Among the Ibos of Nigeria 1912: 1912
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Among the Ibos of Nigeria 1912
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View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis First Published in Buy New Learn more about this copy. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title. Search for all books with this author and title. Customers who bought this item also bought. They were not afraid of living under a powerful central administration because they expected to play a major role in it.
In he whipped up ethnic sentiments among Yoruba politicians to make sure that his rival, Nnamdi Azikiwe, who lived in the capital Lagos in Yorubaland, was not elected to the Federal Legislative Council. Though Azikiwe had spearheaded the opposition to colonial rule, he was denied the mandate for the national parliament. From a Yoruba perspective, the story of their rivalry with the Igbo is, of course, told differently. Tensions had been rising long before Awolowo founded the Action Group. In the late s, disputes between Igbo and Yoruba politicians degenerated into a "war of words".
Political parties that sought to take over the state apparatus from the British had emerged among the western-educated elites in Lagos and other Southern cities. They were led by Igbo and Yoruba politicians who paid little attention to the interests of the North, assuming "that the so-called backward north could be manipulated at will". In the North it preserved the rule of the Fulani aristocracy, whose emirate states had subjugated in the course of a jihad large parts of the North. Mission work was accompanied by the establishment of schools and hospitals, thus the Christianised areas acquired a lead in Western education.
In , only , children in Northern Nigeria attended primary school; in the South the number stood at 2,, While they made rapid careers, Northerners held, at the beginning of independence, just one percent of the positions in the federal civil service. Young Nigerians, who had learned English in the mission schools, now held the key to success, while all forms of Islamic learning had been devalued: "Southerners will take the places of the Europeans in the North.
What is there to stop them? The editor of a Hausa paper said in "We despise each other; […] the South is proud of Western knowledge and culture; we are proud of Eastern culture. When Northern politicians were given control over the Regional government in , they began to purge their administration of all Southerners. In order to get rid of the Igbo, Yoruba, Bini and Ibibio, their jobs were sometimes handed over to expatriates from India, Pakistan and Europe, who were offered work on a contract basis.
By August , Southerners in the Regional administration had been dismissed. Many did not return to the South, but established themselves in their new homeland as traders and craftsmen. The Northernization policy does not only apply to Clerks, Administrative Officers, Doctors and others.
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We do not want to go to [Lake] Chad and meet strangers i. We do not want to go to Sokoto and find a carpenter who is a stranger nailing our houses. I do not want to go to the Sabon-gari Kano and find strangers making the body of a lorry, or to go to the market and see butchers who are not Northerners. Everything depended on who would take over the federal government. This meant that the rulers in the North would not only lose political influence, they would lose the very basis of their existence.
Their entire way of life was threatened. If Southern hegemony could not be averted, separation looked like a better option. In , when delegates from the North and South met for the first time to discuss constitutional reforms, the Emirs of Zaria and Katsina threatened to lead the whole Northern Region, including the Middle Belt, out of Nigeria. Throughout the period of transition to independence, the Colonial Office was guided by two main objectives: to preserve the unity of their largest protectorate in Africa and to make sure that an independent Nigeria pursues a pro-Western policy.
The unity of the Northern Region was disputed, since representatives of the Middle Belt minorities, most of whom were Christians, demanded autonomy. Their political alliance, the United Middle Belt Congress, called for its own separate Region in order to break free from Hausa-Fulani hegemony. However, the colonial administration resisted any partitioning of the North. British support for the NPC had several reasons.
The Fulani rulers, whose ancestors had created the biggest empire in nineteenth-century sub-Saharan Africa, were the most trusted allies of the colonial officials in their system of indirect rule: "We feel that the Fulani and the English races have much in common.
Most British officials who served in Nigeria preferred being posted to the residential towns of the emirs where living conditions were more comfortable and where their work conferred greater prestige than it did among the "uncivilised pagan tribes". They were eager to appropriate the knowledge of the Europeans, but with the intention of taking over the privileged positions that the Europeans held. Consequently, the mission schools were seen as breeding grounds for African nationalism.
It was here that the modern elite which later revolted against white rule evolved. Furthermore, Northern leaders would pursue a pro-Western, anti-communist policy, while Azikiwe and Awolowo might follow the anti-imperialist course of Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana. None of the three Regions would be powerful enough by itself to dominate the whole country; each would have to form an alliance with another Region to gain control at the federal level. Although the NPC and its local allies came out as the largest party, gaining more than 80 percent of the Northern constituencies, it was 8 seats short of an absolute majority in the federal legislature.
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Taking advantage of factionalism within the AG, they dislodged the party from its stronghold, the government of the Western Region. In the Region was placed under a state of emergency and its government suspended. Awolowo, with his main associates, was arrested, charged with treason and sentenced to ten years in prison. Moreover, the Western Region was split in , creating a new Region for the non-Yoruba minorities living close to the River Niger. Initially, many Igbo profited from the disempowerment of the Yoruba elite.
In the contest for jobs in state-owned corporations and federal ministries, the Yoruba had been their main rivals, so it was convenient to eliminate Yoruba political influence. In Yorubaland where riots erupted, the public administration began to collapse. Thus it looked like a liberation to most citizens when some young army officers six Igbo and one Yoruba staged a coup on January 15, The British High Commissioner in Lagos, commenting on the events, had the impression that the "mood up and down the country is one of reformist exaltation, and the universal rejoicing at the disappearance of the politicians who have hung like a millstone round the neck of the country for 15 years, has almost eclipsed the distress of the loss of Abubakar [the prime minister who was killed by the coupists, J.
Of 21 senior officers he promoted, 18 were Igbo. Every observer immediately knew that this would strengthen Igbo influence in the state apparatus.
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Thus only a few days after the announcement of the decree, riots broke out against the Igbo living in the North. Two months later, on July 28, , General Ironsi was killed in a counter-coup. The coup plotters under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Murtalla Mohammed had initially aimed for secession. At the army headquarters in Lagos they had hoisted a flag that heralded a Republic of the North. The soldiers, however, were divided.
Most of them had little interest in joining a Republic of the North that would be dominated by the Hausa-Fulani. Under the NPC government, the minorities had never been given a chance to rule themselves.
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Their main political association, the United Middle Belt Congress, had continued its agitation for an autonomous Middle Belt Region, but the Hausa-Fulani elite had suppressed all separatist tendencies. Members of opposition parties had been bought off, intimidated or detained, and when the Tiv, the largest non-Muslim minority in the North, had risen in open revolt, their rebellion had been crushed by the army.
Furthermore, in the Premier of the Northern Region had embarked on an Islamisation campaign to consolidate Hausa-Fulani hegemony in the potentially seditious Middle Belt. This pacification strategy had created strong resentment among the minorities, but it seems that the fear of Igbo domination was stronger. When the army broke apart, the minorities did not side with their fellow-Christians from the South but joined the mobs that attacked the Igbo: "the killing spread out of the Muslim North into the Middle Belt areas where it was particularly savage.
It was also much more indiscriminate with Christians and pagans as active as the Muslim soldiers among the killers". With the July coup that eliminated the predominance of Igbo officers in the army, the Middle Belters found themselves suddenly at the centre of power.
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They became the major force that held Nigeria together, with Lieutenant Colonel Gowon, the most senior Northern officer, as their spokesman. He was backed by high-ranking officials in the federal administration, who had an interest in the preservation of Nigeria, and by British government officials, who also took a strong stance against political disintegration.
In addition, Gowon forged an alliance with Muslim soldiers and politicians from the Far North, yet he pressured them to accept a constitutional change: The federation had to be restructured to give the minorities autonomy. The old Regions, inherited from the colonial regime, were to be replaced by 12 states. Of the six states planned for the North, only three would be dominated by Hausa-Fulani while the others would mainly encompass ethnic minorities. In order to protect these minority states, Gowon insisted that there be a strong federal centre.
This set him on a collision course with the military governor of the East, Colonel Ojukwu, who called for a looser association: a confederation of Regions with their own security forces and with the right to veto decisions at the centre. But British officials knew better, as can be seen from confidential documents that have recently been declassified.
At a conference in Aburi, Ghana, in January Gowon had accepted a confederal solution. The treaty he had signed included the promise of financial assistance to the Eastern Region in its effort to cope with the influx of a million refugees, and the promise to pay, at least until March , the salaries of Eastern civil servants who had fled from the massacres in north and west Nigeria.