The discussion of the history of Nigeria cannot be complete without talking about the amalgamation of Nigeria. The amalgamation remains a significant phase in the history of Nigeria and you will find out why in this article. This article discusses the amalgamation, its advantages as well as disadvantages.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Amalgamation in Nigeria
Read on below:
How it all began
What is referred to as Southern Nigeria back then was a British protectorate in the coastal areas of modern-day Nigeria. Southern Nigeria was formed in 1900 from the union of the Niger Coast Protectorate with territories below Lokoja on the Niger River.
As of 1861, Lagos was already an area that was already controlled by the colonial masters and it was known as the Lagos colony.
The oil-producing states known as southern Nigeria and the North has also been turned to dependent territories under the British powers. This means that there were 3 Colonies namely Lagos Colony, Northern Protectorate, and the Southern Protectorate.
However, in 1906, Walter Egerton, the then Governor-general merged Lagos colony with the Southern protectorate to form a new colony, Southern Nigeria, and the Lagos colony was then officially renamed the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. This action reduced the colonies into 2 namely; Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate.
In 1912, Egerton was replaced by Frederick Lugard, who was appointed Governor-General of both Southern and Northern Nigeria and was given the mandate to unite the two colonies. This was Lugard’s mission on return to Nigeria; to complete the amalgamation of all into one colony. Although this action was controversial in Lagos, where it was opposed by a large section of the political class and the media, the amalgamation did not arouse any major interest in the rest of the country.
The two colonies continued until May 9, 1913, when lord Lugard submitted his proposal to bring together the two protectorates to the British government. His dream came to reality on the 1st of January, 1914 when his proposal was approved. Thus, the two territories were joined to become one. After the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorate, there was nothing like the northern and southern Nigeria Protectorate with different policies and laws, what we now had was the northern and southern provinces which conform to same policies such as one railway policy, one administration while its central headquarter was located in Lagos. The now amalgamated territory was headed by a single officer called Governor-General who was assisted by lieutenant governors and colony administrators who were all appointed by the British government.
From the 1st of January 1914 till the 8th of August 1919, Frederick Lord Lugard was made Governor-General of the now combined Colony of Nigeria. He believed in military rule and his administration was autocratic. He spent only 6 months each year in Nigeria. The remaining half of the year met him in England
Reasons for the Amalgamation
There is no question whatsoever that the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorate was all in favor of the British government. It was basically due to economic reasons. Bear in mind that Nigeria was not independent as at then. Before the amalgamation, the Southern Protectorate at the time, generated more than enough revenue for its territory due to its proximity to the sea while the Northern Protectorate did not generate just enough. The British government had seen that if things went on the way they did, they will have no choice but to use their money to sustain the Northern Territory.
While the North offered lands, minerals, and people, the South had an abundance of enterprising citizens and had access to the oceans. However, it did not have the diversity of lands and climes that the North offered. Therefore, by amalgamating the Northern and Southern protectorates, the British government could integrate the contrasting benefits that the two protectorates offered. The surplus from the southern Protectorate could be used to offset the deficit of the Northern Protectorate. However, that could not be done if the two territories were not amalgamated.
Hence, the top reason for amalgamation was the maximum profit and administrative convenience of the British government. In truth, what Lugard and the entire British government saw in Nigeria over a century ago has not changed. In fact, Nigeria has become a much more viable proposition. The North has way beyond Tin and Columbite, it also has lands and huge reserves of Iron ore, Tantalite, etc. The South, on the other hand, has an abundance of Oil and Gas, Bitumen and Gold, in addition to Coal.
Disadvantages of the Amalgamation
The first disadvantage of the amalgamation of Nigeria is found in the aftermath, years after. The debate over if the amalgamation achieved a unification of the people of Nigeria, arguably it just didn’t. After the amalgamation, Nigeria has witnessed the civil war or the Biafra war, Niger Delta Militant rebellion, Boko Haram insurgency, terrorism from within its own territory, and so on. When you ask why? Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s answer might suffice, “the name Nigeria is a geographical expression and not a single country.” Lord Lugard was able to amalgamate Northern and Southern territories but not the people. Nigerians remain one of the most tribalistic people, identifying only with their own tribe and discriminating against the other.
Advantages of Amalgamation
Nonetheless, the Amalgamation of Nigeria has its positive sides. The amalgamation led to the development of independence which was later granted in 1960.
The amalgamation of Nigeria also made it possible for everyone across the country to enjoy benefits across territories. For example, cheap livestock and other agricultural produce from the North, Crude oil not being more expensive in the North, Hide and Skin made available in Lagos, etc. Each region has its own strength and if not for the amalgamation, each territory would have had to struggle with its deficits alone.
The amalgamation also made it possible for equal rights of employment anywhere in the country, equal rights to residency, common laws, and electoral system, etc.