The workability of Nigeria as one, indivisible nation state, is not tenable 

Opinion Politics
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Francis Anekwe Oborji

The Nigerian child has right to be taught that right from the beginning of our colonial history, Nigeria has always lived under the pretense of what its flag independence founding fathers (Abubakar Tafawa Belawa, Ahmadu Bello (Northern region), Obafemi Awolowo (Western region), and Nnamdi Azikiwe (Eastern region), have, each, described as “unity without love.” This is evidence from these leaders’ genuine misgivings which, each one of them, independently, expressed in the years leading to Nigeria’s flag Independence in 1960 and/or immediately, the years following the independence!

These misgivings of the so-called founding Fathers of the Nigeria’s flag independence, are clear indications that the amalgamation of 1914 was not the will of God, nor of the people from the beginning. It was, rather, a British, colonial construct and imposition on the indigenous ethnic nationalities that the British forcefully merged together and named it Nigeria in 1914. That colonial mistake and imposition is what we all have been suffering in Nigeria since then to the present day, and the end of that agony and suffering is not even in sight. Since the gatekeepers of the Nigerian State, instead of organising a referendum for self-determination among the different major ethnic nationalities or geopolitical regions that make up the country, have chosen to the line of deception and narrative of lies. Thus, pretending as if all is well with the Nigerian State, despite the everyday clear indications that point to the contrary.

The gatekeepers of the Nigerian state have been forcing two contradictory and diametrically opposed jurisprudences, Western European common law jurisprudence and the Islamic Sharia law jurisprudences on the indigenous peoples of Nigeria. The Nigerian ruling oligarchy or rather the political class, have instead of addressing the root cause of Nigeria’s dangerous diversity and political instability and insecurity in the land, been using the two contradictory jurisprudences of the Western European Common Law system, and the Arab Islamic Sharia law system, to suppress the over 250 different indigenous jurisprudences of the indigenous African ethnic nationalities that inhabit that landscape the British named Nigeria. And this is the root of the problem with Nigeria.

No wonder then, those prominent individuals, we often referred to as the ‘founding fathers’ — protagonists at the time of Nigeria’s flag independence in the 50s’ and 60s’, Azikiwe, Awolowo, Ahmed Bello, and Tafawa Belawa, have each, at different points in time, expressed their misgivings about Nigeria ever succeeding as one, indivisible, and united nation state?

1. *Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa:* For instance, in 1948, in a speech titled, “The Lie called Nigeria”, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (Nigeria’s first Prime Minister), had this to say about the country’s unity:

“Since 1914 the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show themselves any signs of willingness to unite. – Nigerian unity is only a British invention.” (Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, 1948).

2. *Chief Obafemi Awolowo,* in 1947, also made the following declaration about Nigeria:

“Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense, as there are ‘English’, ‘Welsh’, or ‘French.’ The word “Nigeria” is a mere distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.” (Chief Obafemi Awolowo, 1947).

3. *Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe:* Finally, the Great Zik of Africa had this to say about the country, four years after its political independence:

“It is better for us and many admirers abroad that we should disintegrate in peace and not in pieces. Should the politicians fail to heed the warning, then I will venture the predictions that the experience of the Democratic Republic of Congo will be a child’s play if it ever comes to our turn to play such a tragic role.” (Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, 1964).

From all these statements of the founding Fathers of Nigeria’s flag independence, one can conclude as follows: The foundation of Nigeria as amalgamated nation-state lacked and still lacks any treaty of love, affection and disposition towards true unity among its components and constituent entities. The talk of unity of Nigeria as a heterogeneous nation-state could be anything but real.

4. *Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello:* This is evident in the statement about Nigeria accredited to Sir Ahmadu Bello (the then Sultan of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Nigeria), at Independence in 1960:

“The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather Uthman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the North as willing tools and the South as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and have control over their future.” (Ahmadu Bellow – in the “Parrot” Newspaper of 12 October, 1960).

The above statement accredited to Sir Ahmadu Bellow, unfortunately, has been the mindset of political leadership in Nigeria from time immemorial. It has led to a section of the country reinventing their stranglehold on Nigeria. If they do not achieve it through ballot paper, they would come in through the military.

Furthermore, the use of force to keep Nigeria one has history. It started with the Fulani invasion of the geographical space later christened Northern Nigeria in 1804. They did not negotiate power with the Hausas, they seized it from them on the battlefield. In 1914, the British forcefully merged the Southern Protectorate with the Northern Protectorate and christened the geographical space, Nigeria, which they later, granted the flag independence in October 1960.

Thus, with regard to the 1914 amalgamation, the British colonized all the empires, kingdoms and fiefdoms in what they called British West Africa in the 19th century. Thus, one thing is certain: the colonization was not out love for the black man:

“It was an imperialistic and racist push for more land, more territories to exploit minerals and other resources from our land. If you did not agree by subtle pressure, they simply applied the brute force. To hell with you and all you cared for!” (George Akinola, 2016).

All these historical facts made most African scholars and elites to refuse to accept the doctrine that colonial arrangement such as amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 is consistent with God’s design for the black race.

In fact, to accept 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria as God’s will for the country is to believe the colonialists’ distortion of the Gospel that Africans are inferior race and therefore must never be allowed to control their affairs. To accept amalgamation of 1914 as the will of God for Nigeria is to succumb to a system that has brought a lot of suffering, torture and humiliation to the Nigerian people.

Was it not as result of preserving the terms of the 1914 amalgamation that we had and have continued to experience series of Igbo pogroms in Northern Nigeria that later led to the Nigerian State waging the three years genocidal war against the Igbos in Biafra (1967-1970). The most tragic of it all, which claimed over 3.5 million Biafrans, mostly Igbos. Since then, Nigeria has remained a ‘pressure cooker of violence against its own citizens.’

This is the Nigerian reality, which we have been living since 1914 amalgamation. The continued presence of this reality in Nigeria today is as result of the unwillingness of our leaders to address the injustices caused by the 1914 amalgamation of the country. The political instability of the country since independence up to today, is caused primarily, by our inability to address the problem associated with the amalgamation.

And the best way possible to put to rest this problem of political instability, insecurity, violence, religious bigotry and ethnic hatred in the country, is by organising a referendum for self-determination among the major ethnic nationalities or geopolitical regions, to allow each of them to decide how they want to be governed. And to know if they want to remain as one entity or no. In whichever case, those that want to separate to form their own independent sovereign nation states through referendum, should be allowed to do so, without any harassment or use of military force against them, or coercion to force them to remain in the entity called Nigeria! Referendum for self-determination is in itself a political process, and the most civilised way to resolve this type of problem besetting Nigeria since time immemorial.

In this way, we all shall begin to relate well as neighbours and not as enemies, within the West African sub-region, ECOWAS. And that will minimise, if not eliminate entirely, the Islamists and herdsmen terrorism in Nigeria and in other parts of West Africa. Because, if truth be told, it is because of Nigeria, as it is presently constituted, that those Islamist terrorists and their sponsors are coming all the way from the Sahel region, North Africa, and other Islamic countries, to invade our ancestral lands and kill our indigenous people and destroy our villages and communities in different parts of Nigeria today. And the government of the day, security operatives, will be looking elsewhere!

Thus, once Nigeria is disintegrated as a Nigerian State and as it is presently constituted, and each component entity (major ethnic nationalities or geopolitical regions), becoming a sovereign nation state on its own rights), begins to cater for its own welfare and security, no terrorists will come again from other places or foreign land, to invade them again.

So, as it is now, our being in Nigerian State as presently constituted, is the major reason why our ancestral lands are constantly being invaded and our women, children and the elderly in the villages, killed by the invading Islamist and herdsmen terrorists. That is, whether these are coming as terrorists in military uniform or as none-state actors, such as the Boko Haram, ISIS-ISWAP Islamist insurgents, or Fulani militants, bandits and kidnappers.

Referendum for self-determination, to save lives of the indigenous African peoples of Nigeria, is the most viable solution for the problem with Nigeria.


All this implies that the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 has nothing to with God at all. God does not wish evil for his people, although he may allow it, but not in perpetuity. That is why he sends a liberator to his people at the appropriate time. That is what the Biblical story of Exodus testifies. It is what the people of Israel yearned for in the ‘song of the exiles’:

“By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept, remembering Zion. On the poplars there, we had hung up our harps. … If I forget you Jerusalem, may my right Hands wither!” (Psalm 137).

All these show that the amalgamation of Nigeria by Great Britain in 1914 was a colonial arrangement that was never intended to favour the people of people who own the land. Therefore, there was nothing of ‘divine will’ about the 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria by the British. The amalgamation of 1914 was forced and imposed on the indigenous peoples of Africa, by the British, in that geographical landscape the British, later named Nigeria.

Extract from the article of Prof Francis Anekwe Oborji, entitled, “The Sultan and Amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914: Matters Arising.”

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