Once upon a time the British influence and control over what would become Nigeria and Africa’s most populous country grew through the 19th century. A series of constitutions after World War II granted Nigeria greater autonomy; independence came in 1960.
Once upon a time political parties were formed on tribal basis. Action Group (AG) was for the West, NCNC for the East while the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) was for the North. Elections were won based on their formation. That was the beginning of one of the problems facing our dear country.
Once upon a time there was a political violence called “operation we ti e,” which started in the western part of the country and engulfed the political scene in the country. “Wild wild west” it was then called. The violence truncated the First Republic and the army took over in 1966.
Once upon a time in 1967, in a move towards greater autonomy to minority ethnic groups the military divided the four regions into 12 states. However, the Igbos rejected attempts at constitutional revisions and insisted on full autonomy for the East. On May 29, 1967, Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu, the military governor of the eastern region, who emerged as the leader of increasing Igbo secessionist sentiment, declared the independence of the eastern region as the Republic of Biafra. The ensuing Nigerian Civil War resulted in an estimated one million deaths before Biafra was defeated in 1970.
Following the civil war the country turned to the task of economic development. Foreign exchange earnings and government revenues increased spectacularly with the oil price rises of 1973-74. On July 29, 1975 Gen. Murtala Mohammed and a group of officers staged a bloodless coup, accusing General Yakubu Gowon of corruption and delaying the promised return to civilian rule. General Mohammed announced a time-table for the resumption of civilian rule by October 1, 1979. He was assassinated on February 13, 1976 in an abortive coup and his chief of staff Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo became head of state.
Once upon a time, Second and Third Republics experienced political violence that started simultaneously in all part of Yoruba land which caused the premature death of our political arrangement, again, in 1983 and 1993 respectively.
Over the years we have remained at the same spot of corruption, violence, ineptitude, nepotism, and the like. Nothing seems to be changing. Although we are waiting to see a new Nigeria, how long will it take us to reach the promise land? Only time will tell.
Ademola Ogundipe is based in Abuja and can be reached through [email protected]