The “faulty amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates” by Sir Lord Lugard in 1914, is the reason many Nigerians are calling for restructuring of the country, prominent historians in luding Bolanle Awe, Olutayo Adesina and British journalist-turned historian, Richard Bourne, agreed on Thursday.
They held that a faulty foundation was laid for the structure of Nigeria when the then Lugard, the then British Governor announced the amalgamation of both protectorates to become one country in 1914.
The historians and other experts spoke at the presentation and review of a book authored by Bourne at the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP).
The book, “Nigeria: A New History of a Turbulent Century”, gives account of the events that led to the 1914 amalgamation and the challenges the country has been grappling with since then.
On page 21 of the book, Bourne wrote: “What had Frederick Lugard achieved? He retired as the first Governor General of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in January, 1919, two months after the First World War had ended. He always had his critics in London but the widespread British view that he was a great proconsul, the empire builder of West Africa, looked rather different on the ground. He had made Nigeria a fact, but it was still really two Nigerias, north and south. He had rejected the ideas of administrators such as Charles Temple, lieutenant governor in northern Nigeria from 1914 to 1917, to break up the whole of Nigeria into four or seven provinces. By prohibiting Christian missionaries in the north and not doing much else to promote modern education in that large region, he had disadvantaged northerners. Their culture and religion led them to look northwards across the Sahara, along the old trading routes and east via Cairo and Khartoum towards Mecca. They shared little with their neighbours to the south. Apart from tackling slavery and sending punitive expeditions when required, Lugard did little to challenge the autocracies of the north: he was an autocrat himself.”
The historians and other discussants agreed that the time was right for Nigerians to dialogue on how to restructure the country to remove the mutual suspicion, distrust amid imbalances in the current system.
They however stressed that Nigerians are willing to continue to live together, stressing that they only want imbalances corrected.
Prof. Awe, who chaired the book reading, said the programme was apt because it came at a time calls for restructuring were reaching a good height. She pointed out that the calls for restructuring and gender equality will largely unify the citizens the more irrespective of religious or ethnic background.
Awe also hailed the return of history as a subject in schools, saying it is one of the best decisions the current government has taken.
In his comment after the review, Prof. Adesina called for books that simplify history for school children to sustain their interest in the subject.
In their discussions, Mr Ademola Adesola of Technical University, Ibadan insisted that Nigerians should not be afraid to discuss their future while Dr Sharon Omotoso of the University of Ibadan emphasized the need for reorientation before things get worse.
Welcoming participants to the programme, the Executive Vice Chairman, ISGPP, Dr Tunji Olaopa, explained that the additional aim of the project was to raise the bar of public discourse in Nigeria through books.
The author, Richard Bourne, is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. Bourne was a journalist that was very active in the Commonwealth affairs since 1982.
He was education correspondent of the Guardian, assistant editor of New Society and deputy editor of the London Evening Standard.
Bourne got into Nigeria during his practice as a journalist in 1981. Since then, he bonded with the country and some citizens through which he acquired a deep knowledge of Nigeria and its history in addition to the knowledge garnered through his work at the. Commonwealth. He also worked on some other African countries.