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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #37 of 54: Niger | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #39 of 54: Reunion »

August 10, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #38 of 54: Nigeria

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) ---
Flag of Nigeria

Formal Name: Republic of Nigeria

Term for Citizens: Nigerians

Capital: Abuja. Population: 420,000.

Independence Achieved: October 1, 1960, from Britain.

Major Cities: Lagos (population 8,685,000) Ibadan, Kano, and Owerri.


Nigeria is in West Africa. It is bordered in the south by the Atlantic Ocean, in the east by Cameroon, in the west by Benin, and in the north by Niger and Chad. Nigeria occupies an estimated 356 669 square miles. Its topography is characterized by a swampy coastal region, gradually giving way to a rain forested region, then to savanna, and finally to a Sahel region. Nigeria is mainly plain lowlands with a plateau in the middle belt, and a mountainous region in the northeast, Adamawa Mountain. Nigeria has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons, wet (April to October) and dry (November to March). The coastal region experiences heavy rainfall, in places up to 144 inches annually. Rainfall is less and less inland with a semi arid Sahel Northern area.


The population of Nigeria is estimated at 124, 009,000.

Ethnic Groups: Nigeria is estimated to have over 100 ethnic groups; the major ones are Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Edo, Fulani, Tivi, Ijo, Urobo, and Ishikiri.

Languages: Each of the ethnic groups speaks its own language. The major ones are Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. English is the official language.

Religion: Christian South and Muslim North, with interspersed believers in indigenous religions.

Education: Free primary education for all primary school aged children; a significant percentage of primary school leavers attend secondary school, and by African standards, a fairly large number of students attend university. Literacy rate is estimated at 68%.

Economy: Nigeria’s economy is currently centered on petroleum extraction and exporting. The agricultural sector has essentially been allowed to decay as the economy depends on its cash cow. Food is imported even though Nigeria has sufficient fertile land to feed itself and even export food. Light manufacturing activity has begun and Nigeria is on its way to becoming an industrialized country. GDP estimate: $113.5 billion; Per Capita GDP: $875. Monetary Unit: Naira.

History and Government:

The British colonized Nigeria during the late 19th century. Upon independence, Nigeria inherited British type parliamentary system of government. A military coupe took place in 1966 and subsequently a series of military governments ruled Nigeria. At the present, Nigeria has a federal government patterned after the American system. However, it reposes a lot of power at the central government that it is probably best characterized as a quasi-unitary government, rather than a true federation where powers are shared between the center and the periphery. The state governments practically depend on the money they get from the center to survive, and as he who pays the piper calls the tune are subservient to the central government. Nigerian politics is characterized by the struggle for power by the three dominant ethnic groups. Corruption is rampant in Nigeria. Nigeria is divided into 36 mini states and a federal territory, none of which is economically viable.


The various people that live in the area now called Nigeria were unwillingly put together by the British. Indeed, the name itself (derived from Niger River and Area around that river) was said to have been chosen by the girl friend of the British Governor of Nigeria, Flora Shaw (Lord Lugard). The south and north of Nigeria was amalgamated in 1914. The history of the country since then has been one of mismanagement, corruption and thievery made official policy.
In 1960, Nigeria was given her independence by Britain. In 1966 there was a military coup and thereafter there were series of military coups, interrupted by a brief interregnum of civilian rule (1979-84) and back to military rule again and now military civilian rule (President Obasanjo).

Not much can be said about Nigeria except that constitutions are written and strong men are placed in office; as to whether they, in fact, do something while in office is another matter. They come to office to steal money from the public treasury, and, perhaps, that in itself is an achievement?

Is thieving an accomplishment in life? It seems so in Nigeria. The names of these so-called kleptocratic rulers of Nigeria are probably not worth mentioning, for these people are better consigned to the dustbin of history as refuse. We need not further gratify their vanity by mentioning their names, as if they existed and as if they contributed to the well being of Nigerians. Criminals’ names do not need to be mentioned. But if you are interested, the rulers of Nigeria since her misrule began were Abubakar Tafawa Belewa, Aguiyi Ironsi, Yakubu Gowon, Mutala Mohamed, Olusegun Obasnajo, Shehu Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha, and, once again Obasanjo in mufti. These were the chief thieves of state of Nigeria.

Nigeria is currently divided into 36 states and counting (few of which can support themselves, except wait for the federal government to steal oil money from the Niger Delta and give it to them to squander). The states are further divided into local authority areas and towns.

The Nigerian economy runs on money from oil and that is just about all that can be said about it. When oil money is gone, the economy probably will go belly up and millions of Nigerians will starve. What else is new? A people who cannot manage their economic affairs, who all they seem to know what to do is steal, probably deserve to starve and die off. The world is probably better off without hearing about 419 advance fee scams and other criminal activities engaged by Nigerians.

The current finance minister has begged the creditors that Nigeria’s former leaders borrowed money from, to line their pockets with, to write off over 60% of that debt, and promised to pay the balance of it. It will be a day when this is done, in fact. And if it is done, probably a similar amount would have been redirected to the pockets of those making such payments.

Are Nigerians human being or are they criminals? Is criminality in their genes? Their contribution to human history, so far, seems mostly negative. For (1000 years 900-1900AD) they sold each other into slavery, first, to Arabs, and then to Europeans. Given the opportunity to govern themselves, they did not even earn that independence, for they did not fight and die for it, as they should have; they use their governments to mismanage their public affairs.

The question that the world has to answer, and do so soon, is whether Nigerians are born as criminals? Until we have clarity as to whether these people can be honest human beings we are going nowhere with them.

If they are born thieves, we might as well not concern ourselves with them. We do not need further elaborate sociological studies to explain what environmental factors that disposed them to steal. If they inherited stealing genes, we can save ourselves a lot of trouble by building prisons and if they steal, clamp them into them, lock them up and throw away the keys. We do not need to talk about their criminal behavior any more. Enough is enough.

Posted by Administrator at August 10, 2006 10:24 AM


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