Saturday, 1 October 2016


By Kingsley Okechukwu

Nigeria is about to celebrate her 56th year of gaining independence from the British, but the country is still struggling, as it is obvious that a lot of things are not working. From the time I was born - nearly twenty years after Nigeria’s independence- till now, there has not been a time where Nigerians have lived without complaining about one thing or the other but of all the problems resident in the country, corruption and bad leadership have always been in the news and on the tongues of the masses. The seemingly eternal search for jobs by the Nigerian youths now comes in a close second as the first two have always walked hand in hand like one problem.

It is true that the European presence in Nigeria was geared towards resource extraction and exploitation of cheap labour, but these same colonial authorities encouraged Nigerians to become actively involved in agriculture for the production of certain crops such as coffee, cotton, cocoa, rubber, groundnut, palm produce, hides and skin.

The production of these new cash crops was introduced so that the inhabitants would no longer rely on food crops but also on export crops. Also, raw materials were moved from the hinterland for onward transportation to the industries of the colonizers and this led to the development of transport system.

Thus, connecting roads and railways were constructed by the colonial masters to enhance the movement of these agricultural products.

In addition, post offices and telecommunication facilities were built and they also introduced the use of money to Nigeria as a medium of exchange. Colonialism gave rise to the establishment of industries and commercial ventures, all for easy exploitation and extraction of raw materials from Nigeria.

Yes, we know all of these and many more acts of gross exploitation perpetrated on our soil by the Europeans. But ask yourself this: Is this not the same agricultural industry, carefully developed not too long after the British became our masters that Nigeria has been struggling to resurrect for many years to no avail after abandoning it for crude oil? How many of the railway lines built by our colonial masters were maintained and kept alive ten years after they had gone? Is it not the same railway lines that the government have just woken up today to bring back to life having realised their importance after leaving them to waste away for many years?
 The whites came, scrapped our cowries and gave us the European form of currency which eventually gave birth to the Naira after independence. Today, what is the worth of the naira compared to the currencies of other major countries of the world?
Considering how badly we have handled the things we benefited from our British rulers, it is glaring that we were ill-equipped to take over the leadership of the nation at the time it was presented to us.
Nobody supports colonial rule, but since we could not avoid it as it came, we could have made the best use of it by not sending them away when we knew we were not yet ripe to rule ourselves.

If we were colonised for a longer period of time, maybe up till the late 70s or early 80s, I believe we would have been harvesting the benefits countries like the United States of America and South Africa are reaping now. Though it would have meant sacrificing many things for many years, including our freedom, it would not have been too much of a sacrifice to make in order for the whites to better refine our people, system and culture.

They would have impacted more discipline in our citizens, groomed and handed over to us better leaders, transformed old colonial dominated cities like Ibadan, Lagos, Enugu, Kano and Calabar to South Africa’s Pretoria, Johannesburg and other mega cities built by colonial masters in the world. Our electricity problem would have never come to play and there would have been better roads, infrastructure and a better political system. Our rail transport system would have been there, above all our status in the international community and our foreign policy would have been an envious one.

Apart from Botswana, there is no black country that has achieved anything close to almost European-standard development without considerable White input. South Africa and Namibia are excellent examples. Who would have ever believed that South Africa with its limited human and natural resources, in comparison to what Nigeria has, would grow to become better than us in almost everything?
If you spare some time to observe, you will discover that infrastructure in African countries that had extended periods of colonialism is generally better than those in countries that hastily expelled the colonists. Indeed, would any sane person dispute the fact that South Africa’s commanding lead in Africa as regards all the development indices is exclusively because of the prolonged White influence?
I stress on South Africa because they are definitely not free from bad and corrupt leaders both in government and civil service, but somehow, they have been able to overcome both challenges, not letting it keep them on the ground, simply because the system and structure was already initiated and strongly established by the whites before they gained their freedom unlike Nigeria where those systems were still very young when they left.

Seriously, it does not make sense to keep towing the worn path of “Europeans exploited Africa”; after all it is a fact that man is fundamentally and necessarily selfish in nature. I however, marvel at the European colonists’ grace because they at least left long-lasting legacies of development while chasing their admittedly selfish interests. I am convinced that if Africans were the colonists, Europe would have been ravaged, plundered and wiped out.

The truth, they say, is bitter but there is no point deceiving ourselves. Our freedom fighters rushed the move for independence and Nigeria would have been better off today if the British colonists had stayed longer.

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