KADUNA, Nigeria — In 1914, both southern and northern protectorates were amalgamated to form what is today known as Nigeria. Both the colony and protectorates were captured independently at first; as it was after capturing several towns, cities and villages that they were all put together to form the province, colony and protectorates that were later amalgamated to form the today’s Nigeria. At that time, the purpose of colonizing Nigeria strictly concerned business, as it was initially done by companies such as Royal Niger Company, African company etc.
The goal of the 1914 amalgamation was solely to reduce colonial administration costs by consolidating the two civil service operations of the Northern and Southern protectorates into one. Frederick Lugard, The Governor General of Nigeria at that time, was the architect of the amalgamation. Lugard served as a colonial administrator in Nigeria, Hong Kong and Uganda – spreading his British ideas and dutifully serving his Queen wherever he went.
However, the fact that the amalgamation was not instituted with the interest of Nigerians at heart, does not imply that there was nothing about amalgamation that could benefit the inhabitants of the newly formed nation. Was there anything about the amalgamation of 1914 that enhanced any movements towards unity that Nigerians were themselves already working towards? Were there any attempts by the peoples of the lands now known as Nigeria, to forge unions – through peaceful engagement or conquest – with each other prior to Lugard’s actions?
Capturing and colonizing the area of Nigeria made sense to the British Empire for the three primary reasons that motivate all expansionist conquests. Firstly, the Nigerian nation offered lands that were rich in minerals, superbly arable and fit for agriculture and animal husbandry as well as rivers and oceans that teemed with aquatic bounties.
Secondly, the Nigerian nation offered inland waterways and unfettered access to seas that allowed for the movement of persons and goods. Thirdly, Nigeria offered an abundance of hardworking and enterprising people who would transform the factors of production with which Nigeria was abundantly blessed, into products and services that could be taxed.
The North had ample land and mineral resources. Spanning three vegetation types – the Sahel, Sudan and Guinea Savannah – the North’s lands could sustain a diverse variety of crops. Grains, cereals, cotton and legumes could be farmed in the Sahel and Sudan Savannah regions while yams and fruit crops were especially suited to the Guinea Savannah. Moreover, the extensive grasslands of the North, and its dry, low humidity climate were excellent for cattle rearing.
Furthermore, the South had land that was particularly suited to the farming of yams, cassava and oil palms. Its forests offered an abundance of timber and jute, and its lands were especially conducive to growing cash crops like Cocoa. The South also had an abundance of coal – a fuel necessary for providing the energy used for transportation and production.
By amalgamating the Northern and Southern protectorates, Lugard could consolidate the disparate benefits that the two protectorates offered. By consolidating the colonial civil service into one and reducing administrative costs, Lugard was able to obtain what modern productivity experts would call synergies – benefits that provide higher gains than would have been obtained by a simple addition of the benefits offered by the sum of the parts.
The amalgamation of 1914 was no mistake. In Nigeria, there is a unique opportunity to demonstrate the workability of the African dream of unification. For the most part, other African nations combine within its polity, all of the contradictory factors that plagues modern day Africa. For instance, feudalism exists side by side with an emergent democratic culture. Superstition and religious fatalism inhabits the same space with an emergent technological modernization. The Nigerian state stacks traditionalism versus modernism as well as community versus individualism. The Nigerian experiment is also the global black experiment. Black people everywhere need a success story from the continent.
Nigeria occupies a pride of place in the black sub-conscious as the world roots for Nigeria to succeed. As the world’s largest black nation, Nigeria’s fate – its progress or the lack thereof, will determine not just how the nation is viewed, but how black people everywhere are regarded.
As Nigeria enters into its 2nd century as a nation, there are a number of small gains that should be celebrated. As faulted as the democracy is, the nation has managed not one, but two successful democratic transitions. The country has shed blood for this union in a brutal civil war and has demonstrated in its western region that Islam and Christianity can survive and thrive in the same space – a lesson that the world, and the rest of the country, would do well to learn.
For one hundred years, Nigeria has managed to move this socio-political experiment forward, even though it has tottered on the brink of collapse at times. However, faulted as the Nigerian experiment is, it has blessed the world with poets, authors, jurists, doctors, scientists, diplomats, athletes and footballers; the nation has brought an end to fratricidal wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Darfur, Cote D’Ivoire and Congo while also spear heading regional and continental growth. What Nigeria needs to do is to address the structural faults that the amalgamation presently has, and then to forge ahead with the urgent task of catching up with the rest of a world that has continued to move ahead in leaps and bounds.
Nigeria, therefore, needs to celebrate. The Centenary celebrations are designed around the key concepts of unity, indivisibility, virility, progress and the promise of the Nigerian federation
2014 marks 100 years of the nation’s union. The Centenary celebration will offer a unique opportunity to focus global attention on Nigeria, her history, peoples, achievements and aspirations.
- Celebrate Nigeria’s history and unity.
- Celebrate the diversity, hopes and great promise that inspires the Nigerian people.
- Reinforce Nigerian hopes and express shared values, to strengthen national consciousness and patriotism.
- Preserve Nigerian heritage and document our history, achievements and progress.
- Institute legacy projects as a lasting reference for the Centenary.
- Promote enterprise development, wealth and job creation.
- Promote women and youth empowerment as well as sports and tourism.
- Promote environmental awareness.
- Promote the Nigerian national image and enhance the nation’s prestige.
In summary, the Nigerian story is one of admirable and remarkable progress. Nigeria’s 100th birthday provides a wonderful opportunity for all Nigerians to proudly celebrate and share in the nation’s story of freedom, achievements and aspirations. Nowhere, and no time, can history achieve total justice. The question is how to make the best of the present, and the first step is to get the history right. Since January 1, 1914, the effort to move Nigeria to a higher realm of unity and progress is the common thread that links the story of Nigeria’s nationalist movement, our founding fathers, and later generations of leaders and all of us together. The Nigerian people are blessed with a vibrant population and a maturing democracy. The nation must therefore remain together to enjoy the benefits of their unity.
– Adama Dickson Salami
Sources: Sahara Reporters, The Nigerian Voice, Vanguard News
Photo: Okay Africa