1946 Richard’s Constitution.
You have probably noticed the pattern already- the constitution is named after whomever is at the helm of power at that period.
Sir Richard became the Governor of Nigeria after Sir Bourdillon vacated the seat. There was a wide spread agitation for nationalism by the people that detested the present constitutional arrangement. In a bid to prevent political unrest in the nation, he hastened the wheels of the constitutional reforms already set in place by his predecessor.
There were a number of things the outgoing Governor, Sir Bourdillon, had to say about the Clifford constitution. He disliked the way the northern and southern regions were administered as very distinct political identities. If you can recall, the Clifford Constitution provided for an executive council that governed the whole nation and a legislative council that was valid only in the southern region.
It went directly against the mandate that was promoted by the 1914 amalgamation, and the intentional isolation of the north caused a lot of antagonism between the two regions. Sir Bourdillon advocated for greater participation of the northerners in the government and policy making.
This particular train of thought served as a backdrop to the creation of the Richard’s Constitution. The main idea was a means of unifying the regions, while still maintaining their diverse structures, and creating a people-inclusive government. Sir Bourdillon proposed a creation of regional councils. These councils were supposed to serve as a connexion between the lower native authorities and the higher legislative council. In his words, the aims of creating the constitution were;
The Richard Constitution of 1946 pretty much retained the formation of the Executive Council. The impressive thing is that later on 2 Nigerians were brought onto the council.
It should also be noted that the Richard’s constitution took the geographical division of Nigeria a bit further. Nigeria was further divided into three separate regions; the Eastern region occupied predominantly by the Igbos and southerners; the Western region which comprised mainly the Yoruba-speaking and; the Northern regions which Lord Hailey later on divided into the Moslem and Non-Moslem Northern Nigeria.
The next step was to set up the aforementioned regional councils in the three provinces. The newly formed regional council in the east was unicameral in nature and bicameral in the cases of the Northern and Western Regions.
There was a House of Assembly and House of Chiefs in the Western and Northern Region. The House of Chiefs in the north comprised; A chief commissioner that acted the role of a charman or president; every first-class chief in the region and; 10 or more lower class chiefs. The provisional council, as expected, was to be another advisory body- The party is at the Executive Council, sorry. The council had no legislative powers and could only work on issues referred to it directly by the governor, or on proposals introduced into the legislative council that concerned the region in question. Basically, another redundant body in the game that is Nigerian politics.
A lot of people lauded the inclusion and nationwide acknowledgement of the native authorities and their indispensable role in politics. It was a step in the right direction for the British authority, whom up to this point had believed the Nigerians inferior and incapable of self-administration, to officially recognise the role of native authority in the society. This constitution was a huge leap in the step of nationalism and self-rule and Nigerians were overjoyed at the prospect of having a say in their local affairs, no matter how small that role may be.
The legislative council was chaired by the Governor of the nation and was made up of 16 officials, 24 unofficial members, and 4 elected. The elective principle that the Clifford Constitution brough into the playing field was still in place, and to the disappointment of the educated elites, was still reserved for Lagos and Calabar. The lack of development of this feature made an impression on the Nigerians that dulled the other efforts made by the British to gradually- and rather slowly- hand over power to Nigerians.
There were 3 officials nominated by the Governor and another 13 ex-officio in the legislative council. Unlike the Clifford Constitution which provided for 26 officials, of which there were 23 ex-officio members and 3 nominees, the 1946 constitution dramatically reduced the numbers of the official members of the legislative council.
There were also 28 unofficial members; 24 unofficial members nominated by the provincial councils and; the 4 seats for 3 elected members from Lagos and 1 from Calabar. Another improvement worthy of mention is the issue of franchise. The defunct 1922 constitution had stipulated and granted franchise to only individuals with a 100euro gross annual income, but the 1946 constitution brought that figure down to 50euros. Going by the economics of that time, it is safe to say that a considerable number of Nigerians were still disenfranchised but it widened the circle and included more people.
The president still had his veto power. Therefore, if he wanted to or with his superior intellect and paltry knowledge of Nigerian affairs, he could reject the advice given to him by his supposed advisory body. In a way, they were toothless and had more of a symbolic role in the government.
A quick outline of the features;
- The Governor had “veto” powers.
- Nigeria was divided into Northern, Eastern, and Western Regions.
- The Regional Council was introduced into the newly carved regions.
- The North was formally brough under the legislative council’s umbrella.
- The unofficial were a majority in the legislative council.
- Franchise was granted to more individuals.
- The constitution recognised native authorities.
- The introduction of unicameral and bicameral systems in the regional councils.