NNAMDI AZIKIWE: ‘’A STORMY PETREL WHO WAS A LITTLE IRRESPONSIBLE’’ — BRITISH PARLIAMENTARIAN – Sir John Vaughan-Morgan (Reigate)
”It is all very well for us to think that because of our own traditions and experience with this method of government it is comparatively easy to work; but, when we are dealing with a country such as Nigeria with its tropical and non-industrial background, where large numbers of people are illiterate and immature in political experience, there is a tremendous task in trying to shape political institutions which can give democratic results. The learning of tolerance and of resistance to corruption, vital elements in the working of democracy, are also factors which have to be reckoned with when new States are born”. – Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield)
As Nigeria goes to the polls for the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections this week, it is not out of place to remind Nigerians about the ‘’labour of our heroes past’’ who made independence possible for Nigeria. The headline of this piece captures succinctly, the effect of what we would regard as positive activism of first republic leaders of pressure groups, who fought for freedom from colonial rule. Many of them were thorns in the flesh of the Colonial administration which was why Nnamdi Azikiwe was described in those words.. Anybody who digs into history will be fascinated by the patriotism, intellect and positive thinking of these great nationalists. If only they had carried on without those sad and regrettable occurrences on the nation’s political turf, Nigeria would be a First World nation possibly ahead of the Asian Tigers. In a debate on the Floor of the British Parliament for the consideration of Nigeria’s Independence in 1960, one of them stated that: ‘’Every Federation—it seems almost in the nature of things—gets into a trough of difficulties, but I am certain that this country will survive all those difficulties and will emerge as a dominant nation in Africa’’ — British Parliamentarian in his 1960 contribution to Debates on Nigeria’s Independence
GOOD SENSE OF MODERATION OF FIRST REPUBLIC POLITICIANS: The third thing that has done so much for Nigeria is the good sense and moderation of the Nigerian political leaders. ‘’Sir Abubakar and all those around him, and the leaders in the various regions, have all played their part, and now, as they become a new nation, we know that they will be received with respect and honour wherever they choose to go in the world. I think that, together, we have done a great thing in that we have created a nation from a diversity of tribes and peoples. ‘’Some time ago it was often said that Nigeria was a geographical expression. ‘’We can say with confidence that Nigeria is now a nation, and will remain so. ‘’We are confident that the unity of the Federation will increase as the years ago by. It is a unity which will give them great strength’’
ECONOMY: The economic unity will be of great benefit to the country because when the three regions are together they have a diversity of production—cocoa, groundnuts, palm oil, kernels, cotton, timber, hides, and now, even oil. That economic unity will provide the basis for a sound economy and, I think that that diversity will give them strength when they go into the money markets of the world. It will give them strength, too, when they go beyond us, as inevitably they will need to, and when they talk to the World Bank and ask for additional funds. We in this country (UNITED KINGDOM) should always support them in their efforts. If we help this Federation which has a population of nearly 35 million people, we will have a strong nation whose leaders will be able to speak in the councils of the world with far greater authority than they would be able to if they were in diversified units. With this leadership in Nigeria today this new nation will be able to exercise a great and beneficial influence over the affairs of Africa as a whole.– Sir Roland Robinson (Blackpool, South)
NNAMDI AZIKIWE: A STORMY PETREL WHO WAS A LITTLE IRRESPONSIBLE: I should also recognise the work done by African leaders. I remember some of the old pioneers of Nigerian independence, such as Macaulay, who for years agitated for change, and also one who has been referred to as a stormy petrel, Dr. Azikiwe. Perhaps in the earlier days he was a little irresponsible in his manner, but he was a very great, magnetic leader and he made a considerable impact on the thought of Nigerians for the liberation from aliens of the political life of his country. I couple with these names the Prime Minister of the Federation, the Prime Minister of Western Nigeria and the Prime Minister of Northern Nigeria, all of whom have played a prudent and patient part in the achievement we are recording today.
THE DIFFICULTIES AHEAD: Although nationhood and independent statehood have been reached in Nigeria, there are still very difficult tasks ahead for the Nigerian people. I am conscious that the African leaders in Nigeria are alive to the difficulties which they have to face. Some of them have been referred to today. First, there is the great problem of how to weld into unity for great national purposes three great divisions of peoples with different traditions and different languages and religions.Secondly, there is the problem of how to get the Constitution to work if it is to have some regard to the variety of peoples, their tribal differences and different traditions and structures. Trying to discover how to get strong central government, and to distribute the functions and powers to regions in order that they may feel they have reasonable autonomy, has been one of the great tasks done, but it will be one of the great difficulties which will have to be worked out further in the days ahead.
Above all, there is the great difficulty of working democracy itself. It is all very well for us to think that because of our own traditions and experience with this method of government it is comparatively easy to work; but, when we are dealing with a country such as Nigeria with its tropical and non-industrial background, where large numbers of people are illiterate and immature in political experience, there is a tremendous task in trying to shape political institutions which can give democratic results. The learning of tolerance and of resistance to corruption, vital elements in the working of democracy, are also factors which have to be reckoned with when new States are born. – Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield)
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION – HOW NIGERIA DONATED THE RESIDENCE OF THE BRITISH HIGH COMMISSIONER AT THE MOST MAGNIFICENT SITE IN LAGOS: One thing that I take some credit for is the fact that the High Commissioner will have a residence worthy of the post. When I was there two years ago, I discovered that the Nigerian Government had given a site for the High Commissioner’s residence, as well as a sum of money for the building of that residence. That fact should be placed on record today. Those who know Lagos will recognise it as the finest and most magnificent site in the whole city. For every ship, as it steams into the harbour, almost the first sight of Lagos will be the residence of the High Commissioner. When my hon. Friend replies to the debate I hope that he will be able to confirm what I have said, and express our gratitude for the generosity of the present Government.
I am glad to see the other appointments to the regions. When I went to Nigeria, I found that we had a Trade Commissioner and a Trade Commissioner’s office in Lagos, and that that organisation was expected to cover the whole of that vast country. It did a difficult job very well, but I am glad to see that the exigencies of geography have overcome any slight stinginess there might be on the part of the Treasury, and that each region will have an adequate staff. There will be a Deputy High Commissioner and a Deputy Trade Commissioner, as well as the ancillary staff, and they will play a very important part not only in the representation of the United Kingdom, but in the political and economic advice they will be able to give, which will be willingly sought by the Nigerian Government and the Regional Governments. – Nigeria has enormous riches and raw materials, and she is to try to industrialise herself.
EXPECTATIONS FOR DEVELOPMENT: She (NIGERIA) is to build up her industries, and we have a great part to play in supplying the capital and the skill required in that process. One of the factories which I visited when I was there was a cotton mill which bore the name of a very famous Lancashire firm. Most of the foremen and managerial staff were from Lancashire. That is just one of the initial steps that Nigeria has taken towards her industrialisation. I came away from Nigeria more cheered than I have ever been in any other part of the Commonwealth. It has for us perhaps tremendous significance, because whenever one goes anywhere else in the Commonwealth one occasionally has slight misgivings about the mistakes which we have made in the past. I came away from Nigeria thinking that we had not made a single mistake and had not put a foot wrong. It is for that reason that we have such great good will from all the people of Nigeria. I think that the next few years in this Federation will be difficult and perhaps crucial. Every Federation—it seems almost in the nature of things—gets into a trough of difficulties, but I am certain that this country will survive all those difficulties and will emerge as a dominant nation in Africa. — Sir John Vaughan-Morgan (Reigate)