Cameroon and Nigeria: Tethering on the edge of the political cliff due to Internal Colonialism
By Priye S. Torulagha
It is inferable that the colonial era in Africa is gradually coming to an end in the twenty—first century, following the demand by many African ethnic groups and regions for a change or a restructuring of their colonially-induced countries. The reason is that a considerable number of ethnic and regional groups have never been happy or satisfied with the territorial, political, governmental and administrative arrangements, structures, institutions and processes of governance that the European colonial powers foisted upon them. Thus, after four or five decades of experimenting with the European created states, they now feel that it is time to change or restructure or rearrange the countries to ensure equal rights, democratic representation .and equity in the distribution of political power and national resources.
It should be noted that almost all modern African states, with the exception of a few, came into being through forceful incorporation by European military powers. The European powers did not care about the needs, desires and aspirations of the African people while they hurriedly created the colonies as agricultural and political plantations to boost their geopolitical and economic interests as they competed among themselves to dominate the world. The arbitrariness of the colonies which subsequently became states on supposed independence, adversely affected a majority of the ethnic groups and regions while rewarding a tiny minority of individuals, ethnic groups and regions in the African continent.
As a result, many ethnic groups and regions feel unhappy, restricted, discriminated and marginalized as external (European) colonialism was transformed into internal (African) colonialism, whereby, a tiny minority of ethnic groups and regions ended up dominating and playing the role of colonial masters to other African ethnic groups and regions. Thus, every modern African state today is characterized by internal colonialism with one or two ethnic group(s) or region(s) lording over other ethnic groups and regions to the point of violating their natural right to exist in a given territorial space and enjoy the resources/fruits of their territory without pleading to someone else for crumbs.
Purpose of this write up:
The purpose of this write up is to accomplish the following: (1) explore the issue of internal colonialism in Africa with a particular focus on Cameroon and Nigeria; (2) briefly examine the historical and political factors that contribute to dissatisfaction among citizens of these two countries; (3) find out whether it is appropriate to use the term “post-colonial” in referring to the current status of African states that were created by European powers.
Due to the nature of the topic, the following arguments are made here: First, although, all modern African states claim to be sovereign nations after supposedly gaining political independence from their European colonial masters and are recognized as such under international law, they are not. Secondly, African states are not sovereign nations because European colonialism was replaced by internal (African) colonialism on independence. Third, in this regard, Cameroon and Nigeria, like other modern African states, are facing crises of internal colonialism where one or two ethnic groups and or regions, supported by their former European colonial powers, dominate and impose their will on other ethnic groups and regions. Fourth, due to the continuation of the colonial system, it is fallacious to refer to African countries as “post-colonial” states. The “Post-colonial” era will come into being when current African states are restructured or reorganized to reflect their African character, as well as ensure equal representation and fair distribution of political power and national resources to their constituents, regardless of race, ethnicity, region, religion and political affiliation.
First, although, all modern African states claim to be sovereign nations after supposedly gaining political independence from their European colonial masters and are recognized as such under international law, it is argued here that they are not.
By and large, African states continue to operate under the philosophical, territorial, political, governmental, judicial, security and economic foundations laid down by the European colonial powers. As a result, the states continue to infringe upon the rights of many ethnic groups and regions which feel trapped by the colonially-induced state system. In almost all African countries, there are issues concerning constitutionality, territorial rights, governance and the distribution of political and national resources. This creates anger and the demand for a rearrangement or a restructuring of the states. Thus, modern African states are not independent for the following reasons:
On independence, no referendum or a constitutional conference was held in a majority of the countries to allow the ethnic groups and regions to determine freely whether they wanted to remain in the states they found themselves or go their separate ways or rearrange the political frameworks. Thus, the very first political action that the indigenous African political leaders would have taken as soon as they became the presidents and prime ministers, would have been to call a constitutional conference and invite the ethnic, regional and religious groups to decide whether changes should be made or not to make the states inclusive of all groups and regions. The exception was Southern and Northwestern Cameroon, in which a referendum was held, thereby, allowing Northwestern Cameroon to join Nigeria and Southwestern Cameroon to join the Republic of Cameroon.
Following the supposed independence, no major territorial adjustments were made by the indigenous African political leaders to adjust or ensure that territorial boundaries were compatible with the geographical distributions of the ethnic groups. Due to the failure, a vast majority of African states today have conflicted territorial boundaries with many ethnic groups scattered into multiple states. The Tutsis, for example, are found in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Hausas are found in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Benin and possibly Ghana. The Ewe are located in Benin, Togo and Ghana. The Fulanis are located in about ten states, starting from the Sene-Gambian/Guinean region and extending to Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan and etc. The Tuaregs are located in Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauretania and etc. The Mande people are found in Guinea, Liberia and possibly Sierra Leone. The Berbers can be found in multiple Arab countries. The arbitrariness of the boundaries create political tension among states that share common borders since a political or military conflict in one state can spread quite easily into other states due to the interconnectedness of the ethnic groups. This is what happened during the Ugandan, Liberian, Sierra Leonean, Congolese (DRC), Somalian, and Ivorian civil wars. The conflicts spread to embrace ethnic groups in other countries.
After the supposed independence, African states continued to practice and perpetuate the same political, governmental and judicial systems that the European colonial powers instituted in the colonies. Of course, some countries decided to forsake the parliamentary system and adopt the American-styled presidential system. Some countries too made efforts to reform their educational systems. However, generally, most African countries continue to mimic European political, governmental and judicial systems. This accounts for why in many African countries, lawyers and judges continue to wear professional garbs that looked exactly like their European counterparts. In some African countries, including Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda, the members of the law profession even put on wigs. The implication is that they are applying Western law in an African setting, thereby, denigrating African judicial traditions. Quite often, they enjoy quoting judicial terminologies in Latin to demonstrate their legal prowess in European law, even though they know that such terminologies have no place in traditional African cultures. Thus, African judges and lawyers continue to perpetuate legal colonialism for practicing legal systems that have nothing to do with the cultures of the African people. This is why the legal systems are very corrupt and alienating.
Some African political and military leaders even adopted draconian colonial security laws to deal with their internal political opponents. This is why even in the twenty-first century, it is not a comfortable idea to be in the political opposition in any African country. The reason is that those who exercise political power and the ethnic groups and regions which support them tend to view any constructive criticism as a threat to their hold on corporate power of the state, hence, react aggressively to stop the opposition. This was vividly demonstrated in Kenya recently when the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta shut down some television stations for reporting the symbolic swearing-in of the main opposition party candidate, Raila Amolo Odinga, as the president (Iredia. 2018, February 11). Therefore, as part of the effort to contain political opposition, some African countries have enacted terrorism laws that are designed to stifle and discourage political opposition. Cameroon and Nigeria, for example, regard themselves as democracies, yet, react to the opposition as if they are authoritarian regimes. The security presence is constant and many citizens are detained for long periods without trial under the pretext of national security. For instance, Charles Okah was detained for about eight years before he was finally tried and sentenced to life imprisonment for the alleged bombing on Independence Day celebration in Abuja, Nigeria. There are many Nigerians who have been detained for years without trial.
Secondly, African states are not sovereign nations because European colonialism has been replaced by internal (African) colonialism after independence
It is not an exaggeration to say that European colonialism has been replaced by internal African colonialism, whereby, one or two ethnic groups and or regions dominate each African country by rendering other ethnic groups and regions powerless, marginalized, discriminated, frustrated and angry. This is why it is maintained here that it is inappropriate to refer to current African states as “post-colonial” entities since they are still operating under a colonial framework.
The frustration and anger emanating from the perception of being dominated and marginalized contributes to the igniting of military coups, the establishment of irredentist and separatist movements, and the eruption of civil wars by those groups and regions which feel oppressed, marginalized and discriminated to fight for their rights. Apparently, a considerable number of violent political and military conflicts that have taken place in Africa after the European handover of power, have been generated by issues emanating from internal colonialism. African states that have experienced incidents relating to internal colonialism include, Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and so on and so forth.
It might be educative to examine the issue of internal colonialism by focusing on two closely related neighbors with convoluted colonial history, namely, Cameroon and Nigeria. Cameroon has a population of 23.3 million people while Nigeria has about 180 million people. Thus, Nigeria is much larger and probably much more complex than Cameroon, nevertheless, these two countries are like wolves in sheep clothing in the sense that they claim to be democracies, yet, operate as authoritarian unitary systems because the internal colonizers want them to remain the way they are so that they are able to continue to impose their will over other ethnic groups and regions.
The Republic of Cameroon
In particular, one country that is severely bedecked by internal colonialism but has not experienced a very bloody civil war is Cameroon. People have been wondering why a country such has Cameroon with a convoluted colonial history has been relatively calm while countries that are not as convoluted and complicated as Cameroon have experienced bloody and destructive conflicts following rebellions emanating from issues of internal colonialism. The best way to explain the Cameroonian situation is that the country has been in a climatic political circumstance comparable to the “calm before the storm” weather phenomenon. The “calm before the storm” expression refers to a weather situation, whereby, there is relative calm and peacefulness while a very powerful storm is about to strike. Thus, as the storm approaches, whether it is a thunderstorm or a tornado or a hurricane/cyclone, the vicinity in which it is about to strike becomes very quiet and peaceful, then, gradually, the storm roars in to inflict destruction and death. It could therefore, be said that Cameroon has been in such a climatic condition while the political storm of rebellion gradually builds up. Now, the political storm has finally arrived and is unleashing violent and thunderous hails and destruction. To understand the Cameroonian political situation, it might be necessary to briefly describe and explain the history of the country.
Cameroon’s Colonial History
The Republic of Cameroon could be said to have a complicated and an unfortunate history, perhaps, more than a vast majority of the other African states. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to get to the area now known as the Republic of Cameroon in the 15th century. They established a sugar cane plantation in the 16th and subsequent centuries, up to the early 19th century. Portuguese and Dutch slave traders dominated the slave trade in the area until slavery was abolished. Sometime in the 19th century, nomadic Fulanis arrived in Northern Cameroon and settled.
Germany eventually gained possession of the area and established Cameroon as a Protectorate in 1884, thereby, making the country a colony. German colonial authorities ruled the colony until 1916 when a combined French, British and Belgian military force drove out the Germans during the First World War. After the First World War, Cameroon was taken away from Germany as part of the armistice that ended “the war to end all wars” in 1919. It was divided into two and shared by two of the victorious allied powers (Britain and France). As a result, Britain administered Northwestern and Southwestern Cameroon under the Mandate of the League of Nations while France administered four-fifth of the total territory. (The Commonwealth, 2017, October 5;Caxton, 2017, July 21). Obviously, France had a much bigger territorial area under its control than Britain. After the Second War, both countries continued to administer the territory under the Trusteeship of the United Nations.
While still under the trusteeship of the UN and administered by France and Britain, indigenous African political parties emerged and began to agitate for Cameroonian independence. For instance, the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), led by Ruben Um Nyobe demanded that the two parts (English-speaking and French-speaking) should be amalgamated to form an independent country. Due to its proactive role in agitating for independence, the UPC was banned in the 1950s by the colonial powers. The ban resulted in a massive rebellion in which a considerable number of people were killed, including the leader of the party, Mr. Nyobe (Ibid).
In any case, partial self-rule was granted to the colony. Eventually, Cameroon gained full independence in January 1, 1960. A UN plebiscite was held in 1961 in which Northwestern Cameroon decided to join Nigeria while Southwestern Cameroon joined French Cameroon, following the feeling that it was ignored, discriminated and marginalized while being in Nigeria. Due to the nature of the country, a federal system of government was established with both language zones (English-speaking and French-speaking) having their own parliaments. The prime minister of the English-speaking Cameroon became the deputy president of the country while the leader of the French-speaking regions served as the president (Morse, 2017, June 2).
However, the federal system was dissolved in 1972 by President Ahmadou Ahidjo and replaced with a unitary system of government, resulting in the concentration of power at the national level. As a result, the name changed to the United Republic of Cameroon. In 1984, the name was changed again and the country became the Republic of Cameroon (Republique du Cameroun).
Obviously, Cameroon started as a German colony, then was taken over by the British and French following the end of the First World War, under mandate of the League of Nations and United Nations trusteeship. The French (Francophone) and British (Anglophone) regions were amalgamated. The majority (four-fifth or about 80%) of the regions of the country is French-speaking while a smaller portion (about 20%) of the regions is English-speaking. (International Crisis Group, 2017, August 2). Perhaps, due to this factor, the French regions have dominated the country, so much so that the English-speaking region feel marginalized and discriminated in almost every aspect of the country.
Cameroon, unlike its Nigerian neighbor, which has had fifteen heads of state since independence in October 1, 1960, has had only two since independence in January 1960. Ahmadou Ahidjo first ruled as the president from 1960 to 1982, then President Paul Biya took over in the same year and has continued to rule the country to the present. Both political leaders originate from the French-speaking regions. This means that no English-speaking Cameroonian has had the opportunity to serve as a head of state of the country. All policies and decisions seem to originate from the strategic interests and calculations of the French-speaking regions. Even Cameroon’s foreign policy is greatly aligned with that of France. This accounts for why President Paul Biya visits France regularly and is strongly aligned with France. On the other hand, Britain has had little or no influence on the English-speaking regions, thereby, leaving those regions to feign for themselves.
An interesting aspect of Cameroon’s politics is that the military attempted four unsuccessful military coups in 1979, 1983, and February and April 1984. The last two attempted coups were alleged to have been staged by military officers who were loyal or sympathetic to former President Ahidjo. As a result, the former head of state was tried for instigating the coups in absentia and found guilty. This means that unlike many other African countries, Cameroon has never had a military regime in power. Nonetheless, the country tilted towards a unitary system of government because the power-wielding elite opted to centralize political authority at the center to reduce divisiveness. They did so by merging two governing political parties and some opposition groups in 1966. Similarly, the ruling party was reconstituted as the Cameroon National Union (Union of National Cameroinaise), otherwise known as the UNC. Then, it was renamed as the Reassemblement Democratique de people Camerounais (Cameroon’s Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) or RDPC).
The Demand for Political Decentralization, Equity and Fairness in Governance
During the 1990s, there were a series of protests and demonstrations against one-party rule since it tended to concentrate political power at the center. This led to the multiplication of political parties. Despite the multiplication of political parties, the incumbent president, Mr. Paul Biya, was able to win various presidential elections handily, including those of 1992, 1997, 2004 and 2011(The Commonwealth, 2017, October 5). It should be noted that in 2008, President Biya abolished term limits, thereby, enabling him to run for office as the president without any constitutional restriction (Morse, 2017, June 2).
Even though Cameroon joined the British Commonwealth in 1995 as a result of the fact that it has an English-speaking population, nevertheless, Cameroon has operated as if it is a wholly French-speaking country, to the detriment of the Anglophone region. Feeling neglected, marginalized and deprived, English-speaking Cameroonians started clamoring for a change or a restructuring of the country. In particular, they insisted upon the equitable sharing of the oil wealth, which presently is lopsidedly in favor of the country’s majority French-speaking regions. They also insisted upon changing the judicial system which is currently based on French language and legal traditions while ignoring English language and legal traditions (Vanguard, 2017, October 1). They are particularly irked by the fact that Anglophone Cameroon courts are sometimes operated by French trained judges who have no understanding of British common law. In addition, English-speaking students decry the fact that they are not given opportunity to take examinations in English (Morse, 2017, June 2). They also decry the fact that there are too many French-speaking teachers in the Anglophone region that are not proficient in English. The employment environment is very stifling to English-speaking Cameroonians who find it difficult to gain employment and join professional associations (Caxton, 2017, July 21).This makes English-speaking citizens feel like foreigners in their own country. To solve some of the problems, the English-speaking citizens called upon the government to redeploy the French-speaking teachers and encourage more English-speaking teachers to be deployed in English-language schools. In particular, the Anglophone Cameroonians want the reintroduction of a federation rather than a unitary system (Ibid.).
Like in many other African countries, Anglophone Cameroonian demand for restructuring of the country has been ignored or rejected by the political leadership and the French-speaking majority which assume that they have the political and military wherewithal to stop or prevent any major rebellion on the part of the English-speaking people from taking place. Hence, protests have been met with harsh security measures. The harsh security measures simply added fuel to the anger and the desire to restructure the country or separate the two parts. Hence, starting in late 2016, the crisis in the English-speaking regions escalated as the people demanded a restructuring or a rearrangement of the country. Consequently, thousands of English-speaking Cameroonians, including students, teachers, lawyers and civil society organizations mounted demonstrations and strikes against discrimination (Morse, 2017, June2). Due to the confrontations, the casualty rate is increasing. For instance, four protesters were killed in December 2016. In another protest, 100 people were arrested and detained. On October 1, 2017, a mass protest in the English-speaking North-West and South-West regions resulted in the death of 17 protesters as security forces used live bullets to disperse the protesters (Unh & Ojeme, 2018, February 2). In the effort to curtail rebellion in the English-speaking regions, the government went as far as banning internet communication for three months and proscribing two organizations. It even arrested and charged the leaders of the two banned organizations with crimes bordering on terrorism. It also instituted a temporary restriction on travel in both the Northwest and Southwest regions of the English-speaking zone (Nigerian Tribune, 2017, October 12).
As the conflict escalated, certain elements decided to opt for secession and are now demanding the separation of the English-speaking region from the French-speaking regions. They call their region Ambazonia. The demand for independence has increased confrontations between security forces and the separatists, thereby, resulting in armed resistance. The violent clashes have forced more than 40,000 English-speaking Cameroonians to flee their country and seek refuge in Nigeria. Apparently, there are thousands of Cameroonians who are now in refugee camps in Nigeria. In early January 2018, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, the leader of the separatists and other important members of the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) were arrested in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, by Nigeria’s Department of State Service (DSS) while they were organizing a meeting to find ways of taking care of the thousands of English-speaking Cameroonians who left Cameroon to seek refuge in Nigeria (BBC, 2018, January 8). The arrests prompted human rights lawyers and advocates in Nigeria to demand the release of the individuals since they have a right to express their political opinions. Similarly, the Amnesty International warned against repatriating the separatist leaders back to Cameroon by reminding Nigeria of its obligation to adhere to international law regarding human rights (Premium Times, 2018, January 12). Sadly, Nigeria secretly repatriated the separatist leaders back to Cameroon, thereby, putting their lives in great danger.
Thus, the country is incrementally edging towards an uncontrollable civil war as an increasing number of English-speaking Cameroonians have joined the call for total separation from French- Cameroon. As a result, the major cities in the English zone are now occupied by military and police forces. Buea, the major city in Southwest Cameroon became a ghost town when separatists decided to symbolically declare independence on October 1, 2017. This date was chosen for the symbolic declaration since it was the day that both the French-speaking and English-speaking regions amalgamated in 1961 (Vanguard, 2017, October 1). It should be noted that Nigeria got its independence on October 1, 1960. As the conflict spreads, even rural areas in the English-speaking zone are feeling the impact of the escalating conflict. In many rural communities, people are running into the bushes to hide from Cameroon’s security forces that are desperately trying to stop the rebellion.
President Paul Biya, despite is old age, seems to have a total grip on power like a dictator, so much so that he rules Cameroon as a personal estate. Strongly backed by the French-speaking Cameroonians, he holds cabinet meetings infrequently. As a result, cabinet meetings are held two or three years apart. The most recent cabinet meeting took place in March 2018 and the previous one was held in October 2015. The cabinet meetings generally last for very short durations and the minutes of the meetings are rarely published (Premium Times, 2018, March 15). Indeed, Cameroon operates like a personal colony of Mr. Biya and his ardent supporters. He is free to do whatever he wants whenever he wants without much political consequence. He takes vacations regularly in Switzerland. In an attempt to appease the English-speaking region, he appointed two individuals from the region into top government positions and hopes that the effort would dampen the agitation for separation (Ibid.).
The Republic of Nigeria
Nigeria’s history is as convoluted as that of Cameroon, hence, it is not something to be admired. Before 1914, the British had two major colonial possessions in the area. These two areas were known as the Southern Protectorate and the Northern Protectorate. Even though the two protectorates were not compatible since one was increasingly Christian and traditional and the other was Islamic and traditional with pockets of Christianity, the colonial governor, Lord Frederick Lugard, amalgamated them in 1914 to establish Nigeria. Due to the incompatibility of the two parts, Nigeria is like a snake with two-heads. The Southern head looks towards Israel and the West and the northern head looks towards the East, particularly Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. The Southern part is progressive and secularized while the northern part is theocratized and conservative with a proclivity towards doctrinaire Islamic orientation. Southern Nigeria wants to be part of the twenty-first century while the Islamic North inclines towards the 13th and 19th centuries. This accounts for why Nigeria dances in circles instead of dancing forward to embrace science and technology and become a major contributor to the world economy.
Apart from that, Nigeria also has a very dangerous internal colonial system in which one ethnic group waged a religious jihad over a century ago and conquered many indigenous ethnic groups in Northern and Southwest Nigeria to establish an Islamic Caliphate, thereby, making Nigeria a country within a country. The caliphate operates almost like an independent state, resulting in perpetual domination of many indigenous ethnic groups which have been compelled to embrace the Sokoto Caliphate. Thus, all Nigerian Moslems, particularly the Sunnis, regard the Sokoto Caliphate as their politico-religious state. It is the leaders of the Sokoto Caliphate that are the principal wielders of power in Nigeria.
In addition, the 1946 constitution of Nigeria instituted by Sir Arthur Richards, the British colonial governor, tribalized and regionalized the country. Dr/Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe prophetically stated:
Sir Arthur Richards deliberate demarcation of Nigeria into regions has paralysed our political hopes, anyway the fight is on.
As far as the three regions coincide with the three tribes, this Englishman has sown the seeds of tribalism and I am afraid whether our children or children’s children will be able to solve this problem.
As far as the sizes are unequal the largest one will take the smaller ones to ransom sooner or later (Benaebi Benatari, 2004 October 20).
Due to the convoluted nature of its creation and the regionalized constitution of 1946, Nigeria really never had the opportunity to congeal and develop a proper and effective sense of nationhood among the 200 to 300 ethnic groups. Thus, as soon as the country supposedly gained independence, it divided into three major constituent parts, based upon the regional configuration of the three largest ethnic groups. Hence, the Action Group (AG) dominated the Western Region, the Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) dominated the Northern Region and the National Convention of Nigerians and the Cameroons, later changed to the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) dominated the Eastern Region. Each major political party was closely aligned with the largest ethnic group in the region. The minority ethnic groups were rendered politically faceless and powerless since they had to toe the lines of the major ethnic groups. Nevertheless, they established their own political parties to mobilize themselves to fight for political and economic rights.
The lack of a unified nationhood pitched the three major ethnic groups against each other with one or two aligning to weaken the other. The structural imbalance and the political problems resulted in the attempted military coup of January 15, 1966, led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. The coup did not succeed but very important senior military officers and politicians from the North and the West were killed. In other words, the attempted coup led to the deaths of Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of the Northern Region, Chief Samuel Akintola, the Premier of the Western Region, Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Hafusat Ahmadu Bello, Mrs. Lateefat Ademulegun, Ahmed Ben Musa, and Ahmed Pategi. The attempted coup also resulted in the deaths of the most senior Nigerian Army officers from the Northern and Western regions, including Brig. Gen. Zakariya Maimalari, Brig. Gen. Samuel Ademulegun, Col. Kur Mohammed, Col. Ralph Shodiende, Lt. Co. James Pam, and Lt. Col. Abogo Largema. Surprisingly, not a single politician from the Eastern Region died as a result of the abortive coup. The only Eastern military officer who died was Lt. Col. Arthur Unegbu. The aftermath of the coup led to the view that the coup was staged mostly by military officers from the Eastern Region, particularly Igboland. Of course, it is now proven that the coup was a national effort involving military officers from various parts of the country and not only from Igboland. Nevertheless, the perception that it was an Igbo attempt to dominate the country fanned the need to retaliate militarily against the East. With tension very high in the country, Maj. Gen. Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi, the most senior military officer took over the leadership of the country as the first military head of state. When he attempted to calm the situation by centralizing political authority through the enactment of Unification Decree #34, the North reacted, fearful of Igbo domination of Nigeria. Hence, a bloody counter-coup was staged by officers mostly from the North in July 25, 1966. The coup resulted in the deaths of many Southern military officers and soldiers, particularly from Igboland. This was immediately followed by a violent northern mob which killed thousands of Southerners, mostly Igbos in the North. Due to the depth of distrust, following the bloodbath in the Northern Region, the Federal Government and the Eastern Region’s leadership could not uphold agreements reached at the Aburi Conferences in Ghana. The failure eventually resulted in the bloody Nigerian Civil War which started in July 1967 and ended in January 1970, in which more than a million people died.
The Emergence of the Islamic North as the Wielder of National Power
Following the success of the 2nd counter-coup of July 1966, the Islamic North, particularly the Hausa-Fulanis, emerged supreme as the wielders of power in Nigeria. As a result, the North produced successive Nigerian military and political heads of state, including Gen. Yakubu Gowon (1966 -1975), Gen. Murtala Mohammed (1975-1976), Alhaji Shehu Shagari (1979 – 1983) Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (1983 -1985), Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (1985- 1993), Gen. Sani Abacha (1994 – 1998), Lt. Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (1998 – 1999), the late President Umaru Yar”Adua (2007-2009) and the current president, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (2015 – present). The only exception to northern rule during this time was when Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (a Southerner) took over following the death of Gen. Murtala Mohammed in 1976, Chief Ernest Shonekan took over after the sudden departure of Gen. Babangida, following the June 12, 1993 presidential election fiasco, and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan took over after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua. Evidently, the Northern region, particularly the Islamic North, consolidated its power and ended up creating the impression that it has the mandate from Britain to rule Nigeria. So, for all intent and purposes, a vast majority of Nigeria’s national policies are dictated and implemented based on the approval of the Islamic Northern Nigeria.
The northernization and Islamization of Nigeria took on an added significance when Maj. Gen. (rtd) Muhammadu Buhari became president in May 2015. Since his ascension of the throne, Nigeria has increasingly looked like a country made up of only one or two ethnic groups as the Moslems from the North occupy all critical national government positions, in a country made up of 200 to 300 ethnic groups. The other ethnic groups are being treated as vassals of the Hausa-Fulani ethnic groups. For instance, under President Buhari, the Minister of Defence, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Chief of Air Staff, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Minister of Internal Affairs, the Director of the Department of State Service, (DSS), Director of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Controller of Customs, Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Director of National Security Agency (NSA), Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Attorney General of Nigeria (AGN) and the Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) are all Moslems from the North. In the national security area, only the Chief of Defense Staff and the Chief of Naval Staff are from the South and are non-Moslems.
The northern and Islamic presence, particularly by the Hausa-Fulanis, as the wielders of national power in Nigeria is so obvious to the extent that it is almost impossible for any Southern or Central Nigerian (Middle Belt) to stand on his or her own and contest for the presidency without a nod of approval from the Upper Islamic North. Hence, when the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme wanted to contest as the flag bearer of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), he was not allowed, even after the NPN had agreed to rotate the presidency among the political zones. During the June 12, 1993 presidential election, as soon as the late Chief Moshood Abiola, a southerner, appeared to be winning the majority of the votes, Gen. Babangida abrogated the election, thereby, preventing Chief Abiola from achieving an electoral victory to become the president of Nigeria. Following the sudden departure of Gen Babangida as the military head of state due to the June 12, 1993 disaster, Chief Ernest Shonekan , a southerner, was made the head of a caretaker government. It did not take up to a year before Gen. Abacha (a northerner) tactically kicked him out of the position and took over as the military head of state until his sudden death in 1998. He was immediately replaced by another northern Moslem military general, Lt. Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.
When the military decided to hand over power to a democratically elected civilian government in early 1999, the Southwest preferred the candidacy of Chief Olu Falae but the Upper North preferred the candidacy of Gen/Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Thus, it was Gen/Chief Obasanjo, a former military head of state who emerged as the first elected civilian head of state after the departure of the military in May 1999. Similarly, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner, became president of Nigeria only because President Umaru Yar’Adua, a northerner, died while serving as the president. While he was the president, many individuals from the Upper North openly declared that they would make the country ungovernable if President Jonathan contested for reelection in 2011 and in 2015. He lost the presidential election of March 2015, to Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a former military head of state from the Islamic North.
In fact, the Southwest, South-South, South-East and the Middle Belt want the country to be restructured in order to establish equity in the appointment of high-public officials, create accessibility to national political leadership positions and ensure a fair distribution of national resources. Currently, all major military and police facilities are located in the North.
Oil Wealth in Nigeria
The clearest example of the fact that Nigeria suffers from internal colonialism is that Nigeria depends greatly on wealth generated through petroleum and gas exploration. In fact, since the early 1970s, Nigeria has largely depended upon the oil wealth. The oil wealth is produced from the South-South and the South-East zones of the country. However, since those who wield national power originate from the Non-Oil Producing zones, national policy and decision-making concerning oil and gas exploration and marketing are made by individuals who do not come from the Oil Producing Zones. Consequently, of all the natural resources in the country, petroleum and gas are the most nationalized. Individuals from the oil producing zones cannot engage in any form of oil exploration since it is the prerogative of the national government to do so. On the other hand, minerals such as gold, gypsium, iron ore, lead/zinc, bentonite. Bitumen, coal, lignite, kyanite, columbite wolframite, bentonite, Baryte, magnesium, rutile, marble, tantalite and others are found in other zones of the country; as such, they are not as nationalized as oil and gas. Apparently, individuals from those zone do engage in private exploration of these minerals. The feeling in the oil region is that since the zone is marginalized, the citizens are powerless to effect a change in national policy concerning oil exploration
Another good example of the fact that Nigeria suffers from internal colonialism is that since the host communities in the oil producing zones insisted upon being compensated, the Petroleum Industry Bill PIB) which includes a provision for compensating oil-bearing communities, languished in the National Assembly for 17 years before it was passed (Payne & Eboh, 2018, January 18). A major reason for the delay was probably influenced by the fact that many legislators from the non-oil producing regions were not enthusiastic about compensating host communities while they needed the oil wealth to run their governments and develop their own states. The fact remains that any legislation intended for the Northern sections of the country passes very quickly in the National Assembly. The saddest part of the internal colonial situation, as far as oil and gas is concerned, is that while the two resources are treated as national resources, oil stocks (blocks) are given to individuals. So, in Nigeria, certain individuals are given oil blocks and they make tremendous amount of wealth for doing nothing. Unfortunately, about 80% of the oil stocks are owned by Northern Nigerians while those from the oil region simply exist. If the oil blocks were largely owned by individuals from the oil region, the privatization of the stocks would have been stopped by the national government. .
The unfairness in the management of oil and gas resources resulted in an armed opposition in the Niger Delta, starting in the late 1990s and ending in 2009. Militant opposition to oil exploration stopped only after late President Yar’Adua initiated an Amnesty Program. The Amnesty Program did not solve the fairness issue, hence, another group of armed youths, led by the Niger Delta Avengers, emerged in 2016 to destroy oil facilities, thereby, contributing to bringing down the economy before regional leaders negotiated with the Nigerian Government to pay attention to the oil region. The Niger Delta/South-South is one of the most polluted oil regions in the world and the Federal Government of Nigeria does not seem to care about cleaning the mess. The people are being exposed to biochemical pollutants daily and their health is being impacted negatively.
Violence and Terrorism
Nigeria has experienced numerous incidents of kidnapping, armed robbery, violent outburst and terrorism. However, it is detectable that even the Nigerian effort to tame these violent uprisings/incidents are also tactically determined by the political power structure in the country. In particular, when former President Jonathan wanted to launch an effective military campaign to reduce Boko Haram’s violent attacks, he was accused of trying to kill Moslems and impose the South on the North. At the time, many top politicians in the North felt that Boko Haram was fighting for Islamic interest in the country, hence, viewed the organization as a freedom fighting movement. As a major leader of a political party, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) insinuated that a war against the Boko Haram was a war against the North (Shiklam, 2013, June 4). He defended the Boko Haram by asking “the Federal Government to stop clamp down of Boko Haram insurgents, saying Niger Delta militants were never killed or properties belonging to them destroyed” (PointBlank, 2013, June 2). This allowed Boko Haram to strengthen its ability to inflict serious destruction in the Northeast region of the country. Not until the organization started killing Moslems and destroying mosques in the North did many powerful individuals turned around to support a war against the organization. Thus, the same individuals who accused the Jonathan’s administration of waging a war against the North, then, turned around to accuse the same administration of not doing enough to decimate the Boko Haram.
However, the most disturbing part of the Nigerian situation is the unwillingness of the Buhari administration in declaring violent cattle herders as terrorists even though the Global Terrorism Index had characterized the Fulani herdsmen as the fourth deadliest terrorist organization in the world in 2015. The Federal Government is not eager in curbing the violence perpetrated by the marauding herdsmen who have killed thousands of Nigerians. All regions of the country have been affected by the violence perpetrated by the herdsmen. However, the Middle Belt (Central Nigeria) and the southern part of Kaduna State seem to bear the brunt of the killings and destruction of communities. Some Nigerians hypothesized that the Federal Government does not want to take decisive action against the herdsmen because they are Fulanis. The Fulanis are the foremost power-wielders in Nigeria, hence, there is hesitancy in doing anything about them.
On the other hand, the Federal Government under President Buhari did not waste time in proscribing the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in the South-East zone after the group threatened to conduct a referendum to determine whether the zone should secede as the Republic of Biafra. Thus, IPOB that has never gone on a killing spree was immediately declared by the Federal Government of Nigeria as a terrorist organization while the deadly herdsmen that have killed thousands of Nigerians in a Janjaweed-style operations, are viewed by the same government as a bunch of mere criminals, even though the entire nation is horrified by the wanton killings of innocent people by the herdsmen. In fact, on January 1st, 2018, the herdsmen launched a violent attack in Benue state resulting in the killing of 73 people. Even then, the Federal Government remained nonchalant. This forced Southern Nigerian leaders who were meeting in Enugu to call upon the Federal Government of Nigeria to declare the herdsmen as terrorists. Instead of doing so, both the Minister of Defense and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), maintained that the passing of laws banning open grazing for cows is responsible for the rampage perpetuated by the herdsmen even though it is an historical fact that herdsmen have been attacking farmers and various communities over grazing rights even before the passing of grazing laws. Moreover, it is a fact that herdsmen have invaded, attacked, killed and destroyed communities in states that have no open grazing laws. In other words, both the Minister of Defense and the Inspector of General Police are not bothered by the Janjaweed-style of attacks perpetrated by the herdsmen in the country. This probably contributes to the reason why the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police Force are rarely deployed before herdsmen launch their attacks. These security forces are mostly deployed after the herdsmen have carried out deadly attacks against farming communities, perhaps, to prevent the indigenes from carrying out retaliatory attacks against the herdsmen. So, Nigeria is like Darfur in Sudan, as the herdsmen run amok. Since the January 1, 2018 attack in Benue State, no week has gone by without some Nigerians being killed by herdsmen. The refusal of the Federal Government to act decisively has led some Nigerians to speculate that the herdsmen are the foot soldiers of a well-articulated plan to Islamize Nigeria.
Due to the perception that the Hausa-Fulanis are the wielders of national power, the Federal Government has hesitated to deploy military forces against Fulani herdsmen, despite their bloody escapades. Even when it is known that they are mobilizing to launch attacks, the military and the police forces are not ordered to stop them. Hence, in Agatu in Benue State and Nimbo in Enugu State, both the police and the army did not act until after the herdsmen had carried out their deadly attacks. On the other hand, the Federal Government did not waste a minute in deploying the military to stop IPOB in the Southeast zone, as indicated above. Similarly, the Federal Government did not hesitate to launch military exercises in the South-South and Southwest regions. In March 2017, when some Yorubas and Hausas clashed in the ancient city of Ife in the Southwest zone, resulting in the death of 46 and wounding of 96 people, the Nigerian Police Force only arrested and paraded the Yoruba suspects and not the Hausas who participated in the violent clash (Omonobi, 2017, march 21). Similarly, when leaders of northern youth groups ordered the Igbos to evacuate the North, the Nigerian Government did not threaten to arrest them. Instead, the Attorney General of the country informed the Nigerian public that the police decided not to arrest the youth leaders, fearful that such arrest could have triggered violence in the North (The Guardian, 2017, june 7). Yet, the Federal Government does not hesitate to arrest IPOB members in the Southeast and youths from the South-south. If youth leaders from the South had issued an evacuation notice, the Federal Government would have mobilized the Army and the Police to have them arrested and detained. Meanwhile, Boko Haram members who have been captured by the security forces are routinely released on the ground that they have been rehabilitated.
Third, Cameroon and Nigeria are facing crises of internal colonialism where one or two ethnic groups and regions, supported by former European colonial powers, dominate and impose their will on other ethnic groups and regions
Based on the brief discussion of Cameroonian and Nigerian political issues, it is inferable that the two countries are dancing to the same political tune. Just as the English-speaking Cameroonians have for decades demanded a restructuring of the country, Southern and Central Nigerians too have been demanding a restructuring of Nigeria. The reason is that the issues affecting the closely related neighbors are very similar in nature and scope. In Cameroon, English speakers decry the fact that they are discriminated and shut out of the government and in the distribution of national resources, especially the oil wealth. In Nigeria, Southern Nigerians maintain that since the second military coup of July 1966, the Islamic North has dominated the country. As a result, Southern Nigerians are only able to rule the country through accidental circumstances.
In Nigeria, the oil wealth is located in regions that do not wield political power. However, just as the oil wealth is not distributed fairly in Cameroon, so, it is in Nigeria. In Nigeria, oil and gas are regarded as national resources but the oil stocks (blocs/shares) are given to individuals. The regions that produce the oil wealth in Nigeria gets very little. In Cameroon too, it is those from the French-speaking regions that benefit most from the oil wealth. Just as there is poverty and underdevelopment in Nigeria’s oil region, there is poverty and underdevelopment in Cameroon’s English-speaking oil region.
As English-speaking Cameroonians demand restructuring, Southern and Central (Middle Belt) Nigerians too are demanding restructuring. In fact, Nigerians, especially the minority ethnic groups started demanding the restructuring of the country even before independence when they requested the creation of states during the Willink’s Commission Hearings in 1957 and 1958. In February, 1966, Isaac Boro and his colleagues took up arms and declared the Niger Delta Republic to inform the country about the unhappy state of affairs in the region. Following the bloodbath after the second military coup of July 1966, the country spiraled downwards, culminating in the bloody civil war as the Eastern Region attempted to secede as the Republic of Biafra. Again, like in Cameroon in which the political leadership and those who wield power refuse to listen to the call for changes or a rearrangement, Nigeria’s leadership and those who wield power too have been unwilling to listen. Hence, since 2016, the call for Biafran secession has been reenergized, just as some English-speaking Cameroonians now call for the establishment of the Republic of Ambazonia.
The government of Cameroon declared two organizations that demanded restructuring as terrorist movements and had their leaders detained, Nigeria too declared the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, an organization dedicated to the secession of the Southeast region of the country as Biafra as a terrorist organization and had its leader, Nnamdi Kanu detained. Just as Cameroon flooded the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of the country with security forces (military and police), Nigeria too flooded the Southeast and South-South zones of the country with security forces (military and police). It launched Operation Python Dance and Operation Crocodile Smile 1 and II in an attempt to stop the secessionists and those who oppose oil exploration in the oil region. In response to the violent clashes between herdsmen and farming communities, Nigeria launched a military exercise code-named “Ayem A’Kpatuma (Cat race) “ in Central Nigeria. However, the indigenous Nigerian ethnic groups, especially the Tivs, accused the Nigerian Army of colluding with the herdsmen to kill members of indigenous communities (Jannah, 2018, February 22). The governor and community leaders in Taraba State too have made the same allegation against the Nigerian military. The allegations have been corroborated by Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), the former Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Defence Staff of Nigeria, who called upon Nigerians to arm and defend themselves (Mamah, E. & et al, 2018, March 26).
Just as the judicial system is tilted in favor of the French-speaking zones of Cameroon, in Nigeria too, the judicial system is tilted in favor of the Islamic North. In fact, throughout Nigeria’s history, the Islamic North has dominated the leadership of the Nigerian Supreme Court. In Cameroon, English-speaking Cameroonians are subjected to the French legal tradition, hence, depriving them of the ability to get a fair trial.
As Cameroon increasingly move towards a violent confrontation, Nigeria too is increasingly heading towards an armed confrontation. Almost every ethnic group in Nigeria today has an armed wing ready to defend the interests of the ethnic group. As the separatists in Cameroon insist on the Republic of Ambazonia, Nigerian groups too are gradually inching towards a point of no-return if the Federal Government keeps insisting that there would be no restructuring. Thus, as Cameroonian security forces pour into English-speaking regions to stop the separatist movement. Nigerian security forces too are constantly mobilized to patrol the Southern regions of the country. As a result, many Southern Nigerians increasingly view Nigeria’s security forces as occupation forces since the military institution has been extensively northernized and Islamized.
It is noteworthy that in both countries, those who wield power insist on maintaining the status quo even though there is extensive dissatisfaction with the current situation. In Cameroon, French-speaking citizens insist on maintaining the status because they currently wield power. In Nigeria, it is the Islamic North, particularly the Hausa-Fulanis, who oppose restructuring and insist on maintaining the status quo. In both Cameroon and Nigeria, the power-wielding groups strongly believe that they are capable of using the security forces to clamp down on those who seek restructuring. It is not surprising that the Federal Government of Nigeria decided to hand over Cameroon’s separatist leaders who took refuge in the country back to Cameroon. This means that the power-wielding group in Nigeria is working closely with the power-wielding group in Cameroon to ensure that their hold on power is not threatened.
Fourth, due to the continuation of the colonial system, it is fallacious to refer to modern African states as “post-colonial” nations at the present time.
African states, including Cameroon and Nigeria are not “post-colonial” states because they have not moved away from the colonial era. Indeed, they continue to operate and perpetuate the colonial system in the following ways:
- Before the supposed granting of independence, the European powers ruled over their colonial possessions directly by superimposing their will upon the traditional African states and governments. During this time, the African people were answerable to the external colonial authorities. This period is known as “external colonialism” because foreign powers ruled over their African colonial creations directly.
- Having supposedly granted independence to the African states, the European powers continued to pull the political strings according to their strategic interests. As a result, in most African countries, political and military powers were handed over to certain individuals, ethnic groups and regions which were most likely to maintain and perpetuate the colonial system. This is why even in the twenty-first century, no effort has been made by African leaders to readjust territorial boundaries that were arbitrarily established by European powers. Moreover, African political leaders who took over power on supposed independence, continued to maintain the same political, governmental, judicial, educational, economic and security (military, police and intelligence) systems that the European colonial masters left behind. The colonial powers also made sure that the so called independent states continue to maintain and perpetuate the same foreign policies that they bequeathed to their former colonies.
- Likewise, the colonial powers compelled the so-called independent African states to join political, economic and military associations or alliances that reinforce the strategic interests of the former colonial masters. This is why almost all the English-speaking countries that the British created as colonies in Africa continue to be members of the British Commonwealth. Similarly, all the French-speaking countries that were created by the French and Belgians continue to be members of the French Community. When Guinea, under Sekou Toure, refused to join the French Community, France punished the country severely.
- Due to the colonial umbrella in the form of the British Commonwealth and the French Community, the former colonial powers continue to intervene politically, economically and militarily in the affairs of the former colonies by rewarding and punishing those entities that are perceived as either friends or enemies to the colonial system. Hence, even a large country like Nigeria experiences all forms of British intervention. The most recent being the 2015 presidential election in which Britain and United States greatly influenced the outcome because they wanted the incumbent president to vacate the position. Cameroon does not even pretend to hide its pro-France political orientation.
- To ensure that their influence remain in their former colonies, before they handed over power to the indigenous political leaders of the colonies, the European powers made sure that certain individuals from certain ethnic groups and regions maintain power. This is why on independence, those ethnic groups and regions that received favorable status emerged as the power-wielding groups in the African states. The members of these ethnic groups and regions continue to dominate the politics, government, economy, and the security forces, so much so that they end up marginalizing, depriving and under-developing other ethnic groups and regions. Thus, throughout black Africa today, the territories of the favored ethnic groups and regions seem to have the highest level of infrastructural development. Similarly, the members of those ethnic groups and regions seem to enjoy the resources of the state much more than members of other ethnic groups and regions. This form of control is known as internal colonialism.
However, it must be stated that in Nigeria, the Islamic North has the lowest literacy rate even though its military and political leaders dominate Nigeria. On the other hand, Southern and Central Nigeria have the highest educational rate in the country. Similarly, poverty seems to be much higher in the North than in the South. This is why some Northern political elites have argued that even though northern military and political leaders ruled the country for decades, it is southern Nigeria that has actually benefited the most and not the North. In Cameroon, the Francophone zone dominates every aspect of the country. However, like in Nigeria, Northern Cameroon has higher rate of illiteracy and poverty than Southern Cameroon.
As can be seen, “external colonialism” was immediately replaced by “internal colonialism.” This means that European colonialism was replaced by internal African colonialism, in which one or two ethnic groups and or regions dominate each modern African country and render the other ethnic groups and regions powerless, frustrated and angry. This is why it is maintained here that it is inappropriate to refer to the current status of African states as “post-colonial “era since they are still experiencing colonialism. Cameroonians and Nigerians suffer from internal colonialism in so many ways. This contributes immeasurably to the inability of Nigeria to grow and become a prosperous industrial nation like South Korea, China, Singapore, and so on and so forth. It takes one step forward and two steps backward due to distrust, frustration, and mismanagement of state resources. Cameroon, like other African countries, also suffer from the same situation, like Nigeria. Added to that is that Cameroon is more like a one-man political plantation.
In examining the Nigerian and Cameroonian political situations, one is struck by the difference in behavior between Nigerian and Cameroonian citizens. While Nigeria has encountered numerous successful military coups, innumerable abortive military coups, bloody riots, violent uprisings and a very bloody civil war, Cameroon seems to have escaped such volcanic eruptions of political emotions until recently.
While no English-speaking Cameroonian has ruled the country, the three Southerners who have ruled Nigeria did so through circumstantial accidents of fate. Maj. Gen. Johnson Aquiyi Ironsi (a southerner) became the first military head of state as a result of an abortive military coup in January 1966. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, (a southerner) became a military head of state only after Gen. Murtala Mohammed had been killed in an abortive military coup in 1976. Chief Earnest Shonekan of the Southwest became president of Nigeria momentarily only after Gen. Ibrahim Babangida had been forced out of power following the June 12 1993 presidential election fiasco. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan became president because President Musa Yar’Adua died while in office.
It is clear that Africa is still under colonialism, hence, it is inappropriate to refer to the present political period of the continent as the post-colonial era. The colonial era still remains because external colonialism was immediately replaced by internal colonialism as soon as the European powers left the continent. Internal colonialism is as vicious as external colonialism. In some cases, ii is even more harmful than external colonialism. The Rwandan massacre was a product of the struggle generated by internal colonialism. The same could be said of the Nigerian, Liberian, Ivorian, Sudanese, Ugandan, Congolese (both Congos), Libyan, Algerian, Malian and Central African civil wars. Thus, many bloody conflicts in Africa are caused by indigenous African political leaders and their ethnic and regional backers who cling to power as if they are mandated by God to rule for ever.
Another way to indicate that Africa, particularly black Africa, has not moved away from the colonial period is that internal colonialists work in tandem with the former external colonialists. In fact, indigenous African political and military leaders, ethnic groups and regions which claim that they have a mandate to rule often justify their positions by maintaining that the former European colonial powers handed over the mantle of leadership of the African countries to them on independence, hence, they have a right to rule and dominate their states. There is no doubt that French-speaking Cameroonians believe that they have a right to rule because France handed over power to them. Similarly, Northern Nigerian Islamic leaders, particularly the Hausas and Fulanis, tend to believe that they have a mandate to rule Nigeria because Britain handed over Nigeria to them. This is why the Islamic North has produced most Nigerian leaders. This also accounts for why Southern Nigerians can only become leaders of Nigeria through the sanction of Northern political and religious leadership.
Thus, in almost every modern African state, the political and military leaders are tactically supported by the former external colonial masters. Political and military leaders who do not dance to the musical tunes of the former external colonialists are easily butted out of office and replaced with chosen individuals who are favorably disposed to the strategic interests of the former external colonial masters. Consequently, colonialism continues to exist in Africa. It is internal colonialism that is responsible for the perpetuation of the “rule for life syndrome” in the continent. It also contributes to the zero-sum manner in which politics is played. Hence, when Southern and Middle Belt Nigerians insist on restructuring, Islamic Northern Nigerians tend to disagree and insist on maintaining the status quo. This is why President Buhari continues to insist on the slogan “Nigeria is indivisible.” Similarly, when English-speaking Cameroonians insist on restructuring of the country, French-speaking Cameroonians disagree and insist on maintaining the status quo.
For Cameroon, the onus of sustaining a united, progressive and viable democratic country lies with the French-speaking citizens. Similarly, the onus of sustaining a united, progressive and viable Nigeria lies with the political and military leaders of Islamic Northern Nigeria. Those who wield power in these two countries must act fast to address the multitude of issues that are causing resentment and restlessness among those groups which feel marginalized and discriminated. Otherwise, Cameroon and Nigeria could disintegrate. Already, in Cameroon, tension is very high as English-speaking citizens insist on restructuring or go their separate ways. In fact, thousands of Cameroonians have fled to Nigeria to escape a potential civil war as some English-speaking Cameroonians resist the status quo militantly. Similarly, Southern and Central Nigerians are no longer believing and trusting the leadership of the country. The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that the Federal Government of Nigeria, under President Buhari, has been unwilling to take proactive security measures to contain the rampaging cattle herders who have inflicted destruction and death on thousands of innocent Nigerians.
The notion that one or two groups have a birthright to lord over other ethnic groups and or regions is unacceptable, considering the fact that the Europeans left Africa after colonizing the continent. If the Europeans were able to let go, there is no reason why any African ethnic group or region can justify the view that it has a perpetual right to dominate other ethnic groups and regions. Similarly, it is unacceptable when some African leaders and the ethnic groups and regions which back them to say that their countries are “indivisible” despite glaring iniquities in the distribution of political power and national resources. Moreover, the issue of indivisibility is negated, considering the fact that these African states were established through wars of aggression by foreign powers. Thus, there is no justification whatsoever for any political leader or ethnic group or region to insist on maintaining the status quo in Nigeria or Cameroon or elsewhere in the African continent when these countries have many structural and institutional problems necessitated by their forceful incorporation. It is indeed hypocritical for some Africans to criticize Europeans for colonizing them and then turn around to say it is perfectly alright for one or two African ethnic groups or regions to colonize other African ethnic groups and regions.
If change or restructuring does not take place, then, there is no reason why other arrangements cannot be initiated. After all, Russia became part of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union disintegrated and all the former members of the union are now separate countries. So, Russia has been rejuvenated as the Russian Federation. Britain decided to leave the European Union. Scotland and Wales are considering whether to leave the United Kingdom or not. If Europeans can recreate themselves, why can’t Cameroonians and Nigerians recreate themselves if the existing arrangements continue to fail in meeting the aspirations of all the groups that constitute Cameroon and Nigeria?
To manage the unfolding crises, Cameroon can carefully look at the Canadian and Swiss political systems to fine-tune its political system and make it more representative, democratic and fair. Nigeria too can do the same by looking at political arrangements that accommodate diversity and ensure equal representation. Alternatively, Nigeria can adopt the recommendations of the 2014 Constitutional Conference. If these two suggestions are not satisfactory enough, then, the two countries should hold a national referendum or a National Convention to reshape themselves and become more viable.
Indeed, “Post-colonialism” will take place when the colonially-induced African countries are restructured or reformed or rearranged to reflect their unique African character.
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