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Carter Bridge is Down—My Reflection on Nigeria at the Passing of the Queen

by Simon Wale Olatunji, Ph.D



A preamble


The passing of Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II, perhaps is the passing of the greatest monarch of all times and would probably leave the world with the greatest loss, clouds, and questions. For, little do most people know about the extent of her power, reign, and influence; and little do we all know about the massive culture shift coming for the United Kingdom, or of numerous changes coming for the world. This is because the late monarch was not just the Queen of England. She was also the Queen of other Commonwealth realms from the very rising of her reign unto its sunset.


London Bridge Vs Carter Bridge


This article draws its title from the untold political, historical, and philosophical influence of the late monarch on Nigeria—taking a cue from the proverbial wisdom sayings of my great Yoruba ancestry: “In the absence of a sacrificial Bat, a Chimney-swift is a likely alternative (“Bi a o Ba ri Adan, a maa n fi oobe se ebo”). Whereas the British Government has chosen to describe the passing of the Queen as “London Bridge is Down” or "Operation London Bridge is Down." This is an expression to remark the extent of the loss on/of the connecting force to the kingdom (The Washington Post, n.d.). Meanwhile the best expression closer to their concept in the Nigerian context is the Carter Bridge.. Therefore, the passing of Her Majesty the Queen proverbially has been a case of the collapse of the London Bridge (2022); no better expression of the same in Nigeria than Carter Bridge is broken—and the term would represent the same spirit for the people of Nigeria. More so, the Carter Bridge was built in 1901 by an edict of the Queen to connect Lagos Island to the mainland and was named after her appointed Governor of the Colony of Lagos, Sir Gilbert Thomas Carter. Make no mistake, the original Carter Bridge was dismantled, redesigned, and rebuilt after Nigeria’s Independence in the late 1970s. And I know that most readers would wonder why I chose to use the name “Carter Bridge” rather than “Eko Bridge.” More so, the name Carter Bridge no longer exists. Yes, sure, but it is basically and deliberately a literary expression of both the spirit of the comparison, and the call for a culture-shift.


Nigeria at a Hinge of History


Why is this article important for Nigeria? It is important because many do not know that the late monarch, Queen Elizabeth II’s demise also means the passing of a former Nigeria’s Head of State. So, Britain is not alone in this loss, but the whole world is involved. And, of course, Nigeria as a nation is mourning the passing of its former Head of State. I guess this report will blow the mind of some people who may be at a loss regarding this historical fact (2021). The Queen’s monarchical authority constitutionally extended to Nigeria when the country was under British rule. Her two time-official visits to Nigeria was the first to pay a working visit as the Head of State of Nigeria (2022)—a visit that lasted for 20 days (January 28–February 16, 1956), and the second visit was between December 3 and 6, 2003, to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Infogalactic, n.d.).


Queen Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was Queen Regnant over more than 60 Sovereign Nations during her life and was reigning monarch over up to half of them till her death. What this means is that she wielded an immense if not the greatest economic, ideological, and political influence directly, indirectly, or inversely over those sovereign states. For anything that this may mean to Nigeria as a nation or any concerned or interested individuals, the passing of this monarch invariably has its losses and gains. Britain is already counting her losses—it has been put in billions of pounds—and is also speculating her gains. Nigeria cannot afford to play the Ostrich. Otherwise, Nigeria after the demise of the Queen might find itself under the typology of a parable of Jesus which likens this generation already to children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you fail to weep” (Matthew 11:17). This comparison is drawn from one of the common Eastern cultures—a type of Nigeria’s Tales by Moonlight—in which children form themselves into companies and get up a dramatic representation of communal pomp. In this case, Britain, under Her Majesty the Queen, has for ages played their pipes, expecting or working others to dance; and even when she beats up herself, she expects others to weep. Britain has been both a blessing and a burden upon Nigeria’s diplomatic relations. The Carter Bridge is down, and it is therefore high time for us to count our gains and losses (AutoJosh, 2018).


History is here upon the Colonial Nigeria


Nigerian politicians, diplomats, and historians must remember that our romance with Britain was never voluntary if ever at all mutual. We were married to a groom that never paid our dowry. Yet whatever the rhythmic pattern of their flutist’s diplomacy is, we have danced ourselves, not to frenzy, but, to stupor. Yet they still always judge us that we do not comply with the music of their flutes. If there is any time, the open call, “Arise O Compatriots” must essentially and necessarily jolt all of us to a wide wake, I believe it is now. The London Bridge is down; the Carter Bridge is broken; let us wake up from our self-indulgences. Let us shake off the dust of imported ideologies that brought indirect rule or born to rule systems; and/or that have divested us of our identities and get done with indirect rules of British hypocritical austerity (Awokoya, 2015).


We stand at the hinge of history. In months, a new republic must emerge. And it is just so timely that we can rebuild a bridge by ourselves. Nature itself has spoken if only we will be obedient. Chances are that some who are sullen self-conceited folks among us—who wish no good for our commonwealth—will be further repelled by ambition. But it is time we arise and build a new bridge.


The Carter Bridge is down. It is time to escape colonial Nigeria and forge a brand-new hope and a future for us and our children. Being ruled by the British Empire from the mid-nineteenth century until 1960 is not a joke. We have paid more than an eye for that eye. We need a decisive searchlight to any remnant of British negative influence on our sovereignty as a nation as well as on our regions. We must prohibit indirect slave trade of any or other region/s to any or other region/s. The 99 years for which Lagos was annexed by Britain ended in 1960 but we still grapple under some complications and/or complexities of our unequal yokes.


Whatever urged or moved Governor Fredrick Lugard to amalgamate the two existing territories, the Southern and Northern Protectorates into the Colony called Nigeria, we need to count our losses and gains. We may need to address or redress considerably whatever we lost when we lost our regional autonomy, what the gains were, or what they might possibly be.


This, perhaps, would be our only opportunity to give adequate meaning to the timely departure of Her Majesty the Queen at this time in history. The wisdom of Winston Churchill is still alive. He said: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” History naturally is a ruthless repeater of itself. But all men, ages, and generations reserve the right and has the responsibility to deliberately change their lives. This is our day to walk in our own light and learn from our mistakes so that we do not run the risk of repeating them.


What might be our Gains?


Nigerian’s gains, in this case, will be double-edged. First of all, there will be gains concerning the several lessons to be learned from the life and posterity of the Queen. And secondly, Nigeria’s gains on lessons already learned from our relationship with Britain, which feats were not from wars, battles, and destruction of its own people and lands, but from organizational skill, or strength and financial structures. Any land that swallows its inhabitants risks desolation. Enough of civil wars and bloodletting of our own people. And it is time we put our natural wisdom and resources to work to build a future and hope.


1. We must return to nature


Ours is a nation most blessed with abundance of every good things---human or natural resources. Our country has been widely known and referenced for its vast proven reserves of hydrocarbons wealth and other buried wealth. We must return to nature, go back to farming, and resuscitate all the natural endowments that endeared us to Britain by force. Whatever made us abandon or despise our homemade goods deprived us of immense opportunities to compete and shape outstanding overseas trade. The same steals our extensive commercial infrastructure from us and handed it over to Britain in the 19th century and then to other rival trading nations of the world. This is the time to return to the drawing board.


2. We must desist from the spirits that estrange us from a parent


Was Nigeria not a creation of, or born by, British Victorian oligarchy? Why then not give room to a radical review and rebirth of our power ideology? We are no bastards, so why not quit the estrangement complex? Although the Victorian oligarchy allowed the British empire to be ruled by a propertied upper class, every citizen of the empire prosper and enjoy an unparalleled degree of social mobility and opportunity. Nigeria needs a revolution to restore power to the people and create an equalizer of national and federal goods.


3. We must regroup and restore our precolonial spirit of harmony


Before Nigeria was established as a British colony in 1884--the worse sabotage of the world's best cultural heritage of all time--our people lived in societies of structured kingdoms and empires and citizens enjoyed a prevailing spirit of harmony until the aftermath of the Berlin Conference in which African was subdivided into territories to be taken by Europeans; and our structured kingdoms and empires were captured by the British "through the use of force, strategic alliances and the collaboration of some of the natives" (Wangare, 2021), and, imperialism was installed. Hence, the beginning of conflicts and war (Graham, 2009).


4. We must learn and embrace the importance of service


Queen Elizabeth II lived, and most British leaders live to serve England, all the realms, the commonwealth, and the people. The Queen was a symbol of steadfast courage and unity in leadership and served for the unification of the United Kingdom rather than promoting divisive and nepotic tendencies. She was renowned for the assertion: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.” (Vinto 2022) The much-desired new Nigerian may not emerge until a new breed of politicians and leaders arise with the sense of duty and service as the Queen. And of course, not all Nigerians may be in the position to serve the country as a leader, but all Nigerians must find ways to make a difference as we labor to salvage the remnant of our dear country (1984).


5. We must learn the power of resilience


All over the world, Nigerians have been noted for their resilience (Financial Times, n.d.). Her Majesty the Queen exemplified resilience at its best (1980). Despite the numerous England's and global challenges, and all the world's whine and whips, she remained focused, unwavering, and purposeful. Nigerians must never give up or waver in their demanding right government and exercising their freedom of expression. We must learn from the Queen's ability to bounce back from setbacks. (Nature news, n.d.).


6. We must learn the importance of adaptability


Imagining a 96-year-old monarch whose reign spanned 70 years could mislead you into thinking archaic and obsolete. But not true with the Queen. Despite all the power, social, political, and technological changes she witnessed staggeringly within her 70 years reign, she was never left behind in the ability to connect her past with the future. She was the first to get done with the status quo and embrace change. If there is ever a time that Nigerians need to be open-minded and ready to embrace change, that time is now. We must quit partisan politics and regional deception to unite for the sake of rescuing Nigeria's remains from the hands of the enemies of the state (Davidson et al., 2022).


It is without doubt that our serving leaders has failed to secure, defend, and unite the country (Sahara Reporters, n.d.). Indeed, nothing will go down for present administration in the annals of history better than the complete destruction of the spirit of "one Nigeria." And indeed, this failure alone is more than enough for all patriotic Nigerians to arise and adopt a singular goal of uniting to remove divisive politicians (Harris & Cornell, 2018). Also, we must remove all who failed to use the executive, judicial, or legislative power conferred upon them to do the right thing during this present government in which hostility, insecurity, austerity, nepotism and, at best, deaf and dump "civilitary" rule is the order of the day.


7. We must learn the importance of hope


Every good leader has one job description: Offer hope to the people (Steffens & Johnson, 2017). It is without a doubt that Her Majesty the Queen brought hope to the people of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and all the realms and the Commonwealth. When the preface to King James Bible Version was written, she was remarked as "the bright Occidental Star of most happy memory" whose destiny was to dispel the "thick and palpable clouds of darkness" which without her "would so have overshadowed this Land." And that was the hope she offered in times of prosperity and adversity. She was a source of strength to nations and kingdoms during her life and reign (Published by Christian Publishing House EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice et al., 2022).


Hope has a vital connection with faith and love. Nigerians must be resolved about keeping a confident hope alive for the love of the country, and faith in an abiding future. This is the only thing/way to quit our present epidemic selfish love and birth an assurance of a glorious future, which also, invariably, shall enable us to live patriotic lives that will birth a new Nigeria. We must be reminded of the golden words of the Queen in her Golden Jubilee speech in which she said: “I believe that young or old, we have as much to look forward to with confidence and hope as we have to look back on with pride.” (Vinton, 2022) It is never impossible to change things, regardless of how bad it is. It is never too late to do it, regardless of how hopeless. That is the audacity of hope. And we can change our nation (Obama, 2013).


8. We must return to God


I make no apologies for the risk of being censured here, but I must express my deepest philosophy based upon biblical conviction that only righteousness exhorts a nation, and sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34-35, NKJV, n.d.). If we create separate sovereign states out of Nigeria and the people refuse to return to God, and seek a change of lifestyle, it will be like taking the lion out of a jungle and putting it in a zoo. God’s promise is to heal our land if only we return to him, humble ourselves and pray (Chief, 2020). On this note, I will like to wrap this with the lyrics of Dr. Myles Monroe’s song, “Brand New World,” in which he says:


We don't like the way the world is turningSomething inside is always yearning, yearning for a Brand New WorldPeople everywhere are so confusedLeaders don't know what to do.Oh, how we want a Brand New World.Though we send rockets to the moon and the starsAnd though we make ships and planes that go very farThere's not a mountain that man hasn't climbedBut a Brand New World he can never findSo if you want a Brand New World you gotta have brand new peopleAnd if you want brand new people you gotta have a brand new life, oh ohAnd if you want a brand new life you gotta have a brand new spiritAnd if you want a brand new spirit you gotta come to Jesus Christ.(SomgLyrics.com, n.d.)

9. We must act NOW!


In the days of Sonny Okosuns "Ozziddi," a Nigerian sensational musician, in his 1986 album titled did not mince words in declaring the then much more stable nation as "Now Or Never." The goal of the late musician was to challenge brace up and fight for a better Nigeria. If there is ever a time the "now or never" national call is needed, it is now.  The second term of Muhamadu Buhari is fast ending, never to be experienced again. But one may fairly and safely assert that most, if not all, the promises made are already failed. And the nation's problems are now more compounded than it was at the beginning of present administration. Right now, things are looking  tougher than the Aso Rock itself, appearing so fixated and insurmountable. The nation has exhibited or is exhibiting all  symptoms of a failed nation. But nothing is too bad that it cannot be fixed. And if the nation will ever overcome all its challenges, all Nigerians must wake up to the drumbeat of Now or Never. We all must go to the polls and change our nation one by one and vote by vote. That time is now!


I am Simon Olatunji, I ask the good Lord to comfort the British monarchy, the people of England, all realms and Commonwealth, and all the world on the loss of Her Majesty the Queen.


I ask Him to save the King Charles III.


And I ask the Lord to bless and save our land and all its people; give strength to his people and bless us with peace—in Jesus Christ name!. Amen.


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