Does Nigeria belong in the category of countries that were constructed during the twilight of British colonial rule and have forever after spawned endless crises, partly because the original British design was flawed, perhaps fatally?
I look at the origins of the Nigerian nation-state in a new piece for Atlantic.com. What I don’t share with the readers of the Atlantic — for space reasons, chiefly — is a review of the sorry history of Britain’s efforts at design and re-design of nation-states. The partition of India, which at the outset caused massive loss of life and turmoil, for sometime seemed workable; yet today, facing a failed government in Pakistan, armed with nuclear weapons, and at odds with both its long-time patron (the U.S.) and India, would now be viewed as a travesty of geo-political engineering. Iraq was another country created and launched by Britain. Israeli-Palestine conflict, while imponderable, has roots in British policies of decolonization. In Africa, Nigeria counts as at least the equal of these decolonization cockups.
The point isn’t to hastily argue for the redrawing of the map, anywhere. But we must at least recognize that nations were constructed, and not always long ago. Having been made by humans, they can be unmade and remade by them. Nigeria could well be a good place to begin undoing the warped world that the British made.