While many countries which experienced colonialism along with our country have overcome or skillfully moderated some of their postcolonial crises or traumas, we are still exhuming, exacerbating, sharpening and deepening our traditional fault lines, religion, ethnicity, party affiliation and other aberrations associated with our nationhood. We have neither forgotten nor understood our so-called differences. We are daily moving like a people without a history, a people without a past and a present and possibly a future. As a nation, we have become rudderless and continue to search for elusive peace and stability while at the same time perpetuating acts that can rupture peace and unity.
While countries like India, Malaysia and Singapore have made the best of their colonial and postcolonial experiences, we are still blaming Lord Frederick Lugard and other British colonialists for bringing all of us together in 1914, something some commentators have regarded as a mistake while some others have taken it as a divine mandate and a blessing. The difference between us and India or Singapore or Malaysia is in leadership.
The Singaporean success story is about the quality of leadership. The same can be said of any country that has seen real development. Nigeria’s is suffering from arrested development because of poor leadership. From independence till now, we have not witnessed the kind of national leadership that can propel real development. At best, we have produced good ethnic leaders but not national leaders.
There is no doubt that colonialism did so many wrongs to the colonized. Its penchant to create nations where none exists before and without regard to ethnic composition, religion and cultural affinity has remained the source of unending conflicts in Africa. The artificial nature and arbitrariness of the creation of the new nations by the imperialists via the Berlin conference of 1884-1885 is why Africa and some parts of Asia are still in turmoil and perpetual attrition up till toady.
It was in this unholy conference that Europe partitioned Africa and shared it among its members without consulting the Africans. That is why members of the new nations still regard their country as artificial creation. That is why they are still entrenched in their ethnic cocoons and see the nation as an artificial edifice or imposition. At best the new nations are regarded as imagined nations.
Such a feeling of artificiality is why Africa is still backward and why the citizens are alienated from their governments. It can explain why African leaders do not reckon with their citizens and are not interested in the development of their countries. That is why there are so many sit-tight leaders on the continent and why nepotism is rife in Africa. That is why governance suffers in Africa.
The many civil wars fought in Africa, including the bloody Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970, are products of that unwarranted European intrusion in African affairs. The poor development of African languages and cultures and even religion is because of imperialism and its disregard for everything African, including our ways of life. The contact between Africa and Europe which culminated in the evil slave trade which enabled the white men to ship millions of Africans to Europe and America and the forceful colonization of Africa is regarded as one of the reasons why Africa has remained underdeveloped.
At the same time, while colonialism is evil, there are certain positive aspects of that contact between Africa and Europe. It introduced western education with its skills, it gave us a common language to be able to converse with one another as Chinua Achebe elucidated in one of his essays. Without English or another global language, it would have been very difficult for Nigerians to talk to one another.
The imperialists built new roads, introduced modern trade and commerce, established hospitals, built schools and churches, built railways and developed some of our ports. Their missionaries abolished some of our evil cultures like the killing of twins, the caste system and others. Imperialism introduced a form of government, though not quite democratic in its modern sense, it established a form of order with its cruel police and soldiers. It is also worth mentioning that these few positives about colonialism do not by any means of imagination justify colonialism, especially the type witnessed in Africa and Asia.
I say this because the white man would have related with Africa on equal terms and still ensure that Africa benefits from its education, trade and other goodies without going through the indignity of colonialism and denial of our humanity. The racist nature of colonialism and its forcefulness make it an evil enterprise no matter the so-called benefits derived from it. The master/servant relationship of imperialism makes it more odious.
Regardless of the benefits or otherwise of our amalgamation, we must as a nation decide to make it work or decide to go our separate ways as India and Pakistan did. Other examples of such political marriages that later led to divorce proliferate that it is needless itemizing them in this article. The growing ethnic tensions across the country arising from the menace of killer herdsmen, kidnapping for ransom and open grazing are all indications that all is not well with the polity.
They are clear pointers that we have not really evolved as a nation. They are equally signs that we have not fully addressed the national question or fundamental issues of nationhood like the people of India and Singapore. We still think and view things from ethnic configurations or religious sentiments or from the prism of party affiliation. It is sad that cattle rearing or cattle business is tearing us apart because of the nomadic nature we have decided to do the business instead of embracing ranching, which is the modern practice.
The so-called herders/farmers clashes occur because cattle were unleashed on farms and they destroy crops. The looming national hunger can be traced to these avoidable clashes because farmers have refused to go to farms for fear of being kidnapped, killed or raped by killer herdsmen which some reports claim are Fulanis. The quit notice issued to some unregistered herders in Ondo State by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu is because of these issues and herdsmen who used the forests to carry out kidnapping for ransom.
The rising tension in Oyo, Ogun, Edo, Abia states, and other parts of the country over herdsmen menace is simply because of brazen open grazing and its ugly consequences. One way to stop these clashes is to quickly embrace ranching as done in the United States and other advanced countries which produce more quality beef and cow milk than us. The time has come to stop nomadic cattle breeding because it is not good for the cattle and their breeders. It does not translate to more money to the breeders.
Since Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State has offered enough land for ranching, we enjoin the cattle breeders to embrace it. Other states interested in cattle breeding can introduce ranching as well. With ranching, open grazing will no longer obtain and peace will return to the farms and all the ethnic tensions will ease.
Nevertheless, we shall not run away from restructuring the country as eminent Nigerians, including former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has recently enjoined. I believe that restructuring, which will entail devolution of more powers to the states and the practice of true federalism will save the country of the subsisting postcolonial traumas hampering its development.