From the desk of the Editor in Chief
Someone said, “Fulani is Yoruba’s number one enemy and that the British handed over Nigeria to them.”
Hearing statements like this can be very disheartening. Did even the British hand Nigeria to the Fulani? No. It is not the truth. The British did not hand over Nigeria to the Fulani.
A quick journey back in time will bring to mind the motions at that time which led to the formation of this entity called Nigeria.
The request for self-government had already been sounding across the land. The British and its stakeholders were already shaken at the thought of leaving a colony from where so many precious materials were sourced. Nigerian politicians, passionate about the goal of self-determination were finalising processes to bring down the Union Jack. Parliamentary elections were held in Nigeria on 12 December 1959. The result was a hung parliament with no clear majority to form a government. Zik’s National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC), came first with 2,594,577 votes to get 81 seats. Awolowo’s Action Group (AG), came second with 1,992,364 votes to get 73 seats. However, the Ahmadu Bello’s Northern People’s Congress (NPC), came a distant third with 1,922,179 votes to get 134 of the 312 seats in the House of Representatives despite getting fewer public votes. The three major political parties did not get enough seats to form a government. An alliance had to be formed to determine who would rule. It was a no-brainer that Zik’s NCNC and Awolowo’s Action Group should make a coalition government as they came first and second respectively. Awolowo humbled himself and volunteered to be a Deputy Prime Minister or Finance Minister in a coalition government with Zik as the Prime Minister. This was because Zik’s NCNC party had more public votes and seats than Awolowo’s Action Group.
Zik invited Awolowo’s team to Asaba, the gateway between the Yoruba’s Western Region and the Igbo’s Eastern Region, to hold coalition talks. The talks were a clever ruse to keep Action Group’s hopes high, so that Action Group would be kept distracted from meeting with other minor parties for talks, including Northern Elements Progressive Union which had 8 seats; Mobolaje Grand Alliance with 6 seats; Igala Union with 4 seats; Independents Candidates with 4 seats; Igbira Tribal Union with 4 seats, and the Niger Delta Congress with 1 seat. Whilst the Action Group team was waiting in Asaba for a meeting with the NCNC, they read in the news that Zik and the NCNC had gone up North and clinched the deal with Ahmadu Bello on forming a coalition government with the NPC. Tafawa Balewa, a Fulani, would be the Prime Minister of Nigeria while Zik would be the figurehead Governor-General. Even Nkrumah of Ghana was shocked. He asked Zik why having spent so much energy fighting for colonial emancipation and then settling for a toothless bulldog role when Nigeria needed him the most.
Zik wrote in his autobiography why he did not form a coalition government with Awolowo. In 1947, with over £13,500 raised from the Yoruba people and given to the NCNC, Zik had led other six prominent NCNC delegates to London to protest the “obnoxious laws” of Governor Arthur Richards. The trip failed with backbiting, abuses, and accusation of theft against Zik. Zik’s opponents at the NCNC accused him of squandering the money and the trust of Nigerians. Zik replied insinuating that the Yorubas on the team, such as Mrs. Fumilayo Ransome-Kuti, Prince Adeleke Adedoyin, and Dr. A. B. Olorunnimbe, were the problem. There erupted a heated and prolonged press war between Zik’s Political Reminiscence in his West African Pilot and H.O. Davies’ Political Panorama in the Daily Service. This led to the Igbos in Lagos rushing to buy machetes in large numbers thinking a tribal war was imminent. The Governor and his General Secretary, Hugh Foot, quickly called Zik and H.O. Davies to order at the Government House. Zik went away with the resolve that “the Yoruba must not be allowed to rule over others in Nigeria”. And afterward, the Daily Service published the speech of Zik in 1949 about the Igbo being destined by God to conquer and rule over others. This among others will explain why Zik rejected Awolowo’s offer of a coalition government in 1959 and instead worked with the Fulani. The Fulani had been reading Zik and the Igbo through the lens of his 1949 speech ever since. The Fulani’s way of neutralising Zik when the opportunity came in 1959 was to offer him a powerless post, which surprisingly Zik and the NCNC dutifully accepted in place of being Nigeria’s first Prime Minister. Zik had thought that the Igbo can easily manipulate the Fulani in place of the educated Yoruba. He thus manipulated Balewa to arrest Awolowo in 1962 and to have him jailed for 10 years in 1963. Zik also manipulated Balewa to remove from the Western Region the Edo, Urhobo, Itsekiri, and Western Ijaw that account for 70% of the oil wealth in Nigeria and created for them the Mid-West Region. Zik’s hatred for the Yoruba gave the Fulani the impetus to rule over others in Nigeria.
The Igbo coup plotters tried to undo Zik’s mistake in 1966. And unfortunately, they killed other tribes and left theirs, which resulted in the civil war. Britain did not hand over Nigeria to the Fulani. Nigeria was given over to the Fulani by the Igbo. However, to hold on to power in Nigeria, the Fulani enlisted the backing of the self-serving career politicians in England. Not many Igbo especially the young ones know this narrative. I don’t think the Yorubas, even their elders, remember this. So, when the statement is erroneously propagated that the British gave Nigeria to the Fulanis, history should be consulted to put error mongers to rest.
The Nigerian situation is not a hopeless one. How far we have come is only a little compared to how much more further we can go. When we consult history it should be to learn and never to repeat the same mistakes. And, when we look ahead into the future, our task is to find creative and sustainable ways to keep this great nation one and indivisible. Let’s hold our destiny in our hands.