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REMINISCENCES – FACTS OF HISTORY — HOW THE UNITED KINGDOM APPRECIATED NIGERIA DURING DEBATE OF THE BILL FOR NIGERIA’S INDEPENDENCE

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Let me commence with an interesting account of human relationships in a media setting. The work and organizational culture of excellence, planning, friendliness, communication skills, informal relationships, information orientation and team building that characterized the Western Nigeria Government Radiovision Services (WNTV/WNBS) endured for decades, after the station, proudly known as ‘’First if Africa’’ came alive on  October 31, 1959.  The sustenance of order and harmonious co-existence, two factors that obtruded themselves were copied to the South-west States when States were created, first in 1976, and later in 1991.

It was common to sight members of staff in age groups, engaged in banters in an informal atmosphere of true friendship and love; including sharing precious things that they had. Those were days you could leave your drink or edibles in the staff canteen, go attend to some other things and come back after a while. I doubt if people still do that these days. In spite of the spirit of companionship, information management was not taken for granted. I feel someone should write on those good old days. Friends literally tore themselves apart in sometimes fierce disapprovals, in the interest of the job through constructive professional evaluation and criticisms of one another’s inputs, or handling of media assignments at Editorial/Reportorial/Programmes/Current Affairs meetings. Even, management meetings of divisional heads could be stormy on account of professional arguments and assessments, only for participants to meet later at relaxation joints to unwind, without inhibitions.

INEQUALITY: One interesting account is that at some point in the 1980s, some of us normally looked up at the second floor conference room of the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State and threw verbal brickbats at participants of senior management meetings.  Why?  We were apparently envious of what we considered lavish entertainment at the senior management meetings. In the media, you are not subjected to civil service rules that make juniors tremble when they see their senior colleagues. We jokingly took advantage of this relative freedom to confront our bosses after their meetings. There was no dull moment with bosses, Siyan Fatoki and Iwa Oyefade. We were always told to ‘’wait for your time.’’  Soon, one of us, who, was, indeed, our ring-leader, Kayode Adedire acted in the capacity of Controller that made him attend the senior management meetings. He came out of meetings to say his former colleagues who were not ripe to attend the meeting should ‘’wait for your time’’.  His response elicited comments that he had joined the ‘’crowd’’ savoured the weekly entertainment of senior management staff that eluded us. He usually commented: ‘’eni ti ifa ko baa to si lo npe ni haramu’’ that literally translates into: ‘’It is only whoever is not entitled to freebies that would call it a forbidden gift’’. In the words of Prof. Akin Mabogunje: ”awuff”.

THE SUBSTANTIVE ISSUE: Well, that is the preamble to this story, occasioned by Nigeria’s handsome donation to Her Majesty’s government, United Kingdom in 1960. I had thought Nigeria would, instead of donating to Britain would be given Matching Grant at independence. I knew about this fact of history while reading about how Nigeria finally secured independence from the British government. Besides, the bulk of the 176,000 soldiers recruited from West-Africa to fight the Japanese during the Second World war from 1939-1945 were Nigerians.  Many of these precious lives were lost in Burma, when Nigeria fought on the side of the British colonialists. They were kind to appreciate this assistance while debating the Bill for Nigeria’s Independence. But there are really very important lessons to learn from the debates on Nigeria’s independence in the British Parliament in July, 1960, which is why extracts from the debates on some issues including the paramount of them all – GOOD GOVERNANCE is being published.

HOW THE UNITED KINGDOM ACKNOWLEDGED NIGERIA’S MILITARY & FINANCIAL SUPPORT IN DEBATES OF BILL FOR NIGERIA’S INDEPENDENCE OF 1960: A few months before Nigeria’s independence of 1st October, 1960, the British Parliament debated a Bill that was eventually assented to by Her Majesty the Queen of England.  It was titled the Nigeria Independence Bill. Some very interesting pronouncements were made at the House of Lords during the debate.   A flurry of activities preceded the freedom granted Nigeria by the colonialists. Some interesting remarks were made on the floor of the British Parliament. TERRIFIC HEADLINES now reproduces below some very salient speeches delivered in the build-up to passing the Bill for Nigeria’s Independence.

THE BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY — NIGERIA, A GREAT COUNTRY OF 37 MILLION PEOPLE HAS AN AREA EQUAL TO FRANCE AND ITALY – THE EARL OF HOME  — The British Foreign Secretary: My Lords, I cannot imagine a more fitting start to a period of office as Foreign Secretary than to introduce this Bill, the effect of which is to give independence to Nigeria and so to enable Nigeria to exercise her influence in her own right on the world stage as an equal partner in the Commonwealth. To describe Nigeria as a great African country is right. Nigeria is great in area, equal to France and to Italy combined; she has a great population of some 37 million; and, as anybody who has met the leading Nigerian personalities could testify, Nigeria is great in character too. We have had much experience now in leading colonial territories to independence, but our experience of the approach to independence when we were negotiating with the Nigerians has been exceptionally happy, and I think we may say that as between the Nigerians and ourselves there is now complete confidence in the new relationship which is established, which is one of equal partners in the Commonwealth family.’’

I am aware that this is not the day or the place to discuss the details of the Constitution. Nevertheless, the constitutional framework is a Federal Constitution, in which each Region is self-governing in its own field; but the Federal centre, of course, is responsible for defence, security, external affairs and other matters which concern the whole of the country. Each Region has a separate Judiciary, but your Lordships will be glad to know that, while there is a Federal Supreme Court, the Nigerians are going to preserve the right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Constitution, as we have worked it out with the Nigerians, has seemed to us to be workmanlike and fair, and to be a 904structure which will give confidence both in the Regions and to all the races in the country of Nigeria, and will contribute to that political stability which is so necessary if the economic development of the country is to proceed as we should wish to see it. The Constitutions, both Federal and Regional, will be made in an Order in Council and Independence Day will be on October 1.’’ Before I conclude my short introduction of this Independence Bill, I should like to refer to a most generous act of the Nigerian Government. They have made us a gift of a really magnificent site for the house of the United Kingdom High Commissioner, and they have made a substantial contribution to the cost of the building. It is on the Marina sea front of Lagos, and is one of the most prominent landmarks as one approaches from the sea. We are very grateful indeed to the Nigerians for this most handsome gift. As your Lordships know, Mr. Antony Head is going as our High Commissioner. He is a colleague of ours whom, of course, we hold in great esteem and whose qualities are widely recognised. This appointment has emphasized, in a most personal way the value which we place on our friendship with Nigeria. (Hansard,  British House of Lords, July 28, 1960)

Mr. John Vaughan-Morgan: UNITED KINGDOM MISSION IN NIGERIAL 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.

I now turn to our trade relations with Nigeria. As the hon. Member for Bilston said, over the years our percentage of the Nigerian import and export trade has declined. It has increased in volume, as the wealth of both countries has increased, but we cannot view with complacency the fact that our share is declining. Nigeria has been able to diversify her exports and, equally, she has diversified her imports, at our cost. The reasons are not far to seek. We can no longer compete with some of the consumer goods which play an important part in Nigeria’s economy. But I want to talk about the more general aspect of trade. At present, Nigeria enjoys free entry into this country for her goods, as a member of the Commonwealth. I hope that she will long continue to do so. But we have no Imperial Preference in Nigeria, because of the Congo Basin Treaty. There was a chance to change that before the war and, without going into the merits or otherwise of the proposal, we should now consider the matter again. As an imperial Power, before the war we may not have felt it right to make a change, but henceforth we shall be negotiating with an independent Government, and both this Government and the Nigerian Government should consider the matter again.

Nigeria gains considerable benefit from her preferences in our market, and it would be unfair to those other nations who also benefit from free entry here and who, per contra, give us preference in their markets, if one country, and one country only, did not also reciprocate. I should like to see a free and independent Nigeria extending preference to us as she raises her tariffs. Whether that would be in accordance with G.A.T.T.  I do not know, but I see no reason why we should not at least seek an alteration. If that is so, then in the years to come I feel that the channels of trade between us and Nigeria will continue to flow as they have done before. Most, if not all, hon. Members who have spoken have referred to the riches in Nigeria. I think that its potentialities are enormous. When I was there I was able to go and see where the oil prospecting was taking place. No one was prepared to say whether they had really found oil or not. I rejoice in the fact that it was a British company that discovered the oil and that certain other rival companies took their concessions to other parts of the country where, alas, oil has not so far been found.

VAST OPPORTUNITIES: Nigeria has enormous riches and raw materials, and she is to try to industrialise herself. She 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. (From The Hansard – House of Common’s Debate of July 15, 1960)

VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH – – ‘’IF YOU PUT MORE IN; YOU WILL GET MORE OUT’’

‘’…….My Lords, I had forgotten for the moment that I have risen to support the Bill on Nigeria. May I say at once, very briefly, how much we on this side of the House welcome the fact that the noble Earl was able to introduce such a Bill to-day. We have had great troubles and difficulties in gradually settling in different ways the great family of nations for which we have been, and in some cases will continue to be, responsible. But here is one of the finest and best examples of what Britain and her Colonies can achieve if there is good will upon both sides. I think the negotiations which were commented upon by the noble Earl have been outstanding in the display of that spirit. Here is a vast and important tract of country, with three obvious provinces, shall I call them now, within the new State—provinces of different resources, of different peoples, language, custom and religion—which will join at this early stage in a Federal Government. It is a very proud moment for the British Commonwealth of Nations that such a group of accomplished and noble people, as many of the Nigerians are, should have chosen to seek entry into the British Commonwealth of Nations on gaining their independence. I think it is indeed very much to be welcomed.’’

‘’I should also, because of my nostalgia for a movement called the Co-operative Movement, like to say how much I value the record already achieved by Nigeria in the development of really successful indigenous co-operation. I am glad to think that in different parts of our colonial territories the influence of the British has meant a freedom to develop and to carry on with the education which accrues from the movement in co-operation. If we take Ghana, which was recently given its complete independence, we find that 25 per cent of the whole of its cocoa crop is marketed by co-operative cocoa producers. If we take Nigeria at the present time, we find that 20 per cent. of the whole of its agricultural product is handled by its own grower producer co-operatives. If we take Tanganyika, in whose future I have great hopes, we find that a third of the Tanganyika Legislative Council is trained co-operative managers and officials. It is vastly important, in these new, emergent territories, to remember that, whatever we do in trying to help them in the future, we can do nothing better than give them confidence and power in themselves and their own productive capacity. We should learn the truth, in this period in our own country’s history, when we are told we “never had it so good,” that we must leave the lasting lesson with all the population—a lesson which is true in every sphere of life—that “If you put more in,  you will get more out.” That is a very important lesson to learn.’’ (Hansard of July 28, 1960)

THE EARL OF SWINTONBRITAIN WILL NEVER FORGET NIGERIA’S PARTNERSHIP: ‘’I have had so many and long associations with Nigeria that I rejoice in having the opportunity to add my good wishes on this occasion. I am confident that Nigeria not only will have a prosperous future, but will make a signal contribution to the strength and unity of the Commonwealth; for Nigeria has proved how diverse peoples can combine in successful union, while maintaining their own individuality. If Nigeria has owed much, as it has, to wise and sympathetic guidance and administration in the past, and not least to Sir Arthur Richards, now Lord Milverton—the best Nigerian Governor since Lugard—Britain has owed as much to Nigeria. Our debt to every province in Nigeria in the war was immense. Tens of thousands of Nigerians volunteered—there was not a single pressed man—for active service in a war thousands of miles remote from themselves, and served with gallantry and suffered heavy casualties in arduous campaigns.’’

‘’It was thanks to the efforts of literally millions of Nigerians that we in Britain were able to maintain our fat ration during the war—groundnuts were produced on a scale never before attempted. More remarkable still, in a single year they produced and sent to us over 400,000 tons of palm kernels. When one realises—which unless one has actually seen the little things, one cannot—that it takes 1 million kernels to make a ton, one has some conception of that achievement. This was no great machinery business; there was hardly a cracking machine in the country. Those thousands of millions of hard little nuts were hand cracked in every village and in every school in Nigeria where a palm tree grew. Nor shall I forget the 30 airfields which were built in Nigeria, almost entirely built by Nigerian labour, with little equipment except their hands and their heads. It was over those airfields that every single aircraft had to pass to the desert campaign, to India, to Burma, and indeed to Russia‘’

ILE-IFE ANTIQUITIES IN BRITAIN: That was a partnership which we in Britain will never forget. Nigeria has always been proud of its art. Its people seem to be naturally endowed with an aptitude for carving and for leather work, I do not know whether, in the 16th century, a Nigerian fashioned the famous Ife heads, or maybe they were the work of some wandering craftsmen of the Renaissance. But this I do know: that it was the Oni of Ife who firmly insisted that these wonderful Ife heads should stay in Nigeria when the metropolitan museums of the world were making insistent and ever increasing take-over bids. It is with those memories in mind to-day, as I know we all do from the bottom of our hearts, that we wish all prosperity, happiness and success to Nigeria and to its peoples.’’ (Hansard,  British House of Lords, July 28, 1960)

LORD OGMOREPLEASE ERADICATE CHILD ABUSE

‘’……I would ask Her Majesty’s Government to make a special effort to assist Nigeria in education. I know that we ourselves are terribly short of teachers but from personal observation in Nigeria I can assure the noble Earl who is to reply that their case is far worse than ours and that they need every possible help we can give. We are, of course, doing a good deal over here. There are 5,000 Nigerians studying in the United Kingdom in higher educational institutions; and a few are at school. We have had one or two Nigerians at Mill Hill for some years past and at the moment we have there as a scholar the son of the Emir of Kano; but in most cases the Nigerians here are in the higher educational institutions, not in schools.’’

‘’……May I say just one word, through the House, to Nigeria? I would urge the independent Government to do what we were not able to do when we were responsible: to cut out child slavery. Unfortunately there is still a certain amount of that in the Province of Calabar and elsewhere, and I feel that this is one thing that the independent Government of Nigeria will want to tackle in a big way. I think it should be stamped out. These little children are sold, and often before the age of puberty they have gone through three or four hands. I think it is time that that was stamped out, and I am sure they will want to do it. It will need probation officers and child welfare officers. Until recently there was only one such welfare officer in the whole of Nigeria, and when I last went there that one was about to retire,  so there is a big field there for their activities. Perhaps we could help them with probation officers and child welfare officers.’’ (Hansard,  British House of Lords, July 28, 1960)

 MR IAIN MACLEAD – SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES)  – 1960 INDEPENDENCE CONSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENT: ‘’I have it in Command from Her Majesty to acquaint the House that She has been graciously pleased to place Her prerogative and interests, so far as concerns the matters dealt with by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament. When I referred briefly yesterday to this Bill, I said that the progress of the great country of Nigeria towards independence was a model, a model that made its impact at a particularly telling time in the destinies of Africa. For the whole House, today is a thoroughly happy occasion. From 1st October, Nigeria will be fully independent. That country, which is, I remind the House again, the most populous State in the continent of Africa, is, of course, extraordinarily diverse in race, religion and in social and economic development. Therefore, it is not in the least surprising that the political development it has chosen is that of a Federation in three regions, with each region self-governing in its own concerns.’’

‘’Naturally, the Federal Government will have responsibility for defence, security, external affairs and matters affecting the whole country, including, of course, the federal territory of the capital, Lagos. Each region will have its own judiciary, and this will reflect differences of custom and practice in different parts of the country, but there will still be preserved the right of appeal to the Federal Supreme Court and beyond that—I am sure the House will be glad to know this—to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Another important bond of unity will be the existence of a code of fundamental human rights embodied in the Federal and Regional Constitutions. It was very much the desire of the Nigerian leaders themselves that there should be such a code. As the House knows, it was hammered out at great length, particularly at the 1958 Conference, and it has been extremely useful because it has proved a 1794 model for many of the conferences over which I have presided since. I have found people from many countries ready to accept as, for example, the delegates from Kenya and Sierra Leone did, the Nigerian proposals as a model for the future.

The Constitution, of course, will not be a rigid one and each Government will be able to amend those matters which are of purely internal concern. On fundamental matters, however—I am sure that Nigeria is right again in this—there will be a rather more elaborate procedure for what are called the entrenched clauses. For these clauses, there will be a two-thirds majority required of all members of both Houses of the Federal Parliament and the concurrence, although by a bare majority in this case, of both Houses of at least two of the regions. Thus, although change can take place, there is and there will be a considerable degree of firmness and stability in the foundations on which the independence of Nigeria is built. In my view, this is all the better since it has not been imposed in any way, and I frankly tell the House what I am putting before it today is primarily a work of Nigerians themselves.

The Constitution, to which I have referred only briefly, is not, of course, set out in the Bill. It will be contained in an Order in Council to be made fairly soon, probably in September, after the Bill has passed into law. At the same time, regional constitutions also will be embodied in the same Order in Council, I think, and final details in regard to those matters are being settled now in Nigeria. Turning from the Constitution, one of the matters which will enable Nigeria to face the problems of development after independence with confidence will be, in my view, the maintenance of a strong and effective Administration and Civil Service. The Nigerian Government have made very great progress indeed in the training of their own Civil Service, and we are glad to see that they are following the practice of this country, which is, I am sure the practice of all wise countries, of insulating the Civil Service from politics by establishing executive public service commissions. I am sure that hon. Members who have had the experience, as I have had, of meeting many Nigerian civil servants will have been very impressed, as I have been, by the high quality of the men and women they have met.’’

SUCCESS OF WESTERN TYPE DEMOCRACY – GOOD GOVERNANCE IS THE ANSWER: Most of all, I am sure that the success of all this experiment in the creation of a Western-type democracy in an African country is due to the Nigerian people themselves. Their zeal for education is well known and they have taken great advantage of the opportunities before them of learning about institutions of this modern twentieth-century type while not abandoning their own traditions. We have greatly admired their zeal for education, the way in which such large numbers of Nigerians have constantly come to this country and gone to other European countries to learn the practice of public administration and the practice of democratic self-government. No modern twentieth-century democracy can be stable and peaceful and democratic without good administration. As the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech, administration has been well built up in Nigeria and the Nigerian people have themselves set to work to build up a cadre of well-trained, well informed expert administrators. But, nevertheless, outside aid is still needed in this matter of administration.

‘’……Nigeria is, as we all know, one of the richer countries in Africa, but it is still poor and under-developed by Western standards. The standard of living is increasing, but slowly—only by 10s. a head a year. Let me quote in illustration just one example taken from a highly official source. The Colonial Office List for 1960 tells us—making, I think, the best of what it had to say—that there are over 1,000 dispensaries and approximately 13,000 hospital beds in Nigeria. It is making the best of ft to say that there are over 1,000 dispensaries; it is making the best of it to say there are 13,000 hospital beds; because the country has a population of 35 million people; and those figures, compared with the numbers of hospital beds in this country, with its 50 million people, and with our number of health centres, dispensaries, maternity and child welfare clinics, and all the rest of it that we have here, are deplorably, regrettably small.’’ (Source: HANSARD 1803–2005, 1960, House of Commons Sitting   NIGERIA INDEPENDENCE BILL; 15 July 1960 vol 626 cc1793-8461793)

MR. F. M. BENNETT Many tributes have been paid to the high qualities of the Nigerians, both collectively and personally. I would stress only two of them from my experience while travelling there and meeting them here. First, one finds probably as strongly in Nigeria as anywhere else in Africa a rare political maturity and sense of dignity which are not always to be found elsewhere. There are no chips on any shoulders, racially or otherwise, in Nigeria. That is one of the first features that one finds so pleasant when visiting that country. Another factor to which we should pay tribute is that in Nigeria, although there is respect for good government and law and order, there are no signs at all of any of the autocratic trends which have distressed some of us in other places. Last year, it was my privilege to attend the celebrations of Northern Nigerian independence. I recall one small incident which illustrates why I have a special feeling for the Nigerians. I was driving back from Kaduna to Kano at three o’clock one morning when the car in which I was being driven ran out of petrol miles from anywhere in the bush, somewhere short of Kano. I was in a state of despair. There was very little traffic about and I knew that my aeroplane, the only one for a week, was leaving in an hour or two.

WARM DISPOSITION OF NIGERIANS: Out of the blue—or perhaps I should say out of the black—there arrived a small Volkswagen, packed to the brim with Nigerians returning from the celebrations with their luggage, which was substantial. There were six of them in the car. They expressed an immediate wish to help me, but it was obvious that it was physically impossible for me to get into their car. Two of them volunteered to get out and find their own way back—at that hour of the morning. I was bundled in and taken to the airport just in time to catch my plane. They were not rich men, but although I tried to give them some payment they refused, saying that that was the way that Nigerians always tried to behave to guests in their country. I apologise for inflicting that story on the House, but I think that it shows better than any other way why so many of us feel affection for Nigeria and join in wishing so especially well to a great part of the Commonwealth.

TERRIFIC HEADLINES: This simply proves that Nigerians are not fantastically corrupt. It takes a giver and a receiver to be corrupt.

May God bless Nigeria.

(Source: HANSARD 1803–2005, 1960, House of Commons Sitting   NIGERIA INDEPENDENCE BILL; 15 July 1960 vol 626 cc1793-8461793)