Awo’s Reply To State Of Emergency In 1962 By Eric Teniola

“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, to the most important instrument of parliamentary democracy. If democracy is to survive in this country, Parliament 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, minority, choose to make trouble in an Assembly of this character? When 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? I 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? It 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 allover. What would happen to parliamentary democracy? It would be finished.

“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 my-self 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.

“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, why was it not done to the Northern Region or to the Eastern Region? I 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 a 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 Pre- mier 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? ‘Well,’ he said, ‘this case is corning 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 I 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 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 N.P.C., or the N.C.N.C. which is in coalition with the N.P.C.

“But here is a man (Chief Akintola) who himself pleaded guilty to the charges of mal-administration, 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 eighty-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.

“The Prime Minister did say in his broadcast, and he has repeated it here this morning, that if the Police were to be in attendance to protect Members inside the Chambers, he would not accept the decision taken in the House of Assembly. First of all, in that connection, it is not open to the Prime Minister to accept or reject the decision of the Western Legislature.

“Secondly, it is clearly provided in the Constitution of Western Nigeria and in the Constitution of other Regions and the Federation that strangers can be allowed to participate in the proceedings or to be present when the proceedings of a House of Assembly take place.

“With your permission, I will make reference to section 28(2) of the Constitution of Western Nigeria.
“Each Legislative House of the Region may act not withstanding any vacancy in its Membership, and the presence or participation of any person not entitled to be present at or to participate in the proceedings of the House shall not invalidate those proceedings.”

“I want to bring that to the attention of the Prime Minister.

“Finally, the step that is now being taken in this Resolution is a violent assault on democratic institutions in Nigeria. It assumes that Parliament can only meet at the sufferance of a group of people who are hostile to that particular Parliament and who are friendly to the Federal Government. That is a dangerous assumption and the Prime Minister must disabuse the minds of all right-thinking people that he has no intention at all to lend his weight to any group of people, however friendly they may be to him, in castrating the activities of Parliament. I beg to move.”

Chief Awolowo’s motion was supported by Chief A. Enahoro, (Action Group) member for Ishan East.