NIGERIAN INDEPENDENCE DAY;
OCTOBER 1ST 1960
The amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria into one union on January 1st 1914 is still seen and held as the true date of an INDEPENDENT NIGERIA. many sees this date a joy to celebrate and behold an new nation among the committee of nation, others gave their consents as an unholy forced union of various ethnic nationalities that are/were never as one with each other. Even the late(s) sir Tafa Balewa and chief Awolowo, sees Nigeria as the “mistake of 1914” and “a mere geographical expression”. One then begins to wonder if our independence date of October 1st 1960 cuts across all Nigeria?
The British occupation of Nigeria in the period 1820-1920 began on a small scale. It first began along the coast and subsequently went from strength to strength until it had spread all over the country. The occupation was progressive rather than sudden. Traders led the way and their motive was purely economic.
By the 1850’s and 1860’s British interest in Nigeria was stepping up. The period between 1825 and 1840 saw the Basel Methodist and Bremen missions. Their motive was to bring the benefits of western civilization to the people by educating them. To this end, they began to build schools and to admit pupils for training. Of particular importance was the role played by Thomas Birch Freeman, a Methodist, who arrived in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and stayed there until after his death.
The church missionary society had arrived Nigeria by 1843 and only a year earlier the Baptist had establish themselves in Badagry. People who could read and write would no doubt be better placed to hold discussions with foreigners and this produced another factor of spreading British influence in both Nigeria and the Gold Coast. Alongside the missionaries, were also the philanthropists, whose main objective was to arrest inhuman traffic in human beings. These philanthropists or humanitarians made their impact felt in the British parliament and laws were passed by parliament forbidding slave trade in 1807 and slavery (1883) in the Gold Coast now Ghana and Nigeria.
At the Berlin conference of 1885, Britain got the other powers to recognize her rights of supervision over the waters of the lower Niger. Moreover, the Royal Niger Company held the area of northern Nigeria for Britain during the period of the scramble for Africa. And since the conference had laid down among other things, the rule of effective occupation, Britain like other powers hastened to conclude treaties through the agency of the Royal Niger company with places like Borgu (1894) and Nupe and Ilorin (1897) in the northern region of Nigeria. Such treaties served their purposes in subsequent conferences such as the conference of Brussels in 1890.
In 1906 the colonial office in Britain took over from the Royal Niger Company and the British government assumed direct control over northern Nigeria. In 1906, the protectorate of southern Nigeria and the colony and protectorate of Lagos were merged to form the colony and protectorate of southern Nigeria. Then in 1914, for administrative convenience, the protectorate of northern Nigeria and the colony and protectorate of southern Nigeria were amalgamated. In 1919, Britain took control of the northern and southern Cameroon’s.
Lugard left Nigeria and spent four years as Governor of Hong-Kong. He returned in 1912 as Governor of both administrations and by 1914 after the amalgamation he became its head with the personal title of Governor-General. The colony was placed under the control of an administrator and the northern and southern provinces were each administered by a Lieutenant-Governor. However some notable constitutional conferences were held in order to discuss the Nigerian independence, they includes…..
THE LONDON CONSTITUTIONAL CONFERENCE OF 1957;
This conference was arranged mainly to correct some of the constitutional deficiencies of the Lyttleton constitution of 1954. The conference which was originally scheduled for 1956 was delayed till 1957 as a result of the political crisis which erupted in the eastern Nigeria.
The conference which later met between May 23rd and June 26th 1957 arrived at the following important decisions:
1. The eastern and western region would be granted self government immediately after the conference.
2. The northern region would wait till 1959 for their own self governance.
3. The office of the prime minister was created.
4. House of chiefs should be created in the eastern region.
5. A second chamber to be known as the senate to be created at the federal level.
6. Southern Cameroon’s should be elevated to the status of a region.
7. The police should continue to be a federal force and concern.
8. That the Governor should appoint the person who commanded a majority in the
house of Assembly as premier.
9. A commission of inquiry should be set up to look into the fears of the minority
10. That the Governor-General should appoint the person who commanded a
majority in the House of Representatives as Prime Minister.
THE 1958 CONSTITUTIONAL CONFERENCE;
This conference which became the last constitutional conference held before the attainment of Nigerian national independence in 1960, also took place in London from September 29 to October 27, 1958. The conference considered some main issues centered on states creation, minority fears and the granting of independence to the country. The conference agreed that Nigeria should become independent on October 1, 1960 and that plebiscites were to be held at the request of the United Nations in both the northern and southern Cameroon’s whether to join Nigeria of the republic of Cameroon. The results of the plebiscites held on February 11 and 12, 1961 showed that Southern Cameroon voted to join the republic of Cameroon on October 1, 1961, while northern Cameroon voted to remain a part of Nigeria June 1, 1961.
It was also agreed at the conference that the northern region should become self-independent by March 1959.
THE 1959 FEDERAL ELECTIONS;
In December 1959, a nationwide general election was held into the federal house of representative. In the election, no single party won an over all majority as was the case of 1954 and as a result, the NPC and NCNC agreed to form a coalition Government while the AG formed the official opposition.
THE INDEPENDENCE CONSTITUTION OF 1960;
The independence constitution of 1960 which came into force on October 1, 1960 made Nigeria a full-fledged sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations.
SOME FEATURES OF THE INDEPENDENCE CONSTITUTION;
1. Federalism was retained for the governance of the country.
2. The governor general was made a representative of the queen of England.
3. A parliamentary democratic system of governance was adopted.
4. Bicameral legislature was adopted.
5. The constitution became rigid
6. Executive powers were conferred on the prime minister and premiers at the
federal and regional levels and no more the Governor- general and Governors.
7. The federal and regional governments continued to divide power of government
8. Provisions that defined the Nigerian citizenship were contained in the
9. The federal legislatures were empowered to make emergency laws during a
period of emergency like war.
10. The Governor was empowered to remove the premier if the premier had lost the
confidence of the house.
ADVANTAGES OF THE INDEPENDENCE CONSTITUTION;
1. It made Nigerian an independent state among the committee of nations.
2. A beginning of a new diplomatic era was born in which she join many international organizations like the United Nations.
3. It spelt out a clear cut foreign policy for the new nation to adopt and follow.
4. Employment opportunities were created as many Britons left back to their country and Nigerians were called upon to fill in those spaces.
DISADVANTAGES OF THE INDEPENDENCE CONSTITUTION;
1. The queen of England was still retain as the ceremonial head of the Nigerian
2. The highest court of appeal was still the Privy Council in Britain.
3. Furthermore, the constitution was weak because members of the house of senate
were appointed by the regional governments and not elected. They therefore became
stooges and surrogates of the regional governments
4. Also, the constitution did not give adequate treatment and definition to the issue
of creation of more regions in Nigeria. This over-sight created problem when an
attempt was made to create a Mid-west region out of the Western region.
5. It was not entirely home made.
Lastly fifty years (50) gone by the drains we can all cheerfully celebrate and join the
euphoria that we gain independence on OCTOBER 1ST 1960!