Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has said he was surprised that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), could hail Britain for uniting Nigeria in his Independence Day speech.
The President in his Independence Day speech had said, “For 1st of October 1960 to happen, all hands were on deck. East, West, North all came together to celebrate freedom. Today should not only serve as a reminder of the day the British handed over the reins of power to Nigerians, but also unified Nigerians from all ethnic groups, religions and regions.”
Falana, while speaking on Sunday Politics, a current affairs programme of the Channels Television monitored by our correspondent in Abuja, noted that Nigeria is still grappling with underdevelopment due to its failure to remove structures mounted by the British colonialists.
“When President Muhammadu Buhari’s broadcast yesterday (October 1) was thanking the British for uniting us, I was wondering where that was coming from, because the colonial regime engaged in divide-and-rule,” he said.
When asked if it had been so far so good since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, Falana said it had been “so far ,so bad.”
Falana added, “Nigeria has refuse to get it right; whereas, in 1960, Nigeria was ahead of many countries in Asia, including, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the rest of them. Today, some of these countries have frog jumped; they have left us as a Third World country and they have metamorphosed into First World.
“So, for the majority of our people, 1960 provided an opportunity to start all over again but, unfortunately, the nationalist politicians who took over the reins of power from the British colonial regime did not decolonise the country and the psyche of our people. And all of them retained the colonial structures. The laws and ordinances were simply changed to Act of Parliament. The institutions were left intact.”
Falana cited the example of the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Army and other security agencies, which have “continued to perform the roles they were performing under the colonial regime, i.e. these were forces set up to intimidate and harass our people, and extort levies and taxes from them. And that has continued up till now.”
According to the lawyer, the moment the political class embraced the development paradigm of colonialism and imperialism, the country got it wrong.
He also noted that the colonial regime adopted divide et impera taxim – divide and rule – in order to satisfy imperialism; noting that Nigeria was not established for the development of the country but was set up to facilitate the brutal exploitation of its human and natural resources after the slave trade.
“Colonialism was in practice for over a hundred years; so, what you would have expected in 1960 was a radical departure from the colonial route that has led to the underdevelopment of our country.
“Unfortunately, when military adventurers in politics stepped in in 1960, the situation became worse. The country that was trying to practise federalism was turned into a unitary one,” Falana added.