Tafawa Balawa

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Tafawa Balawa: 'The eyes of the whole world are upon us'

At the Federal House sitting on May 29, 1962 Prime Minister Sir Abubakar moved the 'the resolution' for the declaration of a state of emergency in the Western Region. His motion was seconded by the Federal Minister of Finance, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh. Excerpts.

"I rise to move the resolution standing in my name which reads as follows:-

"That in pursuance of Section 65 of the constitution of the federation it is declared that a state of public emergency exists and that this resolution shall remain in force until the end of the month of December, nineteen hundred and sixty-two."

"Members know the reasons why parliament has reassembled today. For the past week or so, there has been no properly constituted government in Western Nigeria. I would like to recapitulate briefly the events, which have led to this impasse and in doing so I would like to emphasise that the Federal Government had been motivated solely by the desire to ensure that peace, order and tranquillity are maintained throughout parts of the federation.

"A political crisis developed within the Action Group, which was the party in control of the government of Western Nigeria. Following the crisis the national executive of the party deposed Chief Akintola as deputy leader and asked him to resign his appointment as premier of Western Nigeria. On May 20, the premier advised the governor of Western Nigeria that in view of the political crisis which had been developed in the region and of the rival claims of the two factions to a majority support of the electorate in the region His Excellency should exercise his powers under Section 31 of Part III of the Constitution of Western Nigeria to dissolve the legislative house of the region. The governor refused.

"On the same day the Premier asked the Speaker, for the same reasons, to convene the Western House of Assembly for Wednesday, May 23 to consider and pass a motion for a vote of confidence in the government of Western Nigeria but the Speaker also refused. The following day, the Governor purported to exercise the powers vested in him by Section 33(10) of the Constitution of Western Nigeria set out in the Fourth Schedule to the Nigeria Constitution order-in-council 1960 and purported to remove Chief Akintola from his office as premier of Western Nigeria with effect from the May 21. Chief Akintola thereupon filed a motion in the high court challenging the power of the governor to remove him from office in the manner he did. The matter is still before the court for determination.

"The governor, nevertheless, proceeded to exercise the powers in normal circumstances vested in him by Section 33(1) of the Constitution of Western Nigeria by purporting to appoint Chief D.S. Adegbenro to be premier of Western Nigeria with effect from May 21. A meeting of the Western House of Assembly was summoned for May 25.

"As members know, two unsuccessful attempts were made on that day to hold meetings of the Western House of Assembly, the first one ended in a violent uproar and disorder...

I was then approached by one side to the dispute to allow the Nigeria Police to guard the chamber of the Western House of Assembly so that another meeting could be held, this time, in the House of Chiefs which was to be used as the House of Assembly. The other side almost immediately warned that it would be unwise and risky to allow such further meeting to be held. Before the attempt to hold a second meeting, I felt impelled to issue the following release.

"The two factions in the Action Group have contacted the Prime Minister regarding the holding of another meeting of the Western Nigeria House of Assembly today. The prime minister cannot stop the meeting from taking place but because of the fight which has broken out in the house this morning if the parties decided to hold a meeting of the house of assembly they may do so. It must be on the strict understanding that there will be no police protection within the chamber. If, however, any party insists on being afforded police protection within the chamber the police may be so present, but the Federal Government will not accept any decision reached as a result of such proceedings in the chamber. If in spite of all the efforts of the police there should be an outbreak of violence or any disorder, the police have authority to clear the chamber and lock it up."

"Shortly after the release had been issued, I received a further report from the Inspector-General of Police that an attempt had been made to hold a meeting under Nigeria police protection but that it had resulted in a far greater uproar and commotion than the earlier one. The police therefore cleared the chamber and locked it up.

"In the afternoon of the same day, May 25, the council of ministers met to discuss the situation. The same evening I made a nation-wide broadcast explaining the position of the Federal Government in the matter, and in the course of any broadcast, I made the following observation:

"No responsible government of the federation could allow an explosive situation such as that which now exists in Western Nigeria to continue without taking adequate measures to ensure that there is an early return to the region of peace, order and good government."

"I said a few moments ago that for the past week or so there does not appear to have been any validly constituted government in Western Nigeria in the light of the violent incidents on May 25th which badly shattered both Houses of Assembly, it is difficult to see how the public affairs of the Western Region could possibly be carried on in an atmosphere of warring factions of a party in power so sadly rent asunder in the old world struggle that will ultimately do nobody any good inside and outside Western Nigeria. This is the background against which I ask hon. members to assess the situation and to authorise the government of the federation to take appropriate measures in accordance with the provisions of our constitution.

"Allegation of conspiracy have been made against the Federal Government, that it had planned the whole crisis in order to take over the Western Nigeria government. It has also been said in certain quarters that this parliament would be abusing its powers were it to declare a state of emergency because the sad and unfortunate occurrences had not extended.

"Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are surely not responsible for the chain of events that led to the party and personal wrangles and the attempted by-passing of the Western legislature and to the mutual dismissal and counter-dismissal between the government and premier. The question at issue is whether in the absence of a duly constituted government of Western Nigeria, the Federal Government have no responsibility for ensuring peace, order and good government in that region. The main purpose of this resolution is to seek parliament's approval for the measures, which the Federal Government proposes to adopt in order to ensure an early return to Western Nigeria of peace, order and good government.

"I ask all Nigerians to co-operate and support the Federal Government at this momentous turning point in our national history. It is not yet two years since we began the adventurous but arduous task of nation building. The eyes of the whole world are upon us, particularly now when we, a responsible and friendly people are seeking to exercise our development plans and so increase the happiness and prosperity of our people.

"I solemnly assure you that the power we shall soon be forced to assume will be exercised in as humane and democratic a manner as the circumstances will permit and that as soon as reasonably may be, the Federal Government will actively promote and encourage a situation in which an early return to the normal process of parliamentary government could be guaranteed for all classes of people of Western Nigeria. I beg to move."

 

 

Obafemi Awolowo:'The PM's motion is uncalled for'

In reply to Balewa's motion for a state of emergency, the leader of opposition in the Federal Parliament, and leader of the Action Group, Chief Obafemi Awolowo tabled his opposition amendment. Excerpts

"I beg to move the following amendment to the motion already proposed by the Prime Minister:

"To delete all the words of the motion after - That - and substitute - "This honourable House declares that having regard to the provisions of Section 65 of the Constitution of the Federation of Nigeria a state of public emergency does not exist."

"May I draw the attention of hon. members to the provisions of Section 65 of our Constitution. It is not usual for members to read the constitution unless occasion such as this arises or some other incidents, which affect us occur. Section 65 reads:

"65(1) Parliament may at any time make sure laws for Nigeria or any part thereof with respect to matters not included in the legislative lists as may appear to parliament to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of maintaining or securing peace, order and good government during any period of emergency."

"The section 3 - (3) In this section "period of emergency" means any period during which (a) the federation is at war; (b) there is in force a resolution by each House of Parliament declaring that a state of public emergency exists; and (c) there is in force a resolution of each House of Parliament supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of the House declaring that democratic institutions in Nigeria are threatened by subversion.

"That is the section, Mr. Speaker, and I hold the view very strongly - and that view is in no way shaken by the speech made by the Prime Minister that the step which the Federal Government now proposes is uncalled for and unwarranted.

"The first question which any reasonable person ought to ask himself is this. Is there a state of public emergency in the Western Region

bulletThat is the most important question, which the Prime Minister and the cabinet must ask themselves. I submit with great respect that a state of public emergency does not exist in Western Nigeria.

"Not long ago after independence, there was rioting of a most severe nature in the Tiv Division of Northern Nigeria. Several lives were lost, several properties were destroyed, there was arson and a host of other crimes were committed. At that time, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was the Prime Minister as he is today. He did not think it fit to call this parliament to declare a state of public emergency in the Northern Region. Also in Okrika - there was widespread rioting in Okrika; again, several lives and properties were lost. I understand that this widespread rioting in Okrika occurred twice in the Eastern Region. The Prime Minister and the cabinet did not think it fit on that occasion to declare a state of public emergency in the Eastern Region.

"But, because the Action Group is pursuing the normal democratic processes as laid down in our constitution to oust someone who happens to be a very close friend of the Prime Minister, and also because the AG is looked upon as a moral foe to the NPC, this very far-reaching provision of our constitution is now being invoked, only in respect of what might be described as squabbles inside the chamber of the Western House of Assembly. It is doing violence to our constitution and doing violence to the construction of words to suggest that what happened in the Western House of Assembly amounts to a state of public emergency.

"I was present there myself, and when I left that chamber, those who were outside the chamber did not even know that anything was happening inside the chamber. Ibadan is peaceful - the whole of the Western Region is peaceful. It is true that the newspapers have been exaggerating the situation in the Western Region, the Prime Minister himself has lent his support to this exaggeration; he cancelled all his engagements - whether they existed or not I do not know, the governor-general was suddenly summoned back from his holiday in Nsukka to come to Lagos even when there was no deterioration in the situation in the Western Nigeria.

"I maintain that this is a calculated, premeditated attempt on the part of the Prime Minister and his cabinet to try, if they could, to castrate the AG, to disturb the welfare of the people of Western Nigeria who have always been looked upon as the foes of the NPC.

"May I say that I can understand the yearnings and the wishes of the NCNC and the stand of the NCNC in this matter. Every political party wants to be in power - we want to be in power here in the centre one day, and by the grace of God we will. But the NCNC wants, naturally, to fish in troubled waters. If I were in their shoes, I would think that no occasion is more favourable than now to have a dissolution of the legislature of the Western Region, because this dissolution now would mean a split in the votes of the Action Group. It might be that by such a split, they could sort of fluke in and form the government of Western Nigeria. In any case, whatever happened after that dissolution, the NCNC would not be any worse off than they were before, namely to be in the opposition - that is the worst that could happened to them. But there is a chance - the off-chance - that they may just manage to win.

"Therefore I can understand the action of the NCNC in this matter, because that is the party in opposition in the Western Region. The NPC has no foothold in the west, and it is doing its very best to find a foothold in the Western Region.

"There are a number of persons who call themselves NPC members for Ibadan, but they are by themselves, they have some following of a type among people who live in Mokola, Ibadan, that is to be understood; but the NPC as such has no following in the Western Region, and it is the NPC dominated Federal Government that now wants to impose its rule on the people of Western Nigeria, simply because there was what the prime minister called the uproar in the chamber of the Western House of Assembly - not an uproar in Ibadan as a whole; not an uproar even in Ogbomosho the home of Chief Akintola who is involved in this matter, not an uproar in Ijebu-Remo; not an uproar in Ikorodu; not an uproar anywhere in the Western Region. The prime minister thinks that this very far-reaching provision of the constitution should be invoked merely to save a friend!

"Secondly, what is a public emergency

bulletWhat is a state of public emergency
bulletWhat is a state of public emergency
bulletMay I say that my view quite candidly is that a state of public emergency arises only when there is widespread violence in any part of the federation. In this particular case there is no widespread violence or rioting or disturbance in the Western Region. And yet, the bon. Minister for war - for defence - sent soldiers to Ibadan, as a matter of routine I think, because the soldiers there have been moved to the Congo; and then he went on the air to say. "Oh yes, we have sent them there because of the tension in Ibadan." Where is the tension in Ibadan
bulletI may walk about the streets of Ibadan, and if the minister of defence challenges that, I invite him to come along to Ibadan and go about the streets of Ibadan. But they want to create this artificial tension in the Western Region in order to invoke this far-reaching provision of the constitution.

Gross misuse of power

"Thirdly, I say - I said it outside this house and I want to repeat it on the floor of this honourable house - that the action now being taken by the Federal Government is a gross misuse of power; I do not say abuse because as far as I can see there is no abuse yet - I hope the Federal Government does not abuse its power in the process of implementing this resolution, but so far it is a gross misuse of power, the circumstances which should warrant the use of this power have not yet arisen.

"What is more

bulletThe prime minister was very, very careful in stating the events which led to his having to decide to take this action which he is now taking. I never knew him to be a journalist, I know him to be an educationist, a politician and a statesman, but like some journalists he has put a little bit of twist and slant in relating the events, so as to show that it is the Action Group, vis--vis Chief Akintola that is at fault in this matter. Why did the prime minister not tell this house the story which the police have no doubt told him concerning the events in the house of assembly on that day
bulletHe knows the story but he had chosen not to tell it, and since he has failed to tell it, I will tell that story and challenge the prime minister to deny it.

"The truth is that in the house of assembly that day, hon. Members were assembled as we are here now assembled; prayers were said and then immediately after that, one Mr. Oke, a supporter of Chief Akintola, a member from Ogbomosho, jumped on the desk and was running about on the desk and then lifted a chair and struck somebody on the head. That is how it started, and then thereafter one Mr. Ebubedike, the member for Badagry, who lives in Ajeromi, took the Mace and then in an attempt to strike the speaker with the Mace, the Mace struck the table and broke into two. These events were witnessed by the police and then chairs were lifted and were thrown all over the place by supporters of Chief Akintola.

"The police will testify to the fact that all the members of the Action Group supporting Alhaji Adegbenro remained calm under the gravest possible provocations. They too could hit back - there were 66 of them against 40 odd of the other side and they could have hit back but they did not hit back. I should have thought that the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister would have given that story. I spoke to him over the telephone myself and he was candid enough to admit that he received the report of the police that the supporters of Alhaji Adegbenro remained calm throughout.

"One of the ministers was injured, very badly. He was stabbed with a knife inside the chamber. That is what happened and the prime minister should have said this.

"Then the meeting reassembled. It is true that I told the prime minister that it would be only right and proper that the meeting should reassemble, otherwise we would have done damage, serious and irreparable damage, serious and irreparable damage, to the most important instrument of parliamentary democracy. If democracy is to survive in this country, parliamentary must be allowed to meet. It is also true that I did ask the prime minister to see to it that police protection was afforded to hon. Members inside the chamber. It is true, as he has pointed out, that he did say that in the case of police being inside the chamber the decisions taken thereat would not be accepted by him.

"But how does parliament function if a group of people, a minority, choose to make trouble in an assembly of this character

bulletWhen we came this morning everyone of us was searched. The prime minister has learned a lesson from the Western Region and I notice that he has removed all movable chairs and articles from this house. Why did he not make that suggestion to the speaker in the Western House of Assembly
bulletI did make that suggestion to him, that if we met on Saturday we would see to it that all the chairs and movable articles that could injure people were removed from the chamber. The prime minister has now followed that suggestion of mine and has seen to it that chairs and other movable things are removed from this place.

"But may I say with respect that we do not come here to disturb the peace in this House; we do not come here to do that. We come here to urge our points of view, have our say and leave the government to have its way. That is the essence of democracy. What prime minister should have done on this occasion, if he is the democrat and liberal which I think he has always been, should have been to see to it that the culprits, being known and being identified, were dealt with properly under law. There were people who should have been thrown out of the chamber. It was not proper that tear gas should have been thrown into the whole chamber which prevented all the members from meeting.

"Suppose I chose to start trouble here

bulletIt is true that the police are around; they may shoot, they may fire, and all sorts of things, but we would create trouble all the same and the police might come in and throw tear gas and disperse all of us. We might then come again and start the same trouble; the same police action might take place and we might come again and start the same trouble all over. What would happen to parliamentary democracy
bulletIt would be finished.

Dangerous precedent

"That leads me to my fourth point, that a dangerous precedent is being set in this country. I warn the prime minister, who has been a faithful custodian of our constitution, to see that the precedence is not allowed to be created. There is still time, I know it is not easy for a government, having come into the open in the way the prime minister has done, to retreat. I have been in government myself for eight years and I know what it means to be defeated in the open. But I do warn, very seriously, that the path of duty on the part of the prime minister lies in his seeing to it that parliament functions, and functions properly in the Western Region. It will be an act of bad faith to our constitution to set up an organisation which would by-pass the constitution of the Western Region, under any circumstances whatsoever, and particularly under these circumstances.

Motion discriminatory

"The fifth point I wish to make is that this measure, this motion, is discriminatory. I have already given instances to support that contention, and I do not want to go over those incidents again. I have made reference to the riots in Tiv Division and the riots in Okrika and so on and so forth. I do not want to repeat them. But if this can be done to the Western Region, whey was it not done to the Northern Region or to the Eastern Region

bulletI want the prime minister not only to project the image of being a statesman in his dealings with the East and the North, I also want him to project the image of an impartial arbiter and statesman in his dealings with the region which is not of his own origin, that is the Western Region, and a region in which a party opposed to his party is in power, a region in which a party the Action Group has its base and from where it operates.

"In the North, to the annoyance no doubt of my good friend the premier of Northern Nigeria, I think it is correct to say that it was the Action Group who, during the 1959 elections, campaigned for the first time in the history of Northern Nigeria. The hon. The Sardauna of Sokoto, the premier of the Northern Region, had to go into villages and towns and mount the soap boxes to address the masses. It had never happened in the history of the Northern Region that the Sardauna would descend to the depths of mounting a soap box and talking to the masses of the people - they take orders through other agencies and not directly from the Sardauna himself.

"I remember that a story was told to me on that occasion, that the Sardauna drove through several miles of dusty road and, at the end of it, he found himself covered with dust, and sneezing he said: "I will never forgive Awolowo for this!" If he does not want to forgive me we can talk that over between ourselves because we are friends, but this is not the way to deal with that particular situation: this is not the way to deal with that particular annoyance. This is wrong.

"I want to refer to some of the points made by the prime minister. The prime minister said that there is no constituted authority in Western Nigeria at the moment. I say with respect that the prime minister is wrong in making that declaration. The governor, rightly or wrongly, has acted in removing Chief Akintola from office and, rightly or wrongly, in appointing a successor. Under our constitution it is the court that has to determine whether the removal of Chief Akintola is right or wrong and whether the appointing of a successor is in order. As a matter of fact the moment the removal of Chief Akintola is declared void, then he resumes his office, but if the court declares to the contrary then, of course, the successor carries on. The case has been fixed for the 5th. Why not wait till the 5th.

"It is the duty of the prime minister, in my view, to support the new appointee, the successor of Chief Akintola, until the case is disposed of. That is his duty, a clear duty. But what is the pretext of the prime minister in taking this measure

bullet''Well,' he said, 'this case is coming up on the 5th but because of this uproar inside the chamber something must be done even before the 5th.'

"May I say in this connection that I cannot help expressing the feeling that the prime minister feels greatly concerned about the action of the governor of the Western Region of Nigeria, I would not say for a personal reason - but for a reason which is not unconnected with his own position in the federation. May 1 say that until Chief Akintola refused to resign I myself had not discovered the provisions under Section 33 of our constitution in the Western Region, and I am aware until that provision was invoked that the governor-general or the governor could remove the prime minister or a premier if it appeared to him that the prime minister or a premier if it appeared to him that the prime minister or the premier no longer enjoyed the support of the House of Representatives or of the House of Assembly, as the case may be.

"But that is our law. If the prime minister feels that the governor-general may one day wake up and remove him from office, then he could do something about it. As far as I know the two parties in coalition with him have never at any time suggested that he should resign his office. On the contrary, from the demonstration which we have noticed in this honourable House, they are all loyal to him and he has no cause to be afraid either of his own party, the NPC, or the NCNC which is in coalition with the NPC.

"But here is a man (Chief Akintola) who himself pleaded guilty to the charges of maladministration, anti-party activities and indiscipline and was found so guilty by his own compeers. The only question on which members divided was whether he should be sentenced to life imprisonment or to a fine or whether he should be cautioned and discharged. That was all. As to the verdict, it was unanimous; but whether he should be called upon to resign or whether he should be cautioned and given some less punishment, was the issue, it was the votes of eight-one people against the votes of twenty-nine members.

"As I said, the Prime Minister has nothing to fear from the governor-general. I think they are on the best of terms and the parties in coalition are very friendly to him."

 

 

'I was not there to fight the Action Group'

Dr. Moses Majekodunmi was the administrator of the Western Region during the state of emergency in 1962. In this interview with The Guardian on his 80th birthday in 1996, reminisces what it was like, to administer the region famously called the Wild, Wild West. Can you on your days as administrator of the Western Region.

"I was appointed administrator of the Western Region comprising what you now call Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Osun and Lagos states right up to Okuku in the north, Benin and Asaba. I was there for just a little over six months, from June 29th to December.

The whole idea of appointing an administrator was because it was alleged on the floor of the House that law and order had broken down in the Western Region and that the two factions, the Awolowo and Akintola factions, needed some time to cool off after the row which broke loose in the House of Assembly which resulted in a member having his head broken with a chair and a lot of things which came up during the debate of the emergency.

Immediately I was appointed, I was given a list of names (of people) by the police whose movement they wanted me to restrict. We called it restriction order in those days, not detention. Now this list had up to 40 names, and the first name on the list was that of the late Sir Adesoji Aderemi, the Ooni of Ife. I called the Inspector-General of Police and told him that I could not sign a restriction order on the Ooni, but that he should go back to Ibadan, and talk to the Ooni, and advise him to go back to Ife, and also that I will come and visit him as soon as I got to Ibadan.

The other names on the list were all my old friends: Awolowo, Akintola, Fani-Kayode and some of his NCNC group members, There were people I was familiar with. Such as the late Biodun Akerele. I signed the order, and they were restricted, some in their houses, others in government guest houses where they were made as comfortable as could be arranged.

When I arrived Ibadan by plane, the Prime Minister's executive jet, I was met by the Head of the Civil Service, the late Chief Simeon Adebo, the Chief Justice of the West, Justice Kwashie Audu, and all the senior civil servants. The road was lined by thousands of peoples from the airport tot he Government House all praying for me - Olorun a ba egbe o, Olorun a ran e lowo o (God will make the burden light for you, God will help you).

That night, I made a radio and television broadcast tot he people of Western Nigeria and asked for their co-operation and I must say that I got this in abundance.

Although I had already arranged to visit the Ooni at Ife, to my surprise, he came to the Government House to greet me on the fifth day of my arrival. We sat down and had a long talk. He was very helpful, and gave me some very useful ideas on what to do with the administration, a gesture for which I will be eternally grateful.

Although I knew him before I became administrator, I was never so close to him until then. And even after my service as administrator, we remained very close friends. Many a time, I visited him at Ife and partook of his Iyan (pounded yam) and champagne.

I did not find my period of administration irksome. I got co-operation from the civil servants, and I was fortunate in my choice of commissioners who served with me during that period. Among them was Omololu Olunloyo, who is still very active in politics.

Many of this commissioners were recommended to me by friends who were in politics, and some of them I had never met before, but I did invite my friend, the late Adeniyi Williams who was the retired Chief Engineer of the Federal Ministry of Works. We used to have council meetings, and of course, I took my time to read all the council papers before these meetings. If there was anything I felt I had to know in-depth, I asked the Permanent Secretary of that ministry to come and discuss with me.

And so it was when the late M.S Showole, from Ipara-Ijebu, complained to me that he was having problem with the Ministry of Agriculture over the renewal of his timber license. Having gone through his papers, I discovered that he had a good case. I asked why he wasn't granted his permit, and was told that he was an Action Grouper. I let the commissioner know in no uncertain terms that I was not there to fight the Action Group, or indeed any group, and that the man should be given his licence immediately.

Until the time of his death, M.S. Showole never ceased to repeat the story to his friends, many of whom became our mutual friends.

I found that the rift between the members of the Action Group at that time was a tragedy particularly for the West, because they had a very good programme, a first class civil service and were highly disciplined. But all efforts at reconciling the opposing factions failed even during the period of emergency.

The late Sir Adetokunbo Ademola and one or two Obas from the Western Region used to meet at Sir Ademola's house. Sir Adetokunbo Ademola would take permission from me to release Awolowo and Akintola to attend the meeting, so that they could effect resolution of their problem. But up to the time the plot of treasonable felony for which Awolowo went to jail was discovered, it was not possible to effect this reconciliation.

 

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