British did not hand Nigeria over to Fulani, by Oluwaseyin

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Who handed Nigeria over to the Fulanis? Someone once said, “Fulanis are number one enemy to the Yorubas, and that the British handed Nigeria to Fulanis.”

This is not true! The British did not hand Nigeria over to the Fulani.

Parliamentary elections in Nigeria were held on 12 December 1959. The result was a hung parliament with no clear majority to form a government.

Nnamdi Azikiwe’s National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) came first after he got about 2,594,577 votes to gain 81 seats.

Awolowo’s Action Group (AG) came second with 1,992,364 votes to get 73 seats.

However, the Ahmadu Bello’s Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), came a distant third with 1,922,179 votes to get 134 of the 312 seats in the House of Representatives despite getting less public votes.

The above three major political parties in the election did not get enough seats to form a government. An alliance had to be formed to determine who would rule.

It was a no brainer that Zik’s NCNC and Awolowo’s Action Group should form a coalition government as they came first and second respectively.

Awolowo then humbled himself and volunteered to be a Deputy Prime Minister or Finance Minister in a coalition government, with Zik as the Prime Minister. This happened because the Zik’s NCNC party had more public votes and more seats than Awolowo’s Action Group.

Zik invited Awolowo’s team to Asaba, the gateway between the Yoruba dominated Western Region and the Igbo dominated Eastern Region, to hold coalition talks.

The talks were a clever ruse to keep the Action Group’s hopes high so that the Action Group would be distracted from meeting with other minor parties for talks.

The group which the ruse targeted to keep the Action Group from meeting for talks are Northern Elements Progressive Union with 8 seats, Mobolaje Grand Alliance with 6 seats and the Igala Union with 4 seats.

Others were Independents Candidates with 4 seats, Igbira Tribal Union with 4 seats and the Niger Delta Congress with 1 seat.

Whilst the Action Group team was waiting in Asaba for a meeting with the NCNC, they read in the news that Zik and the NCNC had gone up North and clinched the deal with Ahmadu Bello on forming a coalition government with the NPC.

Tafawa Balewa, a Fulani, would be the Prime Minister of Nigeria while Zik would be the poster-boy-Governor-General.

Even Nkrumah of Ghana was shocked. He asked Zik why he would spend so much energy fighting for colonial emancipation only to settle for a toothless-bulldog role at a time when Nigeria needed him the most.

Zik would explain in his autobiography why he did not form a coalition government with Awolowo.

In 1947, with over £13,500 raised from the South West and given to the NCNC, Zik led other six prominent NCNC delegates to London to protest the “obnoxious laws” of Governor Arthur Richards.

The trip was a failure and was closely followed by backbiting, abuses and accusation of theft against Zik.

Zik’s opponents at the NCNC accused him of squandering the money and the trust of Nigerians.

In return Zik replied, insinuating that Yorubas on the team- Mrs Fumilayo Ransome-Kuti, Prince Adeleke Adedoyin, and Dr A. B. Olorunnimbe- were the problem.

A heated and prolonged press war between Zik’s Political Reminiscence in his West African Pilot and H.O. Davies’ Political Panorama in the Daily Service ensued, leading to apprehension by Igbos of the possibility of an ethnic war.

Consequently, markets in Lagos State witnessed a mad rush by the Igbos for crude weapons like machetes.

The Governor and his General Secretary, Hugh Foot, swung into action by inviting Zik and H.O. Davies to Government House where they were called to order.

Zik went away with the resolve that “the Yoruba must not be allowed to rule over others in Nigeria”.

After that, the Daily Service published a speech by Zik in 1949 where he allegedly claimed that Igbos were destined by God to conquer and rule over others. This among others will explain the reason Zik rejected Awolowo’s offer of a coalition government in 1959 and instead worked with the Fulani.

Since then, Fulanis have been reading Zik and Igbos through the lens of his 1949 speech.

When the opportunity came in 1959, the Fulanis neutralised Zik by offering him a powerless post which surprisingly Zik and the NCNC accepted in-place of being Nigeria’s first Prime Minister.

Zik had thought that the Igbo can easily manipulate the Fulani rather than the educated Yoruba.

He thus manipulated Balewa to arrest Awolowo in 1962 and to have him jailed for 10 years in 1963.

In addition, Zik also manipulated Balewa to remove some tribes from the Western Region. These were Edo, Urhobo, Itsekiri and Western Ijaw that account for 70 per cent of the oil wealth in Nigeria.

Thereafter, the Mid-West region was created to accommodate these tribes. Zik’s hatred for Yorubas gave Fulanis the impetus to rule over others in Nigeria.

Going forward, the group of young Nigerian soldiers who prosecuted the 1966 military coup, most of whom were of Igbo extraction tried to undo Zik’s mistake.

Unfortunately, they wittingly or unwittingly compounded the trouble when they killed more persons from other tribes.

In essence, Britain did not really hand over Nigeria to Fulanis. Nigeria was surrendered to Fulanis by Igbos.

But to hold on to power in Nigeria, Fulanis enlisted the backing of the self-serving career politicians in England.

Many Igbos, especially the younger ones don’t know this piece of history. I also don’t think the Yorubas, even their elders, remember this.

Has the leopard changed its spots?

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