By Tokumbo Oke
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 407


This article is over 6 years, 2 months old
Issue 407

Bourne starts off quite badly by stating “anyone that claims to understand Nigeria is either deluded or a liar”. He goes on to repeat the old chestnut that it “comprises so many ethnicities and perspectives”.

His book is packed full of facts but there is no attempt to analyse them.

Another complaint is that in Bourne’s book the working and toiling people hardly get a look in. The first recorded strike in Nigerian history was in 1905 against the imposition of water rates in Lagos.

Workers and peasants have been the most consistent opposition to colonial rule and to the local ruling class after independence.

Modern Nigeria is a creation of imperialism. To exploit it effectively, the British colonialists embarked upon a policy of divide and rule.

While there was nationalist agitation, the main protagonists like Herbert Heelas Macaulay did not have independence in their sights. He wished to see a lessening of colonial racism and more recognition for those like himself that had benefitted from Western education.

The general strike of 1945 shook the colonial regime to its foundations.

Nationalist agitation was personified by Nnamdi Azikiwe, leader of the NCNC. He embodied the spirit of Nigeria: an Igbo man, born in the north speaking fluent Hausa, schooled in Lagos where he learnt to speak fluent Yoruba.

With his campaigning newspaper, the West African Pilot, he became a thorn in the flesh of the colonial regime.

However, Zik, as he was popularly known, was a god with feet of clay.

Like other middle class nationalist leaders they were politicians cum businessmen, seeking power to gain access to the resources that colonial rule denied them.

The British responded to this nationalist upsurge by introducing constitutions that divided the country into regions, each dominated by a major ethnic group lording it over minority groups of a considerable size.

This move was the beginning of ethnicised politics in Nigeria and those nationalist leaders desperate enough to see this as a route to fame and fortune denied to them under colonialism grabbed this with both hands.

As independence approached, there was a struggle between the various ethnic groups for control of the state.

It is this struggle between the various sections of the ruling class for wealth and resources that underlines the political crises, civil war, military coups and indeed the rise of Boko Haram that has come to define modern Nigeria.

The advent of petroleum wealth further sharpened the competition for state power.

Bourne deals with this very well but after finishing his book, one is left in an unsettled intellectual state: the facts are there but where is the analysis?

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance