In 1885, due to expanding international trade and industrialisation, the British laid claim to a portion of West African land, densely populated by different tribes and people. The following year, a company, called the Royal Niger Company, started trading officially there, while protecting the rights and influence of the British government.
However, on the 31st of December 1899, the charter of operation granted to the Royal Niger Company was revoked by the British Government, which paid £865,000 to the company, who in tune handed over the administration of the colony to the imperial British government. On 1 January 1900, the British Empire created the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and the Northern Nigeria Protectorate. In 1914, the amalgamation of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and the Northern Nigeria Protectorate happened, giving birth to one entity called Nigeria.
Over a century after amalgamation, the country is still struggling with its national identity and an ever-present dissident movement when she is supposed to reflect on her past and possible ways to effect new changes.
Nigeria is an intricate nation with over 250 tribes dwelling in it. Some of these tribes have a similar number of languages, while some have identical cultures and traditions that are interrelated, maybe because the people have lived together over the years. Regardless, of the fact they had lived together over the years, there has been a lasting history of discord and disagreement among several tribes within the country, usually related to the issue of power and survival.
Chinua Achebe, the prolific writer, in one of his books, There was a country, quoted a proverb, a man who does not know where the rain started to beat him cannot say where he dried his body. Still, within the context, the rain that beat Nigeria began more than a decade ago, from the intentions of the Berlin conference of 1884/1885 also known as the ‘Congo or West Africa Conference’ which regulated the European colonization and trade in Africa during the New colonialism period and had happened with Germany’s sudden exposure as an imperial power. The conference was where the continent was divided up among the different European powers, putting the Niger Area (the area that was to become Nigeria) under the control of the British.
Before the advent of the British, and Europeans, the area called Nigeria today, had several civilisations that were existing. In the North, the Sokoto and Bornu Empires were in full bloom, with Islam as the major religion. In the South West, the home of the Yoruba people, animist religion was full-blown, with the Oyo empire at the peak of its strength. To the southwest were an Igbo kingdom, Nri, and a gathering of semi-autonomous towns and villages in the Niger River delta. Such regions were quite distinct linguistically, religiously, and politically.
Colonial powers, such as the Portuguese, got involved in the region through the slave trade as early as the fifteenth century, the British landed in force only in the eighteenth century. It was not until 1861 that they formally got their first Nigerian territory, Lagos got inhabited in a bid to take care of and watch the newly converted Christians and trading interests and also to forge ahead with their anti-slavery campaign.
In 1884, when the British occupied the land, they controlled the territory that comprises modern-day Nigeria, but as three separate administrative blocks from 1900 to 1903. In 1898, to save the rising cost of governance, the British thought of combining the then-three protectorates. The less economical north was permitted to benefit from the rich south, while the Lagos protectorate was integrated into the Southern Nigeria Protectorate. This action was widely regarded and is still seen as suspicious, as it was perceived to give the Northern protectorate supremacy over the southern protectorate.
Having known all this, it is straightforward to understand that the sole aim of Lord Lugard was for maximum economic reasons for the British government and not in any way to unify the people. Apparently, the aftermath of the amalgamation is seen in the recent happenings Nigeria is faced with.
After amalgamation, Nigeria has witnessed a civil war, the Niger-Delta militant rebellion, Boko Haram insurgency, and terrorism even from within its own territory among several others. Oftentimes, we hear our leaders say Nigeria is a geographical expression, rather than a true nation. This rhetoric is used most times when there is a geopolitical crisis in the country, which is usually times.
From 2009 to date, a total number of 35 thousand innocent souls have been lost in Northern Nigeria since Boko Haram launched its first attack, in a bid to overrule Nigeria’s government, to establish an Islamic state. The number of lost souls to the now popular bandits’ attacks increases every day. A look at Nigeria’s trajectory one can only wonder about the probability of having a united (on all fronts) Nigeria, and even if it is not united, a Nigeria that has a semblance of peace and stability.
In a bit to see how the challenges of Nigeria could be solved, in the year 2014, a National Conference was presided by the ex-president Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan were about 492 delegates from all walks of life, representing people all around Nigeria came together to recommend feasible ways and areas to restructure Nigeria.
Today, 8 years down the line, there is no concrete information about what has been done by the group of patriotic Nigerians. Were the recommendations implemented, why is Nigeria sinking daily into the quagmire of bad governance across all levels of governance?
There are many benefits that come with restructuring Nigeria. Many geopolitical leaders have called for outright secession of their geopolitical zones, and their agitations have been met with stiff opposition from the federal government. It is also important to note that a number of them went the way of violence to see that the government is aware of their agitations. However, truth be told, dialogue must come first before resorting to violence.
Political strategists and pundits have argued that regional governance is the best way to go, each regional government should have the power of self-governance, while the federal centre will have oversight duties – more like a confederal system of government. In truth, this arrangement will allow for each geopolitical zone to grow at their own pace, with access to their own resources and using their IGR to develop their region.
In conclusion, there is an urgent need to restructure Nigeria now, as it will serve as an alleviating means to tackle our many demanding challenges that are affecting the economy. If we (Nigeria) want to see change, restructuring might just be the thing to do.