Thisday Newspaper – Friday. March 8, 2013
At the flag-off ceremony of Project Centenary on Monday, February 4, in Abuja, the Chief Servant
of Niger State (as he would rather be addressed), Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, had circulated a pamphlet titled “Nigeria’s Centenary City: A case for Zungeru in Niger State”. In the said publication, Governor Aliyu laboriously argued that the proposed Centenary “smart” City should be sited in Zungeru in recognition of the historical significance of the town, among which is the fact that the ancient city was the birth place of both Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Great!
The very kernel of his argument, in his own words was ” … for the specific needs of and objectives of Nigeria centenary celebration agenda, and for that singular profound exercise and wisdom of uniting the south and the north of the country which has, borne many immeasurable values for the country and humanity through numerous engagements at the world centre stage as well as the visible successes recorded as a nation, we believe that the own, Zungeru, where the amalgamation took place justifiably qualifies as the natural choice for the Centenary City”.
Whilst 1 recognize the choice of where such national monuments are sited as falling directly within the precincts of presidential prerogative, which does not require any academic debate, 1 however feel a : deep sense of duty to put the records straight, especially for the benefit of the younger generation to whom Nigeria Centenary II belongs.
Before 1 proceed with the raw facts which contradicts – and glaringly, too – Gov Aliyu’s afore-stated claims, let me quickly align myself with the position of the school of thought that insists that on the occasion of our centenary, Zungeru deserves some form of recognition for the singular reason that its place in the history of both pre-colonial and post-colonial Nigeria is undeniable. Zungeru, in my view, already possesses all that stands a city out for good measure; therefore does not require historical inventions, as Gov Aliyu had sought, to qualify for a centenary attention. Fortunately too, the Centenary Celebrations Planning Committee under the purposeful leadership of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) has since taken due
cognizance of this fact.
Contrary to Gov Aliyu’s claims, the amalgamation of Nigeria took place in Lagos on January 1, 1914 and was merely proclaimed in Zungeru on January 3, 1914. According to the Nigeria Gazette of January 15, 1914, precisely No. 42 and contained on page 97, “The ceremony of reading the new Instrument of Government and of the Administration of the Oaths was held in the Court Room of the Law Courts at Lagos in the Colony on January 1st and at Zungeru in the Protectorate on January 3rd 1914”. For the avoidance of doubt, page 102 of same document records thus ‘The new Colony having thus been formally
constituted, the Governor announced that he had received a most gracious message from His Majesty the King (George RI), in the following terms: –
‘On the occasion of the formal Amalgamation of the two Nigerians (North and South) 1 wish to convey to the Emirs, Chiefs and inhabitants of the new Protectorate and the Colony my best wishes for their future happiness. Pray assure them of the great interest 1 take in their welfare and express my earnest hope that great prosperity may be in store for them’.
On his part, Mr. Harcourt, British Secretary of State for the Colonies, had this to say to Nigerians via a telegram which was read out to the mammoth crowd that had thronged the premises of the courtroom that overlooked Tinubu Square as early as 9am (local time) on that 1914 New Year day:
‘I offer you may (sic) congratulations on the completion of the arduous task of uniting Northern and Southern Nigeria in a common form of Government, and 1 trust that the new Administration now established may actively promote the well-being of all classes of the inhabitants of Nigeria and the development of its great resources’.
Paragraph 11 of the Gazette under reference clearly states that “on the Governor-General’s assumption of office a salute of seventeen guns was fixed”. Please note that the designation used in the extract from Paragraph 11 is “Governor-General”, not “Governor-General-Designate”. Mind you, all these happened in Lagos. It is also on record that after the ceremonies, and perhaps for the avoidance of doubt, the first Executive Council and
Legislative Council meetings respectively were held, at which all members took their Oaths of Office. Earlier in the proceedings, Sir Edwin Speed and Mr. James had taken theirs as Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Administrator of the Colony respectively.
It was much later on in the day that the Governor-General, Lord Lugard, left Lagos for Zungeru, according to the Gazette, “in order to proclaim the new Government in the Protectorate”. He got there at about 3am on January 3. It is therefore historically incorrect to posit, as Gov Aliyu had done in error, that “By virtue of the amalgamation which occurred within the boundaries of Zungeru, Zungeru became the first capital of a
new Nigeria”. Whereas Aliyu’s argument is clearly premised on the wrong point, its nuisance value should be optimized, as the nation cruises into her year of century. Taken as a whole, the content of Gov Aliyu’s pamphlet is an excellent case for a rigorous search for, identification of and due recognition for all Nigeria’s Zungerus, Lokojas, Lagoses, Abas, Calabars and their peers nation-wide.
This way, we will not only be laying a solid foundation for, but will also be placing, quite correctly, the building blocks of our dream post-centenary Nigeria. Akamadu is a member, Centenary Celebrations Planning Committee