A SPIRIT YOU CANNOT TOUCH

Nigeria bears the stigma of being a foreign Creation. This might not be clear to many Nigerians today. But one day, way into the future when a critical mass of a more mature and self-aware crop of Africans have arisen in that space today called Nigeria, then the contradiction and the insult embedded in the concept of „founding fathers“ will become clear to them. Especially when they ask: so who exactly was the first, the original Founding Father? Lord Lugard?

He created One-Nigeria, as a concept and a constitutional unit, and pieced and put it together. But what other creative forces lurk behind the pieces of what he put together?

Now, ever since 1914 Africans have tried to usurp Lugard‘s creation, to give life to it according to their understanding of what they feel should be the best way that this creation can work for them – each according to his own idea – and to steer the ship of its destiny. In doing so, however, they often disregard – as though it were unimportant – the very REASON why Nigeria was put together. The assumption of some that this reason is now obsolete or only of historical importance is however very fatal, because it prevents them from understanding why Nigeria still functions today the way she functions and will continue to function – driven by her internal foundational dynamics and aided by her European creators and other foreign friends – unless this raison d‘etre, which translated into her very modus operandi – is substituted or outgrown.

In Frederick Lugard‘s famous words:

„What we often call the Northern Protectorate of Nigeria today can be better described as the poor husband whilst it’s southern counterpart can be fairly described as the rich wife or the woman of substance and means. A forced union of marriage between the two will undoubtedly result in peace, prosperity and marital bliss for both husband and wife for many years to come. It is my prayer that that union will last forever”.

This well-known colourful quote, however, although it theatrically spells out the economic raison d‘etre of Nigeria (North, keep your wealth; Southern wealth will be used to finance both them and you), it distracts from another – even more vital – piece of information, and that is: the WAY and MANNER in which this coup was to be maintained. Namely, not the southern system of administration was extended north, but – more tellingly – the northern system was extended south. Much to the chagrin of Southern intellectuals, who did all they could to resist it – in vain. It was thus the British who subjugated the South to the North.

The very philosophy and ideology of Nigerian government, from the start, was based on that which the British Colonial authority had devised in harmony with the Northern traditional structure. Basically: in the North, unlike in the South, the British Colonial Power never took away actual sovereignty from the Northern rulership structure. It allowed them to keep it and then ruled the area indirectly through them, allowing them to act as willing agents to the extent that they the Northerners allowed. This is what we learn in school as having been „indirect rule“ in the North. This is why the Northern Protectorate always had a fiscal deficit and was always broke – because the Northern Emirs resisted the British imposed taxes. It is important to understand this: It was not the NORTH itself that was poor; the North was never poor, even though – yes – greater mineral wealth lies South, it seems. But it was the British-created BRITISH PROTECTORATE OF NORTHERN NIGERIA (i.e. the administrative entity) that was poor, because the subjects (Northern traditional rulers and their merchants) refused to fund it, but rather kept their wealth and taxes to themselves. Thus the needed money for running the Protectorate had to come from somewhere else: namely, from the South.

Now we come to the South. Here, in the South – unlike in the North – the indigenous primordial sovereignty of Southern Rulership was broken as a power base and replaced with direct British rule. Thus, here the Colonial Government had direct access, backed by direct force, to the mineral and labour wealth of the South. Thereafter they handpicked mostly malleable agents as their servants in the execution of this direct rule in and direct plunder of the South; a portion of the spoils was used to run the South, a large part of the loot was sent North, and the rest they kept to themselves and Britain. In other words, whereas they had adjusted to accommodate unmalleable Northern Leaders further inland in the North, they crushed the easily accessible Southern Leaders in the South and largely replaced them with malleable stooges. This caused great unrest and created a permanent internal instability in the South that has remained to this day, whereas it was the opposite in the North: Under the frail cloak of pseudo British colonialism, the primordial indigenous sovereignty of the North not only stayed intact, but retained the self-established form that had over a long time concretised mainly under Fulani dominion in those approximate areas.

When decades later in the aftermath of WW2 the independence struggle grew exponentially and it became clear to the Colonising power that some form of visible withdrawal from the driving seat had become inevitable, the question now was: Within which power dynamic should Nigeria, their creation whose modus operandi they understood best, be situated and then left behind. – In the hands of the unstable, wealthier, South into the Heart of whose authority-structures the departing British would have no reliable link or hold? Or in the hands of the stable reliable North with whom they had built up a working relationship perfected around an understanding and a system of joint subjugation and plunder of the South? It was an easy choice to make. Thus one can say: the British conquered the South on behalf of the North, in order to leave the South in the hands of the North and then share the South with the North. It seems the southern woman of means was never meant to be honourably married at all, but simply to be a free-for-all double-penetrated Geisha.

The lack of unity in, and naïvety of, the South after independence played even further into the hands of the North. The squabblings, the distrust, the well-meant coup, the naive constitutional change. Like inadvertently pushing a tiny splinter of wood deeper into the sole of your foot the more you try to remove it.

The question however might then be: WHY did the British find it hard to conquer the North, but easier in the South? Was it just because of the distance inland from the Atlantic Coast? Partly. But there was another, and more fundamental reason, and it‘s this: The North had ALREADY been conquered and was under a uniform authority. Islam had already conquered the North and held it together via its agent of conquest, primarily the Fulani of the Sokoto Caliphate to the North-East, and partly also the north-westerly Bornu Caliphate. It was at its core thus an Islamic resistance of Christianity that took place in Northern Nigeria, in continuation of the thousand year old battle for global supremacy between these two foreign religions. The North had a long memory of Islamic martial wisdom to draw from in their intelligent cohesive strategy behind their resistance to and manipulation of the British.

What this also means, is, the Independence that was achieved decades later in 1960 was simply the attainment of a partial independence from the Christian West, but a remaining subject to the Islamic East. Indeed: Independence from the Islamic East is yet to come to Africa generally.

But, back to Southern Nigeria. One common Religion – this overarching glue – was missing in the South, whose additional proximity to the Coast as well as possession of stupendous mineral wealth, made its conquest by the British almost inevitable. Indeed and ironically it was now British Colonialism that gave to the South, via Christianity and wide-spread western education, a semblance of the bond which the North – in the form of Islam and Arab-Islamic schooling – already long had. The difference being that in the North this religion-based bond was and is also entrenched in a traditional system of government which survived western colonialism. The South has only the religion, but not the uniformity of traditional authority. Nevertheless, this shared Christianity – especially in the South-East/South-South – even without political authority, still provides a sufficient bulwark of resistance against the imperious Islamisation attempt of the Fulani in this last region of true resistance in Nigeria. This is the Spirit of Biafra. Fuelled by primordial indigenous indignation. Again what we are seeing here – parallel to the meaningless ethnic scuffle and jostle for power – is the over-arching continuation of the millennium-old battle for global supremacy between Judeo-Christianity on one hand and Islam on the other. Situated within the theater of unfortunate and meaningless African inter-tribal conflicts. The Fulanis are experiencing in Biafra Land the same stubborn resistance that the British experienced in Arewa Land over a hundred years ago. Africans never really surrender. They survive and thrive. Islam is experiencing in Biafra Land the same resistance that Christianity experienced during the crusades against the Moslems. A refusal to be conquered and converted by cunning or by force. The Crusades are reversed in Nigeria today.

Nigeria bears the stigma of being a foreign creation – in so many ways. Much more complex than the few contexts touched upon in this write-up can throw up. The socio-political salvation for the Africans in this region of the continent lies in two things that might seem contradictory, but which are only two complimentary sides of the same golden coin. One: to re-identity with their own original African indigenous ethnic nationalities and consciousness, free from all the brain-wash of foreign religions and an acquired Nigerian identity. Two (and even more importantly): to NOT let these actual African ethnic identities participate in Tribalism against each other. That is: Be your true self and then unite with each other as your true selves. Say yes to Africa. Yes to Intertribal Love. No to tribal hatred and Tribalism.

Tribalism is the death of Africa. Not the Tribalism of love of one‘s ethnic group, but the Tribalism of hating, or feeling superior to, or not wanting the progress of other ethnic groups. It‘s just the greatest Smallness on earth today. If Africans – educated and non-educated – can really conquer Tribalism in their hearts, no foreign-come religions or colonially manufactured identities would be powerful enough to divide them and make them fight against each other. The day Panafricanism is based on pan-tribal-unity, and not on shifty talks in the amorphous halls of the AU, from that day Africa will start to progress.

The day the internal workings of Nigeria become based on inter-ethnic love and Cooperation – free of attempts at ethnic or religious conquest – and based on Inter-tribal Cooperation, accommodation, respect, love and unity, that is the day Nigeria will start to progress. Until then, BIAFRA will continue to live – more than a call for a state, more than a resistance movement; above all, an undying dream of freedom, indigenous development and sovereign identity. Biafra is the code word for Survival. Indigenous Survival. Black Survival. And it is anchored deep in the hearts of millions and millions of Africans. Survival.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
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NIGERIA 1914

1914: It was a new country. Ogbonna felt it. But he did not know how to convey this sensing to his fellow Igbo people, to his fellow Africans; because he could not really explain, with words and in concepts, what he so clearly perceived – this was a new country. There was something in the air.

He saw it in the Colonial Officer’s gait. It was the bearing, comportment and carriage of someone who was striding expectantly, imperiously, across new found land. The man’s eyes glittered shrewdly, tempered by surprise and wonder, intensified by ambition and greed, crowned by the realization that this was a jewel, this moment, this place, this new country he and his kind had created and finally pieced together. His mind swept over the large vast area stretching from the desert edges up North to the Atlantic down South, and he still could not believe how easy it had been to play all these tribal nations against each other, using some to subjugate others and others to infiltrate some; and never once had they thought of uniting. A man of greed knows how to manipulate the greed in others. His thin lips bore a faint smile.

Watching him, Ogbonna had the impression of observing a farmer who threw udara seeds into a field and, when it was time to reap, found not udara trees but fields of gold swimming before his bewildered eyes, behind which in his mind the realization dawned that that soft dark red soil had been no ordinary field of activity, this was a fertile land of opportunity. He had created a state of limitless possibilities. And while he stood and admired his work, shrewdly trying to figure out in his mind how to retain his hold on it and what to do with it now and in the future, it burned in Ogbonna’s mind, watching him, that this land, this field of possibility, was his own country. It was not the old clan or ancient tribe in which he lived, from which he hailed, and which was itself trapped within the borders of this new entity, henceforth a part of it. Nay, it was something else. Another place within the same space. Another state of being. A different nation. A new country had been built on his native land.

In this new country, new laws would govern, new thinking would hold greater validity. The old would stay and continue to struggle to stand its ground; but over and above everything, master of all, would be – already was – a new reality, a new game, and a new way to play the game if you wanted to get to the top. This new country was not going away, this new order was here to stay. The magical mix of heterogeneous parts had reacted with itself under the catalyst of a ruthless clever chaperoning, and had disappeared into and yielded an improbable, vibrant, new whole. A strange and powerful virgin. Daughter of improbability, mother of possibility. Familiar yet different. A whole new thing. A new, strange, country called Nigeria.

It is a frustrating thing to feel all these things within you but have no words with which to express them, and nobody with whom to further develop these thoughts. They did not come gradually upon him, but rushed in in one flash of clarity the very first time he saw the Colonial Officer in his village. He just knew. This old ground I am standing on, everything, is new territory. We have not just been conquered – reversing that would have been easy. No, our very world has changed. Something of deep monumental significance has taken place, something irreversible.

We cannot reverse it – but if we are clever and united, industrious and fortunate, we might take control of it. It will never take us again back to where we were, but we can take it away from those who made it, and we can take it in a direction of our own choosing. Because something new has arisen on Igbo soil and, as he had heard, on many other African peoples’ soils far away too, but no African has any control over it. We are all powerless subjects of our own Kingdom.

And there the two men stood, staring into the distance. One contemplating how to subjugate this land forever. The other plotting how to get it back.

That was the moment Ogbonna made the decision, at first instinctively, intuitively, and then consciously, deliberately, clearly, to move away from his old life, from the old order. It was a movement of that intuition which had always been an active part of his inner consciousness. This was the way forward. The way out of the past, for the past had been a world of its own… something else entirely. In order to arrive safely into the future, he had to get into the heart of the system that had broken their heart.

And from that moment he began to strive and to struggle, reluctantly yet resolutely, to move away from his world and move into the Colonial Officer’s world. He would take as much of his past along with him as he could smuggle aboard the ship of change. He would serve the system, learn the system, master the system, would disappear deep into the heart of the Colonial Master’s system and re-emerge a completely new, different person, a Nigerian. He would build a foundation for the future repossession of his home, and he would become the grandfather and great-grandfather or great-great-grandfather of you and me.

– – – – –

2019: Nigeria is on the brink of another round of elections, and they still have not thought of uniting, still have not made a serious attempt at forging true unity, nor at fairly and equitably sharing power. Individual sections or power cliques still want to conquer, control and subjugate all the rest. And Greed remains their Master.

The Colonial Master’s descendants still bear a faint smile on their haughty lips.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.