Who Has Ever Seen The Nigerian Declaration of Independence?
It may surprise most Nigerians that there are disturbing questions over who has ever seen and read the contents of whatever document the “Nigerian Declaration of Independence“ (NDI). This is a part of the inquiry even if it does not standalone. It would be the document that contains the actual terms and conditions of the Independence of Nigeria from Britain, the handover conditions, not some bill.
If Nigeria has signed a legitimate NDI, how come no one seems to have ever seen it even 56 years after Independence? Or is it best kept as a secret?
I have had the privilege to ask many notable Nigerians. Nigerians most would expect to have seen or known something concrete about the existence and contents of the NDI. In 1999, I asked Anthony Enahoro, who moved the motion in the House while Nigeria was under colonial rule for Independence if he had seen it. His answer was, No. I also asked Debo Akande while I met him in London in the summer of 2003. His response was, No.
I also requested Gani Fawehimin twice, once in Lagos and again in Abuja. Gani’s answer was not only, No, on both occasions. He was also angry that I bothered to ask him a second time as if it would change his first answer. He was right; I should not have asked a second time at a later date. I also tried to reach Itse Sagay a few years ago in the U.K. to ask the same question. His hospitalisation failed me when the opportunity came.
If a foremost independence politician and preeminent Nigerian lawyers have not seen the NDI, we should wonder who has. The NDI is not available in any library or archive. I have requested the information. The best I have gotten in my search is a transcript of Tafawa Balewa’s speech, declaring Nigeria independent. Independence is not a binding divorce without a certificate; Independence has to have proper terms and conditions written into it.
There are several studies and copies (paper and electronic) available of the four colonial constitutions (Clifford, 1922; Richards 1946, Macpherson 1951, Lyttleton 1954) for Nigeria. There are also studies and copies available of Nigeria’s post-Independence Constitutions (Independence 1960; the First Republic 1963; the Second Republic 1979; Third republic 1993; the Fourth Republic 1999). The Independence Constitution of 1960 is no substitute for the NDI.
However, no studies or copies of the NDI appear to be available for research or to the public. One has to wonder what the reason(s) for such an important document to be unavailable to the public. Did Nigeria’s “Independence Fathers“ (Azikiwe, Awolowo, Bello and others) agree to terms of Independence that are too embarrassing to make public? Was it a non-transparent Declaration by Britain?
It is interesting to know that there is a sizeable number of Nigerians who know the United States “Declaration of Independence.” Or the United States “Constitution.” And the British “Magna Carta” with intimacy and aplomb, many by heart.
It is not uncommon to find some Nigerians who have never lived outside the country when cornered in a tight spot during and arguments make quips. “I plead the Fifth” [Amendment of the U.S. Constitution] is the most common quip. These same guys have not got the slightest clue about the existence or contents of the NDI. It reminds me of the differential in the knowledge of Nigerians concerning Nigerian as against European soccer teams. However, Nigerian teams we never hidden its teams.
Some might ask why it matters for Nigerians to see the NDI. Whatever the case may be, what is done is done. We cannot turn back history. Nigerians and other nationals should have access to view the NDI with freedom. It might give Nigerians a better understanding of the initial conditions Nigeria started life with as an independent nation. There is a lot in that, very much.
Therefore, we ask again, Who Has Ever Seen The Nigerian Declaration of Independence?
P.S. There is a “Nigeria Independence Bill” (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1960/jul/15/nigeria-independence-bill) signed on behalf of Her Majesty by Iain MacLeod, Secretary of State for Colonies. It was then passed at Westminster to “give” Nigeria Independence in 1960.
It is a bill of peaceful and benevolent disengagement, but it does not tell us much about the powers Britain would keep direct, or indirect, over Nigeria. MacLeod even states Nigerians should take the brevity of the Bill. Well it excludes any serious political or economic matters or considerations for governance in good faith. But that Britain placed several political and economic conditions in Nigeria is well beyond the requirements of Independence.