Colonialism which may be described as the extension of control, direct or indirect, over the teritorries and peoples of other lands, has been an integral part of human civilization and development.
The aim of this paper is to take a precise and indeed historical look at the colonial experience the African continents in general and narrow it down more specifically to the Nigeria situation.
Although the stance of the work lies ‘on the development efforts aimed at rebuilding the Nigerian. state from its colonial past, a number of intervening situations and variables would be examined in order to create a better focus upon which our discussion and understanding of the subject matter would be based.
Independence and self-governance brought new challenges and impositions. These challenges have to do with the internal contradictions inherent in the new states and the ability or inability of the indigenous leadership to confront these problems.
In Nigeria the overriding problem remains the issue of ethnic integration and national unity. How would the new elite grapple with the delicate issue of integrating the various nationalities and ethnic groups making up the union into a functional fabric that would guarantee the socio-economic and political development of the state.
After more than fifty years of independence, there are many who argue that Nigeria’s problems could no longer be blamed on colonial anomalies. This school of thought believes that the indigenous rulers who took over the reins of power from the colonial masters have not kept faith with the basic task of nation building.
2. Colonialism: A Historical Concept
Colonialism, which may be described as the extension of control, direct or indirect, over the territories and peoples of other lands has been an integral part of human civilization and development. Nwosu (2011:185) views colonialisrn as the socio-political and economic domination of a given society or nation by a foreign power purely for the economic and related interest of the foreign power. Colonialism is based on a system of equal relationship between the metropolitan power (the colonizer) and the indigenous people (the colonized).
Colonialism is a product of the capitalist economic system which sought to integrate the economies of the world into an organic dependent relationship. From the mid 15th century when European powers began the creation of political and economic outposts in far-flung continents and places, colonialism became a process of the integration of European supremacy all over the world.
It is instructive to note that Europe at this time was the centre of global politics and European advancement in the arts, literature, diplomacy, politics and military science guaranteed its domination of other parts of the world including the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.
Colonialism is underlined by a master-servant relationship because the economic and social interests of the higher power take precedence over the needs and aspirations of the subjugated people. Colonial relationship is sustained through the use of superior force and brutal suppression.
Historically, the establishment of political and economic control over distant lands has been a permanent aspect of human evolution since the period of the Greeks, Phoenicians, Egyptians and Romans. The Renaissance focused primarily on parts of Europe when countries like Spain., Portugal, France, Britain, etc embarked on major adventures and expeditions across the unknown to discover more of the world, leading to discoveries of new lands across the oceans. In most of these places so “discovered”, they established trading and military outposts.
The industrial revolution of the early 18th century marked a new phase in the colonial quest of the great powers. The need for raw materials can only be balanced by the need for markets for industrial goods. The commercial activities at the seaports and designated centres where the slave trade flourished could no longer meet the demands of the Europeans hence the need for effective penetration and acquisition of territory. This desire led to what came to be known as the “great scramble” for and partition of Africa.
3. European Contact and the Partition of Africa.
The first major contact between Africa and Europe was the slave trade. The Europeans needed cheap labour to work in their plantations and to sustain their economic well-being in various parts of the world where colonialism was already flourishing.
Nigerian territories and coastal areas were important parts of the trade route until the middle of the 19th century (Coleman,1986:40) The African continent bore the brutal impact of this trade in human cargo for a period of over 400 years until the British parliament outlawed slavery in 1870 (Egbo, 1999).
The abolition of slavery conveniently coincided with the industrial revolution in Europe. This means that European need has shifted from cheap labour to cheap raw materials like cotton, palm oil, rubber, gold, diamond, coal, etc. There was also an urgent need for market outlets to absorb the array of products being churned out by European industries.
The contact with Africa came in three forms or batches. The first came as explorers, then missionaries and traders, and finally commenced the task of colonization, (Ojiakor,1998). During the trade era, contact was restricted to seaports and other special exchange areas but the search for raw materials needed greater presence and concentration hence the penetration into the interior.
What followed was a scramble for territory and spheres of influence by the contending European powers. Colonization of Africa was piecemeal through cessation of territories by local and tribal leaders and also through direct conquest and balkanization. The scramble led to series of confrontations and armed conflicts between the contending European hawks.
For Europe at the time, the greatest threat to effective colonization of Africa was not African resistance perse, but the uncoordinated nature of their approach. Thus, in December 1884, the German Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck, convened a conference of major European powers in Berlin. The purpose of the conference was to ensure a peaceful partition of the continent. The major powers at the conference, which lasted for two months were, France, Germany, Great Britain, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Also invited were Italy, Denmark, Austria-Hungary, Sweden-Norway, Turkey and Russia. The US was invited because of its involvements in Liberia but declined to attend.
The scramble and partition of Africa marked a turning point in Africa’s natural development and ushered in different political, economic and socio-cultural disarticulation which was perpetuated by colonialism.
4. Consolidation and Indirect Rule
The success of the Berlin Conference brought peace among the European contenders and laid a legal foundation for colonial conquest and imperialist activities across the continent. What followed was the process of consolidation through various methods of conquest and pacification.
The European powers adopted various methods of administration in managing their respective territories. As a result, the content and style of colonial rule in Africa was not uniform. Each system was determined by conditions met on ground and the overriding imperative of the colonial masters. Historically, the British favoured a characteristic policy of Association popularly known as “indirect rule”. Indirect rule is a “system of administration in which the colonial government administered their subjects through existing traditional political structures or other agencies and intermediaries (Egbo, 2001:29). Indirect rule relied on indigenous authority but with constant advice and direction from the colonial officials.
Indirect rule was first introduced in Northern Nigeria where the emirate
system guaranteed its huge success (Ojiakor,1998 :47) in addition to its centralized nature, the taxation and tribute system which existed in the North fully accommodated British economic interest.
However, the attempt to enforce this system in the southern parts of Nigeria presented huge problems. The existing traditional institutions in the south west were not as strong as what obtained in the north whereas in the South east, they were none existent. Indirect rule also relied heavily on the subservient traditional power blocs because the educated elites were sidelined in the scheme of things. These accounted for the reasons why the indirect rule system remained chaotic and restive in southern Nigeria throughout the period of colonial rule. The south became the breeding ground for agitation and serious opposition to colonial enterprise.
5. Nationalist Activities and Socio-Political Changes
The word “Nationalism” could have different connotations and meanings depending on the context of its use. For a free people, nationalism means a commitment, identification, a patriotic fire and a ‘desire to be better than others’. For people under foreign domination of any sort, nationalism simply means a struggle for freedom. The latter description will best suit our purpose in this work. Nationalist activities therefore became a co-coordinated struggle to articulate the socio-political outrage of the native population.
Some of the issues that gave rise to Nationalist activities in Nigeria and other colonized areas include the following:
i, The deliberate exclusion of the local population, especially the educated
elites in political matters.
ii. The racial policies of the British in matters of residency, social amenities,
salaries and wages and qualitative education.
iii. The derision of African ways of life as fetish, primitive and barbaric.
iv. The naked exploitation of African resources for the sole benefit of the
v. Lack of basic rights for the local population and extreme tyranny (Egbo,
Through a coordinated struggle, the Nationalist agitators were able to confront the British authorities on several fronts and even though these confrontations were nonviolent, many policy changes began slowly to emerge in response to the demands of the local population. The use of newspapers, the formation of trade unions, and the creation of political parties provided huge impetus to the nationalist struggle. From the Clifford constitution of 1922 to the second phase of the London conference, 1958, the British colonial government continued to give one concession after the other until Nigerians were finally considered responsible enough to run their own affairs. The London Conference of 1958 finally set the date for independence on October 1st 1960.
6. Independence and Rebirth
On October 1st 1960, the effort of the Nigerian political elite and nationalist fighters ushered in a new dawn for the young state with political independence from the British. It was a period of joy and celebration because there was so much hope and expectation for the country and its people.
Anyanwu (2004) however views political independence as commonly a
replacement of alien political authority with indigenous loyal and obedient servants. What emerged, on closer examination, appears to be an overhaul of colonial structure and apparatuses at the socio-economic and political levels. Nwene (1973:9) viewed political independence as “Independence with strings attached”. This is a form of relationship which guarantees the metropolitan country continued control of the resources and politics of the new state in an ”… arrangement which permits the continued exploitation by the industrial west of post independence governments’ natural and human resources...”
The other aspect of independence which Fanon, (1966:27) advocates relies on total, complete and absolute substitution of existing structures and institutions and their replacement with new ones. Such independence must be based on the rise of a new nation, the setting up of a new state and its institutions comprising diplomatic relations, economic and political structures.
In 1960 when Nigeria emerged at the world stage as an independent state, many of the apparatuses and structures already in place were bequetted by the British. The question of whether these institutions and structures would continue to serve the interests of the departing colonial masters or would they be effectively positioned to serve the needs of a young emergent state became a boiling issue. In specific and general terms, such issues depended heavily on the caliber of leadership who have inherited the reins of power and the ability of the elite that held the state enslaved to its past. In over fifty years of independence, the ability or lack of it, to chart a reasonable part of development for Nigeria by her leaders, past and present, has remained a subject of heat and passion in academic and political circles.
Decolonization for rebirth must be aimed at dismantling imperialism which remains the debilitating by-product of colonialism. It must not only be aimed at attainment of political independence but also at destroying all the obstructive influences and designs that have kept the state far away from its desired objectives (Fanon, 1966).
7. The Debilitating Effects of Colonialism
Having established the dynamics and nature of colonial rule in Nigeria, it is appropriate to examine what we may consider the debilitating effects of colonialism on the Nigerian state. Through this process, it would be possible to establish a logical consequence of colonialism to the nationalist struggle and the independence that followed. Such ground work will facilitate a better understanding of the dynamics of contemporary Nigerian politics. This would be categorized into the political, economic, social and cultural dimensions.
Political effects: The coercive character of colonial rule in Nigeria and the rest of Africa were designed to place the native population in a state of near permanent subservience to imperial interest. In virtually all colonial territories, there was a pervasive lack of freedom especially on issue of human rights and political associations. Press freedom was severely curtailed. There was often no press at all and where it existed, “was either sponsored by the colonial administration or intimidated into docility with libel and seditious laws” (Chinweizu, 1978:70).
In virtually all the colonial territories, political repression, in the form of detention, deportation and banning of opponents of the colonial administration was frequently used to silence the tide of nationalist flavour and drastically reduced its tempo. Invariably, the structure of colonial order based on arbitrariness and illegality were neither modified nor restructured at independence. The so called emergent leaders of the “New Africa” began to govern their people with structures and institutions that were not designed to meet their needs. These nationalist governments had to put on authoritarian characteristics in order to function. “The behaviour of many African leaders today is a replication of the colonial tendencies” (Barongo, 1980:150).
Contemporary African leaders still use the same weapon which the colonial master relied upon in silencing opposition and containing conflict, Colonial rule was essentially a one-party state which relies on perpetuation, abhorrence of opposition, and political repression.
Economic effects: Colonialism exerted enormous pressure on the economic development of Africa. Our aim here is not to go into the modus of colonial manipulation of Africa’s economic life as this has been amply accommodated by many studies around the world. Our desire is to establish how the process of colonial administration created antagonistic relations of production and exchange and introduced into African societies factors of underdevelopment, dependency and endemic poverty. (Barongo, 1980:149) traced the origin from “first the mercantilist system then consolidated by the introduction of the capitalist mode of production and finally consummated by the long reign of colonial rule”
Many studies have substantiated that the economies of African countries are highly dependent on a world economic system dominated by the developed capitalist countries and these create conditions of dependence, underdevelopment and poverty,(Borongo, 1980, Chinweizu, 1978 and Rodney, 1972).
The origin of this hopeless situation lies in the European penetration and dislocation of the traditional economies through the monopolization of trade and monetization of African economic life. This situation stemmed from the exploitative posture of the European trading firms, mining companies, shipping lines, banks, insurance houses and plantations. (Rodney, 1972) submits that the factor of dependency made its impact felt in every output of the life of the colonies, and it can be regarded as the crowning vice among the negative social, political and economic consequences of colonialism in Africa being primarily responsible for the perpetuation of the colonial relationship into the epoch that is called neo colonialism.
Socio-Cultural Effects: European religion and education were the instruments used in reshaping and remodeling the average African. Western education significantly influenced the thinking and sensibilities of the African and filled him with new complexes and perceptions. Colonial education inculcated individual ethos that weakened the African identity, destroyed their communal heritage and erased a unique sense of patriotic responsibility, (Chinweizu, 1978).
Colonialism also tried to dismantle African culture and traditional ways of life. While some practices were derided and condemned as fetish and unchristian others were ascribed various untoward and inferior identities. Colonial literature portrayed Africans as savages and barbarians who had to be redeemed by the benevolent and civilizing white men.
In a post independent Nigeria, as in many African countries, colonialism has left behind seriously dislocated social and political systems. It instituted corruption, ethnicism, nepotism and other vices prevalent in our national life. Their multi-variant attributes have contributed to the persistent state of unending political, social and economic decay in the new states.
8. The Process of Rebuilding and Reconstruction.
When we talk about rebuilding and reconstruction, it creates a scenario which predisposes one to an understanding of a prevailing state of disorder, decay, confusion, disarticulation, general destruction, rubbles and ruin. This twin concept creates a desperate condition of desolation and despondency, so despicable that it requires frantic efforts and urgency of purpose for reinvention, amendment and reform necessary to put the system back on the path of functionality.
The process of rebuilding and reconstruction could be likened to a conscious and. organized struggle to dismantle neo-colonialism and imperialism in all its tangible and intangible guises.
The process and practice of rebuilding and reconstruction must transcend political independence otherwise we remain a client state. The process must have as its ultimate goal the following aggregates as raison d’etre:
(i) Identification and destruction of the structures of neo-colonialism and
imperialism no matter how firmly rooted they have become. This can be achieved through a comprehensive and fundamental overhaul of the institutions and structures inherited from the colonial regime.
(ii) Establishing people-oriented democratic models which must derive its authority solely from the legitimate will of the people and not based on the dictates and manipulations of the elites. In other words, elite interest must give way to the interest of the people and political participation must have clear ideological orientation and grass-root persuasion.
(iii) Discourage the persistence of a client-patron relationship between African states and its firmer colonial powers.
(iv) There must be a conscious struggle to put an end to various forms of human exploitation and deliberate alienation of certain groups from the mainstream of socio-economic relationships and political intercourse.
(v) Our foreign policy and international relations must be based on national interest and the African personality and objectives that are developed on clear cut principles and fundamentals.
(vi) Our economic policies and programmes will continue to stultify growth and development unless competition and expansion of the economy are allowed to flourish in a carefully regulated environment.
(vii) Nigeria and other African countries have remained primary producers of raw materials. The time has come to move beyond this level. The need to acquire the ability to transform these primary products is long overdue. Despite our countless universities of technology and research institutions, we lack the rudimentary basics of industrial processing. It is time to acquire this technology through whatever available means.
There are however, other factors which must merit attention when issues like these are on the table. Nigeria at independence was a net exporter of primary products which suddenly gave way to petroleum products following the discovery of oil. Rather than expand the productive capacity of the economy, the government engaged in distribution and increased dependence on external and luxury goods. Other sectors of the economy were completely neglected. Nigeria therefore remained a mono economy susceptible to the pulls and pushes in the international oil market. This situation has constrained the pace of its development.
Despite the views often advanced by schools of radical persuasion, Nigerians inability to develop cannot be attributed solely to colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism or other escapist theorizations. The fact remains that our domestic economic structure is very weak. Those at the helm have failed woefully in the task of nation building. Corruption and deliberate mismanagement from 1960 till date has done more harm to Nigeria than a thousand years of colonialism. There is need for economic revival as a consequence of the rebuilding and reconstruction process in order to face the challenges of globalization if we must remain relevant in the contemporary scheme of world events. We must draw lessons from the activities of the Asian Tigers - Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea including Thailand. Malaysia and Vietnam if Nigeria must chart a new course in economic transformation. (Akinbola, 1999:65).
Rebuilding Nigeria goes beyond mere rhetorics. Our leaders should know this and indeed they do. What they lack is the will to act. In order to ensure success in this regard science and technology should be made a formidable part of the key strategic area of national development. There is a desperate need to fundamentally transform the nation’s educational capacity, health care system, agricultural output and industrial development.
Due attention must also be given to information technology and telecommunication. In the contemporary world system information technology has a vital influence on the global economic movement. A key factor here is power supply. Over the years, the issue of power supply has become intractable and successive government have continued to record huge failure in this regard. Steady power supply and at a reasonable cost remain the foundation for critical development activities.
Another challenge is anchored on economic liberalization of capital, opening new markets and attracting new investments. It is also important here to keep in check the activities of multinational corporations and capital flow to avoid unregulated economic activities, which according to (Usman ,1999:58),
… will ensure increased domestic savings, continued reform of the domestic financial sector, opening up to foreign capital inflow, while simultaneously protecting the country from the huge destabilizing effects of short-term speculative capital inflows; and together with other developing countries continue to champion the necessity for the reform of the global financial system that ensures shared prosperity…
9. Conclusion and Recommendations
The last segment of the paper has dealt extensively on the strategies for reconstruction and growth of the Nigerian state not only from the economic standpoint but from other important areas of deve1opment.
The paper, which set out to examine the general impact of colonialism on Nigeria and strategies for reconstruction, took a historical look at colonialism and the various stages of its debilitating effects on Nigeria’s political and socio-economic formations. Several factors were identified as impediments to growth vis-a-vis the serious challenges ahead.
Although we have outlined the strategies and processes through which these challenges could be overcome in the body of the work, we considered it pertinent to make precise recommendations as a key point of departure.
i. Unless the fight against corruption is meaningful and realistic. Nigeria cannot make progress. The anti-corruption war must be institutionalized and stringent punishment meted out to the offenders. So far the war against corruption has remained a huge joke. No administration in Nigeria, past or present, has shown the requisite courage in this regard.
ii. Those who committed economic crimes must not be shielded with immunity in any form. Economic sabotage is Nigeria’s greatest problem. It has become a national catastrophe and those responsible ought to be treated as treasonable offenders.
iii. There is need for greater emphasis on human capital development in both measurable and sustainable terms. Nigeria does not invest in human capital because our priorities as a nation are hideously lopsided.
iv. Creating an acceptable and accommodating political and economic environment for effective synergization between the public and private sectors should be encouraged. These two bodies should work as partners in order to achieve reasonable success.
v. Promoting the principles of the rule of law, justice and fairness as the yardstick for interpersonal and inter-group relationship at all levels is a key factor. In Nigeria the rule of law remains a joke. What we have here could best be described as the law of the rulers. Let us note that no nation can ever make progress without total submission to the overwhelming supremacy of the law and constitution.
vi. Equitable allocation of resources that would guarantee a decent standard of living for all and sundry. There is too much denial in Nigeria. There is too much hunger, poverty and hopelessness because those who can do it continue to oppress those who cannot and the state is helpless in its regulatory function.
vii. Increased investment in the agricultural sector with emphasis on mechanization, improved yield and fertilizer procurement to ensure food security. Nigeria today cannot feed its population and this is a serious blight on the reputation and capability of Africa’s most populous country.
viii. Rejection of foreign loans that may have negative strings or conditionalities. We should aim to see foreign loans and aid as counterpart investment not handouts that go with dehumanizing conditions and impositions.
ix. Reformation of the public sector to promote productivity and growth should be regarded as a matter of national urgency.
x. Democracy must be allowed to take root in Nigeria as is being experienced in some Africa countries. Elections should reflect the will of the citizens not the designs of the clique at the helm. The greatest ingredient of development is free and fair elections. If our votes begin to count, those who manage our affairs would begin to listen to us because they are now accountable to the people.
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REBUILDING NIGERIA FROM THE RUINS
DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE
ABIA STATE UNIVERSITY, UTURU