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Colonislism is in simple terms a process of social, economic, and political control of a country by another country. The word was generally used to describe the activities, actions, and policies of European countries on mostly African countries from the 18th up until the 19th century. Considering Nigeria’s ethnic composition, it can be termed rightly as a country of countries; and although colonialism has gone on to be replaced by neocolonislism, both colonialism and neocolonislism are currently at play in Nigeria 60 years after independence from Britain. In Nigeria today, what gives is black on black colonialism.
In the early decades of Nigeria’s history, the colonislism of the rest of Nigeria by a section of Northern Nigeria could be gleaned mostly by keen observation, but in recent times it has become brazen and too visible to ignore. In the last few years the Nigerian government has committed an unfair proportion of funds running into billions of dollars, earned from the exploration of crude in the Niger Delta, for infrastructural projects in Northern Nigeria, in or around the neighbouring Niger Republic, or capable of benefiting it, at the expense of the rest of the country and the Niger Delta in particular.
It is important to note that the Niger Delta has been Nigeria’s main source of budget funding, revenue generation, and foreign exchange earnings since as early as the 1970s. In this fifty year period, what the Niger Delta has benefited from this forced benevolence has been a denigrating 13% “derivation”, entrenched underdevelopment, large scale unemployment and underemployment, and environmental degradation so thoroughly devastating that the UNEP report on Ogoni, which is the most comprehensive of any section of the region, shows that it would take three decades for the environment to return to its original state. Bearing this in mind and the very fact that all two refineries in the region are not functional, in February 2018, the Nigerian government announced plans to fund the setting up of a refinery in Niger Republic.
As was typical with British colonialism, where the local population was selected for the colonialism of Nigeria, in the colonislism that affects the Niger Delta, a Niger Deltan was selected for this purpose. Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, himself from gravely affected Delta state, whose refinery should be a metal scrapyard, signed the announcement statement.
Two years after, while the refineries in the Niger Delta continue to sink to new levels of deterioration, the new Minister of State for Petroleum from the Niger Delta, Timipre Sylva, supervised the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Niger Republic to utilise its refinery. This happened while unemployment and underemployment in the Niger Delta stands at over five million, and jobs which could be created by the presence of functional refineries in the region are diverted to Niger Republic whose oil production of less than 20,000 barrels per day, is lower than the least oil producing state in Nigeria.
On the other hand, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, a former Governor of Rivers State, a Niger Delta state, has made payment of $1.9 billion, or approximately 1 trillion Naira at current exchange rate, for the funding of a rail line from Kano state?—?the hometown of late military dictator Sani Abacha who ruthlessly pillaged the Niger Delta and its resources—?to Maradi in Niger Republic, very close to the Maryam Abacha American University in Niger Republic, owned by the wife of Sani Abacha. All these while rail lines in the Niger Delta where the funds will come from, and Southern Nigeria in general are barely functional. So massive has investment in Northern Nigeria been in recent years at the expense of the South that China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CECC), a major beneficiary of these contracts, is building a University of Transportation for free as a gift, in Daura, the home of President Buhari.
Also, in June 2020, President Buhari flagged off the construction of the Ajaokuta-Kano-Katsina gas pipeline which would not just transport gas to Northern Nigeria to help industrialise it, but will subsequently extend to North Africa. The cost of the project was put at over $2 billion or approximately 1 trillion Naira at current exchange rate. While this project was meant to transport gas from the gas fields of the Niger Delta to the North, and is under the supervision of Timipre Sylva, the Niger Delta cannot boast of good power supply. As a matter of fact, Bayelsa state, the home state of Timipre Sylva was without power all through the yuletide season of 2019, and is poised to reenact same feat in 2020. Worse still, one cannot point to the utilisation of this gas in the industrialisation of the region as is being planned for Northern Nigeria.
The colonislism of Southern Nigeria goes beyond priority in government infrastructural development contracts, but also economic policies and decisions. In August 2019 the Nigerian government closed its land borders mostly in Southern Nigeria, under the pretext of putting an end to smuggling. This has resulted in a continuous increase in food prices which has affected mostly Southerners and has seen many Southern Nigerian families including Niger Deltans at risk of starving. Despite this border closure, the government has allowed free border movement for Northern owned businesses like Dangote and BUA.
Also, the disparity in the application of laws, an important facet of colonialism, is also applicable in Nigeria. Most recently, the government has come up with an initiative that grants resource ownership to Northern Nigeria while the laws guiding resource ownership in the Niger Delta and Southern Nigeria remains the same, and anti. By observation, it will not be out of place, to refer to PAGMI as Nigeria’s mineral resources Jim Crow. It then makes it important to point to the fact that Jim Crow was an integral part of a brutal form of internal colonislism suffered by African Americans at the end of slavery in America.
We must also look at the judiciary and Nigeria’s security agencies which have not been left out of this. In 2019, the first Chief Justice of Nigeria to come from Southern Nigeria in over three decades, Justice Walter Onnogen was removed from office unceremoniously on frivolous charges, simply to make way for a less qualified Islamic and Northern Judge in the mould of Ibrahim Tanko. A look at the composition of Nigeria’s judicial bench today shows that Southern Nigeria will not be having a Chief Justice anytime soon despite having more lawyers than Northern Nigeria and a higher literacy rate.
The most poignant part of this colonislism of Southern Nigeria is the not so subtle Northernisation of Nigeria’s security agencies. Apart from over 80% of the heads of all security agencies in the country being of Northern Nigeria origin, recently Peoples Gazette revealed details of recruitment into the Department of State Security that shows 85% of recruits coming from 14 states in Nigeria’s North West and North East, and less than 15% of recruits coming from 22 states of the Middle Belt, South East, South South, and South West of Nigeria.
This cannot be logified when it is considered that Southern Nigeria accounts for more educated Nigerians than the North. Other security agencies have undergone similar personnel altering to give control of Nigeria’s security architecture to Northern Nigeria. As a matter of fact, today, Nigeria’s Navy headquarted in the Niger Delta has more sailors from Northern Nigeria with less than 30% of Nigeria’s water body, than from Niger Delta which is home to over 60% of Nigeria’s water body.
It is therefore important to ask as an end to this, that in a situation where the people of Southern Nigeria and the Niger Delta in particular are being disenfranchised in all spheres of society, barely represented in Nigeria’s security agencies, and with an evident ethnic colonisation of government institutions and agencies at play, can the Niger Delta people and the people of Southern Nigeria in general say for a fact that their interests within Nigeria are protected, and that their very existence is not at all threatened? Is the system currently obtainable and operable in Nigeria different from what was obtainable and operable in the British colonial era in Nigeria? The answer to these questions is a resounding No. Southern Nigeria must endeavour to make hay with what is left of sunshine, because the very last rays of this sunlight will soon disappear. Then the darkness comes.
Nubari Saatah is the Acting President of the Niger Delta Congress and writes from Port Harcourt. Follow on Twitter @saatah
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