LAGOS, NIGERIA, October 1, 1960
All the auspices under which Nigeria achieves independence give reason to hope for political and social stability for the immediately foreseeable future of the next three to five years. The momentum of effective administration and constitutional self-government built up under the colonial regime should tide the country over such difficulties as may emerge in the first years of independence, and the move towards economic development is at least spottily under way. It must, however, be very much speeded and expanded if it is to absorb the flood of youngsters pouring from the primary schools, educated to a distaste for return to the farms but not educated enough to qualify them for the white collar jobs which they crave and which are presently non-existent in the numbers required. The far smaller numbers of the secondary school and university graduates can be absorbed into the system with relative case, but not the products of the almost universal primary education of the Western and Eastern Regions.
Another manpower problem which is sure to be troublesome in the years immediately ahead concerns the upper ranges of government service. It is only in the last half dozen years or so that Nigerians have been moving in substantial numbers into the civil service. In many respects it is an impressive body of men which has been gathered together to carry on the work of Nigeria's governments, but serious shortcomings exist both in particular lines of expertise and in the quantity of mature and seasoned men at the top or close to it. The Eastern and Western Regional governments, having started Nigerianization of their services earlier, are in a relatively strong position, but the North and the Federation still have a long way to go. A report on the Federal civil service, showing the situation as of June 1, 1960, gives the number of Nigerian and West African officers on the pensionable establishment (as opposed to those employed on short term contracts) as 16,304 against 765 Europeans. In the highest bracket of the service, however, 346 are Europeans and only 89 Nigerian, and in the next bracket down 228 are European against 476 Nigerian. The situation today has changed only slightly since June, but it is expected that perhaps a quarter of the expatriate officials will take advantage of the favorable retirement conditions soon after independence. There is no currently available source from which to draw fully adequate replacements, and some decline in governmental standards appears inevitable, one of the most striking aspects of Nigeria today is the extent and depth
A vital factor which at once works for stability and constantly threatens national unity and coherence is the division of the country into the three regions of West, East, and North, plus the separate Federal capital, Lagos. On the face of it difficulties abound in running a federation in which one of the Regions, the North, is far bigger in area and somewhat bigger in population than the other two federal units combined. The situation is complicated by the fact that the North, still centered about its strong Muslim emirates, has moved much more slowly into the modern world than have the two southern Regions. Considerably over-simplifying a complex picture, it is roughly accurate to say that each Region represents also one of the major tribal groupings and one of the major political parties of the country.
This division promotes stability because in the actual state of affairs the three Regions-tribes-parties, balance each other off, prevent the domination of the country by any one element, and work to maintain a great measure of constitutional compromise. Although a number of the younger politically-minded people have been much influenced by the prevailing African drift toward one-party authoritarian national government, the internal division of forces tends to bolster constitutionalism and democracy by providing a built-in opposition. It remains to be seen whether it also provides, as some accuse it of doing, a built-in barrier to decisive and constructive action.
It is a general, and presumably a well-based, opinion that the Nigerian Federation is now sufficiently solidly established to make its own disintegration improbable--a matter which was far from being assured a few years back. It is reasonable to think that all stand to gain from unity and that the advantages to be gained from separation are minimal. Yet tribalism in one guise remains an immensely potent element. Every one denounces it, but it has a vitality which reaches well back into the African past. Most modern forces no doubt work to diminish rather than to enhance tribalism, but the major ethnic groups obviously provide pre-existing constituencies which the politician finds it alluring to draw from.
Much will depend on the ability, still not demonstrated, of the Federal government to take a firm and active lead. The field in which it can most promptly dramatize its role is foreign affairs; and the Prime Minister is setting off for the United Nations--and the United States--within three or four days of receiving on behalf of the Nigerian people Britain's residual colonial sovereignty.
In his guise as an ex-Crimson editor, Professor Emerson has responded to our request for a report on independence Day in Lagoa, Nigeria where he has been visiting.