Historical Perspectives On The South-South, South-East Question Under APC | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Historical Perspectives On The South-South, South-East Question Under APC

Posted: Jul 8, 2015 at 1:25 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By David Odama  –   Abuja


In 1914, the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, were amalgamated, and ruled by one Governor-General, Lord Lugard. The Legislative Council of the Colony was restricted to making laws for the Colony alone, whilst the Governor-General made laws for the whole country.

In 1946, Governor Arthur Richards promulgated a new Constitution which came into effect on 1st January, 1946. Prior to this Nigeria had been divided into three Regions in 1939, the Northern, Western and Eastern Regions. The following features of the 1946 Constitution are worthy of note.

The new Council was composed of the Governor as President, 16 officials and 28 unofficials (the latter including the four elected persons). This meant that for the first time the non-officials were more in member than the officials.

The majority of the non-officials were elected or nominated by the Regional Legislatures which the 1946 Constitution also brought into being. This meant that the unofficial majority were not subject to the Governor’s control.

The Regional Houses were not competent to legislate, even for their own Regions. They could only consider bills affecting their regions, and make recommendations or pass resolutions for the central legislature in Lagos to consider. It was the latter only that could pass legalisation.

The 1951 Constitution was the one that really introduced fundamental changes into the Imperial/Native relationship and the relationship between the Native Nigerian groups themselves.

As the 1951 Constitution came into being after an unprecedented process of consultation with the peoples of Nigeria as a whole and in accordance with the directives of the Legislative Council, meetings and consultations were held at (a) village (b) district (c) divisional (d) and provincial levels before the (e) regional and finally (f) the national conference where the reports of each region from village to the regional level were then submitted to the Legislative Council. On 9 January, 1950, a General Conference of representatives from all parts of Nigeria started meeting in Ibadan to map out the future system of Government in Nigeria with the recommendation of the Regional Conference as the working documents.

The General Conference was composed of 25 unofficial members drawn from the earlier regional conferences as representatives of the three regions, 25 unofficial members from the Northern Legislative Council, 3 official members and the non-voting Chairman who was the Attorney-General of Nigeria.

The Conference rose on 29 January, 1950, with recommendations which were accepted and implemented by the Governor of Nigeria.

The new Constitution represented a major advance on the existing state of legislative competence of Nigerians by (i) introducing elected majorities in the Central Legislature and (ii) in the Regional Houses of Assembly (iii) endowing the Legislative Houses with independent legislative power in many areas of state activity (iv) and establishing a Federal System for Nigeria for the first time.

The elected majorities in each Regional House were as follows: North – elected 90, non elected -14, West – elected 80, non-elected – 7, East – elected 80, non-elected 8.

The modes of election were a combination between direct and indirect elections. The Central Legislature had 136 elected members and 13 nominated members. Of these, 68 were from the North and 34 each were from the East and West. The representatives of the Regions in the Central Legislature were elected by the Regional Legislatures from amongst themselves.

This marked the first formal introduction of Federalism into Nigeria. Thus the Conference noted that: “We have no doubt at all that the process already given constitutional sanction, and fully justified by experience, of devolution of authority from the Centre to the Regions should be carried much further so that a Federal System of Government can be developed.” And that:

The General Conference was of the view that over-centralisation would be a grave error “in this vast country with its widely differing conditions and needs”, and that the policy which had received enthusiastic support throughout the country was the policy of achieving unity at the Centre through strength in the Regions.

In 1954, there was, for the first time, direct elections into the Federal Legislature. In 1958, all modes of indirect elections were abolished and throughout Nigeria, all elections from then on were by direct polls.

From the very brief account given of the background of the establishment of the State called Nigeria, the following inferences are irresistible. It is an irony that in the enlightened age of the 21st century, when the right of self-determination and freedom from colonialism has been proclaimed and established, the All Progressive Congress APC CV leadership intellectuals are advocating the everlasting legitimacy of British colonial legacy for Nigerian Communities.

There are various national or ethnical groups in the country. Ten such main groups were recorded during the 1931 census as follows: (1) Hausa, (2) Ibo, (3) Yoruba, (4) Fulani, (5) Kanuri, (6) Ibibio, (7) Munshi or Tiv, (8) Edo, (9) Nupe, and (10) Ijaw. According to Nigerian Handbook, eleventh edition, ‘there are also a great number of other small tribes too numerous to mention separately, whose combined total population amounts to 4,683,044.

As Wheare put it, “the fundamental and distinguishing characteristic of a federal system is that neither the central nor the regional governments are subordinate to each other, but rather, the two are co-ordinate and independent.” In short, in a federal system, there is no hierarchy of authorities, with the central government sitting on top of the others. All governments have a horizontal relationship with each other.

The power sharing arrangement should not place such a preponderance of power in the hands of regional government to make it so powerful that it is able to bend the will of the others to its own.

The present system of administration in Nigeria as it is today presupposes that the national and regional governments should stand to each other in a relation of meaningful independence resting upon a balanced division of powers and resources. Each must have powers to support the structure of a functioning government, able to stand on its own against the other.

From the separate and autonomous existence of each government and the plenary character of its powers within the sphere assigned to it, by the constitution, flows the doctrine that the exercise of these powers is not to be impeded, obstructed or otherwise interfered with by the other government, acting within its powers.

Under the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions which emphasised the existence of separation of power and autonomous independence among the components of government are worth note that each  of the arms of government had its own separate  functions that should be devoid of interference.

On the other hand, since it agreed that Nigeria should have an ‘effective Federal Government’, it is vital that the  South- South /south East should have  representation in the present  leadership positions in the National Assembly as currently being constituted while the legislature be given its independence devoid of interference by the rulling party.

It is clearly seen that the future of this country lies in only one direction – true federalism, together with fiscal federalism, all inclusive-government and equal representation.

Thus some agitators in the country have insisted that like the American in 1787, in order to form a more perfect working atmosphere, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity as Nigerians of various nationalities, culture, historical, economic and social background all the segments should be considered and taking along in the present power sharing formula.