Nigeria’s Structural Issues Rooted in Colonial and Military Legacies


Nigeria is a product of two perverse legacies: colonial rule and military rule. Virtually all structural elements in Nigeria today were created by colonial rulers or military dictators. The very existence and name of Nigeria are colonial constructs.

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Similarly, Nigeria’s constitution, system of government (presidentialism), and governance structure—characterized by a dominant central government and 36 largely unviable states—are impositions from military rule. Even Nigeria’s national anthem has shifted from colonial to military origins and back to colonial roots.

Nothing structural or symbolic in Nigeria today reflects the collective will or choice of its people. This implies that both colonialism and military rule have produced a populace termed “Nigerians” who had no direct input in the creation, naming, structure, or symbols of their country. Nigerians are akin to internally displaced persons placed in a tent by a dominant power, given a name, attire, and a song to sing.

Path dependency has trapped Nigeria in its colonial and military past, preventing it from making critical decisions to restructure and transform. This historical inertia recently led President Bola Tinubu to reinstate the colonial anthem, last sung about fifty years ago, with the National Assembly’s support. Tinubu and the Assembly opted for colonial remnants over military vestiges, making the decision with colonial and military mentalities, treating Nigerians as serfs who must accept whatever is handed to them.

For a decision to be legitimate, both the process and the substance must be sound. A flawed process or an unjust outcome undermines legitimacy, giving citizens a moral right to resist. The reintroduction of the old colonial anthem happened within a week, without citizen participation, mirroring the military-style decision-making seen in 1978 when General Olusegun Obasanjo changed the anthem.

Tinubu prioritized changing the anthem, despite it not being a priority for most Nigerians. He justified it by claiming the colonial anthem “describes us better” because “we are one Nigeria.” This stance is hypocritical and autocratic. In 1997, while fleeing the Abacha regime, Tinubu disavowed Nigeria’s unity. Now in power, he insists on unity to justify his actions. Despite significant electoral opposition, Tinubu imposed the anthem without consultation, reflecting a top-down power structure disconnected from the people.

The colonial anthem’s reintroduction lacks both process and outcome legitimacy. Historically, the anthem was a patronizing creation of British expatriates, reflecting colonial condescension. Defenders of the anthem claim it will unify the country and inspire youth, but these assertions ignore Nigeria’s structural inequalities and historical tensions, which a mere anthem cannot resolve.

Nigeria’s name itself, derived from the Latin “Niger” meaning “dark,” was coined by Flora Shaw, an advocate of imperialism, without any genuine connection to the country’s people. This colonial naming further complicates national pride, raising the question of who truly owns Nigeria.

In conclusion, for Nigeria to progress, it must address these historical impositions and engage in a genuine, inclusive process to redefine its identity, structure, and symbols, reflecting the will of its people.

By Naija247news
By Naija247news
Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

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