October 6, 2022

Our discussion in foregoing background of this essay squarely lay the troubling follies of Southern Nigeria politicians on the plank of Southern political culture as laid or created by Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo between 1948 and 1983.
The political follies committed by Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo are no different from those their political descendants have been committing since 1983 to date. We have already noted that Azikiwe and Awolowo disagreement over the candidacies of Samuel Akinsanya and Earnest Ikoli for Lagos Legislative Council election under their party, Nigerian Youth Movement in the 1941 made it impossible for Azikiwe and Awolowo to work together under any other succeeding political parties such as Nigerian National Democratic Party or National Council of Nigerian citizens or to cooperate under Azikiwe NCNC and Awolowo’s Action Group.
This political rigidity and lack of cooperation between Southern Nigerian politicians have been the root cause of follies of Southern Nigerian politicians who rather prefer Northern rule. And these follies have been responsible for the troubles of Nigeria especially the absence of emergence of authentic, true and focused political leadership for Nigeria from generation to generation as pointed out by Bola Ige in his book, ‘People, politics and politicians of Nigeria (1940-1979).
Perhaps, it is pertinent to point to some of the political follies of old Southern politicians that coalesced to become a culture and on that context judge the present situation. Nigeria’s nationalist activities took root after the initial stage led by Herbert Macaulay’s Nigeria National Democratic Party formed in 1923 and control Lagos politics until 1934 when Nigeria Youth Movement was formed and embraced youthful nationalists such as H.O. Davies, Dr. Kofo Abayomi, Dr. Ayo Vaughan, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Earnest Ikoli, Samuel Akinsanya, to mention a few. Nigerian Youth Movement, even though antagonized and accused by British colonial authority as a sectional party representing only southern interest had a viable Northern branch in Jos led by Mallam Jumare.
It would have vigorously led the nationalist movement but its internal politics of replacing Dr Kofo Abayomi, its councilor in the Lagos Legislative Council in 1941, who had resigned to further his studies in Britain, threw up a crisis. The quest to replace him polarized the party between the supporters of Nnamdi Azikiwe and the party’s rank and file who preferred Samuel Akinsanya from Ijebu Ode to Earnest Ikoli, an ethnic Ijaw supported by Obafemi Awolowo and members of the Executive Committee of which Mr Ikoli was a member. This disagreement became major crisis in the party as the NYM executive committee whose responsibility it was to nominate the candidate to replace Dr. Abayomi override the majority support for Akinsanya to nominate Earnest Ikoli and this measure angered the democratic instincts of Azikiwe to resign his membership of the party together with majority of his supporters who were mainly Igbo. This resignation angered Awolowo and other Yoruba leaders who constituted the executive committee and they started a campaign of calumny against Azikiwe as having acted with his Igbo supporters on tribal sentiments not minding that Azikiwe supported Akinsanya, a Yoruba against Ikoli from his Eastern area and that other Yoruba leaders such as H. O. Davies also resigned. As a result of this crisis, NYM collapsed as it became an empty shell.
But this political crisis etched a permanent political incompatibility between Azikiwe and Awolowo and some other Yoruba political leaders such Dr. Abayomi, Akintola, and others who thought Azikiwe and other Igbo leaders’ resignation was ethnically actuated rather than conviction.
The ethnic solidarity shown Azikiwe alarmed some of these Yoruba leaders led by Awolowo to start thinking that Azikiwe was playing politics to dominate them. In this way, fear of Igbo domination became a major hindrance to Southern leadership cohesion and by the time Azikiwe compromised with British colonial authority by betraying the core values of NCNC such as federalist principle and creation of more states and the betrayal of the Zikist Movement in 1948, the NCNC was weakened to pave way for Britain to exhume the moribund NYM now resuscitated on a cultural association found by Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Kofo Abayomi, Samuel Akintola and others to create a southern political counterfoil to NCNC while NPC sprouted from tribal Mutaneen Arewa association in the North under the leadership of the Northern caliphate political establishment.
This Northern political party came into existence in 1950. Despite the founding of Egbe Omo Oduduwa in the Southwestern Nigeria, NCNC still retained its popularity as shown by the 1951 election where it worn the majority of seats in Eastern Region and a significant number even after the debacle of its allied parties’ elected members cross-carpeting to Action Group thereby affording Chief Awolowo the power to form Western Region government.
True, Azikiwe lost the premiership of the Western Region and the legislative membership of the Federal House of Representatives which the Action Group riding on the crest of its ethnic overthrow of NCNC by prevailing on Western Region NCNC parliamentarians (Adeleke Adedoyin and Dr. Olorun Nimbe) not to support Azikiwe for nomination as a member of House of Representatives. This mistake by AG was best captured by Bola Ige in his said book where he said that the politics of exclusion of Azikiwe permanently cemented Southern dichotomy and the foundation of political non-cooperation between the Igbo and the Yoruba.
But the worst mistake was Azikiwe’s politics of opportunism that predisposed him to have rapproachment with British colonial authority against the larger interest of his followers especially the Zikist Movement which he betrayed and denounced as “viviparous lieutenants and cantankerous followers”, which denunciation strengthened British colonial authority to descend on the members by jailing many and dislocated others socio-politically and economically. It was Azikiwe’s opportunism that laid NCNC open to betrayals as many partisans disavowed their loyalty to NCNC and Azikiwe and decamped to opposing parties while other formed their parties. From 1951, Azikiwe became a flotsam politician having no solid base, not even in the Eastern Region where he had solid opposition and the British colonial forces took advantage of him to pigeon-hole him into irrelevant political position to galvanise the Northern political establishment against him and Awolowo and succeeding Northern political rulers led by Balewa and Bello took it from there to destroy Southern leadership starting with Awolowo between 1962 and 1964. It was the political crises arising from these political mistakes by Azikiwe and Awolowo that culminated in the 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966 political crises in Western Region and Tivs land and sparked off the January and July coups in 1966 and eventually the 1967 Biafra War. The Biafra War politics was beyond the control of Azikiwe and Awolowo as Britain and USA took control of the crises to preserve Nigeria as their neocolonial facility with its now entrenched Northern rulership founded on unitary, feudal and autocratic state structure and constitutional framework. After Biafra War, the soldiers instituted political transition programme and Azikiwe and Awolowo jumped into the fray without a thought to the dynamics driving it and both paid dearly as the old system was deployed to ensure they never succeeded as rulers of Nigeria.
Awolowo had UPN while Azikiwe had NPP which in their combined strength have the capacity to install them as rulers of Nigeria but never explored the possibility of coming together, not even when the Progressive People’s Party was proposed to galvanise PRP ANPP, UPN and NPP but Azikiwe preferred NPP/NPN Accord which later collapsed. The NPN felt itself strong enough to enter the 1983 general election on its strength and rigged the parties out which act of impunity, coupled with its misrule ignited a military putsch by military gang led by General Muhammadu Buhari.
The military rule from 1983 to 1999 when it was disgraced out of political power and it chose one of its members (General Obasanjo) to head a party and got elected as President. But the Southern Nigerian politicians having been the chief sufferers of the military misrule could not come together to ask existential questions about Nigeria rather like their political ancestors (Azikiwe and Awolowo) they have flowed with the tide and they are submerged or even drowned. Between 1975-1999 when Northern military generals held political power they restructured Nigerian state so that the political units made equal (12 states) by General Gowon was reworked by General Murtala Mohammed with North having ten States to South’s nine. General Babangida and Abacha bolstered Northern majority of 19 states to Southern 17 states with the North having 419 local governments to South’s 355 local areas.
To make this political heist impregnable and beyond retrieval and reformation, an autocratic, unitary and feudal constitutional framework was imposed to run the system and politics. Basically, every Southern politician now is a product of Northern political manipulations from 1966 to date and when they strut the stage with their trademark political bombast, their Northern political peers laugh them to scorn knowing that theirs are mere noisemaking and hollow grandstanding as can be seen from the recent PDP primary which the Southern PDP governors and leaders could neither hold their party to account to observe their constitutionally entrenched zoning or rotation principle nor supported their members to win.
The same scenario will play out in All Progressives Congress this week. With all due respect to Governor Akeredolu, Leader of Southern Governors Forum who is a solid professional with viable means of income not tied to state patronage and so can maintain independent economic existence after politics the same cannot be said of majority of his colleagues who may not be able to stay outside politics to be relevant in Nigeria.
The follies of Southern Nigerian politicians is a cultural thing and until that cultural foundation is changed from what Azikiwe and Awolowo made it, it will be difficult to bring Southern Nigerian politics to its pre-1948 status when Southern politicians made the National Council of Nigeria Citizen a truly national political party and the Zikist Movement made NCNC a truly nationalist and progressive party and politics was a vocation of service not an occupation by an eclectic mix of traders, job men, political rogues and terrorists.
It is a forlorn hope for change unless the state structure and constitutional framework are changed from its present kleptocratic foundation and culture to a democratic and egalitarian one.
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