AD 1900 – 1960
For ease of administration and uniting the country, the sixty years of colonial rule in Nigeria was characterised by classification and reclassification of regions. The Niger Coastal Protectorate was expanded to become Southern Nigeria, with the seat of government in Lagos. The rulers in the North i.e. the Emir of Kano and the Saduana of Sokoto, resisted direct British rule. To deal with this situation, a military commander, Fredrick Lugard was appointed High Commissioner and commander in chief of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. Within three years (1903 – 1906) he subdued Kano and Sokoto and finally put an end to their rulers’ slave-raiding expeditions. To pacify the Northern Nigeria, Chiefs who were willing to cooperate with the British were enthroned and given considerable powers, no matter how small their territory in the North.
Following his success in the North, in 1912 Fredrick Lugard was appointed the governor of Northern and Southern Nigeria and charged with the task of merging both regions. In 1914 Lugard successfully merged Northern and Southern regions into what was to become the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. It is important to add that the citizens of both regions were not consulted in the amalgamation process.
Soon after the second World War, cracks began to appear in the forced union of Northern and Southern Nigeria as various regions began making conflicting demands for autonomy and central government. In 1947, a federal system of government was established under a new Nigerian constitution introduced by the British. This system was based on three regions: Eastern, Western and Northern. The idea was to reconcile the regional and religious tensions as well as accommodating the interest of diverse ethnic groups: mainly the Igbo (in the east), the Yoruba (in the west) and the Hausa and Fulani (in the north).
By 1951, the country had been divided into Eastern, Northern and Western regions, each with its own house of assembly. In the North an additional institution was created to reflect the strong tradition of the tribes – the separate House of Chiefs for the Northern province. There was also an overall legislative council for the whole of Nigeria.
“The federation became self-governing in 1954. Among the key instigators for independence in the country were Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Herbert Macaulay, leaders of the National Council for Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC), an eastern region dominated party, Obafemi Awolowo (leader of the western based Action Group (AG) party) and Sir Ahmadu Bello and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of the conservative Northern Peoples Congress (NPC)” – (iss.co.za).
From 1957 there was a federal prime minister. In that same year, the Eastern and Western regions were granted internal self government, to be followed by the Northern Nigeria in 1959. Specific powers were allocated to the federal government including defence, the police force, the terms of national trade, custom duties, finance and banking. Responsibility for other services in the area of health, agriculture, education and economic development was to be with the Regions.
In October 1st 1960, Nigerian was granted full independence and the tensions between the communities of North and South became the responsibility of Nigeria and its government.
1960 – 1970
Between 1960 and 1966, Nigeria was under civilian rule. Sir Tafawa Balewa was the federal Prime Minister and the Minister for foreign affairs. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe took over the role of Governor General from the British. In October 1963 Nigeria adopted a revised constitution and Dr. Azikiwe took office as Nigeria’s first President.
Right from the start of independence there was tension between the Northern and Southern Nigeria. One of those sources of tension had to do with political power and control of Nigeria government. By reason of population and political system bequeathed to Nigeria by the British, Northerners controlled not only their regional assembly but also the federal government in Lagos.
Between 1962 and1964 there was continuous anti-northern unrest in different parts of the Southern region. In February 1964, further threats to the federal unity emerged from the ethnic Tiv tribe of the Benue Plateau- who had sought autonomy since independence. The Nigerian federal army rapidly suppressed the insurgency. “A two-week general strike staged in protest at wage levels the same year also reflected the widespread concern at economic disparities in the Nigerian society and the visible signs of corruption in public life”.
National rivalries and ethnic sentiments reflected in the national armed forces led to a military intervention in January 1966. That rebellion resulted in the assassination of federal prime minister and the premiers of the Northern and Western regions. Regional animosities flared, prompting massacres of Igbo-speakers living in the north. The Supreme Military Council was formed and the constitution suspended. Maj-Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, commander-in-chief of the army took control of government on the request of surviving federal ministers. The reins of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa’s government was officially handed over to General Aguiyi Ironsi by the Senate President and the acting President of the republic, Dr. Abyssinia Nwafor Orizu.
The new and the first Nigerian military government came to an abrupt end following a second coup led by Northern military officers in which General Aguiyi Ironsi, an Igbo, was assassinated. General Yakubu Gowon, a Northern officer, emerged the new Nigerian military head of state.
To deal with the issue of the warring tribes and regions, General Gowon proposed a twelve state structure. Among the benefits of this structure was its capacity to engender larger representation for ethnic groups other than the big three (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba).
On May 30 1967 the military governor of the Eastern Region, Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu announced the seccession of the Eastern Region and proclaimed its independence as the’Republic of Biafra’. This proclamation triggered the Nigeria-Biafra civil war which caused estimated military casualties of 1,000,000 (iss.co.za). The new 12 state structure came into effect in April 1968 and a ceasefire agreement between Nigeria and Biafra was reached in January, 1970. Biafra was reintegrated into the community of Nigerian states.
CORRUPTION THE FACELESS ENEMY
Since independence in the 1960, Nigeria has battled integrity, transparency and accountability problems within its public service. For example the announced motive behind the 1966 coup led by Major Chuckwuma Nzogwu was a desire to “rid the country of irresponsible politicians, incompetent and corrupt bureaucrats, restore respectability and accountability to the Nigerian public service” (Mbaku, 1998:p48). Years later and by 1983 a third coup masterminded by Brigadier Sani Abacha and his colleagues claimed they were “compelled to seize power from the President Shagari government to save Nigeria from rampant corruption, ineptitude and profligacy that had characterised both the federal and state governments of the country” (Agbese, 1998). By 2009 and over a period of thirty years, the conservative estimate of the cost of integrity, transparency and accountability quagmire in Nigeria was $380 billion and climbing.
HAUSA, IGBO AND YORUBA ARE NOT ENEMIES.
LET’S SPEAK THE TRUTH TO EACH OTHER,
RIGHT THE WRONGS AND UNITE OUR COUNTRY
It’s possible. Just believe!