Is 1914 Amalgamation A Blessing Or A Curse?
In the annals of Nigeria's history; one chapter that has remained till today controversial and very elusive to candid clarification is the amalgamation of 1914.
The ill-conceived connubial resolution that brought Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria together in 1914 is up till today being debated to be the basis of the problems we are facing as a Nation.
The union which ought to serve as a unifying factor turned out to create an endless animosity between the two protectorates because none of them was prepared for it.
In retrospect, Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria were coalesced together in 1914 to form a single colony of Nigeria. The unification was consummated purely for economic reasons rather than political. It was a union marshaled and carried out without any form of consultation between the South and the North.
History has it that, Northern Nigeria Protectorate had a budget deficit; and the colonial administration sought to use the budget surpluses in Southern Nigeria to offset the deficit of the Northern Nigeria.
The Governor-General Frederick Lugard who took office in 1914 was responsible for overseeing the unification. He was said to have established several central institutions to anchor the evolving unified structure. A Central Secretariat was instituted in Lagos, which was the seat of government, and the Nigerian Council (later the Legislative Council), was founded to provide a forum for representatives drawn from the provinces. Certain services were integrated across the Northern and Southern Provinces because of their national significance-military, treasury, audit, posts and telegraphs, railways, survey, medical services, judicial and legal departments-were brought under the control of the Central Secretariat in Lagos.
Despite the fact that the unification process developed embryonic problems and was greatly undermined by the persistence of different regional perspectives on governance between the Northern and Southern Provinces; the colonial masters never deemed it fit to put up ameliorative process that could have made the forced marriage work.
While Southern colonial administrators welcomed amalgamation as an opportunity for imperial expansion, their counterparts in the Northern Province believed that it was injurious to the interests of the areas they administered because of their relative backwardness and that it was their duty to resist the advance of southern influences and culture into the north.
Southerners, on the other hand, were not eager to embrace the extension of legislation originally meant for the north to the south.
Today, many observers of our national polity are of the opinion that Nigeria's myriads of problems are as a result of the 1914 amalgamation. That is why, up till this moment; the relationship between the two is one based on mutual suspicion and is responsible for the country's retrogressive nature among comity of nations.
The resultant effect or failure of the 1914 amalgamation is what the two protectorates that are now represented on the basis of three major ethnic groups are battling with today. It has always being a cat and mouse relationship in which every ethnic group tries to outsmart one another in an existential "rat race'.
The bitter truth is that the 1914 amalgamation between the North and the South is morbidly reflecting in all our ways of life even as a sovereign nation today.
From the way, the 1914 amalgamation was conceived, the union was never meant to be a political elixir but an ill-conceived palliative economic measure.
Frederick Lugard, who was appointed to replace Egerton in 1914, had his shortcomings as the Governor-General of both Southern and Northern Nigeria. Among other things, he was mandated to unite the two protectorates. He was to complete the amalgamation into one colony.
Although it stirred controversy in Lagos, where it was opposed by a large section of the political class and the media; the amalgamation did not stimulate passion in the rest of the country.
From 1914 to 1919, Lugard sought persistently to secure the amelioration of the condition of the native people, among other means by the exclusion, wherever possible, of alcoholic liquors, and by the suppression of slave trading and slavery. However, Lugard was criticised for running the country with half of each year spent in England, distant from realities in Africa where his subordinates had to delay decisions on many matters until he returned, and based his rule on a military system.
At various stages of this matrimony; we have recorded series of events including a civil war and currently the Boko Haram menace.
Unfortunately as a nation, we have not found unity in diversity as we tend to deceive ourselves. The only thing that unites us as a nation today is corruption. After that, we go back to champion our causes as tribalists rather than nationalists we ought to be.
The question begging for answer is how long do we continue to strive in deceit and treachery when we are all aware that the marriage has brought us more loss than gain? Perhaps, there is a lesson that we can learn from Catalonia, Flanders or even Scotland.
In Scotland, residents will have to decide on whether their homeland should become an independent country or remain part of the United Kingdom. Also, in Catalonia, Spain, provincial president Artur Mas has called for a referendum on whether Catalonia should become a sovereign state. And in the Belgian province of Flanders, the leader of the ruling party has called for negotiations that would 'enable both Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia to look after their own affairs.' All these secession plans are without any form of violence, but are being peacefully expressed within the context of their various constitutions.
As Nigeria decides to celebrate centenary anniversary of the 1914 amalgamation; it should not be the usual celebration of treachery and deceit but a time to reflect on the journey so far. If a marriage of
100 years is still experiencing glitches; then it is not too late to look back and do the right thing.