— Excerpts from the book “Nigeria Echoes of a century, 1914-2014” – By Ifeoha Azikiwe —
It is definitely not an exaggeration to say that the greatest name in Nigeria’s 100 years is Lord Frederick John Dealtry Lugard. He is revered by the British and acclaimed by historians as one of the greatest legends of the 20th century.
First of all, his wife, Flora Louisa Shaw gave us the name, NIGERIA, coined from NIGER AREA, adopted from the majestic River Niger. Secondly, Lord Lugard was the architect of the amalgamation that created the Nigerian nation. Therefore, the history of Nigeria and for that matter, the nation’s centenary will be incomplete without tribute to the man, Lord Frederick John Dealtry Lugard.
Born on January 28, 18581, in Madras in British India, he was educated at Rossall School and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Lugard was a soldier, explorer and colonial administrator, which earned him great honours in British hall of fame. He commanded the West African Frontier Force after which he was made High Commissioner of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, a position he held until 1906.
In 1912, Lugard returned to Nigeria as Governor of Nigeria’s two protectorates, North and South. It was at this time that he actualized his plans for the amalgamation of Nigeria. He governed the combined Colony of Nigeria from 1914 to 1919.
Lugard, delivered his epochal amalgamation speech, setting out the administrative framework for Nigeria on January 1, 1914. It was an event that excluded Nigerians for whose “interests” it was intended. The ceremony, which was held in Lagos, attracted mainly British and European merchants who were in Nigeria, basically to represent and protect shared business and commercial interests. There is no evidence that Nigerians were present at that ceremony as Lugard openly admitted.
To the people of Nigeria, Lugard addressed separately. “His Majesty the King has decided that from today all the country from the sea to near the desert in the North, and from the French country in the West to the German Kameruns in the East, shall be one single country under one Governor-General, so that, there may be no jealousy or rivalry between the North and the South, and all may cooperate together for the advancement of Peace and Prosperity. It will be my earnestly endeavour to promote Peace and Justice for all men, to protect every man in the observance of his own religious faith and to administer equal Justice alike for great and small”.
The British were quick to congratulate themselves for achieving a dream they had nursed over the years. The Secretary of State, Lewis Harcourt wrote, “I offer you my congratulations on the completion of your arduous task of uniting Northern and Southern Nigeria in a common form of government, and I trust that the new administration now established may actively promote the wellbeing of all classes of the inhabitants of Nigeria and the development of its great resources”.
From the imperial monarchy, King R. I. George stated, “On the occasion of the formal Amalgamation of the two Nigerias, I wish you to convey to the Emirs, Chiefs and the inhabitants of the New Protectorates and the Colony my best wishes for their future happiness. Pray assure them of the great interest I take in their welfare and express my earnest hope that great prosperity may be in store for them”.
The union has endured in the past hundred years, but not without recriminations, mistrust and outright antagonism between the North and South. Nigeria became a country by defaults of British terrestrial expansion and deep-rooted economic interests, through the instrument of amalgamation. And because Nigerians were not consulted, it became more and more contentious as events began to unfold.
But of all the compelling augments on amalgamation, no one agitated my mind than the document widely circulated through the Internet and social media that the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria was limited to a trial period of 100 years, during which any side could decide whether or not to remain in the union. This, according to the source, is contained in a document securely guarded by both the British and Nigerian Government because of its unpredictable security implication.
It reads in part, “The amalgamation of southern and northern Nigeria by the British was to be experimented for 100 YEARS to know if it’s going to work or not, according to the secret government document the British left after independence. Although the document is kept secret, this fact is generally known to the ruling class, most dons of political science and law as well as the government of UK. However, there has been consistent efforts by Nigerian government to keep this knowledge out of public as it may lead to agitation for breaking the country into two i.e. pre-1914 status especially by those in the south………..”
This document is definitely one that no right-thinking Nigerian can completely ignore. I took it up with the authorities of the British Library to see if there could be any link to such a document. Dr. Marion Wallace, curator of the British Library was very helpful here. She did her investigations and told me that there was no such document in the hold of the British Library. “I don’t think there is any evidence that amalgamation was supposed to be for a period of a hundred years”. This led me to the text, “Lugard, Frederick John Dealtry: Lugard and the amalgamation of Nigeria – a documentary record”.
The document was presented to Parliament by command of His Majesty, in December 1919, together with supplementary unpublished Amalgamation reports, and other relevant documents. Besides, I scanned through over 300-pages of HANSAD, the official record of UK Parliamentary debates published between 1910 and 1920, but nowhere was a time limit placed on Nigeria’s amalgamation.
This led me further to the National Library in Abuja, where I finally laid my hands on the speech delivered by Lord Lugard himself on the occasion of the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria on January 1, 1914. And all through his speech, I find no allusion to the fact that amalgamation was to last for a period of 100 years.
At this point, I was compelled to seek the views of an erudite scholar and legal luminary, Professor Akin Oyebode, of the University of Lagos, and these were his views. “I’m not aware of the secret document you spoke about. However, the fact is undeniable that many Nigerians are dissatisfied with the current situation in the country and would welcome the opportunity to renegotiate the terms of their engagement with other Nigerians as well as the framework for group dynamics in the country. Whether Nigeria survives post-2014 remains very much in the womb of history. After all, the political map of the world is not etched in granite as the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Ethiopia and Sudan have shown”.
Author “Nigeria Echoes of a century, 1914-2014”