Zik and Awo


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Zik and Awo: More Myopia Than Foresight




Chukwuemeka Uche Onuora




Yesterday, I came across a piece on the NaijaPolitics discussion group that prompted me to do something that I have promised never to do or to do only on the pain of death. Analyzing Nigerian issues from what could be construed as a purely ethnic perspective. I realize the folly in such a task, the room for accusations of ethnic "gentrification" and chauvinism lurk on the fringes of my estimations. However, I feel that I am permitted perhaps one pass to err on the side of human caution, and as such I will overlook the red card that my refereeing instinct seems to be waving frantically in my face. This is a task that I embark upon well aware of the room for harm, bodily and otherwise, most especially when it entails quite a generous helping of iconoclasm vis-à-vis those whom we have been told in our various localities and communities growing up that we couldn't critique, however well-intentioned. And even if such "critique" was bursting to be acknowledged, not do so in public, especially when the giants in question were both old enough to be my grandfathers, indeed with a few more years of leeway, my great-grandfathers.

Respect is a very big thing for us in Africa, though you wouldn't know it by a cursory appraisal of the issues as they stand in the house that those titans attempted to build, but that is an issue for another day or the private discussions and lamentations of my personal acquaintances, when we will sit back each with a cold bottle of star, and a hot bowl of pepper-soup, and bemoan the fate of our society. Ahhh, star! Sorry where was I? Anyway, in this case it goes beyond pure respect, such that Zik and Awo evoke in succeeding generations, equal doses of reverence and awe-inspired deference, to the point that I can remember an anecdote from an elderly relative in my village that was offered on one of the many trips that I took there as a child. It was offered with such convincing diktat that I bought it hook line and sinker until I was old enough to question and understand and appreciate the temperament that might have prompted the elder to offer it. I won't go into the details of the anecdote, suffice to say that amongst allegations of interacting and operating on both the natural and supernatural planes, both gentlemen were believed to evoke the same fear and reverence in our world as in the "otherworld", you know the one to which I am referring.

Given the stature and towering profiles of both men, who are we to question the logic and passion that such reverence conveys? Or even question the veracity of such a belief? I sometimes catch myself paying dues to both men that totally overcome my dispassionate thinking cap in analyzing their legacies. But while I am willing to give each man his due, even after paying them such due respect, I feel that those two learned gentlemen still owe me some change. It is that "debt" that I will attempt to explain here. A young radical like me takes such unspoken rules of unconditional "respect" with no room for 20/20 hindsight analysis, as a red flag, waiting and deserving of being bored into.

Perhaps we are insane to make such prognostications; perhaps we are the myopic ones in expecting more out of those old warhorses; but the fact that I know that each possessed within him a boundless sense of optimism and pragmatism (you can accord the latter and former to both of them in degrees that match your estimations and opinions) and a seasoned intellectual temperament to boot, causes me to look back and somewhat rebuke them for what they couldn't accomplish, instead of worshiping what they were able to accomplish. Perhaps their own achievements set the bar of expectation so high, that we would rebuke them no matter what they were able to achieve. I really honestly do not know. But I do know that ultimately, Nigeria would have been better off if those two could have seen the strategic picture, rather than excelled at the tactical nuances of their hotly contested rivalry. We impartial observers of Eventus Nigeriana, from the esteemed land of the dancing spirits, owe ourselves and our progeny the double indemnity of demanding the balance of our dues payment from both Zik and Awo. If I err in the process, please believe that it is human, and that to forgive me is divine. I reproduce below the entire text, albeit modified, of my response to the piece that sparked it all off. Enjoy the thoughts.

Oga Osita,


I have been following your discussions on the Zik-Awo issue, albeit with a somewhat lukewarm disposition, because I realize that both sides will stick to their guns no matter what arguments are ultimately posited. The nature of the issue itself - as it relates to a discussion of Zik vs. Awo - is such that very few people will be able to look at it dispassionately and without any sense of bias. The question then becomes whether the argument is necessary in the first place, given its penchant for divisiveness, which is further exacerbated by the sometimes ethnically polarized nature of Eventus Nigeriana, especially on this forum. But in responding to one of your postings, I must beg to differ on one particular point, and in so doing move the topic slightly away from a sheer Popularity (or otherwise) Contest of Zik vs. Awo, to elaborate on the question of the monumental failings of both Zik and Awo. And the effect of those failings, even unhealthy rivalry and downright animosity, on Nigerian politics since then.

I personally hate jumping into discussions that are so patently ethnic if not in coloration, then in perception, because at the end of it all, we sometimes fail to see the bigger picture vis-à-vis our role or lack thereof in the international arena. But I will make this exception simply because the debate is going round in circles, unless of course, the issues that I am about to raise have been dealt with in previous posts that I might have overlooked. If that is the case, I apologize in advance even though I have combed through the archives, but failed to see a decisive treatment of the issue in question. I am making the exception because in responding to an earlier post you said:

"4) The role Zik played during the first Republic; was it not consistent with that of Gandhi and Nehru? The problem with Nigerians is that once they believe in some thing they cannot change even in the face of abundance of evidence. Zik had at the time taken the position as the father of the country. It is hard to get a Nigerian to see the global power equation in certain occurrence. There is no way Zik or Awolowo would have become Nigerian Prime Minister at the time. These things were happening under British rule and they wanted to hand power over to the North. If Zik had resisted, Governor General and Presidential positions would have gone to another person."

Most people (on both sides of the debate) have made valid arguments, backed up in instances with credible facts and unwavering scholastic temperament, though emotions have sometimes taken over. I won't go into the details or belabor the point, suffice to say that this has occurred on both sides of the aisle. I must warn you that my tirade is not directed at you personally, but at the memory of our so-called titans of the First Republic, Zik and Awo. From time to time, I might veer tangentially off course, but please, bear with me. At the end of it all, I hope to make my point. I am just sick and tired of all the pretentious competition and scheming amongst the Tripod (Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo) dating from the colonial era politics just before independence and right up till now. And the crocodile tears shed especially by the Southern Axis of that Tripod whenever they loose out (normally by subterfuge between themselves) to the more politically astute partner in that cursed trilateral relationship, which was given life and fanned for dubious reasons.

Now back to the issue at hand. The truth of the matter is that we Southerners (everybody south of our imaginary Mason-Dixon Line, in other words everybody in the Western, Eastern, and later, the Mid-Western, Regions of the First Republic) like to think that we are too smart. The facts are self-evident to any serious student of history and realpolitik. The issue is not who was smarter or more accomplished as a political operator between Zik and Awo, but rather how both so-called educated intellectuals with their chains of degrees were thoroughly outplayed, outmaneuvered, outclassed, outsmarted, out-schemed, out-manipulated, out-dribbled, outflanked, outwitted, outfoxed, out… You get the picture. They were schooled by an individual whom they kept on underestimating (to their own peril I might add), such that by 1979, 13 years after he was murdered by those irresponsible hoodlums led by Nzeogwu, they were jostling for power with one of his Lieutenants in the person of Shehu Shagari.

We Southerners should pull our heads from out of our derrières; we should desist from our "Ostrichian" tomfoolery and denial. Generations of our so-called leaders have at every turn and at every juncture, betrayed our trust and interests for their own selfish reasons and egos. This is not to state that Northern leaders are without blame or blemish, but in fairness to them, in reacting to the ethnically politicized terrain in the lead up to independence from Nigeria, they played the best hand that they were dealt, whether or not the British colluded in dealing it to them or not. And this is more than I can say for their Southern counterparts, judging from both their actions in orchestrating counterstrokes and reactions to events (fluid and static) that were occurring on the scene. I will start by tracing this propensity for selfish political hara-kiri predominant in the South.

All this burnishing of folklore by debating their respective legacies, in juxtaposition with their achievements, after their deaths, while fulfilling to our sentiments and sense of endearment, is pointless. The fact remains that by acts of omission or commission, both men failed the present generation of Nigerian patriots by their inability to see beyond the parochial periphery of their respective visions for and ambitions in Nigeria, by failing to realize that united, they were a formidable juggernaut to confront, but individually, they amounted to little else but tribal warlords. A tad bit more sophisticated and intelligent and a lot more benevolent than the characters that parade the length and breadth of our experience today. And may have indeed contributed considerably (by their dogged opposition to each other) to the unraveling of the First Republic and the attendant implications of that misadventure for the Nigerian Federation.

The Fall-out of a Poisoned Relationship: 1951

With all their book knowledge and intellectual stature, both Zik and Awo were equally culpable in one of the greatest foul-ups in Nigerian political history. Regardless of what transpired in 1951 in the Western House of Assembly, vis-à-vis carpet-crossing or no carpet-crossing, the fact is that by the 1959 elections both Zik and Awo were in a position to become both President and Prime-Minister in whatever permutation that they might have wanted. Whatever beefs (legitimate or bastardly) that existed between the two men as a result of the 1951 fiasco (some might say it was a hand-of-god, others will say it was a luck-of-the-draw, yet others will term it shrewd-local-politics), it was incumbent upon them to squash that beef in order for both of them to attempt to realize or reconcile even a fraction of the respective visions that they had for Nigeria beyond their respective regions.

The direct fall-out of their inability to resolve the suspicion and distrust (on both sides) of 1951, resulted as you must be willing to recognize, in their inability to work together in 1959. I have had certain accounts divulged in confidence to me that Awo made even more frantic efforts in 1979 and again in 1983 to reconcile (politically at least) with Zik. I cannot attest to the "veracity" of these affirmations, even though they purport to be from "someone in-the-know". In any case, 1979 and 1983 were not 1959, the dynamics had changed. In my view it was too late, there were more or less grand old men, taking the political wheels out for a last spin and a last hurrah. Their "Diem" was in 1959 and they failed to "Carpe" it. And this leads me to the excerpt that I included from your recent posting on the issue. You made a statement in the quote that I included that neither Zik nor Awo were in a position to be Prime Minister of Nigeria at the time. Oga Osita, I beg to differ, and I will tell you why.

Case In Point: 1959 Federal Elections

The recent postings of accusations by an ex-colonial officer, of British electioneering gerrymandering notwithstanding, by the end of the 1959 Federal Elections, the status was thus:

"Zik's second mistake was that he declined to form a coalition government with the AG after the election. The actual results were: NPC 134 seats; NCNC 81; AG 73; NEPU 8; Mabolaje Grand Alliance (Ibadan party) 6; Igala Union 4; Igbira Tribal Union 1; Niger Delta Congress 1; Independents 4. If the NCNC's (81 seats) accepted to coalesce with the Action Group's (73 seats), surely, other parties would have joined to put the NPC in the Opposition. Nigeria's retarded socio-economic and political development which Chief Enahoro attributed to Zik's and Awo's decision to come to the Centre would not have occurred today. However, it was argued in some circles that the AG made a two-pronged offer to the NCNC leadership and the NPC, by Awo on the one hand and Akintola and Ayo Rosiji on the other hand, respectively. The NCNC interpreted this to be hypocritical. The Action Group, therefore countered back that the approach by the AG leadership was more credible, because the party did not authorize Akintola/Rosiji to approach the NPC for coalition; it was their own making, and that was an instance of anti-party activities by Chief Akintola." (http://www.nigerdeltacongress.com/

The mathematics is clear; 81 + 73 = 154 (and if you include a permutation of the smaller parties, say NEPU and Mabolaje Grand Alliance, then the NPC is forced into opposition). For reasons best known to them, Zik and Awo could not find sufficient ground to put aside their differences and unite to form the government at the center. There have been accusations put forth that the British further revealed their dubiousness when they asked Balewa, prior to when the results had been released, to start forming the government at the center, being the party with the "single" largest number of votes. My emphasis on single underscores the reality that a coalition between AG and NCNC would have rendered such dubiousness moot. So the lie that the British conspired to hand the nation over to their "servants" and "errand-boys", the Sokoto Caliphate, must be put to rest once and for all. Or at the very least a caveat must also be inserted when it is quoted by "conspiracy theorists of the Nigerian kind" that both Zik's and Awo's lack of foresight, and their inability to put aside their differences to do anything short of murder, to form the "progressive" government of their dreams at the center, aided and abetted that British chicanery.

Regardless of the personal bad blood between the two men, attributed by some to the "Miracle on 51st Street" (the maneuverings that trailed the 1951 elections in the Western Region), sheer Politics 101 should have told both men that they had more to gain for themselves, and for posterity, by putting aside their differences and working together in the government at the center. Rather than letting the NPC take the lead, thus producing the country's Prime Minister, whom they both regarded as too "conservative" and Pro-Status-Quo to effect the radical and "progressive" steps that Nigeria needed to take at that time in her lifecycle. The what-ifs in history are the most painful evidence of political blunders and myopic shortcomings that cost us our dream nation as it were. All the whining of the North pulling the country back to her level will not wash with this very embittered Nigerian radical. Zik and Awo betrayed me and my generation, and that poisonous relationship, has seeped into subsequent generations such that today, Igbo and Yoruba can never effectively consummate that famed handshake across the Niger. If there is one place where I would love to be placed in history outside of the present, then it would be in the thick of things in 1959, such that my counsel to either Zik or Awo would be to please put aside whatever differences or rivalries that they had, and form the Federal Government, leaving the North to "develop" according to its wishes. Some might accuse me of sensationalism, but that is just my opinion.

And so ultimately, between the three titans, the Sarduana in my estimation had the last laugh, because his protégé's protégés are still in business politically and relevantly at that, today in Nigeria. My beef, as it were, my grouse with them is that they should have known better. Perhaps at the time in 1959, with so much life left in them and so much verve flowing in their respective bodies, they didn't feel the sense of urgency or the do-or-die nature of their charge and their dalliance on history's stage. They might have felt that they would get another chance, in fact, many more chances, if they played their cards right. Perhaps they might have, but the military intervention put paid to all those what-ifs. Our hindsight here is definitely 20/20, and we have the benefit of observing what men of "timber and caliber" (apologies of course to K.O. Mbadiwe) did some 45 odd years ago, and are making conjectures on what could have been, but that is called historical what-if analysis.

I take the liberty to extrapolate in such historical analysis. But I am dealing with the context of their relationships as at 1959, and as such must situate such efforts within that construct. I still do not see enough evidence to make me believe that they tried enough. Indeed, their attempts could be interpreted by another school of thought as political grandstanding, and insincere "feelers", instead of the sincere efforts of titans aware of their charge to today's patriots.

Case In Point: Lagos and Southern Cameroon

In the lead up to independence, there was heavy animosity between the Eastern Nigerian Government and the peoples or leadership, or both, of the territory then apportioned by the Treaty of Versailles (London Declarations 1919?) and later upheld by League of Nations Mandate (and later reinforced by UN Trusteeships in 1946) as the southern part of the British Cameroons. The resultant effect of that animosity was that:

"On February 11th and 12th 1961, a plebiscite was held to "clarify the wishes of the people living in Northern and Southern Cameroons". The population of Northern Cameroons had earlier - in 1959 - "decided to achieve independence by joining the independent Federation of Nigeria", while the population of Southern Cameroons, whose plebiscite could not be done in 1959 for security reasons, now "decided to achieve independence by joining the independent Republic of Cameroon" (General Assembly resolution 1608 (XV) of 21 April 1961). Note that there were 21 polling stations on the Bakassi peninsula itself and that 73% of the people living there voted to "achieve independence by joining the independent Republic of Cameroon"." (See: http://www.dawodu.com/bakassi2.htm)

The implication of this turn of events can be clearly measured by the net loss of seats in the Federal Parliament that the Eastern Region suffered as a result of the "defection" as it were of the Southern British Cameroonians, and the net gain added to the Northern Region by its successful courting (led by that astute, but comparatively "uneducated" doyen of political calculations from the Sokoto Caliphate) of the Northern Cameroons. Thus by 1964, the North had an even greater "advantage" than our Southern idols, with the AG and the NCNC led if not in reality, then in spirit by persons loyal to Zik and Awo, notwithstanding the spoiler role played by Akintola's faction and the fact that Awo was in prison at the time. Indeed the NCNC underwent a name change to reflect the events that marred this epoch, probably as a result of hostilities preceding or stemming from this divorce, from National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons to the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens in 1960.

From the earliest British colonial experimentations in Nigeria, Lagos had always been administered as a Colony distinct from the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. And thus by the time a new Lyttleton constitution came into force in 1954 after the Constitutional Conference in the preceding year in London, during the lead up to self-rule in Eastern and Western Nigeria (1956), the country had three regions and a Federal Territory in Lagos. During that same year, the Western Region threatened to secede from Nigeria if Lagos was not made a part of that region. This request was never agreed to and we will see why shortly. (See: http://www.nigeriannation.com/Explore/Nigeria/Government/govt.asp)

As each of the political parties representing the Tripod at the time AG, NPC and NCNC each had selfish interests in encouraging political "disharmony" in each other's "backyards" as a way of leveraging splinter groups in the seemingly homogeneous holds that they had. The "backyards" usually existed in areas dominated by the myriad nationalities which together made up the greater part of the geographical location referred to as Nigeria, and who for the most part had been manipulated and lost in the shuffle of politics by the Tripod. The corresponding backyards were, Mid-West in the Western Region, COR (Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers) in the Eastern Region, and Middle-Belt in the Northern Region. Thus AG would support the agitation by minorities for creation of new states in COR and Middle Belt areas, NCNC, the same in Mid-West and Middle-Belt, and the NPC in COR and Mid-West. All these efforts were aimed at establishing a stronghold in each other's regions by reducing the number of seats it had, and leveraging this net gain of seats (to the outside parties) on the federal level in a bid to shore up support and control the center.

The AG was steadfastly committed to adding Lagos to the Western Region and in this stance was opposed by the Zik-led NCNC (I'm not clear about the NPC, although logically, they would be opposed as well, even if tacitly). The opposition to the inclusion of Lagos in the Western Region, was attributed to the need to reserve the designation of Lagos as a "federal territory", free for all. But it would be naïve not to recognize the political ramifications of the number of seats in Lagos being added to the Western Region. Even though some might argue that the politics of Lagos would seem to give the NCNC an upper hand in light of its (Lagos) quirky independence from the AG-mould politics of majority of the Western Region. This status of Lagos persisted as a hot-button political issue (even after it was made a state of its own in 1967) until the decision was made to move the federal capital to its present site in Abuja. It was never resolved by those First Republic Demigods.

Before the Mid-West won "independence" for itself through the historical achievements of the mid-west referendum of 1963, this play for political power in each other's regions by the AG, NCNC, and NPC was played out in the context of another struggle for control in the Cameroons. As I mentioned earlier, in the lead-up to the plebiscite in 1961, the NPC was overwhelming successful in wooing the Northern portion of the British Cameroons to joining Nigeria, and consequently, the Northern Region. There was sufficient distrust between the Eastern Region and the Southern British Cameroons as to warrant an opting out by the latter from joining the Nigeria Federation, as this would have meant a subsequent political "amalgamation" with the Eastern Region. There have been unconfirmed accusations that the AG opposed a union between Southern Cameroons on the basis that it would add more seats to (its bitter rival) the NCNC's power base. Some reports allege that such opposition by the AG went beyond mere opposition, and that the AG actively discouraged the Southern Cameroons from joining Nigeria.

Whatever the case may be, the resultant effect of the failed union meant that the North, which was alleged to have been given a favorable advantage by British subterfuge, gained even more power by the deft political maneuverings of Ahmadu Bello and the NPC. Clearly distinct from the bumbling of the NCNC-led Eastern Region, hounded "it is alleged" by the machinations of the AG in opposition to the proposed union. Once again, a seeming straightforward political gambit was arrested by the clash between bitter rivals south of our imaginary Mason-Dixon Line.

In fact, there are further accusations that as the negotiations in London in the run-up to independence heated up, the North led of course by Ahmadu Bello, gave up its conditional acceptance of full independence for complete acceptance, when it exacted a pledge from both Zik and Awo that elections into the Federal House (and thus Federal Constituencies) would be conducted by Universal Suffrage. Prior to that, all Regions were deemed equal. There was no agreed basis upon which any Federal Elections would occur and this issue was one of the thorny issues that negotiations were aimed at unraveling. Now, being that the West and the East at the time believed that the Census Figures were overwhelmingly skewed by the British to favor the North, why on earth did the two visionaries not insist on resolving the issue of bogus census figures, before accepting the noble idea of Universal Suffrage, and thus independence?

In this again, it seemed that the Sarduana outmaneuvered them again, because even though both Zik and Awo were avowed liberal democrats, Ahmadu Bello was able to manipulate their "vulnerability" for clear-cut political gain. There was no reason why Nigeria should have rushed into independence with the unresolved issue of those Census Figures. Since all the evidence suggests that the North was willing to slow down a British handover, either as a bargaining tool with the more impatient South (as comprised by the West and the East) or because it feared Southern Domination, perhaps it is not too much revisionism to assert that a little more foresight and a little more insistence on Zik and Awo's part could have swung the pendulum away from a reliance on the flawed census figures in apportioning Federal Seats. Nevertheless, all this was overtaken as of 1959 by the facts on the ground which meant that the NCNC and AG could still go into a winning coalition to the form the government at the center. But I just mentioned it here to point out yet another instance at which Ahmadu Bello schooled both Zik and Awo.

In fact the events in Southern Cameroons go further to indict the new generation of Nigerian leaders and intelligentsia who are crying high and nigh about Bakassi. It is yet another instance where the leadership, principally in the "South", has accused, tried, and convicted another "Northern" leader, in this case Gowon, of betraying our interests. By the time Gowon came on the scene in 1967, the plebiscite ceding Bakassi (which was in reality part of Southern Cameroons) to the "Republic of Cameroon" had already become law and reality. In my mind, you cannot divorce Bakassi from Southern Cameroon, unless we want to reverse history by wooing back the inhabitants of a component part of a neighborly nation into joining our "Federation". If I were a Southern Cameroonian, I would laugh uncontrollably at even the thought of such blasphemy, but then again I would stop laughing and file my machete, because palpable acts of irredentism are often preceded by serious delusions (see Hitler in the early 1930s). So let us be honest with ourselves and desist from propagating falsities in the name of history and facts. Historiography demands that we tell the "truth/s" as we find them, not as we see them, backed up with the empirical data to put paid to delusions, no matter how long in our mental ferment that they have been.

Case In Point: States Creation and its effect on LGAs

This is not directly related to Zik and Awo, but rather goes to show the manner via which "Southern Leaders" in general, have scuttled chances again and again to maintain some parity in terms of political control with the North. It will explain for instance the preponderance of "Northerners" in the Federal Civil Service, the Military, the Police, and the yawning chasm in Local Government Areas.

When he created new states to preempt Ojukwu's move for secession, Gowon was advised to create equal number of states in the North and the South. (See: http://www.dawodu.com/omoigui40.htm). In order to "restore" the geographical balance of détente in light of the somewhat misperceived notion of "Northern domination" of Nigeria via "bogus" census figures, and to ameliorate the domination of the majority groups over the minority groups in Nigeria, Gowon created 12 states. 6 (West-Central State; North-Western State comprising Sokoto and Niger Provinces; North-Central State comprising Katsina and Zaria; Kano State comprising the present Kano Province; North-Eastern State comprising Bornu, Adamawa, Sarduana and Bauchi Provinces; Benue/Plateau State comprising Benue and Plateau Provinces) in the North, and 6 (Lagos State comprising the Colony Province and the Federal Territory of Lagos; Western State comprising the present Western Region but excluding the Colony Province; Mid-Western State comprising the present Mid-Western State; East-Central State comprising the present Eastern Region excluding Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers Provinces; South-Eastern State comprising Calabar and Ogoja Provinces; Rivers State comprising Ahoada, Brass, Degema, Ogoni and Port Harcourt Divisions) (See: http://www.dawodu.com/gowon.htm)

This balance was maintained until 1976 when Murtala Mohammed created an additional 7 States bringing the total to 19. "Murtala Muhammad set in motion the stalled machinery of devolution to civilian rule with a commitment to hand over power to a democratically elected government by October 1979. The transition, as outlined by Murtala Muhammad, would take place in successive stages. In August 1975, he appointed a five-member panel to study Gowon's plan for a nineteen-state federation that would "help to erase memories of past political ties and emotional attachments." The plan, reaffirmed by the panel, assaulted ethnic power by recommending that the predominantly Yoruba Western State be divided into three states, the Igbo East Central State into two, and the six states of the north into nine states, only three of which would be predominantly Hausa-Fulani. Murtala Muhammad claimed that he wanted to avoid the "proliferation of states" that would highlight the problems of minorities and warned petitioners that no further demands for new states would be tolerated. In the end, seven more states were created. In 1976 Nigeria came to have nineteen states."

In actual fact, at the end of the state creation exercise, Nigeria had 10 states in the North and 9 states in the South. The disparity in the South has been attributed to the inability of the Igbo leaders at the time to agree on a third state (Wawa State?) which has haunted them since then. Being that recruitment into the Federal Civil Service, Military and Police, and Revenue Allocation were on the basis of states (to be more precise the State of Origin phenomenon), what this meant was an associated increase in the North's share of the communal pie. (See: http://www.dawodu.com/omoigui6.htm) Due to that oversight, the Igbo have lagged behind the Yoruba and the Hausa-Fulani in terms of the number of states controlled by the Tripod. Subsequent state creations have brought Nigeria's total state count to 36; 19 in the North and 17 in the South with an attendant rise in North's access to the "national cake".

Nowhere is this imbalance more rampant than for example old Kano State (consisting of Jigawa and Kano) and Lagos State which were both created by Gowon on the eve of Civil War in May 1967. Prior to the effort by some governors in Nigeria to create new councils in Nigeria in this dispensation, Jigawa had 26 LGAs and Kano had 44 LGAs, while Lagos, probably the most populous state in the country, had 20 LGAs. What this means is that Old Kano State has a total of 70 LGAs, while Lagos has 20. Being that federal "largesse" is "spread" using diverse factors one of which are number of LGAs, it is amazing how the "South" has yet again been outmaneuvered by the "North". I'm not sure what the status of the attempt by the governors is, but I do know that the President froze funding to the states in question.
(See: http://nigeriaworld.com/focus/constitution/schedules.html)

Postscript: A Dream Interrupted

All in all there has been a pattern of underestimating and then shedding endless crocodile tears by Southern Politicians in their dealings with the North. Dating from the Era of the Titans during which Zik, Awo, and Sarduana waxed strongly, strutting along our political terra firma like the Titans of old, bestriding our consciousness as "Colossi", the "Ostrichian" methodology that the South (Eastern and Western Regions) employed on their dealings with one another and subsequently with the North, guaranteed that whatever lofty ideas that both men had could never be replicated on a national scale. At the end of it all they became regional strongmen, unable to move decisively beyond the limited periphery of their strongholds, and unable to meet each other halfway to forge the Nigeria of their dreams. Politically and philosophically, they were closer to each other than either was to the NPC led by Ahmadu Bello, but they lacked either the humility or foresight to reach a compromise and work together.

For whatever reasons they couldn't coexist in the same political coalition. The most public break in their relationship could be traced to the events of 1951. But even before then, when the NYM broke into two in 1941, with one faction headed by Zik and the other by Ernest Ikoli (which later linked up in 1948 with the Egbe Omo Oduduwa founded by Awo in 1945), there seemed to be a philosophical rupture in their visions for Nigeria. And it seemed that beyond personal rivalry and distrust, they could never bridge that rift between them; a rift which however paled in comparison to the yawning chasm that existed between them and the NPC led by Sarduana. Subsequent events proved that the two men though "great" in their individual capacities, could have even been greater and perhaps eternal in posterity's fondness and estimation, across the geographical spread in Nigeria.

After all is said and done, a lot of what I have rehashed here is my personal opinion. I don't know it if it is compelling enough to merit a response, suffice to say that as a politician in today's Nigeria, I would rather appreciate a Zik or an Awo, with a fraction of the intellectual stature that they became famed for, but with a strong and healthy dose of the political dexterity that the wily Sarduana displayed in handling both titans. He (Sarduana) proved by his actions (or at the very least by default) to be the smoothest political operator on the scene; maximizing his advantages whatever they were, and dividing and conquering his adversaries time and time again. Both men must have viewed him with consternation, but as they say, native intelligence and cunning will trounce philosophical posturing and intellectual elitism any day. It is to their eternal discredit that neither man could do their best to win the other over, and were content to play second fiddle in the affairs of Nigeria at the center.

It is unfortunate because a coalition between those two, one the President, the other the Prime Minister would have been one heck of a ride. And one that I would give anything to have witnessed, even if it was in history books as most of these things happened before my time. It would have been a wonder to behold, provided they could squash their egos and get along, and might have saved a more sustainable and veritable notion of that evasive Nigerian ideal for us and our children. In all this, I am evidently speculating and I am afraid I might have stepped out of the bounds of the latitude permitted for intellectual hypothesizing. But I will say that I came down hard on both of them, not in terms of who did more than the other, and who did what to whom, but in the sense that these guys were children of history. They knew, or at least should have known, or at least should have surrounded themselves with those who would have alerted them both, to the stakes. They were playing for posterity's sake, acting out a pantomime for our progeny's fate, and not for their times. As it is, we can only look back and wonder with a shake of the head and sigh of the soul, kai, what could have been?

It does seem that the new generation of Southern Leaders has taken up from exactly were the two left off. In our profuse canonization and eulogizing of both men on either side of the Niger, we have failed again to learn the lessons of history as taught to us by the collective trouncing of our "idols" by men some of us regard as their intellectual inferiors, as if intellectualism is a degree awarded in a university. Even Abacha in all his naïveté and "intellectual retardation" thoroughly understood and played the politics of his era with uncanny aplomb. Notwithstanding his viciousness, which he exhibited with unparalleled political calculus (combining the proverbial carrot and big stick, though it was more big stick than carrot), he displayed that native cunning that to me is the true asset that the Nigerian politician brings to bear at the bargaining table of our collective inertia. As we look back fondly at the "golden" days of yore, and wax lyrically about the labors of our heroes past, may the lessons that they gave and that they in turn received (more of the latter than of the former in my view), on the inner workings of political pragmatism, never be in vain.

In summary, it is this refusal to work together at all costs that tempers my estimation of both men at the end of the day. The what-if that arises out of that equation of Zik as President and Awo as Prime Minister or vice-versa, gives me shivers and much cause for rue. The heights, to which Nigeria could have risen, prodded and harried by the exhortations and visions of both men are best imagined, at least in my view. Now, it is quite possible that theirs might not have been a match-made-in-heaven, but I am willing to bet my last kobo, that it would have made for a more rapid and radical developmental effort. Alas, it was not to be, perhaps, impeded by the obfuscations of the trickster. The moral of the story to all children of history is clearly evident; please avoid egotistical mistakes, let our failings be instead of circumstances beyond our control, rather than those that we have a hold of. Until a truly geographically-balanced body politic of radical reformers is sufficiently fed up with the current equation in Nigeria, such that it seizes power democratically in a restructured Nigeria, then we will continue our backwards march into the trash-can of history's faux pas.


Chukwuemeka Uche Onuora

June 16, 2004



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