• Friday, May 24, 2024
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Nigeria at 60: A Blast from the Past

We Choose to Celebrate

There is grave insecurity across the land. Banditry, violence, kidnapping, civil unrest and armed insurrections are rife. A militant political movement which claims its origins in Islam is ravaging large swathes of the lands below the Sahara desert. The main export commodity of the land has lost favor internationally, with a collapse in its demand driven by a technological and industrial revolution that is transforming the way the global economy works. An important election has been concluded, in which two men named Muhammadu Buhari and Abubakar Atiku have contested for the highest office in their country.

The above paragraph must sound very familiar to you, dear reader. If you think we are describing the state of affairs within the largest Black country in the world – Nigeria – in the early 21st century, you would be wrong. Actually, in one respect you would be correct, because the description does refer to occurences in the lands now known as Nigeria. However, all that was described above happened nearly 200 years ago, in the predecessor countries and lands that now make up Nigeria, during the 100 years immediately before the official formation of present-day Nigeria in 1914.

So, how is it that so much of our national history continues to repeat itself, and yet we are not taking important lessons from the past to chart a more advantageous future for the humans of Nigeria? This is one of the many reasons we decided to write a book about the pre-colonial countries that now make up Nigeria. Neither of us is trained as a historian. We are both banking and finance professionals. But we share a belief that a deep knowledge of history is fundamental to shaping the future.

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Our research revealed to us that the one hundred year period preceding the formation of Nigeria was a fascinating crucible during which the character of the modern country Nigeria was formed. Those years are also the most mythologized and least analyzed part of our history, certainly by the modern generation of young Nigerians who now carry the responsibility for the future of our country. We were convinced that a new conversation about the future of Nigeria needs to begin among the members of this modern generation, nearly half of whom are still younger than 18 years old, according to the most recent statistics.

This is why we have written Formation, The Making of Nigeria from Jihad to Amalgamation, which has been acquired by the leading publisher Cassava Republic, and will be released first in Nigeria this month, and in the rest of the world from January 2021.

Our story in Formation is not just about a century of violent crisis and devastation. In exactly the same way, the story of modern Nigeria is not just about insecurity and economic crisis. Formation is also a story of resilience, and of opportunity, and of the remarkable achievements of so many Black people in the creation and development of the country that would later come to be known as Nigeria. Our narrative partly covers a period of several decades that we have now christened the “Clapham Sect Era”, during which the indigenous agency, blood, sweat and entrepreneurship of so many local people temporarily formed the driving force in the development of Nigeria.

In our writing we adopted a deliberately apolitical lens, but we were keenly interested in the perspectives of non-traditional actors whom we believe have been overlooked in the historical narrative. These include the indigenous people, women, ethnic minorities, and the generally less fortunate or less privileged individuals of history, whose stories too often get overlooked or whose achievements are unfairly downplayed.

In the end, our story is just the start of the conversation. Our greatest hope for Formation is that it forms the beginning of many delightful and nuanced journeys into the history of Nigeria’s culture, politics and economics. We hope that the modern generation of young Nigerians embraces and engages with the story and its many lessons, because the only way we can craft a better future for ourselves is by understanding “where the rain began to beat us” in the immortal words of Nigeria’s greatest storyteller, Chinua Achebe.

Fola Fagbule and Feyi Fawehinmi are the Co-Authors of “Formation, The Making of Nigeria from Jihad to Amalgamation” which is being published by Cassava Republic Press this month.