The search for the Nigerian is in progress.

Optimists say that before this century is out, the experiment begun in the 19th century will produce such a people.

Meanwhile, there are Hausas, Yorubas, Tivs, Edos, Fulanis, Ibos and 87 other lesser peoples inhabiting that area of geography bordered by the Republics of Cameroun, Chad, Niger and Dahomey, in an area of 378.000 square miles, which is four times the size of Great Britain.

There are 55.6 million Nigerians. Perhaps another two million live abroad, scattered throughout Africa.

History records that several hundred years ago a band of European adventurers found a route through the Cape of Good Hope to India where the trade winds had driven them.

It was the Age of Discovery.

The traders were soon followed by pirates who formed labour recruitment agencies for the farms of the New World. At first, they came in trickles as raiders to plunder and pillage, carting off sardine packages of slaves to America.

Each European state that had the naval might and the sailors’ mettle to dare the voyage fitted out a boat and came to transport human cargoes for sale in God’s Own Country.

Eventually, something had to be done about Africa, for the African chieftains (middle-men between the producers of human merchandise and consumers of slavery) were constantly warring among themselves, wasting the precious produce in the process and disrupting the flow of trade.

The good people of Europe decided that this threat to their economy could not be tolerated much longer.

Fired by this zeal, a conference was summoned for Berlin; agenda, the compulsory liquidation of existing tribal empires and the arbitrary delimitation of the continent of Africa into puppet states. This way, Africa would be assigned to the care of European powers. Civilisation was born. It was all so noble!

At the conference which was convened in 1884, the British representative stood up and pointing to a crude map, declared: “Gentlemen, the Hottentots and Bantu Negroes in this part of West Africa will be protected by us henceforth.”

The French made a throaty bid over large areas in the same territory; the Spaniards, long dissipated and the Portuguese, half forgotten, both said something that sounded like protest, but their voices were faint and Mr. Chairman gavelled the Briton’s bid.

The area under reference went to Her Brittanic Majesty, Queen Victoria, Empress of India.

In keeping with their promise to keep safe, defend and guard the “Protectorate of Nigeria,” the British unfurled the Union Jack, set up trading posts and called in missionaries from Scotland to preach the gospel of liberty. Thus, was Nigeria born.

There were still bush-fire rebellions to snuff out before the total submission of the natives was achieved. History books call them “expeditions.” They are obviously not landmarks because British forces did not expend much ammunition in the campaigns and the Exchequer had no cause for alarm.

Today, the conglomeration of tribes assembled compulsorily at the 1884 Berlin conference are assigned as Nigerians – for want of a substitute collective noun.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here