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Open letter to Ango Abdullahi

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First of all, it is not true that the North had bailed out Eastern Region or the Western Region. But you claim that even before independence none of the regions could live without Northern subvention.


You are alleged to be in support of the call on the Igbo to quit. It is unfortunate, grossly unfortunate, that a scholar of your calibre will be so partisan as to be unable to see the wisdom in retaining Nigeria as a corporate entity. I know you have, in the past, been anti-Igbo.

One would have thought that our education exposes us to a level where we can live even with our enemies. You said in the alleged publication that, “each year up to the time Nigeria gained its independence, none of the two regions East and West was able to produce for itself. I mean none of the Western and Eastern Regions had the money to effectively run the affairs of the region until they got financial support from the Northern Region.” It is this assumption of yours that I want to address.

First of all, it is not true that the North had bailed out Eastern Region or the Western Region. But you claim that even before independence none of the regions could live without Northern subvention. Let me draw your attention to the facts before independence. You should read W.M.M Geary’s work titled “ Nigeria under the British Rule” published by the Cass and Company Limited, London (1927).

Subsidising the North. May I draw your attention especially to pages 124 and 125. You will see published, General Revenue for the Northern and Southern Protectorates before the Amalgamation and the Percentage of Total Revenue originating from the North. You will see that contrary to your argument, it was indeed the South that was subsidising the North. I am reproducing the tables here for clarity.

I also draw your attention to Abstracts of Revenue, 1809 to 1913 . You will also see that the North could not have survived without the imperial grant and the support of the South. When you look at the third table, Northern Nigeria revenue paid by the South and the Imperial grant, it will disabuse your mind and show you that without the South and the Imperial grant, the Northern government/states could not have existed.

Indeed, one of the reasons for the amalgamation was the fact that the British colonial government was tired of carrying the burden of the North and they thought that by merging the Southern and Northern protectorates, the country would be stable. Indeed, the circumstances that forced the British government to amalgamate the Northern protectorate and the Southern protectorate on January 1, 1914 were motivated neither by political exigencies nor by a closer cultural understanding among the diverse elements of the conglomeration that was later to be called Nigeria. It is obvious that the primary interest of the British government was economic.

It was also obvious that the Northern protectorate, because of its geographical location and cloudy economic prospects, was not likely to be viable.In fact, the Lugard administration was finding it rather difficult to maintain the Northern protectorate which was already running into deficit. Testifying to the financial difficulty of the North and the anticipated prosperity that would follow the projected amalgamation of the Northern protectorate with the Southern protectorate, Lord Lugard reported that “the prosperity of the Southern protectorate as evidenced by the liquor trade, had risen by 57 per cent. In fact, the liquor trade alone yielded a revenue of one million, one hundred and thirty-eight thousand pounds (£1,138,000) in 1913. This, he believed, was the result of amalgamation of the Lagos colony with the Southern protectorate.

The Northern administration could not have survived without the imperial grant-in-aid which in the year before the amalgamation stood at one hundred and thirty six thousand pounds, (£136,000) and had averaged three hundred and fourteen thousand, five hundred pounds (£314,500) for the eleven years ending in March, 1912. Besides, the burden of financing the North seemed to have been resisted and bitterly criticized by the Southerners. The expenditure of the British tax payer’s money in financing a colonial territory was a contradiction of the British colonial policy enunciated sixty (60) years before by L. Gray which stipulated that “the surest test for the soundness of measures for improvement of an uncivilised people is that they should be self-supporting.”

Economic position
This is by L. Gray in the Colonial Policy of the Administration of Lord Russell, London: Cass and Company Limited, 1853, page 281″ . Further, the Northern protectorate was not only land-locked but bounded by territories that fell under the influence of other European powers. It was, therefore, inconceivable how the economic position would have improved without aid from the South.

The only alternative open to Lord Lugard was to amalgamate the North and the South and thus have a legitimate reason for the expenditure of revenue from the South in developing the North. Details of this manouevre was laid bare in a letter written by Lord Lugard on November 22, 1912 to his wife explaining how he had used the Southern resources to finance the Northern deficit.

Regardless of the merit which Sir F.D Lugard saw in his financial amalgamation of the South and the North, the prevalence of bitter criticism in the South shows the unpopularity of the amalgamation. At that time, the export from the South stood at five million, one hundred and twenty-two thousand Pounds (£5,232,000) while the export from the North stood at two hundred thousand Pounds (£200,000) in 1910. This was very discouraging to the colonial system and called for urgent remedy. On Tuesday, January 31, 1911, there were attacks on the colonial secretary’s suggestion that the South should advance a loan of two hundred Thousand Pounds (£200,000) to the North for the completion of the Baro to Kano railway, in addition to the sum of one million, two hundred and thirty thousand which was required from the South.

One of the criticisms of the Northern dependence on the South was voiced out by Honourable Sapara Williams who contended that before the loan was to be granted, the Secretary of State should settle the type of relationship that existed between Lagos and Zungeru, the two administrative headquarters for the South and the North respectively.

Existing hostility
He contended that as far as he was concerned, that the Southerners were strangers to anything connected with the railway after it has passed Offa, the last Yoruba town on the line.

He referred to the existing hostility between the North and the South, particularly as regards the issues of extending the Northern boundary of the Southern protectorate to incorporate Yoruba territories now locked up in the Northern protectorate. My dear Professor, the hostility of the Northerners towards the Southerners is not new in the Nigerian history.

Even during the time of Sapara Williams, the Northerners did not see anything reasonable in the relationship with the South.You will recall the massacres of the Igbos in Jos in 1945; you will recall the massacres of the Igbos in Kano in 1953; you will recall the massacres that preceded the civil war. If we cannot live together, Mr. Professor, don’t you think that it is high time we told ourselves the naked truth.

You will also recall that in 1964, after the crisis that followed the elections, that Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe had called on Nigerians to call a round table conference to discuss how we could share our assets if it was impossible for us to live together. We kept on patching this unpatchable relationship. In my honest opinion, this relationship has soured enough that it will take the wisdom of God to make us love one another.

We went to Aburi and there the leaders agreed that the only solution to our problems was to have a confederation but Gowon reneged. You will recall also that the British government, after the crisis of 1951-1952, realized that this country could not be a unitary state and they brought in the 1953 constitution which gave us regional autonomy. If the colonial masters in their wisdom knew that we could not be a unitary government and gave us what we had at independence, we should have respected their wisdom.

You will also recall that after the civil war, the regional autonomy which our independence conferred on us was violated by the military government led by the Northern soldiers. We ended up having this contraption that we are having now; it has not worked. It will not work, unless there is proper restructuring of the nation. We should stop pretending.

I believe in all sincerity that if we cannot accommodate every segment of the federation in one Nigeria, we should call a constitutional conference to decide how this country can be restructured so that every area can take care of itself and we can relate on certain agreed basis. 

We have slaughtered ourselves enough. We do not want another civil war in order to justify the existence of “One Nigeria”.May I humbly call on all Nigerians to examine the last constitutional conference which addressed the issue of restructuring. Let us not leave it to our youths to tell us when we can stay together or when we cannot stay together. The youths in Biafra are crying; the youths in the North are crying; the Niger Delta youths are crying. The middle belt is not happy with what is happening to them.

Added to these, the strategies of the herdsmen to penetrate every nook and corner of Nigeria, is raising some issues for national discourse. The Federal Government has deliberately refused to call the herdsmen to order.

They have killed many people and ravaged many communities. None of them has been arrested. Why? In May 2016, I published two articles and warned that the activities of the herdsmen was a plot which would soon cover the whole country. The heavy silence of the Federal Government tends to support the view that the herdsmen are on an undisclosed mission which only time would tell. The Government must listen to the call for restructuring in order to have a workable nation.

The military, for partisan reasons, jettisoned the independence constitution and foisted an unworkable constitution on Nigeria. Let us be humble and accept that we made a gross mistake by throwing away our independence constitution. It is now clear that unless we return to a structure that guarantees regional autonomy, there will be no peace in this country. The earlier we returned to regional autonomy the better for us.

Regional autonomy
I want you to look at the tables I have given you to see that your postulation that the North, before independence, had been carrying the burden of the South is a fallacy. The statistics I have given you here were not compiled by me.

They were compiled by the colonial government in 1809 and 1813. They show that the North has always been the Southern burden. Even in this administration, without the resources from the South, the North cannot make it. This is a gospel truth. But if the North believes it can go without the South, what prevents us from restructuring so that the North can be on its own and the South can be on its own.

Let us call on our government to look seriously at this unworkable structure called Nigeria. We must not allow our youths to be slaughtered again defending the indefensible. This federation as it is, is unworkable.

My dear Professor let us come together as scholars and look at our country very objectively. You may also want to read some of my works such as: Nigerian Nationalism & the Problems of Socio-Political Integration and Quo Vadis (Where Are You Going) Nigeria? And other essays.
My sincere regards.


In this article:
Ango Abdullahi

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