Andrew Efemini: Neocolonial Roots of Nigeria’s Underdevelopment.

Dying is a process which starts from conception. We either die as embryo or we die as full persons from the day we are born.

I want to acknowledge the neocolonial roots of the crisis of the Nigerian state. Many of us take the position that Nigeria’s crisis is wholly internal and can be fixed strictly by fixing local issues: fuel scarcity, exchange rate crisis, unemployment, extreme poverty, herdsmen-farmers clashes, ethno-religious divide, etc.

We are so fixated on these national challenges to the detriment of understanding the core of what has kept us underdeveloped. I am leaning towards the position that the Nigerian crisis has so much to do with externally created factors.

Scholars have taken different positions on the role colonialism played in Nigeria. I have likened the British colonial creation or amalgamation of Nigeria as ‘ORIGINAL SIN’.

ORIGINAL SIN in two important senses; in the first sense, the amalgamation was driven by a selfish motive. Britain wanted to spend less running the amalgamated territories. In the second sense, colonial Britain amalgamated territories habited by people who did not give their consent to the amalgamation.

The economic exploitation during colonial period is well articulated by Claude Ake in his book A POLITICAL ECONOMY OF AFRICA. Chinwizu’s THE WEST AND THE REST OF US, is also an excellent reading.

The economic and political structures created by colonialism continue to hamper the possibility of sustainable development in Nigeria till date. Agricultural produce has been replaced with industrial products in the exploitation of Nigeria.

The country’s neocolonial economy is dangerously dependent on the volatile crude oil market with far reaching negative consequences for all of us. With flatuating income from crude oil sales, the economy has witnessed ups and downs.

We are net losers in the activities of multi lateral finance agencies. We go in and out of debt crises with nothing to indicate that we are about to commence the journey towards sustainable development.

We are also at the mercy of multinational companies operating in Nigeria who milk the country to near death. It is sad to note that we are unable to come to terms with the nature of capitalist exploitation going on in Nigeria.

May be the greater negative impact of colonialism is in the deep seated religious false consciousness planted among the people. The divide between Christians and Muslims in their extremism is typical of the point we want to make.

I have read some who argue that it is wrong to continue to blame colonial Britain for our woes. I beg to disagree with this view. All we need to do to appreciate the contrary position is to study the nature of the dependent relationship between Nigeria and the advanced world.

It will be necessary to admit that our crisis is enormous but not insurmountable. The truth is that development is an endogenous rather than an exogenous process.

In other words, development is about what we can do for ourselves rather than what others can do for us. Development is a self reliant driven concept. It involves the mobilization of the energies and resources of the people in pursuit of their self interest.

Without doubt, we must fix politics if we are to overcome the scourge of neocolonialism. The politics we need is one that is based on patriotic democratic consolidation. It must be based on a Nigeria first politics.

The political parties in Nigeria should reorganize themselves conscious of the damage caused by colonialism and being caused by neocolonialism. A nationalist party with commitment to reposition Nigeria on the basis of fairness, equity, and justice is a necessary requirement for moving forward.

The party and politics we need must come up with a nationalist ideology which transcends the various divisive tendencies in the country. The key concepts are unity in diversity.

The big question is ‘can we get it right?’ especially in the face of unending killings and growing mutual suspicion in the country. Of course we can get it right. We need a broad based negotiation in Nigeria to pave way for sustainable development to commence.

Finally, the negotiation will address foundational challenges confronting us as a people. We need to be dying of natural causes rather than killing each other.

Andrew Efemini is a Professor of Philosophy of Development, University of Portharcourt.