No Level Playing Field

“I’m motivated by creating a level playing field for the world so that the weak have a chance.” – Iqbal Quadir

Did you know that like most of their contemporaries on the African continent, Nigerians grew up in a vastly different world? They genuinely believed that the most charming and most considerate thing for the British colonial masters to have done for the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria was to create a level playing field between the two regions as well as ensure the true integration of their diverse peoples before the forced amalgamation of the two aforementioned protectorates by Sir Frederick [later Lord] Lugard, GCMG, CB, DSO, PC (1858-1945) on 1st January 1914 for the simple reason of administrative convenience which paved the way for Britain’s effective control of Nigeria’s natural resources. The free encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, states:

“The British economic policy for Africa at the time was founded on the belief that if African peoples were brought to embrace European civilisation with its emphasis on law and order their economic resources would be more effectively and thoroughly exploited to the benefit of all. It was optimistically and simplistically believed that the problem of African economic development was largely the problem of law and order; that once the slave trade was suppressed the chaos and anarchy believed to be the bane of life in Africa would disappear and African endeavour would be channelled to the collection of the national produce of the tropical forest for the satisfaction of European needs. The view came to be held that Africans by themselves were incapable of maintaining law and order to the level needed to bring about the much-desired economic revolution, and that only European rule could do it.”

However, not many people are aware that in the beginning Lugard was only an efficient mercenary who came to work for the chartered Royal African Company before joining the British. After noting the complex nature of Nigeria in The Amalgamation of Nigeria Was A Fraud, a speech he delivered at the public presentation of the book Fellow Country Men- The Story of Coup D’états In Nigeria written by Richard Akinnola in June 2000, then Minister of Education (1965-1967) and later Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (1979-1983), Chief Richard Akinjide, QC, SAN, CFR, proceeded to provide a background he believed would simplify the understanding of “the root causes” of the country’s problems, which he traced to sometime in 1884. Akinjide recalls:

“Nigeria is a very complex country. Our problems did not start yesterday. It started about 1884. Lord Lugard came here about 1894 and many people did not know that Major Lugard was not originally employed by the British Government. He was employed by companies. He was first employed by East Indian Company, by the Royal East African Company and then by the Royal Niger Company. It was from the Royal Niger Company that he transferred to the British government. Unless you know this background, you will not know the root causes of our problems.”

Lugard supervised the conquest of Northern Nigeria, having finally succumbed to the pressure of Manx administrator, Sir George Taubman Goldie (1846-1925) of “the chartered Royal African Company (a mercantile company founded by the Stuart family and London merchants to trade along the west coast of Africa)”. In Shehu Shagari: The Theory of Musical Chairs, we read that:

“The Fulani jihadists who established the Sokoto Caliphate took advantage of the fact of many dissidents within the kingdoms of the western Sudan at the time of the jihad. They made good use of the dissidents by recruiting them to fight in the formation of the Caliphate. Later, when the power of the Caliphate began to decline, some recusants went into exile outside the Caliphate. When the British colonialists arrived in West Africa, they too used some of those dissenters to help conquer the Fulani and the Caliphate. In fact, it was the agitators who formed the expeditionary force that conquered Sokoto itself in 1903.”

Goldie’s role was similar to the one played elsewhere in Africa by 6th Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (1890-1896), Cecil Rhodes, DCL (1853-1902), but his schemes of “building up Nigeria,” had from 1884 to 1890, survived French and German opposition, particularly the persistent antagonism of Conservative German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), who “disliked colonialism but reluctantly built an overseas empire when it was demanded by both elite and mass opinion,” which culminated in securing “the basin of the lower Niger and lake Chad” for Germany. Bismarck’s overthrow in March 1890 was what averted Great Britain’s loss of “a third, and the most valuable part, of the Royal Niger company's territory. This, of course, ended German aggression in Nigeria, and accelerated the “final settlement of the Nigeria-Cameroon frontiers.”

As a means of halting France’s advance into Nigeria from the Congo axis, Goldie initiated some negotiations which produced an agreement in 1893, whereby he helped to preserve the entire navigable stretch of the lower Niger for Great Britain. Two years later, Goldie and Lugard departed Uganda for the assumption of military campaigns in Northern Nigeria which resulted in the conquest of Sokoto, seat of the Caliphate, in 1903. Lugard would later reap from these successful military onslaughts which spread to Borgu and Nikki, by his appointment on 1st January, 1900 as Britain’s first High Commissioner in charge of Northern Nigeria. In 1912, he replaced Governor-General of Southern Nigeria (1904-1912), Sir Walter Egerton, KCMG (1858-1947), who already had more than 20 years experience in the colonial service in the far east when he became Governor of Lagos Colony in 1903. Lugard was tasked with uniting the two protectorates:

“It was, however, evidently impossible for a chartered company to hold its own against the state-supported protectorates of France and Germany, and in consequence, on 1 January 1900, the Royal Niger Company transferred its territories to the British government for the sum of £865,000. The ceded territory together with the small Niger Coast Protectorate, already under imperial control, was formed into the two protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria.”

Also, the earlier six years had been more than hectic for the Benin monarch (1888-1897), Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi (d. 1914), who was overthrown and exiled to Calabar in 1897 by the British, when they launched a Punitive Expedition force of 1,200 that was led by Admiral Sir Harry Rawson (1843-1910), and then ceased the kingdom for the establishment of the British colony of Nigeria. Suffice it to mention that earlier in 1896, the Binis had defeated the British, led by Acting Consul General James Robert Philips, who arrived their territory as an invading army. The expedition was ordered mainly to avenge that defeat and proceeds from the auction of the Benin royal art was used largely to cover its cost. The horror of this most bloody of expedition has dragged on for centuries, and still causes fear among Bini people till today. Chief Akinjide, who believes that the celebration of the centenary anniversary of Nigeria’s amalgamation is such “a great historical event”, offers the following in an interview with Leke Baiyewu titled Nigeria’s Amalgamation, A Business Arrangement and posted in the Punch of Sunday, 10th February, 2013:

“You can’t write the history of Nigeria without discussing the amalgamation. Around 1882 to 1884 there was the Berlin conference in which a number of countries from Europe and others met and divided Africa among themselves. That is critical to the history of the country and that was when what we now have as the Nigerian State started. That went on to the war in Benin (Edo State), when the British took over the place. Ovonramwen Nogbaisi was then the Oba of Benin, he was a powerful and respected oba and Benin was a sovereign, independent state, just like Ethiopia and Liberia. But the British wanted one Nigeria and felt Benin was standing in their way; they thought there should be no more Benin Empire. So, in 1896, they tried to take Benin but failed. They (Britain) came back the following year with about 10 ships, army -powerful army- and fought the Benin Empire, and took away the head of government – the Oba of Benin to Calabar (Cross River State) where he eventually died.

“The Yoruba as a country – as it was called at the time – and all the protectorates in the Eastern part, and the territory controlled by the Benin Empire became one in the South. By 1900, we had the northern and southern Nigeria. The two entities continued till 1914 when we had the amalgamation.”

In The Historical Challenges Of Nigeria’s Amalgamation/Religion and the Way To Peace (Part 2) published online in The Nigerian Voice edition of Thursday, 30th August 2012, prolific columnist and public commentator, Ambassador Abdulrazaq Oyebanji Hamzat posits:

“…then in the 20th century, 1900, Niger Coast, formerly Oil river protectorate was merged with the colony of Lagos and the protectorate of Lagos was named the protectorate of southern Nigeria.

“The Yoruba's and Igbo's and close to 200 other ethnic groups were of different ethnic groups, having different culture, norms, and values, but they were merged into the southern protectorate by the British in their own understanding and discretion to form the southern protectorate. I only heard few people asking questions about the merger when it was clear that the ethnic and value are different, yet what we hear much noise on is about the amalgamation of northern and southern protectorates.”

Nigerians equally believe that the British, through Lugard, also needed to have ensured that “the political arrangements of the country were not laid in the Letters Patent and Orders in Council of January 1914, to favour” a particular Region, the North. This Nigerian experience exists almost in the precision and exactitude of the manner whereby in 1812, American statesman, diplomat and Massachusetts governor, Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814) who, as a Democratic-Republican was selected as the fifth Vice President of the United States (1813–1814), serving under James Madison (1751-1836), conspired with party members in order to change the boundaries of voting districts to enhance their own political clout. A newspaper editor, who noticed that one such district resembled a salamander (a lizard-like animal capable of living both on land and in water), coined the term “gerrymandering” to describe the practice of altering political boundaries or dividing a state, country or region etc., into election districts so as to give an unfair advantage or majority to one political party or group of people while concentrating the voting strength of the other party or group into as few districts as possible. The British achieved a similar feat in Nigeria through “the tri-partition act,” their constitutional framework of a tripartite Nigeria. Lieutenant-Colonel Adewale Ademoyega explains in Why We Struck– The Story of The First Nigerian Coup:

”By this act, the British deliberately placed a greater percentage of the land and people of Nigeria in the North, putting the percentages of population at 54.5 (North), 20.0 (West), 23.0 (East), and 2.5 (Southern Cameroon which was then part of Nigeria). As a result, the British gave the North 55% of the federal constituencies which ensured that if the NPC succeeded in maintaining its hold on the North (which it did with the support of the British), it would be in control at the federal level.”

In his analysis of the ills plaguing the African continent today, Yale-trained communications scholar, Professor Debo Kotun, author of Abiku, a book which explores Nigeria’s socio-political reality, disclosed in an interview with Anote Ajeluorou and published in The Guardian of Saturday, 6th March 2010:

”…Howard [Arnold] Smith was asked from Oxford, England to do exactly the same thing [census]. He came in, went around and came back to State House in Marina to Governor James Robertson. But he was told they knew everything already about the job they contracted him to do, that they already knew how many people there were in Nigeria.

“He said how did they know; they told him they already had it figured out, that there were more people in the north. He wondered how that could be and that Nigeria would be the only country in the world where the population gets bigger the closer you get to the desert; that it doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world…That is the predicate population dynamics that “Nigerian democracy” was built on; that was the false assumption. Why? Because the British, way back during the Victorian era in the 1800, had decided that they would rather do business with the Sultanate than do business with the people in the South.”

So to achieve this, Britain needed “to keep a firm grip on the North,” so that further access of the nation’s natural endowments would continue to prove an easy task. Expectedly, the financial consideration remained uppermost in their permutations, and thus while trying to plead with the Colonial Office for the transfer of Tiv country to Southern Nigeria, the amalgamation was encouraged as evident in the testimony of Sir Walter Egerton, who usually spoke in support of colonial development and whose budgets from 1906 to 1912 steadily showed that he didn’t mind the balance of payments of a growing colony running into deficit at first. Having already worked in the Far East’s colonial office for more than two decades as at the time of his appointment as Governor of Lagos Colony in 1903, Egerton’s jealousy, concerning the boundary between Southern and Northern Nigeria, became particularly evident. Also since the Ilorin people are Yoruba, there were equally long talks about incorporating them into Southern Nigeria, or better still be left in Northern Nigeria granting that they are Moslems who have allegiance to the Uthmaniyya Caliphate. Egerton, who was renowned for favouring rail over river transport, would later demand that the Lagos-Ibadan railway be extended to Osogbo, and further still to Kano via Zaria. He once remarked:

“I…think that equilibrium between revenue and expenditure can be best effected by encouraging intercourse between the North and South…”

Chief Akinjide, who entered parliament on 12th December, 1959 and served as Minister of Education in the first cabinet up until the military coup of 15th January, 1966, which removed the Balewa government, states:

“The British needed the Railway from the North to the coast in the interest of British business. Amalgamation of the South (not of the people) became of crucial importance to the British Business interest. He said the North and the South should be amalgamated. Southern Nigeria came into existence on January 1900…At the Centenary of the fall of Benin, I wrote a piece in a number of papers but before I published the piece, I sent a copy to the Oba of Benin. So when Benin was conquered in 1896, it made the creation of the Southern Nigerian protectorate possible on January 1, 1900.”

Ambassador A.O. Hamzat, in his article The Formation Of Southern And Northern Protectorates Of Nigeria, corroborates the economic interest angle by leaps and bounds, and reminds us of how the said amalgamation of 1914 stemmed from the independent capturing of several towns, cities and villages, as well as the buying of “some parts from some of the companies,” leading to the formation of province, colony and protectorates, later amalgamated in 1914 as today’s Nigeria, stating:

“At that time, the purpose of colonizing Nigeria was strictly for business purpose, it was initially done by companies as business, companies such as Royal Niger Company, African company etc. those companies were working in connection with countries to sale their product, just as we have Dangote group of companies owning several lands, that is how those companies claimed ownership of our town and the people after they were captured, when they acquire the land, they may decide to use it as they deem fit or some times sale it to make profit.”

Akinjide, who was widely believed to have “propounded the doctrine of ‘Substantial Compliance’ and what constituted two-thirds of votes in his argument before the electoral tribunal that upheld the election of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as first executive President of Nigeria in 1979, until a legal luminary, Chief Niyi Akintola disclosed in an article published in Daily Sketch of Tuesday, 4th May, 1993 titled “I installed Shagari”, that he actually originated the 122/3 of 19 states”, further says that the interest of the colonialists in Africa as well as in Nigeria:

“…was economic and it’s still economic. They have no permanent friends and no permanent interests. Neither their interests nor their friends are permanent. Nigeria was created as British sphere of interests for business. In 1898, Lugard formed the West African Frontier Force initially with 2,000 soldiers and that was the beginning of our problems.”

Therefore, for one who thrives in chaos like the British has postured, the Igbo of the East would instantly have hollered: “Onye ogbaghara,” and the Yoruba of the West would have cried: “A-rije-ni-madaru,” even the Hausa/Fulani of the North would have screamed: “Madargaci” or “Marikici.” So, what began as a post-amalgamation fetish for Northern favouritism rapidly developed into an exacerbation of national problems. Veteran journalist and former features editor of the Daily Times of Nigeria, Victor Oshisada, reminds us in Zik, Awo, Enahoro and Nigerian Politics posted online The Guardian of Wednesday, 31st July, 2002:

“There was no Nigerian who was consulted before the amalgamation took place. Apart from the British-imposed amalgamation, the customary doctoring up of population census results over the decades aggravates the incongruous structure to accord dominating position to the north, as against the south. The population census of 1931 which gave the south a lead over the north (i.e. 7,609,000 and 7,165,000 respectively) was reversed in 1952 to give the north the "lead" (i.e. 17 million and 13 million) over the south. Ever since, the "lead" is maintained in spite of the glaring population sparsity of the north. Is it not obvious that favourable population census is a veritable instrument for political domination? It is population census that determines the delimitation of constituencies for elections to give leadership to certain parts against the others, and also influences the distribution of amenities and resources to the various groups. The faults, therefore,… are in the incompatibilities created by the colonial masters whose guiding principle in international diplomacy is self-interest. Britain considers its own national interest before anything else.”

In The Amalgamation of Nigeria Was A Fraud- A rejoinder of Wednesday, 14th September, 2011, Tony Ishiekwene picks holes in Chief Akinjide’s account that Lord Lugard and Britain’s amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria since 1914, was what hindered Nigeria’s growth and development:

“Yes, the amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates is a “fraud,” but which colonised country is not a fraud or a “merger” of unequal, incompatible bedfellows? Is it in Rwanda- where Tutsis were lobbed together with the Hutus- causing one of the worst genocide in human history that was not a fraud or in Ghana or Cameroon or India or Indonesia or Brazil or Malaysia or Hong Kong that incompatible peoples were merged together? And why is it that others like Malaysia, India, New Zealand, Indonesia, Brazil are forging on and catching up with the “colonialists” Europe in economic advancement and social development, Nigeria and Africa continue to look for excuses, 51 years after the colonialists left our shores?”

Hamzat also pitches his tent away from those who harbour the “notion that Nigeria is a false union”, saying:

“The Nigeria’s union was right and valid; it is acceptable and desirable. The way Nigeria emerged to become a nation, that is how several other nations across the world emerged and rose to glory.”

Some analysts even quarrel with the claim that the country is indeed “not an historical accident, but a predetermined entity,” as federal authorities in Nigeria have continued to champion. They posit that “the culturally diverse people of Nigeria” that were amalgamated with one another would probably have gone their separate ways were it not for the British. They, therefore, blame the destruction of such great kingdoms, emirates and empires “that already existed in Nigeria” before the arrival of Britain on the scene, like the Benin Kingdom, the Fulani Emirates and the Oyo Empire, on British imperialism, and call such a claim a distortion of the country’s history that must not go unchallenged lest it becomes “a false and terrible legacy.” Such analysts further argue that were “trade and free markets” to be removed from the colonial shopping list at the time, “new colonies and territories” would surely have been the last thing the British would have expected to find because their emphasis then was to cut down the cost of administering existing colonies and prune their spread ranges. One such analyst, Dapo Fafowora, in his post Lord Lugard and the Amalgamation of Nigeria, in The Nation newspaper of Thursday, 14th February 2013, informs us:

“Before its independence from British colonial rule in 1960, Nigeria did not exist even as a distinct state, recognized by other foreign states. It was only recognized as a mere British colony, a British dependency that, for all practical purposes, did not have any state identity at all. It was simply part of the British West Africa, the Southern part of which was for a while governed by British colonial representatives from the old Gold Coast. Its acquisition by Britain as a colonial territory was actually accidental. It was the direct consequence of Anglo-French rivalry for trade and free markets in Africa.”

But others, like Abdulrazaq Hamzat, describe the amalgamation of Nigeria as a blessing which comes out of a seed that was buried by the British to hide its glory. According to Hamzat, the British imperialists, representing the oppressors, buried Nigeria for their own comfort, but not even the British can prevent the seed from re-germinating and producing beautiful offspring. He concludes that the seed would either be left to germinate for the good of everyone or endangered for the profit of none. Hamzat quips:

“Nigeria is like a seed crop, not one seed can germinate from the ground, two or more seeds are to be sowed to germinate and grow abundant harvest, Our oppressors were used by God to sow the upcoming great nation, comprising the Yoruba's, Hausa's, Igbo's, Ijaw’s, Idoma's, Nupe's and so on. Before these seeds were made into a nation, they have stood individually comfortable, but after being sowed together to grow, none can stand alone ever again. If any part is removed after it has been buried, the whole of the seed would be destroyed. Until we realized this, we shall continue to struggle.”

He equally maintains:
“The British colonization and our eventual emergence as a nation is a design by the creator. According to the Quranic teaching, some actions may be carried out by your oppressor for their benefit, even if it hurts you, they wouldn't care provided it is to their benefit, but God made it possible because it's a design to comfort you at the end, when it manifests, you would then realize it is indeed a blessing.”

Metaphorically, Professor Kotun likens Nigeria to a child that is born to die unless saved by a Babalawo (native doctor) whose intercession through rituals and sacrifices has been found acceptable to the gods. He concludes that once a country is willy-nilly deprived of its language, being the essence of humanity, that country has already lost out. He declares, ibid:

“Nigeria, right from day one, is an abiku child. We have not performed the rituals. And what are the rites? Very simple! We need to go back to the drawing board, before the Europeans came to Africa. The first time the Europeans, the Portuguese, first landed in parts of Africa’s – either in Lekki, Badagry or Ashante, Cape Coast or elsewhere, they shook hands with the locals, and exchanged greetings. And they both realised simultaneously that they did not understand each other.

Then something happened. The first moment we met we declared war, and we lost! We decided we’re going to learn their language before we could communicate with them. And, as a result we’ve been losing ever since. No matter how smart you are, you cannot negotiate in somebody else’s language and win.”

Against all odds, the various and rather heterogeneous nationalities of Hausa-Fulani, Igbo, Yoruba and well over two hundred other ethnic groups have carried on with different religions, cultures, norms, and values, with no effort made “to weld the country together” for them, deliberately to prevent their true unity. Their only commonality of interest has remained the name Nigeria, suggested after the River Niger (the great black river) in 1890 at Lokoja, capital of today’s Kwara State, by British reporter, novelist and writer, Dame Flora Louisa Shaw, (later Lady Lugard) DBE, (1852-1929), when she took time to stop and admire the confluence view of River Niger (extending about 4,180 km; 2,600 mi, with a drainage basin of 2,117,700 km2; 817,600 sq mi, in area) and River Benue (approximately 1,400 kilometers; 870 mi, long) which stretched before her in the late 19th century.” These so-called Nigerians have now lived together for over one hundred turbulent years of rows and reconciliations from the first to the last Governor-General, Lord Lugard and up to the present President, Muhammadu Buhari viz:

1.Sir Frederick Lugard (1858-1945) Gov. General (1914-1919);

2.Sir Hugh Clifford (1866-1941) Gov. General (1919-1925);

3.Sir Graeme Thomson (1875-1933) Gov. General (1925-1931);

4.Sir Donald Cameron (1872-1948) Gov. General (1931-1935);

5.Sir Henry Bourdillon (1883-1948) Gov. General (1935-1943);

6.Sir Arthur Richards (1885-1978) Gov. General (1943-1948);

7.Sir John Macpherson (1898-1971) Gov. General (1948-1954);

8.Sir James Robertson (1899-1983) Gov. General (1955-1960);

9.Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (1906-1996) Gov. General (1960-1963) later President (1963-1966);

10.Sir Abubakar Balewa (1912-1966) Prime Minister (1957-1966)

11.Major Gen. J.T.U Aguyi-Ironsi (1924-1966) Head of State (1966)

12.Gen. Yakubu Gowon (1934-) Head of State (1966-1975)

13.Gen. Murtala Muhammed (1938-1976) Head of State (1975-1976)

14.Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (1937-) Head of state (1976-79)

15.Alhaji Shehu Shagari (1925-) President (1979-1983)

16.Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (1942-) Head of State (1983-1985)

17.Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (1941-) Head of State (1985-1993)

18.Chief Ernest Shonekan (1936-) Head of State (1993)

19.Gen. Sanni Abacha (1943-1998) Head of State (1993-1998)

20.Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (1942-) Head of State (1998-99)

21.Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (1937-) President (1999-2007)

22.Alhaji Umaru Yar’adua (1951-2010) President (2007-2010)

23.Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (1957-) President (2010-to 2015)

24.General Muhammadu Buhari (1942-) President (2015 to date)

Consequently, as aforementioned, the union has over the decades achieved nothing other than plunged the country into incessant chaos and brutal violence as evident in the front page comment of the Daily Times newspaper edition of 18th January, 1966:

“For some time now – almost right from the day we came onto our own, the country has been, as it were, at the sick bay. We have been groping along – rudderless, hesitant, unsure which foot to put forward first…We groped from one trouble to another; from one calamity to another…”

Of significant note are the hopes and expectations of Nigerians, particularly after the country gained her Independence, which remain especially great, even as these hopes and expectations fail to jibe with the reality. They were all dashed one after the other and the people experienced the exact opposite of what they have expected, just as long-standing acrimony continues to be deepened by internal divisions. It would seem that the Colonial masters have merely given the politicians enough rope to hang themselves:

“The growth of nationalism in the society and the subsequent emergence of political parties were based on ethnic/tribal rather than national interests, and therefore had no unifying effect on the peoples against the colonial master. Rather, it was the people themselves who were the victims of the political struggles which were supposed to be aimed at removing foreign domination. At independence Nigeria became a Federation and remained one country. Soon afterwards the battle to consolidate the legacy of political and military dominance of a section of Nigeria over the rest of the Federation began with increased intensity. It is this struggle that eventually degenerated into coup, counter coup and a bloody civil war.”

However, if the North, which has become so used to wielding and exercising ‘political power‘ that it feels unfulfilled without it, have been able to muster political dominance of Nigeria for close to four decades, then there might just be some correctness in the view (even if “based on myth of administrative capability,” or found horribly offensive to other ethnic groups in the country, or worst still, “used by some to stir up fears of northern domination”) credited to the former Federal Commissioner of Public Complaints (1976), Nigeria’s Representative to the United Nations (1979), and former Minister of National Guidance (1983), Dr. Yusuf Maitama Sule, an acclaimed orator, diplomat and Dan Masanim Kano, when he attempted a reading of the three major ethnic groups. Refusing to hide his light under a bushel, Sule decided to push his luck like this:

“Everyone has a gift from God. The Northerners are endowed by God with leadership qualities. The Yoruba man knows how to earn a living and has diplomatic qualities. The Igbo man is gifted in commerce, trade and technological innovation. God created us equally with purpose and different gifts.”

Agreeing with Maitama Sule, who seems to have put his head in the lion’s mouth with the above statement the moment it was made for it instantly sparked off controversy of northern domination in Nigeria at the time, columnist Adisa Adeleye writes in The Problem of the North: The Caliphate in politics, published in the Vanguard of Friday, 18th January, 2013:

“Some examples of political ingenuity of the Hausa/Fulani leaders could be inferred from the past political settings. In the 1959 elections, the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) won 134 seats in the House of Representatives – all won in the North (scoring 43% of the total votes) while the NCNC, the Action Group (AG) and all others combined won 176 seats all over the country.

The story was that the NPC with 134 seats (all in the North) had no over-all majority, and it could have been possible for the Action Group (AG) and NCNC to form the Federal Government. But for some selfish reasons, the NCNC leader, (late Dr Azikiwe) became a strange “beautiful bride” to be courted by both the North and the West. The roving eyes of the `beautiful bride` caught the fancy of the North and the post independence government was formed by the NPC and NCNC, with the AG of the West pushed into opposition.”

Typically so, after winning the presidential elections, which held in Nigeria for the first time on Saturday, 11th August 1979, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who polled 5,668,857 or 33.77% votes and whose National Party of Nigeria (NPN) had been victorious in the National Assembly elections which held earlier in July, constituted the Federal Government of Nigeria between his own party, NPN and the National People’s Party (NPP) of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who came third with 2,822,523 or 16.75% votes), with Shehu Shagari Presiding. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who finished second by scoring 4,916,651 or 29.18% votes) and his Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) found themselves, as usual, locked out. Mallam Aminu Kano of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) came fourth with 1,732,113 or 10.28% votes, while Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim of the Greater Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP) brought up the rear of the procession polling 1,686,489 or 10.02% votes. Interestingly, President Shagari, who hailed from the North, scored 163,164 votes in the same election against Chief Awolowo (from the South) who polled 9,063 votes in Anambra State. Adeleye posits further:

”Viewed from any angle, the political machine of the time oiled by Hausa/Fulani elite showed ingenuity.”

Ikemba Odumegwu-Ojukwu however disagrees, postulating that all Nigerians have a wisdom instinct as well as a leadership instinct. Ojukwu insists that every Nigerian citizen must play in the same league, fuming:

”We must all accept the fact that no individual Nigerian has a monopoly of wisdom or a monopoly of the right to leadership and, for that matter, to followership. A Nigerian is and must be a Nigerian, as Nigerian as any Nigerian in the context of Nigeria.”

Also disagreeing, Victor Oshisada identifies two main reasons for the economic and social retardation of Nigeria. His comment has a vein of black humour running through it:

“First, like the Scottish monarchs of old, the northerners are not good administrators. They do not know how to govern a nation. Secondly, in the first lush of independence, the then ruling party, which was the Northern People Congress (NPC) embarked on the destruction of the Action Group because of its vibrancy and progressiveness. For instance, the Action Group was instrumental to the abrogation of the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact in 1961, and Chief Awolowo was the arrow-head who mobilised our students in London to protest against it. The Federal Government should have concentrated on economic developments of the young country, instead of exterminating its Opposition. The crisis that ensued was the cause of the retardation of Nigeria's socio-economic and political development… A responsible federal government should have focused on its Development Plans instead of destabilising the nation by destroying the Opposition party.”

The hegemony enjoyed by Hausa/Fulani political leaders have been rooted in deep rivalries, acrimony, bickering and disunity among Southern leaders. Also, it has been rooted in threats issued by the northern leaders against one united Nigeria. Ademoyega reveals, ibid, pg.8:

“Of course, the NPC did threaten that if the Southern parties allied to capture power at the federal level, the North would secede. This was an empty threat which could not be effected, unless the British were prepared to back it up with their own superior force of arms.”

Also, if we could fast track to the Fourth Republic (precisely on 14th May 2012), when members of the now defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) from Niger State paid him a courtesy visit in Kaduna, Governor of North-Eastern State (1975-1976), Federal Commissioner for Petroleum (1976-1978), Chairman Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in 1978, 7th Head of State of Nigeria (1983-1985), Chairman Presidential Task Force, and four-time presidential hopeful (2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015), Major General Muhammadu Buhari, Ret, who spoke in Hausa, issued a fresh threat that many believed was totally unbecoming of a statesman or former head of state. Stubborn as a mule and keen as mustard, the general, not one to mince matters, shot his mouth off thus:

“God willing by 2015, something will happen. They either conduct a free and fair election or they go a very disgraceful way.

“If what happened [alleged rigging] in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.”

Luckily for everyone, General Muhammadu Buhari (now simply Muhammadu Buhari) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) finally got elected polling 15,424,921 votes or 54.55% in the historic presidential election of Saturday, 28th March 2015 after his fourth attempt, to beat the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan, who became the first Nigerian president to meet his waterloo in a re-election bid polling 12,853,162 votes or 45.45%. A threatened and frightened nation, continent and world breathed a sigh of relief after Jonathan chose the route of a statesman by placing a call to his opponent (Buhari) to concede defeat to him as well as congratulate him. On Friday 29th May, 2015, Muhammadu Buhari kept his date with history as he was inaugurated amidst pomp and pageantry the 5th Executive President of Nigeria.

  • To be continued in Brewing Crisis

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Articles by Ajiroba Yemi Kotun