•Late Sage, AWO Reveals Details In His Book
In his lifetime, the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo wrote so many books, which revealed a lot about how the British government created deliberate problems for Nigeria. One of those books is The People’s Republic. Others include Path To Nigerian Freedom (1947), Awo: The Autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1966) and Thoughts on Nigeria Constitution (1966).
It was in one of the books that Awo revealed how the activities of the British and the then Colonial Administrator, Lord Lugard created serious problems for Nigeria by their style of governance.
According to Chief Awolowo, in his book, The People’s Republic, “The British were in power in Nigeria for about 61 years. For 47 out of the 61 years, they divided the North from the South so thoroughly and effectively that the 2 were divergently and almost irreconcilably orientated: the one looking intently to the Middle East and its illustrious past, and the other to the West and a glorious future. All the efforts at common orientation and concerted nationalism were made by Southern Nigerian nationalists in the face of manifold discouraging odds. The efforts succeeded to the extent that today there is a forceful crop of nationalists in the North (comparatively small in number) who share identical political views with the progressive elements in the South.
“It is incontestable that the British not only made Nigeria, but also handed it to us whole and united on their surrender of power.”
“But the united Nigeria, which they handed to us, had in it the forces British-made forces they were-of its own disintegration.
It is up to contemporary Nigerian leaders to neutralize these forces, preserve the Nigerian inheritance, and make all our people free, forward-looking, and prosperous. It will be our endeavour in the succeeding chapters of this book to demonstrate that this can be done, and indicate how it can be done.”
“The heritage which the British left behind, on their transfer of power to Nigerians, is paradexical. It is a good and an evil heritage.”
“On their departure, the plants of public order were in the process of being choked by the weeds of insensate intolerance; the forces of progress were deliberately subordinated to the dead-weight of decadent and unsophisticated reaction; native tyranny was enthroned as the protector of human freedoms; and the country, though politically emancipated, was firmly held in leash by foreign economic interests.”
“Leaving their motives aside, the good that the British did in Nigeria, in material terms, is considerable and cannot be obliterated.”
They brought Peace, Order, Good government, and flourishing Commerce to a territory bedevilled and torn asunder by petty strifes and senseless wars. The credit belongs absolutely to them that Nigeria, as we know it today, was their exclusive and unaided creation. In other words, without British rule, there would have been no Nigeria.” ‘
“On the other hand, it can be argued, with great cogency, that if the British had not come, the peoples of Nigeria, under different indigenous governments, could have made more rapid progress, materially, than they have done under British rule. They would, in any case, have been spared the excessive barbarity attendant on overseas slave-trade and slavery. However, such an exercise as this is not only bound to be purely speculative, but it is also one on which conflicting opinions can be urged with equal plausibility.”
“Let us, therefore, admit without qualification that the British regime gave us Nigeria and was beneficial to Nigerians.
But let us also admit, in all honesty, that British rule was immeasurably baneful to Nigeria and Nigerians. There are 4 important grounds for making this assertion: (1) The closure of the North to Christian missionary influences (2) The fossilization of the political institutions in the North under the aegis of Indirect Rule. (3) The treatment of the North and the South as two distinct
political and administrative units for all practical purposes, and inflexible maintenance of disparate standards in them.
(4) British maneeuvres immediately before and in 1959 to place the control of the Federal Government in Northern hands, order thereby, according to them, to ensure the unity and stability of the country after independence.
Geographically, the North was not as easily penetrable to Western influence as the South. The Arab influence to which it was exposed was mainly commercial and religious and only incidentally educational. Even the type of education acquired under this influence, was purely religious, not functional. The latter kind of education, however, existed in different parts of the South for some 15 years before the cession of Lagos, and for more than half-a-century before British rule was firmly established in Nigeria in 1900. This was made possible because many parts of the South were comparatively easily accessible to Christian missionaries who, at that stage, were responsible for the education of Southerners.
The result, however, is that while, at the commencement of British rule, the South could boast of a number of persons educated in the Western sense, among whom were highly qualified professionals, the North was not at all in a position to make a similar boast.
This initial handicap was aggravated by the policy of the British Government forbidding Christian missionaries to operate in the North. This policy was laid down by Lugard and was pursued, with unreasoning fervour and obstinacy, by himself and his successors in office.
The effect of the initial handicap and of Lugard’s pernicious policy was frightful. In 1935, the North (population 11 millions) had 37,000 “Koran Schools’ where about 200,000 pupils weer ‘taught to recite passages from the Koran and, in some cases, a little reading and writing of Arabic… in addition, ‘there were 134 Native Administration Elementary Schools with 6,060 pupils. The number of scholars in 253 Mission Schoos… had an enrolment of 869’.
‘In the Southern Provinces (population 8 millions) the number of children in all Elementary classes is 174,915. The number in all classes of Middle Schools is 13,000.
The comparative figures for 1960, the year of Nigeria’s independence, were equally unedifying. The North (population 17 millions) had 2,340 Primary Schools with 284,848 pupils in them, and 41 Secondary Schools with 6,334 pupils. In the South (population 13.6 millions) there were 13,103 Primary Schools with 2,629,760 pupils, and 331 Secondary Grammar Schools with 55,225 pupils. Lagos alone with only a population of 272,000 had 5,714 pupils in Secondary Schools in the North.
At present, the position of the North in these matters has improved a little, but remains comparatively unsatisfactory. There are about 550,000 Northern children in Primary Schools and about 18,000 in Secondary Schools, as against 2.7 millions and 143,000 in the South, respectively.
This psychological effect of all this on Northern minds has been complex, baffling, and dangerous. In thier dealings with their fellow-citizens from the South, they sometimes evince feelings of inferiority or superiority, all depending on particular individuals and circumstances. They regard Western education with contempt and as only a workman’s indispensable tool. But they betray an inexplicable histility and resentment towards Southerners for being too far ahead of them in Western education.
Since 1947 when the voices of Northern spokesmen were first heard in the affairs of Nigeria, they have persistently demanded, either by word or by conduct, that the South should be halted in its progress until the North is able to catch it up. On occasions, some ambitious Southern politicians have also lent support to this manifestly perverse and exceedingly harmful suggestion.
By 1830, the Fulani conquest of the North, which began around 1804, was complete. But the lofty religious ideals which inspired the Jihad had suffered serious corrosion. The Fulani Rulers, who had imposed themselves on the people after the conquest, had become more corrupt, more oppressive, more extortionate, and more tyrannical than the indigenous rulers whom they had supplanted and replaced. In particular, their slave-raids were conducted on a more inhuman and bloody scale, and were only stamped out by the armed forces of the new imperial power under Lugard.
Those of the Fulani Rulers who pledged their loyalty to the British were retained on their thrones, whilst those who did not were forcibly deposed and replaced by other amenable Fulanis.
In other words, one of the-things which the advent of the British did to Nigeria was to entrench another alien rule in the North.
Historically, the Moslem Fulanis had a long record of erudition and administrative competence. They had occupied the posts of professional administrators under many native rulers in Guinea, Senegal, and Hausa territories. Consequently, the British did not bother themselves about the legality of Fulani rule in the North. The immediate objective was to maintain Law and Order, and have an effective government. For these purposes, and having regard to all the prevailing circumstances which we have previously noted, no better administrative machines or tools than the experienced and fanatical Fulani Rulers could be conceived or contrived. Accordingly, all the Fulani Emirs were regarded as the de facto Rulers of the North, and subsequently recognized as the de jure Paramount Chiefs or Traditional Rulers of their respective territories.
Under the ‘Indirect Rule’ system, these Paramount Chiefs were to administer the affairs of their respective domains, subject only to the guidance of the Resident. In the words of Lugard himself, ‘the attitude of the Resident is that of a watchful adviser not of an interfering ruler .. .’.
In so doing, the British gave their authoritative and unassailable backing, and a new lease of life, to a subordinate alien rule which, within a century of calculated misrule, had degenerated into an unstable and tottering despotism. The British had, it is true, removed the more revolting edges and asperities of the Fulani rule, such as slave-raids, slavery, extortions, execution for minor offences sometimes without proper trial, etc. But they had allowed the Fulani despot to have absolute sway as before, and to reign under more secure and more affluent auspices. From the very start, that is in 1900, the Sultan of Sokoto, the Shehu of Bornu, and the Emir of Kano were each placed on a fixed salary of £3,000 for the Sultan and of £1,500 for each of the other two. All the other Emirs in the North were also placed on fixed salaries and allowances, which, though smaller, were equally extravagant.
Having regard to the present general standard of living among the masses of the people, these salaries and allowances are, to the least, indefensible even today. They were much more so in 1900; and if the full facts had been publicly known in the South at time, the educated Nigerian nationalists of Southern origin we have kicked up a mighty row. The British knew this, and they therefore saw to it that the orth was hermetically sealed to South Nigerian nationalists. Nigerian lawyers, who were the champion the rule of law in those days, had no locus standi in the courts operating in the North. They therefore had no incentive to travel the long distance to an unknown and reputedly hostile territory.
Other educated self-employed Southerners were discouraged from visiting the North. No Nigeria, however highly placed, was allowed to travel in a compartment higher than 3rd Class on the railways. In the early twenties, a Barrister, by name Kolawole Doherty, who made a courageous attempt to visit the North, apart from not being permitted to travel in the train class of his choice, was beaten up severely at Zaria Railway Station, and was obliged to return to Lagos from that station in most humiliating circumstances, without reaching his destination, Kano. Although strong representations were made to the Government in Lagos, the onlty reply received was: ‘the matter is being investigated’. And that was the end of the matter.
As a result, the nefarious acts of the Native Authorities, many of which survive to the present day, went unchallenged either in the courts of law, or on the pages of the few but pungent journals which were then in circulation in Lagos and some of the Southern towns.
We have drawn attention to the educational effects of the exclusion of Christian missionaries from the North. This policy also has adverse political effects. As a result of it, the North was cut off, for more than 40 years, from the mainstream of progressive political thinking in the South; the Indirect Rule system in the north became a stunted and hidebound organism; the Northern Traditional Rulers were unable to benefit from the cross-fertilization of modern ideas to which their counterparts in the South were-it turned out fortunately-exposed; and the feudalist political institution which the British, at their coming, found in the North, became a palpable fossil, incapable of growth or new orientation.
The Northern leaders who made their debut on the Nigerian political scenes in 1947, and continued to play different and decisive roles until the demise of the First Republic, were all products and profound admirers of the North’s fossilized political institution.
There was always in them a curious mixture of arrogance and self-distrust. It was with difficulty that they were persuaded to support the introduction of a ministerial form of Government under the Macpherson Constitution. Their reason was that they did not consider themselves sufficiently educated in the Western sense to operate such a system. At the same time they bemoaned the fact that it was the British who halted the victorious march of their ancestors to the sea, and expressed the hope that what their ancestors failed to achieve by force of arms would be achieved by them by political means.
All along the line, these Northern leaders resisted either openly, or by subtlety (in which, like their ancestors, they were past masters), every progressive or radical innovation. Instead, they sought to compel or promote the adoption of their own political system in other parts of the country, through the agency of some politicians of Southern origin. Because of their control of the Federal Government, and because of the tremendous power and influence which they wielded thereby, they were able to attract a large number of opportunist politicians of Southern origin, and almost succeeded in their designs. Even Northerners with progressive and radical ideas were brutally persecuted and suppressed. Many of them were prosecuted and imprisoned: their real and only offence being that they held contrary and divergent political views.
The strains and stresses as well as the deep suspicions and bitter resentment which the attitude of the Northern leaders generated and aroused have, in recent times, brought untold sufferings on Nigerians, and gravely harmed the country’s progress on all fronts.
As a result, the majority of Southern Nigerians, together with a fair number of Northern Nigerians with progressive ideas, have been irresistibly impelled by the logic of events to take the resolute stand that the proper place for a fossil is a museum. On the other hand, the majority of educated Northern elites hold steadfastly to the view, inculcated in them by the British, that, given sufficient time and nurture, even dead bones can live. This profound conflict of ideas is aggravated by the fact that while the South is terribly in earnest and in a hurry about economic and social progress, the North prefers the more leisurely pace of its illustrious ancestors. It is clear therefore, that only a mental and spiritual revolution on the art of the North can resolve this conflict amicably. We have no doubt that such a revolution will come. When, how, and under what circumstances we are unable to predict.
In spite of the amalgamation of 1914 to which history has done
so much deserving homage, the Northern and Southern Regions of Nigeria were, for upwards of 47 years, treated as two separate and distinct legislative, executive and administrative entities.
From 1 January 1900 to the introduction of the Richards Constitution in 1947, the Governor alone made laws for the North, whilst his officials there supervised their execution and administration. In this connection, the only visible constitutional link between the North and the South was the person of the Governor and the fact that he had his abode in Lagos.
Personal contact and communication between the Emirs and their children and relations on the one hand, and educated Southerners on the other, was rigidly controlled by British officials in the North. No educated Southerner, especially if he was known to have political views or to be an ‘agitator’ was allowed to pay a visit to or have conversation or communication with an Emir and members of his family, except in the presence of the Resident or one of his District Officers. All Civil Servants of Southern origin who worked in the North were subjected to the same disability as the ‘agitators’.
A visit to any part of the South by any educated ortherner was strictly forbidden, unless it took place under the close guidance and supervision of a British Administrative Officer from the North. The British Administrative Officers posted to the South were not even trusted for this purpose.
Until the late fortie , it was a grave risk for a Northerner to express any view critical of British rule in Nigeria. The first Northerner to do so, to our knowledge, was the headmaster of a ative Authority school in the North. He lost his job within a week of his articulation. A long period of ruthless persecution followed, and he was obliged to leave his home for Lagos, where he was employed for sometime in the Secretariat of the Nigerian Youth Movement.
The employment of Southerners in the Civil Service of the North was on sufferance and a necessity. As soon as educated Northerners emerged, they were appointed to posts for which a Southerner with identical qualifications would not have been considered suitable.
Qualifications for entry into and for promotion in the army and the police force were lower for ortherners than for Southerners.
This policy led to many anomalies. The educated Northerners believed that they were a privileged class, with an easy royal road to posts in the Civil Service reserved for igerians. By the same token, they tended to look down upon their fellow Civil Servants from the South as under-privileged. At the same time, the latter became resentful and unduly depressed in the face of the unwarranted discrimination to which they were unjustly subjected. They were estranged from their Northern colleagues, and a mighty barrier of distrust began to grow between the two groups. In consequence of the lowering of standards in favour of ortherners and its attendant evils, there was a general and permanent loss of executive and administrative efficiency such as was unknown in Southern administrations.
A measure of the deep-rootedness and inflexibility of this injurious policy, which began under the British, is its relentless continuance by Northern leaders to the present day. It reached its high-water mark in the notorious Northernization policy under which, in making appointments to the Northern Civil Service, a foreigner with lesser qualifications was preferred to a Southern Nigerian.
Under a tragic pretext, this discriminatory policy has now assumed new proportions in a discordant crescendo. The seeds of Northern isolationism and disparate standards, which were sown by the British are now bearing bumper fruits.
Some influential elements in the North adamantly persist in the unwise pursuit of the second best. And there are many’ people in the country who cannot help wondering whether the North will ever succeed in shaking itself free from this abominable, disrupting, and divisive British heritage.
The British officials in Nigeria, reflecting the yearnings of their masters at home, did not hide their views that unity and stability in Nigeria after independence depended on the control of the country’s Federal Government by Northern leaders. Their argument was briefly as follows.
The North constituted more than half of the entire country-both in population and size. It is conservative in outlook, and its people, though less educated in the Western sense than Southerners, are more temperate and moderate in their political views and activities. Because of the well-known suspicion on the part of ortherners towards Southerners, the former would certainly not feel happy under the leadership of the latter. Furthermore, because of long-standing bitter political rivalry, an Eastern leadership was not likely to be acceptable to Westerners, and vice versa. On the other hand, because of their non-participation in such rivalry in the past, a Northern leadership was sure to be acceptable to the two Southern opposing blocs.
The British then proceeded, with their traditional skill, to back their views with actions. They used their decisive position in the country’s pre-independence Constitutional Coriference to ensure. The swift action of the British in calling upon the Northern party to form a new administration, thereby forestalling a coalition agreement between the other political parties, each of which was led by a Southern politician of the ‘agitator’ type, was explicable only on the ground that they (the British) were determined to hand over power in 1960 to a Northern political leader.