The period of diarchy, i.e. of accommodation and partnership with the colonial administration, commenced with devolution of power promised by Governor Macpherson's Constitution of 1951. Britain then agreed to share power and responsibility with Nigerian politicians. In place of the old Constitution, which till 1951 provided for only repre- sentative institutions, the new Constitutions after 1957 allowed representative governments as well.
In consonance with the demand of the NCNC for greater participation by Nigerians in constitution making and in seeking to achieve the review of the much criticised Richards constitution, the British Government allowed consultations at the village, town, district, provincial, and regional levels. The consultations were to determine whether Nigeria would adopt Confederalism, Federalism with some measure of autonomy or Federalism on the basis of the then existing regions with or without boundary adjustments. The balance of popular opinion dis- tilled at the All Nigerian General Conference in lbadan in 1950, favoured a Federal system with three regions and the regions to be political rather than administrative units. The conference also declared Lagos an independent municipality. Regional and Central (later Federal) Executive Councils would be constituted such that the majority of its members were Nigerians. The constitution further encouraged Nigerian participation in the political decision-making process by liberalising the franchise. The elective principle was extended beyond Lagos and Calabar but the constitution settled for the very slow and cumbersome electoral college system.
The Macpherson Constitution of 1951 has been described as "a wretched compromise between federalism and unitarism". However, it stimulated the formation of more political parties; the Action Group (AG) in 1950 and the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) in 1951, both of which had latent, ethnic and regional interests. The problem of regional representation at the centre (Federal level) remained thorny as the Eastern and Western Regions opposed the number of seats claimed in the House of Representatives by the North. The NCNC was disappointed with the constitution especially as Nnamdi Azikiwe, its leader, was excluded from the National Legislature meeting in Lagos. However, it was the Action Group (AG.) that precipitated the final breakdown of the Macpherson constitution when Anthony Enahoro introduced a private member's bill demanding self-government in 1956. Differences over the pace of decolonisation between the AG and NPC culminated in the Kano disturbances of May 1953, and the subsequent demand tor the dissolution of the Federation by the North.
The constitutional crisis precipitated reactions to the Macpherson constitution and prompted quick intervention by the Colonial Secretary, Oliver Lyttleton. Lyttleton approved "that the Nigerian constitution be redrawn to provide for greater regional autonomy and the removal of power of intervention by the Centre in matters which could, without detriment to other Regions, be placed entirely within regional competence." Amidst controversy over the form of government (federal, confederal, unitary or loose non-politicised union), the date for self-government and the status of Laaos the oolitical oarties met at a constitutional conference in London.
The Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 was the net outcome of this London Constitutional Conference. It provided for Federalism with a strong centre. 'The thorny question of self government in 1956 was rationalised by offering self-government to those regions that wanted it in 1956, but not to the Federation. The issue of the status of Lagos led to the collapse of the NCNC - AG alliance as both NPC and NCNC wanted Lagos to be a Federal Territory and not part of Western Region as demanded by the AG." The follow-up Lagos Constitutional Conference of 1954 resolved the fis- cal arrangement of the Federation, the position of the judiciary and the regionalisation of the Civil Service and the Police Force. It also resolved to grant Lagos an independent status, as a political and commercial capital, to be developed with national funds.
It approved separate regional status for the Camerouns, with Northern Camerouns in continuing association with the North while Southern Camerouns was to be separated from the East and become a quasi-federal territory. With few modifications, the 1954 Constitution laid down the basic pat- tern for a self-governing Nigeria.