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Although Nigeria was the creation of European ambitions and rivalries, its peoples had their cherished history of freedom and independence before the arrival of the British. This newly created country contained a multiplicity of diverse ethnic groups which had evolved com- plex systems of government.
Although Nigeria was the creation of European ambitions and rivalries, its peoples had their cherished history of freedom and independence before the arrival of the British. This newly created country contained a multiplicity of diverse ethnic groups which had evolved complex systems of government. The British tried to weld together these groups and territories, with such diversity of cultures and at different stages of development, into a nation. As British administrators became aware of Nigeria's historical diversity, they also became respectful of some of its traditions while disregarding others.
The amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 was a milestone and a watershed in Nigerian history. It gave Nigeria its present size and shape. It also gave Nigeria its present complexity, one measure of which is the diversity of cultures. This diversity has necessitated the adoption of a federal structure for the country. The British colonial administration showed some preference for the Indirect Rule system because of the cost of direct administration in terms of its personnel and financial requirements. The traditional institution in Northern Nigeria facili- tated the application of indirect rule.
The British entrenched this Northern Nigerian (Sokoto Caliphate) Model through a number of proclamations notably, the Native Authorities Ordinance of 1901, Native Court Ordinance of 1902 and the Native Revenue Proclamation of 1904. These ordinances were amended and extended to Southern Nigeria in 1914, 1916, and 1917 respectively (Afigbo, 1974:18). This extension to the South harmonised the system of local government administration throughout the country, while at the same time allowing for local peculiarities.
As early as 1886, when Lagos Colony was separated from the Gold Coast, an Executive Council for the Lagos Colony was established. But Frederick Lugard had reduced the powers of this Executive Council to the status of a Legislature. In 1906, when the Lagos Colony was merged with the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, the competence of this Legislative Council was extended to cover Lagos and the Southern Protectorate. In order to compensate the inhabitants of the Lagos Colony who were de jure British subjects and enjoyed the rights of British citizens, a small Legislative Council for Lagos Colony was introduced for the purposes of enacting Laws and scrutinising estimates and expenditure. The Legislative Council consisted of ten official and six unofficial members. (Crowder, 1973:243).
The amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 coincided with the establishment of a Nigerian Council. The Nigerian Council comprised 24 official and 12 unof- ficial members. Six of the unofficial members were Europeans representing commerce, shipping, mining and banking. The six African unofficial members were chiefs namely; The Sultan of Sokoto, the Alafin of Oyo, the Emir of Kano, Chief Douglas Numa and one each educated Nigerian represent- ing each of Lagos and Calabar.
The Nigerian Council was essentially an advisory body because it had no legislative powers. Most traditional rulers could not participate effectively because of their inability to communicate in English. Some other means of satisfying the demand of the Nigerian people for some form of representative government had to be explored as the resistance of the indigenous population against the imposition of a centralised hierarchical system of administration over traditionally acephalous societies, especially in Eastern Nigeria, was very stiff. Most notable was the exclusion of the educated elite from participation in the governance of Nigeria, and the very limited opportunities in the administrative machinery for such elite.
The legal status of Lagos as a Colony whose inhabitants were British subjects also facilitated the demands for greater freedom of participation in political activities. Moreover, the contemptuous attitude of the British colonial administration to Nigerian traditional rulers e.g., the Eleko of Eko, Chief Jaja of Opobo, Chief Nana of Olurnu, further infuriated Nigerian nationalists and inflamed the nationalist fervour.
The Nigerian Council and the small Legislative Council for Lagos were abolished by Order in Council in 1922 (Ezera, 1964). "Herbert Macaulay and other 'coastal elite' had indeed, been agitating against the government in Lagos for the imposition of water rates and the appropriation of land for government projects even before Lugard became Governor General in 1914" (Nnoli, 1978). After the amalgamation of 1914, "the nationalists fought against the exclusiveness and racial bias of the Crown Colony system of Government. Nationalist demand at this phase of the struggle was not the attainment of self-government but a measure of participation in the existing government" (Coren, 1981).
THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
This was a product of the Clifford Constitution of 1922. This Council comprised 30 official members, 15 unofficial ones nominated by government, and three unofficial members representing the municipal areas of Lagos and Calabar. The Council had a limited number of elected members and African members selected to represent the interest of those parts of the Colony and Southern Protectorate not represented by elected members. But the franchise was restrictive and limited to males who were British subjects or natives of the Protectorate with 12 months residential qualification and an income of not less than £100 a year. The first elections in Nigerian history were held in September 1923 and the Council was inaugurated in October, of the same year.
The Clifford Constitution was significant in the following respects: It introduced the elective principle and stimulated the formation of political organi- sations notably, Herbert Macaulay's Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) in 1923 and the Lagos Youth Movement (LYM) in 1934, founded by H. 0. Davies, Dr J. C. Vaughan, Dr Kofo Abayomi, Ernest Ikoli, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo which later transformed into the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) in 1936. The colonial administration was not responsive to Nigerian public opinion as a means of vetting arbitrary actions.
The NNDP - which was formed to contest the 1923 elections - dominated Lagos politics and Herbert Macaulay's approach was rather too conservative for comfort, as he attacked only specific isolated policies of the colonial administration and not the colonial system itself. His political goal of a self-governing Nigeria within the British Commonwealth was unattractive to the new breed of more radical Nigerians in the 1930s (Herskovits, 1982). Consequently, there emerged the need for a more territorially widespread organisation other than the NNDP. This, along with the need for organised resistance to colonial rule in its entirety, rather than to isolated policies, culminated in the decline of the NNDP and the emergence of the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM).
The NYM contested the 1938 elections with the NNDP and won the three Lagos seats. The British colonial administration branded the Movement a southern-based party and the Northern Emirs sup- ported the British despite the mixed composition of the Jos Branch comprising members from both the North and South. The NYM had been critical of colonial methods of governing Northern Nigeria by proclamations emanating from the Governor rather than through direct elections. In the North, organ- ised opposition came from the Jos Tribal League.
The NYM disintegrated over issues of leadership and representation. Nnamdi Azikiwe resigned from the Movement and all the lbo members followed suit thus inaugurating the process of the formation of political parties. The resultant political parties were the National Council for Nigeria and the Camerouns (NCNC) in 1944, the Action Group (AG) in 1950 and the Northern People's Congress (NPC) in 1951.
WORLD WAR II AND POST - WAR TRENDS
The Second World War "projected Nigeria out of a colonial backwater into a modern world. Nigeria became suddenly important as a strategic link in the Allied Defence, the staging post for troops and supplies and the main producer of primary products that were essential for the conduct of war.
Moreover, Nigeria's size and population trans- formed her into a provider of indispensable troops for the campaign in the Indian sub-continent." But the war created great economic strains, manifested particularly in the decline in real wages and the drop in living standards. Rapid urbanisation that occurred in its wake led to the growth in the number of wage and salary earners and to its corol- lary, the spread of unionisation.
Political consciousness was aroused among Nigerians because of widespread mass demonstrations, marches, walk-outs, et cetera. Workers' demand for Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) led to the promulgation, in 1942, of the Order General Defence Regulation which declared strikes and lockouts as illegal. A new nationalist era dawned - an era of fusion between the labour movement and the political organisations such as the NCNC, and of coopera- tion between unions and populist-inclined politi- cians. It was also an era characterised by the fusion of economic grievances with galvanised political issues and actions, all of which shook the foundations of British rule in Nigeria.
The fusion of radical political leadership, radical trade unionism, tribal associations and the activism of the Nigerian Union of Students was consummat- ed in 1943, when rallies and meetings were held to which political leaders of various persuasions were invited. This series of meetings led to the formation of the National Council of Nigeria and the Camerouns in 1944, later renamed National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) with Herbert Macaulay as President and Nnamdi Azikiwe as its Secretary. Although loose in structure and diffuse in goals, the NCNC provided lead- ership for the national cause through the adoption of an aggressive strategy against the colonial power.
The Second World War accelerated the decolonisation process through the devolution of power to Nigerians. This devolution of power creat- ed a vacuum and triggered off the formation of polit- ical parties to fill this vacuum. The struggle by the major ethnic groups to fill the vacuum accentuated the North-South dichotomy and redirected Nigerian nationalism along ethnic and regional lines. Ethnic rivalries led to the situation in which energies were directed at promoting regional rather than national unity.
Nigerian demands for self-government and independence had two discernible periods: the peri- od of troubles from 1944 to 1957 and the period of diarchy or cooperation 1951-59. The period of trou- bles was characterised by the rise of militant party politics - particularly those of the NCNC, the Zikist Movement, Zikist National Vanguard and the Action Group (A.G.). The post-war economic strains precipitated the General Strike of 1945, the Burutu Strike of 1947, and the Enugu Colliery Strike which was brutally suppressed by the colonial administra- tion. Nigerian politicians exploited every opportuni- ty offered by these disturbances for effective propaganda against the colonial regime, attacking the colonial record on economic and social welfare.
This period also coincided with a new constitutional proposal designed to promote unity and to secure greater Nigerian participation in governance. This constitution was drawn by Sir Bernard Bourdillon but was published by Sir Arthur Richards in 1944. Although the Richards Constitution promoted unity by bringing the North and the South together, it however, also promoted regionalism as regional councils tended to divide more than unite Nigeria.
The NCNC was critical of the Richards Constitution because of the absence of consultation with the Nigerian public prior to its promulgation, for the non- extension of the elective principles outside Lagos and Calabar, failure to accord Nigerians greater participation in government and in administration, and the inclusion of chiefs who were puppets of the Colonial administration as unofficial members to represent the interest of the Nigerian peoples. Consequently, the NCNC sent a delegation to the colonial office in London to seek revision of this Constitution but failed to achieve this goal. It relapsed into inactivity in 1947 and the Zikist move- ment filled the vacuum by organising demonstrations, strikes, boycotts on Empire Day, by advocat- ing the non-payment of taxes, and generally publishing of anti-colonial pamphlets and leaflets. The Movement was declared illegal and was proscribed in 1950.
The period of diarchy, i.e. of accommodation and partnership with the colonial administration, commenced with devolution of power promised by Governor Macpherson's Constitution of 1951. Britain then agreed to share power and responsibility with Nigerian politicians. In place of the old Constitution, which till 1951 provided for only repre- sentative institutions, the new Constitutions after 1957 allowed representative governments as well.
In consonance with the demand of the NCNC for greater participation by Nigerians in constitution making and in seeking to achieve the review of the much criticised Richards constitution, the British Government allowed consultations at the village, town, district, provincial, and regional levels. The consultations were to determine whether Nigeria would adopt Confederalism, Federalism with some measure of autonomy or Federalism on the basis of the then existing regions with or without boundary adjustments. The balance of popular opinion dis- tilled at the All Nigerian General Conference in lbadan in 1950, favoured a Federal system with three regions and the regions to be political rather than administrative units. The conference also declared Lagos an independent municipality. Regional and Central (later Federal) Executive Councils would be constituted such that the majority of its members were Nigerians. The constitution further encouraged Nigerian participation in the political decision-making process by liberalising the franchise. The elective principle was extended beyond Lagos and Calabar but the constitution settled for the very slow and cumbersome electoral college system.
The Macpherson Constitution of 1951 has been described as "a wretched compromise between federalism and unitarism". However, it stimulated the formation of more political parties; the Action Group (AG) in 1950 and the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) in 1951, both of which had latent, ethnic and regional interests. The problem of regional representation at the centre (Federal level) remained thorny as the Eastern and Western Regions opposed the number of seats claimed in the House of Representatives by the North. The NCNC was disappointed with the constitution especially as Nnamdi Azikiwe, its leader, was excluded from the National Legislature meeting in Lagos. However, it was the Action Group (AG.) that precipitated the final breakdown of the Macpherson constitution when Anthony Enahoro introduced a private member's bill demanding self-government in 1956. Differences over the pace of decolonisation between the AG and NPC culminated in the Kano disturbances of May 1953, and the subsequent demand tor the dissolution of the Federation by the North.
The constitutional crisis precipitated reactions to the Macpherson constitution and prompted quick intervention by the Colonial Secretary, Oliver Lyttleton. Lyttleton approved "that the Nigerian constitution be redrawn to provide for greater regional autonomy and the removal of power of intervention by the Centre in matters which could, without detriment to other Regions, be placed entirely within regional competence." Amidst controversy over the form of government (federal, confederal, unitary or loose non-politicised union), the date for self-government and the status of Laaos the oolitical oarties met at a constitutional conference in London.
The Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 was the net outcome of this London Constitutional Conference. It provided for Federalism with a strong centre. 'The thorny question of self government in 1956 was rationalised by offering self-government to those regions that wanted it in 1956, but not to the Federation. The issue of the status of Lagos led to the collapse of the NCNC - AG alliance as both NPC and NCNC wanted Lagos to be a Federal Territory and not part of Western Region as demanded by the AG." The follow-up Lagos Constitutional Conference of 1954 resolved the fis- cal arrangement of the Federation, the position of the judiciary and the regionalisation of the Civil Service and the Police Force. It also resolved to grant Lagos an independent status, as a political and commercial capital, to be developed with national funds.
It approved separate regional status for the Camerouns, with Northern Camerouns in continuing association with the North while Southern Camerouns was to be separated from the East and become a quasi-federal territory. With few modifications, the 1954 Constitution laid down the basic pat- tern for a self-governing Nigeria.
The elections that followed the introduction of the 1954 constitution produced startling results as the NCNC won the East and 23 seats to the AG's 18 in the West. This paved the way for an NPC- NCNC coalition agreement. This was a significant development because it made national unity possible as both parties became favourably disposed to compromise and mutual concessions. The AG, supported by the Nigeria Independence Party (NIP) which was then the United Independent Party (UNIP), then formed an active opposition. The Royal tour of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1956 created an atmosphere which engendered goodwill among the leadership of the NPC. the NCNC and the AG and led to the declaration of a political truce. Because of the improved relations between the parties in 1957 the Federal House of Representatives passed a motion asking for national independence in 1959.
A London conference to review the 1954 Constitution was convened in 1957. The East and the West were granted full self-government. It was agreed that a Federal Prime Minister would be appointed with a cabinet drawn from the House of Representatives of the proposed new Senate. The Sardauna of Sokoto announced, with considerable relief to the delegates, that the North would become self-governing in 1959.
The complex minority problem and the demand for creation of States along ethnic lines also con- fronted the delegates. The conference referred this problem to a special commission headed by Sir Henry Willink. The Minority Commission, in its famous Willink Report, recommended the assuag- ing of minority fears by the entrenchment of funda- mental human rights in the Constitution. Both the NPC and AG had to compromise their positions of regionalisation of the police and agreed to a centralised police force.
The Federal elections of 1959 returned the NPC and its allies with a large enough majority to form a government. But strenuous negotiations between the NPC and NCNC led to the formation of a coalition government, leaving the AG in opposition. Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became Prime Minister and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (leader of the NCNC) opted for the position of President of the newly formed Senate. On Independence in 1960, Dr. Azikiwe became Governor General of the independent Federation. Nigerian politicians "had, despite their rhetoric, demonstrated their pragmatism and the lack of major ideological rifts in Nigerian politics." Black Africa's largest nation, a "sleeping giant," was on the verge of a metamorphosis into a "Giant in the Tropics."
Afigbo, A. E. (1974), "Indirect Rule in South Eastern Nigeria: The Era of Warrant Chiefs 1891 - 1929." Tarikh, Vol. 4, Longman. P. 18. Coren, Robin (1981) Labour and Politics in Nigeria. London, Heinemann Educational Books. Crowder, Michael, (1973) The Story of Nigeria, London, Faber and Faber. P. 243. Ezera, K. Ezera, (1964) Constitutional Development in Nigeria, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Herskovits, Jean (1982) "Nigeria, Power and Democracy in Africa," Foreign Policy Association Headline Series, No 257, Jan/Feb, p.16. Nnoli, 0. (1978) Ethnic Politics in Nigeria, Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers