by Kolapo Olapoju
A former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, has stated that the problems and enormous challenges facing Nigeria as a nation, can be traced back to 1914, during the colonial rule of the British empire.
Carrington says the colonial administrator at that time, Sir Frederick Lord Lugard, is directly responsible for Nigeria’s many crisis, saying the former Governor-General did not take into consideration the fact that Nigeria was a diverse multi-tribal and multi-ethnic entity.
While speaking on the country’s issues in a recent sit-down with Punch, Carrington said, “It began a hundred years ago (1914) when Lord Lugard, with no regard for the different cultural traditions of the people who inhabited the territories, amalgamated the North and South into one administrative unit to which his wife gave the name, Nigeria. What is remarkable, however, is how well this country, made up of over 250 different ethnic groups, speaking around 500 separate languages, has held together for a century, despite a bloody civil war and a half-dozen successful military coups.”
“Nigeria is the largest and one of the very few countries of any size whose population is nearly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. Yet, in spite of provocations by groups like Boko Haram and local bloody conflicts in Plateau State, the country has done much better in accommodating religious differences than any other sharing many descendants of the two Abrahamic faiths,” he added.
The former Ambassador also praised the effort of Nigeria, particularly the Ministry of Health and Lagos state Governor, Babatunde Fashola, in tackling and curbing the spread of the deadly Ebola virus disease, an effort also commended by the World Health organisation.
He said, “Nigeria has got high marks around the world for the fact that it has handled the outbreak better than any country in the region. The Ministry of Health and the Governor of Lagos State have, thus far, done a commendable job of containment the disease but the battle has just begun. Awareness seems to be improving among the people of the dangers of this scourge and how to prevent being contaminated. It would have turned out to be the greatest danger the country has ever faced if it wasn’t under control, quickly.”
Furthermore, Carrington disclosed that he was in agreement with the school of thought which suggests that the Federal Government should swap Boko Haram detainees for the release of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.
“If such a swap would work, it ought to be considered. Nothing should be automatically ruled out on behalf of getting the girls back safely to their grieving families. However, this would take very skilful negotiations. The government would be in more of a position of strength to negotiate the terms if it could be more successful on the battlefield than it has so far been,” he concluded.