Nigeria: Celebrating Beyond The Centenary

By Chijioke Okoronkwo, News Agency of Nigeria(NAN)

President Goodluck Jonathan recently described Nigeria’s amalgamation in 1914 as an “Act of God,’’ a subtle way of saying that the country will remain ever united.

Former Nigerian leaders and opinion leaders across the ethnic the country also agreed that Nigeria has come to stay as a sovereign nation.

In all the presentations to the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference, no ethnic group called for the break-up of Nigeria.

“From our consultations in 11 states visited so far, there is no single submission that agitated for the break-up of Nigeria.

“We are happy that Nigerians have indicated interest to live together in peace, Dr Akilu Sani-Indabawa, the Secretary, Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference stated.

Former Head of State Ibrahim Babangida, said Nigeria would surmount the current challenges threatening its corporate existence; as many developed countries passed through such challenges and still survived as nations.

“We have cause to rejoice, during these 100 years, Europe endured two world wars; Russia went through a revolution, a civil war and finally from being Russia to Soviet Union and back to Russia.

“During this time, Spain and Yugoslavia have gone through horrendous civil wars. During this time, several countries in Asia, including China went through civil wars that almost brought them to their knees.

“Yet today, Europe is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. China is destined in a few years to become the biggest economy in the world.

“Yes, during the past 100 years of our existence, we also have gone through a horrendous civil war. The events that led to the war and the war itself have left lasting effects on all of us,’’ Babangida said.

He said that Nigeria has cause to celebrate its 100 years of existence, as the country was able to overcome the challenges.

“We Nigerians have cause to rejoice that even though in our history we have met with obstacles, we have experienced ups and downs; each generation had sought to the best of its ability to tackle these obstacles.

“That we are still a united nation is sufficient cause for congratulation,’’ the former military leader added.

On his part, President Jonathan said that the centenary celebration was moment “for sober reflection,’’ stressing that the country would overcome the present challenges confronting the nation.

“Whatever challenges we may have faced, whatever storms we may have confronted and survived, Nigeria remains a truly blessed country.

“Some of these challenges came at a point that our security architecture was not properly designed for that.

“We are improving every day, we have our challenges, but there is significant progress.

“Let us seize this opportunity to assure our country men and women that we will continue to work hard to make sure that we bring these crises to an end,’’ he said.

Legal experts have also debunked the assumptions that Nigeria had legally ceased to exist going by the provisions of the Jan. 1,1914 amalgamation document.

According to Prof. Akin Oyebode, a lawyer, Nigeria will not expire as the amalgamation came into force through an act of the British Parliament and not by a treaty.

Oyebode said that the process of amalgamation started in January 1900, when the British Parliament issued an Order-in-Council.

The order, mandated the Royal Nigeria Company ( a successor to the United African Company), to ceded its power to the British Crown, which resulted to the amalgamation of the Southern Protectorate.

Oyebode said the British Parliament also issued an Order-in-Council which resulted in the amalgamation of the Northern Protectorate in 1906.

“The amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates took place in 1914 through another Order-in-Council,’’ he said.

He noted that Nigeria got her independence in 1960 also through another Order-in Council.

Oyebode supported the convening of the national conference because the 1999 Constitution, shared some features and characteristics with the Amalgamation Act, enacted without the participation and consent of Nigerians.

Prof. Itse Sagay, a professor of lawyer, also restated that the amalgamation of Southern and Northern protectorates in 1914 was through an act of the British Parliament.

“It was a union imposed on us by the British who were colonial overlords, then recognised by international law, which was a legitimate power to join the Northern and Southern protectorates.

“So, it was not a treaty at all; If it was a treaty, both parties could have sat round the table to negotiate their merger. But there wasn’t anything like that at all.

“The people just woke up one morning and found out that they have been joined together by the superior colonial force,’’ he said.

To Gov Martin Elechi of Ebonyi, Nigeria is already a sovereign nation and Nigerians had every reason to celebrate the nation’s 100 years of amalgamation.

“Despite the many challenges the nation had faced and still facing, it is necessary to celebrate her successes rather than dwelling in her failures as a nation.

“We have had many trying periods ranging from military coups to bloody civil war and other socio- political upheavals; but we have remained one strong indivisible entity.

“The occasion of our centenary anniversary will indeed provide us a moment to reflect on how far we have journeyed as a nation; and how to channel energy towards overcoming our challenges, Elechi stated.

Gov. Adams Oshiomhole of Edo also restated that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable .

“Presidents will come and go, governors will come and go, but the Nigeria nation will remain forever.

“It is important that we pledge our continued commitment to the indivisibility of Nigeria.

“I am unrepentant in my conviction that the unity of this country is non-negotiable.

“We can talk on how to grow the economy, we can talk on the best time to create jobs, we can lament what we have not done right, but we cannot discuss whether Nigeria is a reality, Oshiomhole stressed.

Even though the corporate existence of Nigeria is non-negotiable, that existence would be greatly enhanced by good governance and exemplary leadership.

The Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, Anthony Obinna, harped on this when he called on Nigerian leaders to render selfless service to the people.

He said if Nigeria must move forward in terms of development, those who held political offices must be willing to play politics of selfless service.

“Our public and private sectors are all corrupt and if nothing is done urgently to save the situation, the country cannot develop.

‘’The country needs more devoted and committed leaders at all level of governments as a way to step forward.

“We need selfless leaders with full commitment to the problems of the nation and not selfish politicians,” he said

Nigerians recognise that the nation would fare better as multi-ethnic nation. They have lived together for 100 years. That togetherness should be further cemented with good governance and transparent leadership.

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