Kano Riots of 1953 (Causes & Consequences in Nigeria)

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The Nigeria Kano Riots of 1953 (Causes & Effects)

The Kano Riots began in Kano on 16th May, 1953 and ended on 19th May, 1953.

Kano Riots of 1953 (Causes & Consequences)
Kano Riots of 1953 (Causes & Consequences)

Causes of the Kano Riots of 1953

The major causes of the Kano Riots included the following.

  • There was lack of familiarity with the operation and functioning of the nascent central political institutions. The central legislature whichk brought Nigerians from the north and south together for the first time was established only in 1946. Law-making involves negotiation, compromise and acceptance of majority view. This process of law making had not taken firm root in the country by the time the crisis broke out m 1953.
  • The centralization of power under the Macpherson Constitutien of 1951 alienated the regional governments and the local people from the central government.
  • The suspicion by southern politicians that British officials were always combining with northern politicians to_ defeat their propesals in the House of Representatives and the Council of Ministers further created distrust between Northern and Southern politicians.
  • 4. The motion sponsored by Chief Anthony Enahoro, an Action Group backbencher in the House of Representatives on 31st March, 1953that the house accepts as a primary political objective the attainment of self-government for Nigeria in 1956” pitted the southern politicians against their northern counterparts. As a result of a counter-motion moved by Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto in which he replaced the 1956 date with “as soon as possible”, there was a stalemate in the House of Representatives. This development created tension not only between the northern and southern members of the house but also among Nigerians in general.
  • The mobbing and harassment of the northern members of the House of Representatives by Lagos youths outside the house and at the railway station for not supporting the motion for independence so much enraged the northerners that it was only a matter of time before they would retaliate.
  • The rather insensitive Action Group’s campaign tour of the Northern Region led by Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola in May 1953 to explain the importance of self-government to thce northerners was misconstrued by the latter as an invasion of their territory.

Nature of the Kano Riot of 1953

As a result of the failure of the motion for self government, the Action Group delegation embarked on a tour of some northern citiel. The resident of Kano, sensing that there was likely going to be a breakdown of law and order in the city, banned all public gatherings including the Action Group campaign. But workers of the native authorities who Were on holiday decided to march through the streets of Kano to protest against the visit of the Action Group campaign team. The peaceful protest soon got out of hand and the protesters invaded Sabongari (the strangers quarters).

The riots which lasted for four days resulted in the death of 36 people including 21 southerners and 15 northeners. Several properties were so looted and destroyed before calm was restored.

Political Implications of the Kano Riots

The implications of the Kano Riots for the country were grave.

  1. National unity and the continued existence of the Nigerian natlon was severely threatened.
  2. Both northern and southern pclitical leaders maintained uncompromising positions on the issue of independence and related political issues and consequently, the relationship between them rapidly deteriorated.
  3. The crisis made the north, under Sardauna, to opt for a confederation or a loose centre in which a central agency (not government) would handle only subjects such as defence and external affairs. At the same time, the region agitated for a complete regional autonomy. Ironically, contemporary northern politicians insist today on a strong centre and weak states.
  4. The riots were a reminder to the British colonial government that a federal system of government was most suitable for a diverse and complex country like Nigeria. To save the situation, the British government hurriedly organized conferences of Nigerian leaders in London (1953) and Lagos (1954) to discuss the political future of the country. The outcome of these conferences basically constituted the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954, which adopted federalism for the country.
  5. The Kano riots and the consequent regionalisation of Nigerian politics made political parties, which used to have a pan Nigerian orientation to become sectional in their operation.
  6. As a result of the riots, the amalgamation of 1914 was called to question. Several southern politicians saw it as a drawback to the development of their regions. To the Sardauna and some other northern leaders, the amalgamation of the north and south in 1914 was a mistake. This trend of thinking is still somewhat fashionable today largely due to the persistence of the country’s political problems.
  7. The riot was political rather than religious as some Yoruba Moslems were among those killed by the protesters. In the same vein, many of the so called religious crises in the country today have political undertones.
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