The Controversy over Who Handed over Nigeria to Fulani?

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GUEST COLUMNIST BY SAIDU DANSADAU

In the recent past, a short video clip has gone viral titled: Who handed over Nigeria to the Fulani? I watched the video and listened to its audio. Interestingly, the voice is sounding like that of an “Englishman”. I was taken aback because I could not understand the motive of the anonymous producer and presenter of the video clip and on whose behalf. From the content of the video, it is obvious that the producer is defending the British against the allegation.

In the words of the producer, “Someone said Fulani is Yoruba’s number one enemy and that the British handed over Nigeria to them’. This is not the truth; The British did not handover Nigeria to the Fulani”. I deem it pertinent to respond because it looks like someone, somewhere is trying to create, build and acerbate conflict in an already tensed and heated political situation in the country, where dark clouds are hovering over the Nigerian polity. This is unfortunate; a trend that must be watched with caution and circumspection.

The first sentence of the video clip in my opinion was crafted to incite Nigerians especially the Yoruba. It reads: “Fulani is Yoruba’s number one enemy and that British handed over Nigeria to them.” The rest of the story in the video is a clever attempt to justify the above statement. The video went on to claim the following as election results of the 12th December 1959 federal elections:

(1)(NCNC – 2,594,577 votes, winning 81 seats (2) Action Group – 2,594,577 votes, winning 73 seats (3) NPC 1,992,368 votes, winning 134 seats
I am shocked by the above purported results having known the actual results from all genuine and objective records. By the account of the book titled: Political Parties and Integration in Tropical Africa, edited by James Coleman and Carl Rosberg, published by University of California Press, Berkeley, page 653. The correct figures of the said election are as follows:

(1) NCNC-NEPU alliance -2,592,629 votes, winning 89 seats (2) NPC – 2,027,194 votes, winning 134 seats (3) Action Group – 1,986,839 votes, winning 73 seats (4) Others – 578,893 votes, winning 16 seats
What I find absurd, apart from the wrong Electoral Figures claimed by the video clip in respect of the 1959 Parliamentary Elections, is the way it gives importance to the number of votes secured by political parties over the seats won by them. The rationale behind swapping NPC’s No.2 position to number 3 in the number of votes and AG’s No.3 to number No.2 is no doubt questionable.

Same goes for the refusal of the clip’s anonymous producer to inform his viewers that throughout the First Republic and prior to it, women were barred from contesting or voting in Northern Nigeria and that the apparent low election figures from the Region was a reflection of this phenomenon (disenfranchisement of women). The point has to be made that important as popular votes are, in the Parliamentary system, governments are formed on the basis of Parliamentary seats won by the political parties. Constituencies are delineated on the basis of population and the North was more populous than each of the two regions.

If we go back to history we will notice that in the 1956 elections into the Western Region Parliament, the Action Group obtained 48% of the votes but secured 48 seats against NCNC’s 45% with 32 seats. Thus the difference of 39,270 votes translated into a difference of 16 seats for the Action Group, against the NCNC in the Western Region Parliament. This is the reality of Parliamentary system. If it was okay for the Western Region, why was it not, for the Northern Region?

The political maneuvering between the NCNC and the Action Group in 1959 has a long, checkered and multi-dimensional history which if objectively analyzed will not place an iota of blame on Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. The claim that Zik rejected the alliance with the Action Group because of disputes with some Yoruba members of the NCNC delegation to London in 1947 as claimed by the video clip is not true. The NCNC leadership was very cautious and circumspect about the future of the party and sensitive to the views of its members from the Western Region, who objected to the alliance with the Action Group. The intense battle between the NCNC and the AG in the 1959 Federal Election in the Western Region clearly point out the strength of the NCNC in the region. It won 21 seats against Action Group’s 33 seats. (for details read, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Zik: A Selection From the Speeches of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Cambridge, London, 1961, pp. 202-208).

The video clip also claimed that the press quarrel or “political panorama” between Zik in the West African Pilot and Chief H. O. Davies in the Daily Service in 1947 led Igbos rushing to buy machetes and that the two media protagonists were invited by Mr. Hugh Foot, the Chief Secretary to the Government. This is not true. The media fracas was in1948 following the launching of the Igbe Omo Oduduwa in Lagos, under the leadership of Chief Bode Thomas. It was the Governor-General, Sir James Robertson, who invited the three Regional Governors and the two leaders of the warring parties, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe of the NCNC and Chief Bode Thomas of the NYM; Chief H. O. Davies was not invited. (see Alkasum Abba, The Northern Elements Progressive Union and the Politics of Radical Nationalism in Nigeria, 1938-1960, Abdullahi Smith Centre, Zaria, 2007, p. 95)

What is getting clear to me about this video clip is that it is aimed at insulting the intelligence of the people of the northern States, by compelling them to become Fulani even though most of them are not. It must be pointed out that neither in this Government, nor in any other previous government, could be said to be the Fulani Government simply because a Fulani is the leader. It is in fact suspicious that some people are creating phantom stories about the role of the Fulani in Nigerian Governments. To call Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a Bolewa by tribe, a Fulani, is an insult to the ethnic diversity of the people of Northern Nigeria. If anyone accepts for whatever reason that Nigeria was handed over to the Fulani where will he place the Yoruba in Kwara in today’s Kwara and Kogi States as well as Igala, Ebira; what about the Tivs and Idoma of Benue; Nupe and Gwari of Niger; Kanuri and other tribes in Borno and Yobe, Birom, Tarok and other tribes in Plateau ; Jukun, Mummuye and several tribes in Taraba; Eggon and Mada of Nassarawa, Jaba and Kataf in Kaduna, Dakarkari, Hausa in all parts of the North?

Another absurdity from the false and distorted claims of the video clip is to accuse Igbos represented by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe of handing over Nigeria to “Fulani”. It maligns the ingenuity and sagacity of the Igbos in Nigerian politics especially the leading role played by ZIK in the struggle for independent Nigeria. This is because the Regional political arrangement of Nigeria established by Britain since 1946 with the imposition of the Richards’ Constitution was intended to configure Nigeria on a tripartite structure. That is to say that it functions on the basis of an alliance between two Regions against the third Region. And this jinx by the British appers to haunt us, even today.

It is imperative to bring to the fore that the NCNC was the only party that objected to the tripartite regional structure and felt so concerned that it mobilized Nigerians in 1946 to reject the Richard’s Constitution to the extent that it sent a national protest delegation to London in 1947. Both the NPC and the Action Group were supporters of Regional politics and therefore neither of them could complain. If I may ask: what prevented the Action Group from making alliance with NPC to form the Government in 1960? Why blame the NCNC?

The high voltage political intrigues that preceded the formation of Independent Government in 1960 trapped Dr. ZIK between the devil and the deep blue sea. While Dr. ZIK was sensitive and sympathetic to NCNC members from the South- West who were opposed to NCNC/AG alliance, 16 members-elect of his party from the Western Region had subtrainingly sealed a deal with the leaders of NPC in Northern region that should NCNC leader opt for alliance with AG they would revolt and align with NPC. Their number (16) is what NPC required to form government. In fairness to Dr. ZIK, alliance with the NPC was a lesser evil. More imprtantly he said in his auto biography, he opted for alliance with NPC in the interest of unity of Nigeria. Zik from all indications felt forming Gorvenment of AG/NCNC alliance will put Independent Nigeria on a shaky foudation.

My points debunk the video clip assertion that Zik opted for alliance with NPC in view of low level of education of its leaders which in the view of the clip will make the Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa vulnerable to manipulation by Dr. ZIK.

The assertion by the anonymous producer of the video clip that Dr. Zik manipulated PM Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to create Mid-Western region to depopulate the Western Region is remote from the truth. What actually happened was a political strategy put in place by NCNC leaders to depopulate both the Western and the Northern regions by the creation of Mid-Western region from the Western Region and the Middle Belt region of the Northern Region. This, in the belief of NCNC leaders, will make it possible for their party to cajole both Middle Belt and the Mid-Western regions in future elections to easily form government. The plan succeeded in the creation of Mid-Western Region and crashed in the creation of Middle Belt region. Thanks to the political sagacity and patriotism of Chief J.S. Tarka and other political leaders in the area.

My account above makes it unequivocally clear as to the intent of the anonymous producer of the video clip and his sponsors. I therefore, urge all of us (Nigerians) especially the youths to exercise caution, restraint and tolerance in dealing with audios, videos and write-ups that we come across in the social media. Most of them are fake, phantom, false or distorted to incite one section of the country against the other, one religion against the other or one ethnic group against the other. We should always remember that the interest of Nigeria, its unity, progress and peace are far greater than the political ambition of any individual.

•Dansadau was a senator representing Zamfara Central constituency