On October 1st, Nigerians worldwide took a moment to celebrate the country as it clocked another year following its independence in 1960. While we as Nigerians are rightfully excited about our country, how many of us really know the history of our beloved nation?
I attended an event at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Maryland this past weekend organized by the Nigerian Friendship Association, a non-profit organisation that strives to improve educational courses through charity work. While the purpose of the event was to commemorate the Independence Day celebration, the spotlight for the night judging, from the delivery of the keynote speaker, Adaeze Enekwechi, was all on Nigerian women present and past like Margaret Ekpo and Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti and the efforts they have made in the country.
The ultimate eulogy of Nigerian women at the event gave me a history lesson on the Aba women’s riot of 1929, which was an organized anti-colonial revolt by the women in order to protest the political and economic injustice displayed by the British Colonial government. I was very surprised by this information because it was not taught to me at school nor was it ever talked about by my elders.
In the same way, a recent Burna Boy’s song, “Another Story,” from his new African Giant album, revealed how the Niger company (Present-day Unilever) treated Nigeria like a business by selling our country to the British government for 865,000 British pounds all in the guise of “spreading democracy.”
Important historical information like these should be widely known to all Nigerians by incorporating them in a mandatory history curriculum at Nigerian schools. It is imperative that we as citizens must understand all the intricate details about our country so that we can amend the past mistakes our forefathers made in our great nation. Our history has shown us that Nigeria is indeed a very blessed nation and this has been evident in all sectors of our society, particularly in the field of natural resources.
To the outside world, we are historically known mainly for our Petroleum exports, which as at 2018 accounted for more than 86% of export earnings of the Federal Government according to www.opec.org. However, our country offers so much more apart from oil and petroleum.
Before the oil boom in the 1970’s, Nigeria’s agricultural production was leading the way with trade exports. This is due mainly to our overabundance of food crops and fertile land. The Food and Agriculture of the United Nations (FAO) reports that Nigeria is one of the largest producers of rice in Africa and one of the largest producers of Cassava in the world. The FAO also reports that the fisheries sub-sector in Nigeria makes up 3-4% of the country’s annual GDP, while also being an important contributor for nutritional requirements as it accounts for 50% of animal protein intake.
The music industry in Nigeria has also been a source of optimism for our country. The same country that produced musical legends like King Sunny, Ebenezer Obey, Osita Osadebe, Oliva de Coque, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Fela Kuti, and Lagbaja has also seen current artists like Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy sign to major international labels. With the foreign exposure of Afrobeats, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) has estimated the net worth of the music industry in Nigeria to be about $86 million in the year 2020.
So, with all this appraisal of the agricultural sector and the music sector, why has Nigeria not fully maximized the potential of both sectors? Why have we been overly dependent on crude oil all these years?
This is not the time to point accusing fingers on persons or groups of people.
Nigerians home and abroad must wake up and realize that we are more than a country known for crude oil exports. We are a country that has a rich history in all sectors. It is up to us as Nigerians to deeply explore our history and control the narrative of our country to the foreign audience.
As the narrator in Burna Boy’s, “Another Story” said, “to understand Nigeria, you need to appreciate where it came from”.
God Bless Nigeria!!!
Paul Olele Jnr writes from Washington DC. He is a 2019 graduate of George Washington University and currently works as graduate Media and Research Intern at the Initiative for Global Development. Twitter: @wfdjpaul Instagram: @worldfamousdjpaul