A few days ago, we embarked on a journey to educate us on the state of the economy and in other to do do that, we took a look at our past in the post Before the Marriage. Today, we are bringing you the second part of that piece. Read, enjoy, and as always, your contributions are welcome……
In 1931, we had our first Nation-wide census conducted by the British. The figures were as follows: Northern Region -11,434,000; Western Region-3,855,000; Eastern Region-4,641,000.
In 1952, another census was held. The results were as follows: Northern Region-16,840,000; Western Region-6,369,000; Eastern region-7,971,000.
The latest census of 2006 had following figures: South East- 16,381,729; South South- 21,014,655; South West- 27,511,992; North Central- 18,841,056; North East- 18,971,965; North West- 35,786,944. This gives the former Eastern region a total of 37,396,384,the Former Western Region has a total of 27,511,992 and the Northern Region a total of 73,599,965.
The North’s population has remained more than 2 times that of the other 2 regions. Thus, from the very beginning, the North had a PERMANENT majority in population which is tantamount to a PERMANENT majority in the future Central Legislature which is equals to a PERMANENT control of power.
An interesting point of note is that even with the ensured control of political power, the Northern Nigeria seemed reluctant to be a part of Nigeria when independence drew near. At the National conference in Ibadan in 1950, one of the many demands set as a condition by the Northern delegates to remain part of Nigeria was to get at least 50% of the seats in the Federal Legislature.Therefore, it was no surprise when after independence, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa became the Prime minister while Dr. NnamdiAzikiwe was the Ceremonial President. Do not be deceived by the titles. A Prime minister decides the affairs of the country while the word “ceremonial” should tell you what the Ceremonial President does.This ensured the continued exploitation of Nigeria by the British. Their power play was serving its purpose.
Then came our troubles. It began when General Aguiyi Ironsi (A southerner) dared to seize power in a military coup. He rocked the political boat. It was termed an “Igbo coup” aimed at eliminating the northern soldiers. The Northerners responded and a counter coup was carried out by Gen Murtala Muhammed all in 1966 though Lt Colonel Yakubu Gowon became the next military head of State. This counter coup led to the massive slaughter of the Ibos and it was said that the word “Araba” or “Aware” was the mantra of the coup. These words mean to break or divide.
Due to the killing of the Ibos, the Eastern region wanted a “divorce” and was determined to get it. But of course that was unacceptable not just because of the abundant crude oil in this zone but because secession is unconstitutional. And so the Civil war broke out and lasted three years.
It may amaze you to know that even after the war, Nigeria did not take a loan to rebuild its ravaged territories. Our economy was so strong that we could finance our rehabilitation with no external loans. Today, Nigeria owes about $10bn externally. You wonder, “How did that happen?” The answer is simple. Lack of visionary leadership.
In 1971-1977 there was an oil boom and the Nigerian economy was flush with petro-dollars. Yakubu Gowon popularly stated “Nigeria’s problem is not money but how to spend it”. So he organized the FESTAC in 1977 and invited African countries to participate for free. The festival lasted a month and everything was free of charge including accommodation. That was why FESTAC town in Lagos was built. Ironically, Nigeria took its very first loan the next year because oil prices fell in 1977/78.
Imagine a different scenario where FESTAC was organized and participating countries paid for their accommodation, feeding and to participate. Not only will it earn Nigeria foreign exchange but FESTAC might have become a yearly event ensuring a steady source of income and tourism for Nigeria. That is what a Visionary leader could have done but all Yakubu Gowon saw was the present state of the economy.He made no plans for the rainy days. The economic policy orientation and government spending of the 1970s left us ill prepared for the collapse of the oil prices. The economy began to unravel. Unemployment, inflation and poverty were on the rise.
In 1986, the Babangida administration embarked on the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) in line with the advice from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Before SAP, 1USD was equals to 0.894 naira. SAP ushered in the devaluation of the naira and its value steadily fell. Today, 1USD is equals to 209 naira.
For an import oriented economy with crude oil as its oil major export, devaluation is not the best option. Even as our economy worsened, we soldiered on. Our leaders failed us and yet we still had hope. A great nation crippled by twin devils; corruption and bad leadership. Till date we struggle to slay our demons with minimal success. What then is the way forward?
Keep a date with us for the concluding part of this piece….
Article Credit: Nduka Uzoamaka