The Sun News

Restructuring: Lessons from past errors

This is no hate speech. It is just all about how we got to where we are today as a country labelled Nigeria. They are historical facts; certainly this is not a world of make-believe.

They are excerpts from a story told by no less a personality than Chief Richard Osuolale Akinjide (SAN). Remember him? He entered parliament on December 12, 1959. He was Federal Minister of Education until January 15, 1966, when the First Republic was lost to a military coup.

He came back in the Second Republic to become Minister of Justice in 1983. That was shortly before that republic was truncated by another set of “khaki boys.”

Perhaps, Akinjide would be easily identified as the author and advocate of the “infamous” twelve two thirds (12, 2/3). This came up at the 1979 Presidential Election Tribunal. Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) approached the tribunal, seeking the true interpretation of two thirds of 19 states.

It was the basis upon which Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) won the presidential election. Akinjide represented both his party, NPN, and Shagari at the tribunal.

He rose to the challenge. And he actually displayed rare and raw courage in his presentation. He stubbornly insisted that the two thirds of 19 states remains twelve two thirds (12, 2/3).

It took the intervention of the Supreme Court to resolve the matter in favour of Shagari. The court agreed in every department with Akinjide. But, with a big caveat, it must not be cited in future reference. All the same, instantly, Akinjide earned the label, “Mr. 12 2/3,” and it sticks till today.

There was almost a repeat performance recently. It was another excellent outing by Akinjide at a book launch. Let me confess that the actual date and place of the event I do not know. Not even the title of the book.

Somehow, I happened to come across his speech: “The Amalgamation of Nigeria was a Fraud”, delivered at the book launch. The speech was sent with this instruction:

“If you are a true patriot, buy a lobe of kolanut or make yourself a mug of coffee and read this.” I did not do any, yet I read the speech.

His revelation was stunning and startling. It was a food for thought. It succinctly explained away the awkward and makeshift country called Nigeria.

It brought out to the fore, in another dimension, the wickedness and evil of our ex-British overlords. Britain did not mean and would not mean well for us. They are forever dubious and cruel. They are the architects and masterminds of our misfortunes. They are the enemies of our progress.

Akinjide’s pronouncements were so profound. They are worth sharing. Samplers: “In 1898, Lugard formed the West African Frontier Force initially with 2,000 soldiers and that was the beginning of our problems… About 90 percent of them were from the North mainly from the Middle Belt.” That solidly laid the foundation for the lopsidedness being witnessed.

In another breath, he revealed: “The British needed the railway from the North to the Coast in the interest of British business. Amalgamation of the South (not of the people) became of crucial importance to British business interest. He (Lugard) said the North and the South should be amalgamated.”

See why Lugard made us what we are today: “He said the North is poor and they have no resources to run the protectorate of the North. That they have no access to the sea; that the South has resources and educated people.” For this warped reasoning, we must not discuss our future again.

This, however, was a colossal mistake: “But what the British amalgamated was the administration of the South and the North and not the people of the South and the North, that is one of the root causes of the problems of Nigeria and the Nigerians.”

It did not end there: “When the amalgamation took effect, the British government sealed off the South from the North. And between 1914 and l960, that’s a period of 46 years, the British allowed minimum contact between the South and the North because it was not in the British interest that the North be allowed to be polluted by the educated South. That was the basis on which we got our independence in 1960.”

The message was not lost on the North: “When the North formed a political party, the northern leaders called it Northern Peoples Congress (NPC). They didn’t call it Nigeria Peoples Congress. That was in accordance with the dictum and policies of Lugard. When Aminu Kano formed his own party, it was called Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) not Nigerian Progressive Union.

“It was only (Obafemi) Awolowo and (Nnamdi) Zik who were mistaken that there was anything called Nigeria. In fact, the so-called Nigeria created in 1914 was a complete fraud. It was created not in the interest of Nigeria or Nigerians but in the interest of the British.”

And what were the structures created? Quite revealing and mind-blowing: “The structures created were as follows: Northern Nigeria was to represent England; Western Nigeria like Wales; Eastern Nigeria was to be like Scotland. In the British structure, England has permanent majority in the House of Commons. There was no way Wales can ever dominate England, neither can Scotland dominate Britain.

“But they are very shrewd. They would allow a Scottish man to become Prime Minister. They would allow a Welsh man to become Prime Minister in London but the fact remains that the actual power rested in England. That was what Lugard created in Nigeria, a permanent majority for the North.”

Another fraud uncovered: “The population figure of the North is also a fraud. In fact, a British colonial civil servant who was involved in the fraud was trying to expose it but he was never allowed to publish it.

“The analysis is as follows: If you look at the map of West Africa, starting from Mauritania to Cameroun and take a population of each country as you move from the coast to the Savannah, the population decreases. Or conversely, as you come from the desert to the coast, right from Mauritania to the Cameroun, the population increases.

“The only exception throughout that zone is Nigeria. Nigeria is the only country in the zone whereby you go from Coast to the North, the population increases and you come from the North to the Coast, the population decreases.”

Now, who is still afraid of restructuring? Who dares say our union is not negotiable? Those are the real haters of this union called Nigeria.

We will keep on talking restructuring. It will not depart from our mouths. Nothing will stop us, and that is a vow.

So? Come let us discuss ourselves with ourselves and by ourselves faithfully and honestly. Let’s make genuine attempts to right these glaring wrongs and absurdities. Let’s pick useful lessons from the errors of our sordid past.

Unless we take the right steps, we may continue to fumble, flounder, grope, flub, et al; our road may continue to be unnecessarily hectic and harsh.

I insist, this is no hate speech. Let’s do the needful; even now.

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