Politicians of the First Republic have always been praised for their excellent conduct concerning good governance and national interest. They really tried their best. But they certainly were not infallible because only the Creator is perfect. Divergence of opinions is one of the virtues of democracy. While crediting with functional roles, politicians of the pre-independence ear and the First Republic must also take responsibility for the collapse of democracy. But what we must do is to copy the salient examples they laid while shunning the acts of intolerance, tribalism and religious matters that contributed to the collapse of democracy.
INTERESTING & GLORIOUS PAST: Nigeria has a very interesting past concerning nationalist struggles that won independence for the country. An area that most probably matches pre-independence activism was the struggle for the decolonization of Africa in which Nigeria’s third-generation leaders, even in the military era excelled. Today, we peep into the past to bring you some of those fascinating reactions. First, the debates for Nigeria’s independence on the Floor of the British Parliament; followed by some quotes that serve to encourage good governance. Now, how do you react to Nnamdi Azikiwe’s tag as a very irresponsible leader in his pursuit of independence for Nigeria; or Obafemi Awolowo as leader of Opposition that is somewhat irresponsible? Please be at ease because these descriptions were not applied derogatorily. And even if it was, the venue of the utterances granted the speakers the freedom and immunity to speak as they did.
NNAMDI AZIKIWE – A stormy petrel who was a little irresponsible in his manner, but he was a very great, magnetic leader – British Parliament
OBAFEMI AWOLOWO: Opposition, being somewhat more irresponsible than the Government, often finds it more difficult to make up their mind.
TAFAWA BALEWA: One of the outstanding statesmen of the day, whether in Africa or elsewhere. I feel certain that under his guidance the future of Nigeria can be well assured.
LEADERSHIP BY EXAMPLE – PARTISANSHIP ENDED WITH ELECTIONS – Mallam Adamu Fika from whom we have drunk huge wealth of experience as an astute retired bureaucrat has argued that Nigerians must know much about the past in order to be able to chart a course for the development of the nation. Adamu Fika asserts that: First Republic politicians were leaders who sincerely believed in, and faithfully practiced the best tenets of democracy; and were always guided in all they did by the public interest. While they were partisan politicians, they still led governments that were inclusive and blind to people’s politics and they tolerated and worked amicably well with the opposition. For them, partisanship ended with the elections, and governments formed were for all the people. While the majority had its way, the minority had its say—and it was always listened to. In their control and management of public resources the leaders were accountable to the last penny; because, with the system that they had put in place and jealously guarded, they perhaps couldn’t have been otherwise. The best type of leadership is one is exercised by example; and, in general, there is little doubt that politicians of the First Republic led this nation by the power of their example. – Mallam Adamu Fika, Wazin Fika
ON PREMIERS OF THE THREE REGIONS IN PRE-INDEPENDENCE NIGERIA: The three Prime Ministers, the Sardauna of Sokoto in the North, Chief Awolowo in the West, and Dr. Azikiwe in the East, the same doctor who, in my day, was the stormy petrel of Nigerian politics and who, today, is the respected President of the Senate, with perhaps even greater prospects before him—to all those I would equally pay tribute. But I should also like to join the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) in expressing my own sense of appreciation of the Prime Minister of the Federation, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who is one of the outstanding statesmen of the day, whether in Africa or elsewhere. I feel certain that under his guidance the future of Nigeria can be well assured. (Hansard of July 15, 1960)
ON NNAMDI AZIKIWE: I should also recognise the work done by African leaders. I remember some of the old pioneers of Nigerian independence, such as Herbert 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 late Premier of Western Nigeria and the Premier of Northern Nigeria, all of whom have played a prudent and patient part in the achievement we are recording today. Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield)
ON OBAFEMI AWOLOWO: I should like, therefore, to take this brief opportunity of congratulating not only the Premier of the new Federation of Nigeria, who, as the Colonial Secretary said, has impressed all who have met him by his great ability and his high sense of public duty, but also to extend my good wishes—perhaps I may do it more appropriately than the Colonial Secretary—to Chief Awolowo, who has taken on the job of Leader of the Opposition. He, too, has an important job to do. He too, doubtless will from time to time incur difficulties in leading an Opposition, because an Opposition, being somewhat more irresponsible than the Government, often finds it more difficult to make up their mind. We are delighted at the general spirit of goodwill with which Chief Awolowo has undertaken this task and with which everybody in Nigeria accepts that it is his right and duty to do so.
AHMADU BELLO ON GOVERNANCE:
‘’I appoint you and other people to serve on various regional boards with the firm belief that you will render useful service to your compatriots; in other words, it is a sort of national service. The idea is by all means not for you to regard the opportunity as a money-making privilege! In this connection, I would like to inform you that I was made to understand that in the last meeting you insisted, quite adamantly, on the question of elevating members’ allowances. This attitude will certainly not be of any credit to you, or us, in the eyes of the general public… If your intention is to make money rather than helping your fellow countrymen, then the best course for you to take is to resort to trading or some sort of business that can quench your inordinate monetary thirst.” – Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier, Northern Region in his response to a memo that reported a politician’s request for an increase of allowances.
AWOLOWO ON LEADERSHIP – Those of us placed in a position of leadership must be prepared to grasp the nettle if we unite in doing so, and if, in addition, we set a worthy example and a marat on pace in probity, unselfishness, and self-sacrifice, the people will follow, all too readily, in our footsteps. — Obafemi Awolowo.
DREAM OF A PATRIOT ACHIEVED: My stiffest earthly assignment is ended and my major life’s work is done. My country is now free and I have been honoured to be its first indigenous head of state. What more could one desire in life? – Nnamdi Azikiwe; after emergence as Nigeria’s first indigenous Governor-General in 1960
TEMPORARY NATURE OF HUMAN PROBLEMS: “In the long run, all human problems do settle themselves aright, whatever anyone or group of people may do. This is so, because all those who do wrong and injustice, are merely setting themselves against the powerful tide of nature’s or if you like, History’s dialectical progression. Temporarily, this tide can be held back; but certainly, not permanently.” — Obafemi Awolowo — Address to 4th OAU Summit in Kinshasa, Sept, (1967): In Voice of Courage (1981)
AZIKIWE ON DIVERSITY:
“The very diversity of our peoples, and customs and languages, means that we have much to contribute to each other. If we can keep the larger vision in view, if we do not spoil the opportunity that lies before us by petty and inglorious side issues, these African States may yet achieve what the independent and warring States of Europe and the volatile and sometimes undemocratic States of the Americas have never yet accomplished, that is, a unity undreamt-of; and become models of honest and democratic government, which will give hope to all Africa and offer a challenge to the rest of the world. – Nnamdi Azikiwe; on the occasion of the visit of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah to Eastern Nigeria in 1959.
FELIX OHIWEREI ON GOING FORWARD: The value system in this country has changed. In our time, our value system and the things that made or pushed us to greater heights are very different from the things people look for these days. We are talking about change in Nigeria, but the first and most important change we need is a change of heart. Take away the carnal aspect of our lives, take away the heart of stone and replace it with the heart of flesh, one that looks up to God, that seeks to please Him, knowing that He is the Creator, the only one who can guide us and that all good things come from Him. But what change are we embracing? The first change is a change of heart; to have the mind of God. I always pray to God to give me the mind of Jesus Christ, so I can please Him. If you have that type of mind, then all the ills we are talking about now would be anathema to us. – Elder Felix Ohiwerei in an interview published in the Guardian newspaper