Sunday Perspectives

July 29, 2020

Was the amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria in 1914 a mistake? (2)

Another crucial point against the amalgamation is the extremely selfish, myopic and immoral reasons British imperialists carried out the exercise. Clearly, the intention or purpose for creating something largely determines the use(s) to which it would be put and the moral weight or importance to be attached to it.

With respect to nation-building, this requirement becomes a categorical imperative because the moral telos or foundation of a nation serves as the beacon of light for clarity of vision in the future and subjective glue that binds together individuals and groups that constitute it.

Given that the British colonial government was motivated by the very self-serving and ignoble obsessive quest for maximum economic exploitation of “Niger area” and administrative convenience, the amalgamation was built on a moral and ideological quicksand. Let us be clear on this point: Britain never intended to create a great Nigerian nation that would be the pride of its citizens and the black race in general.

Whatever benefit Nigerians derived from colonialism eventually was largely incidental, since it was impossible to exploit the colonial amalgam and its peoples without putting something in place to help the process. Therefore, it is not surprising that the task was spearheaded by the utterly despicable bisexual paedophile, Lord Lewis Vernon Harcourt, British Secretary of the Colonies in the early decades of the 20th century.

In 1913, Lord Harcourt claimed that: “We have released northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the treasury. The promising and well-conducted youth is now on an allowance on his own and is about to effect an alliance with a southern lady of means. I have issued the special license and Sir Frederick Lugard will perform the ceremony. May the union be fruitful and the couple constant.”

Lugard who actually carried out the amalgamation not only thoroughly distrusted the western-educated southerners; he expressed divergent views about the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba, and the Igbo. In the handover notes he wrote on September 25, 1918 to his colleague, Walter H. Lang, he stated hyperbolically, among other things,  that “The Hausa-Fulani has no ideals, no ambitions save such as is sensual in character.

He is a fatalist, spendthrift and a gambler. He is gravely immoral and is so seriously diseased that he is a menace to any community to which he seeks to attach himself. …the people of Lagos and indeed the westerners are the lowest, the most seditious and disloyal, the most purely prompted by self-seeking money motives of any people I have met. [The Igbo of astern Nigeria] are fiercely rebellious with no regard for authority.

Though industrious and religious, in deference to the objectives of her majesty and the crown, they are highly dangerous to be trusted with power.” Now, if Lord Lugard really meant what he said about the divergent characteristics of the three major ethnic nationalities in “Niger area” why did he bring them together to form one country?

As a corollary, assuming that the last British Governor-General, Sir James Robertson, was acquainted with Lugard’s views and probably had first-hand knowledge about them, why did he conspire to hand over power to the “gravely immoral and seriously diseased” Fulani? Answers to these question will emerge as we continue our analysis.

The point to note at this juncture is that Lord Harcourt’s amalgamation plan envisaged a long-lasting marriage between northern Nigeria (the husband) and southern Nigeria (wife). For Lugard, the main task was to unite the administrative machinery of the colonial contraption, not peoples, and to incorporate southern Nigeria into the north.

Hence, aside from efficient economic exploitation especially of southern Nigeria, British colonial administrators created “Niger area” in such a manner that the south which provides most of the essential economic resources for sustaining the union would be subordinate to the north in perpetuity. One hundred and six years after, the situation has remained relatively unchanged as the British envisioned it.

Not only did Britain create Nigeria so that the north would dominate the south despite the gaping educational and economic backwardness of the former, British officials introduced manipulation of census figures and elections into the country by cooking up figures in the 1953 census and 1959 elections to favour the north.

It is instructive about the inner workings of imperialist mentality that Britain which ranks amongst the most evil colonial power in the world is now grandstanding about good governance and free and fair elections when her nationals perpetrated some of the most atrocious political corruption in British colonies across the world.

READ ALSO: Was the amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria in 1914 a mistake? (1)

For example, in the 1959 general elections the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) scored 2,594,577 votes, which is the highest representing 34% of total votes cast; Action Group (AG) came second with 1,992,364 votes or 26.1%, whereas the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) polled 1,922,179 which is 26.1% of the lawful votes.

But in the absurd political arithmetic implemented by Sir James Robertson and his co-conspirators, the NPC coalition was allotted 148 seats in the federal parliament, whereas NCNC and AG got 89 and 75 seats respectively.

Naturally, Chief Awolowo and Dr. Azikiwe in particular have been criticised for not joining forces to prevent Balewa from becoming the first Prime Minister. Azikiwe, according to some accounts, rejected Awolowo’s offer of a coalition arrangement between NCNC and the AG that would have made Azikiwe Prime Minister while Awolowo takes up the post of finance minister.

There is even a story in Uchenna Nwankwo’s book entitled Zik, Ndigbo and their Southern Neighbours according to which different delegations from AG met separately with NCNC and NPC simultaneously and that was why Azikiwe, thinking that AG was acting like a  double-headed snake, decided to align with the NPC to form what Max Siollun called “a shaky coalition.”

These accounts may contain grains of truth. However, even if NCNC and AG had wanted to work together, machiavellian British officials had already decided to hand over power to their northern friends (or puppets) at independence. More specifically, according to Chinweizu in his little book, Caliphate Colonialism: The Taproot of the Trouble with Nigeria, Sir Robertson had already “invited Balewa to form the government even before the rigged results were fully in.”

In his memoir, Robertson justified his bizarre decision by claiming that he had prepared Balewa for the leadership of Nigeria in the late 1950s, having shared with the latter sensitive security issues about British interests in the country, and before independence proper had unofficially and unconstitutionally assigned to Balewa defence, police, and foreign affairs portfolios.

Again, Robertson was keen to placate the north whose leaders led by Ahmadu Bello always threatened to secede anytime they wanted concession from the British especially during pre-independence constitutional conferences up to 1966.

It appears that Britain was so committed to pleasing the Fulani caliphate to the extent that high-ranking colonial officials were willing to perpetrate the worst kind of injustice against the south to sustain the colonial amalgam they created.

Further evidence of British determination to let northerners dominate the rest of Nigeria politically come what may can be distilled from the confessions of Harold Smith, a top British colonial officer, in an interview thirteen years ago by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Smith detailed how the British colonial administration did everything possible, including blackmailing Dr. Azikiwe, to make sure he backed Balewa’s NPC instead of the better option represented by Chief Awolowo and his Action Group party. From the interview it is clear Britain never really wanted the most qualified Nigerians from the south to lead the country.

That was why Robertson deliberately handed over to a devout Muslim who, despite his humble disposition, lacked the intellectual skills and competence to govern a new country. Having said that, Azikiwe and Awolowo should have set aside their personal animosity and challenged the choice of Prime Minister already made by the departing Governor-General. Their failure to do so ranks as one of the most consequential political blunders by these two great Nigerians.

To be continued…