Haunted by fear of the truth

Where did Nigeria take the wrong turn and what is the root of its problems? These were questions Justice Chukwudifu Oputa in chapter one of his report threw open to Nigerians of good conscience. This I believe was the challenge Chief Olanihun Ajayi wanted to address with his This House of Oduduwa Must not Fall which traced the root cause of our problem to the conspiracy of Britain who in an effort to protect her neo-colonial interest in Nigeria, encouraged and actively aided our northern ruling elite to commit treachery in terms of election rigging, census figure manipulation, subjugation of the people of southern Nigeria especially the Yoruba and cornering of disproportionate share of the nation’s revenue. He presented facts to support his central thesis.

Lord Lugard didn’t need to pretend he was in Nigeria to protect British interest. As he explained: “my African friends often say to me when we are discussing the past acts of Britain, I always tell them ‘yes’, but it was all done in the interest of Britain not of Africa”. Ahmadu Bello rather than deny Britain aided the north to hold the nation hostage, explained on page 33 of his book, My Life: The Sadauna of Sokoto that “The British were the instrument of destiny and were fulfilling the will of God in the way they did it all”.

Driven only by her selfish interest, Britain acceded to the north’s 1951 three-point demand: 50% of membership of the Legislative Council as against 25 for each of the regions, revenue allocation based on per capita and retaining the boundaries especially between the north and west, thus making those who took backstage in the decolonization battle and did not participate in the administration of Nigeria until 1947 ‘winners takes all’.

Although most of census figures up till 1951 were based on assumptions, but the battle was drawn with both north and south attempting to influence the outcome of the 1962 census exercise. With the rejection of the 1962 figures by northern leaders, a new census held in 1963 discovered additional 8.5 million people in the north bringing the northern population to 31m.

What we therefore had at independence was “a federation of three regions where initiative, according to Robin Luckman, author of The Nigerian Military, ‘lies with one of the regions’ because the British government believed it would protect its own future interest in Nigeria”.

To support the claim that the 1959 election was rigged in favour of the north, Ajayi refers us to the testimony of Harold Smith, one of the young Oxford graduates recruited from England in 1955 who attributed his dismissal to his confrontation with the Governor-General over the role of senior British bureaucrats mandated to support some parties during the election.

To Ajayi, Robertson’s decision to call on Balewa to form the government on December 15, 1959 with voting returns showing that NPC was trailing the two other parties by 116 to 150, a decision that rendered the final result of NPC 150 seats to the other two parties’ 162 seats and independent 8, that came later on December 19, just ‘a force majeure’.

To support his claim of conspiracy against the West, Ajayi cited the April 1961 meeting attended by Akintola, where Sardauna, Balewa and Okpara mooted the idea of a preventive detention system in the country. This became handy on May 29, 1962 when Balewa declared state of emergency in the West, went on to illegally inaugurate the Coker Commission of Inquiry to look into the operations of Western Region corporations. In case that failed, Balewa also inaugurated treasonable felony probe which later jailed Awo and his supporters. If Ajayi needed further evidence to support his hypothesis, Trevor Clark’s claims that “Ahmadu Bello saw an opportunity to do in Awolowo, while the NCNC saw an opportunity to destroy AG and Western Region” provided that. (seeTrevor Clark: Balewa the Right Honourable Man, pages (550-554).

Ajayi argued that the June 12, 1993 debacle during which Babangida annulled the election won by MKO Abiola by 8,342,309 to Tofa’s 5,952,087, was part of the grand design by the north to hold on to power or impose their minions in power as they had done from Balewa to Babangida.

In this regard, Shehu Shagari’s arrogant response when MKO Abiola who had worked against the interest of the West to please the north went to ask for his blessing over his presidential ambition was instructive.

“Well, chief you know it is all in the natural order of things. A country is just like a farm where everyone has his functions. Allah has willed that someone must hold the cow by the horns while another does the milking”.

Ajayi also called our attention to Babangida’s claim that he annulled the election because of northern emirs’ opposition to Abiola; Omo Omoruyi’s claim that northern leaders brought in Britain, the US and the UN to persuade Abiola to forgo his mandate to no avail and finally Omoruyi’s encounter with British Sir Christopher Macrae who spoke of his efforts to persuade northern emirs to accept results of the election even though the preference of Britain would have been a northerner and not MKO Abiola in whom less was known.

Unable to confront facts as presented by Ajayi, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the immediate past emir of Kano, queried the type of love, Britain whose official policy was to deny education to northerners to prevent incubating ‘progressive Muslim intellectuals of the type we have in Egypt’ had for the north.

Haunted by the truth, Lamido Sanusi accused Ajayi of speaking the language of 1959 in 2009, adding that his grandfather was a northerner while he is a Nigerian. But Sanusi knows that Nigeria was built on fraud in 1951, as Ajayi has pointed out, and watered by injustice through military decrees foisted on the nation as the constitution is obviously not working for federating nationalities currently campaigning for self-actualization in absence of restructuring or a return to the 1963 constitution.

Still playing the ostrich, Sanusi said we should stop talking of rigged 1959 election because Obasanjo also rigged election of 2003. He conveniently ignored Obasanjo was an imposition of ‘the owners of Nigeria’ who by his actions demonstrated he was on a mission to destroy the remaining legacies put in place by Yoruba visionaries of the First Republic which survived his centralization policies of 1975-79.

He undermined the credibility of our leaders whose quest for restructuring he exploited, marginalized Yoruba for eight years by abandoning Lagos-Ibadan, Apapa-Oshodi , Lagos- Abeokuta and Lagos-Badagry expressways as well as the international road to the airport. On the political front, he replaced progressive AD governors with touts who traded college of medicine for poultry farms, physically assaulted judges and lawmakers whose legislative chambers were put under lock and key in Ekiti and Ogun states. Lagos that resisted his take-over attempt had its LGA federal allocations withheld.

I think ostrich-playing Sanusi is haunted by fear of the truth. To return to the “path to Nigerian freedom” never taken, we must be ready to confront a past that begets Sanusi’s contemporary Nigeria that works only for her designers and their offspring, those integrated into the hegemonic ruling class, through politics and therefore served other tendencies while in power; through business connections such as the oil-well allocation beneficiaries and through marriages especially among the conquered Hausas.

If tomorrow is but a summation of today and yesterday, Ajayi’s book is but a call to redesign ours just as other tribes in Europe did after the Second World War and India after the exit of Britain.

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