BusinessDay

Oil wealth and Nigeria pseudo unity (Part 1)

It is a known fact that oil wealth is the only unifying factor that is keeping this disjointed Nigeria together presently. Unarguably, Nigeria was founded on a faulty foundation as the various nationalities that made up the Southern and Northern Protectorates were not consulted before they were jumbled together in 1914 by Lord Lugard-just to create an administrative convenience for himself. The ethnic groups in Nigeria did not discuss how they were going to coexist before they were amalgamated by fiat.

Thus, in January 1966, Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, having foreseen the devastation oil exploitation and exploration would cause the Niger Delta region, declared the Niger Delta Peoples’ Republic. By February 23, 1966, Adaka Boro and his 150 comrades landed in Tontonbou to stage the revolution which lasted for 12 days. Therefore, the Niger Delta Peoples’ Republic existed for 12 days before Adaka Boro, the head of the republic was arrested by the government of General Aguiyi Ironsi. He was later pardoned by Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, the then new Head of State after the counter coup of 29 July, 1966. Adaka Boro fought as a Major on the side of the federal government but was killed on May 16, 1966, under a questionable circumstance by those who were afraid of his larger than life status!

Following the wanton killings of Igobs in the northern part of the country, Lt. Col. Emeka Udumegwu Ojokwu, the military governor of Eastern region, declared the Republic of Biafra in 1967 but the region was not allowed to breakaway because of the oil that was in that region at that time. At various times, the South West and the monolithic North had also showed the body language become independent but were afraid to break away from Nigeria in order not to lose the huge oil money that is derived from the Niger Delta region. The Yorubas once again threatened to secede from Nigeria when the June 12, 1993 presidential election which was presumed to have been won by Chief M.K.O. Abiola was annulled.

The first problem that confronted the country before independence was the fear of the minorities over domination by the majority tribes. That fear was allayed by the 1957 Minorities Commission which was chaired by Sir Henry Willink (Queen Counsel) and former British Minister of Health. Another litmus test for Nigeria’s unity were the results of the May, 1962 Census. The census results were not accepted by the defunct Eastern Region while the Western and Northern Regions accepted the results because they favoured them. The results of the census were later cancelled and a fresh one was conducted “in view of a loss of confidence in the figures for the various regions.”

Read also: How Nigeria sits on wealth bigger than oil without knowing it – Dakuku Peterside

A new national census was held between November 5-8, 1963. The results were as followed: Northern Region: 29,777,986, Eastern Region: 12,388,646, Western Region: 10,278,500, Mid-West Region: 2,533,337, Lagos (Federal Capital): 675,352 (Ojiako, 1981). After the release of the results, the Premier of Eastern Region, Dr. Michael Okpara said, his government “completely rejects” the census figures… taken as a whole, are worse than useless.” Chief Denis Osadebay, the Premier of the then newly created Mid-West Region, also rejected the census results. Chief Ladoke Akintola, Premier of Western Region and the Premier of Northerner Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, accepted the results because the results of the census were in their favour.

The Eastern and Mid-West Regions vowed to boycott the general elections slated for December 30, 1964 if the elections were to be based on the results of the census. As complaints followed the 1963 census just as they trailed those of the 1962 census, President Nnamdi Azikiwe held a meeting in the State House with the regional premiers, governors and the Prime Minister. The premiers of Northern and Western regions including their respective governors did not attend. After the meeting, the Prime Minister announced that the elections scheduled for December 30, 1964 would hold as planned. This was denied later by the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA)’s McEwen.

Sir Ahmadu Bello accused President Azikiwe of trying to secede the eastern region from the Federation “because of its oil interest” it should be allowed to do so in peace. Since the discovery of oil in the East the NCNC has been growing steadily colder about their relations with other parts of Nigeria and had tried to “make themselves so intolerable that other Nigerians will take the initiative of getting Eastern Nigeria outside the Federation and thereby winning sympathy for the NCNC in the world at large.” UPGA said it would not recognize any government formed on the basis of the elections which would be “Compromising with evil.” It called on the president to summon a conference of all political leaders to break up the federation peacefully.”

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