Nigeria 1914 Amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorate Effects a Blessing or Cursed ? - Solution for Peaceful Co-existence of the Various Ethnic Groups

 The Amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorate 1914

The  historic   amalgamation  of   northern   and southern   protectorate   of Nigeria  unrolled through historical processes. Prior to the 15thc was the era of state formations and emergence of kingdoms.

 Culture, language, religion, government, and commerce differentiated many of these states,   kingdoms,   and   ethnic   groups.   From   the   15thc   to   the  end  of  the   19thc   witnessed   the dominance of the transatlantic slave trade, horrible wars among the states and kingdoms, and the

Amalgamation Photos |

first phase  of European  Christian missionary activities.

 However, the  beginning of  the 19th century  was   marked  with   the   Jihad  of  1804  and   the   second   phase  of   European   Christian missionary activities.

 The prominence of  industrial revolution  was also contemporaneous with the era. It gave a deathblow to the transatlantic slave trade, and kindled the European voracious and  avaricious   quest  for   raw  materials   in  Africa.   

The   result  was   the   unbridled  concomitantcataclysmic   consequences  of   the   scramble   and   partitioning   of   African  territories   officially commissioned in the historic 1884/1885 Berlin Conference, one of the foremost 19th century linking bridges between European history and African history.

 In the conference, the area known today as Nigeria fell into  British share.

  But as  far back as 1849, the British  prime minister,Palmerstone appointed a consul, the well ‘knowledgeable fellow on African affairs, John Beecroft. 

The primary motive of this development was to abolish slavery in the interior and promote legitimate trade. Lagos was bombarded in 1851 annexed in 1861 while the assault on Aro and other ethnic groups in east and west, ended in 1902.

The British in May 1906 amalgamated the Lagos  colony  and   protectorate   of  southern   Nigeria   to   form  the  colony  and   protectorate  of southern Nigeria.

 By 1905, the whole  states   in   the  central Sudan, were   swiftly   and   easily conquered and made a northern protectorate with Lord Lugard becoming its first governor.

 The year, 1912 unfolded with Lord Lugard becoming the governor general of the two protectorates.

Thus   came   the  unforgettable   historic   event;  on  1  January,  1914,   Lugard   amalgamated  the southern   and   northern   protectorates   into   one   geopolitical   entity   called   Nigeria  and   set   to administer it. Despite the history of co-existence, the various ethno-linguistic groups occupying different  regions,   and  established   on   distinct  cultural   backgrounds,   religious   affiliations  and political creeds was merged by the British authority without their consent or input to the nature of such existence. 

Today, there has been a serious debate among scholars and non-scholars a like on  the argument of whether that historic political move by  Britain was indeed a  blessing or acurse

The 1914 Amalgamation: A Blessing?

To understand the blessings of amalgamation without a glimpse on the nature of relation between the  ethnic  groups before the   period, which was  characterized  by war, and conquest.

Through out the 19thc, hostility was the hallmark of relation between the different ethno-linguistic groups occupying the Nigeria area- hence, the European writers’ assertion that African states had no   history;   if   they   had  any   such   history   could   be   summed   up   as   barbarism,   chaos,   and stagnation.

 War was an integral part of the state’s relation with other states and can be rightly characterized as evidence of intergroup relations. 

Most of the wars were anchored on the need for   political   expansion   and   dominance;   farmlands, trade   access,   trade  route  monopoly,  and looting for wealth.

 In Hausa land, ‘the jihad’ which started in 1804 was a major inter-ethnic war. Outside Jihad, there was strife between Bornu and Wadai from 1846-1893. 

In the West, the secession of Ilorin from old Oyo in 1817 became first in the list long ethnic strife through the1860-1864 Ibadan-Ijaye war.

 In the Eastern province, there was apparent lack of law and order before 1891.  

The establishment of  British  government marked the   eternal end of   this  inter-ethnic rivalries  by bringing these  disparate  groups under  one  banner and  a common political head.   

Wars  of   religion,  conquest,  and   expansion,   or  war  for   commercial   access   and  trade monopoly became  extinct. 

The   relative   peace,   law   and   order that followed the establishment of British colonial administration ensured that security consideration was no longer a threat to long distance trading.

Arising from the suppression of inter-ethnic rivalry has been internal migratory freedom.Before, people from the  north could not easily migrate to  the south.

 In the same vein, people from the south could not easily migrate to the north due to fear of  becoming   victim   of   the hovering inter-ethnic animosity. Thus, amalgamation removed this fear as each region is seen as not different from others.

 The merging of the different territories around Niger River made easy movement of men and materials easier and therefore accelerated internal migration.

Chinua Achebe ones said“I took off again the next morning, driving alone, going all the way from Lagos to Asaba crossing the River Niger to visit my relatives in  the east.

 That  is how it was done in those days. One was not consumed by fear of abduction or armed robbery”

 Today cosmopolitan cities have emerged in Nigeria; Lagos, Kano,Awka, Port Harcourt, Kano etc.Freedom   of   migration   shunned   environmental   monotony.

 Individuals   who  had   never experienced a life  outside their ethnic boundary  were presented with  the vistas  of touring the different parts of  the  Nigerian area. 

Just like the foot-loose Marco  Polo,  an Italian adventurer who returned  to Europe  in 1295, after  a sojourn  of nearly  twenty years in  China and  gave a classic account of his travelogue. 

Nigerians until now still relieved boredom and widened their experience through migration. As many   people   trooped  into different parts   of   the   country, they   did   not  leave their languages  and   cultures  behind. 

As they  mixed   with  varieties   of   people, they   also   exchange languages  and   ways  of  life   thus  effecting a   cross cultural   pollination.

 Writes Ifeobi, “There appears   to   be   a  bright   side   to   1914  amalgamation   of  Nigeria   by  the   British   after   all  ...the undeniable truth  is that there had  to be  a meeting point of the  major cultures eventually- the Mohameddans, the south-easterners,   and  the west”.

 This was  an   outcome  of amalgamation.Today many Hausas are speaking Igbo language, Yoruba language, and other languages. In the same   vein,  there   are   many  Igbo   people,   speaking   Hausa   language,  Yoruba  language,  Tiv language, and languages of other ethnic groups. The same is also accrued to Yorubas and other ethnic groups. 

This has helped to deepen understanding, unity, and co-operation. 

1914 Amalgamation: A Curse?

There are always two sides of a coin. Newton’s law of gravity is a law of cause and effect. 

In other words, it means that whatever that has value also has an inherent limitation. Amalgamationof 1914 is  a basket of good eggs  and bad eggs.

 Until 1st October 1960, the nemesis of amalgamationwas hidden under a grin of smile and pretence. After 1960, the cookies began to crumble, just asits advantages is a chain reaction, its demerits even before independence had started unfolding inter-connectedly and from one step to another, present predicament of the component units are embedded in an unholy alliance.

  The fact that British government realized the folly of Lugard’s administrative inadequacies and replaced him  with   Sir Hugh Clifford  as   a way of exempting   him  from being censured coupled with the fact that Lord Lugard later regretted his action, is the first justification that the1914 amalgamation is a political mistake. 

In a similar manner, at the time of Kano riot of 1953,the North became secessionist in sentiments and   openly   expressed   that   the   amalgamation  or union of the North and  South   in   1914,   was   a   regrettable   mistake   in the political history of Nigeria.

The statements by the early nationalist further laid credence to the poisonous nature of amalgamation. For instance, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa publicized in 1947 that since the amalgamation   of  Southern   and  Northern   protectorates  in   1914,  Nigeria   had   existed   only  in paper… it is still far from being united.

 While Sir Ahmadu Bello stated briefly and once that“God did not create Nigeria, the British did”

 Awolowo affirmed that “Nigeria is not a nation. It is mere geographical expression. There are no Nigerians in the sense there are English, Welsh orFrench.”

Indeed “...there is no Nigeria because he happened  to be first  an Egba man, then  aYoruba  man before   being a  Nigerian.”

Though, even  if these  postulations  by the   nationalist leaders were false, at least they did influence ethnic rivalry among the constituent units, as they clearly underlined ‘no bond’.Another factor which amalgamation is rendering independent ethnic nationalities dependent as observed by  Afigbo in  southeastern   Nigeria noted that between   1908   and 1914 witnessed scores  of  military   units  fighting   and   subduing  villages   and  settlements,   which  still   regard themselves independent.

 Claims of Independence by the various ethnic nationalities before the amalgamations was further justified by Fashagba notes that most of the communities in Nigeria area were autonomous with relatively well organized political and administrative systems.


In the  first place, it appears  Nigeria should  be divided.  Of course, how  long shall  we continue in pretence to cover the treacherous and deceitful situation of the country in false claim that all is well?

 Why deceiving oneself that this country is united, peaceful, friendly, considerateand   equal   when   there   is   religious   upheaval,   ethno-political   domination   and   economic exploitation  of other ethnic group  within the polity. Why insisting on  the unity of the  country when it is bringing all kinds of poisonous fume?

 Although it seems that, only the northern and western elites want one Nigeria. But would they still clamour for one Nigeria if oil is discovered in each of their region? 

This is the great folly and since it is so, dividing this country now is an impeccable idea. Unfortunately, while division seems the best alternative, there are so many cons inherent in it.

 If the country is divided, would there be peace, equality, and unity in each entity? Although ethno-religious violence may end but would, suspicion and cries of marginalization vanish in the respective polities?

 Would our current politicians not come back to dominate in their respective polity if  this country is  divided?  

 Won’t there  be  secession within  an  already seceded  entity.Certainly, the cons are uncountable and since it is obvious, one can forsake division and press for a better united Nigeria. 

This can be done by genuinely applying the recommendations below.  There should  be a periodic  nationwide conference of  all  the traditional  rulers of each village (not communities or Local government) in Nigeria.

 In the conference, the representatives most of whom cannot speak English must be educated to go back to their various villages and kindly tell their kit and kin that neither their village nor ethnic group is marginalized. 

They must be made to understand that each ethnic group is inter-dependent on each other. They should tell this to their youths in their dialect

Nigerian constitution  should be  amended by  removing ethno-religiosity  element called Sharia law incorporated in it. This is to ensure truly the concreteness of ‘one Nigeria.’Standing as the last list is inter-tribal marriages and inter-ethnic and inter religious sports.This solution will be highly effective if adopted as guided.

Aside the inter-religious friendly sports, there should also be friendly inter-ethnic sports;Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Ijaw, Tiv, Ibibio etc This will help strengthen Nigeria’s unity. 

Political, there should be policy continuity and reduction in the age for qualification to presidency, the Vice President or any other higher positions.

 For presidency and the vice, the age limit at maximum should be sixty. Nigeria needs vibrant, active, and young leaders.   The leaders should stop appealing to ethnic sentiment in politics, propaganda, and false sermon. 

Their propaganda causes ethnic division. Their   false   sermon   via   manifestoes   causes frustration, all the same aggravating the country’s instability. Embezzlement of public fund must also be minimized. After all no political salary and   wages   in   Nigeria is small to necessitate soiling   one’s  hand.   

If  Nigeria   must  remain   one   free   from  grievance,   then  patriotism   and selflessness call for practice. While we  ponder on this,  true Practice of   Federal Character as  provided  by the  1999 constitution should be adhered.

 What happened in Buhari’s first appointment should not repeatit self as it breeds ethnic sentiments and the likes.Beside this, proper zoning of political leadership should be put into practice. This paper craves the indulgence of northern elites to allow other ethnic groups most especially, the East to rule   Nigeria   since   it   belongs   to  all.

   Further   denial  of   Ndigbo   presidency   fuels   secession sentiments and equally shows that they are still paying an unwritten indemnity for loosing the war.Economically, more effort should be geared towards economic diversification, stagnationis economic  monotony with all this put in place Nigeria can be great again.

By Obinna Pascal Amajuoyi

International Political Researcher 

Binnabook Media 

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