Nigeria @61: Her Glory And Beautiful Corruption

By SunnyGreen Itodo

NIGERIA, the acclaimed ‘Giant of Africa’ nestled down almost at the center of the curve on the map of the African continent. It is bordered by Niger on the north, by Chad on the northeast, by Cameroon on the east, by Benin on the west, and by the Gulf of Guinea on the south in the Atlantic Ocean with a total boundary length of 4,900 km (3,045 mi), of which 853 km (530 mi) is coastline. Nigeria occupies an area of 923,769 square kilometers, with a population of over 211 million (World Bank estimate). Its highest point is Chappal Waddi Mountain (also called the Mountain of death) 2,419 meters (7,936 ft), while its lowest point is the Atlantic Ocean, at sea level 0 m.

The Nigeria is blessed with fine vegetation with arable land of 82 million hectares. The “Green” color on the Nigerian flag denote its rich vegetation and fertile soil. While the “White” signifies peace. The black shield on the Coat of arms of Nigeria also represents the country’s fertile soil. The wavy white pall symbolizes the confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers at Lokoja. The two supporting horses on each side represent dignity. The eagle represent strength. The yellow flowers on the grassy field represent Nigeria’s national flower, while the green and white bands on the top of the shield represent rich soil. The Coat of arms also carries the motto of Nigeria which is “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress”.

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The vegetation of Nigeria is so rich that it is not just the national symbol but also the mainstay of the Nigerian economy viz agriculture before the discovery of oil and gas. The country is covered by three types of vegetation: forests (is mangrove swamp, fresh water swamp, and rain forest), savannahs (Guinean forest-savanna mosaic, Sudan savannah, and Sahel savannah), and montane land which is mainly found in the mountains near the Cameroon border.

Nigeria experiences two seasons: the wet season (rainy season) which is normally from April to October, and the dry season (harmattan) which is from November to March. With adequate rainfall, good humidity and abundant sunshine, the Nigerian climate supports the cultivation of cash crops like; cocoa, oil palm, cotton, groundnuts, rubber, timber, ginger and sesame. Food crops like cassava, yam, maize, sorghum, rice and millet are cultivated throughout the country. Nigeria’s climate also supports animal husbandry mostly practiced by nomadic Fulani herders.

Major geographical features in Nigeria include; the River Niger which the country is named for (Nigeria means “Area around River Niger”), Benue River, Adamawa Plateau, Mambilla Plateau, Jos Plateau, Obudu Plateau, Sahara dessert, Lake Chad, and Niger Delta.

The country is richly endowed with natural resources like oil/gas, iron ore, lead-zinc, tantalite/columbite, marble, coal, bitumen, kaolin, tin-tantalum, gold, manganese, limestone, uranium, and among others.

But, the glory of Nigeria goes beyond its rich and beautiful geography; it goes down to its people. The greatness of Nigerian people predates the Nigerian state.

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The Nigeria of today is an amalgam of scores of independent empire-states, kingdoms, chiefdoms, emirates, and autonomous communities. The country is made up of over 250 ethnic groups, languages and cultures majority of which are the Hausa, Igbo and the Yoruba. The most popular of all Nigerian pre-colonial empires are the Kanem-Bornu Empire which reached parts of Chad and Northern Cameroon at its zenith, the Benin Empire which extended as far as present day Benin Republic, the Oyo Empire which conquered lands and collected tributaries from as far as Togo and Benin Republic, and the Sokoto/Fulani Caliphate which exercised influence over almost all of today’s Northern Nigeria, parts of Niger Republic, Benin Republic, Chad and Cameroon. The Ife and Nok Kingdoms were famous for terracotta and art. The Igbo autonomous communities had beautiful democracies at the village Assembly level, as we saw in Chinua Achebe’s books.

The journey of nationhood for Nigeria started with the amalgamation of the Northern Nigeria Protectorate and the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria in 1914 by the first Governor General of Nigeria, Lord Frederick Lugard, after the conquering of the component areas by the British Empire.

Nigeria led by its founding Fathers; Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and others fought and won its Independence in 1960 (October 1) after forty-six years of colonial rule.

At independence, Nigeria posed a picture of a glorious future. But, the corruption of Nigeria was/is almost as ‘beautiful’ as its glory. The corruption was deeply rooted in its shaky foundation. Nigeria was nothing short of “a mere geographical expression”, apologies to Chief Awolowo. There was no Nigerianism, no clear vision. Our “heroes” built regional patriotisms, parties and solidarities instead of national unity. And as a result Nigeria was a nation sitting on a powder keg waiting to explode. And it did eventually: the Nzeogwu coup of 1966 that claimed the lives of some of Nigeria’s foremost nationalists including Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Premier of the North, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the West, Samuel Akintola, and Finance Minister, Festus Okotie-Eboh. What followed was another bloody counter-coup, and then a civil war. The war claimed over 2 million civilian lives mostly from famine.

After the end of the civil war, General Yakubu Gwon, and successive military and civilian governments did everything to make us forget the Biafran war, except to address the root causes of the war. In fact, both the Nigerian and Biafran sides often shy from the crucial role resources control played in the build up to the war.

The discovery of oil in Nigeria has been termed by many as a “missed blessing”. Would you blame them? Because of the juicy proceeds from the liquid gold we have tempered with our unity and existence, went to war against ourselves, lost millions of our countrymen, destroyed our budding economy, had series of coups, counter-coups and animal kingdom-styled politickings for 61 years with nothing to show for it!

Nothing has fueled corruption in Nigeria more than oil. Crude oil has birthed militancy in the Niger Delta. And the same oil has made our government put aside its sovereignty to negotiate with terrorists.

The proceeds from the corruption of crude oil is the reason why the government is adamant about diversifying the economy. It is the reason why most state governments don’t want to explore the potentials of their states for the benefits of the citizens, as they are reassured of monthly allocations from the oil-dependent Federal treasury.

The implication of this is more corruption; corruption equals embezzlement, embezzlement equals deprivation and underdevelopment, deprivation and underdevelopment equal poverty and illiteracy, poverty/hunger equals grievances and tensions, tension equals terrorism and uprisings. That is how we arrived where we are today.

Today, Nigeria is the poverty Capital of the world despite huge oil wealth. According to UNICEF one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria. Nigeria is the third most terrorized nation in the world according to the Global Terrorism Index. On another sad note, Nigeria is ranked the most corrupted nation in the world according to the 2021 U.S. News and World Report rankings.

In today’s Buhari’s Nigeria, you have the Boko Haram/ISWAP in the North East, Bandits in the North West, Hoodlums/OPC in the South West, unknown Gunmen/IPOB’s ESN in the South East, kidnappers in the Niger Delta, and Killer Herdsmen in the Middle Belt, and every part of the country. Calls for secessions have become the new swan songs in the land. Today, we have the Biafra Republic agitators in the Southeast, Oduduwa Republic agitators in the Southwest, Niger Delta Republic agitators in the Southsouth, Middle Belt Republic agitators in Central Nigeria, Arewa Republic agitators in the far North. And still, there are tribal agitations for miniature republics like; Ibom Republic by the Ibibio/Akwa-Ibom, Kwararafa Republic by the Jukuns, Takuruku Republic by the Tivs, Ijaw Nation by the Ijaws, Bini or Edo Republic by descendants of the old Benin Empire, and so on.

But, like the late literary icon, Chinua Achebe said, “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”

I leave you to ponder on Achebe’s immortal words in this season of sober reflection, especially with 2023 on the horizons.

Least I forget, Happy Independence!

(Sunny Green Itodo
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