Speech delivered by the Sardauna on Nov. 20, 1958
I am very grateful for having been given this opportunity of meeting you here today. I feel that things have been moving so quickly in the last few months, and so many important changes are about to take place, that I am anxious that everybody should be fully aware of what self-government means. So perhaps I may start on this subject.
I have already explained its implications to the Legislature and, on the radio, and the Government’s Information Service has put out pamphlets describing what is going to happen.
The main thing is that, as far as the vast majority of people in this region is concerned, there will be few outward changes. We have been virtually self-governing since 1954 and since then, progressive steps have been taken within the framework of the constitution, most of which have been more apparent at the centre than in the provinces. For example, last year the posts of Civil Secretary and Financial Secretary were abolished.
A Northern finance minister was appointed and the Civil Secretary’s functions were taken over by other Ministries. Certain other changes took place which had the effect of giving ministers closer control over the activities of their ministries. The main changes which will come into effect on March 15th next year are: Firstly, the Governor will no longer preside at meetings of the Executive Council; the Premier will do in his place.
The Governor will, of course, always be available to give advice and he will be kept informed of government business and decisions. He will have no individual powers except in connection with the Public Service of the region. He will, however, retain certain reserved constitutional powers in. relation to the region, the Federation and the Northern Cameroon, and he will retain these powers until the Federation becomes independent in 1960.
Secondly, the Secretary of State will cease to have control of the Public Service, which becomes a purely regional service, which we hope many expatriate officers will stay on in the region to join. These are the main developments and they will not, as I have said, result in many outward changes.
You will also have heard that, as a result of the recent constitutional conference in London, Her Majesty’s Government has greed to the grant of independence to the Federation on October 1st, 1960. We have stated publicly that we intend to remain within the British Commonwealth. We believe that the Commonwealth is the greatest force for peace and stability in the world today.
We have shown our sincerity in wanting to retain the services of our expatriate officers by agreeing to the Secretary of State’s proposals for the payment of lump sum compensation and at the same time making it possible for officers to stay on in the service of our people.
At the same time we are pressing ahead with our policy of Northernising our public service. As an example, we now have nearly 40 Northern administrative officers and every province has one or two of them; there will be more, Northerners are also coming into the professional services, slowly at first, but in increasing numbers.
The fact that we are able to do this is due in part to the devoted work of you and your predecessors, who have given education to so many of our young men. And here I wish to pay my tribute to your work. I know that it is often carried out under difficult conditions and with little worldly reward, and I know that your lives are devoted to the welfare of the people amongst whom you work.
I am pleased to know, too, that relations between the Government and the missions have generally been cordial, co-operative and friendly. We cannot deny that there have been differences from time to time but I believe that such differences, when they occur can, generally be settled by tolerance and good will. The differences in our religions need be no bar to our continuing to work together for the good of our people.
To illustrate my point, let me tell you that earlier this year we sent delegation consisting of both Muslims and Christians, to Libya. Pakistan and the Sudan all of them newly independent states and all of them predominantly Muslim - in order to study how their governments manage the difficult business of looking after people of different races and creeds.
What we have learned from these countries is of great interest and value, and we are considering how we can best put into effect here what we learned there.
I wish to assure you that we believe that this region cannot get on without overseas interests, and that all who genuinely wish to serve our people will always be welcome. At the same time, I want to emphasize two things. Firstly, our government is a government of Northerners, both Muslims and Christians.
We wish to allow all men to practice their religions as they wish. I should like to assure you that the declaration I made on behalf of the Government last year holds good, and that we mean it from the bottom of our hearts. If any of you have not seen it, I am only too willing to give you copies of it.
Our policy is also to allow Native Authorities to develop along their own lines and the lines best suited to the people of their areas; but these lines must be within the general framework of the policy as laid down by the Government. And secondly, leading on from the first point, we do not wish our young men to lose their respect for authority, whether that authority be their fathers, their village or district head or their chief.
I know that there can be difficulties in areas where the rulers are Muslims and the bulk of their people are not; and I know that it is in these places that the young men may lose their respect for their elders. We do not want them to lose this respect; and here you ha’ e an important part to play by teaching your young men that differences in religion must not mean that they can do what they like and ignore those who are set in authority over them.
Throughout my travel in this region I always emphasize this point to schoolchildren. My view is: mete book learning without good manners is of little worth. My motto for the new born North is ‘work and worship.’ Task for your co-operation over this.
When we were all assembled at the London conference last month we discussed in great detail what fundamental rights should be written into the constitution. You have all no doubt seen the form that our final deliberations took. I think that you will all agree that the passages relating to rights concerning religion are comprehensive and that they will conduce to tolerance and goodwill.
In this connection in particular I wish to say one word to those members of the churches who are from other parts of Nigeria. I want them to know that whilst the Government must, as a matter of policy, pursue a policy of Northernisation first, no-one who contributes to the welfare and the progress of our region, from wherever they may come, need fear that their efforts are unappreciated.
On the contrary, I have always stressed that these efforts are well recognized and very welcome indeed.
In the sphere of education, especially of girls and women, your record has stood high.
We are often accused of retarding women’s education. This complaint is quite baseless and the very large grants which government has given for this purpose and the government girls’ schools which we have constructed, are positive proof of our interest. As far as funds permit—and the financial picture is not without its worries—we shall continue to make every effort to press forward in the educational field, in all its aspects.
I have stressed before that the differences of religion should not bar us from working together for the good of our people. May I now add one more word, and this I do with the utmost sincerity and in full knowledge of the gravity of what I am going to say.
The Christian holds a special place in the regard of Muslims throughout the world. If I add that in the past there have been occasions when we have sometimes felt that our regard was not reciprocated, when intolerance and bigotry were allowed unnecessary rein, then I do so in the hope that you may all understand that it is my fervent prayer that these differences can and will be overcome.
Most sincerely do I assure you that the most earnest hope of my government is that contained in the beautiful thought and language of the Christmas message that there shall be “peace on earth and good will to all Amen”.
Ladies and gentlemen, my main wish is that we shall continue to work together as we have in the past. We all believe that the most important thing is the good of our people. Let nothing stand in the way of that.