Friday, January 18, 2013
The 1966 Nigerian Coup and Sectional Politics
1966 Coup and the continuation of sectional politics - By Mahmoon Baba-Ahmed
It is generally established that time changes everything; but a span of forty-seven years was completely incapable of transforming the mentality and political viewpoints of some Nigerians. As a result, the unfortunate events that triggered the tragic 1966 military coup, which in turn brought about disastrous consequences, went unheeded. It could therefore be adduced that in Nigeria the passage of time does not usually produce distinct difference between the past and present.
In these circumstances such proceedings often receive impetus and motivation to metamorphose into disgusting episodes that keep producing situations in which things become uncertain. And regrettably too, Nigerians do not learn anything from the mistakes of the past and do not forget any of their immoral habits and contemptible attitudes that have in the past plunged the country into series of calamities. Any wonder they now practise them with unrestrained passion and intense fanaticism?
Driven by intense hatred, the five murderous Ibo Army Majors, instigated by two vicious Yoruba Colonels, heartlessly murdered Northern leaders in January 1966. Similarly, Southern politicians also detested them over what they scornfully referred to as their inherent inability to contribute meaningfully to national development. They considered the Northerners also as bunch of stark illiterates which are more of a liability than tangible asset to the country. In fact that was a misguided conception of Northerners by an average Southerner, even as they have been discovered by colonial administrators to be highly enlightened and completely civilised with commendable capability to manage their affairs under an intricate and efficient form of indigenous government. In that regard the British administrators gave them all the necessary incentives and support in their determined rush to hurriedly catch up with their Southern counterparts.
In the course of time, the Northerners, fifty years behind the ‘refined’ Southerners, were sufficiently mobilised by the first set of Katsina College graduates, turned out in 1927, to set up the nucleus of developing the so-called backward region. Subsequently this group of enlightened people, which included Ahmadu Bello and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, formed the local intelligentsia that promoted rapid economic growth, stimulated broad interest in partisan political activities and developed modern arts and literature abreast the already existing traditional works. They also formed the bulk of pioneering political class and civil servants that led the country to independence.
However, just before independence the North was entirely dependent on Ibo artisans and technocrats who dominated all enterprises. That was indeed an unsavoury development that forced the Northern establishment to reschedule the grant of impending self-governing status to the region in 1957, along with the East and West, prior to full independence, by two years until its civil service would have been populated by indigenous personnel.
Happily, at independence the North had found its bearing and become the toast of everyone at home and abroad. It held the reins of the federal government and enjoyed comfortable majority in the federal parliament which gave it latitude and liberty to legislate laws that fostered rapid socio-economic development of the federation, based on unanimity, equity and fairness. Accordingly there was even development throughout the federation while no section complained of marginalisation or feared domination by one region or another. Consequent upon that the Northern political class dominated the country’s political scene, and effectively precluded, through ballot box, its Southern political antagonists from coming to power. Southern politicians were so desperate to clinch power so as to have an opportunity for subjugating the North and its peoples to their whimsical, hideous designs
Failure to do so led to spiteful frustration, which as a result, encouraged intense hatred for the Northerners and gave vent to extreme dislike for their values and aspirations. They then resorted to schemes aimed at discrediting the people of the area, continually devising cunning plots and secretive plans to disunite them either through promoting sectarian crisis or fanning the embers of ethnic conflicts.
Now the intense hatred and intolerance exhibited in the First Republic by keen political rivalry between the four regions have resurfaced with renewed vigour, threatening to pull the nation down once again. Presently the country is appallingly polarised between North and South along religious line, accentuated by deep-seated attitude or feeling of disapproval of each other by citizens from both sides of the divide. While there is a degree of accord and harmony among various Southern ethic stocks, their counterparts in the North are terribly disunited, torn wide apart by religious and sectional differences which lead to occasional frictions resulting in loss of life and property.