By Reno Omokri
One of the biggest myths existing in Nigeria today is that the current system of government that we have, which is a false federation, that is, in fact, a unitary system, is a creation of Northern Nigeria to dominate other parts of Nigeria.
Yes, Northern Nigeria is heavily benefiting from it. Northern Nigeria is sustaining it. However, Northern Nigeria did not create it. And when oil runs its course as a commercially viable commodity, it is even possible that Northern Nigeria itself may come to a position where it does not even find it as attractive as it once did.
And this myth that our present faux federalism is a Northern construct has persisted for the simple reason that Nigerians hardly read about or study their history. As a people, we are, with a few exceptions, focused on the here and now, without much thought to how we got to where we are.
The recent public tiff between two very famous letter-writers (the revered Chief Obasanjo, and Chief EK Clark), has again raised more dust over this matter.
Yes, the system of government that we have now is not the template our founding fathers dreamt about. That Nigeria ended on January 15, 1966.
Prior to that unfortunate day, believe it or not, Nigeria had four regions that were treated as co-equals and who controlled all the resources in their domains.
Let me put this in perspective: Section 140 of the 1963 Constitution did indeed vest rights and powers over mineral resources including oil on the central government via the Exclusive Legislative List. However, this was mitigated by the stipulation that 50% of the royalties from minerals would be paid to the regions from which they originated.
Section 141 of the 1963 Republican Constitution of Nigeria created a Distributable Pool Account, of which the three regions (Northern, Western, and Eastern regions) would pay in 35% of their revenue. A fourth region (Midwestern region), was created and added to the pool in 1963.
That Distributable Pool Account is the forerunner of today’s Federation Account.
In 1964, the Balewa government accepted the recommendations of the Binns Commission on revenue allocation, which provided that the funds paid to the Distributable Pool Account be shared among the four regions, using the following formula:
Other than these monies that got paid to the Distributable Pool Account, and 25% to the Central Government (now known as the Federal Government), the regions had total and complete resource control.
And to a large extent, everyone was happy.
What upended this idyllic state that Nigeria existed in was the January 15, 1966 coup, commonly referred to as the Nzeogwu coup, but which was more accurately an Emmanuel Ifeajuna coup.
Though the coup succeeded in decapitating the Balewa-led central government, it was not totally successful, and was put down by the then-General Officer Commanding the Nigerian Army, Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, who subsequently became Head of State.
It was Ironsi, as a military dictator, who actually ended true federalism in Nigeria by promulgating Decree No. 34 of 1966, which was also known as the Unification of Assets decree.
The preamble to that decree read as follows:
“Subject to the provisions of this Decree, Nigeria shall on 24th May 1966 (in this decree referred to as ‘the appointed day’) cease to be a Federation and shall accordingly as from that day be a Republic, by the name of the Republic of Nigeria, consisting of the whole of the territory which immediately before that day was comprised in the Federation.”
Ironsi thereafter stripped the regions and their appurtenances of any power over their resources and assets and domiciled such powers hitherto held by them on the ‘National Military Government’ headed by him.
Many of his critics felt that Ironsi’s decree was the handiwork of his three-man advisory committee, and the fact that all members of that committee were Igbo (Chief Francis Nwokedi, Dr Pius Charles Nwabafor Okigbo and Colonel Patrick Anwunah) did not help matters.
There were protests in the North and the Governor of the Midwest, David Ejoor, spoke against the idea.
In the North, the protests led to riots and then a pogrom, and set off a chain reaction of events too gruesome to recount here, lest I open old wounds. What I would however say, and I do not care whose ox is gored, is that there was no justification for the escalated pogrom against the Igbo, other than the perpetration of the ideology of balance of terror. And indeed, there was no balance. So, it is more accurate to use the term an ‘imbalance of terror’. But I digress.
The point I am trying to make is that the death of resource control and centralisation and concentration of power in the centre was not the creation of subsequent governments.
And though I love and admire former President Obasanjo, he is both right and wrong in his quarrel with Chief EK Clarke.
Yes, as of today, oil belongs to Nigeria as a whole. However, that has not always been the case. If we go by the 1960 and 1963 constitutions, which all Nigerian regions existing at the time had an input into, resources, such as oil, cocoa and groundnuts, and other minerals, belonged to the regions.
It was the military, beginning from Ironsi, to Gowon, and their military successors, including General Obasanjo himself, that forcefully took what had rightfully belonged to the regions.
And when they set up their various Constitution Committees and conferences, regions, like the South-South, and the Southeast, no longer had a voice. Their voices were drowned out by the voices of the majority, and this was the very thing they feared before independence, which made the British colonial government set up the Commission on Minority Groups in Nigeria (Willink Commission) to protect minorities by giving them a voice.
If the minorities, whose fears made the colonial government set up the commission, had known what Ironsi and his military successors were going to do, they would have opted out of Nigeria, which was an option available to them.
Decree 34 killed regionalism and true federalism and was a most unwise move from Aguiyi Ironsi that Nigeria is still paying for today.
And it further exacerbates the situation when Southerners, especially people of Southeastern origin, accuse the Hausa of dominating them.
I was reading something like that by a journalist of Southeastern extraction and it made me laugh. This fellow is a journalist and broadcaster. Meaning that he is meant to inform the public. Yet, he is ignorant. Very ignorant.
The extent to which supposedly intelligent and educated people expose their ignorance is really sad. And it is a very ignorant thing to say that the Hausa have dominated politics in Nigeria.
The truth is that only one Hausa man has ever governed Nigeria, and he governed for only nine months (Abdulsalami Abubakar). Murtala Mohammed and Muhammadu Buhari were/are partly Fulani. None of them had Hausa blood.
Only Murtala’s mother was Fulani, and just Buhari’s father was Fulani. Both of them grew up without their fathers.
The only pure Fulani to have governed Nigeria was Shehu Shagari, perhaps one of the most decent human beings this land has ever produced.
Umaru Musa Yar’adua was Tuareg.
Tafawa Balewa was from an ethnic nationality called Gere, which are one of the first Northern people to accept Western-style Christianity, and education.
Yakubu Gowon is alive and can testify that he is an Ngas by ethnic origin.
I left Ibrahim Babangida to the end, because, as is typical with most things Babangida, his ethnicity is deliberately shrouded in controversy. And because of that, I will not add to that controversy beyond saying he is of an uncertain ethnicity.
Sani Abacha was pure Kanuri, although he claimed to be from Kano.
The conclusion of the matter is that Hausa domination is a MYTH! And ever since the Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio Fulani Jihad of 1804–1808, the Hausa have been the most denigrated, downgraded and marginalised ethnicity in the geographical entity that is now known as Nigeria.
Even the one Hausa man that became Head of State for nine months, Abdulsalami Abubakar, got there purely by chance. He was to be retired by Abacha, but Abacha died before he could sign his retirement papers. Oladipo Diya, who would have automatically taken over as Abacha’s deputy, had been convicted of coup plotting. Leaving Abdulsalami as the next in line according to military hierarchy.
That is how God gave Nigeria her ONLY Hausa leader till date.
Many people erroneously think Jerry Useni was next in line and was passed over because the military authorities wanted a Muslim as the next head of state. That is false.
In a military government, the hierarch is as follows:
The Head of State and Commander-in-Chief at the head of the military echelon.
The Chief of General Staff, or the Chief of Staff, Supreme Military Council as the Number two.
The Chief of Defence Staff as Number three.
The Chief of Army Staff as number four.
Soldiers holding political positions are not included in the military hierarchy of power and the line of succession. Remember, it is or was a military government.
To that journalist of Southeast extraction who is complaining of Yoruba/Hausa domination. Yes, I can understand the Yoruba accusation. But the Hausa are actually more marginalised than the Igbo.
An Igbo has been at the helm once. And Igbo have been deputies or Vice President twice, with Alex Ekwueme and Ebitu Ukiwe.
Speaking generally, and to no one in particular, those Nigerians who shout marginalisation the most must get rid of their deep-seated persecution complex that makes them see enemies where there are none. It is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy that is preventing them as a people from achieving many of their long-term strategic goals, chief of which is having a Nigerian President of their ethnic origin.
Even you, if you enter a room and before you enter, you believe everyone in the room hates you, you will not be confident when you enter, and as a result of your lack of confidence, you won’t make friends. And you will blame it on them not liking you.
Most of those who instigated the crisis of 1966-1970 are dead. Move on. This is politics. There are no permanent friends or enemies. Only permanent interests. Focus your energies on your interests, not your enemies!