BY FEMI ADEOTI
For 104 days, the greedy ones of Europe were busy butchering, sharing us. All at the same time; and at will. They did it dastardly, behaving like brutes.
The ravaging colonialists never cared a hoot. They were careless whether our ox was gored. Or even savagely bruised. The end did justify the means for them.
We were made their unwilling prey. They plundered us and milked us dry. And they coasted home with recklessness in great abundance.
They displayed outright avarice, covetousness, possessiveness, materialism and mercenariness. These oddities and evils evidently took the best part of them.
They literally put Africa on their table, an abattoir of sorts. They drove sharp knives into us and sliced us into ridiculous pieces.
Just take a good look at the map of Africa. You would realise what we went through in their abattoir. Wicked souls all.
Where we appeared to put up any resistance, no matter how fragile. They ferociously reached for their axes and cutlasses. And they pierced us the more. Just as their whims and caprices directed them.
That was what Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway and Britain did to us.
And they were so mean and horrible. They callously labelled it “The Berlin Conference.” But we were more realistic. We preferred to tag it “The Scramble for Africa.”
Yes. That is what it was and still is. It took place between November 15, 1884, and February 26, 1885. For nearly four months, they feasted with cherish on us. We were practically at their mercy.
These scramblers derived strength from their pretence. They feigned to stop slave trade. The very trade they brought and gorged themselves on.
In their actions and inactions, they were desperate, wicked and deadly. They wanted a platform they could call theirs. They were ruthlessly in need of a space to practice their trade, colonialism.
And they found one. Africa was the entity to explore and exploit. It was ready-made for the invading marauders and looters. The reason they ruined and wrecked us. They inflicted life-long injuries on us.
These imperialists sat in faraway Germany. With foolhardy fiat negotiated Africa off. Going to two centuries now, we are still contending with the same issue. SAD!
They came, they saw and they conquered. They were wild and weird in their operations. They were untamed and mindless. They fiercely bastardised almost all our values.
By the time they left, we were ripped open, naked. We were left in the cold and at a crossroads. We’re still licking our wounds. We wished the Berlin conference had never been. But it was.
How these imperialists crossed our path uninvited! They partitioned us to our detriment. They established their own rules on us. They never asked for our feelings.
All they wanted was to divide our resources among themselves and for themselves. It was at our expense. We are still paying dearly for it, centuries after.
They claimed we were unexplored. The whole of us in Africa. That is why they raided us. See the arrogance in them. It was as if they brought us into existence. They played small god in Berlin.
Instantly, Britain’s fame soared, reaching the climax. With our loot, of course! It was at its zenith. The reason it considered a name change. It opted for “Great Britain.” Before it was never “great.”
Its unrestrained and unlimited access to spoils from that scramble made it great. Our booty took Britain to its greatest height. It dares not deny it.
Little wonder, the “greatness” soon evaporated. It collapsed when these colonies started to disappear. And when we secured make-believe and twisted independence, it naturally reverted to simply Britain.
Our own clime fell to the hands of the British. That put another pressure on them. Our enormous resources visibly awed them. And they spanned through all departments of life.
The imperialists were overwhelmed and confused. They got more than they bargained for in us. Perhaps, that informed their hurried name change.
The British gracefully found a space in us. Our potentialities were next to none. They were quite intimidating. Their co-competing colonialists were green with envy. Then, what next?
These British! They moved to annexation of the territory allotted them. It was a huge expansionist policy. And it was pursued with all the vigour in them.
Their expedition paid off. With their superior gun power, they subdued us. And with relative ease, they carved out two unequalled entities. That was on January 1, 1900. They called them Southern and Northern protectorates. It signalled the beginning of our predicaments.
Then one Frederick John Dealtry Lugard barged into our life in 1900. He was High Commissioner till 1906. And we never remained the same again. Lord Lugard was the new British imperialist.
He had some weird impression about us. He was in great anguish and despair. He wanted a name that would fuse the protectorates together. He was anxious the two entities must become one.
No consultation, no negotiation. He felt it was demeaning and debasing talking to us. The aim was purely for economic gains of his masters. The interests of the people were never to be considered.
With that warped mindset, he went to work. He had a helpmeet in Flora Shaw, a British journalist. She later became Lady Lugard. They were more than anxious.
They needed a name to fly the contraption placed on their laps. The cost of running the two protectorates separately was taking colossal tolls on them. And they were not prepared for that anymore.
From the blues, a crazy idea struck Flora. As if drunk to stupor, she looked out from their residence in Lokoja. And what she saw amazed and amused her senses.
From there she picked our name. She christened us Niger Area. To the drunk-duo of Lugard and Flora, it was a fantastic name. Then shortened to Nigeria. And it stuck ever since.
Lokoja was the seat of the imperialists then. It was where Lugard administered Nigeria. So, on January 1, 1914, he put pen to paper and signed off the protectorates.
It was a faulty and defective foundation. On that shoddy and flawed premise Nigeria was hurriedly built. And expected to prosper. The reason we are still malfunctioning.
The imperialists just desired a union. And they created one in us, not for us but essentially for them. We never asked them for it. Because we did not want one abinitio!
They didn’t mind who made up the union. We insist, we never negotiated, we desired one. They forced it down our throat.
Yet, some queer elements among us would want to further foist it on us. They hold on to their gun: This degraded contraption labelled Nigeria is not negotiable. Who says?
Thank heavens the narrative is changing for the best. Yes, from The Sun Awards, came voices of reason, wisdom and courage. The voices were loud and clear. Unambiguous. They never minced nor mixed words.
One of such uniquely stood out. His voice rang out. You couldn’t have ignored him. Ambassador Babagana Kingibe stole the show. He made our day. We are eternally grateful to him.
You can’t rubbish them. Neither can you write off his profound views. He has seen it all. He received The Sun Lifetime Achievement Award. He opened up. He put a big lie to those who claim Nigeria’s unity can’t be negotiated.
He was down to earth: “I was born in Nigeria. I was groomed in Nigeria. I believe in Nigeria. People of my generation believe in Nigeria. We have no doubt about the fact that we have no option but Nigeria.”
That is how far he aligned with them. His bombshell: “However, I think that a few of my colleagues believe that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. Of course, it is negotiable.” Can you beat that?
“Even the unity of a family is negotiable. Even the constitution of husband and wife is negotiable. The moment either party feels this union is no longer bearable, that he or she will rather go his/her way.”
Kingibe is Nigeria’s envoy to Chad and the Lake Chad Basin. He was once Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). He served in the late ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua government.
He was mindful of the possible consequences. He exhibited his open mindedness: “Are you sure of where you are going? Do you really feel that the grass is greener on the other side?”
Finally: “If you do, sit with your partner in respect, in mutual respect. If you separate, in the future you can inter-relate with love and respect.”
Kingibe is certainly not a small mind. Not at all. And that is generously given. Of course, he has his own faults. All mortals do.
He honestly spoke to our situation. He addressed our burdens and worries. He was perfectly on point. He did not pretend that all was well.
He said what some strange characters dreaded to say. He was sincere enough to say it as he deemed fit. And heavens would not fall. That is how to identify a great leader.
We do not have to deceive ourselves. We must and should negotiate this particular Nigeria. Its unity is at stake. We have to accept the bitter truth. It is a contraption conceived in 1914.
Come, let’s together breathe life into it now. Some call it negotiation. Others say it’s restructuring. All na one and de same! We are saying the same thing in different ways. Simple.
So? Come, let’s negotiate. The earlier we do this, the better for us all.