Why We Should Split Nigeria Now

Why We Should Split Nigeria Now

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 1:57 pm


Damola Awoyokun

Ahmadu Bello (Sardauna of Sokoto) and Obafemi Awolowo used to be good friends. They visited each other a lot and Sardauna was very keen to implement Awolowo’s policies only if he told him before hand. Once NPC won the December 1951 Northern regional elections, it was AG which had won two months earlier that it congratulated and extended alliance to  the Central House slated to open in February 1952.  The North was never interested in partnering with Zik, NCNC, or the Igbos. While Zik and the Eastern Region were embroiled over Prof Eyo Ita and the six sit tight ministers, Awolowo and Sardauna continued to strengthen their alliance. The first branch of AG outside the Western Region was formed in Kano on 4 October 1952. Awolowo assured the jittery Northern rulers that the move was not a threat and he went on to deliver several lectures on federalism  in which he did not criticise Northern leadership at all. Arriving in Kaduna, together with Alhaji S.O. Gbadamosi and Alfred Rewane, he went to see his new friend, the Sardauna.

When Wazirin Bornu, Mallam Ibrahim Imam, who was both General Secretary of NPC and the member from Bornu province introduced a Decency Bill which would make wearing clothes compulsory in the North, the colonial civil secretary, who was also the president (speaker) of the Northern House shot it down. On hearing this, Awolowo at the next sitting of the Central House in Lagos raised it as a motion of national importance. The Daily Times of 23 March 1953 reported Awolowo saying on the floor of the House: “The British ought to be ashamed of themselves because people still go naked after sixty years of their rule.” Since then he made sure he asked for trainloads of clothes in the South to distribute anytime he was going up North.

Nigeria's founding fathers, Awo, Zik, Ahmadu Bello

Nigeria’s founding fathers, Awo, Zik, Ahmadu Bello

When the embattled leader of Eastern House, Prof Ita whom Zik wanted out at all cost arrived in Lagos for the opening of the Central House in 1953, he went to seek help from Awolowo who then took him to see Sardauna. They jointly condemned Zik’s role in the crisis. Immediately Ozumba Mbadiwe rose to defend Zik and the NCNC on the floor of the House, most members of the AG and NPC walked out in unison. The North and West partnership was indeed strong.

Then came the blow.

During Awolowo’s October 1952 trip to the North, Sardauna told Awolowo that he was a man of enormous power and prestige in the eyes of his people because of his illustrious ancestry. There were a lot of things which the West was doing that were worthy of emulation. But these things were brought to his notice via newspaper reports. His people seized on the news and demanded the same things. Daily Times of 7 April 1953 on page 7 reported Sardauna saying: “They become unduly embarrassed because they were forced into the position of copyists or imitators.”  That a man of his stature appeared to be a copycat in the eyes of his followers was disrespectful and demeaning. To buttress his point, Sardauna mentioned the West’s scholarship scheme which when the news came some Northerners agitated for the same scheme too. Sardauna stated further: whereas if Awolowo had taken him into confidence he would adopt them and initiate them simultaneously with the West. And if it was a policy they do not want at all, they would still support them for the West alone should the approval of the Central Government be needed. Awolowo sat stone-faced wondering whether he was listening to intellectual theft or fundamentals of collective nation building. Sardauna then concluded that both should set up a machinery where there would be regular consultation. At the previous sitting in Lagos, Sardauna announced to the country that: “The North is like a horse, if you are gentle with it, it will carry you far.” But Awolowo was not interested in partnership of horse riding; human dignity counted more than anything to him. In responding to Sardauna’s proposal, Awolowo said for any collaboration to be “permanent and effective”, there must be identity of outlook on some fundamental principles and objectives. “The British rule in Nigeria, like any foreign rule, was unnatural, unjust and inherently incompetent. It should therefore be terminated not later than 1956.”

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One Comment

  • Omotaye Omobosede says:

    Going by global events since at least 1991, the article’s premise is sound: nation states, being plastic, break irreparably! Whether Nigeria should split into pieces at this point is a question that is best answered after exhaustive analyses and not a priori. In that regard, we should thank Damola Awoyokun for offering us a historical understanding of the problem. But because the future does not always repeat either the past or the present, I, Omotaye Omobosede, will like to urge that we stand on the Awolowo side of the equation and not seek a break up but create a system of coexistence that works because it recognizes difference. Difference cannot be abolished. We can only manage it. As they say in Yorùbá, that two individuals were nurtured by the same uterus does not entail their liking one another (abíniléni kò pé ká fẹ́ràn ara ẹni). The system of accommodating difference that allowed Oshodi Tapa to thrive in Lagos appeals to me a lot.

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