Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Nigeria: Nigeria’s Social and Historical Background

Nigeria got her independence on Saturday, October, 1960 from Great Britain (1842-1960). The country came under civilian rule based upon the Westminster Parliamentary System. In 1963, the country became a Republic with a non-executive President and Executive Prime Minister.

The country then had three regions: Eastern, Western and Northern, each with its own Premier. Later Mid-Western Region was carved out of the Western Region. Ibo (or Igbo) are predominant in the East, Yoruba in the West and Hausa/Fulani in the North. The Mid-Western Region was occupied by the Edos, Ijaws, and Itshekiri among other smaller ethnic groups.

In 1966, series of political crisis led to the first military coup and eventually culminated in civil war between July 1967 and January 1970, during which the afflicted and aggrieved people of Eastern Region led by Ibos attempted to secede. During this era, the Military Regime of General Yakubu Gowon created twelve states out of Nigeria before the internecine war in order to forestall regional tendencies towards secession.

General Gowon had the opportunity to meet the then Supreme Head of Ahmadiyya, Hazrat Hafiz Nasir Ahmad (3rd Khalifa) during his visit to Nigeria in 1970.  He blessed him and gave him wise counsel and also prayed for the Nation. He however lost power in 1975 on Sunday, July 29 in a bloodless coup to another Military Regime headed by General Murtala Ramat Muhammad. General Muritala Muhammad before he was assassinated on Friday, February 13, 1976, increased the number of states to 19.

Recently the number had been increased to 36 with a central portion Abuja set aside as Federal Capital Territory. Lagos on the South West coast had been the Capital City. Of the 36 states, ten came from the Ibo dominated East, eight from the Yoruba dominated West and sixteen from the Hausa/Fulani dominated North and two from the Mid-west of the minority groups. The creation of so many states allow minority ethnic groups to have their own states and so free them from regional domination by the dominant tribal groups. Almost half of the States belong to the minority tribes. This has reduced the influence of the majority tribes.

Nigeria has since 1999 being on Presidential civilian system with all its democratic benefits for all.

The economy of Nigeria is closely bound with its geography. A tropical land on the East Coast of West Africa, Nigeria has an area of 924,000sq. Km. It has about 960 Km coastline in the southern boundary, the longest east-west distance is 767 Km and the longest north-south distance is 1,605 Km (Annual Abstracts of Statistics 1985). This vast area has diverse vegetation and geology from savannah to rainforest and swamp, with many rivers, creeks and lakes, small and big.

Two major navigable rivers of Niger in the West and Benue in the East divide the country into three, North, West and East. The rivers form a confluence at the Middle belt before jointly flowing into the Atlantic Ocean with several estuaries in the Delta Region of Central South-end.
The rainy south is most suitable for a large variety of tropical crops from root crops to palm trees and is full of deciduous forest that supplies large quantities of timber. The relatively arid North produces grain and non-tree cash crops and livestock while the middle belt is mostly endowed with arable land and produces the largest quantities of a large variety of staple food crops and vegetables.

The geological diversity means also a large variety of minerals fairly well spread except for the concentration of crude petroleum in some southern states and along coastal regions. Minerals of commercial importance include tin, bauxite, coal, natural gas and most importantly petroleum.

The country is used to be an agrarian economy predominantly agricultural with peasant farmers producing about 90 per cent of agricultural output and employing up to 70 per cent of the population. But with the discovery of oil over 80 per cent of the National income comes from petroleum based resources, thereby relegating agriculture to the background. Other major economic activities include trade, transportation, arts and crafts and construction.

Modern manufacturing activities are concentrated in the South-Western States, particularly in metropolitan Lagos and its immediate environs.

The country has a large population estimated at over 140 million in 2007 and still growing rapidly.  There is a very rapid rural urban migration, which threatens to choke the cities. The North has less population concentration or density, but much more vast territory.

In religious affairs, the Hausa/Fulani in the Northern States are predominantly Muslims.  The Yoruba in the West seem to be fairly equally divided among Christians and Muslims, while traditional religious groups constitute minority groups. In the East, Christians and traditional African worship predominate.

The gateways to Nigeria are the Lagos air and seaports, as well as International airports in Abuja, Kano and Portharcourt, through which foreigners enter the country.

Inspite of the abundant natural, human and capital resources and the consequent immense foreign exchange earnings, Nigerian economy has not been able to sustain appreciable growth. The national income of Nigeria was able to grow at about 6 per cent per annum between 1960 and 1972/73. Since the late 1970’s the economy had been experiencing decline so much so that foreign debt, poverty, unemployment, inflation and criminality assumed alarming proportions. Prices of food have become prohibitive and graduate unemployment had worsened the unemployment situation.

Agricultural output had been declining since 1973 and food imports had been soaring. Despite all efforts to revitalise agriculture, and the enormous funds supposedly invested in the sector, agriculture continues to be ailing. The nation is seriously threatened with famine.

The country’s woes have been compounded because of inefficient power supply and insincererity of the political class. The result is bad leadership.

What is more, inequality is widening – the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer. All these threaten political stability.

The manufacturing sector is heavily dependent upon imported inputs, capital and technology. The dominant industrial firms are largely foreign controlled and monopolistic or oligopolistic in structure. It is sellers market. All these affect the capacity of the economy for a self-reliant development.

The prognosis of such an economy is bleak more so when the majority of the citizens are not patriotic, honest or dedicated. Nigeria requires honest and competent leadership who will be dedicated to the welfare of the generality of the people in order to promote political stability and unity of purpose of the country. Such leaders must be prepared to inspire the followership with exemplary discipline, integrity and spirit of self-sacrifice.

These qualities are expected from God-fearing people. But alas, despite the fact that most Nigerians are religious and either goes to mosque or church for worship, morality is at its lowest ebb. Thus religious practice in Nigeria has become devoid of piety, purity and patriotism. There is thus need for a new spirit through moral and spiritual regeneration. Ahmadiyya Jama’at looks forward actively and hopefully to this regeneration. Its activities are consciously directed towards achieving moral, intellectual and spiritual reformation for the welfare of humanity in general. May Allah help us. (Amin)

This piece is taken from the website of  Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Nigeria.

See on-line at: http://www.ahmadiyyang.org/amjn-nigeria-social-and-historical-background.php

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