Causes of the Pogrom
Various reasons have been assigned for the 1966 Pogrom. Some suggest it was a retaliation for the January 1966 coup in which Sir Ahmadu Bello and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, among others losts their lives. Others say it was a reaction against Decree No. 34 which sought to unite the country. This Decree, it is said, engendered fears in the minds of the Northern civil servants and university students, who believed that all vacant posts in the North would be thrown open to all comers and that they would therefore be exposed to unfair competition from the South.
It is our view that the causes of the Pogrom lies deeper than the reasons suggested. The events mentioned in the 1st paragraph merely provided the excuse for the launching of the pogrom. We recall once more the statement in the Official Report on the 1953 Kano Riots that”… The seeds of the trouble which broke out in Kano in May 16th 1953 have their counterparts still in the ground. It could happen again and only a realisation and acceptance of the underlying causes can remove the danger of recurrence.”
We are of the view that the causes of the 1966 pogrom are racial, religious, colonial, economic, political and sociological.
The Hausa/Fulani aristocracy in the North belongs to a different racial stock from the Easterners who are of the negroid race. The late Premier of the North (Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello) was known to have spent much time and labour tracing his genealogy back to Mohamed the Prophet. Charts showing this family tree were known to have been exhibited in offices in the North. The religion of this aristocracy is Moslem while in the East the people are almost entirely Christians or animists. The religious element was particularly pronounced during the disturbances. There was, therefore, from the start no common basis for association between the North and the East. It was ‘Imperial Hand’ or Britain that them together under ‘Colonial tutelage’ as the British fondly called it.
There was a supreme opportunity to weld these racial communities into a truly political entity which the 1914 amalgamation sought to effect on paper. Education, communications, economic ties and the very presence of the imperial power were agencies by which a nation would have been created. Unfortunately the colonial policy operated in the opposite direction. It emphasised and played on the difference and dissimilarities of the racial groups. The feudalistic way of life of the Hausa/Fulani aristocracy was deliberately extolled to the high heavens as the best in the world and required nothing to improve it. The medieval method of the Moslem education was extolled. Arabic language was preferred to modem language as a medium of instruction in Northern schools. Modern education was spurned as unnecessary. The Missionary endeavour which brought education in its wake was not allowed in the ‘true’ North and was barely tolerated in the pagan fringes of Northern Nigeria. A ‘superiority’ complex was deliberately fostered among the generality of the Hausa/Fulani. Contacts with the communities were discouraged and to ensure that there was ‘no contamination’ the Southerners were restricted to Sabon Garis (strangers quarters).
The hostility which the British always had for the Easterners especially the Ibos was inherited by the Northerners. What was created was not an atmosphere in which different racial groups and other groups could strive toward common nationality and citizenship or a situation where these groups while respecting their differences were still able to get on as members of the same political society. What was achieved was the sowing of the seeds of hate, suspicion, insane rivalry, and a general feeling of complete separateness. The picture that emerged on the eve of Nigerian independence was that of different ‘nationalities’ warring in the bosom of a single state. Regionalism was the manifestation of that struggle.
While the Northerners slumped in cozy beds of fostered delusion, the Easterners struggled to grapple with the challenges of life in the 20th century.
Because Easterners had whole-heartedly accepted the modern ideas and techniques which the Europeans had introduced, and to which the Northern Moslem turned their backs, they had come to posses the skill and expertise essential for progress in the 20th century. As a result Easterners were employed in large numbers by Government establishments and foreign firms in Northern Nigeria. “Again, the distribution of national institutions projects and utilities most of which by-passed the East acted as an incentive for Easterners outside their own region as employees of the Central Government and its agencies. The success of the Easterners outside the East in turn induced a number of those who they had left behind in the East to follow their wake. Some of them saw and grasped opportunities for setting up private enterprises which they were able to expand in subsequent years. These included the expansion of trade within the North and between the North and the South, the operation of regular modern transport services and the development of various small and medium-scale industries and businesses. This chain reaction dating back to 1914 accounts for the fact that until very recently over 2,000,000 Easterners were scattered in Nigeria outside the East with the greater proportion residing in the vast area of the North”.
For this ‘Eastern’ challenge, the Northerners had no answer. Their fostered superiority was turned to disillusionment, hate and envy. They felt that Easterners had come into their midst to take away opportunities of life from them. The expropriation of Easterners in the North became to many of them the only way to remedy the imbalance and to restore to Northerners what they thought belonged to them. The extermination of Easterners especially their elite was to them the only way to start the competition afresh. Even no less a personality than the Emir of Katsina was heard by the 29th witness, Jonas Aka, to say that the properties of Easterners in the North belonged to Northerners.”… At 1p.m on the same day the Emir announced that the Hausas should make sure that no Easterner was left in Katsina. They should either be killed or driven away and that as for their properties, they rightly belonged to the natives.
Q. 6115: “What is your source of information that at 1 p.m the Emir announced that they should make sure that all Easterners were killed in Katsina?” “My stores were along the major road and that was the only road linking Kano and Katsina. During the incident one of my neighbours, an Alhaji, brought a ladder with which we climbed to his own side of the compound. It was there that we hid until we saw the Emir going round and telling them not to be concerned about properties and that once the Ibos were out their properties would be theirs… Everybody in Katsina especially those whose houses were along the road heard him… Immediately he (The Emir) goes round the town he usually hoots a type of horn which signifies that the Emir was there in his car and that he was speaking…”
The result of racial and religious differences accentuated by economic facts of life made the Northerners long for separate existence. But realising that the Imperialists wanted the country to hang together (for purposes of providing wider markets for them) they insisted on remaining part of Nigeria only on the basis of political dominance. Politically they did not want the British to quit because that would mean leaving political power in the hands of Southerners. The only condition for remaining in Nigeria and accepting Independence was their perpetual dominance. (The late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was once described as “Prime Minister in apparent perpetuity”. That is why from the start the Northerners, in the series of Constitutional Conferences (1945-1960) that marked the political advance of Nigeria to independence, insisted on not less than fifty per cent representation in the Federal Parliament and never budged on this demand inspite of the fact that Nigeria was then a unitary state and later a federation. It never occurred to them that a federation in which one component part perpetually dominated the rest and is assured of perpetual control of the Government is not a federation but a sham.
That was why the Northern aristocracy opposed, and if need be with organised violence, any political campaign in the North which might have the result of endangering their majority in the Federal Parliament and consequently their control of the Federal Government. This again explains the bitterness and rancour of the census controversy and the determined rape of the 1964 Federal elections.
The main obstacle to the maintenance of this perpetual dominance has always been Eastern Nigeria and the Northerners bitterly resented it. It is on this score that the sentiments of a Mallam Bala Garuba of the NPC deserves same attention. He was reported in the issue of Wednesday the 30th December 1964 of the West African Pilot as saying:
The conquest to the sea is now in sight. When our god-sent Ahmadu Bello said some years ago that our conquest will reach the seashore of Nigeria, some idiots in the South were doubting its possibility. Today have we not reached the sea? Lagos is reached. It remains Port Harcourt. It must be conquered and taken after December 30th, 1964.
I Remember when the NCNC and the AG were boasting about their day-dreams of snatching power from us. Today, their great brains are in our bag. Imagine such personalities as Akintola, Benson, Davies, Kayode, Ankran, Okezie, Okwuosa, Otoba, Akinjide, Olowofoyeku and the great mathematician Dr. Obi.
I still hope that it will not be long when Okpara, Adegbenro and Aminu Kano will come to beg. Osadebay and other Midwest leaders are half way to us. As for Awo, he will spend the last days of his term of imprisonment there for his inordinate ambition. Some Southern fools must understand that to suggest secession after their defeat is suicide for them. Let them think about all these things and understand the implication in secession.
(a) Where is the Nigerian Military Academy?
(b) Where is the Nigerian Air force Base built? All these are up here in our region.
After the election, we will call upon leaders to make a Northerner the leader of the Nigerian Army. Those who propose Ironsi are day-dreaming.
After the next five years those Southern so-called educated fools must realise where they are. Once we will be able to connect the Bornu railway with those of our brothers in the neighbouring country and from there to Egypt we can allow secession to take place.
Our exports could be sent out through that way. Thanks to Allah that the Kainji Dam will soon be completed. It is up to Tarka to come back now or face what will follow when we achieve our aim.
We must do anything possible to win the coming jihad. But we must keep our wheather eyes open on those from the West as they could do anything at any time. Immediately we win, we can lose some members from the West at any time. We must not take things for granted.
With our 167 seats in the North, we can go it alone. There is no need sharing the post of Prime Ministership and Presidentship with anyone. I have a genuine fear that we keep the posts and then concede some important ministries to some Yoruba members.
The time has come. We are going to show these intellectual fools that we are only in the morning of our leadership of this country.
We try NNDP in next five years and see whether they will be too forward and ambitious as the ungrateful NCNC and AG. If some still doubt that we haven’t conquered our way to the sea, let them go through these facts.
- Who is the Prime Minister of the country?
- Who is the Minister of Lagos Affairs? Is Lagos not our capital.
Our only obstacle are the Ibos. They have played their card. They will sink.
The Nigeria that the British created and left in 1960 was Nigeria that contained the seeds of its own destruction. The general social situation in the North and the exploitation of it by ‘vested’ interests were also some of the causes of the 1966 pogrom. In the North you had a strong minority group of Easterners living among a dominant and numerically larger racial group whose society was relatively static and which was attached to its traditional way of life which includes a measure of theocracy. The minority immigrant group offers its services in the modernising sectors of the economy especially the trading sectors. The contrast between the majority and the minority group was accentuated because the Hausa/Fulani majority group kept the stronger-minority group (Easterners) outside the rank system of its society. This minority group being clearly distinct and with a better standard of living than the normal run of Northerners can always be used as a target in periods of tension and strain. When the tradition of the majority groups began to change and its members especially the educated ones and the politicians began to appreciate the values of modernisation they came to resent and envy those who were apparently privileged in that they benefit from these values. Since the members of the elite of the majority groups (the Hausa/Fulani aristocracy) suffer the pains of the rapid change and since they can ever hardly blame themselves for these social inadequacies they extrapolate their pain and blame it on those who are the purveyors of modernisation and the apparent beneficiaries of the process. In that way the leaders of the traditional society take the initiative in arousing hatred against the minority groups. They can seize on anything to direct attention to, and attack on, the minority group and with particularly the ignorant mass, violence can easily break out. Even plagues and earthquakes can be used as excuses for attacking and slaughtering the minority groups. The Jews of medieval Europe were reported to have been attacked by the dominant racial groups because due to their habits of cleanliness they had escaped the scourge of plague which ravaged their unhygienic neighbours. In the 19th Century, Japan, Korean entrepreneurial groups were massacred by the majority racial groups because a series of earthquakes occurred. We conclude by saying that the seeds of the 1966 pogrom lies deep in the hearts of the Hausa/Fulani aristocracy. They threaten to remain there for a long time.