By Dr. Ahmed Adamu
States and settlements existed in Nigeria long before the illegal slavery and invasion of the West into the West Africa. Edo Empire was one of the oldest and one of the highly established states in West Africa since eleventh century, and it had organised social institutions. This later expanded to form the Oduduwa kingdom. The Songhai Empire was the largest independent state in the history of Africa then, and it existed in 15th and 16th century. This empire spanned across the northern and western Nigeria too. Even though the people of South Eastern Nigeria were politically and socially organised, they were under fragmental empires, popular of which is Nri Kingdom. An independent Islamic empire/caliphate also existed in most part of the northern Nigeria in early 19th century. This empire linked with over 30 traditional leadership system called the emirates. The caliphate ruled over 10 million people, making it one of the most significant empires in Africa in the 19th century. There were over 12 Kingdoms that existed in Nigeria before the invasion of European to the country.
All settlements and states in Nigeria that existed before the invasion of the Europeans were independent, and socially and politically organised. Trade and agriculture were the major businesses then. In 1650, Europeans first invaded the West Africa and illegally traded people of the area as slaves. From 1790 to 1807, British purchased up to 2000 slaves every year in Lagos alone. Many free people from the above settlements were forced to become slaves against their wishes. They were taken to the Europe and America to serve. They toiled, and were abused and persecuted. This continued until 1807.
After abolishing slavery, the Europeans re-invaded Nigeria as missionaries, traders, and resource exploiters. In 1861, they started to take control and influence social and political systems in Nigerian communities. First, directly and later indirectly. A sovereign and independent states now became under control. By 1901, Nigeria became completely under British control, and by 1914, all the Nigerian protectorates were merged together and named “Nigeria” under Federick Lugard’s rulerships. This control lasted until 1st October 1960 after long agitations for the Nigeria’s so called independence.
Therefore, celebrating Nigeria’s independence on 1st October is uncalled for, because, Nigeria and the parts that made up the modern Nigeria were naturally independent, socially organised and politically sovereign. The two invasions (slavery and colonialization) were unwanted and unnecessary. Marking and celebrating end of these illegal invasions is indirectly recognising and endorsing them. So, 1st October 1960 is not Nigerian independence. 1st October only reminds us when the then illegal invaders left our shores. The amalgamation of the different kingdoms of Nigeria can be commemorated to symbolise and remind us of our unity in diversity, and to reflect back on our founding values and heritages.
The slavery and colonialization of Nigeria left negative psychological footprint of low self-esteem and inferiority. The invaders came to convert free men to slaves and exploit resources in Africa so they can build their countries. This remanence caused backwardness to the continent and the country economically till date. Presently, we see how a shock in foreign economy or foreign currency directly affect the Nigerian Economy. The time when Nigeria was supposed to develop policies and resources to build its economy, it was colonised in the interest of the West. This foundation of dependence and rulership made it difficult for the country to build resilient nation. Though, some of the country’s leaders played their roles in exposing the country more to external shocks for failing to build the real sectors of the economy and infrastructures.
At the time when Europe was developing, Africans were made slaves, building other people’s nations. Yet, after abolishing slavery, the illegal slave owners were compensated, but the so called slaves were not. The so called slaves were in better positions to be compensated for their persecution, this compensation should have been paid to their countries to rebuild what they have lost due to the exploitations.
Finally, like the second paragraph of the US declaration of independence stated, “All men are created Equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, this clause confessed the great error committed by the Europeans of turning others as slaves and for ruling other people’s lands against their wishes. The end of this error can be remembered anyway. Therefore, we can celebrate the departure of the invaders not our independence on 1st October, because we are all created free, and we existed with sovereignty long before the invasion of Europeans.
Dr. Ahmed Adamu,
Leadership and Personal Development Expert,
First Global Chairperson of Commonwealth Youth Council,
University Lecturer (Economics),
Initially written on 1st October 2016