An elder statesman hailing from the northern part of Nigeria, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai has revealed that Nigeria’s independence was delayed at least seven years due to the illiteracy of the North.
Yakassai who has been very vocal of recent concerning the clamor for restructuring by various groups in the country made the revelation during an interview with Vanguard newspaper on the same subject.
When asked, “Is the north afraid of restructuring?”, Yakassai responded, “In the first place, this agitation is a continuation of the agitation by people who want to dominate other Nigerians; it had its origin in 1953.
“The Action Group sponsored a motion in the House of Representatives through its member, late Chief Anthony Enahoro for the British Colonialist Government to grant independence in 1956, I don’t know how many graduates the West had produced that time. Definitely, they must be in thousands. As at that time, the North had only a graduate, and that was in the person of Dr. R A Dikko, who enjoyed the sponsorship of the missionaries.
“This imbalance forced the North’s representatives to amend the motion that independence should be granted to Nigeria as soon as it was practicable. In otherwords, the concern by northern leaders was that if independence were granted by 1956, the north would be unprepared and therefore the leaders calculated that the Action Group introduced the motion deliberately in order to have an opportunity of dominating the whole of Nigeria.
“From that time to date, it is the same slogan that is changing colour. It started with the slogan for the creation of more states; the Action Group calculated that they could get the minorities in the North and in the East on their side to enable them to produce the Prime Minister.
“As at that time we were operating a parliamentary system. With the 1963 population census, Northern Nigeria had approximately 55 percent of the country’s population and the entire south had 45 percent and yet the British, instead of giving the North representation proportionate to her population, gave the north only half of the seats in the House of Representatives.
“With the result of that election began agitation for the creation of states in Nigeria. There were minority movements like Calabar/Ogoja/ River State Movement in the East where NCNC was the dominant party, the Middle Belt League in the North; that was before the formation of United Middle Belt Congress, UMBC. Because of the strength of the NCNC in the West, they shared the seats with the Action Group in the South Western Region and the Action Group strategists realized that they must concentrate their effort in recovering lost ground to their side to build up a majority.
“But during the 1959 elections, the Northern Peoples Congress outsmarted them, and they realized that with near total control of the seats in the North, all they needed to do was to concentrate their attention in the North in order to emerge with the majority in the House of Representatives. That, therefore, qualified them to be invited to form the central government, they did that and secured the majority in the House of Representatives.
“So by 1961/62, the Action Group strategists were convinced that they could never match the North in a competitive election and it would be difficult for them to govern Nigeria. That was the reason why their leaders resorted to coup plotting, which resulted in the arrest of leading figures of the party in 1962. It also resulted in the famous treason trial where leaders were tried and convicted, after that, we adopted a Presidential System, and this same group did not give up.
“The NPN won, and they came second. They also thought they could concentrate their efforts on the Social Democratic Party, SDP, hence their support for late MKO Abiola, even though some notable figures from that same region were not supporting him. When Abiola’s election was annulled, they came up with the new slogan, NADECO and June 12. After the death of Sani Abacha and Abiola, they changed the slogan to PRONACO; it is the same trend, the same strategy.
“PRONACO was confined by and large to the Southwest, and they realized it has no national appeal; they quickly changed to Sovereign National Conference to court national appeal. The idea of Sovereign National Conference was to renew the strategy of bringing the minorities in the North and the South together with the remnant of Action Group in a different form and the strategy has failed them again. The question of restructuring is a product of agitation from the South West. Now that there is an increase in agitation from the South East and South South, they now cashed on it to fuel and fan dismemberment of the polity.”