you would be remembered in history, but to pursue a cause of secession in itself would only repeat the cycle of indoctrination and divide.
For the Government, I challenge our imagination on how crippling the default programming has been- imagine the economic and creative benefit to the fashion industry in Nigeria, if at independence, Nigeria had abolished the mundane wearing of suits and tie (in a sunny weather) inherited from the colonialist, and embraced traditional Nigerian attires, as the official and formal corporate clothing? Further imagine the economic benefits of re-designing our education, our style of government, and our laws. Learning from Chairman Mao’s approach of massive re-education of the Chinese people, which laid the foundation for technology and economic advancement, if the Nigerian Government understands its role as a government first focused on correcting the default design of the Nigerian people – we will be a step closer to greatness.
Timi Olagunju is a leadership and design thinking consultant, as well as Nigeria’s foremost Cyber/AI lawyer. Questions to [email protected] or @timithelaw (on Twitter)