By Akintayo Akin-Deko
It is clear from ongoing discussions nationwide that Nigeria just must Restructure and Review our Constitution as we urgently need to achieve improved efficiency both in governance and in the development process generally. In this regard it might be useful to consider a knotty issue that has again raised its head; the Amalgamation Ceremony that took place in 1914 in Zungeru (now a part of Niger State).
The sleepy town (in fact Dungurum in the native Gwari language until a Lord Lugard misspeak rechristened it Zungeru) was the former capital of the old Northern Protectorate. It was therefore a natural meeting point where the likes of the Alaafin of Oyo, the Sultan of Sokoto and a few other traditional rulers were brought together by the occupying British to sign away their kingdoms to create Nigeria. This is pure fallacy
The Amalgamation of 1914, which created Nigeria was given effect by the British government sitting in Whitehall in faraway London through three constitutional instruments namely: –
A) The (Nigeria Council) Order-in-Council 1912
B) The Nigeria Protectorate Order-In-Council 1913
C) The Letters Patent 1913
Together, these made up Nigeria’s first “Constitution” and it was created exclusively by the British Colonial Office, which was solely responsible for administering the Northern and Southern Protectorates that the British amalgamated to become Nigeria. No matter how imposing, the Zungeru ceremony of 1914 was mere theatrics; a colorful jamboree that had been staged by the British perhaps to assuage local pride.
Regardless, over a century later, a few Yoruba have observed that the Alaafin had no such authority and/or was tricked into signing the Amalgamation tTeaty because he could not read English. I suspect if he had declined to sign, Kabiyesi would have promptly become a king without a throne.
Meanwhile some Igbo leaders are citing the absence of any of their traditional rulers from the Zungeru ceremony as evidence that they were never included in the creation of Nigeria from the onset. But did the Igbos even have an established kingship system prior to 1914?
Activists from different groups further allude to a clause in the Treaty that calls for a review of the Amalgamation after 100 years. Are they seeking to terminate the very existence of Nigeria by acclamation and to thereby give the British grounds to reclaim the region as two separate Protectorates? Confusion galore that may soon tear proponents of restructuring apart ever before we even get to the negotiating table.
It is a sad fact of history that all the indigenous nations inside the Northern and Southern Protectorates, whatever our proud heritage had, prior to the 1914 amalgamation, been conquered by the force of British arms. By 1914 none of them had any say whatsoever in the way the region that became Nigeria was being administered.