Thursday, July 03, 2008

Imaginary Nations

My friend Justin posted this at his blog:

Y'know, there's a worthwhile sociological experiment to be done: spread the word that Nigeria doesn't really exist -- it's just a hoax invented for the purpose of fake Internet rumors. Anything you hear about Nigeria is, by definition, false.

Well, I'm always willing to play along. So I looked it up, and this is what I found:

After Britain ceded independence to her colonies in that region, around 1960, there actually was a unification movement that advocated for a federal nation to be called "Nigeria". It was supposed to include Southern Niger, Biafra, some provinces from the Republic of North Cameroon, the Yoruba Free State, and Lagos-Benin.

Internal squabbling between the three major political parties -- the Nigerian People's Congress, National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, and the Action Group -- scuttled the idea. A series of conflicts (the Lagos Delta war, the Biafran insurgency, the Cameroon Successions, etc etc etc) discredited all of the pro-unification advocates, and by 1963 the modern borders were pretty much set.

There's still a small pro-unity political group in the region, called "The 419" (named for the UN Security Council Resolution 419, which was to have recognized a "Greater Nigeria") but they have been plagued by corruption in their ranks, and don't have much credibility.

The idea is one of history's interesting might-have-beens.

So when you get those emails from people claiming to be from someplace called “Nigeria” — well, now you know where they got the name from. A single state in that region, well-governed, would probably have provided a lot of economic growth and stability to the whole area, and been a benefit to its neighbors and the world. Too bad it never worked out. Pretty weird speculation though, huh?


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