NINAS REFERENDUM AND THE OBAFEMI AWOLOWO FACTOR: The Present Political Class must be overthrown to give way for a Referendum
Odogwu Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD
President, International Coalition against Christian Genocide in Nigeria (ICAC-GEN)
Email: [email protected] Date: January 22, 2024
Baring every act of ethnic sentiment, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo remains the greatest political visionary Nigeria ever had, his shortcomings as a human being not withstanding. His 1947 thesis of “Nigeria is not a nation but a geographical expression” remains as indelible in the annals of Nigerian history as it remains a political practicum under the present state of political precipice in Nigeria. If Chief Obafemi Awolowo had had his way, the Sokoto Caliphate with its present destructive jihad army of fortune recklessly killing, kidnapping and extorting our people through weird amounts of ransom, and illegally colonizing and appropriating our historic ancestral lands would not have been today.
But Chief Obafemi Awolowo went to his eternity without achieving this objective of turning Nigeria from a geographical expression to a true nation, which could only have taken place if the Fulani were put in their property political position in Nigeria. Today Nigerians are facing the danger of a repetition of the jihad episode of 1805.
In his response to Justice Sowemimo’s verdict on his treason trial on September 11, 1962, Chief Obafemi Awolowo had this to say:
“Since 1957 I have fought, as your Lordship remarked, with vigour against the feudal system in the Northern Region and for its eradication. I have also fought to prevent the spread of this evil political system to other parts of Nigeria.”
For those who are conversant with the history of referendum in Nigeria, there had been only two referenda that successfully restructured the political configuration of the Nigerian Federation, and both took place under the combined states of strong political pressure and selfish political interests of the ruling NPC/NCNC coalition. These were the 1963 Midwest referendum that saw the eventual creation of the Midwest Region out of Western Region in 1963; and the 1962 referendum of the two Anglophone Cameroon Regions of Nigeria that eventually saw the present Southwest and Northwest Regions of Republic of Cameroon leaving Southern Nigeria to join the Francophone Cameroon in 1962; and the Northern Cameroons voting to join Northern Nigeria to form parts of the present Adamawa and Taraba States.
It is instructive to note that before these two referenda, there were multiple agitations by many minority ethnic groups for independence from the three major ethnic groups—Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba. This was the reason for the constitution of Sir Henry Willink Commission on November 23, 1957 to look into the fears of this minority ethnic groups.
The Northern Region under Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello was facing the Middle Belt revolt, an episode that remains alive today. The Eastern Region under Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was similarly facing revolts from Southern Cameroon who found Enugu very far from their homeland and demanded a full Region; while the minority ethnic groups in Cross River, Ogoja and Rivers Provinces under the aegis of C. O. R State Movement were agitating for a Region independent of Eastern Region. On the other hand the Midwest Region Movement under the Western Region was in the same vein agitating for a separate Region.
Under such prevailing circumstances, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe teamed up with Sir Ahmadu Bello to create Midwest Region as a way of reducing Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s area of influence; while both men jointly opposed the creation of COR and Middle Belt Regions out of the Eastern and Northern Regions. Similarly while both men teamed up to support the British Cameroon referendum of 1962, Sir Ahmadu Bello secretly encouraged Southern Cameroon to exit Nigeria, while he diplomatically forced the British Northern Cameroon to remain in Nigeria, thereby increasing the structural disparity between Northern and Southern Nigeria in favor of the North. Thus it took the selfish political interests of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello to cause the two referenda to take place, while creating more problems for themselves and Nigeria at large.
In his amended motion on the motion for the creation of Midwest Region titled, “Creation of more States” on April 4, 1961 at the Federal House of Representatives, Chief Obafemi Awolowo pointedly stated in part:
“Mr. Speaker, Sir, the text of the Amendment speaks for itself. Hitherto, the Action Group had adopted two distinct but coordinated approaches to the issue of more states in Nigeria. The first approach is idealistic. The Action Group believe, as a matter of fundamental principle, that if the
unity of this country is to be lasting and if our people are to have abiding peace and happiness, each ethnic or linguistic group in Nigeria must be assured of political sell determination within the Federation. In other words, each ethnic or linguistic group should either have a region of their own now or should have a definite and invincible assurance that, granting financial and administrative viability, they will have a region of their own in the future. Furthermore, the Federation of Nigeria is monstrously abnormal in structure in the sense that one of the three
Regions is not only bigger in territory and population than the other two put together, but has also in actual practice succeeded in placing itself in a position where, at its arbitrary and capricious pleasure, it can bend the will of the entire Federation to its own. This abnormality must be terminated if every section of our country is to enjoy the full fruits of freedom in an independent Nigeria. And the termination of this abnormality does mean the breaking of the
Northern Region into more Regions than the two hitherto advocated.”
Chief Obafemi Awolowo was eventually imprisoned before the creation of Midwest Region; thereafter followed the long-drawn Western Regional crisis that resulted to Biafran secession and the subsequent civil war. It should be noted that prior to the pogrom and the resulting civil war, General Yakubu Gowon had on September 12, 1966, inaugurated the National Constitutional Conference with the mandate to seek and design an alternative and acceptable political framework for the country in line with his promise to return the country to civil rule as soon as the situation stabilizes.
The Conference held two sessions. The first was from September 12 to 28, 1966, and the second from October 28 to November 4, 1966. While the first session was fully represented by the four Regions—Eastern, Midwestern, Northern, and Western, and the Lagos Capital Territory, the second session however was held without the presence of the Eastern Region, since it coincided with the period of the pogrom against the Igbo, which saw the latter gradually drifting towards secession.
It was indeed during the second session that the Tiv military mafia led by Col. John Akahan, then Chief of Army Staff, who were the power behind General Yakubu Gowon and who had suffered untold oppression by Sir Ahmadu Bello, insisted that they must be given their separate State from the Northern Region. They were supported by other minority groups in Eastern Region and indigenes of Lagos Capital Territory who wanted to be upgraded to the status of a State. Chief Obafemi Awolowo also insisted that the only way he could serve under General Yakubu Gowon’s Government was for the States to be balanced between the North and South, hence the twelve-State structure, which was later dismantled by General Murtala Mohammed through the creation of more States in the North against the South.
This agitation for new States and the eventual creation of the twelve-State structure at that turbulent political period also worked against the declaration of the State of Biafra since the creation of Cross River and Rivers States became the rallying point for their collective opposition to Biafran secession. Eventually, the creation of future States in the Federation became a matter of military decrees as against the democratic framework of referendum.
Today, while agitations for referendum continue, we must accept one fundamental reality under the present political circumstances: No referendum can come by peaceful means under the present political demography dominated by those who believe they would lose power from the referendum. It therefore follows that the only means of achieving structural rearrangement of the present Nigerian Federation is by the military taking over political power from the present class of morally corrupt and religiously bankrupt political leadership.
The International Coalition against Christian Genocide in Nigeria while holding the opinion that referendum is fundamental to the ultimate future of the Nigerian nation, however, is of the further opinion that the existing political environment created by the British colonial administration and sustained by successive morally corrupt and ideologically bankrupt sets of political leadership, nay the on-going one-sided violence against the populace by Muslim Fulani jihadists, will never give way to a referendum.
To have a referendum presently or in future under the present political dispensation can only be possible not through innocuous campaigns that only tend to sustain the status quo but by creating the enabling revolutionary situation that will make the corrupted system ungovernable. It is therefore not the question of demanding with bare hands from the hands armed with AK-47 to divest them of their juicy political authority, but that of applying the politics of Newton’s Third Law of Motion—“Actions and Reactions are equal and opposite.