The People’s Republic: Paradoxical heritage


THE psychological effect ofall this on Northern minds has been complex, baffling, and dangerous. In their dealings with their fellow-citizens from the South, they sometimes evince feelings of inferiori’ty or superiority, all depending on particular individuals and circumstances. They regard Western education with contempt and as only a workman’s indispensable tool. But they betray an fnexplicable hostility and resentment towards Southerners for being too far ahead of them in Western education. Since 1947 when the voices of Northern spokesmen were first heard in the affairs of Nigeria, they have persistently demanded, either by word OJ by conduct, that the South should be halted in its progress until the North is able to catch it up. On occasions, some ambitious Southern politicians have also lent support to this manifestly perverse and exceedingly harmful suggestion.

By 1830, the Fulani conquest of the North, which began around 1804, was complete. But the lofty religious ideals which inspired the Jihad had suffered serious corrosion. The Fulani Rulers, who had imposed themselves on the people after the conquest, had become more corrupt, more oppressive, more extortionate, and more tyrannical than the indigenous rulers whom they had supplanted and replaced. In particular, their slave-raids were conducted on a more inhuman and bloody scale, and were only stamped out by the armed forces of the new imperial power under Lugard.

Those of the Fulani Rulers who pledged their loyalty to the British were retained on their thrones, whilst those who did not were forcibly deposed and replaced by other amenable Fulanis.

In other words, one of the things which the advent of the British did to Nigeria was to entrench another alien rule in the North. Historically, the Moslem Fulanis had a long record of erudition and administrative competence. They had occupied the posts of professional administrators under many native rulers in Guinea, Senegal, and Hausa territories. Consequently, the British did not bother themselves about the legality ofFulani rule in the North. The immediate objective was to maintain law and order, and have an effective government. For these purposes, and having regard to all the prevailing circumstances which we have previously noted, no better administrative machines or tools than the experienced and fanatical Fulani Rulers could be conceived or contrived. Accordingly, all the Fulani Emirs were regarded as the de facto Rulers of the North, and subsequently recognized as the de jure Paramount Chiefs or Traditional Rulers of their respective territories.

Under the ‘Indirect Rule’ system, these Paramount Chiefs were to administer the affairs of their respective domains, subject only to the guidance of the Resident. In the words of Lugard himself, ‘the attitude of the Resident is that of a watchful adviser not of an interfering ruler.

In so doing, the British gave their authoritative and unassa lable backing, and a new lease oflife, to a subordinate alien rule whiie within a century of calculated misrule, had degenerated into an unstable and tottering despotism. The British had, it is true, removed the more revolting edges and asperities ofthe Fulani rule, such as slave-raids, slavery; extortions, execution for minor offences sometimes without proper trial, etc. But they had allowed the Fulani despot to have absolute sway as before, and to reign under more secure and more affluent auspices. From the very start, that is in 1900, the Sultan ofSokoto, the Shehu ofBornu, and the Emir of Kano were each placed on a fixed salary of £6,000 per annum, plus a yearly establishment allowance of £3,000 for the Sultan and of £ 1 ,500 for each of the other two. All the other Emirs in the North were also placed on fixed salaries and allowanc7s, which, though smaller, were equally extravagant.

Having regard to the present general standard of living among the masses of the people, these salaries and allowances are, to say the least, indefensible even today. They were much more so in 1900; and if the full facts had been publicly known in the South at the time, the educated Nigerian nationalists of Southern origin . would have kicked up a mighty row. The British knew this, and they therefore saw to it that the North was hermetically sealed to Southern Nigerian nationalists. Nigerian lawyers, who were the champions of the rule oflaw in those days, had no locus standi in the courts ‘operating in the North. They, therefore, had no incentive to travel the long distance to an unknown and reputedly hostile territory. Other educated self-employed Southerners were discouraged from visiting the North. No Nigerian, however highly placed, was allowed to travel in a compartment higher than Third Class on the railways. In the early twenties, a barrister, by name Kolawole Doherty, who made a courageous attempt to visit the North, apart from not being permitted to travel in the train class of his choice, ~as beaten up severely at Zaria Railway Station, and, was obliged to return to Lagos from that station inmost humiliating circumstances, without reaching his destination; Kano, Although strong representations were made to the Government in L~gos, the only reply received was: ‘the matter is being investigated.’ And that was the end of the matter.




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