The history of the demand for restructuring in Nigeria – NIGERIAN TRIBUNE (press release) (blog)

IT is unfortunate that whenever we in Africa talk about our apparent backwardness, side by side with the colonialists who created and administered our countries before the so-called independence, we are ever too much in a hurry to try to heap all the blames for our stupidities on those colonialists. In doing things in that way, we also fall short of the truth; and of true politics itself, based on justice. Thus we end up doing so as the same partisan politicians who remain our major problems in these regards. In that way, we fail to see what we must repent of, what we must change in ourselves, what we must do to correct any true errors of the colonialists; and therefore, what we must do or advance in order not only to become true nations but also, of nations to reckon with. A very close and non-partisan examination of our colonialists will show us, most clearly, that theydid in fact built up and left for us, quite a bit of things in the place that both they and ourselves should be proud of. These are things which if we ourselves did not destroy for very selfish interests, we would have been most highly benefitted by them – for example, very sound public, private and especially missionary educational systems!

Every objective student of history will invariably come to the same and inevitable conclusion that the Europeans that colonised Africa, in dividing it into the so-called countries that they made for themselves out of it, did so for reasons of their personal conveniences – many of these very selfish indeed. The health, wellbeing and happiness of the people in those territories, or of their capacities to eventually become true nations, were not part of the reasons for doing so. Thus, when the clamour for independence started in many of the colonised countries of the world in the 1930s and got really heated up after the Second World War, Ahmadu Bello made it quite clear to the colonialists that their 1914 creation of the country called Nigeria was a classical political error. He insisted that the only way he was going to be part of any thoughts about any independence in Nigeria was either with the North separately or after the then unitary government in Nigeria was stopped and regionalisation into semi-autonomous units was made a reality.

He also insisted that the whole of what was to be Northern Region or the old Northern Protectorate (an area previously conquered by his Jihadist great-grandfather) must not be split into any smaller or howsoever else separate political units. When this then-only-mere-notion was accepted, he went ahead to form a political party in 1949 for that semi-autonomous state – the Northern peoples’ Congress or NPC; but, of course, not a Nigerian Peoples’ Congress. The ways that he progressed with this semi-autonomous region or state, its internal and independent development and progress – including its internal resource control – are facts of history available “everywhere” for anybody who may howsoever desire to study them. So, they will not be discussed further here; except to say that in this regard, Sir Ahmadu Bello has remained the most successful political figure in Nigeria in what he did for “his people”; and which plan is“the only meaningful thing” that has happened politically in Nigeria to date. It would therefore remain very funny to me if anybody in the country will fail to study the nature of “a true federation” that Sir Ahmadu Bello fought for and achieved in Nigeria in 1952; and to do exactly same for everybody, once again, now.

When Sir Ahmadu Bello got what he wanted out of the colonialists and stopped his condemnation of the 1914 political error of Nigeria, it became Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s turn to pick up the gauntlet to do the same. He kept insisting on the further restructuring of the country and most seriously sought this; not only through the creation of the Action Group in early 1952 but also in the alliances that it sought to achieve with other sections of the country, including parts of the so-called Northern Nigeria. He kept asserting that Nigeria was only a mere geographical expression, a mere country and not a nation; until such needed restructuring is done. For this same reason, he gained control of the Western Region later in the same 1952 and thoroughly developed it for the maximum benefit of the people – with the due internal resource control that enabled that to happen.

Chief Awolowo, of all Nigerians, suffered the most between 1961 and 1967 for this insistence (as severally and repeatedly written about and said, by his very own self). This clamour was only to stop when the then military head of state attempted some restructuring of Nigeria (for an entirely different and perhaps exactly opposite purpose from the ones that these “our heroes past” had been insisting on)! The Nigerian Head of State then also made him the Nigerian deputy Head of State; and everything became apparently settled for him. However, this was to be so only until the ugly head that had always been there, resurfaced again after that head of state was gotten out of office as he was. We have however since that 1966 run a unitary government, contrary to both of the Ahmadu Bello and Obafemi Awolowo obviously most genuine and well explained reasons. Again, these reasons are available in the world libraries and the modern internet ones for all to avail, research, and balance out for themselves. Of the three Nigerian principal “heroes past” Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe would seem not to think of the 1914 Nigerian nation creation mistake or the continuously growing regionalisation a big or even problematic issue, except for a few obviously cosmetic counter or balancing actions in those regards. This would seem no more than the result of his greater interest on the pan-African agenda of the “Zik of Africa”, “African Continental Bank”, and the like issues.

It would therefore seem all too obvious to simple minds like me that what all these current people clamouring for restructuring are doing, is simply repeating what all these heroes past had done in the days of their honesty and straightforwardness; especially Sir Ahmadu Bello and Chief Obafemi Awolowo. This is especially so for the very young folks whose lives we are wasting in this country by continuing as we are doing. These younger folks will be inevitably joining in this clamour until we do the needful. All that people like me will need to be reminding them of, is that there are civilised, non-war mongering ways (including peaceful resistance, as of the last Biafra Day celebration in South-East Nigeria) to do these; and that they should use those methods only. A word, they say, should be enough for the wise, especially the self-acclaimed ones, whether those are old or young. God bless Nigeria!

  • Asuzu is Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of Ibadan


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