The People’s Republic: Paradoxical heritage


AS a result, the nefarious acts of the Native Authorities, many of which survive to the present day, went unchallenged either in the courts oflaw, or on the pages of the few but pungent journals which were then in circulation in Lagos and some of the Southern towns.

We have drawn attention to the educational effects of the exclusion of Christian missionaries from the North. This policy also has adverse political effects. As a result of it, the North was cut off, for more than 40 years, from the mainstream of progressive political thinking in the South; the Indirect Rule system in the north became a stunted and hidebound organism; the Northern Traditional Rulers were unable to benefit from the cross-fertilization, of modem ideas to which their counterparts in the South were – it turned out fortunately – exposed; and the feudalist political institution which the British, at their coming, found in the North, became a palpable fossil, incapable of growth or new orientation.

The Northern leaders who made their debut on the Nigerian political scenes in 1947, and continued to play different and decisive roles until the demise of the First Republic, were all products and profound admirers of the North’s fossilized political institution. There was always in them a curious mixture of arrogance and self-distrust. It was with difficulty that they were persuaded to support the introduction of a ministerial form of Government under the Macpherson Constitution. Their reason was that they did not consider themselves sufficiently educated in the Western sense to operate such a system. At the same time they bemoaned the fact that it was the British who halted the victorious march of their ancestors to the sea, and expressed the hope that what their ancestors failed to achieve by force ~f arms would be achieved by them by political means.

All along the line, these Northern leaders resisted either openly, or by subtlety (in which, like their.ancestors, they were past masters), every progressive or radical inJovation. Instead, they sought to compel or promote the adoption of their own political system in other parts of the country, through the agency of some politicians of Southern origin. Because o.~theif control of the Federal Government, and because of the tremendous power and influence which they wielded thereby, they were able to attract a large number of opportunist politicians of Southern origin, and almost succeeded in their designs. Even Northerners with progressive and radical ideas were brutally persecuted and suppressed. Many of them were prosecuted and imprisoned: their real and only offence being that they held contrary and divergent political views.

The strains and stresses as well as the deep suspicions and bitter resentment which the attitude of the Northern leaders generated and aroused have, in recent times, brought untold sufferings on Nigerians, and gravely harmed the country’s progress on all fronts.

As a result, the majority of Southern Nigerians, together with a fair number of Northern Nigerians with progressive ideas, have been irresistibly impelled by the logic of events to take the resolute stand that the proper place for a fossil is a museum. On the other hand, the majority of educated Northern elites hold steadfastly to the view, inculcated in them by the British, that, given sufficient time and nurture, even dead bones can live. This profound conflict of ideas is aggravated by the fact that while the South is terribly iii earnest and in a hurry about economic and social progress, the North prefers the more leisurely pace of its illustrious ancestors. It is clear, therefore, that only a mental and spiritual revolution on the part of the North can resolve this conflict amicably. We have no doubt that such a revolution will come. When, how, and unde what circumstances we are unable to predict.

In spite of the amalgamation of 1914 to which history has done so much deserving homage, the Northern and Southern Regions of Nigeria were, for upwards of 47 years, treated as two separate and distinct legislative, executive and administrative entities.

From 1 January 1900 to the introduction of the Richards Constitution in 1947, the Governor alone made laws for the North, whilst his officials there supervised their execution and administration. In this connection, the only visible constitutional link between the North and the South was the person of the Governor and the fact that he had his abode in Lagos.

Personal contact and communication between the Emirs and their children and relations on the one hand, and educated Southerners on the other, was rigidly controlled by British officials in the North. No educated Southerner, especially ifhe was known to have political views or to be an ‘agitator’, was allowed to pay a visit to or have conversation or communication with an Emir and members of his family, except in the presence of the Resident or one of his District Officers. All Civil Servants of Southern origin who worked in the North were subjected to the same disability as

the ‘agitators’. A visit to any part of the South by any educated Northerner was strictly forbidden, unless it took place under the close guidance and supervision ofa British Administrative Officer from the North. The British Administrative Officers posted to the South were not even trusted for this purpose.




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