The Amalgamation Of Nigeria Was A Fraud by Richard Akinjide, QC, SAN July 9, 2000
Lagos – I Was in the first cabinet that was overthrown by the military in this country. I entered parliament in December 12, 1959. And I remained in Parliament until January 15, 1966 when the Government was overthrown. I was the Federal Minister of Education in that cabinet.
I woke up in the morning in my official house in Ikoyi to discover that my telephone was not working. I had never experienced coup before nor did I know that it was a coup, thinking it was just a telephone fault; until a colleague of mine in the cabinet Chief Abiodun Akerele, came in and told me there had been a military coup. So I had the fortune or the misfortune of being a victim of the first coup ever in this country.
Many people may not know that I spent 18 months in detention in prisons across the country. I’ve spent the time in Kirikiri prison, Ilesha prison, Ibadan prison and the Abeokuta prison Two of us who were in Balewa’s government emerged when the military handed over to civilians in 1979 as part of the civilian Government. In Balewa’s government, Alhaji Shehu Shagari was the Minister of Works while I was the Minister of Education. When the Military handed over to us after about 14 years, Shagari emerged as the President, while I became the Attorney – General and Minister of Justice. Again, Shagari’s government was overthrown just a few months after I left the cabinet. Of course, we suspected it was coming.
A lot of things that happened between that period and now would never see the light of the day. When you are in government, you know a lot of things; you see a lot of things. A lot of things you know or did or saw will die with you. This is the practice the whole world. People have asked me to write my memoirs, I just laugh because there are certain things I can never reveal. When I was in Tafawa Balewa’s Cabinet, all Cabinet ministers had access to written intelligence report every month. That was the practice at that time. But when Shagari came in, for reasons, which I cannot explain, that practice was no longer followed. But by virtue of my duties as the Attorney – General and as a member of the National Security Council, I continued to have access to some sensitive matters.
Nigeria is a very complex country. Our problems did not start yesterday. It started about 1884. Lord Lugard came here about 1894 and many people did not know that Major Lugard was not originally employed by the British Government. He was employed by companies. He was first employed by East Indian Company, by the Royal East African Company and then by the Royal Niger Company. It was from the Royal Niger Company that he transferred to the British government. Unless you know this background, you will not know the root causes of our problems. The interest of the Europeans in Africa and indeed Nigeria was economic and it’s still economic. They have no permanent friends and no permanent interests. Neither their interests nor their friends are permanent. Nigeria was created as British sphere of interests for business. In 1898, Lugard formed the West African Frontier Force initially with 2,000 soldiers and that was the beginning of our problems.
Anybody who wants to know the root cause of all the coups and our present problems, and who does not know the evolution Nigeria would just be looking at the matter superficially. Our problems started from that time. And Lugard was what they called at that time imperialist. A number of British soldiers, businessmen, politicians were very patriotic. But I must warn you; they were operating in the interest of their country. Lugard became a Lord.
Nigerians, too, should operate in the interest of their country. When Lugard formed the West African Frontier Force with 2,000 troops, about 90 percent of them were from the North mainly from the Middle belt. And his dispatches to London between that time and January 1914 are extremely interesting. Lugard came here for a purpose and that purpose was British interest. Between 1898 and 1914, he sent a number of dispatches to London which led to the Amalgamation of 1914.
The Order – in – Council was drawn up in November 1913 signed and came into force in January 1914. In those dispatches, Lugard said a number of things, which are at the root causes of yesterday and today’s problems.
The British needed the Railway from the North to the Coast in the interest of British business. Amalgamation of the South (not of the people) became of crucial importance to British business interest. He said the North and the South should be amalgamated. Southern Nigeria came into existence on January 1900 … At the Centenary of the fall of Benin, I wrote a piece in a number of papers but before I published the piece, I sent a copy to the Oba of Benin. So when Benin was conquered in 1896, it made the creation of the Southern Nigerian protectorate possible on January 1, 1900.
If you remember, Sokoto was not conquered until 1903. So, there was no question of Nigeria at that time. After the conquest of Sokoto, they were able to create the northern Nigerian protectorate. Lugard went full blast and created what was to be known as the protectorate of Northern Nigeria. What is critical and important are the reasons Lugard gave in his dispatches. They are as follows: He said the North is poor and they have no resources to run the protectorate of the North. That they have no access to the sea; that the South has resources and have educated people.
The first Yoruba lawyer was called to the Bar in 1861. Therefore, because it was not the policy of the British Government to bring the taxpayers money to run the protectorate, it was in the interest of the British business and the British taxpayer that there should be Amalgamation. But what the British amalgamated was the Administration of the North and South and not the people of the North and the South, that is one of the root causes of the problems of Nigeria and the Nigerians.
When the amalgamation took effect, the British government sealed off the South from the North. And between 1914 andl960, that’s a period of 46 years, the British allowed minimum contact between the North and South because it was not in the British interest that the North be allowed to be polluted by the educated South. That was the basis on which we got our independence in 1960 when I was in the parliament. I entered Parliament on December 12, 1959. When the North formed a political party, the northern leaders called it Northern Peoples Congress (NPC). They didn’t call it Nigeria Peoples Congress. That was in accordance with the dictum and policies of Lugard. When Aminu Kano formed his own party, it was called Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) not Nigerian Progressive Union.
It was only Awolowo and Zik who were mistaken that there was anything called Nigeria. Infact, the so-cared Nigeria created in 1914 was a complete fraud. It was created not in the interest of Nigeria or Nigerians but in the interest of the British. And what were the structures created? The structures created were as follows: Northern Nigeria was to represent England; Western Nigeria like Wales; Eastern Nigeria was to be like Scotland. In the British structure, England has permanent majority in the House of Commons. There was no way Wales can ever dominate England, neither can Scotland dominate Britain. But they are very shrewd. They would allow a Scottish man to become Prime Minister. They would allow a Welsh man to become Prime Minister in London but the fact remains that the actual power rested in England.
That was what Lugard created in Nigeria, a permanent majority for the North. The population figure of the North is also a fraud. Infact, a British Colonial Civil Servant who was involved in the fraud was trying to expose it but he was never allowed to publish it. The analysis is as follows: If you look at the map of West Africa, starting from Mauritania to Cameroun and take a population of each country as you move from the coast to the Savannah, the population decreases. Or conversely, as you come from the Desert to the Coast, right from Mauritania to the Cameroun, the population increases. The only exception throughout that zone is Nigeria. Nigeria is the only zone whereby you go from coast to the North, the population increases and you come from the North to the Coast, the population decreases. Well, geographers, anthropologists and population experts, draw your conclusions, Someone has told me the last population census was done by computer, what a nonsense.
A computer is as good as its programmer. A computer will produce what you ask it to produce. I have read this book from cover to cover. This is a fantastic book. I want us to find a way to ensure that as many Nigerians read this book. It is a raw material for future authors. There is one thing which is missing in the book and that is the first broadcast of General Ibrahim Babangida when he assumed power in 1985. That broadcast is very crucial to the economic problems we have today. … Talking on the first coup, when Balewa got missing, we knew Okotie- Eboh had been died, we knew Akintola had been killed. We, the members of the Balewa cabinet started meeting. But how can you have a cabinet meeting without the Prime Minister acting or Prime Minister presiding. So, unanimously, we nominated acting Prime Minister amongst us. Then we continued holding our meetings. Then we got a message that we should all assemble at the Cabinet office. All the Ministers were requested by the G.O.C. of the Nigerian Army, General Ironsi to assemble.
What was amazing at that time was that Ironsi was going all over Lagos unarmed. We assembled there. Having nominated ZANA Diphcharima as our acting Prime Minister in the absence of the Prime Minister, whose whereabout we didn’t know, we approached the acting President, Nwafor Orizu to swear him in because he cannot legitimately act as the Prime Minister except he is sworn- in. Nwafor Orizu refused. He said he needed to contact Zik who was then in West Indies.
Under the law, that is, the Interpretation Act, as acting President, Nwazor Orizu had all the powers of the President. The GOC said he wanted to see all the cabinet ministers. And so we assembled at the cabinet office. Well, I have read in many books saying that we handed over to the military. We did not hand-over. Ironsi told us that “you either hand over as gentlemen or you hand-over by force”. These were his words. Is that voluntary hand-over? So we did not hand-over. We wanted an Acting Prime Minister to be in place but Ironsi forced us, and I use the word force advisedly, to handover to him. He was controlling the soldiers.
The acting President, Nwafor Orizu, who did not cooperate with us, cooperated with the GOC. Dr. Orizu and the GOC prepared speeches which Nwafor Orizu broadcast handing over the government of the country to the army. I here state again categorically as a member of that cabinet that we did not hand-over voluntarily. It was a coup. This is a very good book, which everybody must read. It is raw material for future authors. Anybody, who wants to know some of the causes of our problems, military instability should read this book. I even recommend this book to all universities and secondary schools, so that they can know how we get to where we are now. What this book shows is that if anybody stages a coup and if people don’t accept it, it would not succeed. What puzzles me is how the author got all these materials. He must have connections in high places to be able to get a lot of these materials.
These materials should not be in the archives, they should be in the public domain so that we know the causes of our problems. I pray that all Nigerians should rise up and say no if anybody seizes a radio station and says “fellow countrymen”. I hope that this book will find its way into all university libraries throughout this country, to all secondary school library and abroad. I appeal to the media to give this book a comprehensive and desired review.
The more I open the book, the more I see something to talk about. This book is going to represent one of those chapters in the tragedy of Nigeria. This book is just like horror film because the instability which was started in I966 … because many of the coups are what I’ll call commercial coups. If anything at all, we have to learn a great lesson from this book and also learn a lesson on what happened, who failed or succeed in their coups. When it succeeds. They call it glorious revolution. But when it fails, it is called treason. It is my honour and privilege to present this great and historic book. One of the things I like about the book is the language of the author. He’s someone who speaks Englishman’s English. He writes Queen’s English. Very lucid, very flowing.
1862 (January 1): Lagos Island annexed as a colony of Britain
Mr. H.S Freeman became Governor of Lagos Colony (Jan. 22)
1893: Oil Rivers Protectorate renamed Niger Coast Protectorate with Calabar as capital.
1890’s: British reporter Flora Shaw, who later married Lord Frederick Lugard, suggests that the country be named “Nigeria” after the Niger River.
1897: The British overthrew Oba Ovonramwen of Benin, one of the last independent West African kings.
1900: The Niger Coast Protectorate, merged with the colony and protectorate of Lagos, was renamed the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria
1914: The northern and southern protectorates were amalgamated to form Nigeria. Colonial officer Frederick Lugard was governor-general.
1929 (October): Women in the eastern commercial city of Aba held a rowdy but effective and victorious protest against high taxes and low prices of Nigerian exports.
1951: The British decided to grant Nigeria internal self-rule, following an agitation led by the NCNC, Dr Azikiwe’s political party.
1954: The position of Governor was created in the three regions (North, West and East) on the adoption of federalism.
1958: Nigerian Armed Forces transferred to Federal control. The Nigerian Navy was born.
1959: The new Nigerian currency, the Pound, was introduced
1959: Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and Niger Delta Congress (NDC) formed an alliance to contest parliamentary elections.
1960 (October 1): Independence. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe became Nigeria’s first indigenous Governor General.
1960-1966: First Republic of Nigeria under a British parliamentary system. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was elected Prime Minister.
1960: Nigeria’s joined with Liberia and Togo in the “Monrovia Group”, seeking some form of a confederation of African states.
1961 (February 11 and 12): After a plebiscite, the Northern Cameroon, which before then was administered separately within Nigeria, voted to join Nigeria. But Southern Cameroon became part of francophone Cameroon.
1961 (June 1): Northern Cameroon became Sardauna Province of Nigeria, the thirteenth province of Northern Nigeria as the country’s map assumed a new shape.
1961 (October 1): Southern Cameroon ceased to be a part of Nigeria.
1962:Following a split in the leadership of the AG that led to a crisis in the Western Region, a state of emergency was declared in the region, and the federal government invoked its emergency powers to administer the region directly. Consequently the AG was toppled as regional power. Awolowo, its leader, and other AG leaders, were convicted of treasonable felony. Awolowo’s former deputy and premier of the Western Region formed a new party–the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP)–that took over the government. Meanwhile, the federal coalition government acted on the agitation of minority non-Yoruba groups for a separate state to be excised from the Western Region
1963: Nigeria shed the bulk of its political affinity with the British colonial power to become a Republic. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the first President. Obafemi Awolowo leader of the Action Group (AG) became leader of the opposition. The regional premiers were Ahmadu Bello (Northern Region, NPC), Samuel Akintola (Western Region, AG), Michael Okpara (Eastern Region, NCNC). Dennis Osadebey (NCNC) became premier of the Midwestern Region just created out of the old Western region.
1964: Prime Minister Balewa’s Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) aligned with a faction of the Action Group (AG) led by Chief Ladoke Akintola, the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), to form the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA) in readiness for the elections. At the same time, the main Action Group led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo formed an alliance with the United Middle-Belt Congress (UMBC) and Alhaji Aminu Kano’s Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) and Borno Youth Movement to form the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA).
1965 (November): Violence erupted in the western region, and criticism of the political ruling class created unease in the new republic.
1966 (January 15): Junior officers of the Nigerian army, mostly majors overthrew the government in a coup d’etat. The officers, most of whom were Igbo, assassinated Balewa in Lagos, Akintola in Ibadan, and Bello in Kaduna, as well as some senior northern officers. The coup leaders pledged to establish a strong and efficient government committed to a progressive program and eventually to new elections. They vowed to stop the post-electoral violence and stamp out corruption that they said was rife in the civilian administration. General Johnson T. Aguiyi-Ironsi, the most senior military officer, and incidentally an easterner (Igbo), who stepped in to restore order, became the head of state.
1966 (May 29): Massive rioting started in the major towns of Northern Nigeria and attack the Igbos and other easterners to avenge the death of many senior northerners in the coup.
1966 (July 29): A group of Northern officers and men stormed the Western Region’s governor’s residence in Ibadan where General Aguiyi Ironsi was staying with his host, Lt. Col Adekunle Fajuyi. Both the head of state and governor are killed.
1966 (August 1): Lt. Col Yakubu Gowon a fairly junior officer from the north became the new head of state.
1967 (January 4): Nigeria’s military leaders travelled to Aburi in Ghana to find a solution to problems facing the country and to avert an imminent military clash between the north and the east.
1967 (May 30): Lt Col Ojukwu, governor of the east, declared his region the Republic of Biafra.
1967 (July 6): First shots were fired heralding a 30-month war between the Federal government and the rebel Republic of Biafra.
1970 (January 15): The civil war ended and reconstruction and rehabilitation begin.
1971 (April 2): Nigeria switches with amazing smoothness from driving on the left hand side (like Britain) to the left, like all its neighbouring countries.
1973 (May): Gowon establishes the National Youth Service Corps Scheme and introduces compulsory one-year service for all university graduates, to promote integration and peace after the war.
1974: General Gowon said he could not keep his earlier promise to return power to a democratically elected government in 1976. He announced an indefinite postponement of a programme of transition to civil rule.
1975 (July): Gowon was overthrown in a coup, on the anniversary of his ninth year in office. Brigadier (later General) Murtala Mohammed, the new head of state promised a 1979 restoration of democracy.
1976: The federal government adhering to the recommendations of a panel earlier set up to advise it, approves the creation of a new Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, away from Lagos.
1976 (February 13): Murtala Mohammed was killed in the traffic on his way to work. But the coup executed by an easy-going physical education corps Lt colonel, and heralded by a quixotic announcement on the radio, was botched.
1976 (February 14): General Mohammed is succeeded by General Olusegun Obasanjo who pledged to pursue his predecessor’s transition programme.
1976 (September 2): The Universal Primary Education Scheme (UPE) was introduced, making education free and compulsory in the country.
1977: Nigeria hosted FESTAC the festival of arts and culture drawing black talent and civilization from around the world.
1979: Nigeria got a new constitution.
1979 (October 1): General Obasanjo handed over to Alhaji Shehu Shagari as first elected executive President and the first politician to govern Nigeria since 1966. Five parties had competed for the presidency, and Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was declared the winner. The other parties were: Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), National People’s Party (UPN), Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP), People’s Redemption Party (PRP)
1983: The conduct of the general elections was criticised by opposing parties and the media. Violent erupted in some parts of the west.
1983(September): Shagari was re-elected president of Nigeria in August-September 1983.
1983(December 31): Following a coup d’etat, the military returned to power. Major-General Muhammadu Buhari was named head of state.
1985 (August 27): Following accusations of callousness and overzealousness, Buhari was overthrown in a palace coup. The army chief, General Ibrahim Babangida took over power.
1986: The seat of government was officially moved from Lagos to Abuja
1993 (June 12): After several postponements by the military administration, presidential elections were held. Businessman and newspaper publisher Moshood Abiola of the SDP took unexpected lead in early returns.
1993 (June 23): Babangida on national television offered his reasons for annulling the results of the Presidential election. At least 100 people were killed in riots in the southwest, Abiola’s home area.
1993 (August 26): Under severe opposition and pressure, Babangida resigned as military president and appointed an interim government headed by Chief Ernest A. Shonekan.
1993 (October): A ragtag group of young people under the name of Movement for the Advancement of Democracy (MAD) hijacked a Nigerian airliner to neighbouring Niger in order to protest official corruption. Nigerian troops stormed liberated the plane at the N’djamena airport, Republic of Niger.
1993 (November 17): General Sani Abacha, defence minister in the interim government and most senior officer, seized power from Shonekan, abolishes the constitution.
1994: Abiola, who had escaped abroad after the annulment, returned and proclaimed himself president. He was arrested and charged with treason.
1995 (July): Former head of state, Obasanjo was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a secret military tribunal for alleged participation in an attempt (widely believed to have been fictional) to overthrow the government.
1996 (May): Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s first president, died.
1998 (June 8): General Abacha died suddenly and mysteriously. The official cause of death: heart attack. Nigerians swarmed the streets rejoicing.
1998 (June 9): Gen. Abdulsalaam Abubakar was named Nigeria’s eighth military ruler. He promised to restore civilian rule promptly.
1998: A month after General Abacha’s death the United Nations General-Secretary Kofi Annan arrived in Nigeria to conclude deals for the release of Chief Abiola.
1998 (July 7): Abiola died in detention of a heart disease, a week after Annan’s visit, before he could be released in a general amnesty for political prisoners. Rioting in Lagos led to over 60 deaths.
1998 (July 20): Abubakar promised to relinquish power on May 29, 1999.
1999 (February 15): Former military ruler Obasanjo won the presidential nomination of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
1999 (May): A new Constitution was adopted. It was based on the 1979 Constitution.
1999 (May 29): Former Military Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo, was sworn in as Nigeria’s democratically elected civilian President.
Lugard And Colonial Nigeria – Towards An Identity?
This original article, titled “Lugard And Colonial Nigeria – Towards An Identity?” was written by the great historian, Michael Crowder – History Today, February 1986, Vol. 36, pp 23 – 29. I am again merely reproducing this fine piece that throws more light on the feud and rivalry between our colonial administrators and which seem to have been passed down to us, and is the causative of most of the ethnic distrust and problems that still exist in Nigeria today. I am sure many Nigerians, especially historians, have read this article, but then, most of us who are not students of history might not have come across it. Certainly, I had not, until quite recently, and it was a fascinating read and knowledge. It is a long article, but I hope you will take your time to read through and enjoy this part of our history….Akintokunbo Adejumo
Here we go:
(“More like sovereign heads of state than servants of the same British Crown” – the rivalry and ‘diplomacy’ of imperial proconsuls hampered the creation of Nigeria between 1900 and 1914)
Lugard’s arrival at Calabar on a tour of the Central and Eastern Provinces, Dec. 1912
DIPLOMACY IS NOT AN ACTIVITY usually associated with colonies or colonial officials. By definition colonies were not sovereign states and where relations with other countries were concerned, these were conducted for them by their imperial governments. Likewise, the colonial official did not ‘represent’ his country in his colony, even when he bore a diplomatic title like that of ‘Resident’ in Northern Nigeria, but rather exercised power on its behalf over people who had lost their sovereignty.
Given this, a special problem arose as to how to conduct relations between colonies occupied by the same metropolitan power that were territorially contiguous but administered as separate entities. To take Africa as an example, Britain after the First World war had nine contiguous colonies in East, Central and Southern Africa, while France had seventeen in Northern, Western and Equatorial Africa. How were conflicts of interest between neighbouring countries administered by the same colonial power to be solved, or projects of mutual economic interest to be advanced? The French partially solved this problem by placing their West African colonies under a Governor-General in Dakar, and their Equatorial African colonies under a Governor-General in Brazzaville, thus reducing the potential areas of inter-colonial conflict to those between the French Equatorial Federation and the French West African Federation, and between the latter and the French North African possessions of Morocco and Algeria, with which it had common borders. The British, who delegated more power to their proconsuls in Africa than did the French, expected them to settle any disputes that might arise between them on the spot, keeping the overworked and understaffed Colonial Office informed of results, but only in the last resort referring to it for arbitration.
The three contiguous British territories of the Niger – the Lagos Colony and Protectorate, and the Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria – provide a fascinating case study of the way in which these contiguous British administrations conducted relations with each other very much as would friendly (and sometimes not so friendly) sovereign states with particular concerns, boundaries and ways of life to defend. Before the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria was formally proclaimed in 1900, it was declared British policy to amalgamate it with its southern neighbours. The fact it took fourteen years to amalgamate them, was in large part due to often bitter ‘diplomatic’ wrangles between their respective officials, and the way these officials perceived their colonies as ‘countries’ with special interests which it was their business to protect. Sir Frederick Lugard, as High Commissioner of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, highlighted the anomalies of this situation when he wrote to Sir William MacGregor, Governor of the Lagos Colony and Protectorate, over the boundary between the two British territories in March, 1902:
“I venture to remind Your Excellency that though, in my opinion, it matters little where the exact frontier is placed, since both Protectorates are British, since before long it is your hope and mine that they will become still more closely connected, and since I have the good fortune to have succeeded in working in co-operation and harmony with Your Excellency, still I have an obligation no less than that which you so strongly feel yourself to safeguard the traditional and just rights of the chiefs within my administration”.
The three British colonial possessions of the Niger that were amalgamated between 1906 and 1914 each had a different origin which helped determine the specific character they quickly developed under their British administrators. The oldest of the three was the Lagos Colony and Protectorate, dating back to 1861 when the British occupied the island-port of Lagos to put an end to its involvement in the slave trade and to protect British commercial and evangelical interests in the hinterland. The subsequent occupation of its hinterland was accomplished in the last decade of the nineteenth century, mainly peacefully through treaties with the kings of the Yoruba states who made up this largely ethnically homogenous, though politically fragmented, territory. A substantial group of Yoruba-speaking people were, however, included in the Northern Protectorate since in the early nineteenth century they had incorporated into Ilorin, one of the constituent emirates of the great Sokoto Caliphate, whose lands comprised nearly two-thirds of that Protectorate. A small group of Yoruba were to be found in the extreme western areas of the Southern Nigerian Protectorate. Lagos island itself and a small part of the mainland had the status of a Crown Colony with its own Executive and Legislative Council established at the time of the British occupation in 1861, while the larger hinterland was a British Protectorate.
Top Left: Sir William MacGregor, Governor of the Lagos Colony and Protectorate
Right: Sir Frederick Lugard, High Commissioner for the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria
Bottom Left: Sir Percy Girouard, Lugard’s successor in the North.
To the east of the Lagos Colony and Protectorate lay the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, much of which in 1900 still had to be conquered or, in British colonial parlance, ‘pacified’. This Protectorate, formed from the old Niger Coast Protectorate and part of the lands of the Royal Niger Company, whose status as a Charter Company with the right to administer territory on behalf of the Crown had been withdrawn the year before, comprised a multitude of different ethnic groups. Its origins went back to the mid-nineteenth century when British consular officials began to exercise authority over certain coastal states in an attempt to suppress the slave trade and protect the interests of British palm-oil merchants. It was ruled from Old Calabar in the far south-eastern corner of the territory by Sir Ralph Moor.
The Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, proclaimed on January 1st, 1900, when the British flag was hoisted at Lokoja at the confluence of the Benue and the Niger, was formed from lands claimed, and to a much lesser extent administered, by the Royal Niger Company along the Niger and Benue river valleys and to the north of them. Sir Frederick Lugard, who had earlier secured some of these territories for the Company, now became the Protectorate’s founding High Commissioner. As Margery Perham, his biographer wrote:
“A colonial governor can seldom have been appointed to a territory so much of which had never even been viewed by himself or any other European”.
It may seem curious that so soon after their conquest, and given the arbitrary nature of their boundaries and the heterogeneity of the peoples and polities enclosed within them, these British-created colonies could even be thought of in terms of countries. Yet, within a short space of time, their respective colonial administrations had imposed on them a separate, albeit British-derived identity, in terms of differing legal systems, administrative organisation and patterns of economic development. The administrators of these three territories saw them as having the attributes of countries and, if they were to be amalgamated, as all were agreed they eventually should, this should be done on terms that were in no way disadvantageous to their individual interests.
The actual decision to amalgamate the British territories on the Niger had been taken as early as 1898 by a six member Niger Committee. The Colonial Office was represented by the Earl of Selbourne and Mr Reginald Antrobus; the Foreign Office, which was still responsible for the Niger Coast Protectorate, by Sir Clement Hill; while the Niger Territories themselves were represented by Sir Henry McCallum, Governor of Lagos, Sir Ralph Moor, Consul-General of the Niger Coast Protectorate, and Sir George Goldie, head of the Royal Niger Company, part of whose territories were to make up the future Protectorate of Northern Nigeria.
All were agreed that the long term goal should be the amalgamation of the three territories. For the present this was impractical because of lack of communications and the problem of the climate which dictated the appointment of younger men as senior administrators and would make it difficult to find a man with sufficient seniority to oversee all three territories. At this early stage, differences of opinion began to emerge between the British officials on the spot as to what form the organisation should take. Moor favoured the immediate amalgamation of Lagos and the Niger Coast Protectorate under one administration as the Maritime Province. McCallum, who had initially favoured the idea, subsequently formed the ‘decided opinion’ that it would be impossible under the present conditions for one man to rule effectively over the whole of the suggested Maritime Province. Antrobus agreed with McCallum that it would be difficult to put the two southern administrations under one government, ‘although if communications were easier there would no doubt be advantages in doing so’.
Chamberlain, as Secretary of State for Colonies, accepted that for the time being there should be three territories, so in 1900, with the declaration of the British protectorate of Northern Nigeria, the renaming of the Niger Coast Protectorate as the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the retention of the Lagos Colony and Protectorate as a separate administrative entity, there were established three British administrations on the Niger whose long-term goal was amalgamation. But as the Nigerian historian and administrator, Isaac N Okonjo, so shrewdly observed:
“Not for the last time were British political officers to identify themselves too closely with the interests of the region of Nigeria in which they served and which they had grown to love at the expense of the wider interest of the country as a whole”.
The principle source of friction between the three territories on the Niger was the demarcation of their boundaries with each other. Indeed sometimes negotiations over these were more difficult of settlement than those over their frontiers with their French and German neighbours. Certainly the latter sets of boundaries were more speedily determined. Indeed some stretches of boundary between the northern and southern protectorates had not been fixed by the time of their amalgamation in 1914.
The principal source of friction lay on the boundary between Northern Nigeria on the one hand and the Lagos and Southern Protectorate on the other. The acrimony that developed between MacGregor of Lagos and Lugard of the North over the towns of Kishi and Saki underlines the fact that these British officials acted as though they were representing separate states, not colonies belonging to the same colonial power. Kishi and Saki were Yoruba towns with which Lugard, when an official of the Royal Niger Company, had made treaties. Now, as High Commissioner of Northern Nigeria, which had inherited the northern territories of the RNC, he considered these two towns properly belonged to him. Furthermore, he considered these relatively populous towns essential as bases for the opening-up of the less populous non-Yoruba country to their north, known as Borgu, which was clearly part of his domain. MacGregor argued that both Saki and Kishi traditionally paid allegiance to the Yoruba ruler of Oyo, which clearly lay in his domain, and therefore, they should come under his jurisdiction.
As early as April 1900, with Lugard’s agreement, Macgregor set off on journeys into parts of Yorubaland claimed by the North. Not only did MacGregor pass on to the Colonial Office complaints made by Yoruba towns he claimed for Lagos about ‘forcible and harmful interference by officers of Northern Nigeria, of whom our boundary natives stand in unreasonable and unreasoning dread’, but he alleged that these border towns had also a ‘great dread of being transferred to Northern Nigeria’. MacGregor also wrote that he considered that he had already ‘shown that it is impossible for Lagos to cede Kishi’ (The author’s italics).
Lugard, who considered MacGregor over-solicitous of, and deferential to, his ‘native chiefs’. Was particularly annoyed at the charges laid against his officers. Indeed he wrote to MacGregor that apart from not feeling it necessary to represent to the Secretary of state complaints against or adverse reports upon Lagos officials: ‘….I deprecate allowing natives to practice their traditional policy of playing off the officials of one Administration against that of the other’. Even so, Lugard has MacGregor’s charges investigated and one of the border officials, Pierce M Dwyer, Assistant Resident in Ilorin, assured him ‘that during my period of service in Illorin [sic] I have been most careful to refrain from any act that might be considered by the Lagos Government as interference’.
The boundary disputes between Moor and Lugard were no less acrimonious. The basic differences between the two were summed up by Captain Woodruffe, one of the Southern Boundary Commissioners, who held that they:
“Arose from the fact that from the Northern Nigerian point of view, geographical considerations were of little or no importance….further….the Political Officer, Northern Nigeria, stated that he did not see what race, Native Custom and tradition had to do with the question as he, personally, did not consider the natives had any feelings of sentiment or cling to customs and laws they and the people before them were used to, and further, in his opinion that if any natives were ordered by one Government or the other to go either North of South they would do so”.
The Southern Boundary Commissioner, by contrast, considered that ‘natives were very much in the habit of maintaining their old allegiance, however slight’.
Although Moor and Lugard signed an agreement with regard to their boundary west of the Niger, they were unable to settle that east of the Niger. They did, however, come to an understanding as to what was for the time-being workable, and agreed joint patrols along their undefined borders because the ‘natives’ in the area were not yet ‘pacified’. But the divisions between them were too deep. In the event Lugard appealed to the Secretary of State for a ruling, talking about the question of transfer of lands in terms of ‘cession’. Meanwhile he assured Moor that he had not been ‘activated by hunger for land’.
Matters were easier on the Lagos-Southern Nigerian Protectorate frontier. But even though disputes concerned matters of much less moment, such as the position of a marker point in a river, they were sometimes referred home. As Bull minuted to Antrobus on Moor’s despatch about the markers:
“It is merely a question of words, and it is a little surprising that a man of Sir R Moor’s capacity should have referred home on such a point, when he has been told that Mr Chamberlain is prepared to agree to anything he may settle with OAG (Officer Administering the Government) Lagos in this matter. But these internal boundary questions, though trivial, have a knack of bringing out the most businesslike characteristics of all three administrators of Nigeria”.
|While the objective of amalgamating the three Nigerian territories had been established by the Niger Committee from the outset, no time limit had been set for its achievement. The Committee did, however, recommend that the three territories form a Customs Union pending amalgamation, and Lugard, before assuming duties in the North, had proposed in 1899 that he would adopt the same ‘customs, regulations and management’ as Southern Nigeria and Lagos ‘in so far as they are applicable to an inland territory’. But once out in Northern Nigeria, Lugard established a customs policy of his own. Tolls were imposed on goods entering the Northern Protectorate by road from the Southern Protectorate, though goods shipped along the rivers Niger and Benue went free. The African merchants of Lagos were particularly resentful of these tolls and of their status as ‘aliens’ in Northern Nigeria. Indeed by the terms of the Land Proclamation of 1900, no-one who was not a native of the Northern Protectorate could directly or indirectly acquire interest in and rights over land within the Protectorate from a ‘native’ without the consent, in writing, of the High Commissioner.
But this did not mean that Lugard was against amalgamation, indeed, for Lugard, ruling over the newest and largest of the three territories, amalgamation was, curiously, the most urgent. In the first place, Northern Nigeria was landlocked and could therefore; earn no direct revenue from duties on imports or exports. Instead the Southern Nigeria Protectorate made an annual grant of £34,000 in respect of the duties it was estimated it would be able to raise if it had its own port; but the Southern administration protested that effectively only £12,000 would in reality have been raised on the volume of external trade emanating from the North. In the second place much of the North was still outside administrative control and Lugard required an Imperial Grant-in-Aide to complete its conquest and establish his administration. This subjected him to a degree of metropolitan control that the two Southern Protectorates did not suffer. If he could amalgamate with a southern territory with sufficient a surplus in its revenue to cover his deficit, he would be relieved of irksome control by an Imperial Treasury that held that all colonial dependencies should pay their own way. MacGregor and Moor were equally anxious to amalgamate with the North so the railway that they both planned to extend from their seaboard to the interior could thus penetrate and open up their natural hinterlands without hindrance.
Map of Nigeria before amalgamation showing the three Protectorates and Provinces
(Akintokunbo Adejumo: Please note the Cameroon border and relate to Bakassi Province today)
As far as the Colonial Office was concerned, the main stumbling block on the road to amalgamation was ‘the personalities of the administrators of the three provinces’. Nevertheless in 1903 a major step towards amalgamation of the two coastal protectorates was taken when Sir Ralph Moor was replaced by Sir Walter Egerton, who was appointed simultaneously Governor of the Lagos Colony and Protectorate and of the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. Even so it took some three years to bring the two territories together because Egerton seemed to take the sides of both parties to the proposed union and wrote in 1905 to Lyttleton at the Colonial Office that the future amalgamation of Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria would be:
“Much simpler than that between Lagos and Southern Nigeria, for the different systems of government, laws, and methods adopted in the latter two administrations forbid a complete union for some time to come”.
Thus he proposed to the Colonial Office a form of amalgamation of Lagos and Southern Nigeria that approximated to a confederation with separate institutions.
The two Southern protectorates were finally and, at Colonial Office insistence, fully amalgamated on February 26th, 1906, to become the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria with its capital at Lagos. Meanwhile disputes between the Northern and Southern Protectorates continued unabated particularly in matters of railway policy and boundaries. Indeed these two areas of potential conflict became inextricably bound up as the Lagos line began to cross the frontier into Northern Nigeria.
Lugard’s successor, Sir Percy Girouard, was first and foremost a railway engineer and administrator, with experience in the Sudan, Egypt and South Africa. His appointment was a temporary one and had been made with a view to bringing some rationale into plans to join up the Lagos line with the Northern line.
By the time he took up his appointment Girouard found that the two Nigerias had rival railway projects. From the port of Lagos the Southern Nigerian administration was building a 3’ 6” gauge line northwards to the Niger at Jebba in Northern territory. Meanwhile Lugard had been planning a 2’ 6” line from Kano to Baro on the Niger which would enable him to ship produce without passing through Southern Nigerian territory since under the terms of the Berlin Convention of 1885 the Niger was an international waterway.
The Southern Nigerian Government did not want its railway to be subject to Northern control even when it passed through the latter’s territory. Egerton therefore urged that the area of Northern Nigeria southwest of the Niger be transferred to his administration. But Girouard would have none of this, being as protective of Northern interests as his predecessor (Lugard). Almost as if to add insult to injury, the Colonial Office ruled that the rich Southern Protectorate should provide the deficit-ridden Northern Protectorate with the funds to finance its Baro line, since in any case the two protectorates were destined shortly to be amalgamated. But he did gain two major concessions: there was to be no hold-up in the construction of his own line to meet up with the Northern line near Zungeru, the northern capital, and more important still, the Northern line should be of similar gauge to his own so there would be no difficulty in transferring good from one line to the other. Otherwise had the Northern line remained at 2’ 6” gauge, it would have favoured onward carriage of northern goods from Zungeru to Baro rather than Lagos even at the time of the year when only shallow draft steamers could operate on the Niger. But Egerton was to lose his other argument that at least he should have control of the land on either side of his railway as it passed through Northern territory.
Right up to the eve of amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates wrangles between their respective administrations over control of the northern sector of the Lagos line continued with the North accusing the South of refusing to book goods bound for Jebba and shipment down the Niger and the South accusing the North of giving preferential treatment to those who chose to export goods via Baro and the Niger rather than through Lagos.
Construction of the Kano-Lagos railway in progress near Kaduna in 1910
Apart from the major territorial claim made by Egerton to the Kabba and Ilorin provinces, disputes over the demarcation of the existing boundary between the North and the South continued. However, they never reached the acrimony that had existed between Lugard and MacGregor, and then his successor Egerton, which culminated in Lugard writing to the Under Secretary of State for Colonies when he was on leave in Abinger before taking up his post in Hong Kong:
If Sir Walter Egerton intends forthwith to carry out his own view [with regard to the frontier] and will send his own officer to lay out a line in accordance with them [it will compel] the Government of Northern Nigeria to oppose such a course of action by force or refer the matter to the Secretary of State for a decision.
The most bitter dispute was along the boundary eastward from the Niger to the border with German Kamerun. Once again we see that the administrations of the two Protectorates had come to regard themselves as representing separate countries with distinct identities. One sector of the boundary divided the Tiv people, one of Nigeria’s largest ‘minority’ groups. Girouard urged that the whole of Tiv country should be brought under his administration. To this Egerton replied that, since they were a ‘pagan’ people, ‘very similar to other pagan races in Southern Nigeria’, the reverse should be the case. ‘Southern Nigeria Officers have infinitely greater experience in the treatment of the Pagan peoples, in their habits and methods of government than Northern Nigeria officials …’ In urging the Colonial Office to transfer Tiv country to Southern Nigeria he added a number of other claims, notably Ilorin:
“Sir Percy Girouard and myself, however, hold very opposite views regarding the development of Northern Nigeria. Sir Percy is content to develop the country without assistance from outside and demurs to the entry of Southern Nigeria natives. I, on the other hand, think that equilibrium between revenue and expenditure can be best effected by encouraging intercourse between the North and South…..”
At this time, the Tiv were still resisting the imposition of British rule. Since they were divided between the two administrations both were engaged in ‘punitive expeditions’ against them. Here Egerton stipulated that he did not wish Southern Nigeria troops to be involved in operations in Northern Tivland. Tiredly, Bull in the Colonial Office minuted to a colleague: ‘As one expected, he (Egerton) is very jealous of the boundary between Southern and Northern Nigeria.’
Particularly galling to Egerton and his Southern Nigerian subjects were the taxes that continued to be imposed on them when trading in the Northern Protectorate. They resented being treated as though they were foreigners there. Their alien status in that territory was re-emphasised in 1910 by the Land and Native Rights Proclamation which gave the Northern administration control over immigration from the south by with-holding the grant of a certificate of occupancy or by attaching restrictive conditions to a grant, or by threatening to revoke it.
In the Colonial Office the principle of eventual amalgamation had never been in question: the real problem was to find the man capable of undertaking it. The matter had achieved an urgency in recent years because of what Okonjo has called, somewhat melodramatically, the collapse of the Southern Nigerian Administration in the face of activities of lawyers. Egerton put the position as seen by his administration succinctly in a letter to Lord Crewe, the Colonial Secretary. Although the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court extended throughout the Southern Protectorate he considered that its most backward parts were:
“Quite unfitted for so highly organised jurisdiction, little inconvenience and liaison resulted from its introduction until the advent within the last few years of native barristers from Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast who have adopted the habit of sending their agents through the country touting for cases and inducing towns, which before the advent of civil control, would have fought over matters, to pay them extortionate fees to bring suits in the Supreme Court…..Naked savages are now, through the agency of lawyers, bringing cases before the Supreme Court.”
These lawyers, Okonjo convincingly argues, succeeded in hamstringing the administration to such an extent that in places it came to a standstill. The Northern Nigerian Government had taken powers from the beginning to exclude barristers from the Provincial Courts of the Protectorate. Thus, when Lugard, coming to the end of his term as Governor of Hong Kong in 1911, indicated that he would be willing to undertake the task of amalgamating the two Nigerias, he seemed the ideal choice. Matured by years, and with direct experience of administering Northern Nigeria, which he had done so much to build and which ran so smoothly compared with the disarray in which its southern counterpart found itself, he appeared to be as likely as anyone to be able to join the two parts into an effective whole.
The consequences for Nigeria’s long-term political development of the formula Lugard chose need not concern us here except in two respects. The first is that not surprisingly Lugard’s amalgamation largely involved imposing on Southern Nigeria the administrative and judicial systems of the North. The second was that the amalgamation was only a partial one. Whereas the Colonial Office has overruled Egerton’s scheme for partial amalgamation of the two southern territories in 1906, they allowed Lugard’s scheme to go ahead. He received a number of suggestions as to how the huge Northern Protectorate might be broken up to give the constituent units of the new Nigeria greater balance. But Lugard had created Northern Nigeria and he was clearly not prepared to see his ‘country’ lose its identity. The farthest he was prepared to go was to suggest a return to the pre-1906 situation by re-establishing the former Lagos Colony and Protectorate as a separate constituent unit of amalgamated Nigeria.
As it was, Lugard’s amalgamation was more like a loose federation of two countries, each of which retained its own administration, headed by a Lieutenant-Governor with his own Secretariat, budget and departments. Only Posts and Telegraphs, Survey, Audit, Judiciary and Military were centralised under Lugard as Governor-General. Southerners continued to be treated as aliens in the north. The consequences of this partial amalgamation were to haunt Nigeria for the next fifty years and many would argue that the Nigerian civil war had its roots in the form of amalgamation Lugard imposed on the country.
* * *
The amalgamation of the three British territories on the Niger, agreed in principle in 1898, took nearly sixteen years to achieve because the administrators of these territories often behaved more like sovereign heads of state than servants of the same British Crown. They and their subordinate officials conducted relations with each other as though they were dealing with foreign governments rather than neighbouring British administrations whose frontiers had been largely arbitrarily delimited and were soon to be joined together as one unit.
From a rational point of view these frontiers should have been of as little consequences as those between British counties. As it was the most disputes between the three administrators on the Niger were over borders, the very stuff of diplomacy. Rational economic co-operation between them was bedevilled not by irredentism on the part of the inhabitants who had been unwillingly enclosed by the colonial frontiers, but of their colonial overloads. British officials identified fiercely with the colonies they had been sent out to govern and serve in, as fiercely as they had with their public schools or universities. Thus Sylvia Leith-Ross, sailing out to Nigeria for the first time in 1907 with her husband who was the Chief Transport Officer in the Northern Protectorate, was surprised to find that the Purser would never dream of placing Northern and Southern officials at the same table. The ‘Northerners’ looked down on the ‘Southerners’ who they considered flabby and who began drinking at 6pm, whereas they did not start until 6.30pm.
What is so remarkable about these ‘national identities’ is that they took root so quickly, feeding of course on existing ethnic and religious differences, and were used as we have seen to defend one British territory against encroachment – territorial or economic – by the other, even though they were soon to be joined together. By giving so much autonomy to their proconsuls, the British Colonial Office made amalgamation most difficult of realisation and brought about a situation in which in their conduct of relations with each other, they were bound to act more like heads of state than civil servants of the same government department – which of course, they were.
The doctor starting his morning rounds by railroad, Ilorin, October 1912
FOR FURTHER READING:
This article is based primarily on the relevant papers of the Colonial Office held in the Public Records Office at Kew. Margery Perham, Lugard: The Years of Authority 1899-1945 (Collins, 1960); Isaac M Okonjo, Administration in Nigeria 1900-1950 (New York, 1974); T K Tamuno, The Evolution of the Nigerian State: The Southern Phase, 1898-1914 (Longman, 1972); Robert Heussler, The British in Northern Nigeria (Oxford University Press, 1968); A.H.M. Kirk-Greene ed., Lugard and the Amalgamation of Nigeria: a documentary record, London, 1968.
This article is reproduced from Lugard And Colonial Nigeria – Towards An Identity?
By Michael Crowder – History Today, February 1986, Vol. 36, pp 23 – 29
Michael Crowder was born in London on 9 June 1934 and educated at Mill Hill School. During his national service he was seconded to the Nigeria Regiment (1953-1954). He gained a 1st class honours degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Hertford College, Oxford University in 1957. He returned to Lagos to become first Editor of Nigeria Magazine, 1959-1962, and then Secretary at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ibadan. In 1964-1965 he was Visiting Lecturer in African History at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1965-1967 was Director of the Institute of African Studies at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone.
From 1968 to 1978 he was based in Nigeria again, first as Research Professor and Director of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ife, then from 1971 as Professor of History at the Ahmadu Bello University (also becoming Director of its Centre for Nigerian Cultural Studies, 1972-1975) and finally as Research Professor in History at the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Lagos, 1975-1978. He returned to London in 1979 to become editor of the British magazine History Today and is credited with making a significant contribution to the survival and then success of the magazine as it now is. He remained a Consultant Editor up to his death.
He returned to the academic world as Visiting Fellow at the Centre for International Studies at the LSE, 1981-82, and then as Professor of History at the University of Botswana, 1982-85. From 1985 until his death he was Joint Editor of the Journal of African History. In 1986 he became Visiting Professor in Black Studies at Amherst College, Massachusetts, USA and Honorary Professorial Fellow and General Editor of the British Documents on the End of Empire Project at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICS). His death on 14 August 1988 was marked by obituaries in the four major daily London newspapers and in many academic journals.
For a bibliography [incomplete] of Crowder’s works, see J.F. Ade Ajayi & John D.Y. Peel (eds.), People and Empires in African History: Essays in Memory of Michael Crowder (London, Longman 1992) pp.x-xiv. His major publications include: The Story of Nigeria (1962, 4ed. 1977); West Africa under Colonial Rule (London, Hutchinson 1968); jt.ed., The History of West Africa (London, Longman 2 vols 1971-74, 2 ed. 1985-87); West African Resistance (London, Hutchinson 1971); Nigeria: an Introduction to its History (London, Longman 1979); ed. Cambridge History of Africa, vol. VIII (CUP 1984);’I want to be taught how to govern, not to be taught how to be governed’: Tshekedi Khama and the opposition to the British administration in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, 1926-30 (University of Malawi 1984); The Flogging of Phinehas McIntosh: a tale of colonial folly and injustice – Bechuanaland, 1933 (New Haven, Yale University Press 1988); with N. Parsons, eds., Monarch of All I Survey: Bechuanaland Diaries, 1929-37 by Sir Charles Rey (Gaborone and New York 1988).