By Douglas Anele
The failure of Dr. Azikiwe and Chief Awolowo to unite against Sir Robertson’s northernisation agenda is regrettable because it not only allowed Britain to get away with odious political shenanigans that unjustly favoured the north, it also laid the foundation for the subsequent entrenchment of mediocre Fulani caliphate colonisation which over the decades has crippled Nigeria.
Before independence in 1960 British officials had displayed with impunity favouritism towards the north. So, it is unrealistic to expect them to hand over power to either Azikiwe or Awolowo both of whom, as I suggested earlier, played into their hands by not joining forces together to thwart Sir Robertson’s intentions.
Remember also that northern delegates to the constitutional conferences held before 1960 had repeatedly used the threat of secession to get more concessions from colonial officials who usually responded as if Nigeria was created by the British for the north.
Clearly, the emergence of Sir Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister meant that Nigeria entered independence on a wrong footing. First, Balewa did not possess the requisite intellectual sophistication, relevant exposure and experience to govern a modern nation-state based on secular constitutional democracy.
Second, his party, the NPC, was an extremely clannish political organisation guided by its motto of “One North, One People,” with no elected member from the south in the House of Representatives.
Third, as I have already indicated, Robertson was more interested in making Balewa Prime Minister than in delivering a free and fair election that might produce Azikiwe or Awolowo instead.
Fourth, southern politicians were at the forefront of the nationalist struggle for independence while their northern counterparts oftentimes delayed the process or acted as spoilers because they knew that the north at that time lacked an efficient modern administrative machinery and educated workforce that can function on its own.
Matters came to a head in 1953 on the floor of the federal House of Representatives when Anthony Enahoro from AG tabled a motion for independence in 1956. The northern majority in the House flatly rejected the date, and substituted it with the more modest and vague goal of attaining independence “when practicable.”
Thus, it was a clear case of rewarding Sardauna and his cohorts for their reluctant approach to independence when the NPC took political control from the departing British, with the NCNC as junior partner in a wobbly coalition whereas the AG under Awolowo formed the Opposition.
An important point that has not received adequate attention from supporters of amalgamation is the virtual impossibility of creating a stable democratic state based on secular constitution in a geopolitical environment where one part is predominantly Muslim and the other hosts a significant population of western-educated Christians.
Modern democratic government and Islamic theocracy based on sharia are like water and palm oil – they cannot mix since their fundamental presuppositions are contradictory.
This point has been explored by Ibn Warraq in his remarkable book, Why I am not a Muslim. As applied to Nigeria, the template set by the arch-jihadist Uthman Dan Fodio even before the founding of Nigeria and reiterated at various times since independence by Ahmadu Bello, Maitama Sule and others is that Northern Muslims must dominate southern Nigeria using any means necessary, including military conquest and Islamisation.
Once this factor is inserted into the analysis of major political events in the country after colonial rule, the error of the amalgamation leaps into prominent relief and the primitive nepotic leadership of northerners that has reached its zenith in the present dispensation becomes intelligible.
Let me put it this way: Islamic theocracy is at odds with secular constitutional democracy. Leading members of the northern intellectual-political-military establishment are devout Muslims who feel deep down that sharia is superior to the constitution and should be the grundnorm for Nigeria.
Therefore, although northerners that have ruled Nigeria made pretensions about constitutional democracy and some of them had indeed supervised the drafting of constitutions to that effect, recognition of sharia in the constitutions and its implementation in northern states is a stark reminder that
the Muslim north is merely playing along for now because the unitarist constitution in place is favourable to it and, in fact, is compatible to sharia in some important respects, especially the excessive powers granted the President and the federal government.
As far back as 1942, northern traditional rulers had insisted that “holding this country together is not possible except by means of the religion of the prophet. If they [southerners] want political unity let them follow our religion.”
Two years later, the then Sultan of Sokoto, Siddiq Abubakar III, proclaimed that “Those southerners who desire a united Nigeria should first embrace Islam as their religion.” Boko Haram, the terrorist wing of the northern establishment, issued a bulletin in December 2011 wherein it reiterated its core mission as follows:
“We want to reemphasise that our main objective is the restoration of the sharia legal system in line with the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. We want the Nigerian constitution abrogated and democracy suspended and a full-fledged Islamic state established.”
Needless to say, President Buhari not only made a case in defence of Boko Haram in 2014 but also boldly supported the spread of sharia nationwide. That Britain ignored the instability and turbulence inherent in the deep-rooted differences between the Muslim north and southern Nigeria with a substantial non-Islamic population and still went ahead with the amalgamation is indicative of the contempt she has for black people.
The collapse of the British contraption which led to the civil war less than six years after independence is the most consequential indictment of the amalgamation. Both the remote and proximate causes of that costly conflict have been competently documented by historians and writers of different stripes and ideological orientations.
The most unfortunate aspect of it all is that, out of stupidity, hatred of the Igbo, and myopic vision northern Nigerian leaders failed to harness the scientific and technological ingenuity showcased by Biafrans during the war. More tellingly, the dominant northern ruling power block and their puppets from the south are still repeating the same mistakes that led to the war.
They are so pachydermatous, corrupt, selfish and wicked that the lessons of the conflict seem to be completely lost on them. Detailing here the deep self-inflicted wounds on “Niger Area” caused by Yakubu Gowon and others since July 29, 1966 would elongate this analysis unnecessarily.
However, they are very glaring in the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari which has failed abysmally in the three cardinal pillars on which he campaigned for the presidency in 2015, namely, rebuilding the economy, enhancing security, and decapitating corruption.
“Niger Area” is poorer and more divided now because of his unprecedented nepotism and mediocrity. I have said it before and I will repeat it again: Buhari governs the country as if she were the Fulani Republic of Nigeria, which is why flotsam and jetsam Fulani in the north and from other West African countries are pouring into the southern forests in large numbers.
Never before in our history have northern Muslims of questionable abilities dominated the topmost positions in the three branches of the federal government, the security system, and most key areas of the economy.
Given the grotesque unitary arrangement in operation especially since 1967, poor leadership at the centre, like a horrible pandemic or cancer, has devastated the entire country.
Consequently, it is time to dismantle the colonial amalgam so that the constituent ethnic nationalities can build their own nations with others that are geographically, historically and culturally connected to them, and may subsequently come together in future to form a confederation of nations.
People with warped and hawkish warmongering outlook think, wrongly, that such a radical reconstitution of Nigeria must necessitate violence. That may be true considering the obduracy of the northern power block and their agbata ekee southern collaborators
benefiting from the skewed system and whose foot-soldiers threaten violence whenever any southern ethnic group demands self-determination. But history, like the vulture, is patient: that which will be will be, in due time, depending on the dialectical interplay of complex historical forces.
Overall, the amalgamation was very beneficial politically and economically for Britain and her puppets from northern Nigeria. But to peoples of the former eastern and western regions especially since 1966 it has been a colossal mistake of historical proportions because belonging to a unified Nigeria has prevented them from harnessing the impressive human and natural resources in their domains for rapid development.
Certainly, it is not mere coincidence that Nigeria witnessed her best period of progress when the east, the west and northern regions were governed as semi-autonomous entities. Think about that.