Advantages and Disadvantages of Hugh Clifford Constitution
The system of government introduced as a result of the amalgamation of 1914 created sharp divisions between British officials and educated Nigerians on one hand, and between the chiefs and the educated elements on the other hand.
It was therefore quite easy for the British colonial officials and traditional rulers to align against the educated elites who had no political platform to articulate their position. The meeting of the National Congress of British West Africa held in Accra, Ghana in 1920, provided the opportunity for educated African to articulate their views. The Congress demanded for self-government and an elected legislative council, among other things.
Advantages of Clifford Constitution of 1922
The merits of the constitution included the following:
- The Clifford Constitution introduced the elective principle, the first of its kind in British West Africa. This encouraged political activities especially in Lagos, which had three seats.
- The introduction of the elective principle stimulated the formation of political parties to mobilize people for the 1923 elections into the legislative council. The parties included the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), the Peoples Union and the Lagos Youth Movement (LYM) whose name was later changed to Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM).
- Five newspapers were established to champion the cause of the nationalists and to raise the level of political consciousness among the people. The papers were the Daily Times, the Anglo-African, the Lagos Weekly Record, the Mirror and the West African Pilot.
- The constitution brought stability to the Nigerian political system. The constitution was the major instrument of political governance in Nigeria from 1922 till 1946 when it was replaced by the Richard’s Constitution.
Disadvantages of Clifford Constitution of 1922
The Clifford Constitution had the following disadvantages:
- The constitution did not reflect the wishes and aspirations of Nigerians. It remained largely unchanged even when there were widespread agitations and protests by Nigerian nationalists for representation in the management of their own affairs.
- The legislative council created by the constitution was quite restrictive in its scope and coverage. It only made laws for the Southern Provinces and continued the colonial policy of isolating the North from the South.
- The legislative council had no elected members from the North.
- The majority of members of the Legislative Council were Europeans who obviously did not have a thorough understanding of the yearning and aspirations of Nigerians.
- The few Nigerians on the Council were selected by the British colonial government and did not therefore truly represent the interest of Nigerians. They had little interest in the debates of the Council and they readily exhibited a penchant to cooperate easily with the British colonial officials.
- The imposition of the indirect rule system on the Southern Provinces due to its success in the North showed a clear lack of understanding of the Nigerian political situation by the drafters of the constitution.
- The franchise for election into the legislative council was too narrow and restrictive as only the rich businessmen in Lagos and Calabar could easily contest elections under these electoral rules.
- Nigerians were not consulted in the process of drafting the constitution.
- The Executive Council which was dominated by Europeans had no real executive powers.