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Today in history

August 18, 1958 - the Minorities Commission (better known as Willink's Minority Commission) report was submitted on this day. It was a four-man Commission with Sir Henry Willink, a former British minister as chairman and Sir Gordon Hadow, Mr. Philip Mason and Mr. J.B. Shearer as members. The Commission was set up on the advice of the second Nigeria Constitution Conference in 1957 to look into the fear of ethnic minorities and make recommendations for constitutional safeguards for their interests. It was specifically asked to look into the necessity or otherwise of creating states for ethnic minorities and to specify precise area for such if need be. The Commission was inaugurated on September 25, 1957, arrived Nigeria in November and finished sitting in June 1958. Most of the petitioners demanded a state of their own, the most strident calls came from Northern Region groups represented by the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC), groups from the non-Yoruba speaking provinces of Western Region and Eastern minority groups calling for the Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers (COR) state. All demands for new regions was fuelled by fear of domination by more populous ethnic groups, all except that of UMBC which powered by the fear of domination by the Muslim majority. Willink's Commission acknowledged the fears but did not recommend the creation of any state on the grounds that it would engender fresh problems and that the areas are too small to constitute viable units. It is generally believed that the Commission's report engendered post-independence problems that led to the Civil War.


On August 18, 1913, Frederick Lugard purportedly intimated Viscount Lewis Har-court via a letter about his (Lugard's) desire to name the natural port town in Southern Nigeria after him (Viscount Harcourt). The Viscount reportedly assented to the adoption of his name for a place he could not have identified on a map. Thus Port-Harcourt was named. Suprisingly, there very few verifiable leads on the source of information but this great act of bootlicking by Lugard is not a surprise.Viscount Harcourt was Secretary of State for the Colonies then. He handpicked Lugard for the job of amalgamating the protectorates against the advice of bureaucrats who were concerned about Lugard's incompetence as an administrator. Harcourt ignored them and, even worse, gave Lugard a very generous service agreement that allowed him four months home stay in Britain every year. That in essence meant he only worked six months a year since the journey between Nigeria and Britain was almost a month by sea back then. Lugard also insisted that his official title be "Governor-General" and that he got exclusive access to all mail from Nigeria while he was on his home stay. Harcort granted him these and other perks and shielded him from critics. It was no surprise that as soon as he left office in 1915, Harcourt's successor reversed Lugard's terms of service.