Wednesday, June 9, 2010

NIGERIA AT 50; A TEDIOUS ROAD TO DEMOCRACY – NIGERIA’S SAGA

The political architectonic design created by the British under Lord Fredrick Lugard as Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria , a mere geographic expression in 1914 is still in the struggle to build a national united country after 50 years of the Independence obtained in October 1, 1960.
The journey to nationhood is a long one actually starting about 1887 as various Emirates, Obalands, Kingships, empires, were merged till 1900 when they became the Southern and the Northern Protectorates respectively.
Lord Lugard established the system of Indirect Rule by which local instrument of traditional rulers were converted into colonial agency through which the British, in the person of the Governor resident in the Colony, ruled in the name of the British Majesty.
With the merging of the powerful Sokoto based Empire to the Northern Protectorate in 1903 and the commercial Colony of Lagos to the Southern Protectorate in 1906, the foundation of the present Nigeria had been laid.
The success of Governor Lord Lugard prompted the merger of the two Protectorates which was embarked upon for budgetary and administrative convenience.
Lord Lugard’s administration was paternalistic in nature and it was not until 1922 that Governor Clifford gave succor to the yearning of the people for participation in the governance of their affairs by establishing a legislative council of elected indigenes into the political system in Lagos.
The Council consisted of 30 official members, 15 unofficial members appointed by the colonial government with 3 unofficial members representing the municipal areas of Lagos and Calabar. It included a limited number of elected members and African members selected to represent the interest of those parts of the colony not represented by elected members. The membership of this Council was however limited to males who were British subjects or natives of the Protectorate with 12 months residential qualification with an income of not less than 100 pounds a year. With the first election held in September 1923, the Council was inaugurated in October. The Clifford Constitution introduced elective principle and stimulus to the formation of a political party – the National Nigerian Democratic Party (NNDP) led by Herbert Macaulay in 1923, a party that dominated the 3 elective seats in Lagos.
The activities of the NNDP for many years were limited to Lagos as the activities of the party were geared towards filling up the seats of the Legislative Council. The need for an enlarged politicization nation wide gave birth to the formation of the Lagos Youth Movement for the purpose of sensitizing the public to embark on the political activities that would demand for more participatory functions for the indigenes in the governance of their territory in 1934 .The champions of this formation were H. O. Davies, Dr. J.C. Vaughan, Dr. Kofo Abayomi, Ernest Ikoli, Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo. In 1939 it transformed into the Nigerian Youth Movement.
The NNDP was perceived by its critics as not aggressive enough since Herbert Macaulay only criticized isolated measures rather than the totality of colonial regime. His call for a Nigerian independence within a British Commonwealth was not attractive to the new nationalist. The National Youth Movement (NYM) then challenged Herbert Macaulay’s NNDP electorally and won the three seats in Lagos in 1938.
The British did not look kindly to the N YM which it dismissed as a Southern Movement despite the inclusion of prominent Northerners among their activists and thereby resulting into disaffection of the northern Emirs.
But the National Youth Movement was to fall prey to its own internal strife on the issue of leadership tussle between Prince Akinsanya who later became an Oba, the Odemo of Ishara and Ernest Okoli .Chief Obafemi Awolowo on principle supported the candidature of Ernest Ikoli as President on the death of the President as the constitution of the movement stipulated since Ikoli was the Vice President. But Dr. Azikiwe supported Prince Akinsanya and accused Chief Awolowo of tribalism for supporting Ikoli who is not a Yoruba man against his own Remo kin for which Chief Azikiwe withdrew from the movement leading to the withdrawal of all Ibo members.
By 1939, the Southern provinces were divided into two territories called the Western and Eastern provinces respectively as the North stood firmly united, a factor that was to give the Northern Protectorate the sense of oneness against the split south.
With the spread of nationalist consciousness, the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon was formed with Engineer Herbert Macaulay as leader to tap the national flavor of nationalism in the territory in 1944.
By 1946 Governor Arthur Richards promulgated a constitution with a Central Legislative Council headed by a President. The council was composed by 16 officials and 18 unofficial members and the unofficial members were to be elected by the Regional Legislatures which was merely a deliberative assembly that would not legislate but would merely make recommendations to be considered by the Central Legislative Council.
As the Second World War was taking its toil, the nationalists find reasons to demand for higher participation and the need for self rule as their citizens went to war in foreign countries.
This brought about the period of diarchy by which the colonial power now accommodated the participation of the indigenes in the governance of their land resulting into the collapse of the Arthur Richard’s constitution yielding place to Governor Macpherson’s constitution in 1951. The Ibadan Conference that preceded this development considered the issues of federalism vis-à-vis confederalism. Would the new nation be a loose centre with strong regions or otherwise?
The 1951 Macpherson constitution was a compromise between confederalism and unitarism giving birth to federalism as advocate by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a middle way between Ahmadu Bello’s confederalist stance and Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Unitarianism. The fact that made this reporter to suggest to Chief Awolowo in a documentary ‘The Man Awo ’in 1979 that he was the father of Nigerian federalism and he humbly agreed.
But agreeing on federalism was not an easy compromise as the leaders were not in agreement as to when to get independence for the nation. To compound the issue, the new Constitution resulted into the ethnicization of the political parties that aspired to capture power at the regional level. The NCNC now led BY Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe after the death of Engineer Macaulay tilted towards Ibo domination, the Action Group led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, predominantly Yoruba , the NPC could not even disguise its garment as Northern Peoples Congress .And as if to ignite a petroleum socked mattress with fire, Chief Anthony Enahoro of the Action Group proposed a private bill to seek for independence for Nigeria in 1956 in a parliament where the number of seats allocated to the North was being challenged as inflated and over representative of the North by both the East and the West, characteristically ,the Action Group and the NCNC. But the NCNC and the Action Group were not the best of friends. They had their differences in the position of Lagos. The Action Group wanted Lagos to be part of the Western Region but the NCNC would not have that. The new constitution made Lagos a separate entity. Gbegegbe Leko wa. Eko osi nkoro.
Enahoro’s motion was volatile, precipitating the Kano riot between the Action Group in 1953 over the difference on the space of colonization as the AG insisted on independence sooner than the NPC wished. The constitutional crisis precipitated by these events prompted the urgent need to redraw the constitution which Governor Lyttleton took seriously. In a London Conference prior to the Lyttleton Constitution, the Action Group disagreed again on the position of Lagos as the NPC and NCNC supported the idea of a separate Lagos Community and so, the constitution established Lagos as a federal territory. The Constitution of 1954 gave Nigeria a federal system with a strong centre as any region that wished was offered self government by 1956. I t gave Cameroun regional status by which Northern Cameroun remained with continued association with Northern Region while the Eastern Cameroun was separated from the East as a quasi -federal territory. Most importantly, it laid down the basic pattern for a self governing institution.
And yet the Littleton Constitution was very defective as there was no provision for the position of a Prime Minister in the Central to provide the much needed leadership without which the government would drift. Even the so called legislative functions ostentatiously granted the Council could be undermined by the power to legislate in the interest of good government granted to the Governor General at the Central and the Governor in the Region .But the constitution provided virtually quasi -legislative forum and executive experimentation to the nationalists to learn the rope and it also provided dignified judicial system culminating into the creation of the Supreme Court.
The Littleton Constitution led to a road map for Nigerian independence as it was only slightly amended to give independence to Nigeria in October 1, 1960.
But Nigeria could not manage the fruit of her independence as the government succumbed to a military rule on January 15 leading to the death of his first Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Premier of the West, Chief SLA Akintola and Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the Northern Region and some prominent Nigerians including the Minister of Finance, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh.
In 1959 an election was held for the control of the legislature and thereby the government as Nigeria was goaled towards a parliamentary democracy.
The election justified the fear and the criticism of the Action Group and the NCNC that the North was over represented in Parliament in the Littleton Constitution as the NCNC/NEPU Alliance with its base in the South East won 73 seats with its 2,595,577 votes whereas NPC won 142 seats with its 1,992,178 votes. The Action Group/UMBC Alliance with its base in the South West won 73 seats with 1,922,364 votes. The NEPU was a minority party from the North (Kano) led by Alhaji Aminu Kano while the UMBC was another minority party from the Northern Middle Belt by Mr. Joseph Tarka.
Ironically the NPC and the NCNC formed a government headed by Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister with the NCNC/NEPU with higher plurality votes treated as minority party because the lesser votes of the NPC fetched it more seats through political gerrymandering.
Thus the basis for distrust had been built in the Nigerian polity before independence. If that was a remote cause of the first challenge to stability, an internal problem of the AG was its immediate cause as the crack in the wall of the party gave way to the invasion by the proverbial lizards.
The Action Group was embroidered in an internal crisis precipitated by policy differences among the leaders. Chief Ladoke Akintola, the new Premier of the West after Awolowo preferred a romance with the NPC with the view of preserving the North for the NPC. This was against the principle of a national party formation envisaged by the majority of Action Group leaders .These differences led to the political defiance ( Akintola Taku) that led the Action Group members in the House of Assembly to want to oust Chief Ladoke Akintola as Premier of the West. The crisis led to the declaration of State of emergency by the federal government with the appointment of Dr. M.A.Majekodunmi as Administration of the Western Region, an ignition of what Chief Anthony Enahoro predicted in the parliament as the beginning of a chain of events, the end of which nobody knew.
This chain of events that led to the imprisonment of the leader of opposition, Chief Obafemi Awolowo leading to the first military coup is still a recurrent decimal in the polity of Nigeria today. Since then, Nigeria is still hovering around looking for the politics of accommodation.
The military take over of January 15, 1966 led to the crowning of Major General Aguiyi Ironsi as Military Head of State. Six months later, a retaliatory coup masterminded by northern officers like Murtala Mohammed and Theophilous Danjuma led to the crowning of Lt.Colonel Yakubu Gowon as Military Head of State. The era of Yakubu Gowon witnessed a 30 month civil war as Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu challenged his claim to leadership and attempted to pull the East out of Nigeria as the Republic of Biafra. The end of the war led to the complacency of Gowon’s regime after his commendable accommodation of the easterners into the Nigerian scheme under a policy of no victor, no vanquished. It was under General Gowon that Nigeria was changed into a twelve state structure, a measure that transformed the federal structure into a better political equilibrium.
But Nigeria continued to drift in corruption and indecision prompting General Murtala Mohammed to stage a peaceful coup against Gowon.
The Murtala Mohammed regime set the stage for a new constitution in 1979 under Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo who succeeded him after he was fell by the bullet of Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka.
Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo as Head of State handed over power to a Civilian regime with Alhaji Shehu Shagari elected President on the platform of the NPN with a controversial Supreme Court decision on the definition of two third of the 19 states structure created by the Murtala Mohammed / Obasanjo regime.
The Shehu Shagari government was toppled in a 1983 Coup after a moonslide rigging of election which led to the reign of Gen. Mohammed Buhari which itself was toppled by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida by August 27, 1985.
General Babangida established another Constituent Assembly to reform the Constitution. He dismissed all the political associations formed on the directive of his regime and instead formed two parties, National Republican Convention and the Social Democratic Party. An election in 1983 believed to have been won by Chief MKO Abiola as President was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida leading to a crisis of monumental catastrophe leading to his being forced to step aside in August 1993. Babangida‘s regime was succeeded by Ernest Sonekan as Head of State in an interim government which was toppled by Gen. Sani Abacha in November 1994.
The Abacha regime established a Constitutional Conference to look into the problem associated with the Constitution but his regime was terminated by his sudden death in June 1998.
The death of Gen. Sani Abacha led to the establishment of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar regime which swiftly arranged a political transition program which he effected leading to the election of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, one time Military Head of State as President.
Obasanjo’s regime was significant in its consolidation of democracy in Nigeria. After his eight year tenure, he successfully transferred power to a democratically elected Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua as President. Yar’Adua died in May 2010 and was succeeded by his Vice President, Dr. Jonathan Goodluck.
President Goodluck‘s challenge is how to conduct a free and fair election that would lead to a peaceful transfer of power in May, 2011.
Nigeria has come a long way. Despite all the problems associated with nation building, Nigerians have demonstrated to the whole world that it could be a united nation where tribe and culture differ in as much as 250 languages.
With 50 years of independence with a thirty month civil war behind it, Nigeria deserves a place of pride as the most populated black country with her nationals in different parts of the world as Professors and practitioners in Science and Arts and that is besides her being a major oil producer to the world. Happy golden jubilee to Nigeria, the deserved giant of Africa. May the labor of our founding fathers not be in vain. Long live Nigeria.

By Hon. Bari Adedeji Salau BA, MPA-IG
Investigator; Political Oversight and Organization Specialist

2 comments:

  1. This article, in my opinion, is an exposition of a positive political development for Nigeria. It is full of hope and many possibilities for Nigerians. It has been a very tedious journey indeed in a very short period of fifty years (politically-wise) toward democracy. Thanks for the article; it is enlightening.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Established transportation infrasctructure for a plethora of lifestlye, dining
    and entertainment.the interlace condo

    ReplyDelete