ON October 1, 1960, the British Union Jack, being the symbol of Her Imperial Majesty’s domination of Nigeria and her peoples, was lowered at Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos.
It was spontaneously replaced with the Green-White-Green novel Nigerian Flag fascinatingly designed by Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi; a Nigerian student at Norwich Technical College, England. On that momentous occasion, the joy and excitement of Nigerian leaders who had relentlessly fought for the independence of Nigeria from Britain, knew no bounds.
The likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubarkar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Festus Okotie Eboh, Chief Dennis Osadebe, Dr. Francis Akanu Ibiam, Dr. M. I. Okpara, Chief Joseph Tarka, Dr. Jaja Anucha Wachukwu, Chief Dappa Biriye, Chief O. C. Ememe, Dr. K. O. Mbadiwe, Dr. Nwafo Orizu and Dr. J. O. J. Okezie felt it was a battle justifiably fought and meritoriously won.
It may not be out of place to reiterate that the Nigerian state that had just secured political freedom from the British on the said October 1, 1960 was merely an outcome of a coerced amalgamation of multiple heterogeneous ethnic nations by the British colonial government.
The question has often been asked if Britain was driven by altruism or selfishness in her amalgamation of the more than three hundred divergently complex ethnic nations into one political entity in 1914. The answer has remained as constant as the Shakespearian northern star.
As has been narrated severally, the British Government did not set out to conquer and acquire colonies for any other reason other than economic.
Having foreseen the likelihood of an outbreak of the First World War; 1914-1918, due to characteristic threats by the Nazi Germany, the British Government was compelled to devote an unprecedentedly large chunk of her budget to defence, preparatory to the said war which, true to prediction, broke out and lasted for almost five consecutive years.
This development impacted very negatively and immensely on the economic fortunes and viability of the British Home Government. It also affected her colonial policies overseas. Hence the need to cut cost of administration tremendously.
To add salt to injury, the Northern Protectorate, as the defunct Northern Nigeria was known before the amalgamation of 1914, was constantly having deficit in her budget due to her very low pace of socio-economic development.
In order to make up the Northern Protectorate’s budgetary deficit and taking into strategic consideration the anticipated global holocaust that was imminent, British Home Government amalgamated the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914. It is, therefore, evident that self interest rather than liberal consideration was the principal factor that gave rise to the amalgamation of the two Protectorates in 1914.
The obvious implication of this forced union is that the confederating units of the amalgamated Nigeria were not given any iota of opportunity to discuss the frame-work of their co-existence. Even in ordinary simple relationship of marriage between only a man and a woman, the basis for such union is usually, if not always, discussed and principles of co-existence agreed upon before the union is formalized.
History is replete with unmitigated cases of acts of inhumanity that have unjustifiably befallen and consumed many innocent Nigerians since the country obtained her political independence in 1960. These disastrous developments have often resulted from fears consummated in hatred based on differences in ethnicity or religion. Fear of economic domination by one group or the other has never been left out as one of the factors that have continued to shake the very existence of the Nigerian state.
In the pre-independent Western region of Nigeria, the National Council of Nigerian citizens; N.C.N.C., had won majority of seats into the Western House of Assembly on September 24, 1951 and was set to form the government of the region. Under the parliamentary system of government, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was the leader of the Party should have become the leader of government business in the region but this was not to be as anti-Igbo sentiments were vehemently aroused against Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and his N.C.N.C. by the opposing Action Group; A.G. led by a Yoruba tribesman; Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
On the day the government of the western region was to be formed, majority of Yoruba legislators elected on the platform of N.C.N.C. surprisingly and derisively crossed-carpet to Action Group. This left Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s N.C.N.C. an opposition party in the western regional assembly.
This hostile development compelled Igbo leaders to ask Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe to return to his native home of Eastern Region. Since the above incident took place on the floor of Western House of Assembly at Ibadan, there has been no love lost between the Igbo and the Yoruba. Before the return of Zik to the Eastern Region following his humiliation by the Yoruba, the leadership of the Eastern Regional Government had been constituted with Prof. Eyo Ita as Head of Government Business.
The return of Zik eventually gave rise to the painful displacement of Prof. Eyo Ita. This development, as would be expected, did not go down well with the minorities of defunct Eastern region and became the foundation of suspicion and distrust the said minorities would nurse against the Igbo for a very long time.
By Don Ubani