Nigeria: Let’s breakup in peace -By Ado Umar Muhammad
“Lord Lugard and his Amalgamation were far from popular among us at the time. There
were agitations in favour of secession; we should set up on our own; we should cease to have
anything more to do with the Southern people; we should take our own way. I must say it
looked very tempting. We were certainly very ‘viable,’ to use the current phrase; we could run
our own show.”
This quote is excerpted from the autobiography of the Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Region, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello.
Titled “MY LIFE” and published in 1962, the book analyses the great problems of preindependence Nigeria and how our founding fathers overcame them.
The quote is pertinent to understanding that debates on Nigerian unity began well before independence in 1960.
During parliamentary debates in early 1950s, precisely the debate on fixing the year for self-governance, the Sardauna was so piqued by the shenanigans of Southern delegates that he referred to the amalgamation as a mistake.
In one of his most important speeches, he said: “I rise to associate myself with the last speaker. The mistake of 1914 has come to light and I should like to go no further.”
The last speaker was none other than Alhaji Isa Kaita, later Regional Minister of Education, who supported a motion for adjournment as a tactical move after a heated debate over a private motion by an Action Group member, Chief Anthony Enahoro.
He had proposed self-governance in 1956, but the Northern delegates rejected the motion saying the region was not ready for it.
Their argument was the North lacked sufficient manpower to run its affairs.
They probably felt that accepting independence at the time would force them to employ workers from the South, which could have led to the domination of the region.
They must have feared that social unrests would result from such action. Their stand however irked Western delegates led by Obafemi Awolowo, whose party moved the motion.
So as they pulled out of Iddo Railway Station in Lagos for their return journey to Kaduna, they met angry crowds of demonstrators who rained abuses on them.
These were mainly “scallywags of railway employees,” as the Sardauna described them in his book. The Northern delegates suspected “Lagos politicians” to have instigated the ugly incident.
Nigeria: Let’s breakup in peace
This was confirmed as wherever the train slowed down in Western Region, even at village crossings, they were assailed with invectives and boos.
This continued even up North to the last station to Kaduna. Of course, majority of railway workers at that time were Southerners.
The ill-treatment meted out to the delegates created tension, mutual suspicion and enmity between the North and South which exist to this day.
It has always characterized our political relationship. But rather than abate over the years it got worse and precipitated intermittent debates on whether we should remain united or not.
The lowest point was reached on January 15th, 1966 when a military coup plotted by Igbo officers eliminated the political and military elites of the North, and a few from the West and far South areas, leaving their Eastern counterparts unharmed.
The tension created by this resulted in pogrom in the North and East, culminating in a civil war. It lasted 30 months and ended on 15th January, 1970; purposely chosen to mark the date of the coup which triggered the tragedy.
However, despite lessons from the war within two decades agitations for breakup began again. In fact, in the past few years there have been relentless calls by some ethnic groups and individuals in the South for the “separation of clusters of the federating units in Nigeria.”
But the East and West are not the only sections dissatisfied with the political situation in Nigeria since the return of civil rule 20 years ago.
Like them we feel our interests are not being served, but unlike them there is no guarantee that they’ll be in future.
This is because some hidden forces take delight in casting us in bad light – aiming to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
They tend to perpetually sabotage our region. For instance, capital projects in the North always suffer neglect.
Due to their preponderance in the top echelons of the civil service, Southerners seem to dictate which federal policies get implemented.
Consider outcome of crude oil exploration in Chad Basin, snail speed of dredging work at Lokoja, Ajaokuta and other steel projects, the stalled work at the Mambilla hydropower plant, etc. Also, the North has been under serial attacks for over a decade now.
There have been Boko Haram insurgency, bandit attacks, kidnappings and outrageous ransom demands, cattle rustling and general insecurity of life and property. And until recently Hausa/Fulani living outside their enclave were being massacred in many parts of the country. Some ethnic groups disguised themselves as Fulani and killed or maimed innocent people in the name of Fulani herdsmen.
All these seem to have been orchestrated.
Also, the reader can recall the involvement of Christians in Boko Haram attacks on Churches in Jos, Yola, etc.
This attests to the existence of a hidden agenda behind Boko Haram and the sectarian crises in the North in order to sustain its state of insecurity and underdevelopment. Only recently, nine Kano children (and those of other areas) were discovered to have been kidnapped by some Igbos and transported to Onitsha, Anambra state, where they were sold into slavery and converted to Christianity.
Aged only 2-9 years, the children were acculturated and Igbonized.
Nigeria: Let’s breakup in peace
In spite of this glaring inhumanity, not a whimper was heard from so-called human rights activists and the subjective Lagos/Ibadan press which is always prone to sectional bias.
And now, as if that wasn’t enough, Christian evangelists are reportedly camping in some Northern states where they entice youths with gifts.
They pledge well-paying jobs that can sustain those willing to become Christians, their families and even their offspring! Eyewitnesses reported seeing them in the outskirts of Gusau, Zamfara state, where they use girls and money to lure, convert and train impressionable youths as evangelists.
These youths are told that the more Muslims they convert the higher their pay.
This is obnoxious, to say the least. If it isn’t finding trouble with Muslims, I don’t know what is.
We can’t live under these circumstances and remain peaceful. Thus a lasting solution has to be found. To me, the best way to save ourselves from these unfriendly gestures is to “take our own way” – to quote the Sardauna again.
There can’t be any better option.
Forget talks about ‘true federalism’ or ‘confederation’; they just won’t work.
In light of this, therefore, it is time we conceded to demands by the East and West for a National Conference where a resolution must be reached on how we can all take our exit peacefully.
The Igbos can have Biafra and the Yorubas their Oduduwa.
We in the North will be glad to have ‘Usmania,’ or whatever we want to call ourselves.
It is my take. Ado is former Editor-in-Chief, Triumph Newspapers, Kano