Iran’s Crisis of Legitimacy
An Embattled Regime Faces Mass Protests—and an Ailing Supreme Leader
In February 1972, just two years after Biafra's sudden collapse, a news- magazine cover featured "Africa's Forgotten War." Nigerians who saw it thought: now at last the world may learn what has been happening here. In fact, the article was on the Sudan, but the reaction meant something. For all the keen and colorful attention to the civil war by the foreign press, there has been scant interest since the secessionist surrender. Because there was no genocide, the world's attention wandered. But while there has not been reconciliation in, say, Northern Ireland, Bangladesh or Burundi, there has been in Nigeria. This is one thing that makes Nigeria important; another is that, taught by world reaction, Nigeria really does want to go it alone, quietly and without much rhetoric, within a 12-state structure that gives her new opportunities.
To understand the reconciliation and reconstruction, at least a glimpse of the causes of the conflict is essential. In 1967 the phrases "Ibo domination," "Hausa domination" and sometimes "Yoruba domination" were commonplace in political discussions among Nigerians, as they had been for many years. The three regional governments set up by the British-West, East, North, with Lagos as the federal capital-encouraged many to think that the only people who counted in Nigeria were the Yoruba, who were predominant in the West, the Ibo, who controlled the East, and the Hausa, who ruled the North.[i] The political juggling before and after independence rested on that assumption. Each major group worried about being dominated at the federal center by a coalition of the other two.
Except as counters in electoral politics, the Nigerian people who are not Hausa, not Ibo, not Yoruba scarcely figured in the thinking either of Nigeria's leaders or the British. Yet, despite the lack of reliable statistics, it is clear that these dozens, even hundreds, of "minority" groups speaking their own languages numbered close to 50 percent of the population. Thus almost every sizable ethnic group had its own particular fear of domination by someone else, not only nationally, but in each region which a secure majority called its own. From these fears came agitation from minorities in the 1950s to create more regions. A "Minorities Commission," authorized by the British government and headed by a British civil servant, concluded in 1958 that even if the fears were not entirely groundless they were not worth delaying independence to assuage. Both to create states and continue with independence in 1960 was judged not to be an option.
In the early years of independence, the minorities and the Yoruba, out of power, worried most. The illusion of Nigerian stability vanished in the military coup of January 1966, which brought to power in Lagos Major- General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi, an Ibo. But later events gave the Ibo their own apprehensions. After the killings in the North the following May, Ibo had ample reason to fear "Hausa domination," and their fears mounted after the year's second coup, led by Northern officers in July, and further massacres in September.
Yet the Northerners too had their fears. By all accounts, what had provoked the Hausa to turn with such vengeance on the Ibo in the North was a drastic decree handed down in Lagos by General Ironsi's government on the advice of an Ibo civil servant. This decree abolished the federal system, which had given each of the largest ethnic groups the region it dominated. It substituted a central Nigerian administration that looked to Northerners very much like an Ibo administration.
Just as the prospect of national centralization touched off the May 1966 crisis, however, regional decentralization helped precipitate Biafran secession a year later. For on May 27, 1967, only three days before Lieut. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu proclaimed Biafra's existence, the Federal Military Government (FMG) in Lagos announced the division of Nigeria into 12 states. Thereby the Eastern Region, which on May 30 sought independence as "Biafra," was divided into three states, depriving the Ibo of political supremacy throughout the East and control over the burgeoning petroleum industry, which was located in a "minority" area. But the mass of Ibo saw staying alive as the paramount issue, and they were joined in their fears by some non-Ibo from the region, whose relatives had been killed-as Ibo-in the North. Ojukwu asserted that the way to security was sovereignty, and "Biafrans" responded.
The issues in Nigeria today, as a commissioner in the Mid-West State government put it, are "reconstruction and reconciliation; states and stability." Because of the tensions which led to the war and the conflicts and internal alliances during it, the existence of the 12 states is central to the building of the new Nigeria.
What has happened in the states that were Biafra? The people who live in the former war zones are not, of course, only Ibo. The former Eastern Region, where most of the fighting took place, had its own minority areas of some five million people, made up of dozens of linguistic groups fiercely proud of their separate identities and of histories that included a record of resisting Ibo control. Reconstruction, then, has been the preoccupation not only of the East-Central State (ECS), the Ibo enclave of the last 20 months of the war, but also of the South-East and the River States, which saw some of the most severe fighting and the greatest tensions.
The challenges have, obviously, been both human and physical. The human ones came first, and General Yakubu Gowon, the head of state and himself a Christian from a northern minorities area, set the tone for dealing with them by his proclamation of general amnesty. His immense popularity at the end of the war as the leader under whom the country's unity was preserved gave him leverage among the victors to enforce his policy of no reprisals. The Ibo were astonished at Gowon's magnanimity after having been prepared by Biafran wartime propaganda to expect the worst. The astonishment gave way to gratitude and respect, and finally to a remarkably warm reception when Gowon visited the East-Central State in early 1971. To him personally Nigerians in all states assign credit for achieving an amnesty and reconciliation that, they like to say, has had its equal only after the American Civil War.
The problem of the defeated Ibo had to be played out on several stages. What would happen within the East-Central State, their heartland? What would be their relations with neighboring states, the former minorities areas of the Eastern Region, now the Rivers and South-East? Could they return to the states in the old North, West and Mid-West, and on what terms? And finally, what of the federal government's actions and attitudes?
In 1970 as now, Ibo freely admitted they were Biafrans. Many have since questioned the wisdom of secession, but they do not deny their fervent commitment at the time nor their pride in their achievements-particularly their technological feats-in the face of vast odds: "We believed simply that our lives depended on it." In January 1970 the challenge in the East- Central State was most immediate: there was an army of occupation, and an administrator faced a demoralized, malnourished, defeated people, who expected the disaster their radios had predicted.
The administrator was Ukpabi Asika, a young academic from the University of Ibadan, one of the rare Ibo intellectuals who not only opposed secession but were willing to accept a conspicuous and exposed responsibility with the FMG in helping to defeat the secessionists. Asika was the only civilian chosen to head a state government, and his courage drew admiration even (if grudgingly) from Ibo who as dedicated Biafrans had opposed him.
He shared with the head of state at the end of the war a major fear: "of a somnambulist reaction, a kind of vegetable state," in reaction to sudden defeat. "For most Biafrans were 'True Believers,' their psychological commitment compounded by the impact of propaganda." Certain momentous institutional reforms taken then should, according to Asika, be seen in that light. He abolished the existing provinces and created divisions tied directly to his state capital at Enugu. He abolished customary courts, reconstructed the judiciary and, most controversial of all, ordered a state takeover of all schools-the first in Nigeria. By these moves, he says, "we could arouse people-and we could defuse the debate, the possible recriminations, about the war. Now energies and debate could go into the new policies, justified, of course, in themselves." Whether by this design or by what admirers and detractors alike acknowledge as Ibo resilience and energy, as early as the summer of 1970 the bustle surrounding the efforts of millions in their own reconstruction was striking.
The presence of federal soldiers, after rape and looting of the kind that accompany war's end everywhere had stopped, came to be seen as a boost to the economy. Millions of Nigerian pounds for army wages, poured into a war- torn area whose problems were compounded by currency crisis and frozen bank accounts, permitted traders their first savings, used to rebuild for themselves and large extended families. Indeed, the announcement in January 1972 that the headquarters of the First Division would move from Enugu north to Kaduna was greeted, not with the pleasure that outsiders anticipated, but with quite mixed feelings. In some extreme cases, it was seen as a federal government attempt to slow down economic recovery, or as federal disappointment in the good relations between army personnel and Ibo civilians!
In the East-Central State, as throughout Nigeria, there is, of course, impatience that more has not been done, that there, as elsewhere, reconstruction is not past and that all efforts cannot yet go into new development. Inside the state and outside, people ask why. Many Ibo think the federal government is moving less rapidly than it could or should, or exerting less pressure on others than the best of good will might dictate; these doubts do remain.
In military-ruled Nigeria it is no more possible to measure the popularity of the government in East-Central than in other states, and it is unlikely that a government in Iboland, inevitably seen to represent the side of defeat, could be acclaimed. But those who are in the EGS government point out that its members are Ibo, and that a majority of commissioners (equivalent to ministers in a civilian régime) actively worked for Biafra. As one commissioner put it, "Not one of us would stay in this government if we believed it was federal policy to destroy the Ibo-and Asika would be the first to resign."
Reconciliation is not, of course, just a matter of relations between the federal government and the East-Central State, or of what happens inside the state. One reason why until mid-1966 the Ibo were the most active and committed Nigerians was demographic: Iboland is the most densely populated part of Nigeria. Indeed, with all the Ibo "at home," many argue it would be critically overpopulated (this was one of the grounds on which some Ibo opposed secession). Therefore, reconciliation involves jobs-in governments, federal and state; work for private companies and individuals throughout the country; opportunities for trading or transporting; chances for big men- contractors, for example-and small-stewards, drivers. Especially for the big men of earlier times, it involves position.
With the general amnesty, the federal government found itself in a dilemma. If amnesty meant taking back every Ibo into his prewar post, what of those from elsewhere in the country who had taken over the jobs the Ibo had left? One former Biafran, himself not Ibo, suggested that the very grant of amnesty was based on a misguided belief in the accuracy of Biafran propaganda: "The federal side truly expected that there wouldn't be many of us left."[ii] In any case, the need to solve the problem contributed to the decision to retire, in most cases with full pension rights, civil servants above the age of 55 who had worked on the Biafran side (junior ones being reabsorbed, as the phrase goes).
The problem was even more touchy for the military, where a careful examination of each case yielded in December 1971 a settlement proudly acclaimed by the Nigerian government for its generosity. With the exception of officers involved in the January 1966 coup and those central to the invasion of the Mid-West State (approximately 30 men, still in detention), the decree allowed a gamut from reabsorption (65) through discharge "with full entitled benefits" (32) to, in 16 cases, compulsory retirement without benefits.
Many Ibo, however, are back at their jobs in Lagos, though rarely in the most senior positions (an exception is a recently appointed Supreme Court justice), and they are back too in such government-run corporations as electricity and broadcasting. Further, outside the former war zones there are nine state governments, almost all newly created and needing skilled, professional personnel. Despite prewar anxieties, heightened by the war itself, about Ibo monopoly of skilled jobs, many state governments have rushed to hire Ibo, more and more frequently on permanent appointments, not short contracts. The Mid-West was the first to reach out to the East- Central State after the war, but all six states of the old North have joined in, with North-West now employing over 300 Ibo, and all are asking for more. "Imagine, an Ibo high up in the Military Governor's office in Sokoto-the Sardauna's bones would turn over!" said a man from the North- West State.[iii] Even Lagos State government, with its own highly trained Yoruba resources, has hired some Ibo. (The Western State, however, whose people moved during the war into vacancies left by Ibo throughout the federation, and whose competition with the Ibo goes back decades, employ almost no non-Yoruba.)
Ibo engineers and administrative personnel are back at work for expatriate companies, including oil companies. Some of the retired civil servants now in business have contracts, for example, to build a housing estate in Jos, the capital of the Benue-Plateau State, and another to supply piped water to the eastern part of the state.
Less prominent people have moved out across the country too: cooks and stewards in Lagos and Yorubaland, traders in the markets to the north and west. But with all there is a difference, a lesson of the war-a hope for "One Nigeria" but with a new concern for personal and family security: "Before the war the Ibo man moved out, and he made money, and he invested his money where he made it," said one Enugu businessman. "But now, oh yes, he moves all over the country again, but the money comes back home. We need it now, but even when we don't, we have learned that it should come back home."
Precisely because of the prewar practice of investing outside Iboland, Ibo property is no less important an issue than Ibo jobs-and in Port Harcourt, the major southern city of the former Eastern Region, it is more important. After the events of 1966 and during the war itself, most states set up "abandoned property" authorities. The workings of those authorities varied: in the Mid-West, the buildings left by fleeing East-Central State Ibo were inventoried and assessed from November 1967; rents were collected, banked in the owner's name, and given over on demand at the war's end. In Benue- Plateau the Governor, asked continually about the matter during the war, replied: "I have an abandoned property authority-and the Ibo will come back." And, as he relates it, "they said, these outsiders, 'No, never.' But I knew my Ibo classmates [at the University of Ibadan] as intimates; I knew they'd be back, and they are back. Those who thought they would not be do not know Nigeria."
But the situation was far more complex in Port Harcourt, which has produced the most difficult postwar problem-some say the only intractable one. The major port of the former Eastern Region, and the center of the petroleum industry before the war, the city had a predominantly Ibo population, though it was located in the minorities region where feelings against majority domination had for years run higher than anywhere else. An area of enormous ethnic and linguistic intricacy, the Niger Delta, with Port Harcourt its only major city, felt the war with particular bitterness. For in Port Harcourt over 95 percent of the individually owned property belonged to Ibo. Most of the people in what would become the Rivers State were, with those of the South-East, the minorities of the former Eastern Region, which the Ibo had long controlled politically. Further, the vast oil resources of the region were located there, and the Rivers people feared that the resulting revenues would be used in Iboland rather than in the previously neglected delta area.[iv]
For the Rivers people, creation of their own state and control of its capital were overwhelmingly important, but Port Harcourt, to all Ibo an Ibo city, was no less important to those who had been born there, and to Biafrans generally. This issue, unresolvable, provoked bitterness during the war and ill feeling in postwar relations unmatched elsewhere in Nigeria.
At the end of the war the capital of the Rivers State, Port Harcourt, was, as observers described it, a "ghost town." Further, the state government had to be run from a place where most of the property still belonged to people from outside the state. Though in time Port Harcourt showed signs of activity, as businesses reopened and oil companies returned and even some Ibo workers came back, the question of "abandoned properties" remained unsettled. Today, despite the release of a very small percentage of houses to their owners, the problem is far from solved. The Rivers' view is simply stated by one official: "Our government cannot be a tenant, nor can we abdicate; we must control our own land for our own people."
In the East-Central State, however, lack of capital is a major issue. Ibo who own property in Port Harcourt, each desperately needing at least rents to rehabilitate perhaps dozens of people in the extended family system, cannot understand the delay now nearing three years. Ibo are emphatic in telling outsiders that if civil strife ever erupts again in Nigeria, "It will not come from here." But some of the most thoughtful then add a qualifier: if the Port Harcourt issue remains unresolved then some future conflict just might draw in the Ibo.
In the Rivers State the general argument runs that the problem will take time to sort out, but some Rivers people see it differently. One man who suffered at the hands of the Biafran forces during the war says, none the less, that the prolonged impasse on the Ibo problem is not only unfair but will be self-destructive for the Rivers State. As he sees it, Port Harcourt must again become the port for the East-Central State, as it was before the war when produce also came there from western parts of the present South- East State. "But now ECS is turning to the Mid-West ports, and the South- East to Calabar; it's fine to say the Rivers have money, but there's more to a healthy economy than just oil, and before the war P.H. attracted industry from everywhere." Nor do all in the federal government, however understanding of the Rivers' position, appreciate a slowness that undermines the idea of "One Nigeria," the single blatant blemish on a reconciliation whose smoothness has impressed even those who believed in it most.
The Rivers' neighbor, the South-East State, was also originally proclaimed part of Biafra. Sharing with Rivers the problems of Nigerian minorities, its people shared with them also fierce divisions over secession, and severe war damage. Yet the tone of reconciliation is different, and the state's Military Governor says that this is precisely because there was in the area no Ibo city like Port Harcourt; there were fewer Ibo property owners and others in the state. That produced what he calls "very active neglect," but it also created a situation free of the extreme postwar tensions of Port Harcourt, which made reconciliation easier.
Committed to General Gowon's vision of that reconciliation, the South-East State government began among its own. There, as in the East-Central State, former Biafrans have been appointed to a range of government positions, recently even on the level of commissioners and senior civil servants. The official explanation? "Many South-Easterners, especially civil servants, were caught inside Biafra; they did what they had to to survive." Now Ibo businessmen are back, and civil servants too-and there are also South- Easterners working in the ECS.
Most Nigerians are thinking about the future. There is hope that lessons have been learned and will not quickly be forgotten, but for much of the country what has mattered most has been the creation of the 12 states, all but eclipsed at birth by the crisis of secession and war. Although some, especially from the three largest ethnic groups, still talk as if future politics will be an extension of the maneuvering and balancing of pre-1966 days, most believe that this one stroke has dramatically altered not just the rules but the whole game.
The greatest enthusiasm comes predictably from the former minority areas: the old Northern "Middle Belt," now split between Kwara and Benue-Plateau States and no longer under "Hausa-Fulani" control; the South-East and Rivers, free at last of their fears of Ibo domination; and even the Mid- West, though it became a region separated from the West as long ago as 1963. As the South-East Governor, Col. Udoakaho J. Esuene, put it, "It was the creation of the Mid-West that gave us hope. But only the crisis [1966- 67] made the opportunity; states would never have come in the political days. And only the federal victory guaranteed them."
There are different ways to group the states: states that were battlegrounds and those that were not; states of ethnic "majorities" and "minorities" before May 1967; diverse and homogeneous, densely and sparsely populated, large and small, rich and poor states; northern and southern states (as the old politics would have had it).
In a country of perhaps 60 million people, speaking at least 300 different tongues, it is all very complex, and that is a reason for optimism. No longer is the country likely to split over any one issue, with lines drawn fast. There are too many different and mutual problems and interests; any two states will share some and not others. Alliances for eventual political purposes can, for the first time, shift on these bases.
But politics are currently banned and the economic questions press and excite Nigerians now. The country is the world's ninth largest producer of crude oil, which financed the war. (Nigeria had repaid her war debts by April 1972, largely from oil revenues.) The oil boom pays for reconstruction too, through federal government redistribution of revenue and its own grants to the states. Though Nigerians are proud of such achievements, they express concern about "a wasting asset," about the need to plan for diversifying against the day when the oil wells run dry.
What is critical now, as it was two decades ago, is economic growth (with obvious political ramifications). Leaving aside the wreckage of war for the moment (Asika and Esuene both say: "I am still reconstructing; I haven't even begun to develop."), the minorities areas have furthest to go economically and administratively. It is quite a different matter to run governments from former provincial headquarters than from the capitals of what were regions larger than many African countries. More serious has been the earlier neglect outside former centers of power of basic necessities- water, electricity and crucial communications. (One can come astonishingly close to mapping pre-1966 voting patterns just by traveling the Nigerian roads; ruling parties in each region were those of ethnic majorities, and for them there was tarmac.)
In the minorities states, enthusiasm is generally high. In Kwara, in Benue- Plateau, in the Mid-West, people speak with pride of their state as a "microcosm of Nigeria"-and by this they mean the heterogeneity and the energy, though they could also include the intricacy of the problems. One would expect less enthusiasm for states in the pre-crisis centers of power, yet there too one finds keen competition spurring activity and confidence.
Most surprising, perhaps, is the reaction in the north, which was always wrongly characterized as monolithic, to its division into six parts. "The creation of states is a great blessing." This statement, heard in each minority area, comes as a surprise from a North-Central State Commissioner in Kaduna, himself from what was always called "the dominant Hausa-Fulani group" in the old Northern Region. He views the new states as a great spur to development. Now there are 12 centers of growth and activity, stimulating the constructive competition; making up for neglect suffered under the old regional system, where Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba reaped most of the rewards; increasing the self-confidence of the former minority groups as their fears of the old domination fade. The result is a major contribution to postwar reconciliation and a more general amity throughout Nigeria.
Vast political implications lie in the new state structure and in the economic changes. For the moment under the military government, politics are dormant, or at least below the surface. But Nigeria is a very political country; whereas in the fifties and sixties animated talk of politics was everywhere, Nigerians now speculate endlessly on what these changes will mean when there is a return to civilian rule.
Most believe politics will be quite different from the pre-crisis era. Not only has the creation of states made a variety of new alliances possible, but economic changes should affect politics. Nigeria is now working her way through a four-year development plan, among whose many provisions are four north-south highways, from the northern hinterlands to each major port: Lagos, Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar. Each network will pass through at least three states, with obvious economic and social repercussions.
Further, the new Central River Transport Company has been created to utilize the great Niger and Benue Rivers for communications and economic growth; it is jointly owned by the governments of North-East, North-West, Kwara, Benue-Plateau, Mid-West and East-Central States (Rivers has the continuing option to join). "Common interests are bound to develop among these states," asserted one state's Commissioner for Economic Development. "And, of course, the six northern states still have an Interim Common Services Association, and the eastern states also plan together, even if they are all now talking mostly about sharing assets and liabilities. The combinations are limitless, and so are the political possibilities."
But most of the political ramifications lie ahead; for now Nigerians tend to think about development-and stability. Almost without exception, they hope that the tenure of the present military régime will continue untroubled, and that the transition to civilian rule will be smooth, whenever and however it takes place. The future is uncertain and everyone seems to feel it; once the precedent has been set anywhere for violent change, no one rests entirely secure. Further, the army's second takeover in Ghana after a brief period of civilian rule has persuaded many Nigerians that their country should move carefully and slowly, if necessary, to ensure that their military's departure from government, when it comes, will be permanent.
Meanwhile, Nigeria's government is military. The army is large; the total for all branches is some 250,000 (a size whose pros and cons Nigerians frequently debate, usually deciding that, with unemployment a serious problem already, demobilization would compound it in ways no one thinks advisable). Yet as one drives about the country, whether in the former war zones or elsewhere, one gets little sense of an oppressive military presence. Nigeria is a very large country, and even a quarter of a million men can recede from view when they are spread throughout the states. Certainly there are military centers, and there are also occasions when the army is very visible, as it was during the six weeks when it directed traffic in the amazingly smooth changeover from left- to right-hand drive.
The energetic Governor of the Mid-West State, taking a visitor around Benin and stopping at the market, commented: "You may have noticed that no one is paying any attention to me; that is because I come here every day." His commissioners explain that they spend two days a week in the countryside: "If we don't, the Governor has seen for himself things we should have noticed and wants to know why we're not doing something about them." This unlikely style for a military ruler is popular with the Mid-West people and one hears, in his case as in some others, that the Mid-West may ask him to play a political role in the future.
Despite the ban on political organization, citizens petition for the release of the detained officers; judicial decisions sometimes go against the government; and the press, as one Nigerian newspaperman put it, '"by handling criticism carefully is allowed to keep criticizing. There are no censors looking over our shoulders, and no people with guns standing about." There are sometimes arrests of less-than-careful reporters, but at least one paper has protested in its editorial columns without repercussions.
"Of course, this is a military government," Nigerians all over the country say, "and so we have to keep quiet;" then generally follow some hours of vigorous uninhibited analysis, often at high decibels. Nigerians share with Americans a passion for self-criticism, and in their intricate and challenging country, they find much to discuss.
"Outsiders always ask about corruption," said a professor of economics. "What Nigeria needs is 'productive corruption,' the way you have it in America; don't take the money out of the country, invest it here, create jobs, put it to work for more than just yourself." Among lessons Nigerians have learned recently is that it takes more than a change of government to solve the problem-but they still express determination to do so.
And there are other problems. While the "minorities" have their men in many key posts now, the "majority" Nigerians complain that they are not receiving their share. In the Western State, the Yoruba have not yet resolved among themselves centuries-old tensions that first brought violence to independent Nigeria in the early 1960s. Inflation shows no sign of abating and unemployment is a problem in all urban areas-most severely in the East-Central State. Nigerianization of the economy is going forward with the "Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decree 1972,"[v] but critical debate over timing and extent and the specific long- and short-range economic consequences arises in almost any conversation in any city.
Increasingly pressing are constitutional issues, for it is now 1973, and this year and next are crucial in General Gowon's timetable for turning over the government to civilians. "Because the General says it will be in 1976, it will be in 1976," declares his long-time friend and colleague on the Supreme Military Council, the Governor of Benue-Plateau. Showing an admiration for and faith in the head of state which appear widespread in Nigeria, he continues: "That is why I object to all questions about the return to civilian rule."
Many who share this belief in General Gowon's word raise questions none the less about sensitive related issues. It is by no means certain that 12 is the ideal number of states-one theory has always been that more states rather than fewer would make a stronger, more stable center. (Some Yoruba suggest that the West, for example, be itself divided into four.) Even less certain are the boundaries; the question is to be opened to hearings and new decisions in 1974. And the relation of the states to the federal government is rather complicated. First there are matters on which there are precedents; revenue allocation is central, and highly controversial. As it now stands, distribution of federal revenue to the states is a compromise among many demands. Half of the distributable pool is disbursed in 12 equal parts and half in proportion to population (this in a country where states vary between 1.5 and 9.5 million people). That compromise is infinitely debated.
There are also issues for which there are no precedents, such as how to handle abandoned property. "But the point is," says one federal commissioner, talking particularly about plans for development, "that the states dependent on the Federal Military Government financially for grants and loans and so on-they do what the FMG says; those that are not, do not."
Much of the federal government's activity is still in the nature of experiment. Now comes a statement about an imminent federal policy for primary education; now another about federal moves toward controlling all universities; now another about federal government siting of industry throughout the country; now plans for a compulsory National Youth Service Corps. Through all the complexities, however, the central government is quietly increasing its strength.
Finally, for all the country's potential wealth, its human resources and its growing international stature, it must deal with some very basic problems that helped spark the troubles of the sixties. No one forgets that it was from disputed census figures that Nigeria's post-independence crises started. No one doubts that the census of 1973 must not only be accurate, it must be believed to be accurate. "You ask about states and revenue; well, we can't deal sensibly with those problems until we have an accurate census," explained an official in Lagos. "And so when people ask what's being done to return the country to civilian rule, and they look for conferences, and constitutional proposals, and local elections-that will come. Leave aside for now what we have done: the reconstruction, and the reconciliation, even the reorganization of the army which has been so important. The first thing we must have is a census; that's what's being done right now. Bear with us."
Nigerians are bearing, and hoping. Their country has come through a bloody civil war with an imposed unity, strengthened, however, by structural changes they have made themselves. Never unaware of their problems-or of their advantages in numbers, in natural resources and in skilled experienced manpower-they are trying for stability amid ethnic diversity, and for a better quality of life throughout the country. If Nigeria succeeds, the success will be Africa's, for other states may derive strength from her strength, and even ideas for ways to solve problems they all face.
[i] The ethnically heterogeneous Mid-West Region was carved out of the West in 1963.
[ii] It may be impossible ever to state accurately the number of fatalities, but postwar estimates have been lower than those during the fighting. The most serious effort (by John de St. Jorre, in "The Brothers' War: Biafra and Nigeria," Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972) gives a carefully calculated but acknowledged guess at 600,000 deaths-military and civilian, Biafran and Nigerian.
[iii] He was referring to the late Sardauna of Sokoto, killed in the January 1966 coup; Fulani premier of the old Northern Region, he had fought southern political incursions in a territory he ruled as if it belonged to him personally.
[iv] Continuing explorations have since shown oil in what is indisputably Iboland, a fact which, if known earlier, might have alleviated those fears.
[v] Popularly called the "Indigenisation Decree," it reserves for Nigerians 22 kinds of business, from advertising through breadbaking, hairdressing, newspaper publishing and printing, and retail trade ("except by or within the departmental stores and supermarkets") to tire retreading. It restricts participation of aliens in 33 others, including beer-brewing, construction, some manufacturing, running travel agencies and wholesale distributing.
Politics Matter More Than the Environment When It Comes to War and Peace