Book Excerpt: F.A.O Schwarz Jr., “Nigeria: The Tribes, The Nation or The Race -
The Politics of Independence”, MIT Press (1965)
Pages 82,ff (Chapter 4)
MINORITY GROUP POLITICS
After it had been agreed that Nigeria would be governed as a federation with
three strong regions, minorities within each of the region began to agitate for
their own regions or states in which they would be safe from domination by the
majority ethnic groups. As independence approached, the most significant
question in Nigerian politics became whether new regions should be created for
minority groups. Controversy between the major parties on that issue was a
principal cause of the political crisis that shocked Nigeria two years after her
The new-region controversy is the prime example of how basic and unsettling the
central issues in Nigerian politics have been. The structure of the political
system has been at stake rather than the specific actions which should be taken
by governments operating within a generally accepted framework. The proponents
of new regions directly challenge the legitimacy of the existing governments.
Both proponents and opponents have sometimes felt the issue to be so vital that
victory became essential, compromise impossible, and observance of the rules of
the game unnecessary.
Before the minority movement became a potent political force, increasing the
number of regions had been advocated by the Action Group and the NCNC and their
respective leaders, Awolowo and Azikiwe.
That discussion, however, was focused primarily upon whether Nigeria should have
a strong central government or strong regions. It was not until that issue was
resolved in favor of having three strong regions that the demands of the
minorities themselves became the central issue.