Owhoko (Career Frustration in the Workplace, 2016, etc.) takes a hard look at Nigeria’s future.
The African country of Nigeria includes a hodgepodge of ethnicities, drawn together into British-created administrative zones. While imperial state divisions gestured toward the regional identities of various tribes (predominantly the Hausa-Fulani in the north, Igbo in the southeast, and Yoruba in the southwest), the amalgamation of Nigeria into a single independent state was as much a product of England’s colonial legacy as it was the desire of Nigerians themselves. As Owhoko puts it, “British colonial masters failed both in intelligence and capacity to know that the country called Nigeria was not going to work due to the heterogeneous nature of the people.” Various groups lobbied for increased independence until a coup and secession in the 1960s erupted into civil war. Even now, following the 1970 reunification, the author says, “there is so much fear and anxiety rising from unhealthy competition and rivalry amongst ethnic groups.” Implied in Owhoko’s history is the idea that Nigeria’s people will continue to push for regional independence and that the best way to resolve these issues harmonically is by adopting a federalist system—not unlike the one that was practiced at the country’s founding, between 1960 and 1966. The author acknowledges that such a system wouldn’t be viable unless a majority of Nigerian citizens voted for it, but he thinks that’s possible, and his book is a road map for getting to that point. Owhoko impressively, if selectively, marshals his evidence; for example, he gives more space to historical figures that voiced the kind of federalism that he supports than he does to their opponents. And given the current state of oil prices, it’s unlikely that residents of a semi-independent northern region will content themselves with the proceeds of “groundnuts, hides, and skins” that sustained them decades ago, as the author argues. Nationalists and separatists will both find much to quibble with here, but Owhoko is an eloquent spokesman for his cause. Readers who still dream of a pluralist democracy will find this manifesto to be energizing reading.
A stimulating notion of how to keep Nigeria together.