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March 23, 2017

The Islamisation of Nigeria: Is It Real?

To answer either in the positive or negative, one has to go down memory lane. Prior to 1914, there was no country called Nigeria. But in 1914, Lord Frederick Lugard amalgamated the northern and southern protectorates. A British journalist, Dame Flora Louise Shaw (1852-1929), who later became Lady Lugard named the amalgamation Nigeria, a name that Lord Lugard happily adopted. The brouhaha over President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement at a press conference in Germany in the presence of Angela Markel Chancellor of Germany and one of the respected leaders of the free world that “his wife belongs to the kitchen, living room and the other room… that my wife’s duty is to take care of me” has a twist of irony if President Buhari remembers that the Nigeria in which he is the present President was coined by a woman, a demonstrable fact of how impactful a woman can be in all situations from the family to the larger society. In the present contemporary world, Buhari’s statement was as pejorative as it was derogatory on womanhood. His remarks are tantamount to the official objectification of women. Lots of civil society groups in the country are assiduously labouring for gender equity and equality, but a statement from Nigeria’s head of state such as the contentious one is a wet blanket to the efforts of those groups.  Buhari’s puritanical carriage lured him into an attempt at verbal sophistry by his “the other room” rather than “the bed room” which he actually had in mind. His colonial master and confidant, Britain, has Theresa May as her Prime Minister. Buhari’s interview in Germany depicts a disastrous degree of a railway-track mentality, a conceited independent rigidity that is as indifferent to decorum as it is incompatible with the ethos of democracy and diplomacy. No wonder Germans had to urge him, through their media, to leave their country right away.

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A revelation on the reason for the 1914 amalgamation by the British was that the two separate protectorates needed to be fused into one for economic viability. The protectorate of the north could not pay its bill, while the south protectorate was economically self-sufficient. Consequently, the Home office had to fuse both the north and the south protectorates together “so that the ‘unified’ country would be self-sufficient economically”.

The north is predominantly Islam, while the south is overwhelmingly Christian. Britain’s interest was neither religion nor culture. The colony was meant to be the milch cow of Britain. Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto, was the preeminent personality in the north. In the south, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe held sway in the south-east, while Chief Obafemi Awolowo was a dominant figure in the south-west.

In one of the conferences prior to the Nigerian independence, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who became the first  Nigerian President, though ceremonial, told his colleagues, mostly the northern delegates to the meeting that “let us forget about our differences and forge ahead, living together in one country.” However, the Sarduana of Sokoto later countered him by saying: “let us understand our differences so that we will be able to know how to live together.” It was reported that when the northern delegates indicated that the north was not ready for self-rule, and Azikiwe continued to persuade them to acquiesce, Chief Awolowo was said to have told Zik:”leave the cattle herders alone.”

Zik and Awolowo had a different concept of what Nigeria should be. Azikiwe, the father of African Nationalism and foremost exponent of Nigeria’s independence, believed in a Nigeria where all citizens would share one vision and national aspiration, irrespective of their tribes, tongues, regions, religions,  majority or minority status. On the part of Awolowo, he recognised the differences between various groups and sought to establish a structure in which all these groups would live within their geographical enclaves and aspire competitively for the greatness of a united nation. Nobody’s ethnic, religious or cultural hang-ups would slow down the progress of others who do not share those hang-ups, and nevertheless all would belong equally and equitably to one nation in spite of their complex diversity, the concept of unity in diversity.

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Therefore the Sarduana and Awo really understood the complexity of “the geographical entity” – apologies to Awolowo called Nigeria and rooted for their people. Azikiwe was alone on a pedestal with a Pan-Africanist mentality with which he infected Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, the foremost independence proponent and Pan-Africanist.

Islam is said to be not just a mere religion, but the culture of its adherents. So when the Sarduana of Sokoto said that “the Koran would be dipped into the sea”, he really meant what he couched in very powerful, esoteric imagery. Therefore, whatever you may call politics, economy or what have you, the Sarduana’s language is ISLAM. Political power would therefore mean power to achieve religious objective. The North holds unto political power to engender the jihad-based religious concept. The West, by Awo’s masterstroke, has economic power which is a synonym of dominance. The East has a nebulous hope of a great Nigeria hence her people are the most scattered and incurable believers in ONE NIGERIA in which they stretch every nerve to erect edifices, and all manner of structures in various parts of Nigeria up to the point of even reclaiming land from the Atlantic.


Within a space of 46 years, Britain gave Nigeria six Constitutions:

1914 : Lord Lugard Constitution; 1922 : Clifford Constitution;

1946 : Richards Constitution; 1951 : Mc Pherson Constitution;

1954 : Lyttleton Constitution; 1960 : The Independence Constitution.

It has to be noted that most of the earlier constitutions were meant merely to regulate commerce, which was the prime interest of Britain.

Nigeria is a pluralist country. Therefore the issue of Federal Character should have been well-entrenched in her Constitution. It was not so until in the 1979 Constitution and subsequent ones, where  it found its classic expression in Section 14(3):”The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or sectional groups in that Government or any of its Agencies.” The same Constitution created the Federal Character Commission (FCC). Its mandate is captured in paragraph 8(1) (a) and (b) of Section C Part 1, the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federation as follows: To :”work out an equitable formula, subject to the approval of the National Assembly, for the distribution of all cadres of posts in the Public Service of the Federation, the Nigerian Police and other government security Agencies, government-owned companies/parastatals of the States”, and to promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principle of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government.”

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To be contd.


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