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Political Situation Leading Up To Nigeria's First Republic

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Nigeria has had a long hard struggle in keeping its democratic independence. The military has taken over numerous times, leaving democracy severely handicapped. Nigerians have clamored, conversed, fought and died over their democracy. But has Nigeria's democracy ever belonged to all Nigerians? In attempting to give background to this question and insight into the answer I have attempted to piece together the important events leading up to the 1959 election. I will touch on Britain's colonization of Nigeria. I will go into depth about the regionalism of the three major areas of Nigeria. I will also explore the three major ethnic groups who have charged forward to take political power for themselves in the guise of political parties in those same regions. The inherent weakness of the first republic can be attributed to the domination of ethnicity and regionalism amongst the three major political parties.

Incompatibility between North and South

Nigeria is a reflection of colonization by Britain. Nigeria has had to fight to be one country. But perhaps the fighting was not necessary. Perhaps if the British had left the two colonies as separate in the stead of bringing them together in the Ð''mistake of 1914,' there could have been two benign countries as opposed to one divided nation.

The incompatibility begins with the North, who did not want to associate with the South on equal terms. The North viewed the South as a threat to its society. The North was a fundamental Islamic society whose leaders had ruled for over a hundred years. The conquering Fulani had eventually intermarried with the conquered Hausa and formed a stable society. Although in the South stable civilizations did exist, they were not based on the rigid Islamic culture of the Fulani. Trade relations existed between the North and the other regions but there was not substantial migration between the two. The peoples who existed in both territories existed in different climates that would have prevented large, voluntary migrations because the two climates had bred human adaptation along two different paths. The north was used to open grasslands, light annual rainfall and the keeping of cattle. The people in the Niger Delta were unsuited for the average northerners' way of life. The people in the south had adapted to hot and wet weather, vast forests, economic benefits of their environment, and the tsetse fly. The north would offer few comforts that the southern person was adapted to.

The Fulani did not take the West either. This was because in the West a people called the Yoruba had long established themselves as a cultured civilization that formed themselves into large scale kingdoms. There are other groups that make up the region of the West such as the Ijaw, Edo, Itsekeri and Igbo; but the Yoruba dominated the area. Inter-kingdom fighting had existed among the Yoruba for many centuries. At the time of the Fulani invasion, the Yoruba had been in a state of decline due to the infighting. After the Fulani attacked Northern Yoruba-land, the Yoruba began to unify against the invaders. When the British arrived, Yoruba and Fulani were still encamped against each other.

In the East lived many peoples but the most dominant was the Igbo. The Igbo had had a long tradition of democracy. Igbo people democratically decide on village actions, diplomacy, and government. Each Igbo village was loosely allied with other villages but each village autonomously ruled itself. The Fulani could not take the East due to the indigenous peoples, the deep forests of the region and the testes fly who all proved to be too difficult of an obstacle for the Fulani to conquer.

Native Authority and the Three Regions

In 1900 Britain took control of the previously company-owned land in Western Sudan. The land was the home of over 250 different peoples. No one people ruled them all. There was no division because there had never been a unity. Some of the people were more powerful than their neighbors. This power struggle had been occurring for over a thousand years. When Britain arrived, the land was still divided. Britain took the land from the inhabitants and ruled it. Britain divided the land into two. Colonial governments were set up in the north and in the south. The division of the land instigated tensions between the two protectorates, but the real problems occurred when the British ruled the two lands differently through the Native Authority System.

The Northern Protectorate was ruled indirectly by Britain. The British had felt that the North was so advanced in their organization that they called it the superior mode of civilization in Nigeria and that it should be mimicked where possible. The North had been organized through the strong centralized government of the Sokoto Caliphate. Because of the British belief that the North could rule itself, Britain allowed the North to keep their traditional leaders, the emirs. They granted the previous power of the emirs to continue through the Native Authority System. The Native Authority System then became known as a type of indirect rule. The Native Authority System consisted of northern emirs and chiefs who had traditionally ruled in North. The North had been ruled by a hierarchical establishment for over a hundred years. At the top of this establishment were the emirs. The emirs ruled in despotic fashion - even handing down their titles to their children. The emir taxed the populace and controlled the distribution of wealth. Their power was absolute as they appointed and controlled all of the aristocratic administrative positions, handed out titles, and placed the Alkali judges in power. This Islamic ruling elite is known as the sarakuna. The Native Authority System had been made up of the sarakuna and assisted in strengthening their power. People rarely attempted to struggle against this established power structure. The North appeared as a giant pyramid with the emir at the top, the Alkali and the administrative aristocrats next and then the populace at the bottom. This power structure allowed the North to rule itself in a mostly autonomous fashion as well as perpetuating the traditional power structure of North. This perpetuation of power in the North was not found in the South where entrepreneurs, educators and merchants attempted to fill the seats of the Native Authority System.

In the West Native rule was granted by the British to the oba or chiefs of the Yoruba at first. Traditionally the power of the chiefs had been kept in check by the established clan structure not un-similar to that of Tokugawa Japan. The power of the chiefs were given by the almost equally

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