10 October 2000

Nigeria: The Nationality Question, Sharia And Corporate Nigeria


Lagos — The situation in Nigeria today is like a marriage and threatened divorce. The British Government took over the territory of Niger Coast Protectorate and the Royal Niger Company in 1900. In 1914 the entity known as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria was created by the British Government.

The Colony of Lagos came into being in 1861 when Dosunmu ceded Lagos to the British Government as Colony.

The Sardauna of Sokoto, during the political crisis of 1953, in the confrontation between the North and the South, made the following historic statement in the House of Representatives in Lagos: "The mistake of 1914 has come to little". This turned attention immediately to the serious implications of the amalgamation of 1914. See the Autobiography of late Sardauna of Sokoto, "My Life", 1962, at p. 133; and at p. 135 of the same book; he said "Lord Lugard and his amalgamation were far from popular amongst us at that time (1953 Constitutional crisis) and there were suggestions in favour of secession".

Lord Scarbrough, Chair -man of the Niger Company declared that the coast ought to pay for the development of the interior and that any other policy would be a suicidal policy. The central kernel was that amalgamation was to the economic advantage of the North and to the British Treasury. The South must finance the North.

Section l0 of the 1999 Constitution provides that the Government of the Federation or of a state shall not adopt any religion as state religion.

The section l0 provides:

"The Government of the Federation or of a state shall not adopt any religion as state religion."

This was lifted from the 1979 Constitution. So it was not new in 1999.

Section 5 (3) of the 1999 Constitution also provides:

"The executive powers vested in a State under subsections (2) of this section shall be so exercised as not to -

(a) impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive powers of the Federation;

(b) endanger any asset or investment of the Government of the Federation in that State;

(c) endanger continuance of a federal government in Nigeria".

The Sharia provision in the 1979 Constitution was a compromise worked out before the Northern members of the Constituent Assembly called off their walk- out. No group has the right to do anything inconsistent with that compromise. That will be as bad as destroying the Constitution.

But why are we in the mess we are today? To answer this, I must quote copiously from the seminar work of Professor Omo Omoruyi: "The Tale of June l2" published by the Press Alliance Network Ltd.:

Origin of Nigeria

" There is no question that there were relatively independent units, call them states/empires, in the territory that currently makes up Nigeria before the advent of the white man and the colonial order. Anthropologists and the Ibadan History Series provide us with the history and form of political organisation of different groups in Nigeria. Following the Berlin Conference of 1884, Lugard, then a Captain, paid his first visit to Nigeria to organise on behalf of the Royal Niger Company, troops of subjugation to be used in extracting treaties from the Chiefs of the North. The various groups in Nigeria had no inkling that Britain was trying to amalgamate them.

Brief of Review of the Process

"Britain's implementation of the Berlin Treaty was done through independent administrators, namely:

1. The Oil Rivers Protectorate, renamed Niger Coast Protectorate in 1895.

2. The Colony of Lagos ceded to the British Crown in 1861 was ruled by Governors responsible to the Colonial Office based in Sierra Leone (1866-1874) and Gold Coast fl 874-1886).

3. The Niger territories of the Royal Niger Company rule, 1886 to 1899 by the agents of the private company, was responsible to the Board of Directors in London. This corresponds to the present day Northern Nigeria. Sir Frederick D Lugard had, earlier as a Captain, worked for this company in negotiating a series of treaties with traditional rulers in 1897.

It would appear that the term (Northern Nigeria) was meant to refer to the North of Nigeria and later the other two governments were renamed Southern Nigeria and Lagos. They were merged to form Southern Nigeria in 1906. From 1906, Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria were technically two autonomous entities responsible separately to the colonial office.

"This was the situation where the design of Nigeria was conceived between 1900 and 1912. It should be noted that Lugard brought the various parts of the North together and produced an administrative entity called first, Niger Territories and later Northern Nigeria. It should be further noted that Lugard was privy to the thinking in London about amalgamation.

By 1912 when Lugard emerged on the Southern scene there was something called Northern Nigeria (which was over 14 years old) in the minds of the traditional rulers and of the traditional elites in the North. On the other hand, there was nothing called Southern Nigeria in the minds of the traditional rulers and of the educated elites in various parts of the South. The various groups in the South were treaty-based states who related to Britain independently.

The North knew what they were getting into; the South did not. I came to this conclusion after examining how Lugard went about his assignment between October 1912 and December 31, 1913 in both sectors before Amalgamation was proclaimed on January 1, 1914. I also examined the terms of amalgamation and how it was conceived to use Southern Nigeria to develop the North.

Lugard Lied to Trick Southern Leaders

"Lugard toured the Southern states from October to December 31 1912 and went back to Lagos to reflect on what he saw in Benin, Yoruba land (Ibadan, Oyo and Abeokuta), Igbo land (Onitsha), in Calabar and in the Niger Delta. he framed how he was going to get around the problems that he might face with the amalgamation plan. Throughout the visits to these places in the South, Lugard never raised with them what was going to befall them in a few months.

The people of Abeokuta, Benin, Calabar, Ibadan, Lagos, Okrika, Onitsha and Oyo did not see themselves at the time as belonging to one political entity called Southern Nigeria. Nor do they to this day."

"If the people of the Southern Nigeria did not see themselves as one entity, on what basis would one be talking of an amalgamation of two parts other than an incorporation of the various parts of the South into the North.

Lugard saw the North as one Entity and the South in Pieces

"Lugard's visit to the North beyond Zungeru was well planned because it was obvious he was visiting a country. He did not have to visit the various parts as he did in the South.

Contrary to what obtained in the South whose leaders were seeing Lugard for the first time, the Emirs in the North were familiar with him and were in communication with him.

As soon as he returned to Lagos he dispatched gifts to them and they in turn acknowledged the customary formal gifts they received. From Lugard's papers, were letters in Hausa showing the warm relationship between the Emirs and Lugard. Examples demonstrate the difference between the North and South. Some of these letters are:

r of our difficulties, the one who carries our heavy burdens, Governor Lugard with salutations more scented than the musk perfume and sweeter than honey. May God prolong your life, the keeper of those who keep others. "

Emir of Bida

"Sent salutations and good will shining bright as do the planets and constant as their light as the return of morn and eve Oh! My Chief; my Leader we ask God to prolong your life in prosperity and health. My present to you is a sword in a silver scabbard and two gowns."

Emir of Yola

"To the Deputy of the King of England the Governor who holds all our country in his hand and rules it all A thousand salutations and fealty and homage repeated."

Amalgamation, Unified Administration

"According to Perham, Lugard's task was to unify administrations not peoples. Lugard was bent on keeping the North as one entity. He rejected Morel's plan of 1912 which would have separated Ilorin and Borgu from' the North and merged them, with Yoruba land.

Lugard also rejected the second plan submitted by Governor Temple based on his experience which would have divided the territory into seven large provinces: four in the South and three in the North (Hausa States of the North West, Chad territory covering Borno, Bauchi and Yola and Benue Province containing the remaining Southern and Western districts along the Niger. Lugard rejected it and stuck to the North as one entity. "

The first time Southerners knew of what was to befall them was after Lord Harcourt announcement in London which was followed by the statement of the relationship between the North and the South."

Harcourt's Plan Meant Incorporation of Southern Parts into Unified North

Lord Harcourt went to the House of Commons on June 27, 1913 after receiving Lugard's report on his tour of the North and the South and announced the new British Government policy of two Nigerians. According to Lord Harcourt, unification of Nigeria demanded both "a method" and "a man," The man was to be Lord Lugard and the method was to be the marriage of the two entities. . Northern Nigeria is in the truest sense the product of his foresight and genius. He reclaimed it from the unknown; he gave it a legal code, differing only in its civilisation from' the essential lines of native custom; he established a land system' which' combining altruism with revenue, may well be a model and inspiration' to other Protectorates... Of my earnest solicitation he returns how to the field of his early and brilliant Labour, to complete and consolidate what was proved, I think to be the greatest tropical province of the Crown."

"We have released Northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the Treasury. The promising and well conducted youth is now on an allowance on his own and is about to effect an alliance with a Southern lady of means. I have issued the special license and Sir Frederick Lugard will perform the ceremony. May the union be fruitful and the couple constant. (Italics mine)"

Founding Fathers?

It is sad to say that in answer to the question, who were the Founding Fathers of Nigeria, no Nigerian leader (Azikiwe, Sardauna, Ironsi, Gowon, Murtala, Obasanjo, Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha) could claim to be a Founding Father.

Rather, they were all part of the problem of nationhood which continue till today. I would say the Founding Fathers were Lord Harcourt, Lord Lugard and Sir James Robertson. What was the credit? What was the discredit? Why did the so called Nigerian nationalists feel obliged to abide by the colonialist plan despite the mixed feelings? At what stage did the mixed feelings turn into a mistake for some and a source of despair for others? Why was the matter raised in 1950, 1953, and 1966 as "the mistake of 1914" by the North? What was the true feeling of the Southern leaders in 1950, 1953 and 1966? Was it a blessing for the South then? At what stage did this mistake turn into the blessing of 1914 for some? What is the true feeling of Nigerians today from the North and the South?"

The situation is that to the Southerners today, 1914 is a mistake; to the Northerners, it is a blessing. What steps can we take to make it a blessing for all? Democracy in Nigeria must be found in the solution to these questions.

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