Strategic Implications of Instability in Nigeria. (Part 1).

Nigeria is the biggest country in Africa both by space and population. It’s the only country that stretches from one end of the continent to another. It has different climatic conditions from very warm to warm to cool temperatures.

It has a lot of natural features – mountains, rainfall, green vegetation, lakes, rivers, ocean, different water bodies, and alluring Sahel scenery. Nigeria is indeed the ecological haven of this world! The temperature of each region is influenced by the ecology of that region.

Nigerian space is dotted by more than three hundred and ninety ethnic groupings, cultures, and languages. The dominant modern culture in a particular region has to do with its initial contact with the outside world. The north of the country is situated in the Sahel belt, open grass land, and close to the Sahara Desert. Because of its proximity to the desert, there was early association between the region and North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond even before the existence of Islam.

It only took a little time for Islam to spread to the north of Nigeria after it was founded. Islam with its Arabian culture flourished in northern Nigeria in the first quarter of eighth century. Unlike the north with its open-air terrain, the South up to Middle Belt is interspaced by rivers Niger and Benue, close to the Atlantic Ocean and therefore sits in the rainforest basin.

When the Europeans came in the fifteenth century, they came through water, the Atlantic Ocean, and their first port of call was the south of Nigeria. The whiteman brought with him Christianity and his Western mode of education, social justice, freedom of thought, egalitarianism, architecture, transportation, mode of dressing, culinary, and other forms of Western cultural values.

The Southern culture is more receptive. And with this disposition, it embraced Western culture and education and made rapid progress within a short time.

Having received Western education with its attendant idea of freedom and clear expression of thought, the south of Nigeria started to agitate for self-determination and independence from Britain, the colonial master. The colonizers were not comfortable with this impudence from the South.

Thereafter, every colonial policy in the country was skewed against Southerners in favor of Northerners who were more docile and tolerant of the colonizers’ manipulation of the indigenous people. These include the official population figures of the country, top positions in civil service, political appointments, and so on. Independence election of 1960 was manipulated in favor of the North and power was handed over to them.

All the politicians were corrupt irrespective of their region. They were desperate to win elections by hook or by crook and could not correct the social evils left behind by the colonialists. So, on January 15, 1966 barely six years after independence, some young military officers overthrew the federal government and installed a military regime.

This was the first coup d’état in Nigeria. It brought about social upheavals, ethnic cleansing, and structural disorganization in the country. There was civil war from 1967 – 1970 as a consequence of the military coup, more than two million people died. During the war, a young army officer, Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, from the Middle Belt not a full Northerner was made head of state.

Since Northerners believe that the leadership of the country was entrusted on them by their ancestors and blest by the British colonizers, Gowon was quickly overthrown in 1975 while he was at Organization of African Unity conference in Kampala, Uganda.  A true northern military officer, of Hausa/Fulani background, Gen. Murtala Mohammed, became head of state. From then to the present, it has been one Northerner to another either as a military head of state or a civilian president with the exception of Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.

This lopsided leadership of the country in favor of the North created and nurtured disastrous corruption in Nigeria. The Northerner was the humblest and most sincere Nigerian. Their long stay in government destroyed this very important virtue and replaced it with greed and selfishness. In spite of their lengthy presence in the national government, the region has the highest indices of underdevelopment in the country.

It’s the least developed region in Nigeria with the highest number of school dropout, early marriage, homeless street kids, Almajiri, infant mortality, maternal morbidity and mortality, with the latest addition to the unenviable social pedigree – Islamic terrorist groups of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province, Fulani Herdsmen who roam the whole space with AK-47 unabated, and the infamous Fulani Bandits, who have become more notorious than Boko Haram because of their level of criminality, destructions, killings, kidnappings including school and village abductions.   

To be continued.     

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