Henry Fawcett was a “blind” professor of Political Economy at Cambridge University in England, and in his book THE ECONOMIC POSITION OF THE BRITISH LABOURER he said that: ‘It is peculiarly the destined mission of our own country (England) to become the mother of nations so the lot of the whole human race might be improved if inferior races were gradually enlightened and elevated by bringing them into contact with ideas and institutions of a high civilisation.’
And so the likes of Frederick Lord Lugard became Governor-Generals in Africa after the continent had been carved up among European countries jostling for economic expansion under the guise of educating and civilizing the savages of Africa. Lord Lugard was a British soldier.
In 1914, Lugard was told to join together the various colonies. This thus became Nigeria. Because of the shortage of colonial administrators in the rolling plains of northern Nigeria, Lugard introduced the indirect system, which is a method of ruling through the aristocracy. It was a cheap system since the traditional rulers of the conquered territories were less expensive than European officers. It worked perfectly well in the north which had been governed under the Islamic emirs before European colonization began. Hence Lugard tried to extend this to this south of Nigeria and other African areas.
The Oba of Benin like the emirs had centralized powers. But in Yorubaland and Asante (modern Ghana) the monarchy appeared powerful but there were checks and balances, a sort of pre-colonial monarchial democracy, which Britain still practices till today after destroying those of others’.
During the colonial terms between Britain and the northern emirs, the British promised not to interfere with Islam. Thus northern Nigeria was isolated from Christian missionaries thereby reducing greatly the influence of western education. As long as the caliphate got its people to pay tax and remain subjected to British rule, it did not bother the Europeans that change was being isolated from the north even when there could have been the establishment of non-religious schools.
Western-educated northerners were very, very small compared to the south of Nigeria where there had been a surplus of school leavers even before the First World War of 1914-1918. The British even had to recruit clerical staff from the south to fill up positions in the north. But the British did not like the southern educated elites who later began publishing newspapers that monitored and checked some unjust actions of the British colonial masters. The British preferred illiterates chiefs and wanted to impose the illiterate Obas on the educated elites. This did not work.
Finally, several constitutions were created after much conferences and petitions by the elites to partake in governance. Representatives to a Federal council were formed with four ministers each from north (Hausa/Fulani), west (Yoruba) and east (Ibo) with six European officials. In 1953 Anthony Enahoro from mid-west in southern Nigeria moved a motion for Independence on the platform of AG political party. But the British did not want to debate the issue, so the Yoruba/midwest and Ibo representatives staged a walk-out. This unplanned but collective decision brought the southerners on same cause.
The northern politicians remained with the Europeans. Thus, after the meeting and when they came out, there was an unhappy southern crowd waiting for them in the Lagos sun. They booed the northerners as “His master’s voice’ and ‘whiteman’s slaves.’ This resulted in a wave of riots in the north in which 36 were killed and 300 people wounded. The northerners then began to call for a ‘division of the country.’ This then resulted to a conference in London that there should be three strong regions and a weak federal government. This did not begin a unified Nigeria, but a country of three different regions Ibo/Hausa/Yoruba, as the people saw their ethnicity first before they saw Nigeria.
So on October 1 1960, Tafawa Balewa from the north became the new country’s prime minister. But the foundation on which the country was built was a ticking time-bomb. The word opposition was not understood by the nothern-led federal government. The parliamentary system of government allowed for Leader of Opposition, but this was an alien system to the emir-style rule of northerners. First, the March 1961 population census revealed that the south had more population than the north but Balewa rejected this and when it was rescheduled for a recount in 1963, it was reported that the northerners were more.
More population on a part of the country would mean more federal seats in the parliamentary government. The north would not like to lose power. Secondly Balewa tried to strike at the heart of the banking law with a Banking Act of 1961, a move that would have crippled the finances of the Western Nigeria Government in order to hit the west. But a Supreme court judge, Daddy Onyeama, ruled against this and saved the banking institutions.
1964 came for federal elections but the northern ruling political party of NPC frustrated other party candidates to file nomination papers. Thus before the elections, 67 NPC candidates were to run for election without opposition from other parties. Other parties called for a postponement to give them time for proper filing of their candidates but the Balewa government refused. He would like the status quo remain thus with the Sardauna of Sokoto who was also the premier of the north, solidly behind him. The Sardauna was the Crown Prince of Sokoto and as well the leader of the ruling NPC political party, while Balewa (the Prime minister of Nigeria) was Deputy to the Sardauna in NPC.
The Balewa government went on with the elections and other parties called for a boycott by the voters. The election was hence generally boycotted by voters. In regional elections too, AG candidates who held certificates that they won elections were shocked to hear their names on the government-controlled radio stations as the defeated candidates. The Balewa government had wanted to impose on the west Governor Akintola whom the people refused to vote for during the polls.
What Balewa missed was that Yorubas have never been comfortable with imposed rulers. Hell broke lose in “wet e” riots (wet him) as people and houses supporting the Akintola government were burnt. Balewa did not call for a state of emergency as he wanted to preserve Akintola in the West. He even declared that everything was normal and went on with commonwealth held that year.
Major Kaduna Nzeowu thereafter led the first coup in Nigeria when law and order broke down completely on a larger scale. He was a revolutionary, unmarried officer who slept in the same apartment with Obasanjo but did not bring Obasanjo into the coup idea. The Army was filled with officers who either had political concern for their country or those who simply sat and awaited orders. Obasanjo belonged to the latter at that time. Nzeogwu was not.
The coup was able to wipe off most of the politicians but it lacked enough men to take Lagos (the capital) even though Balewa had been killed at this point. The corrupt governor of the West had also been killed along with the Sardauna of Sokoto. The non-political army manned everywhere in Lagos and the coup plotters could not take political power to complete their revolution. General Ironsi of Army HQ took power and Nzeogwu was asked to return to Lagos. Because he had achieved his idea of getting rid of the corrupt politcians, he obeyed Ironsi and was quickly arrested and thrown into jail with other coup plotters.
However, rumor began to spread in the north that it was a southern coup meant to take power from the north and give the south. Nzeogwu was Ibo and Ironsi was Ibo, the northerners did not see this as a Nigerian thing, they saw it on the ethnic line. A wave of riots thus began in which thousands of southerners, mostly Ibos, were targeted and killed. Ironsi did nothing, for he was non-political and did not understand what to do. The killings went on and Ironsi just sat there and did nothing, except take nightly flights to a gunboat on the Lagos lagoon where he hid. The army too beacme rife with ethnicism and everyone suddenly saw himself as Ibo, Yoruba or Hausa first.
On the morning of July 29 1966, Ironsi was killed in a countercoup led by northern officers and men. Throughout the north, Ibo officers were targeted by their men and many fled their barracks to their homes in the south. A non-Hausa General could no longer give a sergeant an order unless his Hausa Captain gave the order. On the streets as well, despite the countercoup, the killings increased and there was the call for Araba! (means division in Hausa). The northern soldiers rejected any senior officer from leading the country and opted for Yakubu Gowon, a northerner. Yet the killings continued. It now became so worse that calling it a riot was an understatement and the new Head of state did nothing to abate it.
At last Ojukwu, the new military administrator of the East (Ibo) recalled all easterners home. However, the call for Araba ended and there was a turnaround call for unity by the northerners, even as the killings went on. It was obvious the north cherished to rule Nigeria alone. A series of failed conferences and broken agreements finally led to the Nigerian civil war when the Ibos broke away to form Biafra. However after three years of war, the war ended with Nigeria regaining its unity and becoming one again.
Gowon was a puppet of the northern oligarchy, especially the Sokoto caliphate and the Jami’yyar Mutanen Arewa, a cultural organization of the ruling aristocracy. Gowon’s regime went on for nine years with no plan to return to democracy soon according to the dictates of the north, who were happy with the status quo. His communication minister was however, another revolutionary who believed the army should uphold democracy and not run government: Muritala Mohammed, though was also a northerner. Muritala was not happy with the corruption of the polity. So when Gowon went to Uganda for an OAU meeting, Muritala took power in a bloodless coup.
Muritala came to power in 1976 and promised a return to democracy by 1979 after putting things in place. It was his idea that a new capital should be in the center of Nigeria, in Abuja. He purged the civil service of lazy workers and seized the assets of many politicians found corrupt. He began a massive consciousness of African ideology through a proposed FESTAC 77 on which he was planning to put Fela aboard. He did not hide his distaste for apartheid in South Africa, and part of Nigeria’s foreign policy was funding the MPLA Angolan army (which won the Angola war) of Augustino Neto against CIA-backed UNITA rebels and as well the training of nearly 40,000 men who were to march from Angola against apartheid South Africa that was oppressing black South Africans, al with the support of Cuba’s president, Fidel Castro.
Alas he was killed by a non-political officer, Dimka, who was used and dumped by those who told him to kill Muritala. Dimka was from Plataeu State like the former head of state, Gowon, whom Muritala deposed. While some believed the corrupt oligarchists who were more comfortable with Gowon had sponsored the coup, another view believed it was a CIA-sponsored coup. However, Muritala had consolidated the army into a single patriotic machine. His deputy was a Yoruba officer, Obasanjo, who promised to uphold the ideals of Muritala. The people loved Muritala and students even took to the streets in protest of his death. Obasanjo did as he promised. He held the FESTAC, but without Fela. He fought agaisnt apartheid not by violence but by seizing British Petroleum in Nigeria and indigenizing it when it was found out that Britain was secretly selling oil to South Africa.
1979 came and the federal elections saw a northerner, Shagari, as president of a new presidential constitution drafted by a committee led by Chief Rotimi Williams. The new Nigerian republic was patterned on the US presidential system and no more the parliamentary system. The election was disputed but to foster a way forward, the ‘defeated’ candidates allowed Shagari to lead the country. Shagari met an economy glutted with oil and oil prices got so low.
Nigerian economy was too dependent on oil and revenues began to drop; from N21, 000 million in 1980 to N8, 000 million in 1981, and by 1982 and 1983, it further reduced to N7, 800 million and N7, 253 million respectively. Government was now spending more than it was earning, therefore resorting to loans. External debt rose to N14billion from only N2billion a few years ago. The civilian government introduced ‘austerity’ measures and tried giving priority to agriculture. Yet, despite the restricted spending, the expected balance in the economy was unachieved. Truth is, manufacturing was still very low in the country.
Things began to get worse economically for the people. Meanwhile, a caucus of young majors who were in the revolutionary group started by Muritala were already becoming major-generals with the retirement of older ones like General Obasanjo. IBB was a major who had orders to take the radio house Dimka was in after the latter killed Muritala in 76, although IBB had failed in taking the medium house. So on December 1983, by now major-generals, these patriotic officers again drove out the indiscipline politicians. The Supreme Military Council was formed and Buhari was selected from the Chad campaign to lead the country as head of state.
Meanwhile, a new wave was sweeping through Africa as a result of imperialist involvement of US and Soviet Union (now Russia). Africa has always been their theater of war, as each tried to win to its side African countries, often resulting in coups or civil wars while the imperialists would largely remain behind curtains. Since the early 70s, the US Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas had foreign officers from African and Asian countries going there for officer training.
The officers were always accompanied by the American commandant of the fort or his deputy and were ADDRESSED as future heads of state and required to be treated thus around the fort. By 1972 the college had 12 officers who had become heads of states, prime ministers or ministers. Among its products were President Nimiery of Sudan, General Archaempong of Ghana, President Ngusen Thieu of South Vietnam. Thus officers were being built to serve US interests as presidents of their countries.
When Buhari came to power, he had the idea of the revolutionary SMC that brought him to power which expected him to firmly control the nation. But it was an era military boys were being trained to get rid of revolutionary officers whom Karl Marx, Castro and Nkrumah’s ideologies had been producing in the 60s and 70s. Babangida (IBB) became the tool of business icons and the west; they began to find Buhari too strict for comfort.
Babangida was chief of army staff and there had been missing funds in Army HQ which Buhari was ready to probe. Babangida and MKO had links with Colombia cartels which turned Nigeria into a drug transiting point in the 80s and saw a lot of Nouvaeu Riche drug traffickers; one of them was Gloria Okon who was awaiting execution. But Babangida launched a coup and suddenly no one knew where Gloria Okon was, until a reporter, Dele Giwa, found her in London and Giwa got killed by a parcel bomb that had the coat of arms of Nigeria on it during Babangida’s regime….. fill in the gap.
Babangida ruled and played Nigeria, earning him a nickname as President Maradona. He would promise a return to democracy only to renege on it again. His regime brought about excessive liberalization that collapsed the Nigerian weakening economy in the face of an overwhelming western market that flooded Lagos like the floods of Noah. The Naira thus began to become weak as inflation rose. Because of paranoia of a coup, IBB (Babangida) also ruined the armed forces, cutting fund to it drastically, and the police. He also resumed trade with aparheid South Africa despite Nigeria’s stance against apartheid and the imprisonment of Mandela.
His regime was a case of make money however way you want but stay loyal to me. Education was also killed with Decree 47 in order to clamp opposition from the militant student unions; this resulted in the birth of violent cult groups in our universities and polytechnics. His regime was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Then in 1991 came another set of young majors led by Gideon Orkar and funded by Chief Ogboru. The coup could have been successful but it failed largely because the plotters only had access to J-5 civilian buses. They also failed to kill the chief of army staff, Abacha, who saved the day for IBB. They failed to cut telephone links and thus Abacha was able to alert the 2nd Mechanized Division before the plotters could have access to military armored vehicles that were needed to force their way into Dodan Barracks, where the head of state resided. IBB had meanwhile disappeared.
Gideon Orkar and his lieutenants were rounded up in the FRCN radio station where he was broadcasting his intention for the coup. He declared that unless the core northern states were made to stop ruling Nigeria like emirs Nigeria would never go forward and his first step was to cut off these states. This made some turn against him, for while he had gained general support in the suffering army against IBB, no northern soldier would like to hear that. He was arrested and executed along with over a hundred other plotters.
Babangida still had a reason to annul the 1993 June 12 election just to ensure he stayed in power for life. The west resisted him in a massive riot that crippled Lagos, the economic power of West Africa. He stepped down; but his chief of army staff (COAS), Abacha, wanted a taste of power too and he drove out the interim civilian.
Today, Nigeria had gone past those horrible experiences in the corridors of its history, but they were experiences any country that worth its salt should have. Though it had been tough but experience matters for every great nation within its hegemony. However, the recently concluded election showed the result of this history; the south understand the meaning of democracy, but in the north of Nigeria it is still like speaking Latin, which was why they still went back to that cyclical pattern of killing southerners for the slightest political reason.
Jega ran a very fair election in which people voted massively for Jonathan and Buhari, even without sentiments for Ribadu on the platform of ACN (a more popular party than Buhari’s CPC). Buhari lost obviously, but the northerner (not the aristocrat elite, those ones now understands democracy and some of suffered the rioting too as their houses were burnt) illiterate poor still expects power to be in the north regardless of votes.
Northerners have ruled Nigeria more than any other region in Nigeria, but what does the country have to show for it when they rule in the emir-style way? Poverty, illiteracy and diseases are so rife in the north one wonders if these talakawas (northern masses) going about killing, ever think about that. They will learn… oh, they will learn… if the illiterate Fulani can domesticate his cattle, then the rest of Nigeria too shall someday soon domesticate them on the meaning of DEMOCRACY.
It all stemmed from the British; they should have either educated every part of the country without selfishly leaving the north behind or should have created a proper federal system that would not have created Ibo, Yoruba, Hausa when what we needed was a Nigeria. But they had never liked the educated Africans who were mostly from the south. But if Henry Fawcett had said in his book that it was why they had come to Africa in order to civilize the savages, I wonder why did not like the Africans that got education. It means if they had their way we would not be allowed education and we would have remained stupid. I MOURN FOR EVERY BLOOD THAT WAS SHED IN THE RECENT POST-ELECTIONS RIOT; The Blood of Patriots and Traitors Water the Tree of Liberty. WE SHALL GET THERE together AS A NATION