Federal Government in Nigeria [Reprint 2019 ed.] 9780520339064

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Federal Government in Nigeria [Reprint 2019 ed.]

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Eme O. Awa



University of California Press Berkeley and Los Angeles Cambridge University Press London, England © 1964 by The Regents of the University of California Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 64-23126 Printed in the United States of America



This book developed out of the dissertation, "Regionalism in Nigeria: A Study in Federalism," which I wrote for my doctoral degree. Its aim is to present the salient facts about the political institutions of Nigeria as they may be discerned today, and critically to analyze the provisions of the Nigerian constitution and the functioning of the various organs of government. The study has been designed to stimulate readers, particularly students, intellectually, and to help them insofar as possible to place the material within a conceptual framework. It takes up such questions as the development and the nature of the party system, the structure of the federation, the fear of minorities, the relation between fundamental human rights and the social order, policy development, the underlying social philosophy, and social implications. Most of the important developments in the country have taken place in the past few years, and changes have occurred at a bewildering pace. It has been difficult to obtain all the materials that are relevant to a study of this kind, and any shortcomings of the book are owing to this difficulty and to my own limitations. I owe a heavy debt of gratitude to many teachers, principally Martin Landau, Sayre Schatz, Sterling Spero, William Ronan, G. L. Flanz, Paul Studenski, Martin Dworkis, and Arnold Zurcher; to the Graduate Division of Public Administration and Social Service of New York University for giving me an opportunity to study under its special program of the Group Field Research Seminar; and to the Carnegie and Schalkenbach foundations for awards that enabled me to undertake part of my graduate studies and the research necessary for this book. In the course of my research in Nigeria I held discussions with many individuals, and received unstinted help from numerous politicians, civil servants, and businessmen, as well as from federal and regional ministries and agencies. I had opportunities to debate political issues and constitutional problems with some of my friends and colleagues, and the exchanges have benefited me in one way or another. I want to thank all those who rendered help to me directly or indirectly, in particular the following: Professor E. Njoku, Professor Eyo Ita, Dr. K. O. Mbadiwe, Chief Dennis Osadebay, the



late Ernest Ikoli, Jaja Wachuku, Abba Gana, Aminu Kano, Godfrey Lardner, Amatere Zuofa, the Clerk of Parliament, Professor Hugh Smythe, Dr. Richard L. Sklar, Dr. Ladipo Onipede, and Dr. Eze Ogueri II. I am also grateful to the following members of the Citizens' Committee for Independence: Dr. H. A. Oluwasanmi, Dr. A. B. Fafunwa, Aliyi Ekineh, Richard Akinjide, Lai Adedeji, Bode Rhodes, and D. A. Badejo. The book was read in manuscript by Professor Sayre Schatz, Senior Research Fellow (NISER), and Professor A. Zalinger and R. L. Marshall, Research Fellows (NISER). Their comments were helpful, but I bear full responsibility for the interpretations made and the opinions expressed. Many people have rendered aid in the typing of the material, but the main burden was borne by my wife; I heartily thank her and the others for their help. E. O. A. The University of Lagos Lagos, Nigeria


PART ONE: FOUNDATIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT I Early Government II Experiment in Devolution

3 16

III The Rise of Federalism


IV The Federal System in Transition: Regional Autonomy


V The Federal System in Transition: Strengthening the Federal Government VI Protest and Revolutionary Politics VII Political Parties

61 78 94



IX The Electorate and Elections


X The Legislature XI The Federal Executive XII National Administration and the Civil Service

130 147 156

XIII The Judiciary


XIV Public Finance


XV Money, Credit, and Banking XVI Business, Industry, and Agriculture XVII Labor and Welfare XVIII External Relations, Defense, and Internal Security

216 226 253 259





X X Regional Legislatures


XXI The Executive System and the Civil Service


XXII The Regional Judiciary


XXIII Regional Public Finance


XXTV Activities of Regional Governments


X X V Local Government


PART FOUR: UNSETTLED PROBLEMS OF NIGERIAN FEDERALISM XXVI The Fears of Minorities and the Case for More Regions


Appendix: The Legislative Lists








The first governments on Nigerian soil were those of the states and kingdoms that flourished particularly in the north and the west, though there were also some in the east, and village or clan governments in other sections of the country. Problems stemming from these early governments have exercised considerable influence on the shaping of national constitutions, to provide, first, a unitary government; second, a decentralized government; and, third, a federal government. Organized under varying conditions by people of different cultural backgrounds, and at times not definitely known to historians, the original political areas naturally gave rise to a wide variety of governmental arrangements. Except for the Fulani-Hausa integration in the north, and the loose hegemony of the Oni of Ife over various Yoruba kingdoms in the west, there was no tendency toward integration of the entire territory, and none toward uniformity. By the sixteenth century the Hausa had established modern forms of government in seven states, each with a well-organized fiscal system and a trained judiciary.1 To the east of the Hausa states, in about the fourteenth century, the Kanuri had founded a dynasty in Bornu. Like the Hausa, the Kanuri established relatively powerful governments, although the dynasty began to show signs of weakening early in the nineteenth century. At some time in their past, both the Hausa and the Kanuri had embraced the Moslem religion. In the riverain area of the north, a mixture of non-Moslem peoples lived in small autonomous units whose governmental organization was built around the clan. The arrival of the Fulani, a more orthodox Moslem sect, further complicated the social situation. In 1804, in an effort to infuse greater vitality into the Islamic faith of the Hausa, the Fulani, led by Othman dan Fodio, started political warfare. By 1810 Fulani rule was fairly well established over the Hausa states, parts of the riverain area, and Ilorin in the west.2 Moslem elements comprise the majority of the people in the north. 1 Lord Hailey, Native Administration in the British African Territories, III (London: H.M.S.O., 1951), 42-43. 2 Report of the Northern Nigeria Lands Committee (London: H.M.S.O.. 1910), passim.


Foundations of the Government

In the west, culturally the most homogeneous area, the Yoruba have great numerical superiority. Before the era of the British, both the Yoruba and the Edo were operating modern forms of government, elaborately organized in cities and towns, but based on the clan in rural areas. Outside the Yoruba and Edo areas, the atomistic social structure of the riverain area of the north was prevalent in the communities inhabited by Urhobos, Ijaws, Ibos, and others. In the eastern territory, the most heterogeneous part of Nigeria, where the Ibo constitute the majority of the population, no strong political institutions emerged before the British occupation, except in the Rivers area. The village or the clan, or sometimes the family, was the unit of government. The Yoruba kingdoms and the Moslem dynasty in the north had produced rulers of ability and influence, but in the east, by and large, only minor chiefs with severely limited authority were indigenous to the social system. T H E DUAL MANDATE

It was in this milieu that Britain took over Nigeria; from the start there was the question of how best to govern the country. The basic principles of colonial administration had been laid down in the Berlin and Brussels conferences of 1885 and 1892, where it was agreed that the metropolitan powers, while helping themselves to the resources of Africa, would establish the Christian religion in the continent and also foster the assimilation by Africans of Western culture. The form of government set up by Britain was the product of this objective, of later nineteenth-century British liberal thought, and of forces in international politics. Some of the Britishers who served in Nigeria in the early days were imbued with faith in English liberal thought; among these Sir Frederick Lugard was prominent. Lugard's immediate intellectual background had been influenced by Sir Charles Lucas, who had written that it was the task of Britain to carry justice and freedom throughout the world. Britain, Sir Charles continued, had sought and found gains, and in the process her ideals of justice had been indelibly stamped on people in many parts of the world.3 Carrying his idealism further, Lugard maintained that the true conception of the interrelation of color entails "complete uniformity in ideals, absolute equality in the paths of knowledge and culture, equal opportunity for those who strive, equal admiration for those who achieve in matters social and racial a separate path, each pursuing his own traditions, preserving his own race-purity and race-pride, equality in things spiritual, agreed diver3

Lord Lugard formulated his theories in The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1922). See page 619 for excerpts from Sir Charles Lucas' writings.

Early Government


gence in the physical and material." * The ideal of self-government in Africa could be realized, he argued, by the methods of evolution which had produced Western democracy. According to Lugard, British occupation of African territories was designed to train Africans for self-government, an objective that could best be realized by governing through the medium of African rulers. In Nigeria, specifically, the object in view was to make the authority of recognized rulers effective over their people. Before these ideals had crystallized in Lugard's mind, events forced him to act immediately to evolve some form of government for Nigeria. In the first place, the French were pressing on Nigeria from all directions, and Germany was trying to reach in from the east. Second, there was a shortage of trained British personnel to man the administrative centers. Third, the people had not taken kindly to British occupation, and there was a threat of open revolt in the north where the Hausa tried to take advantage of British occupation to throw off Fulani rule.5 Organization of the Government

The first problem was to determine the number of administrative units in the country. As much has been written about this subject, here it is necessary to mention only what is strictly relevant.8 From the beginning there were three political divisions: (1) the Colony of Lagos; (2) the Oil Rivers Protectorate; and (3) the territories in the center and along the Niger River administered by the Royal Niger Company. In 1900 the responsibility for the administration of northern Nigeria passed from the Royal Niger Company; the southernmost tip of the northern territory was merged with the Niger Coast Protectorate to form the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. In the same year Lugard was appointed high commissioner, and in 1906 the Colony of Lagos was joined with the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria under a single administration. The new unit, with headquarters in Lagos, was called the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. Both north and south were being administered as separate political entities, but each section was divided into provinces for administrative convenience. In the area now known as the Western Region, and in the north, provincial boundaries roughly followed those of the governing units established before the advent of the British; but in the east, where the indigenous social organization was most fragmentary, artificial boundaries were created.7 Each province was in * Ibid., p. 87. 5 R. L. Buell, The Native Problem in Africa (2 vols.; New York: Macmillan, 1928), I, 681.

• T h e best account of the early government is probably Margery Perham, Native Administration in Nigeria (London: Oxford University Press, 1937). 7 In 1910 there were thirteen provinces in the Northern Protectorate: Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Bornu, Bauchi, Zaria, Yola, Muri, Nupe, Kontagora, Ilorin, Nasarawa, and


Foundations of the Government

charge of a British resident, below whom were other administrative officials (district officers and assistant district officers) in charge of subdivisions of the province; all officials were responsible to the chief executive of the territory. In 1913 a legislature known as the Nigerian Council was set up by Lugard. Its thirty-six members included the governor (the new designation of the chief executive); members of the Executive Council; some administrative officers; six Europeans representing interests in banking, shipping, commerce, and mining; and six Africans, including native rulers, nominated by the governor to represent the coastal districts and the hinterland.8 The powers of the Nigerian Council were merely advisory—it could discuss matters and pass resolutions—and real authority was vested in the governor alone. In August, 1914, the Legislative Council of the Colony of Nigeria was established to legislate for the colony only, but a fully unitary government was never realized under it. On the local level Lugard retained and strengthened the governmental organizations that had been built up in the Hausa states and in Bornu. British officials formulated policies and empowered the Fulani rulers to administer them, investing each ruler with enormous authority. The use of Nigerian rulers and institutions to govern at the local level was called the native authority system, which functioned under certain limitations: (1) native rulers were not allowed to raise and control armed forces, or to grant permission to carry arms; (2) the right to levy taxes was made the prerogative of the British authorities; (3) the rights to legislate and to appropriate land for public and commercial purposes were vested in the British authorities; (4) the British chief executive had the right to confirm or reject the people's choice of a successor to a chieftaincy, and the right to depose a ruler for misconduct.9 This organization meant that the Fulani ruler who had come into power by force, and had been enabled to retain this power by British might, was clothed with autocratic powers over the mass of the people. Lugard did not establish the native authority system in all parts of northern Nigeria. Arguing that a good government was no equivalent for selfgovernment, he advocated that the non-Moslem parts of the north be administered independently of Moslem rule. He urged that efforts be made to develop the indigenous institutions of such areas—Plateau, Benue, and Munshi. The west was divided into five provinces: Abeokuta, Benin, Ondo, Oyo, and Warn. The east comprised four provinces: Calabar, Owerri, Onitsha, and Ogoja. Modifications were later made in the boundaries of some of these provinces. 8 The Nigerian Council was established by Order in Council No. 165, Nov. 22, 1913. 9 D . W. Bittinger, Educational Experiment in the Sudan (Elgin, 111.: Brethren Publishing House, 1941), pp. 205 ff.

Early Government


Adamawa provinces—before the native authority system should be established. Lugard's successors, ignoring his plea, used the members of the Fulani dynasty as rulers even in areas that they had not conquered. By burning towns, or by confiscating property, the dual mandate was extended over non-Moslem areas, or at least these areas were made subject to a central emir.10 Governmental institutions became doubly alien in the sense that, first, they acquired an Islamic flavor, and second, they became monarchical as contrasted with the indigenous conciliar method of government. The complete subordination of these people breached the principle of the preservation of indigenous social institutions, and negated the objective of training the people for self-government. The native authority system was subsequently established in the west and the east. After some initial difficulties, it worked well in the west. In the east, where the British authorities, influenced by the social structure of the north and the west, created autocratic paramount chiefs, the displacement of the natural rulers and the novelty of the institution generated hostility, for the eastern peoples could not readily reconcile the new system with their own largely democratic institutions. Eventually the system was overhauled in the east. In Lagos, where there was a large European population, a system of direct administration was employed. The natural rulers in the town were paid a stipend and were assigned no political functions, a practice that also negated the principles of governing through African rulers and of using indigenous social institutions. Amalgamation of North and South

By 1912, when the administrations in both southern and northern protectorates were becoming stabilized, pleas for a better organization of the whole country were being made. E. D. Morel, one of the most articulate advocates of closer organization, argued that the division of the country into north and south led to a duality in administration and to inevitable and unprofitable rivalries. Based on an arbitrary partition of the territory, it had created a situation that was incongruous and absurd. Nigeria, in his opinion, was a single geographical unit, and the tendency to regard north and south as separate units had retarded the development of a general principle of government for the country. Morel emphasized that the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria had been rendered relatively poor by the division. Customs duties levied on trade with the north accrued to the south, which owned the seaboard; the north, thus impoverished, had to rely on the British treasury for support.11 Moreover, >0 Ibid., p. 176. 11 E. D. Morel, Nigeria: Its People and Its Problems (London: John Murray, 1912), p. 190.

Foundations of the Government


the railway systems in the two protectorates differed in gauge, and competed with each other in carrying the produce of the inland areas. Morel argued that amalgamation of the two sections would bring the advantages of (1) better financial management directed toward meeting existing and future needs of the whole country; (2) better administration in the upper echelon, especially at the level of the chief executive; (3) more sensible division of the country into provinces, along geographic and ethnic boundaries; and (4) a comprehensive public works program. Morel proposed that Nigeria be divided into four provinces: (1) Northern or Sudan Province, comprising regions where Islamic civilization had existed for many centuries and where the majority of the people were Moslem, and including the provinces of Sokoto, Kano, Bornu, and Zaria; (2) Central Province, consisting of the non-Moslem section of Zaria Province and the whole of Nasarawa, Bauchi, Niger, Yola, and Muri provinces; (3) Western Province, including Oyo, Abeokuta, Ondo, Benin, Kabba, Dorin, Bornu, Warri, and Ijebu provinces, with the rivers Niger and Forcados forming the eastern boundary; and (4) Eastern Province, comprising the area now known as the Eastern Region, with the boundary pushed up to the Benue River. In Morel's plan, a lieutenant-governor was to be in charge of each province, and Lagos was to be administered by a resident. The chief executive would be the governor-general, with headquarters at Lokoja. He would be assisted by an executive council and a legislative council, both of which would include British officials, representatives of business interests, and some members of the intelligentsia from the southern provinces (those from the northern provinces would come in at a later date). The Legislative Council would collaborate with the important emirs in a durbar, which would not, however, overshadow the work of the native administrations. Anticipating the Richards Constitution of 1946, Morel finally recommended that there be four provincial budgets and one central budget.12 Arguments in favor of amalgamation were generally recognized as cogent, and in 1911 Sir Frederick Lugard was invited to return to Nigeria to carry out the amalgamation. He made his recommendations in 1913, and they were approved early in 1914. For administrative purposes, the division of the country into north and south was retained; Lugard had both theoretical and practical reasons for this decision. In regard to the former, he noted that there were about twenty-one provinces, each in charge of a resident, and argued that power might be decentralized by investing each resident with a substantial degree of autonomy, or by creating half a dozen lieutenant-governorships. Under either method the work assigned to each administrative official would be relatively light. True decentralization, Lugard 12

Ibid., pp. 201-207.

Early Government


maintained, demanded that each lieutenant-governor have authority over an area so large and important that the governor would be relieved of all routine functions.13 From the practical point of view, Lugard argued, first, that it was not necessary to create a third lieutenant-governorship, because many functions had been transferred from both north and south to the governor. Second, he maintained that, as north and south had developed different laws and different conditions of service for their European and African staffs, a redivision of the territories would bring chaos. Amalgamation, he insisted, must cause a m i n i m u m of dislocation of existing conditions, while providing for the later introduction of changes not foreseen at the time; it was best to unify the laws first before redividing the territories. Third, he contended that a multiplicity of new governments would mean a large increase in the number of officials, who were difficult to procure; the duplication of services; and the tying down of the governor with routine duties.14 A third administrative area was established in 1939, when the Southern Protectorate was divided into the Eastern Provinces and the Western Provinces. Under the Lugard scheme, therefore, a governor-general (a title that was made personal to Lugard) headed the entire government and was advised by the Executive Council; north and south were each under a lieutenant-governor. Central departments were the railway, military, audit, treasury, posts and telegraphs, judiciary, survey, and legal. Conduct of the Government to 1922

The Governor, or Governor-General, as a representative of the British government, combined the functions of an active and ceremonial chief executive with those of a prime minister. The Executive and Legislative councils were a travesty of parliamentary government; the members of the former were officials nominated by the Governor, and the latter contained a number of officials, who were in the majority, as well as nominated Africans and Europeans. The Executive Council possessed advisory powers only, and the Legislative Council was, in effect, a mere debating society. The administrative branch was divided into departmental and political sections. The latter was concerned with supervision of the native administrations, the general direction of policy, education, legislation, levying of taxes, the welfare of expatriates, and the administration of justice other than in the Supreme Court. The departmental subdivision was charged with technical functions such as communications, transport, building, and the material development of the country. At first the political officers (residents) is Lugard, op. cit., p. 100. 14 Report by Sir F. D. Lugard on the Amalgamatiom of Northern and Southern Nigeria and Administration, 1912-1919, Cmd. 468 (London: H.M.S.O., 1920), pp. 9-10.


Foundations of the Government

were responsible directly to the Governor, and were empowered to oversee both technical and political matters. This generated jurisdictional conflicts between the two subdivisions, which the Governor endeavored to eradicate by ordering the lieutenant-governors to oversee the entire administrative machinery within their respective groups of provinces. More power was thus delegated to the lieutenant-governors, and the residents were able to devote more time to the work of the native administrations. The court system was arranged in a hierarchical order: native courts, provincial courts, and the Supreme Court; appeals could be made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The organization of the native courts, which had jurisdiction only over Nigerians and administered Nigerian law and customs, was not uniform throughout the country. In some sections Nigerian judges were trained in the law and customs of their areas, but in other places, where they were not so trained, they were employed on the ground that they could elicit evidence more readily than could trained non-Nigerians. Residents and other administrators were empowered to review cases or transfer them to the provincial courts, but, as they were burdened with a multitude of other duties and had vast areas to traverse under poor communications systems, their visits were few and far between. In their absence, semiliterate and ill-paid Nigerians, employed as interpreters and clerks, came to wield considerable power. Consequently bribery and corruption of all kinds became characteristic features of the judicial system at the local level. Provincial courts had jurisdiction over Nigerians and expatriates, except where the Supreme Court exercised jurisdiction; the resident was the president of the provincial court and district officers acted as commissioners. Lawyers were barred from both the native and provincial courts so as to deprive them of the opportunity to instigate litigation among the mass of the people. The Supreme Court consisted of a chief justice and two or more judges. There were eastern and western branches of the court, and assizes were held by different judges twice a year to relieve political officers. On the provincial and local levels there was complete fusion of legislative, judicial, and executive functions, which Lugard defended on the ground that Nigeria was a vast land mass and administrators inevitably had to exercise powers of adjudication in order to offset delays that would stem from the assizes system. Moreover, he argued, the fusion of such functions was not unnatural to Africans, for in the indigenous practice they were combined in the ruler.15 Furthermore, the administrative officer was closer to the people 15 Lugard's reference to a fusion of functions in the indigenous system was not altogether enlightening, because the Nigerian ruler had become merely a cog in the vast British machinery, and the mystical symbolism associated with his position and the sanctions under which he operated had been largely destroyed. The new symbolism

Early Government


and understood their laws and customs better than judges who were not familiar with their languages. THE CONSTITUTION OF 1922

Owing partly to agitation for reforms in 1920 by the National Congress of British West Africa (see chap, vi), Governor Hugh Clifford introduced a new constitution in 1922. It enlarged the Legislative Council, though official members were still in the majority. Four of the nonofficials were elected, three to represent Lagos and one to represent Calabar. The Legislative Council served the Colony and the Southern Protectorate in all matters, and the Northern Protectorate in financial matters; in other matters the governor alone legislated for the north.18 From 1923 to 1946 the Nigerian-nominated membership in the Legislative Council was as follows: the colony area and Abeokuta, Oyo, Wam/Benin, and Rivers provinces were each represented by one nominated member, and all Ibos were represented by one person. Ijebu and Ondo provinces, the Ibibios in Calabar Province, and the Cameroons were represented by one person each from 1938 to 1946. Representation of the Niger African traders was started in 1923, but was discontinued in 1943.17 The provinces of the Western Region were thus better represented than those of the Eastern Region, whereas the Northern Provinces were left out completely. The criterion for determining representation was a curious one; the populations of the provinces and the tribal groups were certainly not taken into account. Overhauling the Native


The Constitution of 1922 did not deal with the problem of native administration, but Sir Donald Cameron, governor from 1933 to 1938, concluded that it was a feudal polity dependent on the relation between vassal and lord. Feeling that the structure was a contradiction of the ideal of indirect rule in the north, to the extent that Fulani rulers exercised authority over non-Moslem and non-Fulani peoples, Cameron ruled that whenever a Moslem chieftaincy became vacant, the post should be filled by a local chieftain of the indigenous ethnic group. The Governor also insisted that the system of indirect rule should be applied in the east, which meant abolishment of the institution of paramount chiefs. Restating the principles of native adhad an alien flavor, and seemed to give the impression that a moral void existed. This is not to argue that the old system had built-in devices which always produced justice, but it does mean that the social milieu in which such a structure was meaningful to the Nigerian had gone. « Statutory Rules and Orders, 1922, No. 1446, Sec. XXIII. 17 Joan Wheare, The Nigerian Legislative Council (London: Faber and Faber, 1950), p. 199.

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ministration, Cameron maintained that the native authority recognized by the government must be the one acceptable to the people. This principle involved, first, an investigation of the nature of indigenous authority in an area; second, the willingness of the people to accept this authority; third, a confirmation of the authority by the government. Cameron's second basic principle was that administrative officers should play a more active role in the work of native administrations. Power to constitute native authorities would be vested in the governor, who could prescribe the limits of their authority and except persons from their control.18 Attacking the judicial system, Cameron declared: "But if the decision of the court may properly be swayed by political and other non-judicial considerations within the knowledge of the administrative officer and is therefore not based solely on the evidence which has been led, then in my judgement the court has ceased to be a judicial tribunal and the officer has ceased to be a judicial officer." 19 He argued further that such a system would deprive the people of the benefits of judicial courts and a system of law, and would therefore contradict the policy that controlled the acts of the Nigerian government. Cameron reorganized the system, abolishing the provincial courts and limiting the power of the native courts. He set up a high court of the protectorate with subordinate magistrate's courts, and ruled that administrators who showed ability in law should continue to function as judges and magistrates.20 Preserving

the Identity

of the Northern


Certain public policies were particularly important to the constitutional development of Nigeria. Concomitant with the effort to set up administrative organizations was a movement to impart political and literary education to the mass of the people. Some of these policies were greatly influenced by the views of E. D. Morel, who maintained that the highest human attainments were not necessarily reached on parallel lines; humanity should not be legislated for as though sections of it were modeled on the same pattern.21 He pleaded that the north should be developed differently from the south, which had been exposed to Western culture. Under the governorship of Sir Graeme Thomson (1925-1931) there was a deliberate attempt to develop the more advanced sections of the north as 18 For instance, Europeans were excepted from native authority control, but the authority extended to Arabs on the approval of the Colonial Secretary, and to southern Nigerians resident in the north on the approval of the Legislative Council (Perham, op. cit., p. 336). 19 Quoted in ibid., p. 338. 20 Arthur N. Cook, British Enterprise in Nigeria (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1943), p. 254. 21 Morel, op. cit., pp. 153-154.

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independent units, apparently in response to Morel's views: "Great efforts were made to dispense with Southern labour and to train local clerks and artisans. The Northern people were encouraged in their natural desire to resist external influences whether upon their religion, dress, architecture, or way of life generally." 22 A durbar summoned in 1925 on the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales provided the impetus for the convening of six regional conferences in 1930. These conferences, attended by emirs, administrative officials, and representatives of business, discussed the problems of education, police, road development, and certain procedures in Moslem law.23 In 1934 Cameron abolished the conferences in order to halt the trend toward the separatist development of the north. It was the educational policy of the country more than anything else which helped to create a cleavage between north and south in intellectual and psychological orientation. Sir Frederick Lugard had contended that education should make an individual useful, sympathetic, and stimulating in his relationship with his community, but that the education of those who entered government service or worked for European firms should make them efficient, loyal, reliable, contented, and self-respecting. Noting that European civilization tended to undermine that respect for authority among tropical races which is the basis of social order, Lugard placed the inculcation of moral precepts above the training of the intellect as a means of achieving social stability.24 Christian missionaries, who took up the work of imparting education to the people, especially in the south, taught their wards and converts to despise Nigerian rulers and indigenous social institutions. The rulers were assumed to be morally and spiritually inferior beings, and the institutions were said to be primitive and unworthy of preservation. Christianity therefore tended to undermine family life and communal authority, producing results antithetical to the stability Lugard wanted to maintain. In the south the missionary organizations had established schools and teacher training institutions, primarily to imbue people with the principles of the Christian religion; the government itself maintained a few schools. Everywhere English was the medium of instruction, and the subject matter had a British orientation, with emphasis on the history of England and of the British Empire. In 1926 the government enacted a new education ordinance, and appointed an advisory committee, consisting of officials, missionaries, and educators, to evolve a new syllabus. Emphasis was shifted to the improvement of agriculture, the development of industries, training of the people in 22 23 24

Perham, op. cit., p. 326. Cook, op. cit., p. 258. Lugard, op. cit., p. 460.


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the management of their own affairs, and teaching spiritual ideals, with the use of the vernacular in the kindergarten.25 Africans were not well disposed toward any teaching that differed fundamentally from the English model, for they felt that anything different was deliberately designed to foster intellectual serfdom among Africans. Events in the north were proceeding along different lines. When Lugard took over the government, he gave letters of appointment to the emirs, promising that the government would "studiously refrain from any action which will interfere with the exercise of the Mohammedan religion by its adherents, or which will demand of them action that is opposed to its precepts." 26 Education in the north was in the hands of the government, except in non-Moslem areas; in the Moslem north it was adapted to the cultural environment of the territory. After Lugard's retirement, his successors came to interpret his pledge to the emirs to mean total prohibition of Christian enterprise in the emirates. In 1919 the Colonial Office justified this policy by arguing that (1) if British missionaries were granted permission to proselytize the Christian religion in the north, the emirs would regard their efforts as a breach of Lugard's pledge; (2) any action that weakened the authority of the Moslem religion would also weaken the authority and prestige of the emirs, and would thus imperil the system of indirect administration. British authorities on the spot also feared that the introduction of Christianity might generate Moslem fanaticism, and after 1926 the missions were denied permission even to build schools and hospitals within an emirate. Lugard attacked this narrow and prohibitive interpretation of his pledge to the emirs.27 He maintained that when emirs were willing to admit missionaries, permission ought to be granted. His pledge, he said, meant merely that the consent of emirs should be sought, but under his successors no missionary had been allowed to interview an emir to gain such consent. In 1924 the Bishop of Lagos reportedly expressed the fear that it was too late for Christian missions to establish themselves in the Moslem states because the antimissionary policy of the government was already firmly fixed in the minds of Moslem rulers. The attitude of a Moslem ruler was dependent almost wholly on the view he believed the British administrators favored, and the officials had made it plain that no emir should dare allow a missionary to settle in his territory.28 The Northern Protectorate was thus cut off from the influence of the Christian ethic, an important part of the basis of Western democratic theory 2» Buell, op. cit.. I, 732. 28 Ibid., p. 733. 27 Colonial Annual Reports, Northern 28 Buell, op. cit., I, 736.

Nigeria, 1905-1906, p. 469.

Early Government


and practice. The older setting, with its moral and mystical restraints on authority, had been destroyed by the institution of the native administration system, and little liberalizing force remained. From this situation certain problems emerged: (1) the south, trained in the ways of the British, developed a feeling against the north, whose social and political institutions had been insulated from all foreign influences; (2) whereas the south looked to Western culture for inspiration, the north, when it looked outside at all, saw only the Moslem world and practically nothing of the south; and (3) the south was given some rough and ready tutelage in parliamentary government, but the north was given none.



The division of the south into the Eastern Provinces and the Western Provinces in 1939 had been accomplished by Sir Bernard Bourdillon, who subsequendy began to doubt the wisdom of insulating the north from the rest of Nigeria. He noted that the copious advice being given the Governor by the Legislative Council, the press, and youth organizations all came from the south; from the north advice came primarily from the Chief Commissioner of the Northern Provinces, and, later, from the Advisory Committee of Chiefs, an informal body. Sir Bernard thought that the government's original objective was to prevent the subordination of the north by the south, and that the policy should be reversed. He therefore decided that the emirs should be persuaded, in the interests of themselves and of their people, to demand participation in advising the Governor on Nigerian affairs. At first Sir Bernard believed that the remedy lay in the establishment of regional councils to serve as provincial legislatures having advisory powers only, and of a federal council in Lagos. As an alternative he suggested three parallel first chambers, with the Lagos council as a second chamber. 1 The use of the word "federal" made many officials fearful that antagonism between state and federal authorities might develop in Nigeria, an antagonism they assumed existed in both Canada and the United States. Subsequently Sir Bernard restated his views, explaining that the regional councils would have no inherent authority, but that they should have legislative and not merely advisory powers.2 They would meet as bodies to advise the government, and, when considering bills sent them by the government, would not adopt the legislative procedure of reading them through the normal three stages. Politics would be eschewed by the councils, and members could not consider themselves as an opposition bloc. Below the regional councils, provincial councils might function as advisory committees on welfare and development. A central council, to be established in Lagos, would consist of regional council members and a few officials and nonofficials directly representing the country. Even on this level there would be no opposition 1

Bernard Bourdillon, Further Memo on the Future Political Development geria (Lagos, 1942), passim. 2 Ibid., p. 4.

of Ni-

Experiment in Devolution


group until, as Bourdillon put it, a party system developed. Sir Bernard's greatest difficulty seemed to be in the determination of an adequate number of regional units. If the three administrative areas (north, west, and east, each under a chief commissioner) were to be used as units, the setting up of the new government would provide an opportunity for taking the long overdue step of detaching from the north such areas as the Tiv and Idoma divisions and most, if not all, of Kabba Province. Some officials, disapproving the tripartite division, advocated creating a larger number of regions and making the units more homogeneous. Sir Bernard, who did not seem to hold very strong views on the matter, suggested that if the existing regions were abolished, it might be as well to try the East African system of using provincial or district commissioners. Under such a system Nigeria might be divided into ten provinces, each under a provincial commissioner who would communicate directly with the governor; the post of resident would be abolished. To the objection that such a scheme would lead to more centralization, Sir Bernard quite correctly pointed out that there would still be decentralization if enough power was given to the provinces. It was suggested to him that under such a scheme the existing chief commissioners might be retained in the headquarters office, whence they would undertake occasional tours of the provinces. At this point Sir Bernard called for the opinions of officers regarding the number and the boundaries of provincial commissionerships, and related problems. The records available do not indicate what opinions were expressed, but it seems unlikely that the existing chief commissioners would welcome a change that would strip them of substantial political and administrative power. THE RICHARDS CONSTITUTION

Before any changes could be made, Sir Bernard retired, and the new governor, Sir Arthur Richards, gave the matter his immediate attention, as criticism of the existing constitution by Nigerian nationalists was mounting. Sir Arthur, noting that "Nigeria falls naturally into three regions, the North, the West and the East, and the people of those regions differ widely in customs, in outlook and in their traditional systems of government," 8 pointed out that the real problem was to create a political system which would in itself be a present advance and would contain the possibility of further orderly advance. In other words, it was necessary to create a system of government within which the diverse elements might progress at varying speeds, yet amicably and smoothly, toward a more closely integrated economic, 3

Proposais for the Revision of the Constitution of Nigeria, Cmd. 6599 (London: H.M.S.O., 1945), passim.


Foundations of the Government

social, and political unit without sacrificing the principles and ideals inherent in their divergent ways of life. The broad objectives of Sir Arthur's proposals were to bring Nigeria to responsible government along practical lines, to promote unity in the country, and to make adequate provision within the unity for the country's diverse elements. More specifically, he wanted to devise a constitutional framework covering the whole of Nigeria, and a legislative council that would represent all sections of the country. Furthermore, he wanted to establish bodies where the affairs of each group of provinces could be discussed, bodies that would be linked by membership with the native authorities and could send delegates to speak for them in the central legislature. It is apparent that the keynote of Sir Arthur's constitutional theory was the assumed natural division of Nigeria into three regions. This tripartite division has subsequently plagued the people of Nigeria in their efforts to plan further constitutional advance, and it may be useful at this point to analyze the bases for Sir Arthur's assumption. In his constitutional proposals, Sir Arthur said he had pored over the writings of several people, particularly those of Lord Lugard, Sir Bernard Bourdillon, and Lord Hailey, for information on the languages, the beliefs, the habits, and the aspirations of the different peoples of Nigeria. It may therefore be helpful to survey the points of view held by these authorities on the division of the country into administrative areas. Lord Hailey divided the north into a Moslem north and a non-Moslem north, the former consisting of highly organized units seen in their most complete form in Sokoto, Bornu, Kano, Katsina, and Zaria provinces. Here the position of the ruler was theoretically absolute, though modified in practice by the lack of a regular machinery for enforcing his will in the face of sectional or general opposition. The non-Moslem north had a much looser form of political organization, based on groups of clans who recognized as the only political authority clan heads and the clan council.4 Lord Lugard maintained generally the same view, but in addition pleaded that the nonMoslem areas should be administered independently of Moslem rule. The aim should be, he argued, to develop those areas, however rudimentary their institutions were at the start, until they became self-governing. He based his plea on the theory that good government was no equivalent for self-government.5 Sir Bernard Bourdillon, as noted above, held the view that steps 4 Lord Hailey, An African Survey (2d ed.; London: Oxford University Press, 1957), passim; Native Administration in the British African Territories, III (London: H.M.S.O., 1951), 45-47. 5 F. D. Lugard, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1922), passim.

Experiment in Devolution


should be taken to effect the long overdue separation of the non-Moslem north. Margery Perham, though dividing Nigeria into north and south, nevertheless recognized the existence of an intermediate region in the central zone where Fulani rulers, long before the advent of the British government, had established their sway over non-Moslem tribes, many of whom the Fulani did not succeed in assimilating. These non-Moslem areas presented special problems. Miss Perham pointed out that Moslem rulers penetrated the non-Moslem areas of Adamawa and Dikwa with the aid of Britain, and that the Fulani themselves maintained that it was better to place nonMoslems as rulers over such areas.6 Her arguments suggest that she did indeed demarcate the Moslem and non-Moslem areas as distinct sociological divisions. Among other writers who have made the same general distinctions are Walter Miller and D. W. Bittinger.7 As there is no indication that any of the authorities consulted by Sir Arthur Richards supported the tripartite division of Nigeria, it is difficult to understand why he chose to set aside their unanimous opinion that the riverain area of northern Nigeria constituted a separate cultural area. Possibly Sir Arthur regarded the area in question as a cultural enclave which was too small to be treated as a separate administrative entity. It may be pointed out in opposition to this view that there are more than S million people resident in the area, a number that compares favorably with the populations of the Eastern and Western regions. The symmetry and the discipline of the emirate regime had, however, long had an appeal for the majority of the officers serving in northern Nigeria. Many of them had felt that the territory ought to be a separate entity, both for constitutional and administrative matters.8 It might have been their opinion that influenced Sir Arthur.9 Organization of the Central Government

Having divided Nigeria into three regions, Governor Richards made other constitutional provisions. The central Legislative Council consisted of six8 Margery Perham, Native Administration in Nigeria (London: Oxford University Press, 1937), p. 135. 7 Walter R. Miller, Reflections of a Pioneer (London: Church Missionary Society, 1936), pp. 49-51; D. W. Bittinger, Educational Experiment in the Sudan (Elgin, 111.: Brethren Publishing House, 1941), p. 174. 8 Sidney Phillipson, Administrative and Financial Procedure under the New Constitution (Lagos, 1947), pp. 4, 94. 9 Nigerian theorists and publicists generally assume that Sir Arthur adopted the threefold classification of Nigerians with the deliberate objective of stalling the nationalist movement, which had grown at an alarming pace during World War n .


Foundations of the Government

teen officials, three members appointed to represent interests or communities not otherwise adequately represented, four elected members, four chiefs nominated by the Northern House of Chiefs, five members nominated by the Northern House of Assembly, four members nominated by the Western House of Assembly, five members nominated by the Eastern House of Assembly, two chiefs nominated from among those who were members of the Western House of Assembly, and one member nominated to represent the colony area.10 The governor, as president of the council, had the power to nominate some nonofficial members, and to cast a deciding vote. The central government took charge of railways, posts and telegraphs, income tax and audit, organization and management of the government, pensions, and interest charges on the public debt. All government departments had regional deputies who assisted the chief commissioners in the administration of regional affairs. All policy matters were handled by the central government, and major departmental problems were referred to department heads. Regional Governments There was no uniformity in the organization of the regional governments; the Eastern and Western regions had unicameral legislatures, whereas the Northern Region had a two-chamber legislature. Its upper chamber was the House of Chiefs, consisting of the thirteen first-class chiefs, about ten second-class chiefs drawn from a provincial base, and the chief commissioner of the region who served as president. The Northern House of Assembly, the lower chamber, comprised the senior resident as president; eighteen officials; twenty to twenty-four nonofficials, including fourteen to eighteen provincial members selected by the native authorities from among their members other than the major chiefs, and six members nominated by the governor to represent the non-Moslem community (i.e., the cultural enclave in the Moslem-dominated areas); and representatives of the smaller native authorities, the sabon gari community,11 industry, commerce, and other important groups not otherwise represented. In the House of Assembly of the Western Region there were thirteen officials and fifteen to nineteen nonofficials; the latter group included three chiefs nominated by the governor after consultation with western head chiefs, seven to eleven provincial members selected by the native authorities from among their members other than the major chiefs, and five members nominated by the governor to represent 10 See Nigeria (Protectorate and Cameroons) Order in Council and Nigeria (Legislative Council) Order in Council of 1946. The Richards Constitution also provided for an executive council with an official majority. 11 This is the area set aside in the Moslem provinces for the residence of Nigerian "aliens" from the Western and Eastern regions.

Experiment in Devolution


any groups or aspects of life not otherwise adequately represented. The Eastern House of Assembly consisted of thirteen officials and fifteen to eighteen nonofficials, the latter including ten to thirteen provincial members selected by the native authorities from among their members and five nominated by the governor from the ranks of prominent citizens to represent interests not otherwise covered. In both the Eastern and Western regions, the chief commissioner presided over the House of Assembly. The regional legislatures could debate and even initiate bills, excluding money bills, but they could not pass on them. All central bills were to be debated in the regional legislatures. Regional revenue consisted of grants from the central government and certain fees, whereas the native administrations derived their revenues mainly from direct taxes. Regional estimates were included in the central budget. The Northern House of Chiefs might veto or amend items in the regional estimate; the houses of assembly in all regions could suggest budgetary items, and their nonofficial members had the power to reduce or to delete items. Final passage, however, of both central and regional budgets lay with the Legislative Council. From this analysis it is clear that Sir Arthur Richards attempted to bring unity to the country in two specific ways. First, he created the Legislative Council, which was representative of the whole of Nigeria, and gave it power to make laws to maintain peace, order, and good government. Second, he linked the central legislature with the regional councils, which in turn were related to the native authorities. In the Western Region there are first- and second-class chiefs, as in the Northern Region, yet no house of chiefs was established. No easily discernible formula was used in determining the size of the regional assemblies. The native authorities had always been described as an integral part of the government, but no precise meaning had been attached to the concept. It was not clear, for instance, whether they were autonomous units possessing inherent powers or merely local government bodies and therefore creatures of the government. The effort to link them with the central and regional councils did not clarify their relative position. If the native authorities were organs of local government, there was no point in bringing them to the fore in the central government. What was needed was a specific constitutional provision stipulating that the native authorities were, like municipalities, creatures of the government, and requiring them to exercise power within a framework laid down by the government. In the absence of such a provision, there arose a bewildering hierarchy of administrative areas and political authorities: the central and regional governments, the native administration, provinces, divisions, municipalities, and rural areas. Furthermore, the regions were large chunks of territory with immense


Foundations of the Government

populations,12 lacking good communications but, in the west and north, controlled by powerful rulers. The setting was ideal for a feudal polity. Under the circumstances, the regions could not develop smoothly and in an orderly way as mere administrative areas of a unitary government. Probably the worst feature of the constitution was the identification of the regional areas with the major tribal groups of Nigeria. As is shown below, the nationalism that had developed and was growing imperfectly became submerged under tribal loyalty, and its restraint retarded with even greater force the process of the unification of Nigeria. In due course many nationalists and publicists, both Nigerian and British, argued with almost classical fervor that the three regions were the natural units of a federation of Nigeria. SEQUEL TO THE RICHARDS CONSTITUTION

Immediate reaction to the new constitution was quite dramatic. The intelligentsia and the progressive elements in the country attacked not only many of the substantive proposals, but also the highhanded manner in which the proposals had been evolved and rushed to Britain for approval. The African members of the existing Legislative Council, who had given their approval, were bitterly criticized. The West African Students' Union in London, for instance, complained that the proposals did not envisage the granting of power and responsibility to regional councils, and that selection by nomination was notoriously undemocratic. The union recommended the creation of a number of municipalities and urged that elections to municipal and regional councils be based on adult suffrage and the secret ballot. Ten members, it continued, should be sent from each regional council to the Legislative Council, and the representative chiefs should be chosen from among their own number by secret ballot.18 The most systematic criticism by a single individual came from Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who contended that the constitution looked new and pretty but that it retained some of the objectionable features of the one it replaced, was marked by unsavory characteristics of its own, and fell short of expectations. First, the position of chiefs was unresolved. They had been made legislators in addition to being the focuses of power in their own communities; they enjoyed official confidence and were consulted by the government on major issues of the day. Awolowo considered anomalous the system used to determine the size of the regional councils; the ratio of representa12 The Northern Region includes about two-thirds of has a population of about 17 million; the Eastern and equal in area, and have populations of 8 and 6 million, 13 Joan Wheare, The Nigerian Legislative Council 1950), pp. 178-179.

the land area of Nigeria and Western regions are roughly respectively. (London: Faber and Faber,

Experiment in Devolution


tives to population was 1 to 718,750 in the Northern Region, 1 to 522,000 in the Eastern Region, and 1 to 350,000 in the Western Region. The method of nominating instead of electing members was also condemned.14 What irked Awolowo most was apparently what he described as the shortsightedness of the British government in foisting a unitary government on Nigeria in spite of the diverse cultures of the peoples. He argued that the decentralization provided by the Richards Constitution could not sufficiently accommodate these differences, maintaining that the "Yorubas, in particular, have suffered feelings of frustration for years. Under a system of government which aims at getting all the peoples in the country to the goal of autonomy at the same hour and minute, the Yorubas have been compelled to mark time on their higher level while the other sections hasten to catch up with them. Because of this, it is wrongly believed by some that the Yorubas are deteriorating."15 Accepting the territorial structure of the Richards Constitution, Awolowo suggested a plan for an interim constitution. There should be a legislative council presided over by the governor and consisting of twenty official members, eight members from each regional house of assembly,1* one member representing Calabar, four members representing Lagos and the colony, and three people nominated by the governor for their knowledge of economic subjects. The reserve powers, and the power to use an original and casting vote, conferred on the governor by the Richards Constitution, were retained intact. The Executive Council was to be the same, except that its African members were to be selected from the nonofficial members of the Legislative Council. For the regional councils, Awolowo suggested that there be a house of chiefs in the west as in the north, and that the Sultan of Sokoto preside over the Northern House of Chiefs and the Oni of Ife, over the Western House. Both north and west should retain their houses of assembly, and the east should have only a house of assembly. The number of nonofficials in the houses of assembly should be determined by the number of native treasuries in each region: 63 in the north, 44 in the west, and 94 in the east.17 Oddly, Awolowo did not see that his proposals would make the ratio of representation in the regions almost as disproportionate as it was under the Richards Constitution. His final recommendation was that each region should be autonomous in the sense of having power to deal with all regional matters, as defined in the Richards proposals. 14 Obafemi Awolowo, Path to Nigerian Freedom (London: Faber and Faber, 1947), pp. 127-129. is Ibid., p. 49. 18 Awolowo wrongly assumed that it was the usage under federal constitutions for the component units to have equal representation in the popular chamber. 17 Awolowo, op. cit., pp. 124-134.


Foundations of the Government

Among political parties, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) presented the most searching criticism of the Richards Constitution. It attacked the instrument on the ground of inadequacy of representation, maintaining that there was no true unofficial majority in the Legislative Council. The NCNC also contended that the setup of the regional councils did not constitute an improvement, for they were given no effective voice in the country's affairs. Like Awolowo, the party had its own ideas for the government of Nigeria, and proposed a quasi-federal constitution, retaining the tripartite division of the Richards Constitution. According to the NCNC's plan, the Legislative Council would consist of forty nonofficials, including five from the municipal area of Lagos, two from the colony area, and eleven from each region.18 The council would legislate for the colony on all matters, and for the rest of the country only on defense, foreign affairs, and currency. The Northern House of Chiefs would be retained, but it would have advisory functions only. The composition of the regional assemblies followed the pattern set by the Richards Constitution, but chiefs were substituted for officials on the theory that, as heads of the native administrations, they constituted an integral part of the government. Elections to the regional and central councils were to be based on adult suffrage.19

18 Memorandum on the Richards Constitution, National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (Lagos, 194S), passim. The party also assumed, as Awolowo did, that the component units in a federation should be equally represented in the popular chamber. 19 After formulating its proposals, the NCNC decided to send a delegation to London to protest against the Richards Constitution, among other things. See chapter vii for details.




When the Richards Constitution was revised in 1950, Nigeria adopted a quasi-federal form of government. Systematic theorizing about federalism in Nigeria had been negligible, the earliest attempt having been made by Nnamdi Azikiwe. Renascent Africa (published in 1937) was Azikiwe's statement of his basic social philosophy. In it he tended to gloss over the cultural differences among ethnic groups in Africa, apparently feeling that such differences had been magnified by the accident of European occupation of Africa. In a later work1 Azikiwe implied that what needed accommodation in a constitution was not cultural diversity but the geographical configuration of Nigeria. He therefore suggested that Nigeria should have a federal government with eight component units, into which he arbitrarily divided the country. These units, to be called protectorates, would be (1) the northern, comprising Katsina, Kano, and Zaria provinces; (2) the northwestern, comprising Sokoto, Niger, and Ilorin provinces; (3) the northeastern, made up of Bornu, Bauchi, and Adamawa provinces; (4) the central, consisting of Kabba, Benue, and Plateau provinces; (5) the southern, including Warri, Benin, Onitsha, and Owerri provinces; (6) the southwestern, consisting of Ondo, Ijebu, Abeokuta, and Oyo provinces, and the colony (including Lagos); (7) the southeastern, comprising Calabar and Ogoja provinces; and (8) the Cameroons, embracing the northern and southern parts of the Cameroons. The chief executive of the federal government (called the commonwealth government) was to be a governor-general. A cabinet of fifteen ministers working with the prime minister would be the principal policy-making organ of the government. The ninety-six members of the parliament, including the ministers, would be four elected representatives from each province. The making of laws for the protectorates would be the responsibility of a legislative council, constituted on the basis of one representative per 50,000 people. In other words, the commonwealth government would have a parliament and a legislative council responsible, respectively, for 1

Political Blueprint of Nigeria (Lagos, 1943), passim.


Foundations of the Government

federal and regional lawmaking. The functions of the commonwealth government were to levy and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises; to borrow money; to provide general services; to regulate internal and external trade; to enact laws concerning nationality and the rights of aliens; to enact a law of bankruptcy; to establish a monetary system, and a system of weights and measures; to enact laws in respect to land and its deposits, water, forests, mines, railways, banks, posts and telegraphs, radio, education, police, insurance, industrial and agricultural establishments, trading enterprises, transportation and communication, public health, and civil and criminal matters.2 Each protectorate would have a governor, who would eventually be elected by the people, and an executive council to advise the governor on the ways and means of carrying out the policy of the commonwealth government. The members of the council were to be appointed by the governorgeneral in consultation with the cabinet. Local administration would be shared by municipalities and rural authorities. The former would function as corporations, with technical experts manning the staff while councils of elected representatives directed their affairs. Municipal authorities were to provide social services such as schools, hospitals, police, prisons, courts, roads, waterworks, electricity, cultural centers, community centers, and telephone. Azikiwe advocated the separation of the judiciary from the executive branch of the government. Judicial institutions would include a supreme court of the commonwealth, protectorate courts, and municipal and rural courts. The federal supreme court would have appellate jurisdiction over cases from other courts; the protectorate courts would exercise original jurisdiction, and local courts would be given limited jurisdiction over various matters. Interpretation of the laws was to be a function of the judiciary. Azikiwe pleaded for a codification of Nigerian laws and customs within the broad framework of what is generally regarded as "natural justice." Thus there would be four categories of Nigerian law: constitutional law, statutory law, case law, and common law.8 Azikiwe drew up a long list of human rights, including, among others, the right to education up to the university level, social security, social equality (that is, acceptance of the equality of citizens irrespective of tribe, race, color, or creed), religious toleration, protection of life and property, collective bargaining, and the rights to assemble, to meet in public and engage in public discussion, and to demonstrate publicly. The existence of chieftaincies and emirates was sharply decried, but Azikiwe suggested 2 Ibid., p. 47.

s Ibid., pp. 28-31.


The Rise of Federalism

that the natural rulers serve as presidents of rural councils.4 This plan, so fully formulated, is unfortunately obscure in some important respects. For instance, the commonwealth parliament and the legislative council are federal institutions, and both are responsible for the making of laws for the nation and for regional units. The functions of government are shared by the commonwealth and the municipalities. The eight protectorates therefore become merely geographical units, with neither legislative nor administrative functions. Municipalities are correctly recognized as creatures of the state, and therefore cannot be regarded as coordinate units in a federation. The commonwealth parliament is the organ for ensuring equal representation, not of the protectorates, but of provinces. It is not clear what Azikiwe regarded as the basic unit of his federal government: the protectorate, the province, the municipality, or the rural authority. What emerges after the scheme is shorn of its flowery expression is an overcentralized government. To Azikiwe's credit it must be said that he planned for a strong government in the interest of all. Azikiwe's federal plan elicited sharp criticism from his political opponents, and from others who felt that he had created the component units in an arbitrary manner and thereby lumped together people who had nothing in common. When his party (the NCNQ prepared its Freedom Charter in 1948, Azikiwe seized the opportunity to proclaim the principle of federation along ethnic and linguistic lines. In 1951, however, the NCNC advocated the abandonment of a federal constitution in favor of a unitary one on the ground that federalism was being used to dismember Nigeria. AWOLOWO'S FEDERALISM

The only other important early theorist on Nigerian federalism was Obafemi Awolowo, whose temper and approach differed sharply from those of Azikiwe. Whereas the latter had seen federalism as a means of disintegrating the massive country in the interest of more efficient administration, Awolowo regarded it as a philosophy of opportunity which would enable the various ethnic groups to progress at their own rates. Azikiwe used eight arbitrarily created regions as the units of his federation, but Awolowo suggested instead the ten main ethnic groups. These units would include Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba, Fulani, Kanuri, Ibibio, Munshi, Edo, Nupe, and Ijaw. He considered each group a nation by itself, and maintained that there are as many differences among them as among Germans, English, Russians, and Turks.5 Awolowo did not say, however, how separate regions could be created * Ibid., p. 2. 5 Obafemi Awolowo, Path to Nigerian Freedom (London: Faber and Faber, 1947), p. 48.


Foundations of the Government

for the Hausa and the Fulani, for instance, who are closely intermingled in Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, and Zaria provinces. Nor did he endeavor to spell out the allocation of functions between federal and regional governments, or the general problem of governmental organization. Awolowo's primary contribution was to provide an intellectual justification for the incidence of tribalism. If a federation of Nigeria was to be built upon ethnic groups as units, each group would be well advised to seek the means of improving its social and political status, depending as far as possible on its resources. Awolowo, however, did not originate the tribalist movement. REGION ALIZATION

Not all Yorubas abandoned Azikiwe's NCNC in response to the new nationalism introduced by the Egbe Omo Oduduwa (see chap. vi). Some Yoruba leaders apparently felt that the process of alienation from the NCNC would be hastened by the enactment of a law that would compel political parties to confine their activities within the boundaries of the regions created by Sir Arthur Richards. In 1947 Bode Thomas began to expound a political philosophy that sought to divide Nigeria into three permanent political regions. He advocated a regionalization based on political parties, whose spheres of influence would be geographically demarcated, regardless of individual differences of opinion.9 Thomas pleaded for the establishment of three political parties to deal exclusively with matters affecting their respective zones. The three groups would join at the center to form a council whose function would be to supervise matters affecting the country generally. Thomas claimed as the advantages of his system that (1) it would give the persons directly concerned the exclusive right to determine issues that were their own local affairs; (2) it would produce leaders from each organization who would join together to accept whatever political responsibilities might be granted to Nigeria in the near future; and (3) it would satisfy northerners, who had always been suspicious of southerners, that the south had no intention of dominating the north or of interfering in its domestic affairs. In 1949 several leaders in northern Nigeria, apparently influenced by Thomas' regionalization theory, established the Northern Peoples' Congress (NPC), a political party whose motto was "One North, one people, irrespective of religion, rank, or tribe." The aims of the party were to foster understanding and cooperation among northerners; to study and adapt the culture and the social, economic, and political organization of the north to the needs of the day; to educate northerners in civic and political responsibili8 Nnamdi Azikiwe, The Development of Political Parties in Nigeria (London, 1957), pp. 15-16.

The Rise of Federalism


ties, and induce them to accept NPC leadership; and to inculcate in the minds of northerners a genuine love for the north and all that is northern, especially reverence for religion, law, and order. REVIEW OF THE RICHARDS CONSTITUTION

The foregoing survey of a very important period in Nigerian constitutional history reveals the existence of a deep cultural diversity among the peoples of the country. These peoples had all had varying experiences with the problems of government before coming under the tutelage of the British. In deference to their liberal philosophy and their bias in favor of Western culture, the British adopted a policy which, in the final analysis, created a further division in the intellectual and social orientation of the peoples of north and south. Nevertheless, the country was for some time governed under a unitary constitution. A scheme of decentralization was subsequently tried, and for this purpose the country was divided into three large regions. In the meantime there had grown up nationalist movements which, partly because they were rooted in ethnic-group consciousness, but primarily because they were relatively underdeveloped, accepted the tripartite regional pattern. The leading spokesmen in the country began to regard the regions more or less as different countries coming together under one government. This was the situation when the Richards Constitution was revised. In 1949 Sir John Macpherson, successor to Sir Arthur Richards, argued that the progress made under the old constitution had been rapid and sound, and therefore called for a review of the timetable.7 The review was carried out at various levels of the Nigerian community, in villages, districts, emirates or divisions, and provinces. The suggestions made at the provincial level were collected and discussed at regional conferences, whose recommendations were then forwarded to a general conference held at Ibadan. The draft proposals were approved by the regional assemblies and the central Legislative Council before they were finally submitted to the Governor, who in turn sent them to the Colonial Secretary for approval. Most of the representatives at the regional and general conferences were members of aristocratic families or of the emergent upper-class educated elite. Several had received titles of honor from the British government.8 By 7

The Richards Constitution provided that limited changes might be made at the end of the third and sixth years of its operation, and a full review was scheduled for the end of the ninth year. 8 In the General Conference there were seven first-class chiefs, of whom three held the C.M.G. and three the C.B.E. Several of the educated elite had received the award of O.B.E. The more colorful of the others present were Chief Bode Thomas, the theorist on regionalization; the Sardauna of Sokoto; Mallam Muhammadu Ribadu; Mallam Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; the Wali of Bornu; Shettima Kashim and Aliyu Makaman


Foundations of the Government

and large, the temperament of the General Conference was conservative, though the eastern delegates were on the whole more liberal than those from the other regions. Except for Mbonu Ojike, C. D. Onyeama, Abu Bakr Olorun-Nimbe, and Eyo Ita, most of the delegates regarded themselves as representatives of different countries. They seemed more interested in scoring points favorable to their respective regions than in helping to set up a strong and stable central government. The sharpest controversies were generated by discussion of the territorial basis for a federal govenment, regional representation in the central legislature, revenue allocation, franchise and citizenship, regional autonomy, ministerial responsibility, and the status of the federal capital. All the regional conferences recommended a federal system of government in order, as Abubakar Tafawa Balewa put it, that each region would be able to progress at a pace convenient to it, based on the progress it had made in the past.9 Territorial basis of federation.—The question of the size of regional units in the federation elicited sharp differences of opinion. Many provinces were in favor of modifying the boundaries of the existing regions. Calabar Province, for example, suggested grouping along historical, cultural, and ethnic lines, insofar as administratively convenient. Onitsha Province recommended federation on the basis of language, ethnic lines, and economic considerations. Owerri, Rivers, Benin, and Warri provinces wanted federation on an ethnic and linguistic basis. Ijebu Province desired a tripartite division of the country, but added that Lagos and the Yoruba-speaking people in the Middle Belt area should be merged with the Western Region, and that Ibos in the latter region should be placed under the jurisdiction of the Eastern Region. Further, it would accept linguistic grouping if the scheme would not automatically confer extraordinary rights of representation or make disproportionate inroads into central funds. A number of provinces—Abeokuta, Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Bornu, Cameroons, Eorin, Kabba, Ondo, and Oyo—accepted the existing regions, with boundary modifications that would enable minorities to rejoin their kinsfolk if they so wished, with particular reference to the Yorubas of Lagos, Ilorin, and Kabba, and the Ibos of Benin and Warri. Ogoja and the other northern provinces spoke for the status quo. The Cameroons Provincial Conference demanded establishment of the Cameroons as a separate region.10 The Western Regional Conference recommended that three states be formed on Bida of the Northern Peoples' Congress; the Reverend T. A. J. Ogunbiyi, O.B.E.; S. O. Awokoya; Dr. Francis A. Ibiam, O.B.E.; and Dr. E. M. L. Endeley, Mbonu Ojike, Eyo Ita, and Alvan Ikoku. Nnamdi Azikiwe, feeling that the conference was unlikely to lead to radical reforms, refused to attend. The Oba of Benin also refused to attend. 8 Olorun-Nimbe and E. E. Anwan were the only delegates who rejected a federal constitution on the ground that it might lead to the disintegration of Nigeria. 10 Legislative Council Debates, 1950, n , 509-510.


The Rise of Federalism

an ethnic or linguistic basis. The Eastern Regional Conference did not discuss the problem of ethnic grouping; the Northern Regional Conference took the existing regional boundaries for granted. The General Conference accepted the tripartite arrangements. This analysis shows that six provinces (four in the east and two in the west, with a total population of 8 million) favored ethnic grouping. Ten provinces (three in the west, one in the east, and six in the north, with a total population of 12 million) accepted the existing regional arrangements without change. Thus it is obvious that most of the Moslem north wanted the existing regional boundaries to be retained, whereas the other areas of the same region, together with the Yorubas in the west and the north, accepted the tripartite division of the country but wanted existing boundaries to be modified. In other words, about two-thirds of the people of Nigeria accepted the principle of the Richards Constitution in partitioning the country; the other third, consisting mostly of people in the east and the middle west, recommended federalism based on ethnic groups with allowance for administrative and economic convenience. The recommendations of the General Conference constituted an accurate summing up, in general terms, of the views of the country. 11 Two primary considerations seemed to have influenced the view of the north with respect to the number of units in the federation. One was that, once a start had been made in revising boundaries, there might be no end to the process. A second and probably more important factor was the feeling, as expressed by Aliyu Makaman Bida, that the north should be preserved intact for the Fulani dynasty, because their ancestors had conquered the territory before the advent of the British.12 The Western Region wanted to ensure that, whatever else happened, all Yorubas would come under one regional unit. 13 Regional


in the central


south's f e a r of

domination by the north was exhibited in all its nakedness with reference to the question of determining regional representation at the center. The north argued that representation should be on a democratic basis, that is, according to the population of each region. In that event about 55 per cent of the membership of the federal legislature would fall to the north, but the northern delegates generously proposed, in the interest of harmony, that 11 Important segments of Nigerian public opinion supported the general stand of the eastern provinces. For instance, the NCNC, the Nigerian Youth Movement, and the Union of Nigerian Students in Britain all advocated federation, with cultural affinity and administrative convenience as the guiding principles. 12 Proceedings of the General Conference on the Review of the Nigerian Constitution (Lagos, 1950), p. 110. 19 Eyo Ita and Mbonu Ojike issued a minority report objecting to the tripartite division of the country.


Foundations of the Government

northern membership should constitute only 50 per cent of the total. Both west and east, feeling that they were in danger of being overwhelmed, fought to avert such a disaster. Most of the southern spokesmen in the General Conference, including the lawyers among them, contended that federalism implied equal representation of all regions in the central legislature; it must be pointed out, however, that federalism does not imply equal representation of regional units in the popular chamber. The only southern spokesman who seemed to understand the problem clearly, M. G. Ejaife, suggested the establishment of a bicameral legislature, with the lower chamber constituted on a population basis, and the upper chamber so constituted as to give recognition to the fact that each region was a unit in its own right.14 In the face of northern intransigence, the south endeavored to shift its own ground, but not to the extent of conceding parity of representation as between north and south. On the suggestion of Bode Thomas, a majority voted to alter the recommendation so as to give 45 seats to the north and 33 seats each to the east and the west. Northern spokesmen, however, insisted that the recommendations to the Legislative Council specify that, unless the north was eventually given parity with the Eastern and Western regions together, they would dissociate themselves from other recommendations of the conference. Subsequently the Legislative Council recommended that the new central legislature be enlarged to consist of 136 members, 68 seats to be allotted to the north and 34 each to the east and the west. This first great compromise paved the way for the welding of the three regions into one political community. Revenue allocation.—On this issue the Northern Region again invoked the theory of democracy to bolster its stand. The northern delegation maintained that the problem was not financial, but political. That is, allocation should be made on a per capita basis, so that the population of a region might determine its share of the revenue. Northern delegates argued that the central government's failure to apply this democratic principle to revenue allocation in the past had given the smaller populations of east and west disproportionate social benefits at the expense of the north. They urged the southern regions to make sacrifices by agreeing to their formula, so that the north would be able to catch up in social development. The matter seemed too complex for the delegates, only a few of whom expressed definite views as to how it should be handled. For instance, Eyo Ita advocated revenue allocation on the principles of need and of even progress. He pleaded that better opportunities should be given to the Northern Region, in view of the previous protracted provision of health and edu14

Proceedings of the General Conference, pp. 60-63.

The Rise of Federalism


cational opportunities to the northern people, through per capita division of national grants and by special subsidies. The conference, however, agreed that a commission of inquiry should be appointed to study the problem and make recommendations. Franchise and citizenship.—The Northern Regional Conference had recommended that the right to stand for election to the Northern House of Assembly should be restricted to northern Nigerian adults of twenty-five years or more, resident in the region for three years. This proposal was obviously aimed at keeping southerners in the north, most of whom were Ibos, from participating in the government of the Northern Region. Eastern delegates at the General Conference railed against the proposal, Eyo Ita speaking as follows: I have already pointed out the urgent necessity of complete equalisation of all opportunities as the basis of national unity and franchise. I have also shown the evil of denial of citizenship status and equal franchise to African "aliens" born or resident in villages and towns outside their own clan, tribe or region. I believe in complete Nigerianisation of all citizens. I plead most earnestly that at the first opportunity a legislation should be created giving every citizen irrespective of tribe, sex or creed, equal political status and equal opportunity in all economic, cultural and social rights and privileges. I feel most strongly that a provision should be made in the new Constitution to guarantee this and such other basic h u m a n rights to every citizen without discrimination whatsoever. A person should not become a disinherited unprivileged alien as soon as he leaves his h o m e village or town to live in a town in another region. N o r should people be killed or imprisoned f o r demonstrating against, and for nonviolently resisting economic injustice a n d social evils. 15

The General Conference nevertheless adopted the northern recommendation, by thirty-three votes to ten, as an interim measure for the next five years. In spite of this vote, Onyeama moved to deny regions the right to impose qualifications that might, for the purposes of elections, discriminate against Nigerians who were considered "alien" but who were otherwise qualified for election to a regional house. The eastern delegation voted solidly for this motion, and the northern and western delegations voted against it.18 Thus the new constitution provided that the right to stand for election to any regional assembly would be accorded any British subject or British protected person aged twenty-one or more, and that in addition a candidate for the Northern House of Assembly had to be male and a native of the >5 Ibid., p. 17. 16 Of the western delegates only A. Soetan, Ejaife, and Archdeacon L. A. Lennon voted for the motion. Among those who abstained were C. D. Akran; Major J. West, a special member; and T. A. J. Ogunbiyi of the colony delegation.


Foundations of the Government

region in which he sought election. Furthermore, a candidate in the Western or the Eastern Region must have resided continuously in his region for at least one year before the date of election, and, in the Northern Region, at least three years. The constitution further provided that election should be by a hierarchy of electoral meetings, called electoral colleges. Under this scheme elections were started at the village level, where people were selected for divisional meetings which in turn elected members to the regional house of assembly. In the west and the east, members of the houses of assembly elected some of their own number to go to the central legislature, whereas in the north the Assembly elected central representatives from among its own members or from among candidates presented to it from outside.17 Regional autonomy.—All the regional conferences recommended strong regional autonomy, at least for the first few years. This recommendation was assumed to mean that each region would have full power to legislate on regional affairs and complete control over its own finances, without interference from another region or from the center. The rationale of regional autonomy was that it would enable each region to develop according to its own pace until differences among them were eliminated. It was even suggested that in due course the position might be reversed, that is, that the center would be strengthened at the expense of the regions. A few delegates expressed doubt about the wisdom of granting autonomy to the regions. Olorun-Nimbe, for instance, asked rhetorically how there could be one Nigeria if the country was partitioned into three autonomous regions. The drafting committee watered down the recommendations of the regions, and it was ultimately provided that the regions would have increased autonomy within a united Nigeria. Ministerial responsibility.—In the debates on regional representation and revenue allocation it had been obvious that the south was apprehensive about the numerical superiority of the north, and had proposed devious formulas for dealing with the problem. In the debate on ministerial responsibility, the position was reversed. Here the north feared the superiority of the south, many of whose people had a better educational background and had had more experience in running a modern parliamentary government. The northern delegates pleaded that their region was not ripe for the adoption of ministerial responsibility, but urged that the east and the west should proceeed with it on the regional level, inasmuch as they were better equipped to do so. But, because the north could not adopt ministerial re17 Minority reports in favor of universal adult suffrage and against the electoralcollege system were issued by Mbonu Ojike and Eyo Ita. Another minority report objecting to the denial of some political rights to nonnortherners resident in the north was issued by Ibiam, Ikoku, Endeley, M. W. Ubani, Eyo Ita, Ernest N. Egbuna, Ojike, Nyong Essien, Buowari Brown, O. Effiong, Onyeama, and Anwan.

The Rise of Federalism


sponsibility in its regional government, they continued, the experiment should not be tried at the center.18 In other words, the north was afraid that, if ministerial responsibility was adopted at the federal level, all or most of the ministries would be held by southerners because of their wider experience. The only response of the southern delegates was to appeal to the northern delegates to change their minds. To resolve the problem, a system of checks and balances was adopted in the composition of the federal executive, the Council of Ministers. Ex officio members of the council included the lieutenant-governors of the regions and the chief secretary, the attorney general, and the financial secretary of the government of Nigeria. Four of the ministers were to be appointed from among the members returned to the House of Representatives by each region, provided that one of those appointed from the east was a representative of a division in the Southern Cameroons. The governor was empowered to appoint ministers, subject to ratification by the regions; although he was to consult the lieutenant-governors, he was not bound to take their suggestions.19 Status of the federal capital.—There was sharp disagreement as to the status of Lagos, the capital of the country. Some delegates felt that the city and the colony area should constitute a separate political entity; some wanted Lagos alone to have the status of a federal territory, like the District of Columbia in the United States; others wanted Lagos and the colony to be merged with the Western Region. At the General Conference, the member for the colony area in the Legislative Council, T. A. J. Ogunbiyi, expressed horror at the thought of abolishing the colony status and assigning Lagos to the Western Region. He pleaded that Lagos be preserved as a separate unit, a status befitting its unique historical position as the political, cultural, and commercial center of Nigeria. Two of the Lagos representatives in the Legislative Council, and the entire eastern delegation, supported the point of view that Lagos as the federal capital should remain a separate political unit, for in a federal government there ought to be a place where Nigerians from all parts of the country could meet without coming under the laws or the jurisdiction of any one region. Furthermore, because Lagos was the most highly developed area in the country, and because all sections had contributed to its development, it would be grossly unfair to the other regions should Lagos become a part of the Western Region. Members of the western delegation countered with the argument that Lagos, as a separate unit, would be too small and too weak financially to maintain essential services for its residents without substantial aid. Further, as most of its inhabitants belonged to the Yoruba 18 19

Proceedings of the General Conference, pp. 67-68. Nigeria (Constitution) Order in Council, 1951, Chap. VI, sees. 147-151.


Foundations of the Government

ethnic group, Lagos was essentially a Yoruba town and as such should be merged with the Western Region. The northern delegation generally supported this point of view. When the General Conference resolved itself into a committee, it voted by twenty-nine to fourteen to include the colony area in the Western Region, but to give Lagos itself an independent status.20 The Legislative Council subsequently approved the merger of both Lagos and the colony with the west, but added that all central services in Lagos, particularly the port and the railway, should remain a federal responsibility. Regional functions were listed; that is, residual powers were allocated to the federal government which was empowered to delegate some of them, when necessary, to the regions. GENERAL PROVISIONS OF THE MACPHERSON CONSTITUTION

The Federal Government The new constitution provided for a unicameral legislature, known as the House of Representatives. The governor was empowered to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Nigeria, with the advice and consent of the House. The specific organ for formulating policies was the Council of Ministers, whose advice the governor was to follow on all matters in which he did not have discretion.21 The public service and the judiciary were not regionalized. Regional Governments Northern Region.—Two legislative chambers were approved for the Northern Region, the House of Chiefs and the House of Assembly. The former comprised the lieutenant-governor; all first-class chiefs who sat as of right; thirty-seven other chiefs, selected in a manner determined by the governor acting in his discretion; and an adviser on Moslem law (who had no vote) appointed by the lieutenant-governor. The Northern House of Assembly included a president appointed by the lieutenant-governor, ninety elected members, and ten special members appointed by the lieutenantgovernor to represent communities and interests not otherwise adequately represented. 20 Proceedings of the General Conference, pp. 203-204. Some members of the conference issued a minority report expressing dissent with this decision. These were the Oni of Ife, Ogulana II of Lagos, Chief Bode Thomas, S. O. Awokoya, A. Soetan, A. Obisessan, M. A. Ajasin, T. A. Bankole, C. D. Akran, Arthur Prest, and the Reverend I. O. Ransome-Kuti. They wanted both Lagos and the colony to be included in the Western Region (see ibid., pp. 247-248). 21 See chapters x and xi for the composition and detailed functions of the House of Representatives and the Council of Ministers, respectively.

The Rise of Federalism


The Northern Executive Council consisted of the lieutenant-governor as president, three ex-officio members (the civil secretary, the legal secretary, and the financial secretary of the region), two officials appointed by the lieutenant-governor in his discretion, and regional ministers (not less than four nor more than six of whom were appointed from among the elected and special members of the House of Assembly). The Joint Council of the House of Chiefs and the House of Assembly was created (1) to act as the electoral college for electing representatives from the regional legislatures to the central House of Representatives, and (2) to ratify the appointment of a member as a federal minister. The council was made up of twenty members from each house, not including official members, and was presided over by the lieutenant-governor or his nominee; the presiding officer had neither an original nor a casting vote. Rules for the conduct of council meetings were made by the lieutenant-governor, who in his discretion could summon such meetings. Western Region.—Like the Northern Region, the Western Region was given a bicameral legislature, made up of houses of chiefs and of assembly. The membership of the House of Chiefs comprised the lieutenant-governor as president, three officials appointed by him, and at most fifty chiefs and head chiefs. The chiefs were apportioned as follows: (1) each division with only one head chief sent the head chief and one other chief or more, as might be prescribed; (2) each division with more than one head chief sent two or more chiefs, as might be prescribed, including one head chief; (3) each division with no head chief sent two or more chiefs, as might be prescribed. The manner of selecting the chiefs in these categories was determined by the governor. The Western House of Assembly included a president and four officials appointed by the lieutenant-governor in his discretion, eighty elected members, and three members appointed by the lieutenantgovernor to represent communities and interests not otherwise adequately represented. The composition of the Western Executive Council was similar to that of the Northern Executive Council in its official membership; in addition it included regional ministers, two of whom were appointed from among the head chiefs and other chiefs who were members of die House of Chiefs. Not less than four or not more than seven ministers were appointed from among the elected and special members of the House of Assembly. The Joint Council of the Western Region was like that of the Northern Region in composition and functions, except that it did not serve as an electoral college. Eastern Region.—The Eastern Region had a unicameral legislature called the House of Assembly. It consisted of the lieutenant-governor as president, five officials (one of whom had to be a public officer serving in


Foundations of the Government

the Southern Cameroons) appointed by the lieutenant-governor in his discretion, eighty elected members, and at most three special members appointed by the lieutenant-governor in his discretion to represent interests or communities not otherwise adequately represented. On the Eastern Executive Council were the lieutenant-governor, who presided, the same number of ex-officio and official members as in the executive councils of the north and the west, and regional ministers. Not less than seven and not more than nine of the ministers were appointed from the elected and special members of the House of Assembly, and one had to represent a division in the Southern Cameroons. Powers of the Regional Governments The new constitution gave the regional governments authority over local government, town and country planning, agriculture and fisheries, education, public health, forestry, veterinary service, land, welfare, local industries, regional public works, native courts (subject to central legislation regarding appeals), direct taxation (excluding income and company taxes), and any other matters specifically delegated by the central legislature. A regional bill became law if the lieutenant-governor assented to it or if the Colonial Secretary approved it. A lieutenant-governor might give assent to a bill or refuse to do so, or might reserve the bill for the signification of His Majesty's pleasure; His Majesty's government might disallow a bill approved by the lieutenant-governor. On the recommendation of the governor in council, a regional bill could be debated in the House of Representatives. If a motion for an amendment was passed by a majority of all members of the House of Representatives present, the legislation was referred back to the regional house or houses for reconsideration. In the event of continued disagreement, no regional legislation opposed by a majority of all members of the House of Representatives present could take effect. A regional bill was most likely to be objected to (1) if it referred to a matter beyond the competence of the regional legislature, (2) if it was inconsistent with the general interests of Nigeria, or (3) if it was inconsistent with the obligations of Nigeria under any treaty or other agreement. In such circumstances the governor might amend the bill or cause it to lapse.22 In the Northern and Western regions any bill, save a finance bill, might be introduced in either the House of Assembly or the House of Chiefs. A special procedure was adopted in the passage of a bill (1) if it was rejected by one house and passed by the other, (2) if the lieutenant-governor felt that it was not likely to pass both houses without amendment, or (3) if more than six months elapsed after it was passed by one house. In such instances 22

Nigeria (Constitution) Order in Council, 1951, Chap. IV, sees. 95-102.

The Rise of Federalism


the lieutenant-governor would summon and preside over a joint meeting of forty members, twenty elected by each house; the lieutenant-governor had only a casting vote, and whatever the meeting decided had to be accepted by both houses. Thus far the provisions indicate a clear subordination of the regions to the center, but certain halfhearted measures were adopted to save the situation. First, all central bills except appropriation bills were to be laid before the regional legislatures for their advice, prior to their introduction in the House of Representatives. No central law, however, could be invalidated if the House of Representatives failed to submit a bill to the regional legislatures, or if the legislatures failed to consider the bill. Second, in the event of inconsistency between a regional law and an existing Nigerian law, the regional law was to prevail. If a regional law conflicted with a central law, the regional law was to prevail if the central law was enacted before the regional law, but the central law was to prevail if it was passed after the regional law.23 The nature of the power exercised by the regions under the 1951 Constitution has elicited various comments as to whether that constitution was unitary or federal. For instance, James S. Coleman thinks it was essentially unitary, but Awolowo called it "a wretched compromise between federalism and unitarianism," and claimed that it was "neither a unitary nor a federal constitution but a compromise between both." Perhaps it is best to regard it as marking the embryonic stage of a federation, a view the Colonial Secretary would seem to have supported: "As Nigeria develops further towards a federal state, it may well be necessary, as it has been in other countries, to establish separate and distinct fields of legislation for the center and the regions, with a reduction in the range of subjects over which they have concurrent powers." 24 Miscellaneous Matters Prorogation and dissolution.—The governor could, by a proclamation published in the Nigeria Gazette, prorogue or dissolve the House of Representatives, but under normal circumstances the House would be dissolved every five years. The lieutenant-governor of a region could also, by publishing a proclamation in the regional Gazette, prorogue the legislature of a region. Dissolution of the House of Representatives automatically dissolved the regional legislatures. The public service.—The power to appoint (including the power to promote and transfer) and dismiss public officers was vested in the governor, 28

Ibid., sec. 107. Excerpt from the Colonial Secretary's dispatch to the Governor of Nigeria, July 15, 1950, reproduced in Nigeria Gazette (Extraordinary), July 6, 1951. 24


Foundations of the Government

who could, with the prior consent of the Colonial Secretary, delegate such power to the lieutenant-governor of a region. The Public Service Commission, whose members were appointed by the governor, was established to advise the governor on all matters affecting the exercise of these powers.




By 1951, when the Macpherson Constitution came into force, there were three principal political parties in Nigeria, one in each region: the Northern Peoples' Congress, led by Alhaji Ahmadu, the Sardauna of Sokoto; the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons in the Eastern Region, led by Nnamdi Azikiwe; and the Action group (AG) in the Western Region, led by Obafemi Awolowo. None of these leaders was in the Council of Ministers in the government formed under the new constitution. The Sardauna and Awolowo had decided, on their own volition, to head the ministries of Works and Local Government in their respective regions. Azikiwe, who resided in Lagos, then part of the Western Region, failed of election from the Western House of Assembly to the House of Representatives, and was automatically barred from the Council of Ministers. In the Western Region, where the AG was in power, Azikiwe was the leader of the opposition; in the Eastern Region, where Azikiwe's party was in power, the leadership of the government was entrusted to Eyo Ita, his lieutenant. Thus on the eve of a new era in Nigerian constitutionalism, Azikiwe, who had contributed so much to the national awakening in the country, and who had made the strongest bid for national leadership, found himself without formal power in any regional government or in the federal government. Furthermore, some of his ablest lieutenants either were private members of the eastern legislature or were not members at all. Most of the members of that chamber had been elected as independent candidates, but had been invited by Azikiwe to join the NCNC; some of them held ministerial appointments. While Azikiwe and his immediate lieutenants lacked formal power, some of those who possessed it did not owe loyalty to the NCNC. Azikiwe's residence in another region further endangered party discipline, then in an embryonic stage. To correct the situation, Azikiwe and his lieutenants evolved a plan to bring down the Macpherson Constitution, but NCNC ministers in both the Eastern Region and Lagos preferred to give it a trial. The National Executive Committee of the NCNC, at a meeting held at Port Harcourt in October, 1952, to which all NCNC parliamentary members had been invited,


Foundations of the Government

voted by a large majority to try the new constitution. When an Eastern Regional party conference endorsed the decision, and a Western Regional conference repudiated it, a special convention was held in Jos in December, 1952, in an attempt to unify the party position on this issue. This convention, deciding not to support the constitution, advised NCNC members on the Council of Ministers to resign. Three of these ministers, Eni Njoku, Okoi Arikpo, and Alfred C. Nwapa, who had not attended the convention because the time was inconvenient, refused to resign their seats and were dismissed from the NCNC; they retained their seats on the council for a time before eventually leaving. Using a power conferred on him by the Jos convention, Azikiwe proposed to reshuffle the cabinet of the Eastern Region, ostensibly on the ground that it was weak and inefficient. In January, 1953, the nine ministers in the cabinet signed letters of resignation, but six of them later withdrew their resignations. The NCNC then persuaded the Eastern House of Assembly to cast a vote of no confidence in the cabinet, but the six recalcitrants still refused to resign because, according to the constitution, a ministerial appointment could be terminated only by a two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly, voting secretly. The NCNC did not try to get this majority because it doubted the loyalty of the Cameroonians, the Efiks, and the Ibibios. Eventually the party members walked out of the legislature, leaving the governor to use his reserve powers to pass bills, but later, after the constitution was amended, the Eastern House of Assembly was dissolved. The crisis was thus resolved.1 In the meanwhile, the three dismissed federal ministers formed the United National Independence Party, whose members told a different story about the Eastern Regional crisis. For instance, Jaja Wachuku quoted an editorial in the West African Pilot to show that the basic cause of the dispute was the failure of the Eyo Ita government to approve a loan of £500,000 to the Onitsha Urban District Council for market improvement.2 The government under the Richards Constitution had apparently promised to make the loan, and the NCNC had endorsed it, but the Eyo Ita government, believing the amount too large for one local project, balked at approving it. Wachuku maintained further that some of Azikiwe's lieutenants, who lacked formal power in any government, had joined in the crusade Subsection 2 of Article 118 of the 1951 Constitution stated that the legislative houses of all regions would be regarded as dissolved upon a dissolution of the House of Representatives. It did not provide for the separate dissolution of regional legislatures. Dissolution was carried out only after an amendment to the constitution had made such action possible. 2 Onitsha urban area is the home town of Azikiwe; the implication was that Azikiwe's interest in the loan was motivated by selfishness.

Regional Autonomy


to reshuffle the government in the hope of obtaining power.3 Another element in the crisis was the NCNC decision that the Eastern Regional government should deposit about £30,000 in the African Continental Bank, founded by Azikiwe, in order to encourage indigenous banking in Nigeria. Eyo Ita had pointed out that such a deposit would contravene the law because the bank, owing to financial difficulties, had not been licensed. The attitude of the Ita government, ridiculed as being pious and moralistic, was the basic cause for the charge of weakness leveled against it. Ita is of the opinion that it was Azikiwe's lieutenants (Ojike, A. A. Nwafor Orizu, and K. Ozuomba Mbadiwe), rather than Azikiwe himself, who aggressively pushed the issue until the crisis occurred and his government was dismissed. It is certain, however, that the Ita government felt itself unable to carry out the directives of the NCNC on these issues. When Azikiwe subsequently returned to the Eastern Region and became the leader of its government, the three major leaders of Nigeria were in charge of the three regions, which naturally became the political focus of the country. Azikiwe was the one person who possessed what was needed— towering political stature and great personal charm—to keep the country closely integrated while on the path to nationhood. With his virtual disappearance from the national political scene, the chance of smooth and harmonious development toward this goal practically vanished. A MOTION FOR SELF-GOVERNMENT AND ITS SEQUEL

By 1953 many leading politicians in Nigerian parties had become disgusted with the structural defects of the Macpherson Constitution, particularly because it tied the regions too closely to the center, and, through the electoral-college system, imposed the strain of dual membership on some legislators. Many people wanted the constitution to be reviewed as soon as possible, but in the meanwhile the parties maneuvered for alliances or understandings. The AG formed a secret alliance with the NPC, the documents to be published only when the NPC gave the signal. In March, 1953, the AG, through Anthony Enahoro, brought up a motion in the House of Representatives asking that body to demand self-government for Nigeria in 1956. The NPC, however, deemed the matter so weighty that its leaders wanted time to convince the natural rulers and chiefs of the Northern Region. At first the AG agreed not to press the motion to an immediate division, but when the NPC failed to make public its alliance with the AG, the latter, fearing that its ally was deliberately stalling on the advice of expatriate officials of the Northern Region, threw all caution to the winds 8

House of Representatives Debates, March 24, 1953, pp. 722-727.


Foundations of the Government

and called for a vote on the motion. The NCNC, either ignorant of the dynamics of the situation or in utter disregard of them, supported the AG against the NPC. The leaders of the NPC urged that no definite date be set for independence. They wanted to amend the motion to read that independence be granted to Nigeria as soon as practicable. The Sardauna argued that, in the more than thirty years since the amalgamation of Nigeria, no serious attempt had been made by the British or by the Nigerians themselves to give a unified political and social orientation to the people of the Southern and Northern protectorates. When people from the two sections of the country met on a common ground, they tended to suspect each other and to harbor misgivings about each other's activities. The Sardauna pointed out that by 1947, when the Richards Constitution came into force, the south had had some twenty-five years of experience in parliamentary government, while the north had had none; by 1953, when the motion for self-government was being debated, the north had gained only six years' experience, and therefore felt justified in making reservations about the motion. Action Group members of the Council of Ministers maintained, with rather doubtful validity, that the council did not have the right to consider whether or not Britain should continue to rule Nigeria. The president of the council tried to persuade it not to take part in the debate of the House of Representatives on the self-government motion, on the plea that such participation might create ill feeling within the council, which might jeopardize the unity of Nigeria. When the matter was put to a vote, six expatriate members and four northern members supported the president's point of view; three eastern members remained neutral; and four western members voted against him. The AG thereupon instructed its members to resign from the council.4 The motion led to a bitter debate in the House, which was terminated when the NCNC and AG members walked out in protest. A major crisis had occurred in the national government. The nationalist press in Lagos openly and unreservedly attacked the NPC leaders for supporting British officials in retarding the progress of Nigeria. Under the stimulus of newspaper criticism, mobs of people in Lagos hooted at NPC leaders and insulted them in all conceivable ways. In anger, the NPC leaders returned home. The NCNC and the AG, however, did not accept the leaders' views as truly representative of opinion in the Northern Region, and the AG sent a delegation north under S. L. Akintola to present its point of view to the masses. Akintola's mission caused a serious riot in Kano which resulted in 277 casualties, including 36 deaths.® * Ibid., 1953, H, 1047. s Report on the Kano Disturbances (Kaduna, 1953), p. 21.

Regional Autonomy


In May, 1953, the Colonial Secretary announced in the House of Commons that Her Majesty's government had come to the conclusion that a tight federation was unsuitable to Nigerian conditions. The Nigerian Constitution would have to be redrawn to provide for greater regional autonomy and to forbid intervention by the center in matters that could, without detriment to other regions, be placed entirely within regional competence. In order to guarantee that the common economic and defense requirements of all regions would be met, and to preserve the common interests of all people in the territory, a central organization would be retained.6 Nigerian leaders were invited to London for a full exchange of views on the method of redrafting the constitution, under these terms of reference: (1) the defects of the present constitution; (2) the changes required to remedy the defects; (3) die steps needed to put the changes into effect; and (4) the question of self-government in 1956. The last item was included on the understanding that it would not in any way commit the British government to the proposition. While arrangements for the conference were being made, the NPC came forward with an eight-point program: 1) Each region should have complete legislative and executive autonomy in all matters except defense, external affairs, customs, and certain research institutions organized on a West African basis. 2) There should be no central legislative body and no central executive or policy-making body for the whole of Nigeria. 3) A nonpolitical body having neither legislative nor policy-making functions should constitute a central agency for the country, and should be responsible for matters not allocated to the regions. 4) The central agency should operate from a neutral territory, preferably Lagos. 5) The composition of the central agency should be defined by the order in council establishing the constitutional arrangement. 6) Railways, air services, ports, electricity, posts and telegraphs, and coal mining should be organized on an interregional basis and should be administered by public corporations. 7) All revenues except customs duties should be levied and collected by the regions; the administration of the customs should be organized so as to ensure that goods consigned to regions were separately cleared and charged to duty. 8) Each region should have its own separate public service.7 8 See the introduction to the Report by the Conference on the Nigerian Constitution Held in London in July and August, 1953, Cmd. 8934 (London: H.M.S.O., 1953), p. 3. 7 Details are given in the Daily Times (Lagos), May 22, 1953.


Foundations of the Government

Leaders from southern Nigeria charged that these proposals were inspired by a memorandum prepared in 1939 by a Colonial Office official, and that expatriate officials in Nigeria had guided the NPC to use them. Nevertheless, there were other sources from which the NPC could have drawn inspiration, not the least important of which were the regionalization theory of Bode Thomas, the arrogance and vindictiveness of the major southern leaders, and the broad hints of the Colonial Secretary in his speech in the House of Commons in May of the same year. The NPC, however, defended its proposals on the grounds that (1) the NCNC and the AG had introduced party politics, for which there was no constitutional provision, into the central legislature; (2) the existing constitution was unworkable; and (3) southern leaders treated northerners with contempt and regarded them as the tools of expatriate officials. In the London discussions, the customs union proposals of the NPC proved to be not only a trump card for that party in securing a compromise on the status of Lagos, but also a convenient tool for the major southern leaders to use in urging extreme regionalization. In the delegation to London, the major parties were led by Azikiwe, Awolowo, and the Sardauna, and there were in all nineteen delegates and thirty-nine advisers. The delegation, many of whose members were not particularly well informed on constitutional or political problems, had to confront a United Kingdom delegation consisting of the Colonial Secretary and the core of the Colonial Office bureaucracy, including a number of expert political and legal advisers. The Governor of Nigeria, with his own expert advisers, was present. The London Conference lasted from July 30 to August 22, 1953, and in January, 1954, resumed its meetings in Lagos to study the recommendations of a special committee on revenue allocation. All the evidence available today indicates that at the conference Azikiwe, Awolowo, and the Sardauna pressed for and obtained a regional structure which conferred immense powers on the leading politicians of each region, thus leaving the federal government emasculated in several important respects. The AG has never disguised the part it played in these maneuvers, but Azikiwe maintains that he agreed to regionalization only as a means of wooing the north and persuading the NPC to drop its customs union proposals. The National Independence Party (NIP), however, claims that it had reached an understanding with the NPC, and that both parties had put forward progressive proposals designed to leave the center strong. At the plenary session [wrote a leading member of the NIP], the Northern Peoples' Congress and the National Independence Party put forward those progressive proposals previously agreed upon by them. To the utter surprise of everyone, it was Awolowo and Dr. Azikiwe who vehemently opposed them. In vain was it argued that in the present circumstances of Nigeria, with its

Regional Autonomy


multiplicity and diversity of cultural and ethnic groupings, it was necessary to have a strong and independent central government whose authority and prestige would give confidence and guarantee security to minority groups within the Federation and at the same time command international respect. 8

The NPC eventually abandoned its progressive stand and voted with the NCNC and the AG for extreme regionalism. At the twelfth plenary session the NIP withdrew from the conference in protest against some of the fundamental recommendations agreed upon by the majority of the delegates regarding the structure of the central government and the relation between the central and regional governments.9 That the three major parties and their leaders sought strong regions at the expense of the federal government, primarily in their individual interests, is borne out by the following facts. The equilibrium among these parties could easily have been disturbed by a shift in the main sources from which they drew their strength, and any one of them might have suffered reverses. For instance, if the regions were split into smaller units to accommodate the main ethnic groups, new parties and leaders would almost certainly emerge, as Nigerian nationalism has tended to develop along ethnic lines. In that event, the domains of the existing leaders might seriously shrink in size and importance. In view of this power configuration, the leaders of the three major parties advocated not only retention of existing regional boundaries, but also expansion of the functions and powers of the regional governments. In such circumstances the leaders or their parties would gain the maximum benefit from the political process in Nigeria. It is difficult to avoid this conclusion, for both Azikiwe and Awolowo had previously regarded the size of regional units as a fundamental problem in Nigerian constitutionalism, and both had advocated more than three regions.10 Moreover, barely a year after the close of the London Conference, Azikiwe's African Continental Bank became the official bank of the government of the Eastern Region, and the National Bank of Nigeria, founded by prominent AG men, became the official bank of the Western Regional government; each leader became the premier of his home region. As the proceedings of the Foster-Sutton Commission later revealed, these arrangements permitted Azikiwe to invest large amounts of the Eastern Regional government funds in his bank, and thus prevent the bank from collapsing.11 Each leader sought not merely to protect his own interests but also to help create 8

From an article by Dr. E. U. Udoma in ibid., Aug. 26, 1953. •Report by the Conference on the Nigerian Constitution, 1953, p. 4. 10 The views of Azikiwe and Awolowo were expressed forcefully in their writings: Nnamdi Azikiwe, Political Blueprint of Nigeria (Lagos, 1943); Obafemi Awolowo, Path to Nigerian Freedom (London: Faber and Faber, 1947). 11 See Report of the Tribunal Appointed To Inquire into Allegations Reflecting on the Official Conduct of the Premier of, and Certain Persons Holding Ministerial and


Foundations of the Government

an indigenous middle class, which would eventually fight to free the Nigerian economy from expatriate control. It is fair to point out that Azikiwe himself has maintained that he discarded the idea of decreasing the size of the regions for purely tactical reasons, that is, to induce the NPC to abandon its customs union proposals and agree to constitute the Northern Region as an integral part of the federation. The NPC has always contended, not with adequate historical justification, that the whole of the Northern Region had been conquered by the people's Fulani forebears and that it should therefore remain as a unit, whether or not other regions of the federation were split into smaller units. It is most unlikely that the NPC would have considered favorably any plans designed to reduce the size of the Northern Region. But, because of other socioeconomic factors, the southern leaders did not even give the NPC the opportunity to express its dissent, for the matter was not raised in plenary sessions of the conference. To buttress the plea for regional autonomy or to conceal the economic motives for this plea, the leaders assumed that original "sovereignty" lay with the regions, which could therefore appropriately assign functions to the federal government, the new creature, and reserve the residue to themselves. Following this reasoning the London Conference decided, the NIP dissenting, that residual functions should be vested in the regional governments. The functions of the federal government, as well as concurrent functions, were listed, and it was provided that in the event of conflict central legislation would prevail; in order to minimize the possibility of such conflict, the concurrent list was kept as short as possible. The argument relating to the repository of sovereignty was more explicitly stated in 1956, when the secretary of the NPC, invoking it, warned that the Northern Region would not support the creation at the center of any political office superior to the position of a regional premier.12 Party leaders regarded federalism as a philosophy of opportunity. Awolowo was the principal exponent of this view, which implies that a federal system of government gives each component unit the opportunity to make progress at a rate determined by the ability of its leaders and by its natural resources. Awolowo contended that under the former unitary system the Yoruba had suffered frustration for many years, because that system aimed at getting all the peoples in the country to the goal of autonomy at the same time; the Yoruba, who had reached a higher level of development, were Other Public Offices in, the Eastern Region of Nigeria, Cmd. 51 (London: H.M.S.O., 1957), pp. 13-18. 12 This warning was sounded at a time when attempts were being made to provide for the position of prime minister at the center, and it was not yet known who might become the first prime minister.

Regional Autonomy


compelled to wait for other people to catch up.13 The implication was clear: in a federal system of government the Yoruba would progress more rapidly, or at least would not be hampered by less advanced social groups. The earlier formulas for revenue allocation reflected this type of reasoning. Later, in a speech before the Western House of Assembly in 1956, Awolowo gloated over the relative backwardness of the other regions, while unreservedly praising the progress of the Western Region. Finally, the office of prime minister was not created for the national government, but provision was made for the appointment of premiers in the regions. On the national level the most important positions—those of the chief secretary (who functioned as a kind of prime minister), the financial secretary, and the attorney general—were reserved for expatriate civil servants who were members of the Council of Ministers, and who would inevitably dominate the council. There was therefore no incentive for the ablest politicians to remain at the national level, and they naturally endeavored to make the regions sufficiently attractive to themselves. Against this background the London Conference of 1953 made its proposals. GENERAL PROPOSALS OF THE LONDON CONFERENCE

Territorial Division Nigeria was designated a federation comprising the existing regions and the federal territory of Lagos; the Southern Cameroons was made a quasi region. Organization of the Federal Government The chief executive of the national government was given the title of governor-general. The executive body retained the name of Council of Ministers, but consisted of ten elected members, three from each region and one from the Southern Cameroons, and three ex officio members. Six of the ministers held portfolios, and had general direction and control of, and individual responsibility for, their departments. Regional Organization Northern Region.—The Executive Council comprised the governor, who acted as its president; three ex officio members, the civil secretary, the attorney general, and the financial secretary; and thirteen regional ministers, of whom one was the premier. Of the ministers, not more than four or not less than two were appointed from among the members of the House of Chiefs, and the rest were elected and special members of the House of 13

Awolowo, op. cit., p. 49.


Foundations of the Government

Assembly. The northern legislature was bicameral. The House of Chiefs included the governor, who acted as its president; all first-class chiefs; thirty-seven other chiefs; members of the regional Executive Council who were members of the House of Assembly;14 and an adviser on Moslem law. The governor in his discretion might appoint a deputy president from among the members of the House of Chiefs or from outside it. The composition of the House of Assembly remained unchanged, but the governor in his discretion might appoint its president from among its members or from outside the chamber. Western Region.—The Executive Council consisted of the governor, who acted as its president, and not less than nine ministers, one of whom served as premier. Three ministers were appointed from among the elected and special members of the House of Assembly. The legislature remained bicameral. The House of Chiefs was made up of a president elected from among its own members; not more than fifty head chiefs and other chiefs; members of the Executive Council who were members of the lower chamber;15 and not more than four special members. The House of Assembly consisted of a speaker elected from among its own members or from the outside;18 eighty elected members; and not more than three special members appointed to represent interests not otherwise adequately represented. Eastern Region.—The governor was the president of the Executive Council, whose other members included not more than nine ministers, of whom one was the premier, appointed from among the elected members of the House of Assembly. The legislature continued to have a single chamber, the House of Assembly. Members of the House were the speaker, who was appointed by the governor after consultation with the leaders of the majority party, and eighty-four elected members.17 The executive councils of all the regions were designed to function as the executive organ in a cabinet system of government. The governor appointed the premier from the majority party, and the latter in turn appointed the other ministers. Premiers who lost the confidence of the House of Assembly were to be dismissed by the governor, and the premier could dismiss other ministers. In the Eastern Region, however, a minister could be dismissed on the resolution of the House of Assembly.18 Any federal bill conferring powers or imposing duties on the governor or any other officer of a region was subject to the approval of the regional 14

The right to vote in the House of Chiefs was denied to these members. The right to vote was denied to these members. 18 It was mandatory for a deputy speaker to be elected from among the members of the House of Assembly. 17 As in the Western Region, it was mandatory to appoint a deputy speaker from among the elected members of the House of Assembly. 18 Nigeria (Constitution) Order in Council, 1954, Chap. IV, sees. 105-113. 15

Regional Autonomy


governor. In exercising his powers, the governor of a region was to consult the executive council and to accept its advice, but he was not required to consult the council in the exercise of his discretionary powers. Regional


Federal and regional legislatures were to have a legal duration of at most five years, and could be dissolved separately. The power to amend the constitution was still reserved to Her Majesty, but it was agreed to hold a general review of the constitution three years after August 31, 1953. On the question of self-government, the Colonial Secretary informed the conference that Britain was not prepared to fix a definite date for the independence of Nigeria, as the NPC was unwilling to depart from its original stand on the matter. Eventually it was agreed that in 1956 Britain would grant to those regions that desired it full self-government in all matters within the competence of the regional governments, with the proviso that there would be safeguards to ensure that the regional governments did not impede or prejudice the exercise by the national government of its functions, or jeopardize in any way the continuance of the federation. This agreement was important for three reasons. First, the stipulation regarding regional self-government implied the acceptance of federalism, with the understanding that each region would develop at its own pace. This was particularly pleasing to western Nigeria. Second, it provided an opportunity for the impatient east and west to make further constitutional advance without being hampered by the reservations of the north, and without forcing their ideas on the north. Third, it constituted a second great compromise, which manifested the willingness of the leaders to try to keep the country intact despite their differing views and interests.19 STATUS OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL

The constitutional status of Lagos, the federal capital, has caused considerable difficulty to the founding fathers of the federation. There was, first, a genuine desire to ensure that the political rights of the residents of the capital territory were not curtailed, as were those of the citizens of Washington, which is not represented separately in the American Congress. Second, there was an equally genuine desire not to make Lagos an integral part of a region, as Ottawa is in Canada. This attitude is understandable in the light of the history of Lagos, which had been occupied by the British through cession in 1861, and thereby acquired a colony status as contrasted with the protecto19

In August, 1957, the Eastern and Western regions became self-governing; the inquiry by the Foster-Sutton Commission into the affairs of the African Continental Bank had delayed the event. The Northern Region followed suit in March, 1959.


Foundations of the Government

rate status of other parts of Nigeria. In popular language, the city itself was always referred to as Lagos, whereas its immediate hinterland was known as the colony. From the early days of British administration in Nigeria, Lagos was made the seat of government and, in the course of time, it became the headquarters of several expatriate and Nigerian companies. It possesses the largest port in the country, and its development has been unique. During the review of the Richards Constitution, the government asked a series of questions to be used as guidelines in reaching decisions on a number of problems. The following questions were asked with reference to Lagos: What should be the future of the colony (that is, Lagos and the hinterland) in relation to any new legislative system? Should the colony and the western provinces be treated as one unit for legislative and administrative purpose, or should the rural part be added to the Western Region? As noted above, the representatives of Lagos and the eastern delegation at the 1950 General Conference demanded that Lagos remain a separate entity, whereas the western and northern delegations contended that both the city and the hinterland should be merged with the Western Region. In supporting total merger, the Colonial Secretary added that it was better to keep Lagos tied to its cultural and geographical hinterland.20 At the London Conference of 1953 the question of the status of Lagos came up again, and again the Nigerian leaders were unable to reach agreement. The eastern delegates repeated the argument that Lagos had been developed at the expense of the whole country, and that this fact, together with its cession in 1861, gave it a unique status which it should retain. The northern leaders, who had been booed by Lagos mobs, reversed their stand, pleading for neutralization of the city on the grounds that its port facilities made it the economic lifeline of the Northern Region, and that its merger with the Western Region entailed the risk of losing it if that region should secede. In that event, the Northern Region would lose easy access to the sea. The western leaders rested their case for a merger primarily on the grounds of administrative convenience. As neither party to the dispute would compromise its stand, the leaders requested the Colonial Secretary to arbitrate the issue. In announcing his decision to give Lagos separate status as a federal territory, the Colonial Secretary contended that both the central government and the Western Region had contributed to the development of the city. The history of the past, he continued, was less important in making such a determination than the safeguarding of the interests of Nigeria. It would be too expensive to build a new capital, as the AG had suggested; Lagos was a political as well as a commercial center, and many Nigerians regarded it 20 See Lagos Belongs to the West, Action Group (London: Purnell and Sons, n.d.), passim.

Regional Autonomy


not only as their economic lifeline, but as the focal point of Nigerian politics. The Colonial Secretary, stating that some members of the Nigerian delegation had made compromises by agreeing to stay in the federation, urged the western delegation to reciprocate by compromising on the Lagos issue.21 In a pamphlet entitled Lagos Belongs to the West, the AG went to great lengths to refute the contentions of the other parties to the dispute. It maintained, first, that Lagos was primarily a Yoruba town, as 71 per cent of its population was of Yoruba origin, and that it was not the economic lifeline of the Northern Region, as ports in the Eastern Region were also accessible to the north. Second, the ports, which were the part of Lagos relevant to the economic argument, were under federal control, and the Western Region, even if it wished, could not prevent other regions from using the facilities. Third, about five-sixths of the population of the Western Region made its purchases in Lagos, and the Western Region, in accordance with the principle of derivation in revenue allocation, should benefit from its trade in the city. But if the city was declared a federal territory, such revenue would accrue to the federal government, and other regions would thereby benefit unfairly.22 Fourth, the Colonial Secretary's decision was tantamount to assigning rights under the treaty of cession unilaterally to a third party, the Federation of Nigeria.23 Finally, the capital of Nigeria should not be in Lagos, a center of hooliganism, but in a place where northern legislators could move about unmolested by mobs. Ending its plea, the Action Group stated that it rejected the judgment of the Colonial Secretary, which would lead to the disintegration of Nigeria; if the British government coerced the Western Region into remaining within the federation, the association could be only an uneasy one.24 Despite this sharp protest from the Action Group, Lagos assumed from 1954 a separate status as the federal capital of the country. But during the constitutional review of 1957, the various political parties put forward conflicting proposals regarding the future of the city. It was finally decided that, in the interest of unity, there should be no radical departure from the existing arrangements. In order to remove certain disabilities, the conference agreed to give Lagos the same proportionate representation in the House of Representatives as the rest of Nigeria, and to make a Lagos member of the House eligible for appointment as a federal minister. In the Senate, the city would 21

Report by the Conference on the Nigerian Constitution, 1953, Annex V. Provision was made for the Western Region to enjoy the full revenue (see chap, xiv for details). 23 This argument holds good for several places in the north and the south of Nigeria, which signed special treaties with Britain, but which were made integral parts of Nigeria at British volition. 24 Lagos Belongs to the West, p. 27. 22


Foundations of the Government

be represented by the Oba of Lagos, another chief chosen by and from among the chiefs of Lagos, and two other members appointed by the governor-general to reflect the strength of political parties in the Lagos Town Council. It was also recommended that (1) a definite number of scholarships be awarded by the federal government to Lagos children; (2) Lagos be represented as were the regions on all boards, corporations, and committees established by the federal government; (3) the Oba of Lagos continue to be the president ex officio of the Lagos Town Council, and no functionary or officer take precedence over him in the council; (4) the federal and the Western Regional governments consult together on the advisability of establishing a joint authority to plan the development of the area, both within and outside the boundaries of Lagos municipality; (5) a commission be appointed to consider the fiscal problems arising from the city's status as a federal territory; and (6) the governor-general in council consider what further functions, such as primary education, might be transferred from the federal government to the Lagos Town Council, and also examine the question of the representation of traditional authorities in the council. A resumed conference in 1958 agreed to transfer the following functions from the federal government to the Lagos Town Council: health and preventive services, including medical services to schools, infectious disease hospitals and maternity wards, port health services, and plague prevention measures; fire service; primary school education; adult welfare; care of discharged prisoners; and school care services of the Social Welfare Department. The Lagos Executive Development Board, when it completed its other work, was to hand over its town planning function to the Lagos Town Council. As to the representation of traditional authorities in the council, the federal government decided that the current number of four natural rulers was adequate, and the resumed conference accepted the view. In August, 1959, the federal government passed a law recognizing the principal chief, Oba Adele, as oba of Lagos, and not merely as head of the Ado family. Furthermore, provision was made for the appointment and recognition of chiefs; the Iga was recognized as the official residence of the oba, and the federal government undertook to rebuild it. A joint planning authority for Lagos and the immediate hinterland was considered premature, but the federal and the Western Regional governments were requested to cooperate closely where possible.25 TTirough these arrangements Lagos not only attained separate political status, but also was to provide adequate services for its citizens and main25 See Report by the Nigeria Constitutional Conference Held in London in May and June, 1957, Cmd. 207 (London: H.M.S.O., 1957), p. 25; Report by the Resumed Constitutional Conference Held in London in Sept. and Oct., 1958, Cmd. 569 (London: H.M.S.O., 1958), p. 12.

Regional Autonomy


tain the Town Council as an institution worthy of the status of the federal capital. Thus, on the analogy of regional-federal relations, the residents of Lagos were enabled to participate effectively on two levels of governmental activity, those of the Town Council and the federal government. Soon, however, it became apparent that many leading politicians and parties were not satisfied with the settlement of the Lagos question, and agitation continued. When, in 1958, the Minorities Commission was investigating the fears of minority groups in Nigeria, three organizations—the Lagos and Colony State Movement, the United Muslim Party, and the Aborigines of Lagos and Colony Province—suggested that Lagos and the colony be made a separate entity with full regional status. In the memoranda they submitted, these organizations argued that the area of Lagos was too small for its population; its density of 13,000 persons per square mile was one of the highest in the country.28 When Lagos and the colony were treated as parts of the same administrative division, several Lagos services were based in the colony area, now part of the Western Region. The Lagos water supply, airport, orthopedic hospital, central police college, and most secondary schools were sited in areas that had come under the authority of the western government. The situation was likely to generate jurisdictional conflicts and to detract from the special political status that had been conceded to the federal territory. In rejecting these arguments, the Minorities Commission claimed that (1) the creation of a separate region including the federal capital would violate a fundamental principle of the constitution; (2) there was no indication that the Colonial Secretary's ruling in 1954 on the status of Lagos was open to review; (3) the colony area by itself alone could not constitute a region; and (4) the people who lived in the colony area did not constitute a minority in the Western Region within the meaning of the commission's terms of reference. In the campaign for the federal elections in 1959, the NCNC issued a manifesto stating that, if it won the elections, it would expand the area of the federal capital for 20 miles to include the former colony area. This attitude was predicated on a number of factors, including, primarily, the cultural identity of the people of Lagos and the colony and their common experience as parts of the same administrative division, and the rapidity of population growth in Lagos, which was likely to increase because the city was the focal point of Nigerian development. The NCNC expressed the hope that, with the collaboration of the houses of assembly in the Eastern and Northern regions, the needed change in boundary would be effected. The NPC itself, when under attack by the Action Group, had announced 26 The area of Lagos and the colony is 1,381 square miles, but without the colony Lagos had only 27 square miles.


Foundations of the Government

that it would support the NCNC in the move to extend the boundaries of Lagos.27 THE CAMEROONS

The attempt to define the status of Lagos was accompanied by an effort to define the relation between Nigeria and the Cameroons. The problem will become clear if it is placed in its historical context. The Cameroons is a narrow strip of land adjoining the eastern boundaries of the Northern and Eastern regions, and its people have cultural and ethnic relations with many of the Nigerians inhabiting the neighboring areas. During the scramble for Africa the area had been occupied by the Germans, but after World War I it was declared a mandated territory. An Anglo-French agreement of July, 1919, provided for the division of the territory between the British and the French.28 The League of Nations enjoined the administering authority to suppress slavery, prohibit forced labor, control traffic in arms, respect native interests in land, extend equal treatment to members of the League in respect to economic activities, and submit an annual report. The Cameroons was integrated into the adjoining areas of the Protectorate of Nigeria by the British Cameroons order in council of June 26, 1923; through this order the Northern Cameroons became a part of northern Nigeria and the Southern Cameroons became a part of southern Nigeria for administrative purposes. Until 1927 Nigeria bore the burden of financing the territory, but later the Nigeria (Protectorate and Cameroons) order in council of August 21, 1946, provided that the Northern and Southern Cameroons should be administered—subject to the provisions of the mandate or trusteeship thereafter approved by the United Nations—as if they formed parts of northern and southern Nigeria, respectively. In 1949 the Cameroons administration was slightly changed in accordance with the Trusteeship Agreement, and the 1951 Constitution of Nigeria incorporated the territory into Nigeria so that it began to share a common legislative and judicial system.29 At its fourth session, the Trusteeship Council adopted a resolution to the effect that the Cameroons should be given some autonomy, which would enable the council better to perform the duties entrusted to it by the United Nations Charter. Feeling that the administrative unification with Nigeria 27

The NCNC manifesto was published in the Daily Times, Oct. 17, 1959. "Special Report of the Trusteeship Council on Administrative Unions Affecting Trust Territories," General Assembly (7th sess.), Official Records, Supplement, no. 12, U.N. Doc. A/2151 (New York, 1952), p. 1. 29 Article 5(a) of the Trusteeship Agreement makes provision for such incorporation. 28

Regional Autonomy


was so thorough that Cameroons affairs could no longer be separated, the Trusteeship Council requested the administering authority to include in future annual reports precise and separate data on all common services.30 The Visiting Mission had noted that it was impossible to draw a line between Cameroonians and Nigerians because of similarities in religion, race, culture, and language. Although admitting that the development of the Cameroons had not been retarded simply by the lack of a separate budget, the mission urged that the way be left open for a careful and separate examination of the desirability and the practicability of establishing some administrative, legislative, and budgetary autonomy for the Cameroons. The Trusteeship Council, at its ninth session, commended the significant development of Nigerian constitutionalism, which afforded representation to the Cameroons at all levels of government. It expressed the hope, however, that the administering authority would enable the Cameroonians to take full advantage of the provisions, and would ensure that the interests of the territory were not prejudiced or submerged by those of Nigeria; for, although the constitutional and administrative arrangements might prejudice the development of the Cameroons toward a separate and independent status, they were nevertheless capable of accelerating the progressive development of the territory toward self-government within the wider framework of the political future of Nigeria. The council observed in conclusion that the operation of the existing administrative integration must be kept under constant review until the Cameroonians freely expressed an opinion about the future of their territory. It may be remarked that the reports of the Trusteeship Council were at once suggestive to the Cameroonians to seek autonomy and noncommittal as to whether or not it was reasonable for the territory to seek independence. There is no doubt that the council's indeterminate stand stemmed from its desire to comply with the ideals embodied in the League of Nations mandate instrument.31 Meanwhile the Cameroonians themselves, particularly those from the southern part of the territory, were making efforts through the process of politics in Nigeria to determine the status of the Cameroons. For instance, in 1948 an association known as the Cameroons Youth League presented, through Nnamdi Azikiwe, a memorandum to the Nigerian Legislative Council seeking a union of Northern and Southern Cameroons to be administered by a chief commissioner with a resident in charge of each section, and a separate house of assembly for the Cameroons from which represen30 "Report," General Assembly (4th sess.), Official Records, Supplement, no. 4, U.N. Doc. A/933 (New York, 1952), p. 8. 31 The ideals of the mandate instrument were evolved in a nineteenth-century political setting, when national self-determination was regarded as a formal political right and was not placed within a particular social and economic framework.


Foundations of the Government

tatives to the Nigerian Legislative Council would be selected. Early in 1949 the Cameroons Provincial Council, comprising twenty-seven representative chiefs, six administrative officers, and thirty observer members, met at Victoria in the Southern Cameroons under the chairmanship of Chief Manga Williams and adopted a resolution for the establishment of a separate regional government in the territory. In March of the same year a combined body of Cameroons organizations in Lagos, consisting of the Mamfe Union, the Cameroons Youth League, the Bamenda Improvement Association, and the Bakweri Union, petitioned the Governor for a separate Cameroons region with a separate house of assembly, under a chief commissioner to be directly responsible to the Trusteeship Council. This demand was repeated by the Cameroons National Federation in a petition submitted in November, 1949, to a United Nations visiting mission.32 All this time the people of the Northern Cameroons seemed content to be a part of the Northern Region of Nigeria. After the agitation of Southern Cameroonian politicians, however, the Nigerian Constitution of 1951 provided that thirteen representatives from the southern territory were to be members of the Eastern House of Assembly, one of whom was to be given a place in the Executive Council of the Eastern Region and six were to be members of the House of Representatives under the electoral-college system; one of these six was to be a member of the Council of Ministers. During the crisis in the Eastern Region in 1953, the Cameroons bloc, under the leadership of E. M. L. Endeley,33 first took a position of neutrality; later it announced that it would no longer participate in any designs to disturb the functions of the Nigerian government. The NCNC, incensed by these maneuvers, decided to punish Endeley by opposing the creation of a separate Cameroons region. This decision was a blunder, for it hit Cameroonian politicians at a vital point; creation of the Cameroons into a separate region had become an article of faith with them. In the Constitutional Conference of 1953 the Colonial Secretary declared that if Endeley and his party won the forthcoming election on the issue of separation of the Southern Cameroons from the Eastern Region, a separate Southern Cameroons region would be created. Endeley did win, and the region was subsequently created. As Azikiwe put it later on, the Eastern Region had been dismembered.3* When Endeley began to govern, and became intimately acquainted with the problems of the territory, he realized that without aid from Nigeria the 32

Daily Times, Jan. 23, 1958. Because of the services rendered to the Cameroons personally by Azikiwe, and through his newspapers, the Cameroons bloc felt obliged to support the Azikiwe group, but Endeley himself was not a strict NCNC party member. 34 Daily Times, Feb. 6-8, 1958. 33

Regional Autonomy


Southern Cameroons would be hard put to it to maintain an independent existence. For a while he vacillated between two positions: that the Southern Cameroons should constitute a political entity wholly independent of Nigeria, and that it should be given the status of a regional unit in the Federation of Nigeria. On this issue the Colonial Secretary stated at the Constitutional Conference of 1957 that Her Majesty's government fully recognized its obligations to the Cameroons under the Trusteeship Agreement. One of the obligations was to administer the territory as an integral part of Nigeria while the latter remained dependent, but the agreement was to be reviewed when Nigeria attained independence. The people of the Cameroons, he concluded, would have to say freely whether or not they would remain part of Nigeria. Further constitutional advance for the Southern Cameroons was agreed upon as follows: (1) the term "quasi-federal territory" would be dropped, and the territory would be known as the Southern Cameroons; (2) the governor-general of Nigeria would remain responsible for matters within the competence of the Southern Cameroons government; (3) he would be styled the high commissioner for the Southern Cameroons, and a commissioner for the entire Cameroons would be responsible to the high commissioner and would continue to be Britain's special representative at the United Nations for the trust territory as a whole; (4) the lower chamber, established in 1954, was to be expanded, and an upper chamber, the House of Chiefs, was to be created; and (5) the ministerial form of government was to be established in the Southern Cameroons.35 At the 1958 Constitutional Conference, Endeley's party and its ally, the Kamerun People's Party,38 stated that their major political objective was regional status for the Southern Cameroons, equal in all respects to that of other regions in an independent Nigeria. They wanted to achieve rapid constitutional progress to prepare themselves for the attainment of this goal. Another party, led by John Foncha, wanted both Cameroons to secede from Nigeria, and was therefore opposed to further constitutional advance for the Southern Cameroons. The Colonial Secretary accepted the principle that the Southern Cameroons might become a region, as such a development, by preparing the people for full self-government, would fulfill the basic objectives of the Trusteeship Agreement and would in no way commit the Southern Cameroons to permanent association with Nigeria. The conference accordingly agreed that the Southern Cameroons government that would be formed after the general elections were held early in 1959 might request Britain to bring into effect a number of changes in the government; the 35

Report by the Nigeria Constitutional Conference, 1957, pp. 25-26. 36 Endeley's party had formed an alliance with the Kamerun People's Party, led by P. M. Kale, in 1957.

Foundations of the Government


Colonial Secretary would ensure that the request was granted. These changes essentially involved the greater democratization of the executive, legislative, and judicial organs of the government.37 In the general elections that followed, Foncha made separation of the Southern Cameroons from Nigeria the basic issue; he won by the slim majority of two seats, and became premier. Arguing that the Southern Cameroons elections that brought him into power vindicated his plan to secede from the Federation of Nigeria, Foncha successfully petitioned the Governor-General to defer registration of voters in the Southern Cameroons for the Nigerian federal elections, scheduled to take place late in 1959. At this point it became necessary for the Southern Cameroonians to decide on the future of their territory at such time as Nigeria attained independence, and a delegation led by Foncha and Endeley visited New York to settle the issue with the United Nations. It was decided to hold a plebiscite to determine the issue, but the two leaders could not agree on the questions to be put to the people. The territory might join Nigeria or the French Camerouns; it might remain a separate entity, or continue as a trust territory. Endeley wanted the territory to be a self-governing region in the Federation of Nigeria, but Foncha wanted the people to vote only on the issue of separation from Nigeria, preferring that the problem of the territory's future should be tackled later. The United Nations, taking a more realistic approach, insisted that the people be asked to decide whether the Cameroons should join Nigeria upon independence, or join the French Camerouns, which was scheduled to attain independence before Nigeria. The plebiscite was to be held in March, 1961, but after October, 1960, when Nigeria would become independent, the Southern Cameroons would be governed separately. While Foncha and Endeley argued out the issue for the Southern Cameroons, a plebiscite was held in the Northern Cameroons to decide whether the territory should remain a part of the Northern Region when Nigeria became independent, or should settle its future at a later date. Most Nigerians had assumed that the people of the Northern Cameroons would unhesitatingly vote in favor of the first alternative, but they voted to postpone the decision on the future of the territory. On October 1, 1960, when Nigeria became independent, the administration of the Northern Cameroons passed over to the United Nations pending the holding of another plebiscite. When the plebiscite was subsequently held, the Southern Cameroons voted to join the Cameroun Republic (the former French Camerouns), and the Northern Cameroons decided to remain a part of the Federation of Nigeria, in which it became Sardauna Province.


Report by the Resumed Constitutional Conference, 1958, pp. 26-28.



The decision of the Constitutional Conference in 1953 to separate the Southern Cameroons from the Eastern Region increased the agitation for separate regions. The movement to create more regions or states, however, antedated the movement to consolidate the three regions as units in a federation. In 1943 Nnamdi Azikiwe had recommended dividing Nigeria into eight units, and in 1947 Obafemi Awolowo had suggested ten. When, however, Sir Arthur Richards (now Lord Milverton) veered the political development of the country in the direction of the three mighty regions, the leaders of Nigeria accepted the tripartite division, not as a temporary expedient, but as a natural development. Owing partly to interparty strife and partly to the force of tribalism, southern political leaders had vacillated as to the number of regional units Nigeria should have. When Azikiwe's eight-unit federal plan of 1943 was published, it brought forth trenchant criticism from many leaders of thought in the country, on the ground that the grouping of people was arbitrary and therefore unrealistic.1 Azikiwe, instead of defending his position and trying to win people over to his side, beat a retreat; in the NCNC Freedom Charter, published in 1948, he and his followers advocated the use of ethnic groups as a basis for federation. The movement to convert the ethnic groups of the country into units of the federation then began in earnest. In December, 1948, at a conference held at Aba, the Ibo Union changed its name to the Ibo State Union in order i It is difficult to accept James S. Coleman's view (Nigeria: Background to Nationalism [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1958], pp. 324, 347349) that even at this time Nnamdi Azikiwe was planning federation along ethnic lines. As Coleman himself notes (pp. 336-337), and as Azikiwe revealed in Renascent Africa (Accra, 1937), he originally tended to disregard ethnic differences among African people; he looked upon Africans as members of the same racial stock who, other things being equal, could live together peacefully. In his original federal plan Azikiwe wanted to ensure that the country, following the pattern of the United States, would be divided into many small units so as to foster a sense of interdependence among them and thus secure a strong center. No rational division of the country for this purpose can avoid grouping Nigerians along ethnic lines, for they live together in big clusters comprising people of the same ethnic origin.


Foundations of the Government

to organize the Ibo linguistic group into a political unit in accordance with the Freedom Charter.2 Other national groups formed similar organizations, such as the Edo National Union, the Ibibio State Union, and the Warri National Union. When the select committee of the Legislative Council recommended that Lagos be merged with the Western Region, Azikiwe, a member of the committee, dissented in a minority report. He objected to the tripartite division of the country and advocated the use of ethnic groups, stressing the desire of the non-Yorubas of the Western Region to remain masters of their own destiny in a separate region.3 A movement to create a Mid-West state comprising Benin and Delta provinces originated in 1951, when Chief Anthony Enahoro, an Edo and a member of the Action Group, called a conference of the Benin and Delta people. In 1952 and 1953 the demand for the creation of the state was reaffirmed, and in 1955 the House of Assembly in the Western Region unanimously passed a resolution supporting it.4 Furthermore, the Middle Belt Peoples' Party, formed in 1953 at the initiative of the national executive of the NCNC, demanded a separate region for the Middle Belt, with its own houses of assembly and chiefs.5 In the 1957 elections to the Eastern House of Assembly, Azikiwe reaffirmed his faith in the right of any community to self-determination, and declared specifically that the people of Calabar, Ogoja, and Rivers provinces had the right to determine their own political future. 8 At the NCNC convention at Aba in October, 1957, however, Azikiwe opposed the further dismemberment of the Eastern Region. In other words, he did not favor the creation of the C-O-R State out of the Eastern Region, but he was still committed to the formation of other states. Obafemi Awolowo and other Yorubas had founded the Egbe Omo Oduduwa in London, and the organization was established in Nigeria when Awolowo returned in 1948 from London. In 1950 he called a secret meeting of his Egbe followers and leading people selected from among the Edo, the Ishan, and the Jekri, and in March, 1951, the group publicly inaugurated the Action Group as a political party. Awolowo was president of the party and general secretary of the Egbe. In 1953 Awolowo suggested that Nigeria should eventually be divided into nine states, to be formed by subdividing the Northern Region into four 2 Azikiwe, as president of the Ibo State Union, made the famous statement that the God of Africa had especially created the Ibo nation to lead the children of Africa from the bondage of the ages. This statement was subsequently taken as irrefutable proof of his indulgence in tribalism. 3 Coleman, op. cit., pp. 348-349. * Ibid., p. 390. 5 Ibid., pp. 366-367. 8 Daily Times, March 13, 1957.

Strengthening the Federal Government


units, the Eastern Region into three units, and the Western Region into two units. In 1953-54 the Action Group formed an alliance with the Kamerun National Congress and supported its demand for the separation of the Southern Cameroons from the Eastern Region. Two years later, in 1955, the Action Group began to encourage secession by various minority groups in the country. It urged the Yoruba elements in Ilorin and Kabba provinces (both in the Northern Region) to seek merger with the Western Region, and inspired and supported the agitation for the creation of the C-O-R State, to consist of Calabar, Ogoja, and Rivers provinces.7 In 1956 Awolowo and his party recommended that more states be created, provided that no existing region would be split into small units unless (1) the majority of people in the area agreed, and (2) there were sufficient resources in the area to support the new state. In any event, no ethnic group should be fragmented by the creation of new states.8 Throughout the latter half of 1956 and the whole of 1957, the viability argument, that no new state should be created unless its resources in men and money were sufficient to make it self-supporting, occupied the minds of the important spokesmen of both the NCNC and the Action Group. The relish with which the debate was carried on gave a clear impression that the leaders did not really want to create new states and were merely using the viability issue as a bogy to scare the agitators in the minority groups. Contrary to the popular view in Nigeria, cultural nationalism had also developed in the Northern Region. In 1947 Aminu Kano, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and others planned a pannorthern cultural organization, out of which subsequently grew the NPC and the NEPU; in the midst of the 1951 election campaigns, the NPC was declared a political party. Since then it has consistently opposed the proposal to create more regions, particularly out of the Northern Region, on the argument that such a development would dismember the territory, weaken the hold of the Moslem religion, and constitute an encroachment into the territory that the great Othman dan Fodio is alleged to have conquered before the advent of the British. The NEPU, on the other hand, advocated the creation of more states, although it later modified its stand. When the reports of the constitutional conferences of 1953-54 were published, sharp protests came from Nigerians studying in both the United States and the United Kingdom. For instance, the Union of Nigerian and Cameroons Students in North America issued a memorandum deprecating the precarious territorial basis of the federation. Union spokesmen argued that if the three regions were to be retained, they should be used merely as 7 8

See Nnamdi Azikiwe, "Political Statement," in ibid., Dec. 10, 1959. Daily Times, June 28, 1956.


Foundations of the Government

administrative areas in a unitary system, but that if a federal form of government was preferred, there should be a reasonable division of the country into regional units, using preferably the former provinces as the basis of federation.9 By 1954-1957, owing primarily to the cultural consciousness fostered by the main ethnic groups of Nigeria, particularly the Ibo and the Yoruba, and to direct encouragement by NCNC and Action Group leaders, minority groups were clamoring loudly for their own separate regions; this issue figured in elections in 1954, 1956, and 1957. ITie creation of numerous regions would have meant, of course, that the powers of the regional units might be greatly diminished. It was partly to forestall this development that the leaders brought up the argument of economic viability. Each regional government endeavored to find a solution for the discontent within its borders; the governments of the Northern and Eastern regions decided to set up provincial institutions and to allocate some regional functions to them, while the government of the Western Region set up the Midwest Advisory Council for its minority area. Furthermore, the three regional premiers, at a conference held before they went to London for the 1957 Constitutional Conference, agreed that new states might be created and boundaries adjusted on the following principles: (1) the creation of new states shall be consistent with the principle of viability; (2) no ethnic group shall be split into new states without the express consent of two-thirds of the people, as determined by a plebiscite; (3) the component units shall be geographically contiguous; and (4) in all instances the wishes of the people shall be determined by a plebiscite or referendum. On their arrival in London, both Azikiwe and Alhaji Ahmadu refused to sign a memorandum embodying these principles, which the premiers' conference had authorized Awolowo to prepare. Ahmadu and his group adopted their position in protest to the NCNC, which, ignoring the decision reached by the premiers, submitted a welter of proposals on the question of states.10 To the indeterminate stand of the Action Group, the NPC, and the NCNC should be added the opposition of the British government to the creation of more states. Consequently, the conference in London appointed the Minorities Commission, with Sir Henry Willink as chairman, (1) to ascertain facts about minorities in Nigeria, and propose means of allaying their fears, whether well founded or not; (2) to advise what safeguards could be provided in the constitution; (3) to recommend, though only as a last resort, the creation of more states, specify the areas to be included within them, recommend the most appropriate governmental and administrative 9 Comments on the Proposed Amendments to the Nigerian Constitution (New York: Union of Nigerian and Cameroons Students in North America, 1954), p. 3. 10 Daily Service, Sept. 16, 1958.

Strengthening the Federal Government


structure for them, evaluate their economic and administrative viability, and ascertain what effect the creation of new states would have on existing states and on the federation; and (4) to examine the question of revising the boundaries of existing regions. It had been a clever maneuver by the Colonial Secretary and other leaders to shift emphasis from the principle of national self-determination to the problem of fear among minority groups, for it seemed that the problems posed by fear could easily be taken care of without disturbing the existing territorial basis of the federation. When the commission took evidence in Nigeria, minority-group spokesmen took the opportunity to rake up old grievances. All expressed the fear that voting in elections would always follow the existing major ethnic groups, and that those groups would always seek to use power to their own exclusive advantage. The minority groups leveled charges of maladministration and oppression against the governments of all three regions, which government spokesmen did their best to deny. The NPC reaffirmed its opposition to the proposal to carve a state out of the Northern Region; the NCNC opposed the creation of the C-O-R State out of the Eastern Region, but supported the creation of the Mid-West State out of the Western Region. Some Ibo businessmen in the Northern Region maintain that, at some time between 1957 and 1959, the northern leaders threatened to confiscate their property, or to use subtle maneuvers to destroy their business enterprises, if the NCNC continued to agitate for the creation of a Middle Belt region and for social reforms in the north. These men maintain further that a delegation of Ibo businessmen in the Northern Region urged the NCNC leadership to desist from agitating for the changes involved; should they lose their businesses, they would return to the Eastern Region and create a social problem that would paralyze the government. Apparently influenced by this incident, the NCNC focused its attention on the Western Region as the one territory that should be fragmented. On the other hand, the Action Group advocated the creation of the C-O-R, Middle Belt, and Mid-West states; however, in regard to the last, which would be carved out of the area under AG control, it made reservations that virtually ruled out the creation of the state. The party insisted, for example, that several national groups of Yoruba origin in the midwest area should not be included in the proposed state; what was left was too small to be constituted into a separate state. In making its recommendations the Minorities Commission noted that the federation was unusual in the relative size of the units that made it up, that the powers left to the regions by the decision of 1953 were substantial, and that it was unrealistic to suppose that any region would forego powers it already possessed. Some years earlier, before relations between the federation and the regions had crystallized, it would have been possible to have a larger number of states with smaller powers, but a new state created later


Foundations of the Government

would have to compete with the existing regions, and the overhead costs would be high.11 Under the circumstances, the commission naturally came to the conclusion that the creation of new states would not provide a remedy for the fears expressed. Instead, it argued, the remedy lay in the political process. The commission pointed out that when Nigeria attained independence, the federal government would, by exercising for the first time the functions of defense, external affairs, and internal security, become more important and therefore more attractive to men of ability and ambition. National leaders would look to the federal ministries, and each of the great national parties, needing as many votes as it could get in the House of Representatives, would consult the interests of the minorities.12 The commission, however, thought that special arrangements should be made for what it described as "special and minority areas." In the first category were included the Ijaws who live in swampy territory along the coast between Opobo and the mouth of the Benin River, territory that lies partly in the Eastern Region and partly in the Western Region. These people confronted the almost insuperable difficulties posed by the physical features of the Niger Delta. They wanted not only to overcome these difficulties, but also to be united in a separate region, for, they claimed, their problems were understood neither at Enugu nor at Ibadan. The commission rejected the proposal for a separate state primarily because other ethnic groups, notably Ibos, who might logically be included in it, objected. The commission, believing that the federal, eastern, and western governments should cooperate in dealing with the Ijaw problem, recommended a federal board consisting of a chairman and a vice-chairman appointed by the federal government, one representative each of the western and eastern governments (preferably Ijaw), three representatives chosen by local bodies from among the eastern Ijaws, and one representative similarly chosen from among the western Ijaws. Members of the board would serve for five years, and the board would try to solve the problem by directing area development into the proper channels. The board would call upon the three governments for necessary staff and finances. If a development scheme concerned a subject on the federal list, it would be financed wholly by the federal government; if it concerned a regional subject, it would be financed by the region concerned; if both regions were involved, the financing would be done by both in proportion to the populations involved, with a federal contribution of one-third of the capital cost plus one-third of the recurrent expenditure for a period of up to ten years. The execution of projects would be left to the governments, but the board would issue annual reports to each government 11 Report of the Commission Appointed To Enquire into the Fears of Minorities and the Means of Allaying Them, Cmnd. 505 (London: H.M.S.O., 1958), p. 87. >2 Ibid., p. 89.

Strengthening the Federal Government


for legislative consideration. Within ten to twelve years, say, when development of the area might have gone far, the special status would be abandoned and the area would then be reclassified as a minority area.13 The Minorities Commission described a minority area as the center of a distinguishable culture, and applied the description to the midwest and the Calabar areas of the Western and Eastern regions. From the midwest area, the commission excluded Ijaws who were included in the special area; Warn Division and Akoko-Edo District of Afenmai Division, whose people looked to Ibadan rather than to Benin as headquarters; and Ibos from Asaba and Aboh divisions, who looked to neither Ibadan nor Benin as headquarters. In the words of the commission, it was mainly because of the presence of an Edo-speaking minority that the problem had arisen. The commission suggested that the Midwest Advisory Council, already established under the chairmanship of the Minister of Home Affairs and Midwest Affairs, be made more representative of the people through the election of some of its members by local bodies in the area. The council should give advice regarding the development and welfare of the Edo-speaking peoples and, in particular, regarding the preservation of Edo culture. It should make annual reports to be discussed in the western and federal legislatures. The Minorities Commission also recommended that an institution with similar powers and of similar composition be set up for Calabar. In conclusion, though recognizing that after independence the federal and regional governments might want to establish other minority areas, the commission stated that it did not feel justified in making such recommendations itself.14 Although the commission's report revealed glaring inconsistencies in several details, it contained recommendations that, by confirming the status quo, satisfied the Colonial Secretary, the three major political parties, and their leaders. When the Constitutional Conference was resumed in London in 1958, the parties and groups that had advocated the creation of new states renewed their arguments, expressing their dissatisfaction with the Minorities Commission's conclusions. The other parties and leaders replied, and the Colonial Secretary, stating the views of the British government, said the conference would have to reach a compromise. He insisted that it could not lightly disregard the unequivocal conclusion of the Minorities Commission that a case had not been made for new states. He regretted that the remedies recommended by the commission did not satisfy all groups, and, noting that all leaders were pressing for independence in 1960, suggested that the requests for new states and for independence in 1960 were not compatible. 18 Ibid., pp. 94-95. The commission recommended that the development of special areas be placed on the concurrent list, so that the procedure discussed could be used in dealing with similar problems in the future.

i< Ibid., pp. 96-97.


Foundations of the Government

If, after the federal elections in 1959, the majority in Nigeria asked Britain to create new states, it would not be consonant with his responsibilities to transfer power in 1960 while new governments, lacking experience, trained staff, and a proper framework of administration, were as yet unestablished.15 Thus ended, for the time being, discussion of the issue of creating more states. The 1958 conference examined in some detail the recommendations regarding special and minority areas. With reference to the former, it agreed to establish the Niger Delta Development Board for an initial period of ten years, after which the federal government and the regional governments concerned, together with the people, would review the situation. The board was to consist of a chairman appointed by the federal government, one representative of each regional government, and a number of representatives of the inhabitants of the area drawn from the Eastern and Western regions in proportion to population. Only the chairman and the secretary were to be full-time members. The board, to be concerned only with the physical development of the area, would (1) survey the area to ascertain what was needed for land improvement and drainage and for the improvement of communications, and investigate questions of agriculture, fisheries, land tenure, and forestry; (2) draw up schemes of development based on the findings of the survey, and estimate the costs; (3) prepare an initial survey and annual reports, to be presented to the federal and regional legislative bodies, on its progress in implementing its proposals; and (4) advise the governments concerned how to plan and achieve the desired development of the area. The funds for carrying out the board's functions were to be provided by the federal government. The Constitutional Conference agreed that, in the Western Region, the whole of Benin and Delta provinces, excluding Warri Division and Akoko District,19 would be constituted a minority area. The Midwest Advisory Council created for the area was to be composed of members of both houses of the Western Regional legislature, and of members of the House of Representatives elected or appointed from within the area. The functions of the council would be to foster the well-being, the cultural advancement, and the economic and social development of the area; to bring to the notice of the western government any discrimination against the area; and to exercise 15 Report by the Resumed Constitutional Conference Held in London in Sept. and Oct., 1958, Cmd. 569 (London, 1958), p. 19. 18 The position of Warri Division was to be further considered by all the local interests involved, and by the government of the Western Region. In June, 1959, the Warri Urban District Council, dominated by NCNC members, adopted a resolution opting for inclusion of its area of authority within the midwest area, but a month later the government of the Western Region announced that the necessary consultations had been made and that Warri Division would not be included in the minority area.

Strengthening the Federal Government


any functions delegated to it by the western government. A similar council was to be set up for Calabar, but the eastern government was to decide in its discretion whether or not the Aro-Ibos, and all or any of the Annangs, should be included in the area.17 In an important sense the Minorities Commission and its report are of great interest to the student of Nigeria's political development, for they reveal (1) the inability or the unwillingness of Nigerian leaders to face the issue raised by the unusual nature of the federation, regarding the relative size of the units and their powers; and (2) Britain's determination to pass the problem intact to Nigerians to handle as best they could after independence. In another sense the report distorts the states movement for, precluded from doing so by the terms of reference, it does not take into account a movement that has been concerned primarily with the unusual nature of the federation. It is nevertheless necessary to tell the story of this movement. Reference has already been made to the view held generally by Nigerian students regarding the territorial basis of the federation. This view was strengthened by the Citizens' Committee for Independence, a small group of intellectuals and professionals representing the majority of liberal opinion in Nigeria.18 In panel discussions in Lagos and in pamphlets the organization pleaded the case for creating more states, not in the interest of any specific ethnic group, but for the purpose of placing the federation on a more harmonious basis in order better to foster freedom and unity in the country. The committee thought that this objective could be achieved by creating more states, by making the federal government the residuary legatee of power, emphasizing the principle of need more than that of derivation in revenue allocation, and by using federal funds for primary, secondary, and technical education in the federal capital as well as in the regions.19 The Citizens' Committee maintained that, under the existing regionalization scheme, the regions, which derived a feeling of self-sufficiency from their size and resources, had made threats or proposals of secession, and that regional loyalty had tended to submerge national allegiance. It was therefore necessary to try the use of different units as the basis for federation. The committee argued that the basic idea underlying determination of 17 A separate province was subsequently created for the Annangs, and the Aro-Ibos were excised from the old Calabar Province and placed under Umuahia Province. 18 The Citizens' Committee for Independence was formally established in Lagos in 1956. Its executive members were R. O. A. Akinjide, barrister-at-law; Eme O. Awa, assistant secretary, federal public service (later lecturer, University College, Ibadan); D. A. Badejo, civil engineer; Aliyi Ekineh, barrister-at-law; A. B. Fafunwa, business executive; and H. A. Oluwasanmi, lecturer, University College, Ibadan. 19 The proposals of the committee were embodied in a pamphlet entitled Forward to Freedom, published in May, 1957; a free copy was given to each member of the Nigerian delegation to the 1957 Constitutional Conference in London.


Foundations of the Government

the size of federating units was the need to evolve states with a pronounced sense of interdependence, which would make for greater stability. The old provinces were recommended as the best units for this purpose, because (1) they had been used, even before the amalgamation of 1914, as the focal point in the administration of the country, and had come to be regarded merely as necessary units of the country; (2) most of them formerly existed as separate states with all the paraphernalia of government; and (3) people of various national origins had lived together in them peacefully, and nobody had been unduly alarmed at the prospect of majority-group domination, because the majorities under the provincial system were far less colossal than under regionalization.20 In reply to the NPC, the committee contended that a further division of the Northern Region need not destroy the religious and cultural cohesion of the area. In supporting this view, it called attention to the fact that in 1893 both Kano and Katsina had defied the Fulani dynasty, setting up their own emirates and maintaining religious allegiance to the Sultan of Sokoto. It was the will of the people and their love for Islam which had elicited this devotion; added to these, a bill of rights, for which all parties were clamoring, would guarantee religious freedom to the people of Nigeria. The Northern Region would remain a distinct region in the socioeconomic sense, like the South in the United States of America. 21 To the economic viability argument, which assumed that units smaller than the existing regions would be unable to provide essential services for their people, the Citizens' Committee replied as follows: This view assumes that there is a given set of functions which the units in a federal government must discharge in order for the government to deserve the designation "Federation." The advocates are apparently unaware of the fact that the distribution of functions between regions and the national government varies according to the circumstances—that economic and social problems, military and geographical factors and political expedience determine each particular arrangement. It is idle to look for a scheme of distribution in which all the component units would function effectively on a parity basis, for in various units the balance between expenditure and revenue is attained at different levels of equilibrium determined by the accidents of geography, differences in the abilities of men and different stages of initial development. Certainly it could not be argued that under the existing distribution of functions the regions are all viable or at any rate viable to the same extent. Both regional and federal governments are merely agents and trustees of the people and the two levels of government are not mutual rivals or enemies but are complementary to each other. Hence if the existing regions are reduced in 20

Ibid., p. 13. Ibid., pp. 12-14.

Strengthening the Federal Government


size, they should, if necessary, be assigned fewer functions, the federal government itself in that case being made to assume increased responsibilities.22

In November, 1957, the Citizens' Committee published another document23 restating and elaborating the points adduced in support of its stand on the states issue, and analyzing the material, human, and financial resources of the provinces to vindicate the claim of their viability and outline model governments for them. A copy of the pamphlet was submitted to the Willink Commission, which naturally made no reference to it. In an Action Group convention held early in 19S8, Awolowo declared openly that he had abandoned the meaning he originally attached to the doctrine of economic viability, and that he was satisfied that it meant no more than that a region should "cut its coat according to its cloth." The Action Group reaffirmed its plea for the creation of the Middle Belt, Mid-West, and C-O-R states, and made it an important issue in the federal elections of 1959. For the purposes of the same elections, the NCNC came out in favor of modifying the federal form of government, declaring its belief that Nigerian unity would be preserved through a strong central government based on provincial assemblies as units. The Party irrevocably opposed the regionalism of the present Nigerian Constitution, which, it argued, undermined Nigerian unity and hindered normal growth and national planning. "Our ideal," the party continued, "is a quasi-federal constitution with residuary powers in the centre and providing for not less than eight autonomous provinces, bicameral legislatures, uniform electoral laws based on universal adult suffrage, direct elections and single-member constituencies." 24 FORMULAS FOR CREATING NEW STATES AND REVISING REGIONAL BOUNDARIES

The Constitutional Conference of 1958 agreed on formulas for the creation of new states and for the revision of regional boundaries. For the former, the procedure is as follows: 1) Each chamber of the federal legislature must pass, by a two-thirds majority of all members, a resolution approving a proposal that the procedure for creating new states be set in motion. 2) The proposal must then be submitted to each house of all the regional legislatures, and must be approved either by a resolution passed by each house of the legislatures of two regions, including the region or regions out of which the new state is to be created, or by a resolution passed by each house of the legislatures of a bare majority of the regions. 22 Ibid., pp. 15-16. The Case for More Slates. Daily Times, Oct. 6, 1959.



Foundations of the Government

3) The federal legislature then enacts a law providing for such constitutional amendments as may be necessary or expedient to give effect to the proposal; the law must be submitted to the regional legislative chambers, and must be approved by a resolution of the legislatures of at least two regions. 4) Before the law comes into operation, it must be submitted to a referendum in the area to be converted into a separate region, all of whose federal electors are entitled to vote; at least 60 per cent of the registered voters must be in favor.2* In 1962 the federal legislature passed a resolution paving the way for the creation of the Mid-West State. The legislatures of the Eastern and Northern regions followed suit, and everything seemed in readiness. The legislature of the Western Region, however, rejected a resolution on the subject, and the regional government instituted legal action challenging the validity of the action taken by the federal legislature and insisting that the legislature of the Eastern Region had been elected on the basis of an invalid electoral law and therefore had no right to pass on the resolution. Further action on the matter was postponed pending determination of the cases. The Action Group warned that, if the process of creating the region progressed to the point of holding a referendum, its members would fail to vote and would thus make it impossible for the required majority to be obtained. Members of the NPC and the NCNC, displaying impatience and irritation over the tactics of using the courts to delay action, urged an amendment to the federal constitution requiring that in the referendum approval must be given by 60 per cent of the actual voters. Acceptance of this proposal would have simplified the process of creating new regions, but it was dropped because it turned out to be unpopular in the country and because eastern and northern politicians feared it might eventually be employed successfully in their own regions. To effect changes in the boundaries of regions, the procedure is as follows: 1) Each chamber of the federal legislature must pass, by a two-thirds majority of all members, a resolution approving the proposal. 2) The proposal must be submitted to each regional house, and must be approved by a resolution passed by each house of both or all the regions directly affected, or by a resolution passed by each house of the legislatures of a bare majority of the regions, including the region or regions to which the area is being transferred. 3) The federal legislature then enacts a law providing for amendments to the federal constitution to give effect to the proposal; the law must be sub25

Report by the Resumed Constitutional Conference, 1958, p. 21. See also The Nigeria (Constitution) Order in Council, I960, Second Schedule, Chap. I, sec. 4 (5).

Strengthening the Federal Government


mitted to the legislative chambers of all the regions, and must be approved by a resolution of the legislatures of at least two regions. 4) Before the law comes into operation, it must be submitted to a referendum of the people in the area concerned, all of whose federal electors are entitled to vote; at least 60 per cent of the registered voters must be in favor.28 An act of the federal legislature which alters the number of senators assigned to a region, thereby giving the region less than its proportionate share of representation in the Senate, comes into operation only if a resolution signifying consent is passed by each legislative house of the region. An act that makes an alteration in the House of Representatives, or in the number of constituencies for purposes of federal elections in relation to any region, thereby giving the region less than its proportionate share of representatives in the House of Representatives, comes into operation only if a resolution signifying consent is passed by each legislative house of the region. An act that provides for this latter set of alterations in relation to the federal territory does not come into operation unless a resolution supported by a majority of the members who represent the territory in the House of Representatives has been passed by each house of Parliament.


of the Federal Prime


Although the indirect attempt through the states movement to increase the power of the federal government yielded no worthwhile results, a direct approach to the question has proved more effective. The post of prime minister has been created, and the power of the three ex officio members of the Council of Ministers, who among them took charge of the most important functions of the federal government, has been whittled down. The Union of Nigerian and Cameroons Students in North America argued in their memorandum that the 1954 Constitution was not likely to lead to rapid political development of the country, because it was oriented to the regions. That is, although the most important functions of government had been assigned to the center, there was little incentive for able Nigerians to serve on that level, for the really significant powers would be wielded by M Ibid., p. 20. During the 1958 Constitutional Conference there was no general agreement among the parties concerned in the Ilorin-Kabba West merger agitation; the Colonial Secretary pointed out that, because the primary conditions for holding a plebiscite, as recommended by the Willink Commission, had not been met, no plebiscite could be held in those areas. The provisions for boundary revision put the regions in an impregnable position, for their geographical integrity cannot be disturbed unless most leaders in Nigeria give their consent.


Foundations of the Government

expatriates; only regional powers would be wielded by Nigerians. Furthermore, although Nigerian leaders would serve as prime ministers of the regions, provision had not been made for the appointment of a prime minister at the center.27 In 1955 Jaja Wachuku, a private member of the House of Representatives, introduced a motion suggesting that the federal government begin to operate under a prime minister, who would, among other things, coordinate policies and lead the Council of Ministers.28 Speaking on the motion, the chief secretary of the federation pointed out that provisions for the establishment of a federal prime-ministership had been omitted from the constitution at the wishes of Nigerian party leaders. Membership in the council, he continued, still rested on a territorial and not on a party basis. The names of ministers were put to the Governor-General, not by one person, but by the leaders in each region of the parties that had obtained majorities in elections. A prime minister at the center would therefore not have the right to nominate his own team. The motion, however, lapsed.29 What the motion really called for was an amendment to the constitution to provide for the position of a federal prime minister. It would have been impolitic for the Council of Ministers to champion an amendment on so important an issue, as the major political leaders were not members of the federal government and therefore would not directly express their views. By 1957 the leaders had made so much progress in understanding themselves that they readily agreed, in the Constitutional Conference, that a prime minister should be appointed for the federation, and that the active political heads of the regions should thereafter be called premiers. The Governor-General was empowered to appoint as prime minister the person who seemed to him to command a majority in the House of Representatives, and the prime minister was to appoint the other ministers. The three ex officio expatriates lost their seats in the Council of Ministers, the offices of chief secretary and financial secretary were abolished, and a minister of finance was substituted for the latter. The Constitutional Conference of 1957 had unanimously demanded the grant of self-government to Nigeria in March, 1959, and, although the British government did not immediately disclose its views, most Nigerian leaders assumed that the country had arrived at the eve of independence. In the circumstances, there loomed before Nigerians, more clearly than ever before, difficult governmental problems in many fields, such as defense, 27

Comments on the Proposed Amendments to the Nigerian Constitution, passim. It is believed by some people that the Council of Ministers itself had earlier given serious consideration to the matter, but that the crisis of 1953 had prevented it from taking action. 29 House of Representatives Debates, 1955, I. 471-476. 28

Strengthening the Federal Government


foreign affairs, greater internal cohesion, and internal security. If the country was to grapple effectively with all these problems in two short years, it was necessary that everybody share the burden. The Prime Minister (who was the deputy leader of the NPC), feeling that the country was confronted with a national emergency, invited the other two major parties—the NCNC and the Action Group—to form a government in collaboration with the NPC. In the 1958 Constitutional Conference, Nigeria's independence was set for October 1, 1960, but a federal election was first to be held in 1959. Need of the Regions for More Social Services The preparations for the election and for the celebration of independence, together with the role that Nigerians began to play in the formerly "expatriate areas of government," worked magically to focus attention more and more on the federal government. The relationship between regions and the federal government, although never explicitly stated, was an important issue in the election. In their manifestoes all the major parties unequivocally stated that the relationship should be modified, even though the changes might lead to an accretion in federal power. For instance, all the parties said they would make federal funds available for primary, secondary, and technical education in the regions. The NPC even promised that the federal government would finance interregional secondary and technical schools, where students from all regions could meet and mingle and thus develop a sense of Nigerian nationality. Federal funds, all agreed, should be spent for training teachers and for increasing the facilities for higher education. The NCNC would remove health from the regional list, and make grants to the regions to enable them to build more hospitals and health centers. The NPC and the Action Group would provide free medical service for schoolchildren; the NPC would extend this amenity to nursing mothers and to old and unemployed people, and the Action Group would investigate the possibility of establishing a free medical program for all adults. All these matters were regional responsibilities, but the unanimity with which the parties demanded that the federal government take a hand in supplying the necessary services is an index of the growth of federalism in Nigeria. This growth had taken place primarily in two areas. First, there was a greater awareness that extreme regionalism would hurt the regions by perpetuating lopsided development, and the country by keeping the relationship among regions in perpetual stasis. For instance, despite gigantic efforts, the Northern Region was not training enough personnel to man its public service effectively and to enable it to participate adequately in federal administration. The Eastern Region, on the other hand, had introduced universal primary education, but, for lack of funds, had been compelled to abandon the scheme. The Western Region had far outstripped the other


Foundations of the Government

regions in the provision of social amenities, and in some other important matters. It was realized by many that if this unevenness continued, a crisis might develop in the country. Second, the major leaders had come to appreciate the need to stay together and try to make a success of the federation; that there was greater sympathy for one another was evident from the declared willingness of the Action Group, which was running the most successful government, to use federal funds to supply more amenities to people in all the regions. 30 Three years after the 1959 federal elections, the southern regions encountered serious financial difficulties, which have rendered them more dependent on the federal government than is provided for in the constitution (see chap. xiv). This situation is probably the most important single factor tending to boost the status of the federal government at the expense of the regions. Amendment Procedure Further evidence of the acceptance of federal power, and a mark of the growth of that power, may be found in the formula for constitutional amendments. The 1958 conference agreed that, as the units in the federal government were interdependent, no single unit should amend its constitution so as to jeopardize the interests of the whole country. A simple problem of internal concern to a government was to be amended in a simple way, but a special procedure was set up for amending entrenched clauses of the constitution. Amendments to entrenched clauses in the federal constitution require a two-thirds majority of all the members of each house of the federal legislature during the second and third readings, and the concurrence by a simple majority of each house of the legislatures of at least two regions. An amendment to the ordinary provisions in the federal constitution requires a simple majority of each house of the federal legislature. Amendments to entrenched regional provisions require a two-thirds majority of all the members of each house of the legislature of the region concerned during the second and third readings, and the concurrence of a two-thirds majority of each of the federal legislative chambers. An ordinary amendment to a provision in a regional constitution requires only a two-thirds majority of all the members of each house of the regional legislature.81 30 Several forces had been particularly potent in fostering a sense of cooperation. Among these forces, the most important were the constitutional conferences; meetings of the National Council of Natural Resources, the National Economic Council, and the National Council on Establishments; the challenge of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, who was making a bid to lead all Africa from his tiny base; and the determination of Nigerian leaders to belie Britain's gloomy prophets, who had shown skepticism regarding the possibility of continued integration of the country when Britain withdrew. 31 Several provisions are enumerated as entrenched in chapter xiv of the Report by

Strengthening the Federal Government Miscellaneous



The balance between national and regional power has also been turned in favor of the former by (1) the designation, upon independence, of regional representatives in the United Kingdom as agents-general, whereas the federal representative is called the high commissioner; (2) changes in the allocation of revenue (see chap, xiv); (3) establishment of the central bank; (4) the method of handling external loans; (5) the participation of the federal government in the development of backward areas, as in the Niger Delta area through the Niger Delta Development Board; (6) the limitations imposed on the power of the regions in activities such as defense, foreign affairs, currency, credit and banking, and interregional commerce; and (7) the six-year development program, under which the federal government has proposed the spending of £3.117 million in the Northern Region for primary education, £1.840 million in building one high school in each region, £ 4 million on regional universities, and £ 2 5 million in expanding facilities for primary production in the regions, as well as the establishment of such agencies as the National Transport Planning Unit, the National Universities Commission, the All-Nigeria Academic Council, and the Inter-Regional Manpower Board.

the Resumed Constitutional Conference, 1958. Among them are provisions relating to the establishment of legislative houses, the basis of representation in the federal legislature, the duration of each legislative house, the formula for revenue allocation, the establishment and protection of public service commissions, the procedure for appointments to the public service, and the establishment of courts.



Politics has been described as the study of influence and of influential people, that is, of people who obtain the highest degree of power. The fruits of power are economic advantage, social prestige, and security for those who possess it; through the promulgation of laws, ordinances, and decrees, those in power apportion rights and privileges and enforce the apportionment by recognized sanctions. The institutions, rules, and customs according to which power is achieved and exercised form the constitution of a country, and in a sense these are the residue of past politics. The constitution is like a skeleton, which politics endows with flesh, blood, and the breath of life.1 Politics in Nigeria may be classified functionally under four categories. First, the "politics of protest" was characterized by the exercise of governmental powers exclusively by expatriates, marked occasionally by a glaringly arbitrary use of such powers. The reaction of the people was one of impatience and disapproval, of agitation and peaceful demonstration, designed to force the government to withdraw or modify certain measures. Often members of the demonstrating groups did not stand to reap personal benefit from their activities, but merely wanted to ensure that the community, or the particular party affected, would benefit if and when the government redressed a grievance. There were even instances when groups organized to protest against acts of injustice done to Africans or people of African descent who were neither Nigerians nor residents of Nigeria. The idea was to bring justice for all, to eradicate all forms of discrimination in social or other institutions, and to abolish political privilege on the part of white people. The movement may be said to have been generated by a Leveller strand in the political thinking of Nigerians. The politics of protest is the oldest form of politics in Nigeria, but it has continued to be used whenever necessary, even in modern times. The groups do not stay together for long periods, but disband when a specific agitation is ended. The second division of political activity is "revolutionary politics," which is later in time. Concerned primarily with Nigerian affairs, it has had a narrow perspective, but has drawn inspiration from far and wide. The pri1 P. H. Odegard and E. A. Helms, American Politics (2d ed., New York: Harper, 1947), p. 1.

Protest and Revolutionary Politics


mary function of revolutionary politics was to rouse racial, national, and cultural consciousness, and thereby initiate the agitation for independence or quicken the pace toward it. Pressure-group politics is mainly concerned with the question of how power shall be exercised, and it endeavors to influence, not control, government in the specific interest of those who constitute the group. Social pressures are translated into public policies primarily through the agency of party politics. Parties are concerned with the question of who shall exercise power. They are more or less durable organizations which organize the electorate and then appeal to it for a mandate to govern the country. In the process parties disseminate information, collect data and formulate policies, select and sponsor candidates for election, and thus provide a channel through which citizens exert an influence on the government. THE POLITICS OF PROTEST

In the relationship between the government and the people, between Nigerians (including expatriate Africans) and expatriates, there have always been seeds of discontent. Racial discrimination, arbitrary government acts and persecution, and domination of the Christian Church by expatriate officials and their way of life have all generated protests. Protest against racial discrimination may be said to be the staple of the Lagos people. For instance, under the leadership of James C. Vaughn, Ayo Williams, and Ernest Ikoli, the Union of Young Nigerians was organized in 1923. It was initially designed to stimulate the interest of young people in public issues. At about the same time the government proposed to substitute a Nigerian for an Oxford or Cambridge school certificate. The leading spokesmen in Lagos interpreted the proposal as a move to provide inferior education for Africans, and, under the inspiration of the Union of Young Nigerians, the National School Committee was formed to raise £ 1 0 , 0 0 0 to build a national school. The effort failed in 1929, but the inspiration drawn from it spilled over into the next decade, when the government established the Yaba Higher College in a suburb of Lagos to provide postsecondary education for Nigerians from all parts of the country. Under Ikoli, Vaughn, and H. O. Davies, the Lagos Youth Movement was formed to succeed the Union of Young Nigerians; it protested against the Higher College on the ground that the qualifications of its graduates would be inferior to the qualifications of graduates from institutions of higher learning in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, numerous direct acts of racial discrimination were being practiced by the government. Africans who had been educated in institutions of higher learning in the United Kingdom were denied admission into


Foundations of the Government

the upper ranks of the civil service, and were prevented from participating in local government. Furthermore, expatriates, both civil servants and the officials of private firms, were lodged in reservations which contained housing of the highest standards built with public funds. Educated Africans were denied access to these fine buildings. The situation in Lagos has been described as follows: Away to the east lies Ikoyi, the area set aside for the residence of Europeans, official and unofficial. Here pleasant buildings, representing perhaps the highest standard of government housing in Africa, stand on grounds which ceaseless struggle with the miserable brackish soil has turned into gardens, some of which have lawns sloping down t o the lagoon. They were built in the prosperous days of the late twenties, and the crowded Lagosian natives pushing their huts westwards f r o m the native city are bidden by the local press to look resentfully upon the white men's palaces. 2

There were also separate hospitals for Africans and Europeans; in some towns swimming pools were built for Europeans only, and in others they were used on different days of the week by whites and blacks. Over the years resentment had gradually developed, and matters came to a head in 1947. Ivor Cummings, a Sierra Leonian who was an official of the Colonial Office, visited Lagos in April, 1947, and was denied accommodation at the Bristol Hotel—owned by a Greek—even though the Nigerian government had arranged to have him stay there. News of the incident spread through Lagos like wildfire, and leaders of the NCNC and the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM), together with some trade-unionists, formed the United Front Committee. After holding mass meetings, the committee sent a delegation to the Governor to demand elimination of all forms of discrimination from the social life of Nigeria. In reply the Governor issued a circular condemning discrimination in all public facilities. Subsequently hospitals ceased to be designated as "African" or "European," but bore specific names.3 In the area of arbitrary governmental action or persecution, several kinds of problems have cropped up; only a few incidents need be given in illustration. In 1895, when the government proposed to levy a house and land tax on the inhabitants of Lagos, about 5,000 residents staged a peace2 Margery Perham, Native Administration in Nigeria (London: Oxford University Press, 1937), p. 255. 3 The United Front Committee was formed under the leadership of Akinola Maja, president of the NYM, Azikiwe, and H. O. Davies. While these leaders were organizing the mass meetings and the delegation to the Governor, other people, including prominent professionals, surrounded the Bristol Hotel and broke the windows with stones. Shortly after the specific objective of the United Front Committee was achieved, its leaders, unable to agree as to whether the new organization or one of the political parties should become the dominant organization, went their separate ways.

Protest and Revolutionary Politics


ful demonstration before Government House in protest, and the government subsequently withdrew the proposal. Thirteen years later, in 1908, a water rate was levied on the local population in order to defray expenses arising from the development of a water supply for Lagos. Africans protested against the levy on several grounds, one of which was that they feared they might not get to use the water; in the past they had been taxed for electricity which initially the whites had exclusively enjoyed.4 This and other agitations were not prompted by the idea of "no taxation without representation," for the use of representative institutions in government was not native to Nigeria; the protests were either against the idea of imposing a tax at all, or against unfair use of the proceeds of the tax.5 An event that brought leaders of different political parties together occurred in 1949, two years after the United Front Committee had been disbanded. The coal miners at Enugu were engaging in a "go-slow" strike over a misunderstanding regarding money alleged to be payable to them. The government had ordered that explosives in the mines be removed in the presence of armed policemen, lest the miners use them to cause trouble. The miners themselves feared that the removal of the explosives might harden the management, who might then lock them out of the mines. As the miners tried to interfere with the process of removing the explosives, a jittery police officer ordered shooting into their ranks, and twenty-one of them were killed. Speedily, as in 1947, old political foes came together and set up the National Emergency Committee, consisting of leaders drawn from the NCNC and the NYM. The committee protested vigorously against the shooting, and demanded that the officer who had ordered the shooting be punished. This coalition of the two parties remained in force from November, 1949, to September, 1950. Before it was disbanded because of rivalry among its leaders and the impact of rampant tribalism, it had achieved the abolition of discrimination in the teaching staff of University College, Ibadan. 9 4 James S. Coleman, Nigeria: Background to Nationalism (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1958), p. 179. 5 In 1958 there were demonstrations and riots in many parts of the Eastern Region when the regional government modified its universal primary education system, making the payments of school fees compulsory in the primary classes. There were two grounds for the protests. One was that income and capitation taxes levied by the government had been greatly increased on the understanding that education in the infant and primary classes would henceforth be free, but that, when the primary education system was modified, no corresponding modification had been made in the tax levy. The second was that the modification had been introduced suddenly, without prior consultation with the people. When informed that the measure had received the approval of their representatives in the House of Assembly, the people replied that the representatives and the government were one. 6 Coleman, op. cit., pp. 299-300. In 1960, when police in the Union of South Africa killed more than eighty Africans and wounded many others in breaking up a non-


Foundations of the Government

A feeling of protest also developed in the sphere of religion, partly because of the contempt of European missionaries for African culture. Saying that Africans had no history to speak of, the missionaries did everything possible to make them adopt Western culture. Besides, many Africans felt that the exploitation of the African by the white man did not square with the teachings of Christianity, and they began to think that emulation of the white man's exploitative skill, rather than of his religious precepts, would help the African to challenge the white man's privileged position. In 1891, therefore, some Nigerians seceded from the Anglican Church and formed the United Native African Church "for the evangelization and amelioration" of the African race.7 Later a full-blown movement developed under the leadership of the National Church of Nigeria and the Cameroons, which endeavors to achieve in the religious sphere what political parties do in the political and economic spheres. INTEREST-GROUP POLITICS

Various forms of pressure are brought to bear on the government by groups with special interests. Such groups may be divided roughly into expatriate and Nigerian interest groups. The latter consist of business interests and fanners, ex-servicemen, and trade unions, and the expatriate interests are business groups and bankers. No formal lobbying machinery exists, pressure tactics being the commonest method of obtaining favors from the government. For example, in 1909 the Niger Traders' Association was organized in Onitsha to pressure the government into assisting local African traders. The West African Federation of Native Shippers, formed in 1919, sent a delegation to London to request improvement in shipping facilities.8 Since then numerous groups or associations have come into being, each using the technique of petition writing or other forms of pressure in order to achieve its specific objective.9 Civil servants and workers have used more formal machinery. For instance, in 1912, African civil servants formed the Southern Nigerian Civil Service Union and petitioned the governor for reforms. Later the organizaviolent protest against the pass laws, leaders of the NCNC, the NPC, the Action Group, and trade unions formed the Committee of Nigerian Patriots to protest against the shootings. Eventually the Nigerian government considered measures designed to punish the government of the Union of South Africa. 7 Ibid., p. 176. 8 Ibid., pp. 211-212. •Between 1923 and 1946 the grievances of various interest groups, and the remedies they sought, were expressed through interpellations put to the government by members of the Legislative Council. The prevailing view was that African members of the council were paid fees for raising questions regarding matters of interest to special groups.

Protest and Revolutionary Politics


tion became the Nigerian Civil Service Union, which united with workers' trade unions organized during World War II to form the Trades Union Congress (TUC) of Nigeria. The TUC has exerted enormous pressure on the government through strikes or strike threats (see chaps, vi, vii, xvii). By agitation, by petitioning, and sometimes by threats of rioting, the Union of Ex-Servicemen has sought to obtain for its members employment in government or private business, or loans for commercial and farming purposes from the government. A branch of the union at one time even demanded that a special provision should be inserted in the Constitution of Nigeria to protect the interests of ex-servicemen. Expatriate companies have apparently exerted a more far-reaching, if more subtle, influence on the government. Among them the most important are United Africa Company (UAC), John Holt, Paterson Zochonis, Union Trading Company, Compagnie Française Africaine Occidentale (CFAO); and Société Compagnie Occidentale Africaine (SCOA); until recendy banking was almost wholly in the hands of expatriates (Barclay's Bank and the Bank of British West Africa). During World War II the companies joined together to form the Association of West African Merchants (AWAM), which by 1949 was handling about 66 per cent of Nigeria's imports and 70 per cent of her exports. Evidence of direct pressure put on the government by the companies is difficult to obtain. Governor Sir Arthur Richards once said that it was the government's policy to work with Africans and big business in a tripartite partnership for the good of the people,10 creating the impression among Nigerians that there was collusion between the government and alien businessmen. The companies tried to ensure profit by seeking more or less permanent export quotas, protection of projected new industries by tariffs or by quantitative import regulations, direct or indirect subsidies, and the assumption of initial risk by the government. All these were a means of ensuring capital security, but the most important measure was a political one. The companies always wanted a guarantee that the institutional framework within which they operated would not be changed, or that they would be given due notice of any such change so that they could direct their capital into the most profitable uses left to them. Hence they tried to stop or greatly to modify constitutional changes whenever they could without attracting the attention of the public. The companies were always able to exert strong influence upon policy through the Colonial Office.11 The companies were also able to influence the government through their representation in the Legislative Council as special-interest groups. The 10

Coleman, op. cit., p. 80. Margery Perham, ed.. Mining, Commerce, and Finance in Nigeria (London: Faber and Faber, 1948), pp. 71, 124. 11


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governor usually nominated a number of businessmen to represent banking, shipping, mining, and the Chamber of Commerce. Most of these special members were employed by the companies, and were subject to instructions from them. They did not, on the whole, exert too much influence in the deliberations of the Legislative Council, for their companies had other means of contact with the Colonial Office and with the governor when on leave. The business representatives did try, however, to steer the government away from interference in the economic life of Nigeria,12 and the resulting laissez-faire policy enabled them to monopolize the commercial life of the country, as Africans were poorly equipped to compete effectively with them. REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS

The disabilities arising from low incomes, racial discrimination, commercial and financial monopoly by expatriates, and the subservience of Nigeria to Britain led Nigerians eventually to demand revolutionary changes in the social and political life of the country. They drew their ideals from the doctrine of natural rights and self-government, and their inspiration from many sources. One of the most important sources of inspiration was Garveyism, a movement founded by Marcus Garvey.13 Garvey himself, while in the United Kingdom, had been inspired by an Egyptian nationalist named Mohammed Ali.14 In Garvey's home in Jamaica, shades of skin color were the basis of the social class structure. There white people and light-skinned people constituted the upper and middle classes, respectively, and together exercised absolute political and economic power, leaving the pure blacks in the low classes of peasants and laborers. The light-skinned people aped the whites in every conceivable way. Garvey set out to found a nation in Africa for Africans, to which black people in the New World could migrate; to establish universal brotherhood among black people; and to promote the spirit of pride and love by reclaiming the fallen and administering to the needy. In his paper, the Negro World, which for a time circulated freely in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, he exhorted black people to adopt one faith—confidence in themselves— 12 Joan Wheare, The Nigerian Legislative Council (London: Faber and Faber, 1950), passim. 13 Marcus Garvey was a full-blooded Negro born in Jamaica on August 17, 1887. Finding Jamaica too small a stage for the drama he planned for the salvation of black men, he migrated to the United States in 1916. 14 Mohammed Ali was the editor of the African Times and Orient Review, an antiimperialist paper published in London. Later migrating to Nigeria, he established the Comet as a daily paper and devoted its columns to the cause of African liberation.

Protest and Revolutionary Politics


and the motto, "One God, one aim and one destiny." He used slogans such as "Africa for Africans," "Renaissance of the black race," "Ethiopia awake!" and "Up, you mighty race!" Garvey founded the African Orthodox Church, adopting a black Christ and a black Madonna as symbols of his sect. In all possible ways he sought to develop racial pride and self-respect among his followers, whose number had risen to about 6 million by 1923.15 Before his movement fell on evil days in 1925, when he was convicted of fraud, Garvey had, by stressing racial pride and consciousness, made an important contribution to the development of revolutionary thought in Nigeria. Parallel with Garveyism there developed the Pan-African movement, designed to inspire and equip Africans to eradicate imperialism from the African continent. The movement arose originally as a manifestation of fraternal solidarity among Africans and people of African descent. In 1900 Henry Sylvester-Williams, another West Indian, convened a conference to protest against the aggression of white colonizers and to appeal to the British to protect Africans from the depredations of empire builders.16 Upon his death the leadership was taken over by W. E. B. Du Bois, an American Negro scholar who between 1919 and 1945 organized five congresses, formulating their programs and strategy along the lines of nonviolent positive action. Under Du Bois the Pan-African movement served as a beacon light to Africans in their struggle for self-determination, helping to evolve regional federations of self-governing African territories and thus paving the way for the eventual formation of a United States of Africa. Du Bois's tactics were to hold the congresses in different parts of Africa, in the capitals of empireowning European nations, and in the United States in order to strengthen the fight of African intellectuals for freedom; to win the sympathy of influential people who could help the cause; to provide a forum for discussion of the specific problems of Africans, such as Mussolini's war on Ethiopia; and to arouse or increase the feeling of racial consciousness in Africans. The second congress, held in London in August, 1921, formulated the specific objectives of the Pan-African movement: (1) to ensure that people be recognized when they meet the necessary requirements, regardless of race or color; (2) to obtain freedom for Africans in their own religion and social customs; (3) to ensure that Africans be given education in self-knowledge, scientific truth, and industrial techniques; (4) to encourage Africans to return to their land and its natural fruits; and (5) to persuade the League of Nations to establish an international institution for the study of African 15 George Padmore, Part-Africanism or Communism p. 87. Ibid., pp. 117-118.

(London: Dobson, 1956),


Foundations of the Government

problems, and its Labor Bureau to establish an international section for the protection of African labor.17 Another movement of external origin, based in London, began in 1918 when the African Progress Union was founded to promote the social and economic welfare of Africans everywhere in the world. In 1919 the organization merged with an older one, the Society of Peoples of African Origin, to form the Union of African Peoples, whose declared objective was to teach British people to understand that both whites and blacks were subjects of the same king, and therefore were entitled to the same considerations. In 1931 the union was in turn succeeded by the League of Coloured Peoples, founded by a Jamaican for all nonwhites; among its prominent members were H. O. Davies, Stephen Thomas, and Louis Mbanefo. 18 In the meantime Ladipo Solanke, a Nigerian, had founded the Nigerian Progress Union to help Africans both at home and abroad to develop a spirit of self-help, unity, and cooperation, and thus stem the tide of insult from other races. The West African Students' Union (WASU) replaced Solanke's union, becoming, between 1925 and 1945, the principal center for Nigerian students in the United Kingdom as well as a hotbed of student politics. The objectives of the WASU were (1) to maintain a hostel in London for West African students; (2) to serve as a center of information and research on African history, culture, and institutions; (3) to present to the world a true picture of African life and philosophy; and (4) to foster national consciousness and racial pride among its members. Communist agents used the opportunity provided by the WASU to indoctrinate Africans in their ideology. In 1927 Solanke had written a book, which he did not publish, entitled "United West Africa (or Africa at the Bar of the Family of Nations)." Here he not only asserted that black people had in the past achieved a civilization equal to that of white men, and that the slave trade had depopulated and destroyed that civilization, but he also exhorted Africans to begin to develop a liking and respect for things African, such as African names, and to establish real African national churches.19 Touring West Africa between 1929 and 1932 to collect funds for the London hostel, Solanke took the opportunity to establish WASU centers in several towns in Nigeria and to seek the patronage of natural rulers; some of them, such as the Emir of Kano and the Alake of Abeokuta, were made patrons of WASU branches. During Solanke's second tour of West Africa on a similar mission in 1947, he contributed greatly to the strengthening of nationalist feeling in Nigeria. 17

Ibid., p. 131. Coleman, op. cit., pp. 202-203. 1« Ibid., p. 206. 18

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Revolutionary Activity at Home At home several people were making determined efforts to rouse the African to a consciousness of his past and of his importance in the present. Edward Wilmot Blyden, the forerunner of this group, was not a Nigerian; he had been born in the Virgin Islands, and later moved to Liberia. Through the medium of many articles and books written in the latter part of the nineteenth century, he urged Africans to seek the regeneration of their continent by bringing forth and demonstrating its unique contribution to humanity. He traveled to Nigeria, where he gave inspiration, in part at least, to the movement to found African churches in protest against the domination of white men. Another important early contributor to the rise of cultural nationalism was John Payne Jackson, a Liberian who subsequently migrated to Lagos, which he made the center of his political activities. Jackson was the editor of the Lagos Weekly Record (1891-1930), and used its pages to urge Africans to unite and become aware of their common nationality, hoping that one day the Ibo, the Hausa, and the Yoruba would make a common stand and cooperate in the interests of Nigeria. He preached that liberty must be won, even at the price of sacrifice and martyrdom; when, as a consequence, all foreign advertisements were withdrawn from his paper, he stood his ground. 20 A man whose contribution to the awakening of national consciousness in Nigeria is not always given due weight is Eyo Ita, a Nigerian who was trained in the United States and who returned home in 1934. Ita was consumed with the passion for unity among Nigerians and Africans generally, and for the development of national consciousness in a hierarchical manner, from the ethnic group upward to Nigeria and then Africa. According to his concept, the state was an association of individuals "already united in various groups each with its common life, in a further and more embracing common purpose." He urged the Efik, his own ethnic group, to develop love for themselves as a people, and exhorted the youth of Nigeria to develop loyalty to their own country while demanding devotion to the cause of Africa. 21 His appeals for unity in Nigeria were fresh and stirring: The same stuff that makes the blood of Yoruba, Hausa, or Benin also constitutes the blood of Ibo, Efik, or Ibibio. Culturally we are becoming one— 80

In 1914 Sir Kitoyi Ajasa, Governor Lugard's close friend and from all accounts a loyalist, founded the Nigerian Pioneer, apparently with the help of the government, and used its columns to counteract the influence of Jackson. A number of other newspapers were in existence, and, as Ernest Ikoli has remarked, the popularity of a newspaper was often measured by the intensity of its assault on the government, the only possible target. 21 Eyo Ita, Nigeria Youth League Movement (Calabar, n.d.), passim.


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common ideas and aspirations, common problems and amenities, the same power of electricity, water and the blessings of yam and corn and garri and pepper and beans have served as bonds to bind us together as the same people. If we must live one life in the United States of West Africa we must do something to keep smooth and sweet our relationships. We must become not bitter springs, but the salt of the earth. 2 2

All these people, and others, were merely the forerunners of the master revolutionist, Nnamdi Azikiwe, who spent nine years in the United States as student and teacher. Leaving the United States in 1934, Azikiwe settled first in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), where he became editor of the African Morning Post. With a background of training in political science and economics, and under the influence of both Garveyism and Du Bois's PanAfrican movement, he devoted the Morning Post to a trenchant attack on imperialism and on conservative loyalist Africans, all the while exhorting Africans to band together and fight for their rights. In 1937 Azikiwe returned to Nigeria, and soon established a chain of newspapers, the most important of which was the West African Pilot. In his book, Renascent Africa, published in the same year, and in his papers, he courageously carried on his assault on imperialism and on the "debris of old Africa," dominating the political scene not only of Nigeria, but also of British West Africa, in the decade 1937-1947. He preached economic determinism, mental emancipation, and political resurgence.23 He taught that blackness is a beauty and that the African should not be ashamed of his color or his way of life, nor should he ape the white man unnecessarily. He criticized existing political, economic, and social institutions, and demanded radical reforms in the constitutional setting of Nigeria and in her administration, both central and local. Denouncing the fragmentation of Africa carried out under the inspiration of the Berlin Conference of 1885, Azikiwe urged Africans to unite and insist on their political and economic rights. Partly because of his background as a Nigerian, and partly because of his political showmanship, he did more than John Payne Jackson to fire the imagination of Nigerian youth and to infuse the spirit of nationalism in the minds of increasing numbers of Nigerians.24 An insight into Azikiwe's methods may be obtained from his activity in 22

Eyo Ita, Sterile Truths and Fertile Lies (Calabar, 1949), pp. 14-15. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Renascent Africa (Accra, 1937), passim. 24 Following in Azikiwe's footsteps, other American graduates, notably A. A. Nwafor Orizu, Mbonu Ojike, and K. Ozuomba Mbadiwe, contributed greatly to the awakening of consciousness in Nigerians. Ojike in particular made an important contribution through the propagation of his philosophy of boycott, wherein he urged Nigerians to boycott all Western materials that were not a strict necessity, and to substitute Nigerian ones, however crude, for them. 23

Protest and Revolutionary Politics


connection with the general strike of 1945.25 During the strike the West African Pilot had pilloried the government and had made a convincing case for the workers' point of view. Subsequently, the paper was banned for publishing material that could generate interracial hatred and therefore cause instability in the social fabric of Nigeria. Azikiwe later came out with the story that some people, presumably working for the government, had planned to assassinate him. He explained that on July 13, 1945, his wireless operator intercepted a message embodying the plan of his assassination, and he therefore fled to Onitsha, his home town in the Eastern Region. In January, 1946, the government refused to renew the license of the wireless set he operated. As unrest grew in the country, Azikiwe published his "last testament," in which he said: I go away to the Niger whence I came. If it is the will of Providence that I should depart from this world through the bullet of an assassin, then I have no choice. . . . Into the unknown let me go, having served the will of my maker. But I go full of supreme confidence and spiritual satisfaction that I have served Mother Africa to the limit of my physical ability—and even gave my most prized possession—my life—for the redemption of Africa.28 The Zikist Movement Azikiwe's assassination story evoked considerable discussion in Nigeria. Members of the working class, through whose defense he had become involved in difficulties, and most young people believed the story, and the incident raised the feeling of nationalism to a high pitch. But Azikiwe's political opponents saw the whole episode as a fabrication designed to inveigle the public and as an attempt by Azikiwe to give himself an aura of martyrdom. In 1946, in response to the trenchant attacks of these critics, three young men—Kolawole Balogun, M. C. K. Ajuluchuku, and Abiodun Aloba—started the Zikist Movement, whose immediate objective was to defend Azikiwe. The organization pledged itself to help spread the views and the declarations of "this evangelist," and to ensure that he would go down to posterity as a famous man. To achieve the latter objective, the movement decided to adopt and to propagate the "Zikist philosophy" which Nwafor Orizu had formulated, and which was intended to imply African irredentism, a social faith embracing the social, political, and eco25 This strike, the first major one carried out by Nigerian workers, was undertaken in defiance of a warning from the government. It was an important factor in instilling fear in the minds of British officials that the Nigerian political situation was getting out of hand. 28 Nnamdi Azikiwe, Assassination Story: True or False (Lagos, 1946), p. 9.


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nomic emancipation of Africa. 27 The Zikist Movement spread rapidly among young men and women throughout Nigeria, and in 1946-1948 the leaders succeeded in appointing an ardent "Zikist" to every important trade-union organization in Lagos, in order to facilitate the calling out of workers should Azikiwe at any time desire to use the strike as a political weapon. Most members of the Zikist Movement believed that sooner or later Azikiwe would order a nationwide civil disobedience movement; after the NCNC delegation to London in 1947 had been rebuffed by the Colonial Secretary, many thought the time for positive action had arrived. But Azikiwe did not give the order, either because he was not temperamentally inclined to use such political maneuvers, or because he feared that it might be impossible to keep such a movement in check once it had been started, or because he was occupied in a bitter political quarrel that had developed over the delegation he led to London (see chap. vii). By an unhappy coincidence, the NCNC began to wane in importance at this time, and some of the most ardent Zikists, feeling that a vacuum had occurred in the nationalist movement, stepped into the breach and gave the call for positive action. The movement was led by Osita Agwuna, Ogedengbe Macaulay, and Mallam H. R. Abdallah, who in a series of lectures given in Lagos in 1948 made speeches which the government considered seditious. These three men and a few other Zikists were charged with sedition and tried early in 1949; most of them were given heavy fines and prison sentences. Before leaving to serve two years in jail, Mallam Abdallah, president of the movement, addressed the court for more than an hour, ending with these words: "If it is a crime to strive to win freedom for one's country, then I implore you to inflict on me the maximum punishment.... Wherever I may be, in heaven or hell, I shall bear my afflictions with satisfaction, patience and fortitude." 28 After the conviction of the leaders there was a lull in the movement, but it soon recovered, and its leaders gave seditious lectures in reaction to the shooting of the Enugu miners. The movement reached a climax in February, 1950, when a Zikist attempted to assassinate the chief secretary to the government. It became apparent that Zikists all over the counry were planning various means of forcibly terminating British rule in Nigeria. The police, in a surprise search of the houses of the most important Zikists, discovered a voluminous literature which contained seditious matter. The secretary of 27 A. A. Nwafor Orizu, Without Bitterness (New York: Creative Age Press, 1944), passim. 28 A photostat was made of this portion of the speech and, with Abdallah's photo inserted, was turned into a snapshot photograph, many copies of which were sold openly in Lagos and elsewhere.

Protest and Revolutionary Politics


the movement, Mokwugo Okoye, an ex-serviceman, was tried and convicted, but he defied the judge in these words: "With the immense resources and the coercive state machinery behind you and the Government you represent, I do not as a Zikist recognise the right of this court to try this case. . . . You are a symbol of that imperialist machine which I and my colleagues abhor; therefore I am not pleading before this court." 29 The Zikist Movement was banned. When it tried to reemerge under a new name, internal feuds caused its members to lose interest and eventually to disperse. Cultural Associations In the 1930's, in some towns, social organizations developed in the form of improvement unions or leagues, or of provincial or ethnic-group associations. Notable among them were the Ibibio State Union, the Ibo State Union, the Edo National Union, the Tiv Progressive Union, and, later, the Egbe Omo Oduduwa. Each of these associations, in its orientation and functioning, was practically a facsimile of a village, a clan, or some other concrete social unit, and embraced a communal social philosophy. In the towns, cultural associations helped their members to retain the consciousness of a common cultural background, and to render mutual aids to one another. Their officials were mostly young and educated people, who in the course of their careers had acquired enormous experience in writing minutes, administering secretariats, and handling people. The associations substantially aided the development of nationalism in Nigeria by (1) providing a network of communication through which ideas and information could be disseminated to rural areas, and serving as a political watchdog of people in the countryside; (2) establishing primary and secondary schools and financing the university training of some of their members, thus increasing enlightenment in the country; (3) helping to keep alive or reviving traditional dances and legends; and (4) influencing the operation of political parties. The two associations that have exercised the strongest influence on the politics of Nigeria are the Ibo State Union and the Egbe Omo Oduduwa. The Ibo Union was founded in 1935 on the occasion of the return to Nigeria of Dr. Francis A. Ibiam, the first Ibo to acquire a medical education. The union's primary objective was to give Ibiam a formal reception, and to use the opportunity to stimulate the interest of Ibos in themselves and in social and cultural pursuits. A movement in 1943 to federate all Ibo unions throughout the country ended with the establishment in 1944 of the Ibo Federal Union, with headquarters in Lagos. The new organization decided to award scholarships tenable in universities, to build secondary schools, and to establish the Ibo State Bank. The Ibo, compared with the 2» West African Pilot, March 8, 1950.


Foundations of the Government

Yoruba and some other Nigerians, had been relatively backward, and in order to strengthen and diffuse the news of their awakening the West African Pilot, unofficial organ of the NCNC, gave considerable publicity to the union's meetings and decisions, and to the achievements of Ibos in all walks of life. In 1948 Azikiwe, while serving as president of the NCNC, became also the president of the Ibo Federal Union, which at the same time was renamed the Ibo State Union and began to function openly as a quasi-political organization.30 It was in his presidential address to the annual meeting of the Ibo State Union in 1949 that Azikiwe made the statement that the God of Africa had specifically created the Ibo nation to lead the children of Africa from bondage. Probably he merely intended to exhort the Ibos to noteworthy achievements, but the speech greatly influenced the relationships between Ibos and other Nigerians in two ways. First, it tended to inflate the ego of some Ibos, particularly those in the lower class, whose consequent arrogant behavior strained the relationship between them and other people, leading in some instances to open communal conflict. Second, other Nigerian ethnic groups, particularly those who, like the Yoruba, occupied a relatively higher position in the social life of Nigeria, not only resented the statement but, fearing that they might indeed be overtaken by the Ibo, took the initiative in putting obstacles in the way of Ibos. In parts of the Northern Region and the Western Region, in Calabar and the Southern Cameroons, friction arose between Ibos and other people, who charged that Ibos had depreciated their customs or had in other ways affronted them. Despite these difficulties, the Ibo made great strides, having actually established a secondary school and financed the university education of a number of Ibo young men and women. Yoruba cultural organizations had come into being before the 1930's, but operated at first as discrete groups such as the Egba Society and the Offa Descendants' Union. In 1945 the Egbe Omo Oduduwa was formed in London by a group of Yorubas which included Obafemi Awolowo. On his return to Nigeria in 1948, Awolowo converted the Egbe into a cultural organization of all Yorubas, whose principal objectives were to foster the study of the Yoruba language, culture, and history; to accelerate the emergence of a virile, modernized, and efficient Yoruba state; to unite the various clans and tribes in Yorubaland; and to recognize and maintain the institution 30 Azikiwe's elevation as head of the Ibo occurred at a time of acute tension between the Ibo and the Yoruba, and many of his erstwhile Yoruba admirers broke away. There is no doubt that the Ibo needed strong leadership, but whether or not Azikiwe himself should have provided it is an open question; his close association with the Ibo organization tended to compromise his claims for the leadership of the whole country, at least in the opinion of many non-Ibos.

Protest and Revolutionary Politics


of chieftaincy in an enlightened form. For various reasons, the West African Pilot had opposed the development of the Egbe into an overall Yoruba cultural organization; some Yorubas therefore felt that Azikiwe was biased in favor of the Ibo because he not only sanctioned the existence of a similar body among the Ibo, but served as its head. What had happened was that a healthy competition had been started among the people of Nigeria. The Ibo, under the inspiration of Azikiwe, were struggling to make up the lag in their development, and the Yoruba, under the leadership of Awolowo, were striving to maintain or increase their lead. In due course the members of other ethnic groups, not wishing to be left behind, joined in the scramble for power. The leaders naturally made their appeals to the kinship, the clan group, or the ethnic group, and, as the eve of independence drew near, the competition tended to assume a pathological character. Foreign observers, and the nationalist papers owned by Ibo and Yoruba leaders, began to stress the interethnic feuds among Nigerians. The great achievement of the associations in generating among Nigerians loyalty for an ethnic group of several million people, thus paving the way for the development of broader loyalty for the entire nation, was relegated to the background. These organizations were the only ones that had made systematic efforts to instill into the minds of Nigerians ideas of nationality, but their activities had not been properly directed, and the movement had been shunted onto regional instead of national lines. Had Eyo Ita's writings on cultural nationalism, by far the most systematic exposition of the movement, been better known, the spirit of nationalism might have developed in a hierarchical form, from the clan basis to the entire nation, and the country would have been spared the bitter conflicts generated by tribalism. But Ita, writing from the hinterland, could not deeply influence the thinking of leading politicians; in any event he preached a doctrine of cultural universalism, and at the time few Nigerians were temperamentally inclined to bother with the question of universal brotherhood.



While sporadic efforts were being made to protest against injustice, to revolutionize or revitalize the approach of Africans to the problems of public affairs, there developed in the early 1920's groups that sought to obtain power and to run the government. These political parties came into being in response to the provision in the Constitution of 1922 for the election of four representatives, three for Lagos and one for Calabar, to the Legislative Council.1 Herbert Macaulay founded the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) in 1922 with the support of the leading nationalists of the time, foremost among whom was John Payne Jackson. Other important personalities who were in the party at one time or another were J. E. EgertonShyngle, Eric O. Moore, C. C. Adeniyi-Jones, T. A. Doherty, J. A. Caulcrick, Thomas Horatius Jackson, K. Kotun, and J. T. White.2 Macaulay himself was one of the harshest critics of the British administration in Nigeria, and eventually he paid for his fearlessness by a term of imprisonment for a criminal libel. The objectives of the NNDP were (1) to elect the Lagos members to the Legislative Council; (2) to secure municipal status and local self-government for Lagos; (3) to establish branches of the party in other parts of Nigeria; (4) to foster higher education in Nigeria and economic development of natural resources; (5) to ensure fair and free trade in Nigeria and equal treatment for Nigerian traders and producers; and (6) to work for the Africanization of the civil service. The party tried, but failed, to establish branches at Abeokuta, Ibadan, and Kano; throughout its history its main 1

In 1920 the National Congress of British West Africa, one of the agencies that had carried on the politics of protest under the leadership of Casely Hayford of the Gold Coast, agitated for the expansion of the legislative councils in British West Africa and for the election of representatives to them. Governor Hugh Clifford of Nigeria dismissed the group's demands, claiming that the leaders did not truly represent Nigeria. Owing partly to this pressure, however, and partly to the fact that the government itself considered reforms necessary, the Nigerian Constitution of 1922 was changed in the manner indicated. 2 Joan Wheare, The Nigerian Legislative Council (London: Faber and Faber, 1950), p. 198; Nnamdi Azikiwe, The Development of Political Parties in Nigeria (London, 1957), p. 5.

Politicai Parties


function was to elect the Lagos members to the legislature, a function it performed exclusively until the late 1930's. In its early years the NNDP was opposed by the People's Union, a party led by John K. Randle, Orisadipe Obasa, Sir Kitoyi Ajasa, Akinwande Savage, and Adeyemo Alakija. A female counterpart was known as the Women's Union, led by Mrs. O. Obasa. Both organizations were conservative, favoring gradualism in the introduction of reforms. The members of these loyalist groups and of the radical NNDP were drawn from the same upper stratum of Lagos society. Neither the radical nor the conservative groups were organized on a mass basis, although the NNDP did later win a substantial following among the market women of Lagos. A number of factors made it impossible for the parties to expand their activities beyond the confines of Lagos; of these the most important were parochialism, lack of common consciousness, and the desire of the leaders to keep the reins of power in their own hands.3 With the return of Eyo Ita, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and H. O. Davies to Nigeria in the 1930's, politics took a different turn. Ita had taken the lead in preaching the value of unity and in stressing the need for a renaissance of Nigerian society. As a student in America he had planned to found a semicultural body called the Nigeria Youth League Movement, whose primary function would be to revolutionize and integrate Nigerian society through health and economic schemes, the development of patriotism and knowledge, and cultural activities. He called on Nigerian youth to come forward and save the country. Although, as noted above, his agitation had little impact on the country, he did influence the thinking of the nationalists, chief among them Ernest Ikoli, James C. Vaughn, and Samuel Akinsanya (now Odemo of Ishara), who in 1933 founded the Lagos Youth Movement. 4 When H. O. Davies, a brilliant and patriotic Nigerian, returned to Lagos in 1937 from the United Kingdom and became the secretary of this organization, its name was changed to the Nigerian Youth Movement. In its charter, published in 1938, the NYM set forth the following objectives: (1) to obtain complete autonomy for Nigeria within the British Commonwealth and Empire; (2) to make Nigeria a united nation, and thus foster understanding and a sense of common purpose and common nationality among the people; and (3) to demand for Nigerians economic opportunities equal to those enjoyed by foreigners. In 1937 Azikiwe returned to Nigeria under auspicious circumstances. The movement for cultural consciousness had already been started, and 3 J a m e s S. Coleman, Nigeria: Background to Nationalism Angeles: University of California Press, 1958), p. 199. 4 Azikiwe, op. cit., p. 7.

(Berkeley and Los


Foundations of the Government

young people in many parts of Nigeria were ready to accept a more dynamic leadership. Until then politics in Nigeria had been subject to what might be called the "Lagos dynasty." In that city only those who had acquired a certain degree of refinement belonged to the elite group. No Ibos had taken part in politics, or had belonged to this upper stratum of Lagos society. When Azikiwe came to Lagos in 1937, he joined the NYM; as a result many Ibos and other young people inspired by him joined to swell the party ranks. Branches of the party were established in several important towns throughout Nigeria, and by 1938 the NYM had about 10,000 followers and twenty branches in the provinces.5 Azikiwe's association with the NYM was, however, short-lived. Serious quarrels with other leaders led to his resignation in 1941, and the party never recovered. The immediate cause of his resignation was disagreement over the selection of a candidate for a seat in the Legislative Council vacated by Dr. K. A. Abayomi, outgoing president of the NYM. Ernest Ikoli, an I jaw w h o was editor of the L a g o s Daily Service

( n o w the Daily


the party's official organ—and the recently elected president of the party, and Samuel Akinsanya, an Ijebu Yoruba and vice-president of the party, offered themselves as candidates. Both Ikoli and Akinsanya had been founders of the party, and both were members of the elite group in Lagos, but the former was selected over the latter. Akinsanya, the West African Pilot, Azikiwe, and some Ibos and Ijebus interpreted this action as a manifestation of tribal discrimination, because normally other Yorubas tended to show prejudice against Ijebus. As a consequence Azikiwe resigned, and a number of Ibos and Ijebus went with him. Some historians trace the origin of tribalism in Nigerian politics to this incident, but it is difficult for an unbiased observer to accept this interpretation. Ikoli was not a Yoruba, but Akinsanya was. If tribalism had been the basic consideration in the selection of a candidate, it is highly unlikely that those who made the decision, most of whom were Yorubas, would have preferred an Ijaw to a Yoruba, however lowly the latter's particular clan might have been. It may be assumed that Ikoli was identified as a Lagos Yoruba, and that the contest was therefore between an Ijebu Yoruba and a Lagos Yoruba. The further assumption that Akinsanya was turned down because of his Ijebu background would have to be predicated on evidence that his qualifications were far superior to Ikoli's, and that it was the tribal or clan difference that turned the scale in favor of the less qualified candidate. But all the evidence clearly indicates that both men possessed the highest qualifications for the office. Ikoli, because he was the party's president and editor of its official organ, had better prospects of obtaining the s

Coleman, op. cit., pp. 225-226.


Political Parties

nomination. Furthermore, as Oba Akinsanya has pointed out, there was a clash of personalities based on individual differences and pride, and each leader had his personal reasons for supporting one or the other candidate. It is not easy to understand why Azikiwe believed in the charge of tribalism, except perhaps to justify his break with the NYM. That he should leave the party is understandable, for he had little in common with the other leaders. He was fiery, tempestuous, young, and extremely radical, whereas the others were sedate and genteel in their approach. He had to break with them if he was to accomplish his mission. If he had broken away on the ground of the difference between his approach and theirs, he would still have carried the youth of the country with him, for it was he who first showed them the light. We may conclude that the Ikoli-Akinsanya affair was not settled on the ground of tribalism, but that some Ijebus and the West African Pilot called attention to the problem of tribalism. But it was neither this paper nor any particular person who created the evil. In a country whose people have diverse social and cultural backgrounds, and where no efforts had been made to inculcate the idea of one nationality and common citizenship, tribalism in the pejorative sense was bound to arise once people had acquired a fairly high degree of political consciousness. Indeed, the movement of cultural nationalism, which had its beginnings in the early part of the twentieth century, presaged the appearance of tribalism. After the Ikoli-Akinsanya affair, the Nigerian Youth Movement practically disintegrated despite the efforts of Obafemi Awolowo, in Ibadan, to revive it. The movement had, however, created a force in the form of the young people, many of whom among the Ijebu and the Ibo flocked to Azikiwe's standard. RECENT PARTY HISTORY

The lull in party activity which followed the Ikoli-Akinsanya affair did not last long, for in 1942 the Nigeria Reconstruction Group was founded by Azikiwe and other leaders, notably M. E. R. Okorodudu, E. E. Esua, and L. A. Onojobi. Its membership was limited to intellectuals, and its objective was to engage in social research of all sorts. The group tried to found a national front in collaboration with the NYM, whose function would be to inculcate in the minds of Nigerians the idea of oneness and the consciousness of kind.8 Under the sponsorship of the Nigerian Youth Circle, whose leaders included H. O. Davies and J. M. Udochi, and the Nigerian Union of Students,7 a youth rally was held at Ojokoro in November, 1943, at the 6

Azikiwe, op. cit., p. 9. The Nigerian Union of Students was organized at the Abeokuta grammar school in 1939 by Adewale Fashanu, P. N. Malafa, and others; among its patrons were the 7


Foundations of the Government

country home of E. J. Alex-Taylor. The hundreds of eager young people who attended were addressed by Bode Thomas, Rotimi Williams, Olu Alakija, H. O. Davies, and Azikiwe.8 The rally passed a resolution affirming the need for the formation of a national front, but its greatest achievement was to fire the imagination of hundreds of young Nigerians. The leaders of the NYM declined to cooperate with Azikiwe, partly because his part in the Ikoli-Akinsanya affair still rankled, and partly because they did not believe he was willing to work on a collegial basis with his intellectual equals. In August, 1944, prominent members of the Nigerian Union of Students took the initiative, after consultations with Azikiwe, in summoning all organizations to a conference in Lagos to establish a national council, whose primary objective would be the integration of Nigerian society. Many organizations sent representatives to the conference, which organized the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons. The election of Herbert Macaulay as president and of Azikiwe as secretary brought together two leading personalities in Nigerian politics. Through them the Lagos market women, members of the ruling House of Docemo in Lagos, and young men and young women of various tribes were joined together in the fight for Nigerian freedom. A number of events took place in rapid succession. As already noted, workers went on a general strike in 1945; Azikiwe's support of the strike led to the banning of the West African Pilot and the Comet; his Assassination Story elicited violent criticism from his opponents; and the youth reacted by forming the Zikist Movement. Two months before the general strike occurred, Governor Sir Arthur Richards had introduced the Richards Constitution without prior consultation with articulate representatives of the Nigerian public, and had rushed the proposals through the Legislative Council. The council also passed four ordinances which were subsequently described by the NCNC as the four "obnoxious ordinances." 9 Under the leadership of Macaulay and Azikiwe, Reverend I. O. Ransome-Kuti, Herbert Macaulay, Akinola Maja, Ernest Ikoli, Stella Marke, and Azikiwe. 8 Earlier in 1943 Azikiwe had led the Nigerian section of the West African press delegation, which made a goodwill tour of Britain at the invitation of the British government. While on the tour he met socialist members of the British Labour Party who advised him to abandon his policy of sitting on the fence in Nigerian politics, and to plunge fully into it so as to direct its course. In response to this advice, Azikiwe issued an appeal to the leaders of the NYM for cooperation in accelerating the political movement. 9 Three of the ordinances—Minerals Ordinance, Public Lands Acquisition Ordinance, and Crown Lands (Amendment) Ordinance—arrogated to the Crown the title to Nigerian minerals. The last two of these stipulated that lands acquired under the government's power of eminent domain be described as crown lands. The fourth ordinance—Appointment and Deposition of Chiefs (Amendment) Ordinance—merely consolidated existing legislation. None of these ordinances could really be regarded as inimical to the interests of Nigeria.

Political Parties


the NCNC toured the country in 1946, collecting £13,000 with which it financed a delegation that went to London in 1947 to protest against the Richards Constitution and the four obnoxious ordinances. The delegation was rebuffed by the Colonial Secretary, who summarily told the leaders to return to Nigeria and cooperate with the government in giving the constitution a trial. Azikiwe's followers seethed in anger over his rebuff, but his political opponents in the NYM crowed over his failure and demanded that he give a public account of the £13,000, insinuating that the delegation leaders had frittered away the money on personal needs. No public account of the expenditure was ever given, but, in response to the strictures of the NYM, Azikiwe embarked on a wholesale press attack on his leading opponents, particularly Adeyemo Alakija and H. O. Davies, describing them as inept political leaders. By this time the West African Pilot was interpreting the attack on Azikiwe as an attack on all Ibos, and when Azikiwe concluded his counterattack, the Yoruba leaders reciprocated by assuming that all Yorubas were being denounced as inept. The result was disastrous, perhaps more so because of the absence of Macaulay (who had become ill while on the tour, and did not survive), for most of the upper-class Yorubas and many younger ones left the NCNC. It was in the following year, 1948, that Awolowo returned to Nigeria and organized the Egbe Omo Oduduwa. Tension between Ibos and Yorubas reached its height at midyear, and in December of this fateful year Azikiwe became president of the Ibo State Union, while retaining the leadership of the NCNC. In 1951 Awolowo created, as the political wing of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, the Action Group (see chap, vi), which was supported by aristocratic Yorubas and some Yoruba professionals and intellectuals. For tactical reasons the Action Group confined its initial activities to the Western Region, and only gradually endeavored to establish itself in other parts of the country. Thus began what may be called the "era of the veto groups" in Nigerian politics. The NCNC tried to thwart the activities of the Action Group in the Western and Eastern regions, while the AG carried out similar maneuvers, particularly in the Western Region, both drawing maximum support from their respective tribal unions. In the middle of the 1951 election campaign the Northern Peoples' Congress was declared a political party. It gingerly joined in the veto-group activity, opposing the Northern Elements' Progressive Union (NEPU), ally of the NCNC, and doing its best to prevent the southern parties from capturing the north. Like some of their counterparts in the south, the NPC and the NEPU evolved as parties from cultural organizations. In 1943 Aminu Kano, Sa'ad Zungur, and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa founded the Bauchi General Improvement Union, which expired soon afterward because of opposition


Foundations of the Government

from the Emir of Bauchi. The Northern Elements' Progressive Association was formed in Kano by H. R. Abdallah, the Zikist leader, but, opposed by the Kano Native Authority, it soon became moribund. On his return from London in 1947, Aminu Kano established the Northern Teachers' Association, and in 1949 he collaborated with A. E. B. Dikko, Balewa, and Yahaya Gusau to convert the association into the Northern Peoples' Congress. Subsequently, however, Kano found the NPC unduly conservative and rather tame, and left to form the NEPU. 10 A LABOR PARTY

After Azikiwe's rebuff by the Colonial Secretary in 1947, many of his young followers expected him to give an order for positive action against the government. When he failed to do so, and when the NCNC began to lose members because of the acute tension between Ibos and Yorubas, some young people ceased to look to that party to usher in a socialist regime in Nigeria. By 1950 Nduka Eze, who had been organizing the workers of the United Africa Company, had made the UAC Workers' Union a powerful force. Under his leadership the Trades Union Congress affiliated with the NCNC in 1947, but when a year later the TUC dissociated itself from that party, Eze organized a new body, the Nigerian National Federation of Labour, thus splitting the labor movement. With funds received from leftwing groups abroad and from the UAC Workers' Union, the leaders of the labor movement, in collaboration with professionals and intellectuals, founded a daily paper, the Labour Champion, which circulated from September, 1949, to June, 1950. The government and the major political parties were quick to charge that the movement was Communist-inspired. After Eze's inept leadership of a strike of all mercantile workers in 1950, followed by his prosecution for sedition and police searches of the houses of suspected leaders, the left-wing movement collapsed. Michael Imoudu and other leaders of the TUC later tried to found a labor party that would really socialize the entire Nigerian economy, but ridicule from the Daily Times (a supposedly independent paper), the West African Pilot, and the Daily Service was one cause of failure. A second cause was the split within the ranks of labor leaders, which, as noted elsewhere, reflected both the interference of foreign labor leaders and the ineptitude of Nigerian leaders. A number of minor parties emerged in the 1950's, concomitant with the movements for the creation of new states. In 1953 the Middle Belt Peoples' Party (MBPP) was formed by Moses Rwang at the behest of the national 10

Coleman, op. cit., p. 364.

Political Parties


executive of the NCNC. The Middle Zone League (MZL), which David Lot had organized, merged with the MBPP to form the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC). Later this group split over the question of the creation of a Middle Belt state. Rwang, who supported the movement for the new state, entered into an alliance with the NCNC-NEPU; Lot, who was opposed to partitioning the Northern Region, took his wing of the UMBC into the NPC. Eventually the Rwang group abandoned the NCNC-NEPU and allied itself with the Action Group. For similar reasons (see chap, iv) the Kamerun National Congress (KNQ, the Kamerun People's Party (KPP), and the Kamerun National Democratic Party (KNDP) had come into being in the Southern Cameroons. The United National Independence Party and the Democratic Party of Nigeria and the Cameroons (DPNC) were formed in 1953 and 1958, respectively, as breakaway groups from the NCNC. Other small parties were Nigerian Commoners' Liberal Party, Dynamic Party, Borau Youth Movement (BYM), Tiv Progressive Union, Ilorin Talaka Parapo (ITP), Otu Edo, Nigerian Young Democrats, Idoma State Union, and National Emancipation League (NEL). A study of the results of regional and federal elections between 1951 and 1959 reveals that each major party easily won the majority of seats in its home base.11 Between 1956 and 1959, when the parties were fairly well stabilized, the results were more conclusive. In the Eastern Regional election of 1957, the NCNC won 76 per cent of the seats; the AG and others, 21 per cent; and independents, 3 per cent. In the 1959 federal election, the NCNC won 79 per cent of the Eastern Region seats; the AG, 19 per cent; and independents, 2 per cent. In the Western Regional election of 1956, the AG won 60 per cent and the NCNC won 40 per cent of the seats; in the 1959 federal election the AG won 53 per cent, the NCNC won 34 per cent, and independents won 13 per cent of the Western Region seats. In the 1956 regional election in the north, the NPC won 81 per cent, the NEPU won 5 per cent, and others won 14 per cent of the seats, but in the 1959 federal election the NPC won 82 per cent, the NEPU won 5 per cent, and the AG won 13 per cent of the Northern Region seats. In the 1961 Northern Regional election, the NPC won 94 per cent of the seats; in the Eastern Regional election of 1961 the NCNC won 73 per cent of the seats; and in the 1960 Western Regional election the AG won 63 per cent of the seats. This trend makes it apparent that the NPC, without winning any seats in either 11 Adegoke Adelabu, late NCNC leader at Ibadan, contends in Africa in Ebullition (Ibadan, 1952) that in the 1951 Western Regional election the NCNC initially won the majority of seats, but that before long several NCNC members crossed the carpet to the AG and thus reversed the result. The exception to the general observation, however, is that the NCNC won a majority of seats in the Western Region in the 1954 federal election.


Foundations of the Government

east or west, will control the federal government. In fact, after winning all the seats in Sardauna Province (formerly the Northern Cameroons), the NPC in 1961 had a majority of four seats in Parliament. The top leaders of the NPC, however, have stated openly that they consider it inadvisable for politicians from only one region to control the federal government. In spite of their majority, they have maintained their coalition with the NCNC. Meanwhile, it has been reported that the NPC is seeking to establish a foothold in the Eastern Region, and, as the account of the Western Regional crisis below reveals, it has reached an understanding with a faction of the Action Group. The broad plan of the NPC seems to be to remain on friendly terms with the NCNC and to destroy the Action Group, picking up some of its members, or, at any rate, arranging an alliance with any new party formed in the west. By destroying the Action Group and freezing the NCNC, the NPC would get rid of the NEPU (the NPC-NCNC coalition has virtually destroyed the NEPU) and the AG-BYM opposition; it may also make serious inroads into the Western Region. Northern leaders may become masters of the region, and then may become masters of the federation. In the federal territory, the NCNC-NNDP alliance won the three seats for Lagos in the 1947 Legislative Council election, and won all five seats there in the 1951 election to the Western House of Assembly. But in the federal elections of 1959, the NCNC won two of the three seats, and the AG won the third. PARTY ORGANIZATION AND FINANCE

For the earliest parties organization was no real problem. As we have seen, they confined their activities to recruiting voters in Lagos. In due course, a number of factors stimulated the development of party machinery on a nationwide basis. Among them, the broadening of the franchise to millions of people in all parts of the country and the need of the parties to expand beyond their home bases were the most important. The NCNC had started out as an agglomeration of social groupings, membership not being open to individuals. The organization included in its membership trade unions, clan and tribal unions, professional groups, literary societies, social clubs, and the NNDP and its youth counterpart. Most of these groups existed only in Lagos, or had their active headquarters there; in the Northern Region it was primarily southern, particularly Ibo, associations that participated in party activities, but later on a few organizations in the Middle Belt were attracted to the party. The NCNC thus had no grass-roots organization, but relied on its component groups, particularly the clan unions, for its activities in most parts of Nigeria. What was im-

Political Parties


portant to the NCNC in its formative years was not party machinery, but influential individuals in the affiliated groups who used their influence to gain votes for the party. As a result the fief system, whereby several powerful "barons" built up followers of their own with bodyguards, developed in the party. Adegoke Adelabu was a general at Ibadan, Chief H. Omo-Osagie ruled at Benin, and K. Ozuomba Mbadiwe reigned supreme at Orlu; F. S. Okotie-Eboh and J. I. G. Onyia were ruling with difficulty at Warn and Asaba, respectively.12 The party constitution of 1951 made provision for individual membership as well as associate or organizational membership; the latter was open to political parties, tribal unions, professional associations, and social and literary clubs. The NCNC was to be more highly structured, with national, regional, and divisional organizations and officers, but below the divisional level it still had not developed organizations of its own in most rural areas.13 The "fief holders" continued to be important and to exert an enormous influence on the determination of party policy. Some young, radical elements within the NCNC, feeling that the barons exerted a conservative and unwholesome influence on Azikiwe, formed an auxiliary group known as the NCNC Youth Association, whose main objectives were to infuse new blood into the organization and weaken the influence of the barons. The latter struck back at the radicals by imposing an age limit of twenty-five, as membership in the Youth Association was denied to people above this age limit; subsequently, however, the age limit was lifted. In 1950 some of the younger people in the party, led by Adewale Fashanu, formed the Zikist National Vanguard to help reinvigorate the NCNC. This organization later became identified in the public mind as the strong-arm group of the party. Although both the Youth Association and the Vanguard had been organized as militant wings of the party, they were seldom at peace with each other. Subsequently they merged to form the NCNC Youth Vanguard. Other auxiliaries are the NCNC Women's Association, the Lagos Market Women's Association, and the Eastern Wing of the Ex-Servicemen's Union. Another organizational problem of the NCNC has arisen from the fact that its headquarters office is in Lagos, whereas its national president resided at Enugu in the Eastern Region, where he served as premier until 1959. In effect, then, the real headquarters was at Enugu, and the regional 12

See editorial in West African Pilot, May 12, 1958. In the 1950's the NCNC had practically abandoned its activities in the Northern Region, and had come to rely on the NEPU. In fact, at the 1957 convention the president of the party reportedly suggested that operations in the Northern Region be formally wound up so that attention could be concentrated on the east and the west. His lieutenants, who feared that so formal a statement might harm the party, even in its strongholds, pressed for withdrawal of the suggestion. But the party did, in fact, terminate its activities in the Northern Region. 13


Foundations of the Government

officers, considering themselves as national officers, often gave divisional officers orders that conflicted with those emanating from Lagos. On the whole, the NCNC is extremly weak in organizational structure. According to the editorial in the West African Pilot cited above, "the party is a picture of individuals struggling by themselves only at election time; those who cannot by themselves meet the challenge of the AG are left to suffer in isolation." Partly owing to these difficulties, the party's output of publications and pronouncements is lower in quality and smaller in quantity than that of the AG. Since about 1959 the NCNC has made strenuous efforts at systematic organization, and it is now better established in the rural areas of the east and the west. The organization of the AG is simpler and more efficient. Membership is based on the individual; every member of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa is a member of the party, but the Egbe itself is not a member. A close link, however, exists between the Egbe and the party, for the party leader, Awolowo, was for a long time also secretary of the Egbe. The AG had been organized originally as a western Nigeria party because its leaders did not believe they could penetrate into the other regions. The constitution, however, provides for party organization on a Nigeria-wide basis. Furthermore, provision is made for a national executive committee, three regional executive committees, three regional parliamentary councils, and a federal parliamentary council. The National Executive Committee should consist of all ex officio members, the leaders and the deputy leaders of the federal and regional parliamentary councils, and thirty unofficial members elected from the regions. In theory, then, the three regions make up the national congress of the party, but organizations developed later in the east and the north did not operate on the pattern of the Western Regional organization. The Executive Committee of the Western Region was the governing body of the whole party. As the AG's principal organizing secretary put it, the association thus formed was not that of equals jointly maintaining the national union as a confederal body, but rather the association of a father and his children, the latter being made to look up to the former for existence and upbringing.14 Before the federal elections of 1959, efforts had been made to put the organizations in the east and the north on the same footing as that in the west, and the party was much more highly structured than before; organizations were set up on several levels down to the ward, where practicable. In many parts of the east and the north, however, the party has only skeleton frameworks, for it is risky for people in those areas to identify themselves openly with the AG. The party headquarters is at Ibadan in the 14 S. T. Oredein, A Manual on Action Group Party Organization (Lagos, D.d.), p. 13.

Political Parties


Western Region, and up to 1959, when Awolowo, the leader of the party, was also the premier of the Western Region, no confusion arose as to the relative jurisdictions of the headquarters and field staff. In 1960, when Awolowo became a federal legislator, the headquarters office was transferred to Lagos. Discipline in the Action Group is very strict, a fact that draws admiration even from NCNC leaders. Whenever there is a misunderstanding among important members, or between members and leaders, the party appoints a peace committee to settle the matter. The secretariat or the party leaders have sole responsibility for making all announcements, and no statement may be issued by a member not specifically authorized to do so. The secretariat examines newspapers and journals for statements attributed to prominent members of the party, such as councilors or legislators, and requests an explanation for any opinion that is contrary to the general views of the party, unless a retraction has already been made. The secretariat endeavors to give the offender the impression that he has affronted a "divine authority." In 1962 the Action Group suffered a major crisis which seems destined to shake the party to its foundations. The causes of the crisis were manifold. First, the party had difficulty in maintaining control over the government of the Western Region after the 1959 general elections, when Awolowo became leader of the opposition in the federal legislature and S. L. Akintola, his deputy, became premier of the regional government. In September, 1960, in an effort to attract younger intellectuals, the party had formally adopted democratic socialism as its ideology, to which Akintola was opposed. With the support of the party's extreme right wing, he deliberately sought to distort the implications of this ideology. Second, Akintola made a number of important decisions regarding changes in tax rates, school fees, cocoa prices, and the like, without first consulting party officials. Third, he revealed disloyalty to the party by allegedly conspiring with others to dismiss the national leader, and also acted as a stooge to the NPC. He even urged the AG to terminate all political activities in the Northern and Eastern regions. Fourth, the party charged that Akintola, as premier of the Western Region, had, by wild spending of public funds, exhausted the reserves of the region and destroyed its formerly strong financial position. Akintola himself countered with the charge that Awolowo had insisted on being consulted on many day-to-day administrative problems, and thus had hampered his administration at every turn. The party decided to get rid of Akintola as premier of the Western Region. Because of the split in its ranks and because of its lack of funds, the AG fought shy of a general election in the Western Region. Instead of trying to obtain the passage of a no-confidence motion in the House of Assembly,


Foundations of the Government

the party persuaded the Governor of the region to dismiss Akintola on the evidence of affidavits, signed by more than 50 per cent of the Assembly's members, that they had lost confidence in him. Although the party thus avoided dissolution of the legislature, the Federal Supreme Court later ruled the Premier's dismissal invalid. Meanwhile, the AG had appointed another premier, and on May 25, 1962, when the House of Assembly met to debate a motion of confidence in him, the two factions clashed violently. The federal government, in an effort to prevent the conflict from spreading, declared a state of emergency in the Western Region and itself took over the regional government for a period of six months. The crisis is particularly significant because it gave the federal government an opportunity to show its strength as the inclusive and dominant power in the federation. It is worthy of note, however, that the federal decision to intervene had, in accordance with the principle of party supremacy, been influenced by Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr. M. I. Okpara, premiers of the Northern and Eastern regions and the leaders, respectively, of the parties in the NPC-NCNC coalition. The federal government's show of strength is therefore not so significant as it might seem. Presumably the NPC has come to exert a pervading influence in the federation, and to have more effect on the integration of the country than any other force. Shortly after the clash in the House of Assembly, the Action Group dismissed Akintola, who thereupon formed the United People's Party (UPP). Meanwhile the Prime Minister appointed a federal minister who is his personal friend and presumably has sympathy for the NPC as administrator of the Western Region. The administrator placed many of the leading politicians under restriction, and was accused of issuing the restriction orders in favor of Akintola's UPP. A few weeks later the Prime Minister appointed a commission to investigate the activities and the financial position of six major corporations and statutory boards in the region, including the Western Region Development Corporation. The administrator directed the National Bank, now a government bank, to sue the newspapers and the magazine owned by the AG for the recovery of overdrafts amounting to about £320,000. Influential people began to resign from the party, and, to bring matters to a climax, Akintola and his followers brought a court action against its national leaders, seeking an injunction to prevent them from spending party funds. It seems doubtful that the AG can survive the ordeal. As the NPC has only recently begun to establish branches outside the Northern Region, its organizational problem is simpler than that of the AG or the NCNC. Membership is open to individuals who are of northern Nigerian descent, irrespective of creed, rank, or tribe. Some of the tribal parties formed in various parts of the north have allied themselves with the

Political Parties


NPC. 15 The headquarters organization of the NPC is at Kaduna, the regional capital, and the party leader, who is premier of the region, also resides there; consequendy there have been no conflicts of authority between headquarters officers and those in the field. The party also has branch organizations. Supreme authority is vested in the annual convention, which has absolute power to decide major policies and to consider matters referred to it by the Executive Committee. The committee comprises all officers of the party congress, together with the president and the secretary of each branch, and administers the business and the offices of the party. To the Central Working Committee is entrusted the administration of party affairs, subject to the control of both the party and the Executive Committee. Finally, each province has a provincial committee, made up of the president and the secretary of every branch within the province and any officer of the central organization who hails from that province. Provincial committees have the functions of promoting mutual understanding among branches in a province, and of acting as coordinating agencies between central or regional bodies and branches. The NPC's informal organization includes the chieftaincy institution, the native authority system, and some quasi-public agencies. A common feature of the three major parties is the location of the headquarters organization, or the effective power, in the regional headquarters. This policy has had the unfortunate effect of focusing popular attention on the regions, and therefore of lessening allegiance to the nation as a whole. All three parties also rely on alliances, particularly in areas outside their home bases. For instance, during the campaign for the 1959 federal elections, the Action Group was allied with the UMBC and the BYM; the NPC, with the ITP and the Niger Delta Congress (NDC); and the NCNC, with the NEPU. These combinations are significant in that they reveal the difficulties of the major parties in getting established in communities consisting predominantly of different national groups. For the NPC the experience was novel, for before these elections it had never bothered about the votes of people outside the Northern Region. The ITU was the party's ally in the Middle Belt; the NEL and the NDC were its allies in the west and the east, respectively. Six candidates who won the elections at Ibadan as independents subsequently declared for the NPC. Branches of the party had existed before in both east and west, but they included only people of northern descent. 15 In practice some southerners, particularly Ibos, have taken out registration certificates in the NPC, less from a desire to participate actively in the work of the party than as insurance against discrimination by party officials or by the government of the Northern Region.


Foundations of the Government

The methods employed by the parties in raising funds are similar. The usual sources of income are registration fees, annual subscriptions, levies, donations, and the proceeds of social events such as concerts, dances, and bazaars. Both the AG and the NCNC expect ministers of state and other high-ranking party members in the public service to pay an annual levy of 10 per cent of their official earnings to the party. Because the organization of the AG has been tighter and its discipline stricter, its members usually pay these levies, whereas many NCNC members are delinquent. The parties spend enormous sums of money, particularly during elections, but it is extremely difficult to obtain documentation on the sources from which most of the money comes. It is known generally, however, that the AG and the NCNC borrow heavily from the National Bank and the African Continental Bank, respectively; the former was founded by AG supporters and sympathizers, and the latter was established by Azikiwe. The NPC now uses the Bank of the North, recently established in the same way. Each bank is the official banking organization for the regional government concerned, and carries heavy investments from it. Apparently the idea is that the party concerned finances the bank with government funds, and in turn borrows from the bank; it may be said, in other words, that the three parties are financed by public funds. Furthermore, there is a widespread belief in the country that public funds are also used to finance parties through the instrumentality of tenders' boards, composed of politicians who manipulate contract prices so as to ensure that some money is left over to be paid into the party coffers.


The three major parties have subscribed to a belief in the capitalist organization of society. All believe that the government should stimulate the development of trade and industry by such measures as granting tax holidays, imposing tariffs, and awarding concessions to large companies to establish plantation farms; where necessary, the government should take the lead directly by forming public companies and issuing government stock. All parties promise to establish a welfare state, and, in fact, NCNC leaders often declare that they are socialists, but a close study of the pronouncements and writings of politicians reveals that the welfare measures they have in mind are designed to pave the way for the smooth operation of a free enterprise system. An understanding of party policies rests on an analysis of policy statements in connection with the general election of 1959. By that time the parties had stabilized, and it was a crucial election which, it was hoped, would determine which set of leaders would inherit the mantle of authority

Political Parties


when Britain abdicated her power. Each party had appealed to the entire country, and had therefore promulgated an elaborate program. The main issues were foreign policy, defense, internal security, and domestic policy, the last being subdivided into economic development and social welfare, including education, health, and social security. The nature of federalism in Nigeria was itself an important issue. On the surface, some of the issues were irrelevant to the federal election, for they dealt with subjects outside federal competence, but their inclusion in political platforms was a manifestation of the parties' dissatisfaction with the existing form of federalism. On foreign policy, all parties agreed that Nigeria should remain in the Commonwealth of Nations and should seek admission to the United Nations; all favored friendship with the United States. Both the AG and the NCNC promised to work for a West African union, but the NPC, considering such a union premature, merely pledged itself to maintain friendly relations with other countries in West Africa (see relevant chapters below for full details on party policies). The problem of domestic policy was intertwined with the argument regarding the nature of federalism, which took two forms: (1) the territorial basis of the federation; and (2) the division of functions between federal and regional governments, and the consequent relationship between the two levels of government. The stand that party leaders took in the past, the views expressed by the Minorities Commission and by the Citizens' Committee for Independence, and changes in the position of each party have already been noted (see chap. v). In contrast to the views of the precapitalist parties is the Nigerian Labour Party's expression of its socialist faith: (1) the Nigerian people should own and control the productive and distributive resources of their country, and production must be centrally planned to ensure a continuous rise in the standard of living; and (2) the government should take over and operate all mines, and should cancel all mineral leases granted to foreign firms and companies.14


Programme and Constitution, Nigerian Labour Party (Yaba, n.d.), pp. 3-4.


In order that we may better appreciate the processes and the mechanisms adopted for bringing a national government into being, we shall in this chapter and the following one discuss the problems of citizenship and human rights and of the electorate and elections. Reference has already been made (see chap, iii) to the questions raised at the 1950 Constitutional Conference regarding the issue of citizenship, but, strictly speaking, the question at issue then was not citizenship, but the rights that a citizen of Nigeria might enjoy in different parts of the country. CITIZENSHIP

The law regarding citizenship in Nigeria is based partly on the principle of jus soli and partly on the principle of jus sanguinis. The former is the common-law principle that all persons born in Nigeria and owing allegiance to the country are Nigerian citizens. Under the second principle children of the citizens of Nigeria are themselves citizens regardless of the place of birth. Citizenship may be acquired by birth or by naturalization. Acquiring Citizenship by Birth

As of the date when Nigeria attained independence, all persons born in the country before that time became citizens if they had been citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies or British-protected persons; citizenship under this condition, however, was not accorded to a person if neither of his parents or none of his grandparents had been born in Nigeria. A person born outside the United Kingdom and Colonies or a British-protected person could become a Nigerian citizen if his father was born in Nigeria before independence and was himself a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, or was a British-protected person, or if the father had been such a citizen before his death or might have become such a citizen but for his death. The right of citizenship is accorded to all persons born in Nigeria after independence, but it is not granted to a person if at his birth neither of his parents was a Nigerian, if his father possessed diplomatic immunity, or if his father was an enemy alien and the birth occurred in a place occupied by the enemy. A person born outside Nigeria after independence may become


The Federal Government

a citizen if at his birth his father is a citizen of Nigeria. A variant method of acquiring citizenship by birth is the process of registration. For instance, a person born in Nigeria before independence, none of whose parents or grandparents was bora in Nigeria before independence, might become a citizen by registration if he applied before October 1, 1962, according to a procedure laid down by Parliament. If the person was under twenty-one years of age (except a woman who was or had been married), his parents or his guardian made the application on his behalf. A woman who before Nigerian independence was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies or a British-protected person, and who was or had been married, might acquire citizenship by registration if her husband had been born in Nigeria before independence and had become a citizen of the country afterward, or if he might have become a citizen of Nigeria had he not died in the meantime. A woman who was or had been married to a man who acquired citizenship by registration, and who was on the date of such registration a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies or a British-protected person, might herself acquire citizenship by registration. A woman might also become a citizen of Nigeria by registration if she was before independence a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies or a British-protected person and had been married to a man who died before independence, but might have been registered as a citizen of Nigeria if he had not died. A person who before independence had been naturalized or registered as a citizen of the colony might acquire citizenship by registration.1 A person who is a citizen of Nigeria and of another country must at the age of twenty-one years renounce his other citizenship, take the oath of allegiance, and declare his intention as to residence and employment; otherwise he ceases to be a citizen of Nigeria. If the law of the other country makes it impossible for him to renounce his other citizenship, he may make such a declaration concerning that citizenship as Parliament may prescribe. Acquiring Citizenship



An alien of full age and capacity may acquire Nigerian citizenship by naturalization if (1) he has resided in Nigeria for twelve months immediately preceding the date of his application, and for an aggregate of five years during the seven years immediately preceding the said period of twelve months; (2) he possesses adequate knowledge of a language in current use in Nigeria; (3) he is of good character; (4) he intends to reside permanently in Nigeria if he is naturalized; and (5) he takes the oath of allegiance and makes a declaration in writing of his willingness to renounce any other nationality or citizenship he may possess, or any claim to the protection of 1 Nigeria (Constitution) Order in Council, 1960, Second Schedule, Chap. II, sees. 7-11.

Citizenship and Human Rights


any other country.2 The conferral of citizenship is a function of the country as a whole; the regions may exercise no powers in this area. A person who has acquired citizenship as a Nigerian is automatically a citizen of every territory in Nigeria. Loss of


A person who acquired citizenship not by right of birth may be deprived of it if, while of full age and capacity, he acquires the nationality or citizenship of a foreign country by voluntary act other than marriage, or if he voluntarily claims or exercises the nationality or citizenship of a foreign country. A person may also be deprived of his citizenship if he claims or exercises by some overt act any rights available to him in a country outside the Commonwealth, or in a Commonwealth country that confers on its citizens rights not available to Commonwealth citizens generally. Furthermore, if it is not conducive to the public good that he should continue to be a citizen of Nigeria, he will be deprived of Nigerian citizenship. When appropriate, the minister in charge will first require the person to renounce the alien nationality or citizenship within a specified period, failing which the minister will proceed to deprive him of Nigerian citizenship. The minister may deprive a person of his citizenship if he had acquired it by registration, and it develops later that he obtained it by fraud, false representation, or concealment of a material fact. A naturalized citizen may lose his citizenship (1) if he shows himself by act or speech disloyal or disaffected toward the Queen or the government of Nigeria, or if he engages in subversive activities in Nigeria when the country is fighting a war or in peacetime; (2) if he has within seven years of naturalization been sentenced in any country to imprisonment for a term of not less than twelve months; (3) if he has been ordinarily resident in a foreign country or countries for a continuous period of seven years, and during that time has not registered annually at a Nigerian consulate, in the prescribed manner, his intention to retain his Nigerian citizenship; (4) if it is in the public interest that he be deprived of his citizenship; or (5) if he had been a citizen of the Commonwealth or of the Republic of Ireland and has lost such citizenship, and the minister thinks it is in the interest of public good that he also be deprived of his Nigerian citizenship. Position of Aliens

Aliens in Nigeria are subject to a number of restrictions. The government of the federation may pass laws requiring them to reside and remain within certain places or districts, or to comply with provisions as to registration, change of abode, and traveling. Aliens are also prohibited from carrying on 2

Ordinance Relating to Citizenship of Nigeria, 1960, N o . 43.


The Federal Government

or engaging in any trade or business (see chap, xvi for details). Other restrictions are designed to prevent aliens from landing in Nigeria by sea or air or crossing the land frontier. Power is conferred on certain public agencies for the arrest, detention, and search of aliens, and eventually for their deportation. Aliens are not permitted to vote in any elections or to hold public office except under special circumstances. THE RIGHTS OF THE CITIZEN

When campaigns for the federal elections in 1959 were getting fully under way, by about August and September, the leaders of the major political parties sent frantic appeals requesting the Governor-General to promulgate the Human Rights Bill so as to facilitate the campaign process. In October the Governor-General promulgated the bill, whose basic provisions are summarized below. Substantive Rights of Personal


The right to life is guaranteed to all Nigerians, for no one may be deprived of life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court, following due process of law. No one may be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Furthermore, freedom from involuntary servitude, slavery, and forced labor is guaranteed, although allowance is made for services of a military character, those exacted in emergencies or calamities threatening the life or the well-being of the community, and those that are part of normal communal obligations.3 Nobody may interfere with the right of any person to respect for his private and family life, his home, and his correspondence. A public authority may interfere with this right only in accordance with the law and in the interests of national security, public safety, or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, and for the protection of the rights of others. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the freedom to change his religion or belief and the freedom, either alone or in public or private, to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance. This freedom is subject to limitations prescribed by law for the protection of public safety and public order, health, or morality, or for the protection of the rights and freedom of others, including their freedom and rights to observe and practice their religion without unsolicited interference by the members of other religious groups. Further, no person attending any educational institution may be 3 Nigeria (Constitution) Order in Council, 1960, Second Schedule, Chap. Ill, sees. 17-20.

Citizenship and Human Rights


required to receive religious instruction or partake in any religious ceremony or attend religious worship against his own convictions. No religious community or denomination may be prevented from providing religious instruction for pupils of that community or denomination in any educational institution maintained wholly by that community or denomination. Only the demands of defense, public safety, and public order, health, or morality may necessitate breaches in this area. The rights and freedom here guaranteed may face their most severe test in parts of the Northern Region, where Christian missions experience difficulty in obtaining permission to build churches, whereas Moslems may set up their mosques anywhere they like. Permission is often refused to Christians in predominantly Moslem areas, and alternative sites are offered to them. Also, district heads often deliberately delay the process of granting land for the use of Christian instruction.4 Democratic government assumes the necessity for the people openly to express their opinions on public issues, to move about freely, to form associations, and to assemble whenever necessary. Consequently, the Bill of Rights grants to everyone the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authorities or other people. The exercise of these freedoms, however, is subject to conditions, restrictions, and penalties imposed by law in the general interest. Subject also to such limitations are the rights of peaceful assembly and of association with others, including the right to join trade or other unions, as well as the right to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part of it. It is stipulated, however, that the right of the citizen to reside where he likes in Nigeria does not carry with it a right to acquire land or other property. As already noted, no citizen of Nigeria may be deported from Nigeria.5 The 1960 Constitution provides that no property, movable or immovable, and no right over or interest in any such property may be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except under the provision of a law that (1) allows die payment of an adequate compensation for it, and (2) entitles the claimant for compensation to go to the High Court to have his interest in the property and ¿he amount of compensation determined. Stipulated excep4 Report of the Commission Appointed To Enquire into the Fears of Minorities and the Means of Allaying Them, Cmnd. 505 (London: H.M.S.O., 1958), pp. 64-65. 5 The 1960 Constitution seems to be silent as to whether or not the movements of a Nigerian citizen may be restricted in places outside the country. Before the promulgation of the Human Rights Bill, the federal government had denied a passport to a Nigerian on the ground that she intended to travel to the Communist bloc of nations to participate in Communist activities. The government explained that it was determined to prevent the infiltration of Communist ideas into Nigeria by preventing Nigerians from visiting Communist-controlled countries. Since independence several people have been granted permission to travel to Communist countries, and it would seem that such restrictions have been removed.


The Federal Government

tions provide, for instance, for the imposition of penalties or forfeitures for breaches of the laws, whether under civil process or after conviction for an offense. The enjoyment of these rights may not be curtailed by discrimination based on sex, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, or other status. Freedom from discriminatory legislation is also guaranteed, for no law enacted by any legislature in Nigeria, and no instrument or executive or administrative action of any government in Nigeria, may subject anyone to disabilities or restrictions of a discriminatory nature or confer special privileges or advantages on anyone. This provision does not obviate the need to prescribe qualifications for the public service, public corporations, the armed forces, or the police. Nor does it prevent the government of a region from imposing restrictions on persons from outside the region with regard to employment in its public service or public corporations or the acquisition of land in the region. Procedural

Rights of Personal


Nigeria has borrowed from English jurisprudence the axiom that a person charged with a criminal offense shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law. A person charged with a criminal offense has the following minimum rights: (1) to be informed promptly, in a language he understands and in detail, of the nature and the cause of the accusation against him; (2) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defense; (3) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing, except in cases where legal representation is not permitted in native and customary courts; (4) to examine or have examined witnesses against him, and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him; and (5) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court. Furthermore, in the determination of his civil rights and obligations, or of any criminal charge against him, a person is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent tribunal established by law. Judgment must be pronounced publicly, but the press and the public may be excluded from all or part of the trial if the interest of national security, public order, or morals demands it. It is provided, further, that all courts that try a person for a criminal offense shall keep a record of the proceedings and the judgment of the court, and that an accused person or any person duly authorized by him shall have the right to obtain copies of such records within a reasonable time, subject only to the payment of any fee prescribed by law. There is also a full guarantee against die use of ex post facto laws, for no person shall be held guilty

Citizenship and Human Rights


of any criminal offense on account of any act or omission that did not constitute a criminal offense under national or international law at the time it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time that the criminal offense was committed.6 No person who has been tried and convicted or acquitted for any criminal offense shall again be tried for that offense except on the order of a superior court. No one may be compelled to bear witness against himself, nor may a person be convicted of a criminal offense other than an offense defined by written law.7 The implications of some of these guarantees are far-reaching, and some of the provisions are therefore explained in detail. For instance, the privilege of a writ of habeas corpus is guaranteed in the provision that anyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him. Anyone arrested or detained shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power, and he shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by a guarantee to appear for trial. A person deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court, and his release ordered if necessary. If his arrest or detention is proved to be unlawful, then he shall have an enforceable right to compensation. The writ of habeas corpus is addressed by a court to the officer who has custody over the accused person, and directs that the "body" of the petitioner shall be brought into the court that will make determination regarding his detention. The privilege of the writ may be suspended in certain cases, such as the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision or for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority, the detention of people for quarantine purposes, and the detention of a person with a view to his deportation or extradition. From the appeal of the Nigerian leaders to the Governor-General in 1959 for the promulgation of the Human Rights Bill, one might get the impression that the people of Nigeria had all along been denied the rights concerned. This impression is not correct. Nigerian ideas about a modern democratic society derive in the main from political thought and institutions that developed in England, where civil liberty is embodied primarily in the common law. The law in operation in Nigeria is a mixture of native law, 6


Nigeria (Constitution) Order in Council, 1960, Second Schedule, Chap. Ill, sec.

7 The Constitutional Conference of 1958 agreed that this provision should become effective in the Northern Region only after the proposed revision of its criminal code along the lines of the Sudanese Criminal Code was carried out.


The Federal Government

Moslem law, and the English common law, which was transplanted to Nigeria under British administration. Civil liberties, although they had not been specifically provided for, existed before 1959. This is confirmed partly by the embodiment in the statute books of the limits that must be observed in the criticism of the government, the governor, or the adminisration of justice.8 The limits prescribed were probably narrower than those that obtain in the United Kingdom; in fact, in the old days, Nigerian politicians demanded repeal or amendment of some of them. It was a colonial situation, and the Nigerian nationalists' concept of the national interest and of the degree of allowance that should be made for it in the exercise of civil liberties necessarily differed from the British concept. After the civil rights bill was promulgated, however, there continued to be instances of flagrant abuse of the rights of the individual. In many parts of the country people were forcibly dragged from platforms when they were attempting to address rallies; permits to speak were arbitrarily denied to members of the opposing party; thugs were hired and freely used to break up lawful assemblies; and poor illiterate people were openly terrorized into voting for candidates sponsored by one or another of the major political parties. The difficulty stems partly from the nature of Nigerian society, and partly from the Nigerian concept of individual liberty. Nigerian society is heterogeneous in that (1) only a handful of the people are educated, while the great majority are illiterate; (2) the gap between the rich (the political and professional elite) and the poor is too wide; (3) the geographical configuration of the land is broadly coterminous with the sociological distribution of the people, and there exists an acute communal competition among the national groups for political supremacy; and (4) to most Nigerians the idea of casting votes to elect representatives is not only new but incomprehensible. Moreover, the society is tradition-directed, and such forces as age grades, clan or tribal unions, and religious concepts and rituals exert a conformist influence on the individual. The group is the important entity, and the individual counts for little; among the great mass of the people there is usually little feeling of compunction if the individual's interests or rights are sacrificed for what is assumed to be the interest of the community. For instance, the forces of ignorance and poverty combine to place many individuals at the mercy of the few enlightened and rich people, who offer them money or make thugs out of them for their selfish interests; it is hired thugs who break up political rallies and engage in other activities that curtail the rights of speech, association, and assembly. The willingness of clan or tribal groups to ostracize their members or in other ways inflict social and eco8

Laws of Nigeria, 1948, Chap. VII, secs. 50-52.

Citizenship and Human Rights


nomic punishment upon them in the effort to proselytize for tribally based political parties tends also to deprive individuals of their civil liberties. As long as these institutional difficulties exist, they will set the actual limits to the individual's enjoyment of civil rights. Moslem law is another source of limitations on the individual's right to enjoy the fundamental freedoms guaranteed, particularly the procedural liberties. Not all people are equal before Moslem law, because (1) it makes a distinction between Moslems and non-Moslems, and (2) it places differential values on evidence given in court on the basis of sex and religion. The evidence of a male Moslem is of greater value than that of a female Moslem; that of a Moslem has greater value than a Christian's; and the evidence of a pagan is lowest on the scale of preferences.9 Further, under the tradition of Moslem law arising from the prerogative of the ruler, the penalty for criticizing a ruler is unlimited.10 Another source of trouble, though not so deeprooted as those already mentioned, is the menace of the "charge and bail" people. An accused person may be bailed if he is of high status, or if a person of high status offers to bail him. Otherwise, the court clerk insists that the bailing arrangements be made through professional bailsmen, popularly known as "charge and bail" men, who are paid a commission for undertaking the function. The view is prevalent that the bailsmen are in league with court clerks, who share with them the commissions collected. In the final analysis, the fee for bailing is higher for a poor man than for a rich man.

9 The Federal Supreme Court has ruled that only one system of criminal law may prevail in any given area of the country. As the Willi nk Commission noted, the effect of die ruling is that Christians and pagans are likely to be tried under a system of law which does not in theory recognize the validity of their oaths or the value of their evidence. 10 It is true that the government of the Northern Region has taken a number of steps to modernize the region's institutional framework, but the attitudes that developed in response to the old order will remain for some time.



The procedure for electing people to legislatures is novel to Nigerians; it is associated with pomp and ceremony, with strife and rowdiness. Before analyzing this procedure, however, it is necessary to discuss the electorate itself. The franchise was given for the first time to the people of Lagos and Calabar after the 1922 Constitution granted elected representation to the two towns. Only adult males who were British subjects or natives of the protectorate, and who possessed a residence qualification of twelve months and a gross annual income of £ 1 0 0 , could vote.1 Anyone who had been sentenced by a competent British court for a crime punishable by death, hard labor, or more than one year's imprisonment, or who was of unsound mind, was disqualified. A registered voter was eligible to be elected to the Legislative Council provided that he was not an undischarged bankrupt, had not within five years before the election received charitable relief in Nigeria from any public source, or was not being paid a salary out of public revenues. Under the specified conditions most of the residents of Lagos and Calabar were not eligible to vote; in Lagos only 3,000 out of 40,000 adult male Africans were eligible, and in Calabar only 1,000 out of 10,000 were eligible.2 In his Political Blueprint of Nigeria, published in 1943, Nnamdi Azikiwe advocated the adoption of universal adult suffrage in Nigeria, and in 1946 the Ibo Union passed a resolution favoring the enfranchisement of women.3 When, in connection with the Richards Constitution, the government considered extension of the franchise to people outside Lagos and Calabar, it adopted provisions that in effect gave it the power to determine the course of elections. The 1946 order in council relating to the election of representatives to the Legislative Council stipulated that laws might be passed regulating (1) the qualifications of voters; (2) the registration of voters; (3) the ascertainment of the qualifications of voters and candidates; (4) the 1

The Richards Constitution reduced this amount to £ 5 0 . Joan Wheare, The Nigerian Legislative Council (London: Faber and Faber, 1950), pp. 38-39, 55-56. 3 Ibid., p. 56. 2

The Electorate and Elections


holding of elections; (5) offenses in connection with elections, including the trial and punishment of offenders; and (6) the disposal of petitions, and the determination of other questions arising in regard to membership on the council. Until such provision had been made, the governor could by proclamation regulate the aforesaid matters, and could add to, amend, or revoke the 1941 regulations and amendment for the registration of electors for elections to the Nigerian Legislative Council; subject to his proclamation, the said regulations and amendment were to remain in force.4 The native authorities were empowered to select the provincial members of the houses of assembly. In other words, in the move to extend the franchise, it was not the individual who was given the vote, but a corporate body. The procedure was described by Obafemi Awolowo: "What would happen is that the Resident who is the only common factor to all the Native Authorities in a Province would make die selection from a long list of names submitted by the various Native Authorities. This is the practice in vogue now, and this is exactly what is implied in the unintelligible and impossible procedure laid down in the White Paper." s The electoral provisions in the 1951 Constitution reflected both this distrust of the individual Nigerian to use the vote intelligently, and a desire to make the federation as tight as possible by fusing regional and national political institutions. No important changes were made in the electoral law until 1958, except that in 1954 the Eastern Region detached the tax qualification from the right to vote and the electoral colleges were abolished in both the Eastern and Western regions. In other words, by 1954 most easterners had been enfranchised, relatively fewer westerners had been given the vote, and still fewer northerners had been made eligible to vote. In 1958 universal adult suffrage was adopted for the whole country, to take effect in 1959, except that in the Northern Region the franchise was still denied to women.' Since 1960, when the country attained independence, electors must be Nigerian citizens. The vote is denied to anybody who (1) owes allegiance to a foreign power or state; (2) has been sentenced by a court in Nigeria to death or to imprisonment for a term exceeding six months and has not suffered the punishment to which he was sentenced, or such other * Nigeria (Legislative Council) Order in Council, 1946, No. 1370, Part VI, Chap. LVI. 5 Obafemi Awolowo, Path to Nigerian Freedom (London: Faber and Faber, 1947), p. 128. 6 NPC leaders argue that the participation of women in politics is not in conformity with the tenets of the Moslem religion. As the NPC, however, has a women's wing, it would seem that an overture made to it by other parties on the issue of giving women the vote was based, not on the religious argument, but on the need to accommodate the views of leading politicians, thus ensuring gradual but steady growth of the federation.


The Federal Government

punishment as may have been substituted by competent authority, or received a free pardon. (3) is a lunatic or of unsound mind; or (4) is disqualified in accordance vith any laws relating to corrupt practices at elections. Voting by proxy is not permitted, nor may a person vote more than once in the same election. ADMINISTRATION OF ELECTIONS

The administration of elections, including the preparation of a register of voters, is vested in an electoral commission whose members are appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister.7 The prime minister himself consults the regional premiers before tendering his advice. Each constituency has an electoral officer, a registration officer, a returning officer, and polling officers, and in each a register of persons eligible to vote is prepared and maintained. Each constituency is divided into registration areas of 500 people each, which are spaced so that an elector does not have to walk more than three miles from his home to register. A person who wishes to register does so where he is ordinarily resident, or in the place that he regards as his home. NOMINATIONS

Every candidate must be nominated by two persons whose names are in the register of electors for the constituency where he wishes to contest the elections. A candidate may contest an election in any constituency where his candidature is accepted. A nomination form must be filled in, giving (1) name, address, and occupation of the candidate; (2) names, addresses, and occupations of the nominators of the candidate; (3) a statement on the candidate's willingness and qualifications to stand for election; and (4) the candidate's symbol. Each candidate must deposit a sum of