AKEKE, Oluwatobi John
Following independence in 1960, we all boastfully could accord an attribute of unflappability to the nascent engagements of the country. Everything was bright and beautiful, the colonial masters were just beginning to relax their grips and grabs, placing our fate into our own hands with accelerated reductions in British involvements and supervisions.
Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the first Prime Minister, and in 1963, Nigeria declared itself the Federal Republic with Nnamdi Azikwe as the first president. It should be duly noted that the independence drive was led majorly by the Northern people’s congress(NPC) and the Nigeria council of Nigeria citizens(NCNC) headed by Sir Ahmadu Bello and Herbert Macaulay respectively.
However, From 1960 to 1965, Nigerians witnessed the steady erosion of parliamentary and consociational structures at independence. Nigerian politicians had, within the aegis of colonial overrule, hammered out the lines of their constitutional systems, and the indications of effective government were auspicious as the transfer of power approached. But despite the preparations for parliamentary democracy, the experiment collapsed a mere five years after the transfer of power took place. Is the fault attributable primarily to the persons, the institutions, or the general circumstances in which they operated? Surprisingly, little serious attention has been addressed to this question.
In an attempt to demystify the ambiguity, a careful analysis of the “actions and inactions” within the first five years of attained independence is not only necessary but a desideratum. After Nigeria got independence in 1960 the political system of the country was so damaged that even a free and fair election could not be conducted. In the election that brought Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Alhaji Tafawa Balewa as leaders of Nigeria, there was so much corruption and doubt about the result of the election. Consequently, their administration was heavily vilified with much bad mouthing and disgust.
Furthermore, Another reason for the collapse is the heightened tribal consciousness. Political parties after independence were so tribalistic that only members of a particular tribe were allowed to join certain political parties. The Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) was majorly for the East, Action Group (AG) was majorly for the west and the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) was for the north. Each of these political parties was indirectly fighting for the interest of their tribes/regions; the national interest wasn’t the actual goal, prompting the inevitability of a collapse.
Because of this breakdown, it created a wide opening for the military to infiltrate and take the stage. The first coup which led to the death of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in January 1966 established the first military rule with Major General Aguiyi Ironsi an Army commander as the leader of the new administration. With this in view, we all could have thought something big and great was imminent. But possibly, could there be any hopes in “Guns”?
The officers who staged the coup were mostly southerners from the Igbo ethnic group, and they assassinated several northerners, including the four highest-ranking northern army officers, Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, and Northern Region Premier Ahmadu Bello (both from the north). It was unimaginable, “a bloodbath!”
Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Igbo, suppressed the coup but seized power to himself. Northerners interpreted the coup as an Igbo-led conspiracy to subjugate the north and impose Igbo domination. Six months later, northern soldiers staged another even bloodier counter-coup against their Igbo colleagues. Northern mobs killed more than 30,000 Igbos. That was something more than a bloodbath, something more ghoulish, “a Deadpool!” But, was all this necessary?