Dele Ogun’s profound historical book, A Fatherless People, has given insight into how the British colonial administration ensued that Southern Nigeria remained divided a through deliberate policy of infighting.
In Book 3, Chapter 6 of the book titled: Bourdillon Mask, Ogun, who is based in the United Kingdom, placed the enimity in the south as “entirely the product of the politics of the period between the build-up to the second world war and independence in 1960.”
Putting the blame squarely on the then Governor-General Bernard Bourdillon, he noted that the unwarranted reversal of the 1 April 1939, amalgamation of the Eastern and Western provinces of Southern Nigeria was the straw that put a chasm between the south west and east.
“While Yoruba and Fulani antipathy can be traced to the 1804 jihad of Uthman Dan Fodio, the difficulties between the Yoruba and the Igbo are of more recent genesis; as the two nations share no borders or pre-British colonial interaction, the enimity is entirely the product of the politics of the period between the build-up to the second world war and independence in 1960,” Ogun quoting archival materials wrote.
“Its beginning can be pin-pointed to the action taken by Governor Bourdillon, on 1 April 1939, when he reversed the amalgamation of the Eastern and Western provinces of Southern Nigeria that had created ‘one South’ and which had been in effect since 1906. The measure had not been precipitated by any agitation for the division from the people of the south-east or the south-west. It was also devoid of any intrinsic logic since the south was territorially smaller than the North, had fewer ethic groups and was almost wholly Christian. Despite the warm and constructive relationship, he had with the Nigerian youth movement, involving dialogue and consultation over many issues, there is no evidence that Bourdillon consulted them on this critical issue of the reversal of the southern amalgamation.
“The claim that Nigerian falls naturally into three regions, the North, the west and the East’ made by Bourdillon’s successor, sir Arthur Richards, was pure sophistry which contradicted every scholarly comment on record on the point. Eme O. Awa in his book Federal Government in Nigerian cities the writings of Lord Hailey, Margery Perham, Lord Lugard and Bernard Bourdillon himself in evidence against the notion. The scheme of amalgamation which E.D Morel had proposed in 1911 saw a Nigeria of four regions, two in the North (the Northern and the Central province ) and two in the south (the Western and the Eastern province ).”
He further stated that “Bourdillon’s biographer, Robert D. Pearce, conscious of the charge that his man deliberately fractured an existing consensus in southern Nigeria, whilst leaving the North as one, makes an attempt to defend his man:
“…to concentrate on Bourdillon’s decision not to divide the north in 1937 is to sensationalise the issues. His action ought to be judged in relation to the needs of the time rather than unpredicted future consequences.”
The writer described it as “the weakness in the argument is that the decision was no reflection upon the needs of the southern Nigerians. More importantly, the future consequences of the omission to split the North in the same way, far being unpredictable’, were in fact known and the move was drawn directly from British experience in India, which had been a British colony for much longer than Nigeria (since 1858), and where the nationalist campaign for independence was much further advanced.”
Ogun is set for a book tour of Nigeria beginning June 12 from Lagos then to Abuja and Enugu.