Sunday, January 31, 2010


Written by Prof. Omo Omoruyi

The southern disunity has for too long been associated for lack of rigorous scholarship with the rift between Dr. Azikiwe and Chief Awolowo. Unfortunately the followers of these two Nigerian leaders have since then attributed the southern disunity with the rift between the Igbo and the Yoruba at various stages in Nigerian history. It is deeper that these two rifts. In my view, if the two rifts were resolved at anytime in the past, the disunity in the south would still be there for obvious reasons.

We constantly make the error as to what constitutes the south. We should appreciate that the south is not made up of the Igbo and the Yoruba alone. Even Dr. Azikiwe and Chief Awolowo in their various writing acknowledged that the regions over which they presided were not homogenous. They therefore knew that the south was more than the sum of Igbo and the Yoruba. Why did their followers make the error of believing that the south was made up of the two ethnic nationalities? The southern solidarity or unity or disunity is therefore not contingent upon the unity of the two political leaders. It could help. There are today six states with their claim to autonomy and independence of action whether the Yoruba and Igbo decide to work together.

What has not been emphasized is the colonial basis of the southern disunity that for too long gave the two majority ethnic nationalities power that they did not deserve. In fairness to the Yoruba or the Igbo, they did not lay claim to other peoples’ territories before the colonial creation of the three regions in Nigeria.

There was no reason why the Yoruba should be made to lord it over the Benin and Delta Provinces during the colonial period.

There was no reason why the Igbo should be made the overlord of the non-Igbo peoples in the old Eastern Region.

In fairness to the Yoruba, they since 1964 accepted the fact that the old Bendel State was not part of the Western Region. They accepted the fact that there are two distinct entities the Yoruba States and the non-Yoruba States that could meet on the basis of progressive platform. This was why Chief Awolowo could use his Four Cardinal Program to rally the people Bendel to his party in 1979.

Unfortunately, the Igbo leaders since the end of the Civil War have not reconciled themselves with the fact that there are four states in the non-Igbo part of the old Eastern Region. Even when they accepted that fact, the Igbo leaders are still to accept that the non-Igbo States in the old Eastern Region are endowed with power to determine their future and who to work with in Nigeria.

The Igbo leaders are still unhappy that the non-Igbo people were ever excised from the old Eastern Region the way it was done in 1967.

The Igbo leaders are unhappy that the Igbo states are landlocked even though that would have been the case without colonialism.

The mistrust between the Igbo and the non-Igbo in the old Eastern region on the one hand and between the Igbo and the non-Yoruba sector of the West (Midwest) on the other is real. I experienced it during the campaign in 1979 when the former Premier of Eastern Nigeria Dr. Azikiwe became a candidate. The non-Igbo people rejected him and supported candidates from other areas.

While the Yoruba leaders are realistic enough not to promote a pan-Western Region plan in form of a return to the old Western Region, I find that Igbo leaders are unrealistic to me when they are bent on a union of Eastern and South-South, euphemism for the old Eastern Region.

There is a lot of ignorance and gaps in Nigeria among the political class about the colonial aspects of Nigeria. Therefore when President Obasanjo decides to tell the cock and bull story about God and the origin of Nigeria, some members of the political class could believe him because they too have no independent source of knowledge. Let me use one case to illustrate this point.

How many Nigerians know the origin of Port Harcourt? As a mark of gratitude to his patron, Lord Harcourt, Lord Lugard founded the Port town at the southeastern part of Nigeria and named it after his master, Lord Harcourt. That is the origin of the town named, Port Harcourt. Port Harcourt is named after Lord Harcourt, the oppressor and the creator of Nigeria.

It is sad that a Commissioner in Katsina State (Alhaji M. Shehu Maikai) like many politicians of his generation displayed his ignorance of this vital aspect of Nigerian history. I am referring to when he wanted Port Harcourt be renamed after Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in place of the "British explorer". Lord Lewis Harcourt, a British Explorer! See Tell of June 19, 1996 p. 17. The distinguished State Commissioner genuinely thought that he was making valuable suggestions to how best to immortalize the sage, Dr. Azikiwe after his death. But he displayed his ignorance in the process.

If the Commissioner could be this ignorant, what do you expect of the school children under his charge? One wonders what is being taught in schools in Katsina State in the name of Nigerian history. Would the Nigerian schools be told to imbibe the new doctrine of the President, that God created Nigeria. Incidentally, Katsina produced one of the finest historians in Nigeria, Dr. Bala Usman. I am sure he would readily correct the Commissioner if he had consulted him before making what to him was a profound suggestion. One wonders how many mistakes are made from such ignorance? President Obasanjo is not helping the political class with his "godism".

As to the real purpose of the Port and the building of the Eastern Railway line, it was meant to make the north less dependent on the southwestern political leaders who from beginning were distrusted by the British officials. This distrust by the British was extended to the successive northern political leaders. Did the British trust the Igbo and others in the Eastern Region? Why did the British not trust the Yoruba and the Western Region? The northern political leaders saw themselves buying the British prejudice against the Yoruba and the British indifference toward the Igbo as a basis of the coalition behavior between the Igbo-led political parties and the Hausa-led political parties in the First and Second Republic.

Lord Harcourt was so happy that he appeared at a Dinner Party and made a profound statement, which has implications for the modern Nigeria. According to Lord Harcourt,
We have released Northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the treasury. The ‘promising and well conducted youth’ (North) is now on an allowance on his own and is about to effect an alliance with a ‘Southern Lady of means’.
Lord Harcourt went on
I have issued the special license and Sir Frederick Lugard will perform the ‘marriage’ ceremony.

For the interest of President Obasanjo, Nigeria in the plan of the founder was to be a marriage between the north (husband) and the south (wife). This was the plan at the birth of Nigeria when there was no oil. This has been the way the north saw Nigeria since 1914. From records this was the way successive Colonial Governors General from Lord Lugard to Sir James Robertson organized Nigeria and handed over to the north on October 1, 1960. This was the intention of the departing British colonial regime in the days leading to independence and finally at independence.

"The Lady of Means", the Wife (South) since 1958 had oil to the bargain in the marriage. "The Promising Youth", the Husband (North) is poorer since then. Since then the north and Nigeria have become more dependent on the oil than what was originally anticipated at the time of amalgamation.

The next issue, which became evident in June 1993, was whether the wife and the husband could alternate position in the conjugal power structure through the fact of a ‘one man’ ‘one vote’. The north did not see the husband becoming the wife by the fiat of an election. To put it clearly is the fact of a husband and wife not permanent? This means that the north as the husband and not the south, the wife would continue to be the permanent ruler of Nigeria.

Those who would be wondering why June 12, Presidential election, which through the democratic process produced a southerner (wife) for the first time faced annulment in the hands of the husband should read The Tale of June 12. This is an aspect of the issues in the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election.

We can see the conjugal power structure manifesting itself in the call for the north to be prepared to reclaim its rightful place (the Presidency) after the one term of General Obasanjo. I can see this challenge in the outburst of Alhaji Lawal Kaita, the former Governor of Kaduna in the Vanguard of July 10, 2000. He was emphatic in the highly provocative article that President Obasanjo was made the President on the voluntary decision of the core north and not through the Constitutional means or through force. The question one would ask is whether in the next time around the core north would claim its rightful place, the President?

I can also see the challenge to the myth of divine rule of kings among the northern leaders. President Obasanjo is copying this when he keeps telling people that God made him President and would rule in furtherance of God on earth. The way the President is carrying on, he would not be able to challenge the Buhari Platform of returning Nigeria to what Allah wished for the country, an Islamic State.

Does President Obasanjo appreciate one important fact of politics that his frequent use of God by him (President Obasanjo) could be used as the basis of Buhari Islamic revivalism in the North? He should heed the warning of the Chairman Council of Ullama of Kano, Dr. Datti Ahmed that it is the Christian God that Obasanjo is referring to when ever he uses the name of God. The northern leaders even accused President Obasanjo for inviting US President Clinton in order to send to the West a message that Nigeria had become a Christian sphere of influence. That would be contrary to the view held during the period of past Muslim political generals who took Nigeria to OIC and gave the impression that Nigeria is an Islamic State.

Does President Obasanjo appreciate another fact of politics that his frequent use of God’s name is not only disturbing, but it would constitute a threat to the secular status of Nigeria? Secularism does not mean a "Godless State"; it means as we conceived it in the Constituent Assembly in 1977/78 that Nigeria shall not adopt any religion as State Religion. The word State here does not mean the public administration at the federal level of government. It means the conduct of Nigerian political life at all levels, federal, state and local government. The picture painted recently by the Minister of Defense, Lt. General TY Danjuma of the administration in certain parts of the north violates the spirit of the Constitution.

Where are the retired political generals from the north? If General Shehu Yar "Adua were alive and aspiring to politics as he did in the past, he would have dissociated himself from the policies of the northern states that openly discriminate against non-Muslims. I would have expected some of the retired political generals aspiring to lead Nigeria again through the process of one person one vote would frown at the Islamization of education in the north at the public expense and to the exclusion of other religions. Why should a state Government cancel the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge, as a discipline while making the teaching of Islamic Religious Knowledge a compulsory subject for Muslims and Non Muslims including Christians? While the Islamic students are not be exposed to the world religions because it is a sin, I have Christian friends at Ibadan who did Arabic and Islamic Studies. That is why the Bible is a prohibited commodity in some Islamic Republic. I am afraid that this is gradually being extended to some parts of the north.

I would like to appeal to the leaders of the Middle-Belt, where Christianity is on trial in the north to educate the southern Christians who are actually "Chrislam" or believers of anything goes. They are in a position to redirect the President to face Nigerian problems squarely. In this context, I hope Chief Solomon D. Lar and General TY Danjuma who led some of us to appreciate the danger in the politicization of religion. This was why some of us fought to delete the Federal Sharia in the Constitution in 1977/78. Chief SD Lar and General Danjuma I pray and hope would prevail on President Obasanjo to appreciate the danger in the politicization of religion.

Now that the country is faced with six political parties with the possibility of having six Presidential candidates, six senators and House candidates at the Federal level and six Governors and six Assembly candidates at the State level in 2003, a new behavior is demanded of all candidates. One would expect that all candidates would face electioneering politics without invoking the name of God or Allah or the African Traditional Religion in the campaign.

God ordains competition among politicians with contrasting visions for our people to choose from. What is common or should be common to all Nigerians is the quest for a Just Society. Christianity, Islam and African Traditional Religion sanction this quest. It should be pursued in our own way without forcing one’s faith on the other as the President unwittingly does from time to time. I leave this to Mr. President.
July 2002

(culled from First published July 2002)