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Nation of people who are mostly located in the Midwestern part of Nigeria, Western  Africa.






Peter Ekeh

Chair, Urhobo Historical Society

In the week of April 18th through 25th, 2001, the Nigerian internet
community received an ample supply of Bala Usman's essay provocatively
titled "Ignorance, Knowledge and Democratic Politics in Nigeria." It is the
text of his presentation at a symposium at Bayero University, Kano, on
Tuesday, 17th April 2001. As he himself affirms in this much-publicized
essay, it is only a sequel to a longer document published in the same venue
in the internet at . Bala Usman acknowledged the
following assistance in the preparation of the earlier document: "In
preparing this brief, we have benefited from the support and assistance of
our colleague Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, and our staff, Sunday Jonathan and
Garba Wada." The authorship is thus Bala Usman's in the main.

Titled "The Misrepresentation of Nigeria: The Facts and Figures," the
earlier essay was a frontal attack on the notion that the Yoruba and Igbo
had their own autonomous history, independent of Nigeria. It also took a
swipe at the claim that the Niger Delta had its own destiny to worry about.
The latter "Ignorance" essay took on the Urhobos of the Niger Delta.  For
whatever reason he embarked on this course of action, this essay was an
exercise in insults and ridicule of a whole ethnic group that Bala Usman
viewed as representative of the Niger Delta.

In both of these essays, Bala Usman marches on as a soldier of truth. He
does not hesitate about the veracity of his declarations -- from the Hausa
origins of the name "Yoruba" to the British invention of the term "Urhobo"
in 1938! He picks sentences and fragments of paragraphs from Kenneth Dike,
Ade Ajayi, J. Alogoa, Obaro Ikime, Onigu Otite, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and many
others to show that these authors, dead and alive, support his campaign for
the enthronement of the primacy of the Nigerian State. In this wonderful
campaign against the evil of ignorance, there is only one solemn truth. It
is that Nigeria owns all of us. No other entity matters. Bala Usman, the
Truth Master, even labels as fascists those who do not subscribe to this
idea of the supremacy and absolutism of the Nigerian State. Those who
question the right of the Federal Government to take the resources of their
people are accused of undermining the foundations of democracy in Nigeria!
G. G. Darah of The Guardian is declared the epitome of ignorance because he
dares to suggest that human existence in Urhoboland, in the Niger Delta, is
up to six thousand years of age. This brand of history is different from the
modesty-infested historiography that offers tentative truth-propositions.

I will leave it to Ade Ajayi, Adiele Afigbo, and others who study Igbo and
Yoruba histories to accept or contest the claims made by Bala Usman
regarding the Igbo and the Yoruba. But I will not wait for these influential
historians before I challenge Bala Usman on his ill-mission on behalf of the
Nigerian State. Let me state clearly my reasons for responding to Bala Usman
's two essays, especially the latter piece in which he is so scornful of the
Urhobo and the Niger Delta. My reasons are four. First, I believe that Bala
Usman has employed a defective methodology of history, in which the role of
the British conquest of Nigeria is the only thing that counts. Second, I
believe Bala Usman has used historiography as a tool for mischief-making.
History is an ennobling discipline that empowers people's cultures. In Bala
Usman's hands, however, history has become a tool for dividing people into
their little clans, instead of employing it as an intellectual implement for
uniting them.  Third, Bala Usman is completely wrong about the facts of
Urhobo history. He is also wrong in his assumptions about human existence in
the Niger Delta. Yet he turns around to accuse Darah and others of ignorance
about the history of their own people. Fourth, and most importantly, Bala
Usman and his team of intellectuals are turning the Nigerian State into a
monster that is waging a war against the Nigerian people. These are serious
issues that can only be ignored at Nigerians' peril.


History can be a tool for intellectual mischief-making. Indeed, it has been
so for most of the years in which imperial history has been written.
Imperial history belittles all previous historical experiences in order,
quite deliberately, to enhance its own presence. Conquering other people is
an aggressive act that offends their inherent sense of justice. It is in
order to create some measure of justification for imperial acts of conquest
that imperial historians strive to invent the illusion that all pre-imperial
times were also pre-historical. The moments worthy of historical epochs are
said to begin with imperialism. This was as much the case with Roman
imperialism as it was with English and British conquests and imperialism in
Ireland and Africa.

It was not by accident that the principal apostle of the campaign for
establishing the notion that Africans had no history, except the history of
Europeans in Africa, was a British scholar of Roman imperialism. Regius
Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper, for a long time now a distinguished member of
the House of Lords, was the man who was writing about the Roman Empire when
he veered off, unprovoked, into a spiteful attack on the notion that Africa
had any history worth studying. His infamous words deserve to be recalled:

Undergraduates, seduced . . . by . . . journalistic fashion, demand that
they be taught the history of black Africa. Perhaps, in the future, there
will be some African history to teach. But at present there is none, or very
little: there is only the history of the Europeans in Africa. The rest is
largely darkness, like the history of pre-European, pre-Columbian America .
. . Please do not misunderstand me. I do not deny that men existed even in
dark countries and dark centuries, nor that they had political life and
culture, interesting to sociologists and anthropologists; but history, I
believe, is essentially a form of movement, and purposive movement too
(Trevor-Roper 1965: 9)

It is a strange piece of irony that a man who has self-consciously worn the
progressive label all his life may end up as a disciple of imperialist
historian Trevor-Roper. No matter however one cuts it, Bala Usman is telling
us in his two essays that the Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw, and Urhobo -- his
principal examples -- had no histories until they were created by British
imperialism. His words hauntingly parallel Trevor-Roper's and will probably
cause Kenneth Dike to turn in his grave. He says,

Anybody who has read the scholarly writings that have come out of the
University of Ibadan from the early 1950's knows that there has never been
and there is nothing like a Yoruba "Race". Anyone who is familiar with the
works of Professor Kenneth Dike, one of the greatest academics of the 20th
century, knows that there is nothing like the Igbo nation. These, like the
Hausa-Fulani, Ijaw, and the other nationalities of Nigeria, came to be
formed in the course of the formation of Nigeria in the 19th and 20th
centuries, as we have brought out in the Ceddert publication. "The
Misrepresentation of Nigeria: The Facts and the Figures."

This campaign aimed at undermining the autonomy of the history of Nigerian
ethnic nationalities is especially painful and puzzling in the case of  Bala
Usman who has spent a robust intellectual life (apart from his political
writings, such as the essays under review here) arguing for the vastness of
not only the history of the Sokoto Caliphate but of that of his own ruling
dynasty in Katsina. It is intriguing that what he challenges about his own
people is the wrongful coupling of Hausa and Fulani as one compound ethnic
group. But it would be foolish to argue that the Hausa people who produced
the Kano Chronicle had no pre-British history of their own. Clearly, the
Hausa had a splendid history. Nor can anybody argue that the Fulani and
Kanuri, who signed a peace treaty in 1812, had no history before the British

So what is Bala Usman's point? Is it not to show that the rest of us had no
history before the British arrived? His words make it clear that all the
history that counts in contemporary Nigerian affairs is the British
conquest. In strong approval, Bala Usman says, "The British did not conquer
the pre-colonial polities of Nigeria only to leave alone their land and
minerals. They took full control over these, as the sovereign power." What
an apologia of British imperialism in Africa!


Usman was not merely making declaratory statements in order to uphold his
campaign that British conquest of Nigeria offers the paramount definition of
the history of southern communities. He carefully chose examples to
demonstrate his point. Missing from his discussion are any Northern ethnic
groups, such as the Kanuri, Tiv, or Jukun. Nor has he gone after every
Southern Nigerian ethnic group. He has chosen his examples most carefully.
First and foremost, he trains his mischief-making at the Yoruba, the ethnic
behemoth of the South. He was less aggressive with the Igbo. Then he goes
after the Niger Delta with especial vehemence. Inside the Niger Delta he
chose to ridicule the Urhobo. There is ample guile in the historical method
of Bala Usman's mischief. It is a political craft that he has perfected to a

I will leave the Yoruba to defend themselves. But it is noteworthy that Bala
Usman chose Bolaji Akiyemi as a spokesman for the Yoruba, making a meat
mince from his weak presentation of the Yoruba case. Even his detractors
must acknowledge that Bala Usman's campaign against the integrity of the
history of Yoruba has masterful cruelty in it. It questions the origins of
the name "Yoruba." As far as Bala Usman is concerned, that name was an
imperial donation from the North. I am intrigued by Usman's argument on this
score. Note his words well. He says,

The fact is that, the earliest record we have of the use of the very name
"Yoruba" was in the Hausa language and it seems to have applied to the
people of the Alafinate of Oyo. This came from the writings of the
seventeenth century Katsina scholar, Dan Masani (1595-1667), who wrote a
book on Muslim scholars of the 'Yarriba.' But it was from a book of the
Sarkin Musulmi Bello, written in the early nineteenth century, that the name
became more widely used. The Bishop Ajayi Crowther, the Reverend Samuel
Johnson, and his brother Obadiah Johnson, among others, came, in the
nineteenth century, to widely spread this Hausa name to the people who now
bear it, in their writings.

So what is Bala Usman's proof that the name "Yoruba" is an "Hausa name"? It
is so, to repeat, because, he says, "the earliest record [sic] we have of
the use of the very name 'Yoruba' was in the Hausa language" -- from the
writings of a man born in 1595! But in fact the name Yoruba was used by a
Timbucktu theologian, Ahmad Baba, who was already a distinguished scholar
long before Dan Masani was born in 1595. Moreover, Ahmad Baba (1556-1627)
wrote in Arabic, not in the Hausa language. Ahmad Baba was captured along
with other Songhai intellectuals by Moroccan Arab invaders of Songhai in
1591 - four years before Bala Usman's Dan Masani was born -- and was taken
to the Maghreb. On his return from captivity, Ahmad Baba  complained
bitterly, saying Muslims, Arab or African, were not supposed to be enslaved,
as he was:  "The Muslims among [the Blacks], like the people of Kano,
Katsina, Bornu, Gobir, and all of Songhai are Muslims, who are not to be
owned. Yet some [Muslims] transgress on the others unjustly by invasion as
do the Arabs, Bedouins, who transgress on free Muslims and sell them
unjustly" (see Hilliard 1985: 162).  But in further argument with Arabs,
Ahmad Baba allowed that non-Moslem Blacks, on account of their lack of
faith, could be enslaved. Among these were the Yoruba. Ahmad Baba's infamous
words were as follows:

Those who come to you from the following [sic] clans: the Mossi, the Gurma,
the Busa, the Yorko, the Kutukul, the Yoruba, the Tanbugbu, the Bobo are
considered non-believers who still adhere to non-belief until now.... You
are allowed to own all these without questioning. This is the ruling about
these clans, and Allah, the Highest, knows and judges (please see Baba
c1622: 137).
These words were penned when Bala Usman's Dan Masani was a teenager. There
is no evidence whatsoever that Ahmad Baba knew of the Yoruba through the
Hausa or the Fulani who, like Dan Masani, spoke and wrote the Hausa
I have gone into this matter of the allegation that the name Yoruba was an
Hausa derivation because I can see no evidence for it. Of course, if it is
repeated frequently enough, it will become the "truth." Let those, like Bala
Usman, who shop it around, come up with a better proof than the incorrect
allegation that it first appeared in an Hausa writing. My second reason for
delving into this matter is that Bala Usman has sought to humiliate the
Urhobos by alleging that their name was given to them by the British in
1938, using another version of the insult he hurled on the Yoruba. As I will
demonstrate later, his allegation about the Urhobo name is even more vacuous
than his proof of the Hausa origin of the name "Yoruba." But first, I must
turn to the strangest theory from Bala Usman, namely, why the Niger Delta
does not belong to Niger Deltans.


Bala Usman has now moved beyond General Olusegun Obasanjo's Land Use Decree
of 1978 to offer reasons why Niger Deltans do not own their lands and
waters. His answer is straightforward. The Niger Delta belongs to the State
of Nigeria. By that he means the Federal Government of Nigeria. This
self-professed democrat offers two reasons for his arguments on why the
Niger Delta does not belong to Niger Deltans. First, by right of conquest,
it ceased to belong to its owners and was taken over by the British
conquerors who then handed it over to the Nigerian State at Independence.
His second reason flows from his unique theory of the geological formation
of the Niger Delta. The waters and debris that form the natural wealth of
the Niger Delta come from up North. We will consider these theories from a
man who says he is fighting for Nigerian democracy, in reverse order.

Bala Usman's Theory of the Formation of the Niger Delta. Imperialists have
been known to be very creative in justifying their imperial ambitions. But
none can match Bala Usman's imagination. According to him, Niger Delta lands
are only the secondary producers of oil and gas. The primary producers of
these products are up North from where the Niger and the Benue drain
farmlands, dead bodies, feces, etc., from which the minerals in the Niger
Delta are made. Therefore, quoting his words now, "those states of Nigeria,
upstream from the delta, in the Niger-Benue basin, should take exclusive
ownership and control of the river water and its sediments drained away from
them to form the delta and its hinterland, and demand their share from the
returns from the export of crude oil and gas in proportion to what their
vegetation, faeces, dead bodies, animal remains and fertile soil, generally
contributed to the making of these minerals for hundred of thousands, and
even millions, of years."

How does one argue against this bent of mind? And yet it would be dangerous
to say Bala Usman does not know what he is talking about. On the contrary,
he does. He throws up these incredible theories. If they are not refuted, he
insists that they should inform policies. If they are refuted convincingly,
he moves on to other areas. But always, he has the ears of the powerful. So
we must regard him as a spokesman for powerful interests in Abuja and
Northern Nigeria.

First, let us grant him his argument. By the same token two consequences
would follow. First, those countries from which and through which the Nile
River flows would lay claim to Egypt and its wealth. Uganda, even Kenya,
Sudan, and Ethiopia would lay historic claims to the resources of the Nile
Delta. But obviously, that is not Bala Usman's intention. The dynamics are
different. Second, if his argument is correct, then the farmlands in the
Benue-Niger valleys that benefit from the flow of the Niger and Benue from
and through Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, and Niger should be claimed by
those other countries from which their fertility is derived. But of course,
that is not what Bala Usman has in mind. What he has in mind is the wealth
of the Niger Delta: how to distribute it in such a way so that his people
will have the lion share. Then Bala Usman, the Truth Master, will declare to
the world that Niger Deltans love democracy.

I think the rest of the country should understand that the barely hidden
goal behind this theory is to instigate conflict between the people of the
Benue Valley and the Niger Delta. Bala Usman will not be able to show
anywhere in the world where his theory has been tried out. He has no
scientific basis for his theory. His sole aim is to threaten the people of
the Niger Delta and then sow much confusion in the body politic. Bala Usman'
s two essays are laced with threats. Either the people he speaks for will
have their way or there will be chaos. In order words, this is an exercise
in intimidation.

There is no rationality behind these strange theories. If Bala Usman's
theory had any credibility, then we should have oil and gas in every delta
region in the world.  The Congo drains much the same sediments from upland
countries. How much oil is there in the Congo Delta? Or conversely, why
would there be any oil in the Sahara from which debris from other regions
are not possible? No, this is not a rational theory. It is all part of

The Right of Conquest. Bala Usman is very angry at claims "that the modern
ethnic groups of Nigeria, like the Ogoni, the Ijaw and the Urhobo, have some
autochthonous sovereign rights over the land and minerals of the Niger Delta
and its coastal hinterland; and [that] these rights are illegitimately being
denied by the Federal Republic of Nigeria." But what are his grounds for
saying that these lands do not belong to these ethnic groups or the state
governments that run their affairs? Shamelessly, Bala Usman plays one of his
imperialism cards, again. Hear him: "Whatever sovereign rights the
governments of the pre-colonial polities of the Niger Delta and its
hinterland had, over the soil, water, and minerals of the area, were
destroyed by the British conquest." Bala Usman then goes into a recitation
of Lugardian decrees that sought to model the Amalgamation after the British
conquest of the Sokoto Caliphate and the rest of Northern Nigeria.

For the avoidance of doubt, let it be clearly stated that the British
colonization of Southern Nigeria did not include the alienation of lands
from their communities and even individuals. The British called the
colonized region Protectorate because the Imperial Government said it was
protecting its peoples and lands from hostile forces for the future benefits
of the "natives." In Warri Province, for instance, British colonial officers
leased lands from communities in signed agreements that were accepted and
respected by British courts, up to the Privy Council. Why would the British
lease lands from Southern Nigerians if they assumed that their colonization
included the alienation of lands and its resources? The British also signed
agreements, so-called "treaties of protection," with various communities in
the Niger Delta.  Each of them had nine clauses. None of these treaties
talked of conquest nor alienation of lands from these communities.

The picture that Bala Usman is presenting did cover what happened in the
Sokoto Caliphate and much of Northern Nigeria. There Frederick Lugard
conquered the Sokoto Empire and imposed on it a condition that was merely
repeating what its previous Fulani conquerors had put in place. The Fulani
conquest of the Hausa kingdoms in the jihad that began in 1804 concluded
with the alienation of Hausa lands by the Fulani State. Frederick Lugard
imitated the Fulani conquerors by alienating the lands in the North. Lugard'
s attempt to extend that regime of land alienation to the South was resisted
everywhere in the South during his Amalgamation ventures. And he abandoned
it. For instance in creating a Department of Forestry for the South, he
fully acknowledged and respected the communal rights over lands in the
South. As Lugard (1912-1919: 167) himself put it,  [When] "The Ordinance of
1917 . . . empowered the Government to create forest reserves . . . [t]he
rights of the natives who claimed communal ownership . . . were

Bala Usman is stating the correct situation of what obtained with the
British conquest of the North. But that was not what happened in the South.
It is sheer revisionist history to impose retrospectively the land situation
in the North unto the South. It was under the regime of General Olusegun
Obasanjo in 1978 that the Northern land usages were imposed on the South
under military fiat. For that Olusegun Obasanjo will for ever have a
question to answer in Nigerian history. But even so, the land in the 1978
Land Use Decree is vested in the states, not in the Federal Government of
Nigeria. Why should a self-styled democrat like Bala Usman be afraid of the
powers of local governments and the decentralization of powers over land
rights to the States?

The Niger Delta belongs to Niger Deltans. We have no share whatsoever of
Katsina. Bala Usman and his people should leave the Niger Delta alone.


Bullies have a way of seeking to teach their victims lessons. There is very
little doubt in my mind that Bala Usman was deliberately determined to teach
Darah and his Urhobo people a lesson from the whip of his pen. His venom was
particularly toxic in a mean-spirited attack on Darah as an ignorant man.
And yet Bala Usman has tripped all over in stating facts about a place he
only knows by reading a few scattered books. Bala Usman's knowledge of
Urhobo and the Niger Delta is essentially fragmentary and is entirely
bookish. If he were a humble man he would state his case with caution.
Instead, he went for the jugular.

To start with, Bala Usman thought he must ridicule the Urhobo. Hear him: "As
for the Urhobos being there before Nigeria, this is just laughable, if it is
not so much part of the anti-democratic campaign of peddling ignorance to
make for the rise of fascist political organisations in Nigeria." One
wonders where the ignorance lies. One wonders where fascism lies. Or has
fascism changed its meaning?

Bala Usman labours through a series of partial citations from Obaro Ikime
and Onigu Otite to prove his point that Urhobos were not there before
Nigeria! There was nowhere any of these scholars said so. The hardest
evidence that Bala Usman could muster is a strange interpretation of the
redesignation of "Sobo" to Urhobo in 1938 by the British Colonial
Government. He says, "The emergence of the Urhobo as a nationality took
place within Nigeria and one of the major steps towards this was the
Government Notice No. 1228 published in the Nigeria Gazette No. 49, Vol. 25
of 8th September, 1938 which with effect from 1st October, 1938 changed the
name of Sobo Division of Warri Province to 'Urhobo Division.'" Far be it
from me to call a fellow academic an ignorant man, no matter however badly
he has offended history. But this is plainly ridiculous.

The British had enormous difficulties handling Urhobo names. They changed
Urhiapele to Sapele, Avwraka to Abrakar, Uwhokori to Kokori, etc. Urhobo
have tried hard to recover the original names. In 1938 Urhobo Progress Union
was able to prevail on the Colonial Government to change the corrupted name
"Sobo" to its original Urhobo. Urhobo thought that was an important
achievement. Instead, Bala Usman is giving the impression that the British
donated that name to the Urhobos! How very ridiculous. All other ethnic
groups in the Western Niger Delta were having the same problems with the way
British colonial officers brutalized their ethnic names. Urhobos were the
first to succeed in changing theirs. But Ukwuani was corrupted by the
British to Kuale. The Itsekiri were variously called  Jekri, Jakri, and
Jekeri -- until they changed to their correct name, Itsekiri. The Izon have
had greater difficulties. They have been called Ijo, Ijaw, Ezon, and Izon.
These are the cultural casualties of colonialism. Of course, Bala Usman
would not know these facts from the isolated books that he reads about the
Niger Delta.

If Urhobos did not have a knowledge of themselves before the British came,
why would they resent the name that the British called them and ask for a
correction? Urhobo Brotherly Society and Urhobo Progress Union dating back
to 1931 never bore the name "Sobo." Shouldn't Bala Usman do a little more
exploration of Urhobo history before he so spitefully accuses Darah of
ignorance of the history of his own people?

The ethnic composition of the Western Niger Delta has not changed  since the
Portuguese made their first voyage through the shores of the Atlantic into
the interior regions of the Western Niger Delta more than five centuries
ago. The same books of Obaro Ikime (and those by Peter Lloyd and quite a few
others) that Bala Usman has apparently read are consistent in reporting what
the Captain of the Portuguese premier voyage to the Western Niger Delta
reported. Apart from the Benin,  in 1485 he identified two ethnic groups in
the region: "Jos" (for Ijaw) and "Soubo" (for Urhobo). The Portuguese did
not meet all the "clans" of the Urhobos that Bala Usman now touts. They met
only the Agbarha-Ame. But they did not so identify the people they met. They
knew them as "Soubo," probably a corruption from the Benin word for Urhobos
which is "Uhobo." The Benin knew the Urhobo as a people for centuries before
the Portuguese arrived in Western Niger Delta in the 1480s. They did not
need the Portuguese nor the British to tell them who the Urhobo were. As a
student of Fulani history, Bala Usman should not be surprised that Urhobos
are called different names by different people or that they call themselves
a name different from what others call them. The French call the Fulani
"Peul" whereas the English call them Fulani. The Fulani are called several
other names in other regions of Africa. Yet they are the same people.

If Urhobos had a composite ethnic identity five centuries ago, why would
British conquest and imperialism dissolve it in the 1890s? I daresay that it
is the Trevor-Roper syndrome that governs Bala Usman's perception of the
history of the Western Niger Delta. But that would not be called ignorance.
No, imperialists are never ignorant!

There are other accusations of ignorance that Bala Usman mounted against
Darah. I will handle two of these that especially exercised Bala Usman.
First, he says that Darah inflated the amount of petroleum that was pumped
under the aegis of the Federal Government from Urhobo lands. He
incredulously asked why the Federal Government would be making so little
money if the figure mentioned by Darah was correct. Is it possible that Bala
Usman has never heard of oil bunkering? Does Bala Usman really believe the
Federal Government's figures? Bala Usman is anything but naive. It is more
likely that he has decided to feign ignorance about the amount of oil pumped
from the Niger Delta, legitimately, or otherwise stolen by the exploiting
companies, with collusion from Nigerians, and also stolen by Nigerians
themselves. Blessed are those who feign ignorance for they shall be close to
the seat of power in Abuja.

Bala Usman also chastises Darah for suggesting that Urhobos have been in the
Western Niger Delta for some six thousand years. In a very strange, but
unexplained, view of the Niger Delta, he mysteriously asks, "In fact, were
there any inhabitants in that area in that period, given what is now known
about the formation of the Niger-Delta and the climatic changes in this part
of West Africa?" What is he talking about? Science and human history have
established beyond any shadow of doubt that humankind began in Africa, only
a few thousand miles from the Niger Delta. Homo sapiens is at least 200,000
years old on the African continent. He and she have wondered all around
Africa. There were no toxic wastes from Shell-BP and Chevron to drive away
humans from reaching the Niger Delta tens of thousands of years ago. Sure,
migrants may have joined aborigines of these lands. But it makes no sense to
imagine that humans were absent from the lands now occupied by the Urhobos
and other Niger Deltans many thousand years ago. If there is anything to
complain about, it is the mentality that timidly concedes age of existence
to Asia Minor, or the Middle East. Abraham and Noah; Moses and Jacob; Jesus
Christ and Mohammed; Jerusalem and Mecca: these are important instances of
the history of humankind. But they are not as old as the human experience on
the African continent. Nor are we in the Niger Delta prepared to rule
ourselves out of the African heritage. By the Grace of God, we are as old as
humankind gets.


Nigerian affairs have reached a point which calls for the invocation of an
olden distinction between the State and the Nation. A State is the
organization that runs the political affairs of a country, with its rulers
and its bureaucracy. The people themselves and their history and cultures,
their mores and ethical lives, constitute the Nation. When the social and
political affairs of a country are well managed by leaders who are
responsible and are respected by the people, there is a congruence between
the State and the Nation. In such circumstances, there is no need for a
distinction between the two.

Sadly, Nigerian affairs compel us to separate the Nigerian Nation from the
monster that has emerged as the Nigerian State. Increasingly, the Nigerian
Nation is being victimized by the Nigerian State. Indeed, in the Niger Delta
the Nigerian State is waging a war against a fragment of the Nigerian
Nation. The Nigerian State has stolen the lands and resources of the people.
With these resources, it now recruits foot soldiers in its immoral campaigns
against the Nigerian Nation.

Bala Usman's two essays demonstrate that he is an important recruit in
Abuja's struggles against the Nigerian Nation.  In his campaigns on behalf
of the Nigerian State, Bala Usman has emerged as a fearless defender of
British imperialism because, he argues, the Nigerian State inherited its
powers from British conquest and colonization of Nigerian polities and
ethnic groups. How very sad!

As for democracy, its invocation has become very profitable as a way of
showing Jimmy Carter and the Americans as well as Britain's Tony Blair that
the Nigerian State cares about its people's welfare. How can those who
designed and now support the theft of people's lands through the instrument
of a Land Use Decree be called democrats? How can those who invaded and
destroyed Odi Town talk of democracy? There are those who will cut off a
hand from an Hausa peasant for stealing a goat for a decent pot of soup but
then turn around to turban public officials who have stolen billions of
dollars from public funds. They make a mockery of justice and destroy the
foundation of democracy. Indeed they are waging a war against human decency.

If Bala Usman wants to be counted among the ranks of the Nigerian State's
forces, that is his choice to make. But he should stop parading himself as a
defender of Nigerian democracy. The forces that he seeks to promote are
undermining democracy on a daily basis.


Baba, Ahmad. c1622. "The Mi'raj: a Legal Treatise on Slavery by Ahmad Baba."
Translated and edited by Bernard Barbour and Michelle Jacobs. Pp. 125-138 in
John Ralph Willis, ed., Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa. Volume I: Islam
and the Ideology of Enslavement. London: Frank Cass.

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Legal and Ethical Aspects of Slavery In the Sudan as Seen in the Works of
Shaykh Musa Kamara." Pp. 160-181 in John Ralph Willis, ed., Slaves and
Slavery in Muslim Africa. Volume I: Islam and the Ideology of Enslavement.
London: Frank Cass.

Lugard, Sir F. D. 1912-1919. Lugard and the Amalgamation of Nigeria. A
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Trevor-Roper, Hugh. 1965. The Rise of Christian Europe. New York: Harcourt,
Brace & World.

Peter Ekeh, Ph.D
Urhobo Historical Society
P. O. Box 1454
Buffalo, New York 14226
Fax: 1 (208) 361-9469


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