Nigeria or Nigeria Ltd: A Nation’s Struggle for True Independence

by Amos Kalu


Since gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1960, Nigeria’s journey has been a turbulent one. The initial euphoria of self-governance was quickly overshadowed by a series of military coups that plunged the nation into political instability. The subsequent military regimes and the devastating Biafra War left indelible marks on Nigeria’s socio-political landscape. As we examine Nigeria’s trajectory from its independence to the present, we must confront the unsettling theory that foreign interests have covertly manipulated Nigeria’s leadership, fostering corruption and undermining the country’s sovereignty.

The Path to Independence and Indigenous Political Participation

Nigeria’s path to independence was characterized by the gradual involvement of indigenous people in the political process. The 1950s saw the emergence of nationalist movements and political parties, such as the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) and the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroon’s (NCNC), led by figures like Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo. These movements galvanized the Nigerian populace, advocating for self-rule and greater participation in governance.

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By October 1, 1960, Nigeria achieved independence, with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa becoming the Prime Minister. However, the optimism of the early 1960s was short-lived. Ethnic tensions and regional rivalries began to surface, leading to a series of political crises. The first coup d’état in 1966, led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, marked the beginning of a dark era in Nigeria’s history.

Military Rule and the Biafra War

The 1966 coup was followed by a counter-coup, bringing General Yakubu Gowon to power. The subsequent years were marked by military rule, which saw the suspension of democratic processes and the centralization of power. The most tragic event of this period was the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafra War, which lasted from 1967 to 1970. The war, fought between the Nigerian government and the secessionist state of Biafra, resulted in significant loss of life and economic devastation.

The war’s end did not bring peace but rather a succession of military governments, each promising reforms but often entrenching corruption and authoritarianism. The military’s grip on power was solidified by foreign interests, who saw in Nigeria’s instability an opportunity to exert influence and control over the country’s vast natural resources.

Foreign Interests and the Theory of Covert Manipulation

The theory that Nigeria’s coups and even the Biafra War were covertly influenced by foreign interests is not without merit. Historical evidence suggests that various foreign governments and multinational corporations have, at different times, supported and protected corrupt Nigerian leaders to advance their economic and geopolitical interests. These external forces provided financial and military support to factions within Nigeria, ensuring that compliant leaders remained in power.

This manipulation extended beyond mere support. Foreign interests actively encouraged corruption by offering safe havens for illicit wealth and facilitating the laundering of stolen assets. The protection of corrupt leaders by foreign governments allowed these leaders to act with impunity, perpetuating a cycle of corruption and mismanagement that has hindered Nigeria’s development.

Nigeria Ltd: A Profit-Driven Entity

The concept of “Nigeria Ltd” posits that Nigeria operates more like a profit-driven company than a sovereign nation. This analogy aligns with the economic theories of Milton Friedman, who argued that the primary responsibility of a business is to maximize profits for its shareholders. In the context of Nigeria, the “shareholders” are the political elites and their foreign backers, who benefit immensely from the country’s resources, while the “stakeholders” – the Nigerian people – suffer the consequences.

This profit-driven model explains the persistent exploitation of Nigeria’s wealth, the mismanagement of public funds, and the lack of meaningful development. The elites prioritize their financial gains over the well-being of the populace, resulting in widespread poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and poor public services. The manipulation of ethnic and religious divisions serves as a distraction, preventing the people from uniting against their common oppressors.

The Role of Religious Institutions

Compounding this issue is the role of religious institutions in Nigeria. Religion, which should ideally serve as a source of hope and moral guidance, has often become the “opium of the people.” As famously quoted by Bishop Desmond Tutu, “They gave us their religion and we closed our eyes. When we opened our eyes, we had their bibles and they had our land.” This poignant statement underscores the way religion has been used to pacify the masses while elites continue to exploit the country’s resources.

Religious leaders often promise divine intervention and miracles, providing a false sense of hope that keeps people distracted from the harsh realities of their socio-economic conditions. In return, these institutions receive substantial financial contributions from their followers, further enriching the religious elite. This dynamic indirectly supports the “Nigeria Ltd” model, as the populace remains oblivious to the looting of their land and property by the political elites. The intoxication of religious fervor blinds many to the systemic corruption and mismanagement that pervades the nation.

The African Spring: A New Dawn for Change

In recent years, Africa has experienced a wave of political activism and upheaval reminiscent of the Arab Spring. This “African Spring” has seen citizens across the continent rising up against corruption, economic mismanagement, and authoritarianism. One of the most notable examples is Kenya, where widespread protests and rioting led to the overturning of the contentious Finance Bill. The citizens’ collective action demonstrated their power to hold the government accountable and demand economic justice.

Similarly, countries like Niger, Burkina Faso, and Senegal have witnessed significant political changes, including military coups and the emergence of young, vibrant leaders with a fresh mindset compared to their predecessors. These leaders are often characterized by their commitment to addressing corruption, improving governance, and prioritizing the needs of their people. This new wave of leadership offers hope for a brighter future and serves as a stark contrast to the entrenched, self-serving political elites that have long dominated African politics.

A Call to Wake Up

Nigerians must wake up to these Machiavellian games that have pitched them against each other under the guise of tribe and religion. The true division lies not in ethnic or religious differences but in the chasm between the ruling elite and the ordinary citizens. The elites do not operate under the same rules; they share wealth and power across ethnic and religious lines, united in their exploitation of the masses.

Figures like Aisha Buhari and other mavericks have called out the old guard for their continued cabalism of Nigerian polity and their proverbial knees on the necks of the Nigerian masses. It is time for Nigerians to recognize that the current system will only change if they stand up and demand accountability. The youth, in particular, must harness their energy and technological savvy to mobilize for a better future.

The time is now for Nigerians to reject the status quo and work towards a nation that serves the interests of all its people, not just a privileged few. Only by doing so can Nigeria fulfil the promise of independence and emerge as a truly democratic and prosperous nation.

AMBASSADOR ALIYU BIN ABBAS is the President, National Youth Alliance

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