‘Naij – A History of Nigeria’ is not a professionally produced broadcast corporation movie, but it should be. Made in 2007, Jide Olanrewaju has delivered an exceptional production that will educate and touch the heart of many Nigerians and indeed Africans as a whole. Not because of its production values, but because of its content, and construction. It is well researched, thoughtfully put together and very well narrated. The extensive use of archive footage, audio and classified documents brings to life many of Nigeria’s key historical figures including Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Chukwemeka Ojukwu, and many others. You cannot help but be struck by the dignity and presence of the leaders of the past. Their excellent command of English. The precision, clarity and resonance of their delivery. Where did all that go? What was is that made those leaders stand out so much: education…Oxford, Cambridge, Sandhurst or just sheer breeding?
The pictures do the talking. Jide cleverly provides insight and perspective. This is the type of stuff that should be on network television.
Nigeria holds a fundamentally important role in Africa. Strategically as the most populous country with massive oil wealth, a strong economy, growing middle class, no foreign debts and consequently the opportunity to become the largest consumer market in the continent, whatever happens to Nigeria has seismic effects on the continent as a whole. It remains a sleeping giant through lack of infrastructure and power, but the potential is clear to the rest of the world.
Its amazing that this film is not more well known, but then it is an internet movie, the precursor of a new generation of user created content. It is a 2.5 hour epic, which not only presents a chronology of the events that led up to the creation of modern day Nigeria but provides the insights that puts the different historical events into context. Many Nigerians, particularly in the diaspora had never truly understood the place of the devastating Biafran war that left 2 million people dead. The BBC production, the ‘Nigerian War Against Biafra (1967-1970) provided the factual basis. Jide’s production provides more context and greater depth through his historical narrative and importantly portrays an understanding of the mindset, ambition and clever strategies of many of the key protagonists involved in building the nation. It shows how the seeds of tribalism, nepotism and endemic corruption had been sown by the founding fathers of the country. It is heart wrenching to see things from a privileged modern perspective, how self interest and ethnic suspicion sowed the toxic seeds of blood shed, indiscipline and moral decline.
Watch: NAIJ – REAL STORY OF NIGERIA
Watch: BBC – NIGERIAN WAR AGAINST BIAFRA (1967-1970)
True, Nigeria was a Western invention; a corporate entity, traded to the British Empire for the princely sum of £865,000 in 1900 from the Royal Niger Company which was later to become absorbed into Unilever. But it is here now. Here to stay. It has amazing strengths, an enterprising people with energy, spirit and dynamism. And that is probably its greatest strength, more so than it’s abundance of natural resources. So despite the tortuous birth and challenging growing pains, it will no doubt find its way in due course. This film is essential viewing for all Nigerians and for Africans who seek to understand the continent.