Top 10 Interesting Facts About Nigeria’s Independence
Many stories have been told about Nigeria and the road towards independence on October 1, 1960. It is a day that will continue to be remembered in the annals of Africa’s history. In this piece I will be bring you interesting facts about the independence of Africa’s giant nation, Nigeria.
High Hopes And Expectations
When Nigeria gained independence from the UK in 1960 there were high hopes and expectations that we were on our way to self-government. We had abundant mineral resources and also the most educated workforce in Africa. It was expected by Nigeria would become Africa’s first superpower and a stabilizing democratic influence in the region.
Style Of Governance
Let me point out that on October 1, 1960, the army office commanding the army guards at the midnight flag raising ceremony was Captain David Ejoor and went on to play a major role in the military interventions that followed later. After the independence, Nigeria tried to adopt the UK-style of government; Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. This was where the similarities ended because in as much as the UK-style focused on debates and party maneuvering, the Nigerian-style was fragmented along regional and ethnic lines.
The Question Of Unity
The Nigerian unity question did not start today or it is just cropping up because some groups are feeling marginalized along the line. At independence, what we had was a herding together of over 250 ethnic groups by the UK without seeking for the people’s consent or anything close to a referendum. Major political players had something to say about this; showing a lack of confidence in them on Nigeria actually being a nation. To the Sardauna, Sir Ahmadu Bello he called it “the mistake of 1914” (the year of amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorate). During of the constitutional conferences the future Prime Minister Sir Tafawa Belewa stated that “Nigeria existed as a nation only on paper. It is still far from being united. Nigerian unity is only a British intention for the country”. For Obafemi Awolowo; “Nigeria is not a nation; it is a mere geographical expression. There are no Nigerians in the same sense as there are English or Welsh or French.
The Jostling For Power
The showdown towards independence was characterized by mistrust that was reflected more in the leaders at that time. In 1953 Chief Anthony Enahoro (a Southerner) tabled a motion at the House of Representatives for Nigeria’s independence in 1956 but Northerners were skeptical and apprehensive about this seeing that they didn’t have enough administrative and educated workforce to fill up positions in an independent Nigeria. So in a vote this motion was neutralized by northerners seeing that they have the majority in the house. The AG and NCNC delegates walked out of the northern majority in the House.
The Polarity Of North-South Influence
It is not new that our leaders then; Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Tafawa Belewa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo had trust issues for each other. This was divided among the South (Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo) and North (Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Belewa). What was the basis of this mistrust? The northerners as it were had the population so they dominated the House of Representatives and no major decisions could be taken if they voted against it while southerners on the other hand were more educated so the northerners feared that their southern counterparts would take up all the positions in the government. This was the internal political situation Nigeria found herself when it is suppose to be charting a new course for Africa’s democratic governance.
The New Government
The Northern People’s Congress (NPC) took over power in the federal government with National Council of Nigerian Citizens being the junior partner in what is called a shaky coalition. The deputy leader of NPC, Sir Tafawa Belewa became Prime Minister while the leader of the NCNC Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the ceremonial Governor-General until 1963 when the title was changed to president.
Seeing that there were three political parties then representing the 3 major tribes; AG (West), NCNC (East), NPC (North), with the NPC and NCNC forming the new government it left out the AG as the main opposition party. Obafemi Awolowo on the other hand was not happy about this and was not pleased because he and Nnamdi Azikiwe (figure head role) were not leading the government as intellectuals. The Sardauna and Belewa on the other hand didn’t not have degrees to their names.
The Sardauna Figure
Sir Ahmadu Bello was seen as the most influential leader at that time because he had control of the largest region; the north. He could have been the Prime Minister but he turned it down while appointing his deputy Belewa to be the Prime Minister. According to him, “I would rather be called Sultan of Sokoto than President of Nigeria”. He was the leader of the most biggest party in parliament who always had their way in every decision or voting process. At one point he had to address Belewa as his “lieutenant in Lagos” and this caused a stir in the south towards Belewa and Northern Nigeria.
In the Western region which was being led by the Action Group of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, there was an allegation leveled against AG leaders like Awo on planning to overthrow the government. The region became one of so many rancor and fighting that the federal government in order to weaken the opposition created the Mid-Western Region and Dr. Dennis Osedebay became the Premier of the Region. He was an Igbo Mid-Westerner. Till today it is the only region or state that was created democratically in Nigeria. The others were created by the military.
The Igbo Problem
The Igbo tribe has always been regarded as the most successful tribe in the country. A vibrant migrant population who were well known in the area of commerce and industry and this created lot resentment from other tribes especially their northern counterparts. They were seen in every city and town across the north and country and wherever they always dominated the indigenes of such places. The Sardauna’s indigenization policies made it such that more northerners were employed to do certain jobs and in a situation where there was no northerner or any other tribe he would opt for an expatriate to do the job. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe while addressing the Igbo State Union in 1949 said, “The God of Africa has specially created the Igbo nation to lead the children of Africa from the bondage of the ages”. This stirred up sentiments against the Igbos from other tribes.