Britain and its colonial officers led by Frederick Lugard were instrumental in establishing this unhappy situation in Nigeria as it was a deliberate British colonial policy to structure Nigeria in such a way that the Hausa/Fulani shall have political ascendancy over the South.
And any colonial official who were not enamoured of this agenda were not allowed to superintend Nigeria as was the case with Sir Hugh Clifford who was severely rebuked for pointing out that the Lugardian Indirect Rule was a deliberate levelling down of the South and the callous imposition of the Fulani Sokoto feudal autocracy on the more democratically advanced Southern communities.
Between 1947 and 1954, the British colonial authority have succeeded in politically structuring Nigeria to give the Hausa/Fulani political domination of Nigeria as they played Azikiwe against Awolowo to break southern solidarity.
By 1954, Hausa/Fulani political ascendancy over the Igbo and Yoruba was already accomplished and the last colonial Governor of Nigeria, Sir James Robertson was in celebratory mood when in a speech at a state banquet reconstituting federal cabinet with Balewa as prime minister had told Nigerians that the North had accomplished the mission of conquest of the South when he declared: “In 1950, Alhaji Abubakar claimed that if it were not for the British, the North would have conquered all Nigeria up to the sea. Now distinguished guests, imagine he has fulfilled that ambition – in spite of the British.” Conquest and subjugation will last for a long as the conquered and subjugated remain quiescent in their condition. But once, they bestir themselves by acknowledging their condition they will work to shake off the yoke. History has many examples and Nigeria’s case will not be different.
Several agitations are confusingly trending on the problem since the late 1980s but having failed to correctly diagnose the problem they were splintered into separatist MASSOB, IPOB, Asemota/Danjuma-led National Christian Elders Forum, OPC, Afenifere, Ohanaeze, PANDEF, Middle Belt Forum, etc. If these organisations work through political parties and get sufficient number of executive and legislative positions the object of rescuing, retrieving and restructuring Nigeria is half-accomplished. There are two dangers to the existence of Nigeria and Nigerians’ freedoms.
These are the subsisting British neo-colonial interest in maintaining Nigeria as it, having been the British imperial interest since 1914 to 1960 when it constituted, structured and rigged its constitutional and political infrastructure to ensure that Nigeria remains British neo-colonial facility. This fact is already a public knowledge as poignantly captured in the declassified British imperial documents collected, edited by R. Hyam and R. Louis and published by the University of London Institute of Commonwealth Studies in 2001.
The second and perhaps, the most difficult is the existence of a constitutional and political system founded on an internal indigenous governance structure and having as its operative force the Sokoto Caliphate theocratic feudal autocracy.
This system is antithetical to Nigeria’s democratic development as it is anti-democratic. Since 1914 to date it is this governance structure that Britain had adopted to administer Nigeria as a neo-colonial facility.
This governance structure Britain called Indirect Rule System was deployed to a devastating effect as the system was transplanted on the better governance systems of the other 249-Nigerian ethnic nationalities such as the Yoruba, Bini, Igbo, Tiv, Jukun, Gwari, Nupe, Effik, Ibibio, Ijaw, etc. Since this governance structure was adopted as the ruling framework of Nigeria the effect is the Hausa/Fulani with the direct intervention of Britain had their governance structure intact and effectual in their political interactions with the other ethnic groups. In effect, every other group in Nigeria lacks essentially the cohesion and socio-cultural solidarity made available to the Hausa/Fulani in the Native Authority which was, and has largely survived all constitutional and political changes in Nigeria.
In fact, after the overthrow of General Yakubu Gowon in 1975, a conservative Hausa/Fulani general, Murtala Mohammed took over government and unfurled a constitutional and political engineering that exhumed all the British colonial laws, especially those limited to the North such as the Native Authority system rechristened Uniform Local Government System and the Native Land Ordinance rechristened Land Use Decree. These two obnoxious laws and the feudal system they represented were entrenched in the 1999 Constitution by retreating Northern generals after the rulership of Nigeria for over 35 years.
This legal order and political system based on 1999 Constitution are virtually immutable and they have brought Nigerians nothing but turmoil, crimes and poverty. And the guardians of this vile system know that the system is unjust but it assures them control and privileges. In fact, in 1993 when General Babangida, one of the Northern generals that ruled Nigeria experimented with a political transition that produced June 12 electoral revolution tantamount to destruction of the system without actually intending it, the custodians of the system rallied and attacked him and berated him for conducting a political system that is tantamount to liquidation of Lugardian Nigeria as constituted in 1914.
In fact, Babangida’s adviser, Prof. Omo Omoruyi noted in his book that a foremost traditional ruler confronted General Babangida as to why he allowed such experiment to get to that level and told him that allowing June 12 presidential election would amount to liquidation of Lugardian Nigeria and it would require another Lugard to reconstitute it on the same template. Since 1993 Nigeria has stumbled from military autocracy to its civilian equivalent with even more socio-political turmoil, crimes and poverty.
Now, things have come to a head as so many people have come to knowledge about Nigeria and its ugly past. What makes this situation difficult to appreciate is that just as there are many members of this British-created ruling caste that consider Nigeria their hegemonistic estate so also there is disconcerting swelter of opinions by former allies that fought the Biafra War who now believe that the new political and constitutional system that have conducted to domination by one group against the others even to the point of ethnic cleansing according to General TY Danjuma must be changed.
These former allies such as Generals TY Danjuma, Lekwot, and Dogonyaro operating on the platform of National Christian Elders Forum have even taken their case to the British government. General Obasanjo is also having a rethink of his earlier stand-point of “settled issue” and seems now to be more appreciative of the constitutional and political problems of Nigeria which all reasonable persons know can only be solved by a deliberate constitutional and political re-engineering and now buys into restructuring advocacy.
How this new nationalism sweeping Nigeria is going to be resolved is difficult to predict. But one thing is certain, and that is, the separatist groups (MASSOB, IPOB, etc.) might just have their wishes accomplished not due to their own efforts but because of the blunders and stubborn insistence of the custodians of this Nigeria system not to allow for peaceful change through constitutional reforms that guarantee the people their freedom and existence as humans. The political class is not in synergy with the reformists massed on Afenifere, PANDEF, Middle Belt Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the National Christian Elders Forum.
This political class is more encumbered with the periodic political electoral contests and seizures of power to listen to these groups’ irritating public interventions calling for restructuring of Nigeria which is an anathema to the custodians of this extant political culture. But restructuring is an idea whose time has come and it will happen nevertheless.