HISTORY OF NIGERIA'S POVERTY
AUGUSTINE ORITSEWEYINMI OGHANRANDUKUN OLOMU (ST.IFA)
AUGUSTINE ORITSEWEYINMI OGHANRANDUKUN OLOMU (ST.IFA)
In this chapter, we are going to see how Africa’s underdevelopment has a dialectical relationship with the development of the West. The dismal picture painted of Africa – especially sub-Saharan – is false and devoid of all verities of history. The ‘dark continent’ was not really dark, no matter how Eurocentric scholars will want the world to believe. To show the dialectical relationship between sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world, we have to look at how Nigeria or, indeed Africa, was affected by the underdevelopment crises in four epochs: the trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonization, neo colonization and globalization. But in order to discuss the four epochs, we must talk on classical West Africa before the advent of any form of European imperialistic machinations. So, this chapter will be sub divided as follows:
1. Classical West Africa
2. Africa during the slave trade
3. Africa during colonization
4. Africa during neo-colonialism
5. Africa during globalization
Classical West Africa
It is important to show that before the coming of the Portuguese in 1472(Obayemi 1977, Nathan Nunn 2007), and a host of others, African societies have displayed different stages of development and growth. States like Ghana, Mali and Songhai, were classical kingdoms in the Savannah areas. States like Benin and Oyo emerged in the southern areas; Warri an Isekiri state thrived and became the most popular and the most organized state in the Niger Delta sub-region (Obayemi 1977, Alagoa1989)
The great states are characterised by centralized court systems, stable courts, developed economies and subjugation, if not colonization of neighbouring states. Long distance trade and internal capital is instrumental to the formation of these states. All the states were technologically more developed than the non-centralised areas. In most of the centralized states – Oyo, Benin, Warri, Ife, Idah (Igala) Kwararafa(Jukun) , Nupe(Tapa) and a host of others like Ashanti in present Ghana republic, the development of these areas were quite profound.
In summary most of the great states or what Obayemi(1977) referred to as the ‘Mega’ states had industries such as
a. Iron mining ;
b. Bronze or brass smithing;
d. Cloth manufacture;
e. Salt manufacture and host of other industries.
Europe was only more advanced than these mega states because they were able to manufacture gunpowder and they had started experiencing full feudalism and even in some areas personal capital – the rudiment of capitalism (Rodney 1973)
Trade flourished between the great states and even the mini states benefitted from the surplus of the great states due to trade. There were trade routes where products such as Bini and Isekiri beads were moved up to the North of Africa and northern goods like horses reached down to the south as far as Benin and Ife.(Rodney 1973)
Africa during the Slave Trade
Perhaps the greatest mass movement in human history happened during the trans- Atlantic slave trade. There were other forms of slavery before the transatlantic slave trade, hear Nunn 2008. “Between 1400 and 1900, the African continent experienced four simultaneous slave trades. The largest and most well-known is the trans-Atlantic slave trade where, beginning in the fifteenth century, slaves were shipped from West Africa, West Central Africa, and Eastern Africa to the European colonies in the New World. The three other slave trades -- the trans-Saharan, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean slave trades -- are much older and predate the trans-Atlantic slave trade. During the trans-Saharan slave trade, slaves were taken from south of the Saharan desert and shipped to Northern Africa. In the Red Sea slave trade, slaves were taken from inland of the Red Sea and shipped to the Middle East and India. In the Indian Ocean slave trade, slaves were taken from Eastern Africa and shipped either to the Middle East, India or to plantation islands in the Indian Ocean.”
At least three hundred million people were lost to Africa from 1441-1807, when the slave trade was at its peak. As some Eurocentric scholars – Curtin (1977) – and a host of others argue that Africa benefitted from the slave trade, we will see in this topic that the genesis of Africa’s underdevelopment began with the slave trade. The internal African trade was stopped. The traffic of trade between the Coast, the Forest Belt, the Savannah, and the Sahara which filtered up to Europe was stopped. Africa then became dependent on the Europeans for trade. Europeans then controlled the route from the Benin region to Accra in Ghana, which was a highway for bead and gold trade. The Bini and the Isekiri who controlled that route were cut off from the lucrative trade by Portuguese imperialism (Rodney 1973). Wars, kidnapping and acrimonies characterised all African societies. Local technologies – iron mining, cloth making etc – either died out, or were greatly reduced in quantity and quality. If the trade had not occurred, Africa would have been at par with other regions of the world in development. Hear Alco: “According to my calculations, if the slave trade had not occurred, then 72% of the average income gap between Africa and the rest of the world would not exist today, and 99% of the income gap between Africa and the rest of the underdeveloped world would not exist. In terms of economic development, Africa would not look any different from the other developing countries in the world…This finding is striking. These results may not be the final and definitive explanation for the origins of Africa’s severe underdevelopment, but they do provide very strong evidence that much of Africa’s poor performance can be explained by its history, which is characterised by over 400 years of slave raiding.”It is pertinent to see that the seeds of African underdevelopment began and was established during the slave trade.
Africa during colonization
With the Berlin conference of 1884-1885, the Europeans finally decided to take complete possession of African territories. The dialectics of underdevelopment continued in this epoch (Samir 1972; Rodney 1973). European countries then took complete control of African countries. Africa was divided and shared in conferences were no single African presided upon. No king, no chief, no trader of African extraction, was consulted before the continent was partitioned. Very similar – and in some cases, identical peoples – are shared into two different countries. Yoruba were divided between Nigeria, Benin Republic and Togo, and the Ga of Accra region of Ghana claim Ife origin; the Kanuri were shared between Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroun; the Hausa are also shared within many countries in Africa. Not that the Europeans didn’t know the historical connections amongst these peoples, but they want to use a divide and rule tactic to destabilize the people.
Prices of commodities were sold and bought from the Africans at very low rates. A pound of Bournvita could buy a ton of cocoa. Exploitation of Africans reaches up to the high heavens. There was unequal exchange in all commodities sold by the Africans. In some cases Africans were forced not to plant their subsistence crops, but to concentrate on European goods to the detriment of Africans. Kwashiorkor increased, so also were numerous diseases. The Fulani who had the best set of dentition on earth were greatly affected. (Rodney 1973). Hunger, malnutrition, lack of technology and unequal exchange characterised the African continent. The underdevelopment which started in the era of the slave trade, was greatly amplified during the period of colonization
Africa during neo-colonialism
Karl Marx sees capitalism as the “highest stage of imperialism”, while Kwame Nkrumah sees neo-colonialism as “the worst form of imperialism” . To Nkrumah it is “government without responsibility and exploitation without redress”. Under colonialism, the colonial power will at least, see that the colonized is well taken care of. They will provide roads and railways from the point of production to the terminals of exportation. Little strands of development must be put in place to achieve this. Clerks will be trained and clerical officers will be put in place. The health care of these officers will well taken care of.
But under neocolonialism, the metropoles – the core capitalist countries – give the periphery (Nigeria, Ghana, Mali etc) a semblance of independence. In the true sense, there is no independence. They core capitalist countries withdraw from the scene and put proxies they can control from a distance. In cases where a particular leader will not bow to the metropoles, different techniques are used to pull down such ‘head-strong’ leaders. Noriega was personally removed by American powers in 1989; Saddam Hussein was removed and executed by Americans; Muammar Kaddafi was removed not by Americans, but by American propaganda machine. The death of Murtala Muhammad is said to be connected to the anglings of American C.I.A. The coup of Babangida is said to have a strong American support. Even the current Arab Spring and uprisings in the Middle-East smells of American brain washing and imperialism.
No chemical weapon was found in Iraq, Libya is facing crises after the fall of Kaddafi, so many problems. Our independence is a mirage. Why should Cameron ever think of tying our benefit to loans to the acceptance of homosexuality bill? Why should our presidents be dictated to by imperial powers? So much for questions, no one can answer. All these are tied to the fact that we had flag independence without proper independence.
Neo-colonization could be the worst form of imperialism during Nkrumah’s time , but today, there is a worst form of exploitation - globalization .
Africa during Globalization
Globalization is about internationalism. It is the internationalization of capital, the internationalization of culture, the internationalization of ideas, and the internationalization of everything. Somebody can take his breakfast of bread and tea from a little kiosk. That person has practiced the greatest form of globalization. Tea is from China, India and Ceylon; the dairy used by him might come from Argentina in Latin America, the cane from which the sugar is made might come from Hausa land in Northern Nigeria. So you see that just a simple morning meal has brought out the tenets of one world village.
Today, the values of the core capitalist countries have become global values. The problems faced by them are taken to be global problems. AIDS that kill less people than malaria and kwashiorkor are global problems. Malaria and kwashiorkor are not. Earth quakes are global problems that need adequate scientific attention, typhoid that kills more people is not. Homosexual marriage equality is a priority; the right of homeless people in the third world is not. Whatever concerns the core capitalist countries is given priority. To cap it all they have all the biggest media – CNN, VOA, BBC etc – to bombard the world with imperialistic messages. When all their media propaganda fails – as in the case of Iraq – they resort to violent acts to claim their ‘rights’.
It is apparent from this article that the poverty experienced by most third world countries – especially in Africa – is not a natural happening. Look at the slave trade, no other continent was enslaved for 400 years. True the Bible mentions the slavery of Israel in Egypt for 400 years, but that was a very small segment of Asia, not the whole of Asia. Minus that Israel came as voluntary slaves not like Africa that the whole continent went under the guns. Yes, France colonized Britain since 1066AD. The present monarchy of England is descended from William the Conqueror. But the colonizer stayed with the colonized and developed the colonized. In the case of African countries, the colonized were totally exploited by the colonized and their surpluses packed to develop the metropoles. The problems of Africa – especially Nigeria – are multidimensional with a long complex history. This long and complex history contributed to the unemployment and underemployment suffered in Africa to this day.
Alagoa EJ(1977)The Niger Delta States and their Neighbours to 1800. in History of West Africa: Volume One –Second Edition (eds) Ajayi J.F.A & Michael Crowder. London: Longman
Ade Obayemi(1977) “The Yoruba and Edo speaking Peoples and their Neighbours before 1600: in History of West Africa: Volume One –Second Edition (eds) Ajayi J.F.A & Michael Crowder. London: Longman
Curtin Philip . D (1977) The Atlantic Slave Trade: 1600-1800) in History of West Africa: Volume One –Second Edition (eds) Ajayi J.F.A & Michael Crowder. . London: Longman
Samir Amin (1972) Underdevelopment and Dependence in Black Africa – Origins and Contemporary Forms – The Journal of Modern African Studies.
Washington Alco (online) The underdevelopment of Africa by Europe: http://revealinghistories.org.uk/africa-the-arrival-of-europeans-and-the-transatlantic-slave-trade/articles/the-underdevelopment-of-africa-by-europe.html
Walter Rodney( 1973) How Europe Underdeveloped Africa .London: Bogle-L'Ouverture Publishers.