“Nigeria is a place where the best is impossible, but where the worst never happens...”
- Old Saying quoted by John Gunther at page 776 of his book “INSIDE AFRICA” published, 1955 by Harper
Next, John Gunther turned his attention to the Nigerian north in the third and final chapter on Nigeria. He claimed to have flown to Kano, “the ancient and historic city of the North, over mangrove swamps along the coast and a thick humid belt of rain forest.”
Gunther’s journeys in Nigeria in 1955 are quite an experience for this well known American journalist. You can immediately sense that his conversation with politicians from the southern part of Nigeria (readers may want to read part 1 & II to get a glimpse of such prejudice) had influenced him as he wrote about the Nigerian north:
“The North, let us repeat, has all the appurtenances of a totally different country. I supposed that the first thing I noticed on this upland plateau was that English was no longer a lingua franca. And here we are in Moslem Africa once more. Kano might be Marrakesh across the Sahara. Here we return to oceans of corrugated sand, the stately walk of camels, women behind veils, minaret like tall chessmen, and the soft, gliding handshake of the Arabs.”
You will recall that the above quote seems to echo the comments made by Chief Obafemi Awolowo to John Gunther in their encounter, which is recounted in part II of our blog on this book as follows: “West and East Nigeria are as different as Ireland from Germany. The North is as different from either as China.” But as we rightly stated then which is worth repeating now, West, East, North remain part of Nigeria even as Ireland and Germany are today part of the European Union. The cultural diversities of the varied parts of Nigeria should be an object of beauty and not an instrument of division. In as much as politicians and journalist continues to look at such cultural difference from the prism of a “totally different country,” they wrought grave injustice to the commonwealth of diversities inherent in the Nigerian union. Mr. Gunther, as an American citizen did not speak of his journeys from the Northern part of United States to the Southern as a journey to a totally different country in his book “Inside U.S.A” what qualifies that application to Nigeria. As I reiterated earlier, all he did here is echo the divisive primordial ethnic prejudice of Nigerian politicians he spoke to before his travel to the northern part of Nigeria.
THE ANCIENT CITY OF KANO: THEN AND NOW, DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH?
We need to state that 1953, was not the first time Mr. Gunther visited Kano. He was there during the Second World War; we know that because he stated:
“I had seen Kano during the war, when it was a base for military aircraft crossing Africa. Stepping out of the plane, then and now, is like stepping into a blast furnace. Lagos was hot as Baltimore may be hot on a sultry afternoon; Kano has the dry burning heat of the desert. It has not changed much except that there are more bicycles, and it has a big new bright mosque with a blue-green dome. The bicycles flash by in confused intersecting streams, almost as fish do in a bowl.”
I know Gambia was a staging front and military base for America and the Allieds during the Second World War; I never thought Kano was also a military base. I studied Nigeria’s history from primary school to first year in University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) none of the books mentioned Kano in relation to serving as a staging post and military base for the allied armies during the second world war. I may be over reacting here, but I doubt it. This is how we lose much of our contemporary history. No one is writing, because no one is reading. The likes of Professors Akinjogbin, Obaro Ikime, J. F. Ade-Ajayi, Toyin Fasoyin, Segun Osoba et al have all left our decrepit University system. No funding for research into our history means we can’t learn from our history. They all and others wrote comprehensively about our pre-colonial and colonial history but contemporary Nigerian history have been left in the hands of “yellow envelop” journalist, whose god is their belly and who write for hire.
“Kano (population 130, 000, pronounced “Kahno”) is famous for being a walled city, like Peiping (sic), but the walls, even if they have a circumference of eleven miles and are intersected by imposing gates, are disappointing. They are little more than embankments, crumbling at the top. The population is 99, 000 within the walls, 31, 000 outside. Kano, as I have already noted, has a history dating back more than a thousand years. No white man saw it till Captain Hugh Clapperton got there in 1824. His description proves once more that, for a reason nobody can fully explain, British explorers in Africa had a magic hand with prose. Lord Lugard did not capture Kano and bring the area into the framework of British rule till 1903.”
First of all let me state Gunther, meant today’s Beijing when he wrote Peiping, which was then called Peking! If you are still with me after that convoluted correction let’s move on to something more substantive in this piece above.
I visited Kano, towards the end of last decade several times, and the level of maintenance of it’s historic district is appalling to say the least. If those walls were crumbling in 1955, you can imagine it’s state in the 1990s. And yet we have a Federal ministry of culture and tourism, state ministry of culture and Kano municipal government sitting on their hands. In my days in Ife, one of my visiting friends requested to visit an historic landmark and I suggested we visit the well known staff of Oranmiyan. Friends, I regretted bringing it up. When we got to the venue, which has been turned into an “atan”-refuse dump, it was not just derelict we found eight year old passing excreta nearby. I turned and shepherd my friend back into my car. About a year before then, the then President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida had in his usual “Maradonic” way during his visit to the Old Oyo state announced a donation of five million naira each to the palace of Ooni of Ife and Owa Obokun of Ijeshaland for the development and maintenance of historic site. Tell me any country where such money is voted outside budgetary allocations to a non-statutory body with little or no accountability whatsoever!
“The Kano market throbs and sings with color. It is open to the sun and therefore sparkling. It makes the market in Lagos, say, look like a cave. It is the kind of place Aladdin and Scheherazade might have liked to shop in, and its celebrated dye pits demonstrate that, in some respects, Africa has its own peculiar unities. The Tuareg of the Hoggar, whom we talked about so many pages past, come all the way here to buy cloth dipped in Kano’s pools of indigo.”
This should put paid to the lie that the Nigerian economy pre-colonial largely depends on slave trade. Gunther recounted that in older days; caravans came to Kano all the way from Tripoli. They had as many as 1, 200 camels, and carried 40, 000 pounds sterling worth of goods. The journey took eleven months. He quoted the pamphlet titled “Our Roads” written by the colonial Director of Public Works of Nigeria, Sir Hubert Walker.
Let’s continue with the Gunther’s Kano chronicle:
“But what I noticed most in Kano was something else. The surface of the city, both within and outside the walls, is pierced by a multitude of tall, sharp, geometrically perfect green pyramids. I thought, “This is the most curious architecture I have ever seen.” The pyramids consist solidly of the Arazhis Hypogaea, or peanuts. These are not edible peanuts, not decorticated peanuts, but peanuts for oil, and billions of them are packed into the pyramids, covered with green tarpaulin, and left standing in the open till the overburdened railway can get them to the coast. In each pyramid are 760 tons of peanuts. In each ton, there are 13 bags, in each bag, approximately 172 pounds. (The British ton is 2, 240 pounds, not 2, 000.) Figure out for yourself the total number of peanuts in a pyramid, if you know what a single peanut weigh.
In the footnote, Gunther wrote that “the Nigerian harvest the previous year amounted to 430, 000 tons, of which 200, 000 are still interred in the pyramids. The nut can make oil after three years. But this is an expensive method of storage.”
I have heard many Nigerians blamed the discovery of crude oil for the disappearance of ground nut (as we call it in Nigeria) pyramids in the northern part of Nigeria. Ignorant folks, including respected journalist who should have known better, contend that Nigerian farmers in the north are lazy because they have access to cheap money from crude oil exports derived from the south. This is crass ignorance; it is short sighted, self serving and impedes reasonable discussions about Nigeria’s moribund agricultural policies.
First of all, groundnut pyramids is anachronistic as means of storage as Gunther rightly pointed out. The reason why colonialist allowed it was because they are not ready to put money in road rail construction. They kept these pyramids in Kano for close to 2 years until train haulage cargo are available and when eventually the commodity get to the world market, it barely cover the traders/farmer expense. Most of the traders almost lost their investment as a result of this. Some, who survived quickly change professions after independence and established construction companies, vide contracts from government.
Secondly, the western nations, particularly the United States trade and farm policies killed developing nations commodity export. The farm subsidies program started and expanded by Carter/Reagan/Bush I/Clinton administration destroyed whatever incentives manufacturers had for buying agricultural commodities from developing nations such as Nigeria fizzled out with the readily available local commodity. Here is an excerpt from United States Congressional Research Service (CRS) website:
“The federal government supports the farm price of peanuts primarily by limiting the amount of peanuts allowed to be sold for domestic food use (referred to as "quota" peanuts) at a specified "high" price support level. Farmers may sell peanuts produced in excess of their "quota" (called "additionals") for export or crushing into peanut oil and meal, but at a much lower supported price. If quota peanuts are insufficient to meet demand. additionals may also be sold domestically for food consumption. The peanut program's purpose is to support producers' incomes and ensure ample domestic peanut supplies. The enacted 1996 farm bill eliminates the program's budget exposure by effectively making it a "no-cost" program.”
How can a Kano farmer compete with an Alabama farmer in this environment? According to CRS, “In 1992. there were 16,194 peanut producers in the United States. 2 Imports in marketing year 3 (MY) 1996/97 accounted for 2.8% of total peanut supplies.”
Finally, we need to point out that with exponential growth of the road haulage transportation in Nigeria and massive construction of roads, bridges and other modes of transportation the rail and the attendant ground nut pyramids became a foregone conclusion. A relic of colonial underdevelopment of Africa, and yet many Nigerians look back with nostalgia at the days of Kano pyramids forgetting the dynamics of economics behind it. We are again tottering at break point, with our mono commodity economy. No one is planning for the day when oil exportation will either dried up or the black gold became a relic due to alternative source of energy. Our governments and politicians are busy looting the treasuries they have no time for such luxuries as planning for the future. We sure need help!
“The airport at Kano is one of the busiest and most important in Africa. British, Dutch, French, Belgian, and other lines use it as an essential stop on their north-south routes across the continent. It handles six hundred aircraft movements a month, and 74, 000 passengers a year. Near the control tower is a splendid sign, with arrows pointing next door:
Mombasa – 2, 409 miles
Cairo – 1, 933
Jerusalem – 2, 176
Cape Town – 3, 244
Buenos Aires – 5, 479
Wellington – 10, 251
Mecca – 2, 189
Nigerians, indeed our sense of humor is legendary. No wonders a recent study finds Nigerians among the happiest people on earth. You can always rely on Nigerian to make fun of everything. It reminds me of a famous car sticker in Nigeria: “Get on board if you are not in hurry to get to your destination. Your alternative is a flying coffin. We start when bus is loaded. Thank you.”
Let us continue with Gunther:
“Mecca? Yes, indeed! West African Airways has a regular service from Kano to Jiddah, via Khartoum-one of the most unusual air routes in the world. Its purpose is to fly Moslem pilgrims to the holy city and back. (The last brief segment of the trip, Jiddah-Mecca, is done by automobile, since Mecca itself has no airport.) The round trip fare from Kano to Mecca is 149 pounds, and last year 1, 159 passengers went; this year the number will be well over two thousand. Many pilgrims are very old when they are at last able to achieve this final fulfillment of their lives, a pilgrimage to Mecca, and some die-twenty did in 1952-enroute. The airline seldom, however, has demands from a relative for a refund on the round trip fare, since the seats are apparently grabbed up at once by Arabians at the other end, who wants to leave Saudi Arabia. The pilgrimage to Mecca from Kano overland and across the Red Sea was once an undertaking of the most arduous and prolonged difficulty, taking several months. Now it can be done in less than twenty fours. I asked the Late Emir of Kano if this did not make it too easy for faithful to get to Mecca, and so become entitled to be called by the precious name Hadji. “Won’t there be so many Hadjis soon that the title will no longer carry distinction?” I inquired. The old Emir chuckled. “The price is too high for most. Anyway it is a good thing to have many Hadjis.”
My question when did Nigerian government started paying for pilgrimage to Mecca and Jerusalem? Who started the program? I know Chief Awolowo established the first Pilgrims Board in the Old Western Region, but who brought up the idea that government should paid for this flight and give pocket money to the pilgrims to boot! I went to an Islamic secondary school in Nigeria and studied Islamic Religious Studies as well as Bible Knowledge, no where did I found in the Quran or the Bible that pilgrimage is compulsory for those who could not afford it. In fact, nothing in the Bible about pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Quran enjoyed those who could afford it to make pilgrimage to Mecca at least once, not thrice or several times as Nigerians are indulging themselves now. Today’s pilgrim in Nigeria mainly consists of Nigerian politician’s extended and close family relations and their coteries. That explains the reasons why Nigerian politicians, military and civilians cannot muster the courage to put an end to this constant drain of our meager resources.
Here is something else Gunther observed:
“Let no one doubt the puritanical authority of the Moslem religion in these parts. The penalty for public drunkenness, as established by Koranic law and the native courts in Kano, is still-even today-forty lashes. It is true that the lashing is administered lightly. But it is done in public, and is thus a gross humiliation to the recipient.”
Alas, 47 years after independence, this is what Malam Sanni, the Zamfara state governor brought back from oblivion. Now Koranic law has upstaged our constitution, despite the fact that the 1979 constitution expressly provides in Section 34 subsection 1 (a) that “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly - (a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; “What is more degrading than public flogging for an offense not provided in any written law!
Let’s continue with Gunther’s description of Kano:
““Kano is two cities. The quarter outside the walls is known as the Saba N’Gari, or Town of Strangers. Here lives a colony of some 20, 000 southern Nigerians, most of them Ibos but with some Yorubas. These are not allowed into Kano proper at night, when the gates close. The northerners hate them, particularly the Yorubas, who have little discipline. In the North intermarriage sometimes occurs between a northerner and an Ibo, but with a Yoruba almost never. The Ibos are expanding fast. They are industrious, they are pugnacious, and they know how to organize. “If an Ibo has to be arrested, you will need four police to hold him,” a magistrate told me.
First, I thought to myself how can one start to puncture this perfidy? My second reaction is where did Gunther found these conjectures he stated as facts above? Did he conduct a poll before his conclusion that northerners hate Yorubas? We know for one that he did not conduct any scientific poll. We also know that he spend a total of 3 days in Kano. We know he spoke to the late Emir of Kano and then the magistrate he quoted above. I uncles that married indigenous Kano lady from the same city of Kano around the time Gunther visited. He definitely bought into the many lies peddled by ethnically prejudiced educated elites in Nigeria who have no link with realities. Nigerians live together everyday without any considerations of “tribe and tongue”. They intermarried. In fact the likelihood of a Hausa man or woman marrying Yoruba in the 1950s is actually higher given the fact that many Yorubas are Moslem and religion contributes a lot to influence marriage in Nigeria. There is no doubt that many Hausas married Igbo girls because there are more Igbos in the north before the northern pogroms in the 1960s than Yoruba.
The other obfuscation in Gunther’s quote above is in relation to the gate closing and those that live outside the walls. I want any reader of this blog who lived and or visited Kano in the 50s or 60s to please relate their experience to us. Each time I visited Kano in the past, I see Nigerian living, trading and doing all activities where they so chose. Yes, I will not bury my head in sand like an ostrich and claim here that Sabo N’Gari does not exist, but it is interesting that Sabo N’Gari today is the most developed part of the town. Just as any American cities have developed suburbs where educated middle class runs to avoid the dint and noise of the inner city, Kano renaissance in actual fact is due largely to this, which is gradually turning into an urban sprawl. I know many agents of disunity in Nigeria continually used this to buttress their call for dismemberment of Nigeria. Some of these folks live in America and they see how poor African American and some white kids in the inner city turned these cities into ghettos, whilst the affluent middle class flees to the suburbs.
One more comment before we leave this quote, and that is about the Igbo, it is a living commentary to the astuteness of the Igbo spirit that even after a crippling civil war where majority of its adult population were wiped out, they are still “expanding very fast.” They still remain “industrious.” These are traits that the Igbos as an ethnic group has brought to bear on the entire peoples of Nigeria. They have infected everyone with the “hustle.” That to me is the advantage in pulling together and affecting each other with the positives from our cultures and not the negatives.
Now, let us move:
“Why do many southern Nigerians live in Kano? The answer could not be simpler-few northerners have even an elementary education, and southerners must be imported to fill essential jobs. The Ibos and Yorubas are stationmasters on the railroad, telegraph clerks, post office employees, airline dispatchers, and so on, everywhere in the North, because practically no northerners are capable as yet of doing this kind of work. This has led to much bitter feeling, and there were severe riots in Kano early in 1953. People fought with machetes, dane guns, and even-yes-bows and arrows. No one knows how many people were killed; the official figure is forty-six. The riot followed the visit to Kano of a southern politician we have named, S.L. Akintola, who was trying to influence the North to agree to the southern demand for independence in 1956. Most northerners despise their southern brethren. Of course they only see southerners in the North, some of whom are bad types, and judge the whole south accordingly.”
When I finished reading this paragraph, I distinctly recalled this was the first of the many riots in Kano and other northern Nigeria cities, so I was curious to find out the reason for the persistence. I do not for one reason believed the reasons proffer above by Gunther, I wanted to find out for myself.
I have heard from many sources that northern politicians deliberately stirred up this riot in 1953 in order to delay the push for independence. The NPC, the party of the North favored slow decolonization in contrast to the two southern parties who are more aligned to rapid decolonization. It is surely not uncommon in Nigeria for political parties to back rioters, criminals, hooligans or other destructive groups, but I want to know more. So I Goggled Kano 1953 riots and I pulled up several links out of which I found an article or is it a paper posted by Kanoonline.com titled: “SOME CAUSES OF KANO RIOTS AND SOLUTIONS BASED ON STIMULATING ECONOMIC GROWTH” being a paper prepared for Inuwar Jama’ar Kano by Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa. Even though, I do not agree with the author about the impact of Islam and particularly sharia on Kano riots, I found the excerpted paragraphs enlightening:
“Kano and other parts of the Sokoto Caliphate were defeated in a military encounter with the British imperialists and were subsequently incorporated into the British Empire. Colonial rule was a Western Christian innovation of dominating other peoples. The intention of the colonialists was primarily to exploit the resources of the colonized people without any regard to human sufferings based on their epistemological vision. Part of that scheme was the imposition of European culture as a facilitator of the economic exploitation. Naturally all the peoples resisted colonialism more especially Muslims. But the Europeans were skillful. They made compromises as long as their economic interests were not threatened. In northern Nigeria they introduced indirect rule for practical reasons. It was convenient for them as well as for the native ruling class. The radicals viewed this as the Anglo-Fulani alliance. After establishing themselves as new masters the British colonialists then began to demolish all the existing institutions some of which were replaced with European inspired ones while others were not replaced at all. One of the first casualties was the social welfare institution. … The colonialists abolished this system without any replacement despite resistance from the emirate authorities….
Most of the industries established in Nigeria during the oil boom era were import substitution based and with the fall in oil prices, the value of naira crashed, most of them collapsed because they relied on imported raw materials. The worst affected were those in the north especially Kano. This is because the transportation cost from Lagos to Kano skyrocketed; they could not compete with those in Lagos or Otta. Since there is no railway, it will be difficult to restore such establishments. Energy supply to Kano has also remained epileptic. The cost of diesel, which is used by generators, has also skyrocketed especially in Kano, because the area is always deprived of petroleum products. These and other reasons made many factories to close and render their workers unemployed. These people have migrated to the cities from the rural areas during the good days. Yet Kano has the largest agricultural commodities market (Dawanau) in West Africa largely built without government assistance. There is no telephone in that market and it is the responsibility of the state government to present the case to the federal authorities. Electricity is also not sufficient in the market. The nature of Kano society, which is influenced by the conditions enumerated above, produced the present crop of Kano leadership. Who could be categorized into traditional, religious, political, business and retired bureaucrats (from civil, military and organized private sector). All of them in one way other have contributed to development of Kano and their complacency has contributed to social unrest. This writer believes that the primary reason for the existence of 'yan daba in as much as it has its roots in the culture of the society it is essentially sustained by material poverty. In this society “poverty presents itself on a substantial scale”. Therefore the “appropriate approach would be to begin with institutional reforms accompanied by a basic need strategy, followed by intensive employment promotion and human resources development policies which could then lead to economic growth and greater total welfare without sacrificing anyone’s welfare in the process”. It is not possible to totally eradicate poverty in the society in the shortest time but it could be reduced. [Italics mine]
There is much to ponder in Ibrahim Ado’s piece above and I wish many folks who preach the gospel of hatred in Nigeria could see through the socio-political history that has fostered the endemic riots in the north and work on the solution. I will admit that I edited out every one of his reference to Islamic driven solutions as I strongly believe that it will definitely set Nigeria back. I urge readers to click on the link above and read the entire papers for themselves. The Nigerian constitution declares that Nigeria shall be a secular state. Any imposition of religion will further tear apart the nation. It is also instructive that his opposition to western education is hinged entirely on mal-administration and not on any ideological foundations. Some of the Northern elites educated in European institutions, including Mr. Ado himself have done a lot to improve the lot of the masses in the North. People like Dr. Bala Usman, and Dr. Attahiru Jega have made positive impact on the socio-political terrain in the North. Their influence on Aminu Kano, of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) which later coalesced into the Peoples Redemption Party; it was that party which in 1979 had Professors Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and Bala Usman as members. That platform spurned the best governor in the second republic-Alhaji Balarabe Usman-who was later impeached because of his unwillingness to mortgage his principles.
Now back to Gunther, contrary to his assertion, it is apparent that the Kano 1953 riots started not because northerners hate southerners but because of the poverty in the land.
We shall now continue with the blog:
“In Kano we were guests of our good friend Dr. Arthur Bryson, and he showed us the city hospital, the largest hospital in West Africa. In the yard I saw fat, slimy blue and yellow parrots crawling-oddly enough-on the ground. I looked again. They were lizards.” [Italics mine]
Herein lays a clue to Gunther’s source of information about Nigerian and Nigeria. Most of the requisite polls he did were probably conjectures from Dr. Bryson befuddled colonial minds. But more importantly I would like to know if the Kano General Hospital can still be rated as the largest hospital in West Africa. I know our health services in Nigeria had suffered due largely to neglect under the military rule.
“In one ward, we encountered a case of elephantiasis of the scrotum-the patient had a black sack the size of a large basket, bigger than a pumpkin, dangling between his legs. In another lay the most pitiable medical case I have ever seen. A boy fell asleep on a road, and a hyena bit of his face. The boy lost tongue, lips, and the whole lower jaw, but would not die. I asked what would happen to him, if on leaving the hospital, he was not poisoned by his family. Answer: “He may make a good living as a beggar”
I brought this out, so we could appreciate the fact that sometimes Gunther’s write with his audience in mind. I believe he wrote this so as to give his western audience something to laugh about, albeit at the expense of poor suffering Africans. The other thing we need to point out is that the problem of begging in Northern Nigeria is not a recent creation, this by the way is 1953. Today, begging in Kano has become an art, a profession, as the level of poverty sunk lower and lower, begging increase astronomically whilst the Kano state government stand around doing nothing. The news this morning is that the former governor of Jigawa, a sister state of Kano, was arrested yesterday for corruption whilst in office.
“Dr. Bryson’s division of this hospital has the highest possible standards, and does work of notable and devoted quality. In equipment it compares to Dr. Schweitzer’s hospital in Lambarene as, say, Claridge’s compares to a pub in Lambeth. But this does not mean that Dr. Bryson does not often encounter typically African difficulties. Recently he operated on a boy for tropical ulcer; the operation was projected. Dr. Bryson did not know why the youngster, terrified, did his best to avoid and delay the second operation. He learned the reason later. A nurse had told the boy that, unless he gave her fifteen shillings “dash,” she would see to it that the anesthetic in the next operation would kill him.”
How callous! But before we talked about that thieving nurse, we need to talk about this hospital. I do not know if this particular hospital is the one now renamed Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital, Kano or the other one renamed Aminu Kanu Teaching Hospital. But according to Journal of community Medicine & Primary Health Care, as at June 2004 the Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital owned by Kano State remains the largest state government-owned hospital in northern Nigeria and has the highest patients' attendance in the region. The fact that it has the highest patient’s attendance in Northern Nigeria is surely a compliment in 2004 given the pervasive rot that had been inflicted on Nigeria health industry under military rule. In essence even though it might not be the preeminent hospital in West Africa, it is still standing!
For those who care to know, let’s examine one of Gunther’s analogy in the above quote “In equipment it compares to Dr. Schweitzer’s hospital in Lambarene as, say, Claridge’s compares to a pub in Lambeth.”
While searching the internet I found the following about Dr. Albert Schweitzer, established the hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon, and worked there until his death in 1965. That hospital is reputed to be one of the best in Africa. Dr. Schweitzer left a brilliant professional career in Europe as a musician and a theologian to become a physician, moved to Africa with his wife, built a hospital in Lambaréné from what had been a chicken coop, and devoted his life to treating thousands of patients out of an irrepressible sense of personal duty. His activities earned him the admiration of figures such as Albert Einstein and Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. In 1952 he received the Nobel Peace Prize. The money from the prize went to fund the creation of Cité Soleil- a wing dedicated solely to treatment of leper. One day, looking at a herd of hippos in the Ogowe River, close to the hospital, Dr. Schweitzer formed his commitment to the need to revere life: "The greatest evil is to destroy life, to injure life, to repress life that is capable of development." As for Claridge and Lambeth, they both have top UK’s pubs, if you have the money. Ok, that is what my friend told me, I don’t visit UK pubs...lol
THE EMIR OF KANO
Gunther devoted attention to influence of traditional rulers in the colonial times to let’s its rulers appreciate the extent the colonialist went in getting their help in their quest to subjugate the people through the so-called indirect rule.
“Officially the Emir of Kano is known as the Emir Alhaji Abdullah Bayero, the Galadima Dawakin Kudo of Kano. He rules 2,300,000 people. (the Emir died in December, 1953. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the Chiroma of Kano, mentioned below) “Galadima” means “leader of the foot army”; chiefs in the North bear titles which indicate their ancient ceremonial position. We have met enough Moslem potentates in this book, and so I will be brief. The Emir is seventy-eight, and has some forty children. He is of the sixth generation of his line to hold the throne. We were taken to pay our respects to this eminent and highly feudal old gentleman. His palace, inside a sizable courtyard, is decorated with prongs made of baked ocher-red mud in the familiar desert style, and one court leads to the next, but not in mazes so complicated as those we saw on the other side of the Sahara, in the Berber county. The Emir’s body guard was lined up as we approached; its uniforms are a loud, handsome mixture of red and green. Then we became conscious of courtiers greeting us. I was startled because, as they smiled, I thought that all must have bleeding gums. But no! They were chewing Kola nut, a well known Nigerian delicacy. This is supposed to contain minute quantities of strychnine, and thus act as stimulant. Addicts (like the Emir) chew the nut for a period, then spit the remains on the floor. The juice is bright re
The Emir himself, who has considerable stateliness, met us at the outer gate and showed us into this throne room. This large conical stucco chamber has decorations depicting, of all things, airplanes. The Emir sat down, placing us next to him; his attendants and eldest son squatted at a respectful distance. He wore a white turban that contained a kind of bib fore and aft, with two spurs stuck out over his ears; this symbolizes the spelling of the word “Allah.” The Emir gets 7, 000 pounds per year salary from the Native Authority (local administration) plus 3, 000 pounds for his establishment. At once when our interview began (he talked in Arabic, not Fulani), we discovered that he was intelligent and well informed. He knew about Idris in Libya and what was going on in the Sudan, and said one thing about events in the local sphere that was enlightening. We asked him about the political situation in the North and he replied enigmatically but not too enigmatically that it was “like Pakistan.”
This is a classic example of a feudal lord in all their majesty. Sadly this is the kind of practice, our current president Yar’Adua is taking us back into. Once he succeeded in amending the constitution and provide a role for traditional leaders through the creation of a National Council of Traditional Rulers. Relic of the past, a needless institution that ought to be allowed to die a slow death. Instrument of division and sectionalism. In his bid to shore up his regime, illegitimacy, he is seeking to take us back to an inglorious past. The India have done away with their Maharajas but our president wants them back. Too bad..
“The Emir’s most important son is known as Alhaji Mohammadu Sanussi, the Chiroma of Kano. He is about forty-eight. He is clever and modern minded. Succession is, as we know, a complex subject in most of Africa. It must go to somebody in the royal house, but not necessarily to the Emir’s own branch of this. Genealogy is wildly confused in Moslem lands, and there are usually any number of people to choose from. This has both good and bad effects. It encourages bright young men of royal blood to work hard and be on their best behavior, if they want to be chosen, but on the other hand it makes it impossible to give special education to an heir presumptive, because nobody knows who the heir will be.”
Here is my beef with African traditional rulers, they are simply anachronistic. Virtually all the wars in Africa have their hands and the hand of their anointed military marauders in it. They do not do anything to advance knowledge or keep peace. They are antithetical to the very tenets of democracy the continent needs. Most of them have abandoned the very cultures and custom they are required to guard jealously.
“There are fifty-two emirs in the Nigerian North in all, of whom twenty are important enough to be known officially as “first-class” emirs. They are feudal chieftains still, but they have felt the beginning, at least, of the impingement of the modern world. The emirs no longer have personal financial control of their areas, and do not levy taxes any more.”
This again is where I have problem with President Yar’Adua, why bring them back where they are on their way to oblivion? Ok, I get it! He wants legitimacy because of the charade of election Obasanjo used to select him. Just allow the election tribunal to determine that and stop running from pillar to post. Govern and show us you deserve to be there. Don’t sit on your hands. Almost 60 days after inauguration he is still arguing over who to make minister, this is what is eroding his legitimacy more than any thing else.
THE NORTH IN GENERAL
“Administration is carried on largely (under the British system of Indirect Rule) by a Native Authority in each area. One index of the extreme isolation and remoteness of this territory is that only one Northern Nigerian (a school master at Zaria) has ever visited the United States. An incidental point is that not a single Jew lives in the entire vast region.
I don’t know how visiting United States is an index of extreme isolation. Most educated Nigerian elites in the 1950s studied in Britain. The soldiers who served under the West African Brigade during the two world wars went as far Burma and Italy; places majority of Americans don’t know whether they exist or not. But we have to admit the fact that the 1950s northern Nigeria is backward western education wise compare to other parts of Nigeria. The corollary to that, is their attachment to Islam and their cultures ensure they had huge impact in the Islamic world in the periods preceding colonialism.
“Feudalism, particularly in a rigid Moslem area, brings familiar evils. The people, no matter how charming and picturesque they may be, are not only poverty-stricken to an extreme, but unbelievably ignorant. Broadcasting has to be in the simplest vernacular. If you ask even the most rudimentary questions about government, people will not understand. There are a few cinemas in Kano; Europeans often find it difficult to hear the sound track, because the bulk of the audience shouts continually in surprise and delight, uttering aloud such remarks as, “Look-a horse!” As an example of backwardness, let me mention that, until twenty years ago, a doctor could not amputate a man’s leg even to save his life without laboriously gained permission of the local Moslem elders. I hardly need to go into such obvious items as the position of women. Here we find the usual Moslem conventions enforced with limitless orthodoxy, so much so that it is almost impossible to obtain female nurses or school teachers. As a rule women in the new adult education classes are, and have to be, prostitutes. No other women exist to recruit from. A doctor we met needed assistants for his leprosarium, and prostitutes were the only women he could get. And these, it may be added did their jobs very well.”
This is what you get when you allow feudalism to roam wide. Enlightenment brings light of ideas. Let’s hasten to add that the North has surely come a long way since the time Gunther visited Northern Nigeria.
“Partly because Indirect Rule has worked well the Nigerian North has always been a region highly favored by the British (The British, as always, do their best never to interfere with the native satraps. Sometimes, however, these behave so disgracefully or are so unmanageable that they have to be removed. The Emir of Dikwa was deposed in 1954.). …
One Northern Province, Sokoto is twice the area of Holland. It has 1, 500, 000 people and is run by exactly thirty white officials, who have at their disposal three hundred unarmed African police. Disparities like this produce beautiful legends. One District Officer was told by his African sergeant, on a Wednesday, that a riot was taking place outside his door, with tribesmen massing to sack the establishment. The Briton did not look up from his desk. “Tell them to go home. In this area we do not have riots on Wednesdays. Let them come on a Saturday if they wish, when I have more time.” Recently a DO near the Cameroons border went mad, after he has survived an attack by natives with poisoned arrows. He tore down a hut, and walked about in a suit made of its tin roof.”
For all who believed that British favored the North, you can see the historical background. It is easy for them to rule in the north because of the well established theocratic structures of the Sokoto caliphate. They simply hitch their ride on that wagon and siphon the economy juice out of the line whilst the traditional rulers are paid pittance and the people suffer in silence.
“The British in Nigeria have been strongly influenced by the country’s sectionalism, and some even seem to be more “nationalist” than the Nigerians. Up here in the North, they say, the Africans are men! Similarly in southern Nigeria, British officials can be strongly pro-Ibo or pro-Yoruba. I heard an Englishman say, “if it was up to me I’d live in Yorubaland all my life, even after Nigeria gets self-rule. I hope they’ll hire me when we go. Even Africans make jokes about this. They say that they will have to have a sizable army in the new Nigeria, for fear that the British who are pro-Hausa, pro-Ibo, or pro-Yoruba will start a civil war.”
Here in stark reality is the source of Nigeria sectionalism. In previous installment of this blog, we had quoted Chief Awolowo statement made to the author, when Gunther asked him what his principal grievances against British were, considering the British record of accomplishment in Nigeria. He had replied “First, that it was morally wrong for one nation to govern another, second, that British administration was carried out by incompetent, inferior officials, third, that the British did not have the true interest of the country at heart.” He hit the nail on the head, which to me is the genesis and beginning of Nigeria’s problem. I discovered yesterday, that the most successful colonial director of public works in Nigeria, Sir Johnnie Walker was a high school drop out. Most of these officers lacked professionals, they are most ex-convict who could not find jobs at home and thus send to far away colonies to continue their loot and unleash their worst self. They planted the seeds of sectionalism in the heart of Nigeria politicians. They trained them to look at problems not from a Nigerian perspective but from parochial ethnic perspective. Of course, we can put the blame solely on them, if they weren’t any takers, givers who shush it. Unfortunately the Nigeria so-called founding fathers bought into the gospel of ethnic chauvinism preached by their colonial warlords and we remain divided till today. We surely need a mental and mind make over to right the ship of our state.
The questions folks have asked me (by the way after this last and final installment we intend to blog readers questions and my response to them), time and time again is this: “Are you saying John Gunther is racist?” Well I will leave readers to be a judge of that, take for instance this piece about the ethnic composition of Northern Nigeria:
“The principal Northern tribe is the Hausa, but this term is so all-embracing as to be almost meaningless. To sue it is like saying “European.” There is no such person as “a” Hausa, just as there is properly speaking no Bantu (We will, however violate this dictum, as we have violated it with Bantu.) There are Hausa-speaking people, like Bantu-speaking people. The Hausa folk are generally Negro or negroid in appearance, but their language is Hamitic. It is an old language, having certainly been in use for a thousand years or more; a contemporary Hausa-English dictionary is a thick book indeed, and it is the second most widely spoken language in Africa. Like Berber, Somali, and Galla, it is an “advanced” language, with grammatical rules. But the Hausas produced no culture. They are a people without any creative spark or illumination at all; it seems-without art, literature, or even crafts. The average Hausa woman cannot sew. Her hands are so slippery with henna, used to make them soft, that it is impossible for her most of the time to hold a needle.”
First of all, let me say that Muhammed Rumfa and Queen Amina will be turning in their grave when they read this. These are Kano and Zaria, Hausa rulers before the Fulani conquest. Gold and Iron ore mining had been going on for centuries on Dala hill in Kano before the Europeans learnt about any routes to West Africa. If Gunther had done due diligence he would have found out that about the Trans Saharan trade route from Tripoli to Kano where clothing made by Hausas artisans were exchanged for salt and Quaranic books at the famous Kano market. The Hausas did produced beautiful cultures and those cultures are not in any way extant. Just visit the Zango kataf and other areas where the Fulani’s are unable to subdue and forced their cultures on the Hausas and you will see the beauty inherent in their culture before the Fulani came. Now compare this description with the followings:
“In the early 1800’s another African people, the Fulani, descended on the Hausa and conquered them in the name of the Prophet. Under a great warrior Othman Dan Fodio they made a jehad (holy war) and established the Fulani Empire. Descendants of these Fulani, a Hamitic folk who belong technically to the white race, are today tall, slim, much lighter-skinned than the Hausa, more graceful and with finer features. (Fat women are, however, generally admired. When, in the old days, an emir wanted concubines, he stood a line of women with their noses against a wall; those who projected most behind were chosen.) Some even have blue eyes, and some Fulani women are extravagantly beautiful. The Fulani promptly intermarried with their Hausa vassals, and many Nigerian today bear traces of both heritages. Generally it is the ruling class that has the most Fulani blood, and some emirs claim to be pure Fulani. The proudest are those palest in color. Most Fulani today are what their fore-fathers were-nomads, cattle raisers, with no fixed habitation; when they move, their women carry their reed houses with them. There are also “town Fulani,” whom the nomads consider to be degenerate. Incidentally Fulani is one of the most complicated and abstruse of languages. There are seventeen genders, and the plural of a noun may have no resemblance whatever to the singular.”
Setting aside his linguistic ignorance in the time being, imagine the extent he went to cast the Fulanis as white just because they happened to be in the ruler-ship position. First, he starts out calling them Hamitic and mid way; he re-characterized them as “technically white.” This amongst other crimes is the legacy of colonialism in Africa, setting up one community against the other. You will recalled in the previous quote above he had submitted that “there is no such person as a “Hausa,” and now when it get’s to time to compare white and black there is suddenly and Hausa who is not as “graceful” and ”of lighter skinned” available to use to compare with the Fulani. This is typical of the colonialist “divide and rule” tactic and I will leave readers to judge the inherent racist bent in his reasoning in the above quote.
SIR AHMADU BELLO, THE SARDAUNA OF SOKOTO
“Northern Nigeria is feudal, yes, but it is also part of Nigeria, the modern state. The chief political figure in the North is Ahmadu, the Sardauna of Sokoto, the head of the Northern People’s Congress. He is a very considerable personage indeed, and for a variety of reasons. First, Sokoto is big and heavily populated. Second, the Northern People’s Congress is by far the most important political organization in the North. Third the Sardauna has commanding vigor, intellect, and prestige. Fourth, from a religious point of view, his capital is a holy city, and he is the spiritual head not merely of all Moslems in Nigeria, but on the whole of West Coast of Africa.”
I just loved this. When you read commentaries by most Nigerian newspapers the image you get about the Sardauna is that of a caricatures ignorant stooge, unintelligent, and thoughtlessly intransigence. But here we are introduced to a Sardauna who commands “vigor, intellect and prestige.” This is one more reasons why I think Ibrahim Ado Kuraw got it wrong when he submitted in his essay quoted above that Western education as opposed to Islamic education is the problem of Northern Nigeria. My answer is simple, what stops those who want the better of the two worlds from getting it. At least that is what the Sardauna got and most of these scholars will readily agree he was better for it. Well, let’s continue:
“The Sardauna, who is a descendant of the old Fulani kings, had a partly European education. He is a moderate nationalist. For a long time-perhaps not now-he thought that 1956 was too early a date for independence, in that the North was not anywhere so mature politically as the precocious south and would be sucked under by it. When the central legislature broke up in March, 1953, he walked out of the chamber muttering, “Ah! Now we pay for Lugard’s mistake in 1914!” By this he meant presumably that Lord Lugard should not even have attempted to unify the country.”
Again, we see another Nigerian nationalist acting against the nation’s interest. Just like Awolowo, Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello had no vision for Nigeria. His parochial thought is about his section of the country. Indeed let’s ask for one moment why he finally accede that Nigeria was ready for independence in 1960. His chief concerns then (in 1953) was that North has not produced enough educational elites to pick up from the colonialist. But what change within seven years. All his fears were irrational and unjustifiable. As at late 1985, many northern states still have British born judges on their bench, ditto hospital doctors, nurses, engineer etc. The real truth is that their fight is not for empowerment of Northern Nigerian poor masses but a consolidation of their vice grip on power. This is so, even though there are better qualified professionals from the south. It is ironic that the same northern politicians who regretted the unification of Nigeria in 1953 were the ones who stoutly fought for its unity during the civil war. What gives, I will leave you to be the judge of that.
“Another political party exists in the North, called NEPU, or Northern Elements Progressive Union, an offshoot of Zik’s forces. This is much more radical and inflammatory than the Sardauna’s NPC. It has stood for self-government in 1956.”
My question is what happened to the relationship between Zik’s NCNC and Aminu Kanu’s NEPU? How did that union broke down? Does it have something to do with the lack of vision by the leadership of NCNC especially the attempt to make it a sectional party?
THE BORNU KINGDOM IN THE 1950S
“Several other Northern emirs have large territories and substantial power. One is the Shehu (sheik) of Bornu. He is one of the richest men in the world. His “kingdom,” which is bigger than Scotland or Maine and lies to the northeast of Kano, as Sokoto lies to the northwest, was never conquered by the Fulani; his people are a famous independent race, the Kanuri. His remote capital, Maiduguri, was seen-oddly enough-by many Americans during World War II, because it was a stop on the Air Transport Command’s route to the Middle East. His chief source of power, like that of most of his colleagues, is that the uneducated serfs are solidly behind him. (Political scientists are sometimes vexed by a curious paradox-that by and large Moslems in the Mediterranean sector of Africa are flamingly radical, whereas those in the desert below are equally anti-nationalist and conservative. The reason of course is that the desert dwellers have not yet emerged from feudalism.”
You can now see my anger at the mindset that made President Yar’Adua struts with glee his intention to amend the constitution so as to create an assembly for feudal overlords to jaw jaw and possibly war war too!
Sadly, we are still stuck in the 18th and 19th century, even though we have produced many educated elites like Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa quoted above, who still believe that sending your children to western public school will turned them to “yan daba” and that you are better off sending them to Islamic school where they will be thought about “their” culture, by Ulama. Even if all these so called Ulama teach the kids is Arabic culture, and no mention is made of Queen Amina, Mohammed Rumfa, El Kanemi et al. These Ulama’s of course will not teach them anything about Information science, which will position them for the challenges of the 21st century. Interesting enough, fundamentally sound Arabs in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia et al are sending their kids to best school in Europe and America to position them for the global challenge. Our own educated elites want us to be stuck in the 18th century. The biggest American university in the world is not in U.S it is in the middle East. The Arab nation of Qatar to be specific. Mr. Ado Kurawa talked about Kemalism, which he defined and describe as an ideology as follows:
“This ideology is called Kemalism after Kemal Attaturk who tried to Westernize Turkey. The ideology failed and Turkey became a torn country. Europe has refused to accept Turkey since it is not Christian. The Turkish leadership has remained humiliated as beggars instead of assuming a more dignified and impressive role as the leaders of the Muslim world based on their history, geography, human and material resources. Kano as a Muslim society must be inward looking.”
Here is the obvious stupidity in the argument. He started of with a premise that Turkey had an “impressive role as the leaders of the Muslim world based on their history, geography, human and material resources” and I asked how did Turkey achieved that feat? Is it by getting stuck in the 14th century? No! Kemal Attaturk pulled them out of the parochial religious mindset and set them on a progressive part to become leader in the Moslem world. He embraced differing cultures without throwing away the best ideas of Islam. Even the west stole from the Arabic cultures to position themselves for greatness, a good reference is Algebra, without which mathematics is incomplete as we know it today. Suppose the West says, “well that idea is from Islam/Arab and we don’t want bad influence on our culture” they will not be where they are today. The fact that Turkey has not been accepted by European Unions proved nothing. It does not prove that Kemalism is not a success. The fact that EU is even considering their application speaks volume about the achievement of Kemalism. The fear of Europe has nothing to do with Kemalism but terrorism, such as the one unleashed by the so called Ulamas in Northern Nigeria once every 2 years where they killed and maimed anyone with contrary opinions to theirs.
NORTHERN NIGERIA ATTITUDE TO BRITISH COLONIAL RULE
“Now we recapitulate the basic political situation in so far as it concerns the North. Constitutional reform in Nigeria as a whole means simply to bring the North in. The North is extremely loath to lose British administration, if this is to be followed by a Nigerian administration that may turn out to be much inferior. The North knows that it has not the personnel with which to run its own government. On occasion inflamed northerners have even threatened to secede and establish a separate country of their own, “Hausaland,” rather than accept submission to the south. There are firebrands who say that the North will invade and conquer the south, as the Fulani warriors once tried to do. But the North, if it should sever all ties with the south, would have no seacoast, a crippling disadvantage; on the other hand it has most of Nigeria’s great mineral wealth, particularly tin. I heard northerners say, “if we secede, we can ship our goods out to French Africa along the Niger.” But this would be difficult process.”
Please note, Gunther wrote his book before the discovery of crude oil at Oloibiri in 1956. The first discovery of commercial quantities of oil in Nigeria was in 1956 at Oloibiri, about ninety kilometers west of Port Harcourt in what is now Bayelsa State; other discoveries soon followed and exports began in 1958, although significant quantities only began to flow from 1965, with the completion of a terminal on Bonny Island, on the Atlantic coast, and pipelines to feed the terminal. You can read more about oil in Nigeria here
We might as well replace “inflamed Northerner” here with ethnic nationalist politicians in the North. This does not in any way reflect opinions of masses of people in the North at this time. What is North? The definition of a Northerner is even more amorphous. There are Yorubas in the geographical North, there are Tivs, Jukuns, Kanuris, Igbiras, Nupes, Igala, some of whom have little or no connection with the Sokoto caliphate or Islam. Sadly, it was the above sentiment that ethnic politicians in the south east capitalized upon to justify their attempt to secede from Nigeria. Sadly, the Arewa People Congress, Oduduwa People Congress, MASSOB and MEND are still beating this drum with no thought to the very implications of their actions.
“In Kano we had one lively morning talking about all this with a group of young Nigerians. One said, “The southerners despise us, but we despise them more. We had culture when the Ibos were eating their own grandmothers. Of course we want self-government, but we must be educated up to it first. We must preserve our identity. The choice of the date 1956 was an unscrupulous political device on the part of the south. They chose this date knowing that we will not be ready when the British go; hence the south will be able to absorb us more easily. To say that the British are “goading us to secede is nonsense.”
It is very dishonest and disingenuous of Gunther not to name the person that provided this quote to him. But it is apparent that it is the handiwork of disgruntled ethnic nationalist politicians from the North. Curiously as soon as the “black gold” was discovered they changed their tune. Statements such as the above engendered the Nigerian civil war; sadly our politicians have never learnt any lesson from history.
We shall revisit this quote later, for now let us continue with Gunther:
“This was one of the several occasions when we were asked questions about American history in the period 1776-87; Nigerians want to know how the United States managed to establish unity. This morning one official said soberly, “What a pity it is that Northern and Southern Nigeria differ so much more than Virginia and Massachusetts.
We asked how education could possibly come to Northern Nigeria while women were still not emancipated. What happened then was what always happens when this question is asked in an Islamic community. Our meeting broke up in an excited storm.”
This to me is the primary impediment to Nigeria progress, inability of our so called educated politicians to discourse issues of national unity and advancement with civility. A parochial one minded, one issue oriented world view, which has no base with reality. Lack of vision and inability to see the bigger picture is the problem of leadership in Nigeria. The power of vision is a key to a successful nation. When we have leaders who cannot think beyond their eyes, we will end up with a decrepit nation.
“One further point might be mentioned-the future position and influence of the Sudan. It is commonly assumed that Nigeria will always, in the end, do what the Gold Coast does, but Sudan is emotionally much closer, at least to Nigerians of the North. If the Sudanese experiment in self-government works well, this will have a strong effect on Nigeria as a whole.”
Again, sadly the Sudanese experiment has been an abysmal failure, the British handed power to the Northern Moslem, they in turn, unleashed havoc on the largely animist/Christian south. As we write, the United Nations is considering an intervention force to Darfur where the government of Sudan had sponsored the so called “janjaweed” militias who pillaged, killed and raped poor villages in the south and the west of Sudan. Nigeria on the other hand, had fought one civil war and is on the throes of unrest in the Niger delta.
NOW THE MIDDLE BELT: WELCOME JOS
“We flew to Jos, two hours by air from Kano, high up on the central plateau. Here too is a new Nigerian world. Jos sits at 3,900 feet, in healthy upland country; it has more of the texture of a European city than any I saw in Nigeria. The population is 30, 000, of which 1,500 are white. Jos has a splendid little museum of African anthropology and antiquities. Seventeen miles away is the oddly named town of Vom, (But there are towns in Texas with such odd names as Ace, Box, Nix, and Pep.), the seat of the West African Institute of Trypanosomiasis Research, where Colonel H. W. Mulligan and his associates do admirable work. One of the roads out of Jos-we traveled on it a few inches-leads all the way to Lake Chad.
The city of Jos remains a beauty to behold, in the late 1980s when this reviewer, visited Jos, the quiet city still has some of the allure, Gunther noticed when he visited it in the 1950s. Its is therefore saddening indeed to learnt recently that some of the religious unrest common in other parts of Northern Nigeria happened there recently. That riot is also not unconnected to the corruption of the then state governor-Joshua Dariye-who was then declared wanted by the police in London on suspicions of money laundering. Every attempt to make him face justice came to naught as he had “god father” in Plateau politics who are ready to cuddle him as long as he spreads the loot their way.
“Jos is the center of tin and columbite mining-which, strange as it may seem, makes it of considerable interest to the United States. Nigeria produces a large proportion of the world’s columbite, a mineral indispensable for the manufacture of special heat-resisting steel. No jet plane can fly without columbite or some similar alloy; the American air force could not exist without columbite from Jos and elsewhere. The tin mines here are an old story. They have been operated for many years. (The major company is Amalgamated Tin Mines of Nigeria, usually known as ATMN. Tin is mined by an open cast process, since the ore lies close to the surface; there are no deep shafts.) Until recently nobody paid any attention to Columbite, a rare mineral associated with tin, because no market for it existed. Residue from the tin operations was tossed aside as worthless, and soon became covered with grass and bush. Now it is being dug up again inch by inch for columbite, just as the slag heaps near Johannesburg are being worked over for Uranium. Apparently mining in Africa always has to be done twice. The United States pays a bonus of 100 percent beyond the regular price for all the columbite that Nigeria produces.”
How and when do we lose such veritable foreign exchange earner such as this? The answer is simple: Crude Oil. The discovery of oil has done more harm than good to Nigeria. In fact some of have argued we might never have had the Civil war had it not been for oil. The other question is what happened to the tin mining in Jos. I learnt more about the rise and decline of tin mining in Jos from this website- http://www.uni.edu/gai/Nigeria/Lessons/Tin_Mining.html Readers will notice that Gunther stated that United States pays bonus of 100% for tin mined in Jos. The question is where they get the Tin now, well thanks to that website: “Malaysia, Bolivia, and Brazil are other countries that produce tin. Tin found on the Jos Plateau is supposedly much stronger. Informal mining is popular and then the tin from the Jos Plateau is often smuggled to these countries to strengthen their tin.” [Italics mine]
I also discovered that by 1960, Jos was the sixth largest producer of tin in the world! Even though “Tin mining began to decrease because of substitutions and therefore prices declined. Plastics and other materials that will not corrode replaced the use of tin in cans. Today, tin is used for the coating in surgical instruments, airplane parts, and coating on metal objects. Tin is also used in jet engines because of it's high resistance to heat. Kaolin is a type of clay found in tin that is used in chalk and glass.” In other words Tin is still a much sought commodity, and most especially the tin mined in Jos, which are now being smuggled to Bolivia, Brazil and Malaysia to augment the quality of their inferior tin.
I know many Nigerians in diasporas are wondering why the indigenous people of Jos are not taking advantage of this resource, just as the Texas and folks in U.S gulf coast enjoys the prosperity that comes with oil exploration in their region? The answer is simple, Nigerian “militricians” had smuggled the Land Use Decree in the 1979 constitution and as such all lands are vested in the state governors. The land no longer belongs to the people, and the governors who are supposed to be holding in trust for them are not beholding to the people because they are selected by mafia in Lagos, Abuja or Port Harcourt. So the people continue in misery and poverty, whilst the politicians working with smugglers smile to their banks in Switzerland and South Africa.
One other thing before we leave this quote, Gunther stated that mining in Africa had to be done twice, how true indeed? But in the case of oil and gas production, we flared the latter for years until we eventually summoned the will to invest in the technology that will harness the gas for commercial purposes. Today, gas production is the second foreign exchange earner after crude oil.
“Everybody in Jos talks about the mining boom, almost as if it were Butte, Montana, and almost everybody, it seems has a claim. This remote little town will be one of the first in Africa to have residential apartment buildings, because, hemmed in as it is by mine leases, no room is left to expand horizontally. Some villagers resent the mines. They say that mining takes their land away, but this is not true-native holdings are carefully protected, and it is against the law to lease any mine sites within areas actually lived on by Africans.
If you look at this as abuse, imagine the present scenario-post Land Use Decree where the government leases this mining right without any considerations to the farmers and Africans who live within the areas. It makes you wonder if the colonialist cared more for African than post colonial African government do for their own people.
“Jos is a European toy metropolis, but few miles away live people more uncompromisingly primitive than any we saw in Africa, except possibly in Tanganyika and the Congo. We went to a village inhabited by a tribe known as the Birom. Its people want cannot have changed much in a thousand years. The Fulani horsemen and slave traders could not get up here; the plateau was too high, and they were ambushed on the rocky trails. So we saw villagers almost completely untouched by any modern influence. The Birom are stark naked except for small napkin made of grass and hung over the loins fore and aft. The breast of the women, flat, empty and drooping, like spaniel’s ears.”
There is a tendency to deny and or pretend that this description is a thing of the past in Nigeria, but I recall that sometimes in the late 1980s, I read newspapers of the Koma people somewhere at the then Gongola state with similar characteristics like the Birom described above in 1950s.
KATSINA: EMIRATE OR CITY?
“From Kano we drove to an important emirate, Katsina, a few miles from the frontier of French West Africa. Here the ruler is the Hadj Osuman Nagogo, Emir of Katsina, CBE. He has been a minister without portfolio in the central Nigerian government, and one of the best polo players in the country. He is in his middle forties, and has been on the throne since 1944. His father, of whom he was the fourth son, was Emir for forty years. The Emir of Katsina rules 9, 000 square miles of territory, with a population of 1,400,000. He is religious as well as political head of his people, and is both an enlightened ruler and, from the pan-Nigerian point of view, a moderate nationalist. He sat in the same cabinet with such extremists as Akintola and the late Chief Bode Thomas. Africa let us say once more is a very mixed-up continent. …This Emir was, however much more westernized. As we talked, his counselors (including his eldest son) were permitted to sit twelve feet away, which is considered close….One adviser present was the development secretary, whose talks, in this archaic palace built of mud was roughly what one would hear if Governor Harriman, say, summoned a consultant to explain what was going on in New York in the realm of road development, public health, and municipal finance. And the Emir himself gave us a strong impression of being cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and progressive.”
What Gunther failed to mention is that it was the colonialist, who smuggled in the traditional rulers into the constitutional conferences and gave them a table to continue with their feudalistic reigns. The colonialist used the traditional rulers as stooges in the so called Indirect Rule to control and corralled their people into submission. We need to mention however, that Nigerian traditional rulers are increasingly turning out to be well educated, even when their predecessors-ignorant feudal lords were not. A classic illustration might be the aforementioned Emir of Katsina.
Let’s enjoin one of many Gunther’s comic relief:
“We learned on this visit something about other phenomena of chiefdom. In this part of Nigeria, authority goes by chain of command almost as it does in the American army; every field of activity has its chief, with stratifications underneath. There was until recently a Kaigama or chief slave. There is a Chief Beggar, who rides of horseback. There is a Chief Butcher, and a Chieftainess of Prostitutes.”
Are you kidding me? In the land of sharia: Chieftainess of Prostitutes? I believed this is just an exaggeration added for comic relief, but if any of the readers have heard about about this particular title please email me and I will include such response in the next installment. I Know of Kaigama, (I have friends who still bear that name). Chief Butcher and Chief Beggar is somehow plausible, but a Chieftainess of Prostitutes??? Like every fiefdom, Katsina and other Northern cities are clearly stratified in the 1950s, I don’t know about what obtains now. One thing is certain the legendary social welfare mechanism in the North have always worked to ameliorate the impact of such stratifications and as such they are not as glaring as in apartheid South Africa or India, but with the ill effect of anti-people program such as Austerity measures, Structural Adjustment Program etc Nigerians have obviously neglected to be our brothers keeper as we used to. So I will not be surprised to find that Katsina of today remains as stratified as the Katsina Gunther visited in 1953.
“Enroute back we stopped briefly at Kankiya, to visit Dr. Gordon Butler, the public health officer of the area. We watched a snake charmer put on an exemplary performance with two cobras (“If a snake hasn’t fed for a couple of days, and hits you with both fangs, you’ve had it.”) and heard about local medical problems, which are grievous. We even saw one. In the outpatients room, and African fully clothed was lying inert on the floor, like a limb off a tree. He was a madman, and Dr. Butler had just given him a soporific, to keep him quiet till the ambulance could get him to Katsina. In this district there are 40, 000 cases of leprosy, and the bilharzias rate is near saturation-80 per cent. Dr. Butler sends town women out into the villages to look for the earliest signs of leprosy in people, so that they may be brought to him and treated. The first symptom of sleeping sickness is paradoxically enough, insomnia. This comes when the trypanosome first begins to irritate the brain. When a villager is far gone with sleeping sickness-emaciated, languorous, and half stupefied-his fellows take him out in the bush and leave him there to die.”
By far the area Nigeria could be said to have recorded tremendous improvement post colonial era, is the health sector; this is due largely to the tremendous impact Dr. Olikoye Ransome Kuti had on this sector during his term as Federal Minister of Health. In 1987 (27 years after independence!), he successfully pushed, for the establishment of Nigeria Primary Health Care plan (PHC), which President Ibrahim Babangida announced as the cornerstone of health policy. Implementation of these programs was intended to take place mainly through collaboration between the Ministry of Health and participating local government councils, which received direct grants from the federal government. Of these objectives, the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) was the most concrete and probably made the greatest progress initially. The federal government also sought to improve the availability of genuine pharmaceutical drugs. In recent years, the activities of Dr. Dora Akiyuli, National Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) might have done more to save lives in Nigeria than any hospital could have done. She had waged a titanic struggle against fake and substandard pharmaceutical drugs. Even then according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1987 it is estimated that there were 3 million cases of guinea worm in Nigeria--about 2 percent of the world total of 140 million cases- -making Nigeria the nation with the highest number of guinea worm cases. According to another report, Nigeria also has the world's highest rate of Onchocerciasis, or river blindness.
Nigeria has some of the best health education institutions in the world. Many Nigerian doctors, nurses and other health professionals trained at great cost are however overseas as part of the “brain drain” benefiting other countries such as Saudi Arabia, U.S.A, Britain and other Western countries. At the height of the perfidious Abacha regime, one of my colleagues who own his own medical hospital in the heart of Lagos left everything to immigrate to America. It is not uncommon to find medical doctors from Cuba and other Caribbean countries working in parts of Northern Nigeria, even whilst there’re are qualified southern Nigerian medical doctor looking for employment. There is no doubt that Nigeria has made giant strides in the health sector but we started too late and the journey ahead is long and arduous.
Here are Gunther’s final words on Nigeria:
“So now we conclude with Nigeria, its immense complexities and vitality its color without end and high-charged, hot, multifarious development. Next-the Gold Coast.”
Hopefully, you readers will join me to blog his entries on Ghana, but before we do that, I want your comment on Nigeria. I have received some, and I intend to respond to such in another installment before we start the blog on Ghana. Thank you.