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AMALGAMATION OF 1914: Was it a mistake?

By Adisa Adeleye
Often, in a moment of despair, I would like to forget some salient factors in the history of Nigeria.  Many times, the situation of  the `Nigeria Question` would be so overwhelming in my mind that I would forget that I am a Nigerian and would want to leave the country for a while.

A times, I would not want to be reminded of what would happen in 2015 as prophesied by some political pundits in the USA or their oracle consultants in Nigeria.  It is all well that the defeated presidential candidate in the last election, General Mohammadu Buhari has warned the country of the possibility of a political revolution if things remain (electoral processes) unchanged.  The fervent hope is for the rain of a social revolution to fall and not the torrents of a bloody revolution.

As it is often remarked, Nigeria is a very lucky country among those politically contrived nations of the world in the 20th century, and perhaps, would still remain politically stable and economically prosperous during the celebration of one hundred years of the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Provinces.

In 1914, the British imperialist, Lord Lugard effected the union of both the Northern and the Southern parts of the country under the name of Nigeria, presumably coined by his fiancée.

Before the amalgamation, British troops had conquered in 1902, the Sokoto Caliphate founded by a religious Jihadist, Shehu Usman Dan Fodio (1754 – 1814) and had between 1902 and 1906 brought Oyo and Ijebu territories under British Sovereignty.

It is assumed by progressive historians that the amalgamation was to provide good administration and encourage internal trade throughout the country of diverse nations and a large market.  The post amalgamation period witnessed movements of people throughout the country with heavier traffic towards the North.  There was also expanded trade culminating in the movement of goods from south to north and north to south.

Politically and economically, things appeared normal until the introduction of the Legislative Council which brought together representatives from the north and the southern parts of the country.    Except for Lagos and Calabar which had elected representatives, selection by British officials was the vogue in other areas.

It is a pity that it was in Northern Nigeria that the question of the amalgamation of the 1914 was raised in the 1950s.  The late Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was reported in 1952 in a speech in the Northern House of Assembly, Kaduna, that `the Southern people who are swarming into this region daily in large numbers are really intruders.

We don`t want them and they are not welcome here in the North.  Since the amalgamation in 1914, the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people are different in every way including religion, custom, language and aspiration.  The fact that we`re all Africans might have misguided the British Government.  We here in the North, take it that `Nigerian unity` is not for us`.

The McPherson Constitution which brought the different parts of Nigeria into political discourse also portrayed the fragile nature of the political entity of the country.  After the alleged maltreatments of Northern legislators in 1953 on Independence motion by the late Chief Anthony Enahoro of the West, the Sardauna of Sokoto  and the leader of the Northern People`s Congress (NPC) was quoted as saying, `the mistake of 1914 has come to light`.

He elaborated further that, `Lord Lugard and the amalgamation were far from popular among us at that time.  There were agitations in favour of seccessions; we should set up on our own.  We should cease to have any more to do with the Southern people.  We should take our own way`.  Many analysts believe, and justifiably too, that the seed of political instability was planted out of the mindset of the two most important political leaders of the North at that time.

It should be realized that since the 1950s and even after Independence in 1960, the North (taken as one entity) had benefitted immensely from the Amalgamation of 1914 in terms of political power and the share of the national cake   According to a British writer John Pender in his book, `AHMADU BELLO – Sadauna of Sokoto, `the problems facing the NPC government of Tafawa Balewa were many.

In 1961, only 400 out of the 41,000 Federal Civil servants were Northerners (with about 30 in senior posts); only two of the Northerners were in the Department of Customs and Excise; in the Army, there was a large number in the lower ranks but about ten (10) were commissioned officers”.

However, through political sagacity and administrative efficiency, the face of the North is more than visible in every facet of the Nigerian national life today.

From those halcyon days of British political ingenuity of 1914 to the present turbulent period of Boko Haram insurgency in the North,  kidnapping and armed robberies in the South and deepening poverty all over the country, events have changed dramatically leaving vestiges of political bitterness, ethnic terrorism and religious intolerance.

It is amazing how the incompetence of the present leaders could be blamed on events which happened about one hundred years ago.  It is to the present political leadership of the country (under the age of sixty years) to show more interest in the history of economic and political development of the country in order to understand the present predicament of the nation.

In sympathy with those patriotic Nigerians who are clamoring for a change from the present position for a more radical stance, it is necessary to present an over view or a panoramatic scenery of today`s Nigeria.

It is a country of a population of about 160 million people with about 70% of the populace living on less than  1US$ i.e. (N250) per day; it is one of the 20 poorest countries of the world with large scale unemployment and the rate of poverty generally spread throughout the country but highly marked in the North.

Compared with other developing countries, its rate of inflation is over ten percent and its bank lending rate is over twenty percent to the real economy.  Also, it is a country with political instability and economic uncertainty, but with potentials of a great country based on abundant natural and human resources.

Of all premonitions and dark clouds in 2015, I found General T. Y. Danjuma`s warning of `Somalisation` of Nigeria as the most serious.  Somalia operated a unitary government under a military dictatorship. When the leader was overthrown (Siad Barre), the country descended into anarchy and has never recovered till today.

Could Nigeria avoid similar experience by evolving a sensible politics and common sense economics?  Why not negotiate for a genuinely National Government to bring out the most capable Nigerians of all political shades and ideas?

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