Evolution of Nigeria, 1849-1960 (Part 4)
Today:Saturday, September 20, 2014
We now come to Nigeria's political evolution, by which we mean the processes and motions by which the incipient political forces of the future were brought together and, thus, induced to begin the actual construction of Nigeria; that is, the making of her organic law and constitution, the creation of her nationalist ideology as well as the evolution of a political system and culture.
If a Nigerian nation was going to emerge, the goal of administrative amalgamation pursued by the British since about 1899 had to be matched by a similar goal at the political level so that the leaders of the people and their opinion moulders would have a regular forum where they could meet to plan and execute development programmes for their people. But, on this plan of advance, the British were not too anxious to take clear, definite steps.
Thus, until 1914, only the Lagos Colony had a Legislative Council which offered any scope what- ever for discussing the affairs of the government of the colony. And then, the majority of the members were top colonial officials, the same persons who originated the policies and schemes supposed to be discussed in the Council.
The amalgamation of 1914 offered an opportu- nity for making changes in the unsatisfactory arrangement, but Lugard was not the man to initiate noteworthy changes in this area. All he did was to create a body known as the Nigerian Council which met once a year to listen to what may be called his address on the state of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. The body had no legislative powers whatsoever.
The same ambivalence based on imperial self- interest that characterised the Lugardian approach to seeing and treating Nigeria as one political entity and Nigerians as members of one political family, was also evidenced in the constitutional develop- ment efforts of his successors.
For example, while the Sir Hugh Clifford Constitution of 1922 introduced the elective princi- ple for legislative houses for the first time, the Legislative Council which replaced Lugard's Nigerian Council legislated only for the Colony and Southern Provinces while the Governor continued to legislate for the Northern Provinces through proclamations. The forty-six-member Council, presided over by the Governor, was dominated by ex-official and nominated members. The Legislative Council system thus implied a division of responsi- bility to govern Nigeria between the United Kingdom-based British Government and the gov- ernment established in the Colony. Besides, Nigerians were excluded from membership of the Executive Council.
The Richards Constitution of 1946, though it had among its objectives the promotion of the unity of Nigeria and securing greater participation by Nigerians in discussing their affairs, deliberately set out to cater for the diverse elements within the country. Significant provisions of this new constitu- tion included the establishment of a re-constituted Legislative Council whose competence covered the whole country; the abolition of the official majority in the Council; the creation of Regional Councils consisting of a House of Assembly in each of the Northern, Eastern and Western Provinces, and cre- ation of House of Chiefs in the North, whose roles were purely advisory rather than legislative. Significantly, however, the Richards Constitution was designed without full consultation with Nigerians which explains the hostility with which it was greeted, especially in the South.