The above topic was written by Dr. Sunday Ajai, in the New Telegraph Newspaper of Thursday, February 27, 2020, page 14, thus:
“A few weeks ago, I was in a public commuter bus, from Iyana-Ipaja, to CMS Bus Stop, on the Lagos Island. A young Igboman started a discussion, after watching how a commuter treated an Igbo boy selling handkerchief on the road. He said that other Nigerians hate the Igbo. He went further to say that an Igboman would be the next President of Nigeria from 2023, because, an Igbo man had never been the President of Nigeria. It was then that I paid attention to his ranting. I told him that an Igbo man was the first president of Nigeria, and another Igbo man was the first Military Head of State of Nigeri”.
In the biblical advocacy, it is said that: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set ye free”.
Dr. Ajai said that his concern was that it appears, that the Igbo have not learnt anything from the civil war (1966-1970). My own concern is that elders refused to tell the youth the truth, which could have helped to correct past mistakes.
The young Igbo man must have been born after the war (1966-1970), and so he knows very well that no Igbo man had become President of Nigeria, both as Civilian or Military President. And so, Ajai misinformed him and others, which distorted the history of Nigeria.
Nigeria was a British Colonial Territory, and Britain established her own system of government for Nigeria, and gave Nigeria Independence in 1960 on the same pattern. Britain was a monarchical Nation, with the Queen (King) as Figure-head of State. They have a House of Lords, made up of appointed erudite old wisemen, whose duty is on part-time and Advisory to the Monarch and the Parliament. The House of Parliament (Commons) is a Unicamera Legislature, who are representatives of the people and got their office through election.
As Unicamera Legislature, they make laws and implement them. The Prime Minister is the Head of Government with Executive Power, and appoints Ministers among those elected by the people. The Prime Minister himself got his office by election, as our present-day President gets his office by election. It is the Prime Minister of Britain that does all work and is more busy and popular than the Queen. That is why today, in Britain, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is more busy and popular than Queen Elizabeth.
So, at Independence in 1960, Britain had a representative of the Queen, Sir James Robertson, who was the Governor General. They kept a Senate for Nigeria, which was equivalent to the House of Lords in Britain. They kept a Unicamera system of Government, with elected Prime Minster and elected Members of Parliament. The Prime Minister, (Tafawa Balewa at Independence), controlled Executive powers as Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces. He appointed Service Chiefs of the Army, Navy, Police, etc. He appointed Ministers from among Members of Parliament and gave them offices.
The first Igbo man President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik), was only a Figure Head, a Ceremonial President. He did not have executive powers, as we have it today in President Buhari.
In 1959, preparatory for Independence in 1960, a Northerner of Hausa/Fulani, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, from Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), contested for the office of Prime Minister, and because of Northern population from Muslim tradition of polygamy of one man with four wives, won 79 seats all in the North, only. An Easterner of Igbo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe (Zik) from National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), contested for the office of Prime Minister, and won 62 seats, in the East, West with Lagos. A Westerner of Yoruba, from Action Group (AG), Barr. Obafemi Awolowo, contested election for Prime Minister, won 27 seats in the West, only. Alhaji Tafewa Balewa, with 79 seats got in the North, only, could not form the Federal Government. So, he went into Alliance with Zik. As Zik’s party, the NCNC, was in the Alliance Government, they appointed Zik as the Senate President. Awolowo who contested as Prime Minister, but lost, then joined Balewa to administer the Government as OPPOSITION LEADER
The British Government still retained the office of Governor General who was representative of the Queen, but was only a Figure-head. After one month, in November 1960,1961, the Governor General, Sir James Robertson, retired and returned to Britain. The Nigeria Government still retained the office of Governor General. As Zik contested the office of Prime Minister, and now Senate President, coupled with the roles he played to get Independence, they promoted him to the office of Governor General, as Figure Head, (Ceremonial Governor General). The official dress of Zik as Governor General was the uniform of Admiral of Navy, just like his predecessor, James Robertson. They appointed Dr. Nwafor Orizu, an Igbo man from East, of NCNC, to succeed Zik as Senate President.
In 1963, Nigeria became a Republic. They still retain Britishsystem of monarchical Government, and so, because of the roles and offices Zik had been occupying in Nigeria, they appointed him as the Ceremonial President. Zik discarded the uniform of Admiral of Navy as official dress, and adorned native attire of AGBADA.
The Prime Minister, Balewa, still retained the Executive power, as Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces, and other paraphanalia of executive office.
On January 15, 1966, young soldiers plotted coup, and took over the Government. The Igbo man who was the highest Army officer, as Chief of Army Staff (CAS), was General Aguiyi Ironsi. As he did not support the coup, he played heroic roles to stop the coup, and so, he assumed the office of the Military Head of State. His patriotism helped to stabilize the Nation and restored normalcy. But on July 29, 1966, soldiers of Hausa/Fulani North, who did not want other tribe to rule them, plotted counter coup and killed Ironsi. So, Ironsi barely stayed for six months and did not have enough time to do any visible good work. The counter coupists appointed a Hausa/Fulani soldier, Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, to be the Military President. On May 30, 1967, Easterners, under Ojukwu, broke away and Gowon declared war against them, conquered them, and brought them back. The North of Hausa/Fulani, ruled Nigeria as Military President from 1966-1975 (Gowon). Another Hausa/Fulani North, General Muritala sacked Gowon and ruled from 1975-1976. The Northern blood thirty barbarians killed him and to avoid catastrophic turbulence, they reluctantly allowed the then Second-in-Command, General Obasanjo, Western Yoruba, to rule from 1976-1979.
It happened that when the Army sacked the Civilian Government in 1966, they abolished the Constitution of Nigeria. They ruled with their MILITARY DECREE. In 1979, when they were about to handover power to civilians, they appointed CONSTITUTION DRAFT COMMITTEE, to produce a new CONSTITUTION. The wisemen of the Constitution Committee, rejected the British Monarchical System of Government, with its Unicamera Legislature, and monarchical Figure Head. They chose the American Presidential System, of Government, with Bi-camera Legislature of the Legislature and the Executive, as it is now in Nigeria. As Bi-camera System, the Legislature makes the Law and the Executive implement the laws.
It was because of the Figure Head position that Zik found himself before the War, that made him to aspire to contest election in 1979. When he came, he asserted that he never ruled Nigeria for one day, and that Nigeria had not attained the height he envisaged when he was leading the struggle for Independence.
When democracy for civilian government was resuscitated in 1979, another Hausa/Fulani Northerner, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, of National Party of Nigeria (NPN), emerged as Executive President. On December 31, 1983, Northern soldiers plotted another coup, and their leader, General Buhari, removed Shagari, took over and became Military President. In 1985, another Northern soldier, General Babangida, overthrew Buhari, and became Militaty President. In 1993, another Hausa/Fulani soldier, General Abacha, took over as Militaty President, and died in 1998. Another Hausa/Fulani soldier, General Abdulsalami Abubarkar, took over as Military President, in 1998. He handed over to civilian democratic government, with General Obasanjo (Retired), a Westerner from Yoruba, as Executive President, in 1999 – 2003 – 2007.
Obasanjo finished and handed over to Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, from the North in 2007,died in 2010. Goodluck Jonathan, from Ijaw, South-South, came in as President, from 2010-2015. General Buhari (Retired), came in again, as elected President from 2015-2019 – 2023.
So, the Igbo youth was right when he said that no Igbo man has been President, and more correct, when he asserted that an Igbo man shall be President of Nigeria in 2023, as they have not been President of Nigeria. But Dr. Sunday Ajai, was wrong when he said that Igbo man had been first President and first Military President of Nigeria. One useful advice that Dr. Ajai gave to Igbo people was that a Northern leader had adviced them to work for their Presidency in 2023.
Another erroneous contention of Dr. Ajai, was that, according to him: “After Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Igbo do not have a leader that the rest of the Nation can respect and trust”.
In 2010, the then President, Dr. Goodluck Jopnathan, appointed the then Governor of Anambra State, Sir Peter Obi, as a member of National Economic Committee. The Presidential appointment, from Jonathan, an Ijaw man. from South-South, is a manifestation of respect and trust for Peter Obi, by other Nigerians. In 2019, General election, former President Obasanjo, a Yoruba man, from South-West, recommended Peter Obi, as Running-mate for Alhaji Atiku Abubarkar, a Fulani man from North, for Presidency, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was clear that Obasanjo and Atiku respected and trusted Peter Obi. Recently, President Buhari, appointed an Igbo man, Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, as a member of the National Economic Committee. It was also clear that Buhari, a Northerner, respected and trusted Soludo. This is just to mention but a few. In my next edition, I shall analyse the qualities that made Obi respected and trusted by other Tribes and States of Nigeria.
With Uncle Peter Nawsike 07037946858