Forget all the lovely myths of great African empires and how your own lookalike dudes ran those. The fact on the ground is that Nigerians are not man enough to run states, not to speak of empires. Paradoxically, Nigeria as currently is, is an empire, a rump of the greatest empire in human history. The British Empire.
First, Nigeria has all the trappings of an empire. There are many ethnics and separate languages peoples bundled into the Nigerian Empire union by arms, that is by banditry. In other words, their coming together was not consensual, was not negotiated. By one account, about 300 ethnics make up the Nigerian geographic union.
Unfortunately, and understanding this is both important and urgent, the building of the Nigerian Empire was external to Nigerians or any ethnic nation within the Nigerian nation. Fact is, it was an external force, the British who had the ‘’presence of mind’’ and the Maxim guns to conglomerate largely unrelated peoples into a Nigerian mega-nation or mini-empire.
Historically, the British intended to rule for a thousand years and more. However, Hitler and other exoteric forces didn’t let them. Slammed by the ‘’Wind of Change,’’ the British fled their Nigerian redoubts, abandoning fractious natives to themselves.
In plain terms, the empire that the indigenous Nigerians inherited, was not created by them, their fore or present fathers. It is thus safe to state that, historically no Nigerians or their ethnic sub-nations have had the historical credit or experience of ever building or running a mini or mega empire. In other words, running empires, is an exotic and bewildering existential experience for any Nigerian. Of course, it is indicated that no group can run a system it has no historical or existential experience of, no appreciation of.
Perhaps, many will push for a caveat. What of the Sokoto, Oyo, Benin etc. Empires. But the question is was there any real such things in historical reality? A historical audit admits that the so called Sokoto Empire had no resources to run any centralized mega-state or empire. What they did to circumvent this resource deficit, was to run a string of related but independent kingdoms. They ran an archipelago of independent cousinly kingdoms, not a consolidated empire. Perhaps, what it was, was a ‘’Cousinate,’’ certainly not an empire.
But independence is anathema to empires. So, Sokoto, the nearest any Nigerian group came to things mega – by the way nothing mega – was thus not an empire, perhaps couldn’t have been. Sokoto was a loose federation of independent kingdoms united, not really, but linked by blood.
This last point is important and needs elucidation. There are five minimum conditions for an empire to run sustainably as a centralize unit. Empires are by definition centralized units. The first, is the presence of Rosetta Stone/multiple written languages and translations thereof. The second, is the Apian way/ability to construct highways, in modern terms railroads, airports etc. In other words, that is a marker that the empire can easily project power to pacify any restive natives of the hinterlands. The third, is best symbolized by Luca Paciolo/the ability of the empire state to innovate as to generate newer income or face a Malthusian collapse. Paciolo is a Roman monk and mathematician. The fourth, is to have manufactured empire-wide god/s or ethos, or failing to have commandeered foreign ones and independently domesticated same. No empire may thrive, led by foreign led Gods or scriptures, or by offshore pope or imam. By the way the Iran-Saudi Arabia ‘’cold war’’ is a variant of this playing out. The fifth, is the all pervasive Mandarinate – a cadre of bureaucrats using these other assets to administer the empire state and report to the central power – the emperor.
Now, historical reports affirm that no so called Nigerian empires possessed these qualifying assets. Thus none of them could have been empires as empires are known. Of course, an exclusive definition of terms cannot be proposed for Nigerian historiography. Nigeria is not a singularity.
This brings us to the grievous, if not historically criminal, errors of the military adventurers, aka coup makers. Deluded on a false and forged history of past empires their forefathers allegedly ran, these military boys thought that running empires comes as light as hanging epaulets on one’s shoulders.
The outcome is that they began to senselessly alter, well thought out British designs on how to run an empire or mini-units thereof. To pepper up their ignorant patriotism some of those soldiers conspired to invent American style federalism, allegedly.
And in an example of perfect storm, the epauletted warlords hired a group of equally ignorant Nigerians, the so called 50/49 Wise Men to forge or have forged, a constitution. In the end, these flunkeys hoisted on Nigeria, out of patriotic ignorance if there is such a thing, a constitution nearer Ottoman totalitarianism as it is farther away from American constitutional liberalism. The details of such historic malfeasance need not trouble us here, but interested persons may wish to see: How the Yoruba Fought and Lost the Nigerian Biafran Civil War and Corruption in Africa Resolution Through New Diagnosis by this correspondent.
Predictably, their Nigeria turned into a running chaos. Nigeria became a completely unworkable contraption. Nothing hints at this as this confession:
‘’However, if it is any consolation for the President [Buhari], the power problems defeated presidents Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan too before him. https://guardian.ng/opinion/the-conqueror-of-presidents/
Luckily, the author in the same piece suggests a line:
“The solution…. We must take three vital steps if we are serious about solving the power problems. The first step is to admit that the centralised power transmission and distribution system is not working. It calls for the regionalisation of power generation, transmission and distribution.’’
Maybe for reasons of specificity, the author was concerned with matters municipal, with matters electrical. The larger truth is that, unbundling only the municipals, the microcosms, as it were, is the least of Nigerian’s solution. The generative or algorithmic solution to Nigeria is in unbundling the entire Nigerian mini empire. To repeat, the idea of Nigeria as an empire has not only not worked, it cannot work. Nigerians don’t possess the requisite historical gravitas or brains to found or run empires. The saving grace is to go back to the Sokoto ‘’Empire’’ model. That is to run a thread of related and largely independent archipelago suzerainties. The relatedness, unlike with the Sokoto model, will be not on blood relatedness but on a consensually adopted Charter. To repeat, no Nigerian ethnic has the brains to run or found an empire. So, why waste the Lord’s time belabouring in vain?
The moral is that the Azikiwes, the Awolowos, the Bellos, etc. were as good as they came because they were one and all, regionalists. If an Awolowo had ever made it to the top of the unitary-centralized Nigeria, one he helped to carpenter together, it would have been worse than a disaster. Ditto, for his frenemies, Azikiwe, Bello, etc.
We have warned this nation, let us warn her again, she must hearken to one of Mother A’Endu’s finest draws on history, on human fate. ‘’Habitat is destiny. All else is in entertainment.’’
Perhaps, it would serve us well if we looked to learn from the ways and means of other peoples’ histories. In this nothing may be as inspiring as Europe’s. First of all, Europeans have come to knowledge that all empires are erected to be unravelled. So for them, the genius to saving an empire is not in consolidation. The genius to saving an empire is in re-formatting her as a nation, or better, a nation of nations. With watchful eyes one can say this is what Europe has evolved to.
Today, Europe is a nation of a 1000 states and are all in peace. Today, there is a greater risk that the Lagos Lagoon will soon run out of water, than that any European nations will go to war. The point is that Europe came to knowledge about the futility of wanting the pacification of the fellow natives.
They have therefore allowed all family members to be strong independent units in one consensual unity. Yet this is an Europe that have had empires since history. They have now given it up. And Nigerians, ‘’indigenous peoples’’ want to insist on things that are above their homespun fates? We repeat ‘’Habitat is Destiny but is never destined.’’ Mother A’Endu. Nigerians Ronu.