The tussle regarding who will take charge of Nigeria between the two major camps which constituted the country’s entity post-1914 amalgamation began well before independence. By a stroke of design by the enslavers and sleigh of forgetfulness on part of excessively presumptive southern elements, 1954 constitution – which officially laid foundations for, and eventually recognised three distinct regions – secured somewhat somnambulist endorsement from the duo of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, first Premier of Western Region and only credible leader of opposition in the country’s chequered annals and Nnamdi Azikwe, first premier of Eastern region and first and only titular president of the country.

The constitution became a watershed for the northern caucus in the independence struggle and template of misrepresentation on part of its southern counterparts, regionalising yet emerging Nigeria into North, East and West, ceding to the North nearly three quarters of its space. It further established so-called ‘federal’ principle, which paved ways for the country’s north-centric independence constitution that, by 1963 ‘Republic’, had turned the centre into an all-mauling behemoth. Quite disappointingly, to this day, regionalization is often promoted, even by those whose enslavement it came to ratify, as landmark achievement and significant step towards an independence that sanctified south’s terminal dependence. Seeking equality and equity – the kind that would assure a levelling of electoral contest fields and sundry presumed rights for every citizen in a complex, multi-ethnic federacy mined at inception by disproportionate partitioning, smacked inchoate imprescience on Awo’s part!

In consequence, North became the traditional winner of all wars with South. The first war – the grand partitioning – allotted North almost three quarters of available space. The second, result of its allotted size, was the census exercise of 1952/1953 in which the receding colonists assisted their longstanding Northern allies claim nearly 17 million population, representing 55.4 per cent of a total of 30.4 million, leaving East and West with 23.7 and 20.9 per cent respectively. This headcount became the touchstone for subsequent political misadventures in the country, beginning with the December 1959 parliamentary election in which North appropriated whopping 174 seats, while East and West (including Lagos and Mid-West) shared 73 and 65 respectively, as independence day drew near.

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The third came from the same parliamentary election which, though failed to produce a clear winner, saw Zik of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens preferring titular ‘presidential’ serfdom to the prime minister position promised in obviously possible alliance with Awo. Rather than agreeing to Awo’s befitting overture, Zik joined forces with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of Northern Peoples Congress, who consequently became prime minister – to consolidate the wins by the North. Had Zik agreed to Awo’s offer, Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna Sokoto, would have delivered his threat of pulling out of the federation, which would have stopped January 1966 coup, the counter-coup, the 30-month civil war, as well as other disasters the count of which has been lost.

The fourth, the Civil War, was not a battle of Nigeria against Biafra. It was one of North versus South, meant essentially to solidify the run of wins by schemers who would never settle for less than the ‘biggest’.

Indeed, Papa Awo did not do well to have sided with Yakubu Gowon during the war, being one that should not have been in the first instance, coming, as it were, in consequence of a breach by north-controlled military government of the Aburi accords. Awo’s support for Gowon was fired not by Gowon’s grace of freedom from the imprisonment by Tafawa Balewa and the northern strategists, or by the desire to repay Zik’s independence eve betrayal. It was believed informed by his misbegotten crave for the presidency of a country in which to be in the south is to belong to inferior class! The fifth battle was the 1983 presidential election which many believed Awo’s Unity Party of Nigeria won, but was cheaply reversed by National Party of Nigeria, using Richard Akinjide’s novel 12 2/3 legal omnium-gatherum. The sixth, the 1993 presidential election victory clinched by a southerner, Chief MKO Abiola, candidate of the Social Democratic Party, was similarly upturned by General Ibrahim Babangida, then Head of State. In-between these wars were military coups/counter coups that North, by and large, used to further sheer hegemonic goals. Awo’s and Abiola’s stories should offer South warnings regarding what they either should not again seek, or where they should not seek it!

There are more appearances of North’s unquestionable impunity in the hoax of a Nigerian union. Just as it was impossible to query the one whose singular pronouncement brought deaths upon the now largely forgotten southern children slaughtered post-2015 election, it had been similarly impossible much earlier to query the shift of Nigeria’s capital from Lagos (South) to Abuja, alongside other well-programmed relocation from South of strategic establishments to northern states, particularly Kaduna! Today, the navy, air force, army, and all arms of federal bureaucracy, alongside shows on revenue sharing, the divisions of portfolio, either political or career, advertise long-running and deep-seated North-owned/operated recolonisation agenda, and why only extra-terrestrial interventions may do in the battle to exit a cooperation operations of which have ever been anything but cooperative.

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Despite lopsided percentage of Nigeria’s wealth that has consistently fed North, the region has remained unsurpassed in magnitude of weight of its poverty. Across its settlements are eye-popping signposts of extreme squalour and undevelopment. Northern states generally have always paraded more out-of-school children, possessed the lowest life expectancy rates, alongside other scary statistics across various socio-economic and health indicators.

There can be no defensible logic in Awo and Zik’s agreeing to an independence constitution on the template of a UNITED Nigeria. Federated unity should have been POSSIBLE consequence of at least one full decade of separate existence/operations as independent enclaves, not as the first sentence in the opening chapter of a book the authors of which just began sketching out possible contents. For failing to read in-between the lines of constitutions as they built towards so-called independent self-determination status for Nigeria, for supporting North against East during the three-year killing of at least a million of the Igbo, for operating upon presumptions of morality – merit opens all doors – with rival politicians, even while adopting say-it-all-all-the-time strategy, Awolowo, quite unwittingly, but consciously, partook in a process the consequences of which have today eviscerated sheer blatancy of their imports.

Rather than superhuman ascriptions and unbridled apotheosis, the spirit of Awolowo should rather be summoned to tender apologies for the Olympian error of leading his kin into a wilderness of interminable darkness. Quite clearly, Awo as a thinker/writer was a success, as a statesman, half the success; but as a politician, one is left appalled at a logic which fossilised the fate of the logician, alongside that of his whole race. How on earth did he imagine North – thoroughly weaned upon theocratic fiefdom and savouring covert pampering of a receding foreign power – would submit to the enlightenment structures of a downright upright leftist and progressive ideologue?

Where clairvoyance is absent, sagacity should fill the void. Awo prioritised nebulous Centre to detriment actual home front. His calculations on UNITY produced a federation that came into the world a still born. There has never been a country called Nigeria! There is a vast Hausa-Fulani empire, with vassals in the East and West! Don’t ever ask again how we got here! It’s Awo’s ‘original sin’!

SOURCE: Salawudeen, writer and freelance journalist, writes via obastunde@yahoo.com

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