Friday, October 01, 2010

Nigeria: 50 Years of Colonialism

This article is written by Brother AbuAbdullah

The 1st Oct 2010 is the 50th anniversary of Nigeria. 50 years is sufficient time for a nation to formulate and execute far-reaching development programs and achieve many strategic goals. With the correct outlook, Nigeria's 900,000 square kilometers of fertile real estate coupled with its teeming population of 130 million and vast natural resources should have propelled it on an ascending trajectory of sound development and sustainable growth. Regrettably, the reality is far from this. In five decades of self-determination it has little to show that is proportional to the bounties Allah سبحانه وتعالى has blessed it with.

From the outset, the formation of pre-independence Nigeria implanted seeds of decline, chief among them - tribal division. In 1939 the British colonialists carved out 3 regions dominated by the major tribes of the Igbo from the East, the Yoruba of the West and the Hausa-Fulani of the north resulting in an uneasy coexistence lasting beyond independence. Instead of creating social cohesion, the colonial construct introduced a confused national identity concerning what it means to be Nigerian that is inadequately defined to this day (as attempted by the "federal character principle", formulated in 1975). The absence of a comprehensive and distinct unifying factor amplified the ethnic disparity of over 250 ethno-linguistic groups. The situation remained unresolved until the departure of the British in 1960. Ethnic enmity, vying for political supremacy and military coups and counter coups, became the defining factor of the post independence relationship. The Igbo's attempt to secede from this unstable arrangement ignited the flames of the Biafra Civil War, which lasted from July 1967 to January 1970, claiming nearly 2 million lives to the war and famine.

The Federal system of governing imposed by the colonial masters accentuated the divisions of society contributing to Nigeria's defragmentation. This is most clearly displayed at the Local Government Area (LGA) level which have multiplied six-fold since 1963, from 131 to 774. In the absence of viable options, this weak man-made system drives the disheartened to identify with alternative structures based on faith, ethnicity or region. This exacerbates the issue as it contributes to further breakdown of social cohesion in society, spiraling dangerously into decline. Inter-communal tensions (like the recurring crises in Plateau State) that have caused more than 14,000 deaths since 1999 and displaced more than 3 million are direct outcomes of this. Creeping State failure is a widespread consequence of this cycle.

A system of Failure
Systemic failure has also caused shrinkage of citizen loyalty and gradual disconnection between the public and the State. Consequently, Nigeria's citizens have ceased to expect reliable social services, functioning public utilities, infrastructure, security and corruption-free administration from their government. It is a deplorable, yet common, feature in this resource rich country to discover households generating electricity for personal consumption from generator units, sinking boreholes or wells for water supply and employing private security firms for their safety requirements.

Nigeria's misfortunes were immediately blamed on military dictators that ruled the country for 29 out of the 50 years of its post-independence. Six successful military coups contributed to the crystallization of this opinion. Consequently, tremendous public expectations accompanied the 20 May 1999 transfer of power from General Abubakar's military government to civilian rule of General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd). Nonetheless, the transfer to democracy did little to improve the lot of the majority of the population. High hopes were completely dashed as continuing political malpractice, economic banditry and social frustration were the only ‘dividends of democracy'. Nigerians deplored the new situation observing that corruption was as high as under military rule or even higher. Muted calls to revert to military rule started to surface in some quarters.

The Majority of the population do not see an exit strategy from the ills and social upheavals bedeviling Nigerian society. A sense of hopelessness and despair prevails causing large swathes of the masses to retreat into the comfort of prayer, pursuing religious deliverance from temporal adversity. Religious establishments and networks have sprouted everywhere catering to, or cashing in on, this new spiritual commodity.

The despair of the population is only matched by its extreme level of poverty. The scale of economic decrepitude is most apparent in the oil sector. It is remarkable that a nation, which is the world's seventh largest crude oil producer, has 70 percent of its population eking out a living on less than N150 ($1) a day. Nigeria has earned more than $400 billion in oil revenues since the early 1970's yet it has not transformed into a better standard of living for the masses. Overdependence on oil has skewed the economy rendering once productive areas like agriculture and solid minerals into non-performing sectors. Despite the massive exports of 2.1 million barrels of oil per day Nigeria fails to refine sufficient petroleum products for its own domestic consumption forcing it to resort to importation. An industrialized base to support national development never materialized from the riches gushing from the ground either. Industrialization projects were liable to experience slow and gradual deaths. An ambitious steel industrialization project at Ajaokuta Steel Mills was started in 1979. 31 years later the complex is yet to roll off a single steel sheet, having succumbed to Nigeria's unwritten rule of non-sustainability.

The nation began to unravel from Independence and the subsequent descent into chaos of the first Republic set an unfortunate tone for the future of the country. Nigeria appears doomed to oscillate between the twin disasters of military rule and ‘the democratic experiment'. It is in freefall as the political-elite class scurry to plunder its wealth. Racially based secessionist groups like O'Odua People's Congress (OPC) from the Yoruba and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) of the Igbos emerged, indicating persistent frailty in the governing system of the country.

Nigeria's chronic problems transcend proposed remedial solutions like constitutional reform, administrative transparency and institution building or mere policy recommendations. What is required is a complete alternative outlook that will transform the foundation of society and change the current systems. This is a practical possibility with historical precedence.

This alternative is Islam, which has a unique propensity to initiate quantum changes in society. This derives from its universal viewpoint that provides solutions to human problems in life. The universal viewpoint, which is the aqeedah, maintains that Allah سبحانه وتعالى created the universe and all that it contains, organizing and sustaining it. Messengers were sent to direct mankind to the recognition of their Creator and subsequent submission to the Organizer of life. Man's devotion and servitude is expressed by his adherence to the systems that resolve the numerous challenges he faces in life. These systems came codified in general principles, rules and regulations best known as the Shari'ah. The widespread misconception that Islam is a limited set of personal beliefs and rituals is a secularized view that truncates its real scope and purpose.

When the Khilafah State applied the Islamic ideology, it completely eradicated tribal discrimination, a source of social friction and division in Nigeria today. It replaced it with the Islamic bond, forming a stable foundation for a cohesive society. History bears witness to this unparalleled success. It transformed peoples, like the Arabs wallowing in the abyss of darkness and bloody tribal feuds, to the elevation of the ideological bond. Consequently, the majority of the peoples which Islam ruled left their religions and entered the deen of Islam willingly and not by force. Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ
"There is no compulsion in religion." [2:256]

Non-Muslims of Nigeria will not be forced to abandon their religion to embrace the aqeedah of Islam; their lives, rituals, wealth, customs and places of worship are protected. The Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

"He who hurts a dhimmi hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys Allah." [Tabarani]

"He who kills a dhimmi enjoying the oath of Allah and the oath of His Messenger, then he has betrayed the oath of Allah so he shall not smell the scent of Jannah; its scent is found the distance of a seventy year march." [Tirmidhi]

Yet the Shari'ah of Islam is applied upon them to solve their societal problems. Islam views man in his capacity as a human being who requires solutions to his problems in life. Non-Muslims in Nigeria taste the bitter pills of insecurity, corruption, resource mismanagement and theft of public wealth by officeholders, similar to Muslims. The Shari'ah of Islam addresses these types of numerous societal problems and solves them comprehensively.

To cite an example, wealth in the Khilafah state is divided into three categories: private property, public property and state property. It is the state that maintains and protects these in accordance with the laws of the Shari'ah.

Focusing on Public property the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
"People are partners in three; Water, Pastures and Fire." [Abu Daud, Ibn Maajah]

The term 'fire' here includes all forms of energy used as fuel in industry. The category of Public ownership includes all minerals whether they are solids like copper, iron or gold, liquid like oil or gaseous like natural gas. The state ensures that every citizen gets his rightful share of public property. Oilfields and the mineral mines in the Khilafah state are not owned by the state where it exercises its will over such resources similar to the Communist system. Nor do individuals own it, as is the case in the Capitalist system.

In Nigeria all oil production is by means of joint ventures with foreign oil companies like between Shell Oil and the government known as Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC). Shell Nigeria accounts for fifty percent of Nigerian's total oil production. The company has more than 100 producing oil fields, and a network of more than 6,000 kilometers of pipelines, running through 87 flow stations. Mixing up the categories of property by permitting ownership of public property by private individuals and enterprises on grounds of free market economy, privatization and globalization invariably results in fraud and institutionalized looting of public resources. The primary focus of private business is profit-making, public interests and environmental matters are not accounting measurements on balance sheets. This encourages corruption of officeholders as private companies resort to illegal practices like bribery to obtain favorable contracts or licensing rights. Officeholders collude with private enterprise, using political power to misappropriate valuable resource for personal gain. The Halliburton Bonny Liquefied Natural Gas Project bribery scandal that started in 1994 is an example.

Inadequate oil wealth distribution also illustrates the dangerous outcomes associated with improper classification of property in the current capitalist framework. The ‘derivation principle' designed to address oil revenue allocation since 1960 through to 2004 failed to quell disgruntled elements within the oil producing areas. This contributed to the rise of militant groups like Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF) and Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) who seek economic redress through violent means.

The problem is not confined to the economic sphere alone, it manifests in ruling as well. Drawbacks associated with military rule like election rigging, national resource mismanagement and strong-arm politics were found to equally exist in civilian rule also. Between 2000 and 2007 Obasanjo's government spent $16 billion fixing the endless power problems with no results after 7 years except a huge gap in the national reserves. Close scrutiny of these bitter experiences reveals the underlying factor hindering the revival of Nigeria is the continued application of the man-made system ruining the lives of the people.

Islam is the only ideology capable of building society on a sound footing, securing the lives of the people and guaranteeing the rights of citizen's, whether Muslim or not. It is the only alternative left for Nigeria today, the exit strategy from British colonial legacy. Nigeria should not spend another 50 years to learn this fact.

1 comment:

abubakr said...

jazakallah khair...for eye opener.