Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Nigeria @ 59, how it came to pass in 1960

Colonial Governor General Sir James Robertson and the Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa both raised their hands in acknowledgment of independence

On October 1, 1941, ‘Freedom Day’, was declared, the hourly paid working system was abolished in Nigeria and workers were entitled to a 15 days paid leave every year by Governor Bernard Bourdillion, following a strike by the Nigeria Railway Union. October 1, 1954, Governor  Lyttleton introduced what became the Lyttleton Constitution, enabling each region to make their own laws. Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, leader of the NPC, becomes Premier of North Nigeria. Chief Obafemi  Awolowo, leader of AG, becomes Premier of West Nigeria  and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, leader of NCNC, becomes Premier of East Nigeria. By September, 1958, the second Constitutional Conference on Nigeria independence commenced in London and it was at this conference that the date of October 1, 1960 was fixed as date for Nigeria Independence. In preparation for independence Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was made the first Indigenous Governor-General of Nigeria on November 16, 1959 and on January 16 1960, Nigeria 312 members of House of Representative unanimously passed a motion authorizing the Federal government to demand Independence for Nigeria on October 1st 1960 from the U.K. Government. On September 16, 1960, Sir James Robertson admitted the Coat of Arms Ordinance act No 48 of 1960, thereby providing Nigeria with a Coat of Arms in preparation of our independence. The coat of arms of Nigeria consists of a black shield with a wavy white pall, symbolizing the meeting of the Niger and Benue Rivers at Lokoja. The black shield represents Nigeria's fertile soil, while the two supporting horses or chargers on each side represent dignity. The eagle represents strength, while the green and white bands on the top of the shield represent the rich soil. The red flowers at the base are Costus spectabilis is found all over Nigeria and also stand for the beauty of the nation. On the banderole around the base was Nigeria's national motto then "Peace, Unity, Freedom". At about the same time Miss L.J. Williams anthem was selected to be the National Anthem for Nigeria “Nigeria, We Hail Thee" and at Mr Taiwo Akinkunmi entry for the national flag was selected with little modification, the Green-White and Green designed flag was to become our National flag, while we retained the name that was given to us by Flora Shaw, Nigeria. Then came Saturday October 1, 1960 at precisely 12:01 a.m. the colonial flag, the Union Jack was lowed for the last time and the Green-White & Green was hoisted in replacement, at the Race Course, which is known today as the Tafawa Balewa Square. The last Colonial Governor General Sir James Robertson and the Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa both raised their hands in acknowledgment of independence, as u can see in the photo below.

Standing on the spot where the Royal Niger Company flag was lowered and replaced by the Union Jack in 1900

Nigeria earned freedom from what started as the cession of Lagos to the British in 1861 and later the amalgamation of people and naming us Nigeria. Nigeria was previously a conglomeration of diverse states whose historical origin, religion and economic development are at variance. Some of these tribal states were the Yoruba kingdom, the Ibo states, the Benin Empire, Bornu and Hausa states. Nigeria became an independent nation that day October 1, 1960 when Sir Jaja Wachukwu the  first black Speaker of the Nigerian Parliament (House of Representatives), who replaced Sir Frederick Metcalfe of Great Britain, the received Nigeria's Instrument of Independence – the ‘Freedom Charter’, from Princess Alexandra of Kent - HM The Queen of United Kingdom's representative at the Nigerian Independence ceremonies. Nigeria became an independent nation when the Governor-General of Nigeria (the last white by historical appointment) Sir James Robertson had the congratulatory independence handshake with Prime Minister, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa after the lowering of the Union Jack, the British was obviously on their way out of Nigeria.  Queen Elizabeth II of England was ably represented by Princess Alexander of Kent who presented to Alhaji Sir Balewa Tafawa, Abubakar the constitutional instruments of power – the symbol of Nigeria’s independence. The celebration was held simultaneously across Nigeria

standing by the table where the 1914 amalgamation document was signed 

Nigeria is 59 years today from a journey that started on October 1, 1960,  a journey that many prepared for and some never got to witness it. Some like: Sir Herbert Macaulay, Mazi Mbonu Ojike, Sir Bode Thomas, Sir Adeyemo Alakija, Solanke Ladipo, Nduka Eze, Alice Afamuefuna (Mrs), and Adelabu Adegoke aka (Pekelemesi). Sir Herbert Macaulay, at 82 on his sick bed, prophetically said: “When the new Nigeria comes, tell them for their tomorrow, we gave our today.”  

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