By our Correspondent.
“Nigerian Lesson” – Published in The Times (London), July 15th, 1999; by Sir Peter Smithers.
“Sir, during the negotiations for the Independence of Nigeria, the view of the Secretary of State at that time, with which I agreed, was that in Nigeria, we should attempt to put together a large and powerful State with ample material resources, which would play a leading part in the affairs of the continent and of the world. This was but it involved forcing several different ethnic and cultural groups into a single political structure.
The negotiations were complex and very difficult. The chief problem, as I remember relating, significantly, to the control of the Police and the Military. In the retrospect of 40 years, it is clear that this was a grave mistake, which has cost many lives and will probably continue to do so. It would have been better to establish several smaller states in a free-trade area. In exculpation, it must be said that we did not then have the examples of the collapse of Yugoslavia and of the Soviet Union before our eyes.
It should now be clear for all but the willfully blind to see that it is extremely dangerous to force diverse racial and social entities into a single, rigid political structure such as that which is being built upon the foundation of the Maastricht Treaty. Recently, history suggests that it would be best to complete the development of the Common Market and to call a halt to political integration in Europe.”
I am, Sir, your obedient servant (Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State and the Secretary of State in the Colonial Office, 1952-59).
The Willing Commission of 30th July, 1958, did establish the facts about the fears of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, and did not propose creation of States as means of allaying those fears – whether well or ill-founded. The Mid-West Region, Niger Delta, Middle-Belt Region, Benin Province, Calabar/Ogoja Provinces were not created. I quote Part VI Conclusions And Recommendations, Chapter 14 Section1, General Consideration of the Willing Commission, thus:
“In each of the three regions of Nigeria, we found either a minority or a group of minorities, who described fears and grievances, which they felt would become more intense when the present restraints were removed and who suggested as a remedy a separate state or states.
We were instructed, in the second clause of our terms of reference, to recommend safeguards in the constitution.” Henry Willing, Chairman; Gordon Hadow, member; Philip Mason, Member; and J.B. Shearer, a Member.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo said this about a country like Nigeria: “If a country is unilingual or bilingual or multilingual, and also consists of communities, which through belonging to the same nation of linguistic group, have, over a period of years, developed some important cultural divergences as well as autonomous geographical separateness, the constitution must be organized on the dual basis of language and geographical separateness. Examples are: USA, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Indonesia, Austria, the two Germanies and Switzerland.”
Lord Lugard’s policy was anti-Middle-Belters and other ethnic nationalities of Nigeria in favour of his friends, the Hausa/Fulani, in the defunct Northern Nigeria. In 1922 edition of his book – ‘Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa,’ he said … “but in proportion as we consider them an alien race (meaning, Fulanis), we are denying self-government to the people over whom they rule and supporting an alien caste …”
Records show that the Fulani were tyrannical, oppressive and extortionate. Lugard went on, “Wherever a Fulani Army had been, it would leave a depopulated desert. Greed was one of their characteristics, and tax after tax was enforced upon the people. Bribery, corruption, and extortion marked their administration.
Multiplication of harems and growth of a large class of idle princes led to nepotism to meet the necessities of the rulers and their idle sons and relatives.” In the Years of Lugard’s Authority – 1898-1945 – Margery Perham in her ‘Lugard’s Biography’ expressed surprise as to what charmed Lugard for been so enamoured of the Fulani of defunct Northern Nigeria. His policy was a deliberate attempt to subject all Nigerian ethnic nationalities backed by the British Government to ensure that, their friends, the Fulanis, inherited the mantle of authority and rule an Independent Nigeria.
Lord Lugard’s records of administration showed very clearly that he had a natural hate for people of the Middle-Belt indigenous race just as much as he hated other indigenous ethnic nationality groups in the southern part of the country. He appeared to have trusted the Hausa/Fulani more. Margery Perham ably put it in this way … “Lugard, who did not hesitate to suggest in his report that Northern Nigeria was largely his own creation and one which he looked upon as very good, had some better reasons than this to support his partiality.”
Many Nigerian historians believed that Lord Lugard was suffering from inferiority complex. He only attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, in England. During his time in the country, there were already more educated professionals from the Yoruba, Igbo, Kalabari/Ijaw ethnic nationalities and many others, to mention just a few. For example, Chief Lolo Briggs and others in Niger Delta were professionals trained in some British best universities. They were fighting and agitating for freedom and against their marginalization and oppressions of their people in Niger Delta Region.
Nathaniel King qualified as a Doctor in 1875 in Edinburgh University. In 1821, William Henry Savage, a Yoruba, qualified as a Lawyer. Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a Yoruba, was consecrated an African Bishop in 1864; Professor K. Onwuka Dike, Igbo; Herbert Macaulay, a Yoruba, qualified as an Engineer in England in 1893. Between 1893 and 1903, these elites formed parts of the movements agitating for self-determination. The agitations are still continuing up till today.
The British planted the policy of disunity in Nigeria from the beginning of their administration up to, and including the time they left the scene. The British are, therefore, the root of our problems in Nigeria today, and they will continue to be slaves to their conscience.
So, the demand by Middle-Belters is for the government to implement the Recommendations of the Report of 2014 National Conference, and then the country should return to Parliamentary System of Government that the British left us with. The “Presidential” system that we found ourselves in is too expensive and very corrupt. It is a complete waste of financial and human resources!
Because of the company the President keeps, he has been propelled into wrong direction to the extent that he is officially accessible to only a handful of public and private advisers, if any; and so he runs the country through a cabal stationed in the Villa, resulting to complete alienation of the people, who elected him into office.
Today, we are seeing more terrorists, both local and foreign, hoodlums, kidnapping, raping and killing innocent citizens. Middle-Belters have everything it takes for them to be relevant in the scheme of affairs of the country but have been continuously suppressed, sidelined and victimized. The administration has since set plans for ethnic-cleansing of ethnic nationalities of the Middle-Belt Region.
It is a hard fact and bitter truth that, no re-structuring of the country will be correct without recognizing the Middle-Belt Region. Restructuring Nigeria into the present six geo-political zones is unconstitutional act as they stand today. It only typifies the divide-and-rule tactics of the Hausa/Fulani. Many agitations for self-determination by Nigerian ethnic nationalities are as a result of primitive nepotism, political marginalization and segregations being carried out by this clueless administration and its organs.
The implementation of the Recommendation of the National Conference Report of 2014 may help to ease the agitations or, better still, the holding of Conference of Nigerian Ethnic Nationalities will appear to be a lasting peace in the country. Sustainable peace is obtained only when justice, equality of opportunities and fairness to all without exception are maintained. Our experience has shown that, people can never be united by force, but by mutual interest and co-operation.