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AREWA TRUST COMMENTARY: THE DISTORTION OF POLITICAL HISTORY IN NIGERIA

THE DISTORTION OF POLITICAL HISTORY IN NIGERIA

History is often distorted in Nigeria by some people especially when it concerns politics. Such a distortion is more pronounced when a political discourse is between a northerner and a southerner or between a Christian and a Muslim. Several times in recent history, we have had encounters with people who angrily asked, “What do you mean? The North had ruled this country for almost 40 years out of the over 50 years of Nigerias independence in 1960, For Gods sake, Jonathan is the first president from the Minority to rule this country since independence and now, they are not giving him breathing space_________________ these are all bogus statements and spurious claims because they do not reflect the true history of political development in Nigeria.

Following several decades of nationalist activities and agitations for independence from the British colonial rulers by our founding fathers, the first general election in Nigeria was conducted in 1959 to usher in independence for Nigeria later on 1st October, 1960. In that 1959 general election, the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) under the leadership of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was in alliance with the Northern peoples congress (NPC) under the leadership of Sir Ahmadu Bello and they won the election. Under the then parliamentary system of government, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the first elected president of Nigeria while Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa who was the vice president of NPC was elected as the first and only Prime Minister of Nigeria instead of Ahmadu Bello who was the president of NPC. This is because he had offered that exalted position to his vice to go to Lagos and be the Prime Minister while he said he was contented to remain as the Premier of Northern Nigeria and Sardauna of Sokoto!

That was a typical Northerner for you. Parliamentary system of government was inherited by Nigeria from Britain which is still in practice in that country till date. While the system allows the Queen of England to be the head of state, the prime Minister remains the head of government. So, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as the head of government was the president of Nigeria from 1st October, 1960 to 15th January, 1966. After the first military coup détat on that fateful day
(15th January, 1966) the late Major — General JTU Aguiyi Ironsi ruled Nigeria till 29th July, 1966.

The 15th January 1966 Coup détat led by Major Nzegwu Claimed the lives of the Prime Minister, Sir Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Premier of Northern Nigeria and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Federal commissioner of finance, Chief Okotie Eboh and Brigadier Ademolegun etc. About six months later, Aguiyi Ironsi himself was overthrown and killed in another Coup détat on the 29th July, 1966.

The then Major Yakubu Gowon emerged as the head of state as a result of the 29th July, 1966 Coup detat. General Gowon hails from plateau state and was therefore the first minority to rule Nigeria and not Jonathan. In fact, Jonathan was the fourth minority to rule this country. Generals Ibrahim Badamasi Babaginda and Abubakar Abdulsalam both from Niger State were the second and third minority respectively to rule this country.

When General Yakubu Gowon was overthrown in another coup détat by the late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed on the 29th July, 1975, a northerner had ruled Nigeria for nine years. However, Gowon did not rule the whole of Nigeria between the 6th of July, 1967 to the 12th of January, 1970. This date was the period of the Nigerian Civil War which made the country to be divided into two.

During the civil war years, the then col. Chukwuma Odimegwu Ojukwu who was the Military governor of Eastern Region ruled the other part of Nigeria after the declaration of his Biafran Republic. This is because he was not only in control of his Biafran Republic by forming and changing his cabinet when necessary, appointing Easterners and willing allies to key government positions and printing his own currency and coins but also received support and aids from supporting countries and friends like the other part of Nigeria under Gowon.
We will now proceed from here to count the years southerners have ruled Nigeria as compared with the years northerners have ruled Nigeria . Azikiwes six years plus six months, plus Ojukwus two and a half years is equaled to nine years plus chief Olusegun Obasanjos three and a half military years is equaled to twelve years and a half, plus chief Ernest shonekans six months is equaled to thirteen years. Thirteen years, plus Obasanjos eight years as civilian president is equaled to twenty one years.

When president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan finished in 2015, he had spent six and a half years. Twenty one years plus six years and a half, we have a total of twenty —seven and a half years.
By 2015, Nigeria had been ruled by both northerners and southerners for fifty five (55) years. So fifty —five minus twenty —seven and a half years remain twenty seven and a half years, which is 50 -50.

Nigeria is a secular state and therefore, it may interest some Muslims and Christians to know how many years Christians and Muslim have ruled Nigeria out of fifty —five (55) years. We proceed once again to count years for both adherents of Christianity and Islam to balance the equation.

Azikiwes six years, plus Ironsis six months, plus Gowons nine years is equaled to fifteen years, six months. Chief Shonekans six months brings the total to sixteen years. Sixteen plus Obansanjos Military and civil rules of eleven and a half years gives us a total of twenty —seven and a half years.

When President Jonathan finished by 2015, he had spent six years and a half years. When we add six and a half to twenty —seven and a half, it gives us a total of thirty — four years. Fifty —five minus thirty —four remains twenty —one. By 2015, Christians had ruled the country for thirty — four years while Muslims ruled the country for twenty —one years.

In our arguments and counter arguments between southerners and northerners or between Muslims and Christians as to which of the two regions that has dominated the political scene since the independence of Nigeria in 1960, many of us fail to recognize the role of providence in these political developments as analysed.

By a curious twist of fate, the Northern Region which the late Sardauna feared might be dominated and marginalized if Nigeria was granted independence in 1960 now had a political party that formed an alliance with another party and formed the government after the 1959 general election! Sardauna had described the request for granting of independence to Nigeria in 1960 as an invitation to commit suicide by the Northern region which he rejected in 1956.

The independence and democracy Nigeria achieved on the 1st of October, 1960 took several decades to achieve by our forefathers and nationalists. That battle divided our people into four categories: the dead, the imprisoned or detained, the exiled, the cowed and the silenced.
Many lives were lost. Many more were injured through incarceration and other forms of brutality. Yet many more suffered psychologically as they had to escape from their own fatherland, leaving behind loved ones and seeking refuge in strange lands and among strange people.

it is sad to recall how our Emirs and kings like Attahiru of Sokoto Caliphate and Jaja of Opobo etc were deposed for their refusal to sign unfavourable treaties with the representatives of colonial masters among other disagreements. Defenceless and peaceful demonstrating women numbering over 500 were murdered in cold blood in Aba in 1929 by the colonial forces over unjust and unfair tax introduced.
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Colonial expeditionary force fired bombs to shatter a big forest in Benin to cow and silence the Oba of Benin. People were also punished severely under the Collective Punishment Ordinance Promulgated in 1916.

Yet, in about five years of independence and democracy, some five young army officers in the Nigerian Army struck, precisely on the 15th January, 1966, bringing the First Republic to its knees, and killing some of the heroes of our time in the process.

We at the Arewa Trust wish to ask at this juncture the pertinent questions that if not because of providence, why did Nzegwus Coup détat fail?, why did the counter —coup that removed Aguiyi Ironsi succeed? , why did Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe fear for his life by refusing to take over instead of Major Yakubu Gowon? , Why did Dimka coup fail?, Why did Gideon orders coup fail?
Why did the Military Junta under General Ibrahim Badamasi Babaginda cancel the 1993 presidential election which was believed to have been won by the late chief Moshood Abiola when Nigerians have spoken with their vote casts? and why did former president Jonathan Jettison the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) zoning arrangement which would have led to an Igbo man ruling this country right now if PDP had remained in power? To us at the Arewa Trust, these are the issues, and not bogus statements and spurious claims.

Northerners are today being accused of fearing Restructuring of Nigeria. We at the Arewa Trust do not understand what people are talking about. A lot of restructuring of Nigeria has been undertaken in the past and they were done by successive Nigerian leaders mostly of Northern extraction.
Northern Nigerian leaders like Gowon, Sani Abacha and others reviewed the derivation percent which finally resulted in the present 13% the states of Niger Delta region are enjoying today. Former Ibrahim Badamasi Babagida in 1987 set up the Political Bureau to find out what Nigerians actually wanted.
Also, former president Olusegun Obasanjo convened a National Political Reforms Conference with the central elements as follows; Constitutional Reforms, Political Parties Reforms, Electoral Reforms, Judicial and Legal Reforms, consultation and consensus.

Building. The late Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar-Adua still set up his own electoral reform committee. Various civil service reforms have also been undertaken in the past. Policies like quota system and federal character principle are also forms of restructuring of the polity.

After the amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates by Frederick Lord Lugard in 1914 and the creation of the Mid- Western region by Dr. Nnamidi Azikwe and Tafawa Balewa government in 1963, Successive Nigerian leaders of Northern origin have restructured Nigeria five times as follows: General Yakubu Gowon created the 12- states structure from the four regions on the 27th May, 1967 to forestall the impending civil war but in vain, Gen. Murtala Mohammed Created seven (7) states on the 3rd of February, 1976, thereby increasing the number to 19 states, Gen. I.B Babaginda created two more state to make 21.

On the 23rd of September, 1987, Gen I.B on the 27th August, 1991 created 9 more states to make 30 states and General Sani Abacha on the 1st of October, 1996 created six (6) states based on the six geographical zones of the country to arrive at the present 36 states structure.

This is what we at the Arewa Trust Know. If any information about North or Nigeria is distorted, we would respond by putting the record straight because we stand by the trust of the fact.

People who are talking of Nigeria going back to the parliamentary system of government or talking about 100% resources Controls are missing the point. This is because they must be made to know that resources from all the former regions in Nigeria were used to develop the present Niger Delta region through exploration, exploitation and production of oil which the agitators from the East and South-South regions are capitalizing upon to be singing songs of war.

We at the Arewa Trust wish to remind them that if people from the other region living in another region are to go to their own regions, these agitators would be the top losers judging from the following statistics as conducted by an informal census by an Igbo Organization where the Group discovered that: sixteen million Igbos living in Northern Nigeria are permanently resident and four million people are economic migrants moving on seasonal basis as compared with the four million Northerner living in Igbo land who are economic migrants switching on seasonal basis out of which two million of them are permanent residents and the remaining two million are uneducated menial labourers and petty traders such as watchmen. Cattle attendants in abattoirs, cobblers etc.

What is intriguing was that the entire four million Northerners living in Igbo land are all menial job seekers whether they are permanent residents or economic migrants moving on seasonal basis. Today, throughout Nigeria, it is only in Igbo land that no other Nigerian is allowed to get admission into their Universities, get employment or political appointments in their domains. Yet, in the North and the South West, there are states that have appointed Igbos as Commissioners and Special Advisers, examples, Lagos, Kano, Kogi, Borno, Yobe etc.

Igbos have also been elected as chairmen of Sabon-Gari Area Councils in States like Kano and Kaduna.

From the foregoing analysis, if we are careless to have another civil war (God forbids anyway) these agitators would be the top losers. But other Nigerians would not allow that to happen. After the Nigerian civil war, Gowon embarked upon reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation exercise for the Igbos. Ojukwu was not only pardoned by former president Shehu Shagari unconditionally but even later contested as a presidential candidate under All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). Still as part of unifying force; Gowon introduced the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme and established Unity Colleges across the country.

Throughout the period of the civil war, Gowons Slogan was: “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done”. We at the Arewa Trust therefore wish to advise that this task that been done, nobody or group of persons should be allowed to undo it again.

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