Nigeria is full of claim jumpers who do violence to history for pecuniary reasons. It could not have been otherwise especially now that politics has lost its soul to mercenaries who change their parties as frequently as Marilyn Monroe changed her corsets, so to speak.
What disjointed accounts of our recent past are they leaving for posterity? They are not guided by any philosophy other than the mammon. Our fathers candidly related events before their times to us to guide our actions without colouring and fibs. Those of my generation and our children fall very short of our parents’ rectitude and truthfulness.
Sometime in 1975 I called Chief Hezekiah Oladipupo Davies to enquire about the Nigerian Youth Movement. He said the founder was Dr. James Churchill Vaughan. The movement pulled all the young intellectuals and nationalists together to give more vigour to the cry for self-rule because they felt Herbert Macaulay’s Democratic Party was not broad enough and was limited in its aspirations to Lagos politics. So came to being the movement in 1934, though Professor Eyo Ita had formed in Calabar the Nigerian Youth League in 1932. Davies did not boast that he was a general secretary of the movement to which personalities like Dr. Akinola Maja, Ernest Ikoli, Samuel Akinsanya, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and other professionals were frontliners. He was silent about his role.
And what of the founding of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons, NCNC, I asked Chief Olu Akinfoshile, who was one of the founders. He spoke extensively of the rally that became the party after some King’s College, Lagos pupils were drafted to fight in Burma in 1944. He was at the Baptist Academy where their vice principal was the nationalist Dr. Eyo U. Esua, then general secretary of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT. He said the King’s College episode angered Esua and the union’s president, the Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, who called their pupils out to protest against the conscription, later joined by the students of the Yaba Higher College. Other leading personalities like E.J. Alex-Taylor, then the leader of the Nigerian bar, Macaulay, Dr. Adeyinka Olorunimbe, Adeleke Adedoyin, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Imoudu and others were invited to the rally, chaired by Dr. Duste Mohammed Ali, the publisher of the then Comet newspaper. That rally declared itself a new party to be known as the NCNC and chose Macaulay as the leader, naturally. So when the late Peter Chigbo, an eminent civil servant and actor, wrote in his column in the National Vanguard that Zik formed the NCNC, I was aghast about such a misleading account.
I was wondering whether Chigbo knew that the NCNC did not perform well in Igbo areas in 1951 and that but the eminence of Ita who made the party to poll heavily in Efik, Ibibio and Annang parts of the East, it would have been difficult for it to form a government in 1952. Thus, Ita became leader of government business. Contrary to the eastern episode, the West, being largely urban, had a different political outlook and voted widely for elements that allied with the NCNC. The Action Group, AG, that eventually formed the government in that region was not popularly known then.
Really, there was a re-alignment of forces, which made AG to form the government in the West. It was the party’s objective approach to politics later that drew following to the fold, especially the free education and health services to under-18. The Cross River area of the East has been westernised for centuries and that was why Calabar and Lagos were the only areas granted popular franchise to elect members to the former Legislative Council.
The Northern People’s Congress, NPC, did not even exist until the opening of the Northern House of Assembly. The Northern Elements People’s Union, NEPU, an ally of the NCNC, held sway there. It was too hot for the British to be allowed to bear fruits at the regional level. Though it won most of the ward seats in places like Kano, Zaria, Kaduna, Jos, Bauchi and Katsina, the colonial masters used Native Authority nominees to swamp them out of contest to the regional house.
Who says northerners did not take active parts in the fight for self-rule? Where will you place Sa’ad Mustapha Zungur, Zana Bukar Dipcharima, Raji Abdallah, Abubakar Zukogi, Aminu Kano, Bello Ijumu, Maitama Sule, Yerima Bala, Nuhu Bamali, Mahmud Attah and many others who suffered deprivation in the hands of the British, some in prison, others in the denials of their rights. Zungur was once national secretary of the NCNC and also Dipcharima, an assistant national secretary of the same party.
The road to independence was not laid with gold and silver. It was very rough. Some of the nationalists lost their lives and some were chemically reduced to mental cases. Was this the type of country those pioneers suffered to give birth out of colonial tutelage? Certainly not the one of the last 35 years, which has seen brigandage and pillage as never before, recorded in our history. The face of politics north of the River Niger and Benue was bound to go radical as it is now seen. The progressive forces gained roots there long before independence, but they were choked to surrender by the machination of British indirect rule.
They were never stupid. They were tolerant, giving a long leash to the rulers to bridle their excesses. Psychologists say the way to stop a vice is to overdo it. The people had the overdose of denials but with the efforts of Ahmadu Bello and Aminu Kano to change their circumstances for the better, they tolerated until the die became cast.
Today in Nigeria, the North is more politically aware and articulate than the East and West. The West is foundering like a beleaguered ship that lost its compass.
What can one say about the most educated part of the region that installed a lunatic as its head? Perhaps, its instructability will soon open its eyes to light.
The East is still rural and is groping in the dark, thinking that money buys sanity. It is yet to be urbane in outlook.
The South that produced nationalists like Imoudu and Tony Enahoro suffers from persecution syndrome. It is only in the former Midwest that people are free of such complex. One cannot say that of the other parts.
The resurgence of nationalist politics with the election of Muhammadu Buhari must not be allowed to wane. How will those who ruled in the last 16 years explain the $150 billion of Nigeria’s oil money salted to America? And they say that is just a scratch on the surface. Was that what Imoudu, Enahoro, Oged Macaulay, Abdallah, Osita Agwunna and others wished for Nigeria? Buhari must keep the flame of the new spirit burning to rid the nation of the vermin that had stunted its growth, even at the risk of his life. The Salvation Army is building by the day and there is no retreating.
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