A professor of Theology, The Rt. Rev Dapo Asaju has brought to memory the views of Federick Lugard about major tribes in Nigeria. He also suggested the way forward for the country.
Lugard was the first governor-general of Nigeria. He was credited to have amalgamated the northern and southern protectorate to form Nigeria in 1914
Prof Asaju recalled Lugard’s views at the 45th anniversary of the Christian Association of Nigeria. The event was held on September 24 at jubilee Resort Hall, National Christian Centre, Abuja.
The lecture was titled, THE CHURCH AND THE DOCTRINE OF REGENERATION IN THE TRANSFORMATION OF NIGERIA”. It addressed some of the critical issues troubling Nigeria since independence.
Asaju, a former Vice-Chancellor of Ajayi Crowther University, recalled that Lugard in his Handover note to Walter H. Lang, on the 25th September 1918 said, “The Hausa –Fulani has no ideals, no ambitions save such as sensual in character. He is a fatalist, spendthrift, and gambler. He is gravely immoral and is seriously diseased that he is a menace to any community to which he seeks to attach itself”
“On the Yoruba: “Lagos has for 20 years opposed every Governor and has fomented strife and bloodshed in the hinterland. I have spent the best part of my life in Africa. My aim has been the betterment of the natives for whom I have been ready to give my life.
“But after some 29 years, and after nearly 12 years as Governor here, I am free to say that the people of Lagos and indeed the westerners are the lowest, the most seditious and disloyal, the most purely prompted by self-seeking motives of any people I have met”.
“On the Igbo: These people of predominantly Eastern Nigeria are fiercely rebellious with no regard for authority. Though industrious and religious, in deference to the objectives of her majesty and the crown, they are highly dangerous to be trusted with”.
Asaju who now teaches religion at the Lagos State University observed that the Fulanis are the ‘Troublers of Israel today. They have declared Jihad against the whole country.”
He recalled The Uthman Dan Fodio’s violent religious expeditions which led to the take-over of numerous indigenous peoples in Hausaland and Nupeland.
Asaju brought to attention how Ilorin, a Yoruba town was taken over by the Fulani lineage who have been the emirs. He says, “These are the same people who infiltrated Yorubaland in the 19th century and raided Osoogun, the hometown of Samuel Ajayi Crowther in 1821.”
Bishop Ajayi Crowther
Asaju gave a vivid account of how Bishop Ajayi Crowther was captured and sold to slavery by the raiders. He described Ajayi as a true testimony of how a “Christian regenerated heart can transform society at large.”
His words, “They captured the teenager Ajayi, his mother, and sister amongst hundreds of occupants of the town, and sold them all into slavery.
“Ajayi was sold to several buyers until he was put in a slave ship which was rescued by the British abolitionists. After his liberation, he was settled in Freetown Sierra Leone from where he was taken to England and ordained. He was a foremost missionary who evangelized Lokoja, Igboland, Niger Delta, and parts of Yorubaland, particularly Badagry and Abeokuta.
“He was the first Black Bishop in the world. Through him, education, modern agriculture, and translation of the Bible and Book of Common Prayer into Yoruba, Igbo, and Nupe. His story is a classical example of how a Christian regenerated heart can transform society at large.”
Nigeria must review its constitution
Transformation according to the university don must include a critical review of the country and the reworking of its Constitution.
He noted that there have been several Constitutions in Nigeria but the basic positive changes in the country have not happened.
According to him, “the recent Constitutions have entrenched in the country certain provisions that have troubled the unity, justice, and progress of the country.
“The constitutional review should involve more of the grassroots contributions that will be in the interest of the general good of the people.”
He suggested a revisit of past national commissions and conferences for ideas to restructure Nigeria.
The regional system of government according to him is an attractive alternative for Nigeria.
“This makes the centre, that is the federal government to devolve some of its dominant powers to governments at the lower level.”
Abuse of privileges
Asaju also suggested the need to redress the abuse of privileges existing in the present Constitution such as the perennial terms of office of Federal Lawmakers.
“They should be made to have a single term of office, maximum two. Governors who have served their states should be discouraged from transiting to the Senate or the House of Representatives.
“They are recycling themselves, leaving little or no room for the younger generation to occupy positions of power. Legislators should be made to operate on a part-time basis as it was in the past.
“The times of their meeting should be scheduled quarterly and when they meet, they are paid allowances and given accommodation during the period of their sitting.
“The current lawmakers should be allowed to exit with the current administration. After their exit, we should review the salaries and allowances of legislators.
“This should be reduced drastically and the power to fix their own salaries should be withdrawn from them. The salaries and wages commission should be responsible for fixing their salaries.
“Candidates who are satisfied with that condition, who really want to come to serve the people will be the ones who are likely to contest future elections.”
Christians should show love
He urged Christians to continue to reach out to their Muslim counterparts in pursuit of peace and harmony in Nigeria.
He also urged the government to name and prosecute sponsors of violence and banditry.
“The religious and traditional Elders of the various ethnic nationalities within Nigeria should organize a major conference to discuss the Nigerian question. And they should come up with viable recommendations on how to restructure this country in a manner that will ensure peace, equity, federalism”
The term of office of the President or Prime Minister should be limited to one term of five years according to him. He also suggested that the office of the governor and president be constitutionally made to rotate among the ethnic groups or senatorial zones.
Asaju called for a major consultation conference that will proffer solutions to the problems in the various sectors of the economy.
He added that “there need for a re-orientation of the entire citizenry about their political rights and fundamental human rights.
“History needs to be introduced into the curricular of all students at all levels. People must know their history otherwise they will lose their identities with time.
Church leaders should stop playing church
Asaju who is a Bishop in the Anglican Communion urged Church leaders to wake up and stop playing church. His words, “The message of the pulpits must now change. Emphasis on large crowd gathering and wealthy lifestyles and bragging about wealth must stop. The congregation should be politically educated to know what is happening around them and how they can defend themselves, prevent attacks, how to deepen their commitment and convictions in Christianity.”
He called on the Church to devise means of training and raising credible leaders to provide leadership in the country.
Christians should go into politics
While stressing that the Church is the light of the world, he urged Christians to actively participate in politics.
Asaju also warned against materialistic gospel. He then called on the Church “to cure itself of internal errors before it can challenge similar exploitation in the larger society.”
He said further, “Prayer is effective but it must be complemented with action. Faith without works is dead. The Church must organize, protest, speak truth to power. It must instruct her members in government to be accountable to God through the church and not indulge in corruption. Through prayer and divine intervention, God has the power to humble or eliminate all Pharaohs and Nebuchadnezzars. And there will be peace in the land.”