David Pilling’s Opinion in Britain’s Financial Times of 24-Mar-2022 in which he exhorts African nations to choose sides in the ongoing Ukraine war is clearly a pro-NATO charm offensive in yet another phase of West versus Russia global buccaneering.
Yet, its objective coincides with emerging opinion (including mine) that Nigeria and Britain, a foremost NATO member that has many axes to grind with Russia must urgently forge fresh accommodation that will bring the two Commonwealth countries closer together, especially post-Brexit. An accommodation that will restore the vigorous rate of economic development that Nigeria enjoyed in the 50s/60s and which will give Britain continued special access to Nigeria’s resources but on terms that are more mutually beneficial.
For this to work, Pilling’s Opinion would need to dig deeper into history, to the era when Britain played god in the Hobbesian sense. Back to the 16th Century and through the time the small island nation rampaged across the world and through history, conquering nations and creating countries to eventually become the biggest empire the world had ever known which, at its peak, controlled the destiny of 25% of the world.
The countries that Britain created were strictly for her own convenience and very much in her own image right down to education, lifestyle, and government. But in her hasty retreat from empire post World War 2, Britain did not have enough time to complete the educational policy she had initiated, which would have produced the critical mass of educated indigenes with national outlook that would eventually manage its former. In that way Nigeria would have stood the test of time of being a secure, well-governed nation.
Neither did Britain also bother to reset Nigeria in her original form of several independent albeit bickering nations as some disgruntled, modern-day political activists disingenuously suggest.
Whichever way, the Nigerian god that Britain left behind in 1960 was unfinished business, but one which today still absolutely controls the collective destiny of the member nations that make up the country. That god, aka the Nigerian government, over the years deteriorated into a demon of corruption, inefficiency and injustice that is today ruining lives all over the country. Our 45 million population, which at Independence was relatively contented is today 200 million, most of them impoverished malcontents waiting to burst forth.
Meanwhile, just as it was during the build up to Independence in 1960 so it still is today; this fear of Russia that continues to underpin Britain’s Nigeria policy. Then, as is widely alleged, Britain hastily rigged Nigeria’s 1959 elections to favor the NPC, a coalition of northern political leaders, supposedly to shut out this same Russian influence as David Pilling again alludes. An influence that at that time manifested mostly amongst southern Nigerians. It was after all, these southerners that had predominantly served in the army, travelled to UK for work and education and embraced Christianity. It was they who thereby had greater access to liberal thinking including socialism and outright communism.
Later, Britain and her American cousins are alleged to have backed coups and assassinations and helped to rig even more elections throughout Africa (including Nigeria) purportedly to put or keep their nominees in power. In the process Britain created a crop of military leaders in Nigeria, who never really handed power back to the more competent Nigerans that had been trained to manage a modern country properly. Nor did they enable free and fair elections to allow the people to choose their true representatives.
Consequently, the Nigerian government that David Pilling is today praising for “taking sides with NATO” is a false god and its endorsement of the West’s action over Ukraine morally invalid. This is because Nigeria’s current rulership is an oligarchy inadvertently created by those northern conservatives and retired generals to whom Britain handed power and/or seduced to take over power.
The Oligarchy was never trained to govern and, in their fumbling, simply entrenched corruption, promoted mediocrity, impoverished the masses over the years and have now almost bankrupted the country. But the Oligarchy also keeps tight control of government and the economy. Meanwhile Britain and the West look away so long as they continue to have easy access to Nigeria’s abundant mineral resources and our people are kept locked down within Nigeria’s borders. But for how much longer?
Today the widening influx of terrorists threatens to overwhelm the country and government appears incompetent or complicit or both, while many more Nigerian communities resort to self-help. Any jubilation in the West over Nigeria’s support over Ukraine is far outweighed by growing revelation that the raft of sanctions the West imposed on Russia has made Dollar Neocolonialism vulnerable. The West has by its kneejerk wooing of African nations with short term palliatives simply opened the door wider for long term Russian incursion into the hearts (and economies) of African peoples, who are today better educated and informed than their parents.
The choice for NATO allies must thus be to embrace the longer-term aspiration of Nigerian (and African) peoples to develop their regions. Yes, assist the shaky Nigerian government to immediately restore security and thereby save a lot of people from getting killed when more local communities independently push back against terrorists. But also support the aspiration of Nigerian regions to build a just and efficient Nigeria.
With so many Nigerians living in, married to, or educated in, Western countries, it shouldn’t be difficult to broker a good deal between Britain/USA and Nigeria along the lines of the post WW2 Marshall Plan that was used to rebuild European infrastructure and industries. All it needs is honesty of intent in Whitehall and Washington to bring an end to this absurd Leviathan, which the UK/USA continues to inflict on Nigeria’s peoples. And this is best done by the West supporting the growing call for Restructuring of the country and underpinning their support with a comprehensive Nigerian Marshall Plan