Sometime last year, I went hiking with some friends to Devil’s peak. We actually had to first visit the Rhodes memorial before proceeding to the mountain. We were greeted with the statue of a godlike creature whose eyes swept the entire landscape. I remember a friend’s description of the statue, as an insightful man thinking about the next region to conquer. My reaction to her description was based on my understanding of Rhodes’ economic prowess rather than his political aspiration. Well, my friend is a South African, she possibly knew better. However, a closer observation of the image turned out that something was not right about the image, the nose of Rhodes had been chopped off. This distorted the artistic imagery the statue represented; a god with no breath! How? When I inquired about what had happened, I was told there had been a recent protest tagged “Rhodes must fall”, over the ideals he stood for and his contribution to the political history of black South Africans during the colonial era. After the hike, my internet search yielded far more than what was said. It was surprising that there had been a debate early last year at the University of Oxford on “Must Rhodes fall?”. From these experiences, I learnt how imperative it is for us to discuss the place of colonial legacies in the context of our acclaimed democratization as a country.
Although, the historical precedence of Nigeria might be void of an actor like Cecil Rhodes. However, we can look back and interrogate the impact of the actions of colonialism on our present political and economic space. The form of indirect rule implemented as a system of governance during colonialism served as a preparatory ground for the traditional rulers in the country to be involved in the administration of the society. This process equipped the leaders with the art of governance and leadership they were not familiar with. The British parliamentary system of governance that was experimented between 1952-1966, gave us a language to discuss concepts like federalism, rule of law and fundamental human rights. These discussions have further strengthened
the political consciousness of the people. However, the absence of national consciousness that prevailed during colonialism resulted in the establishment of a divide and rule system. This system created artificial boundaries that have resulted in sectionalism, regionalism and the absence of nationalism among Nigerians. Thereby, creating acrimony and schisms along ethnic divides in present day Nigeria. It has not only suffocate the political system but have also engineered retrogression in most areas of the country’s values.
Economically, we must appraise the economic insight during colonialism in industries like agriculture, telecommunication and extraction. The colonial masters helped in building facilities that supported success in these industries. Although there have been a declination in the agricultural productivity of Nigeria. However, the success in the agricultural industry during colonialism has served as a reference point in the discussion of the need for economic diversification. We are taking cues from the success of colonialism and forging an industrial resuscitation of the agricultural sector.
1960 might have marked a successful liberation movement in Nigeria. However, the plights of Nigerians have worsened with denigrating standard of living. Maybe Chev Guevara was not absolutely wrong about the final hour of colonialism, when he said that “the final hour of colonialism had struck and millions of inhabitants of Africa rise to meet a new life and demand unrestricted right to self determination.” When the final hours of colonialism struck in Nigeria, our demands for the right to self rule was unrestricted. History tells us that it was an harmonious transfer of power to an elitist group that never engaged the needs of the people. The passage was so harmonious that no liberation leader was imprisoned. Little did we know our demand had set the tone for megalomaniac tendency among some political class. This tendency has been instrumental to political instability in the country.
Although there is a void to be filled in our understanding of one another. However, we can draw inspiration from the leadership style of Nelson Mandela and his commitment to something much bigger than himself. His commitment to social integration, forgiveness and the principle of selflessness. We can take a cue from this and walk out the door of bitterness and hatred that may have resulted from wars and marginalization. We cannot afford to bind ourselves with the chains of hatred, because these chains are often-time too weak to be felt until they become too strong to be
broken. We must take the responsibility to uphold the benefits of our liberation, to learn from the flaws of colonialism and to ensure we establish a legacy that must not fall.