Flashback to January 1966. Nigerian’s government has just been overthrown in a military coup led by a group of young army Majors. Major Nzeogwu had declared martial law across the Northern Region of Nigeria, but by January 17, 1966 had agreed to stand down and hand over administration of the Northern Region to the officer designated by the army’s commander: Major Hassan Katsina. Katsina became the first Military Governor of the Northern Region and appeared for a joint press conference with Major Nzeogwu at which Katsina made the following speech:
“Fellow country-men and women. I, Major Hassan Usman Katsina, having been appointed by the Supreme Military Commander as the Military Governor for the Northern Provinces of the Republic of Nigeria wish to address you all on the responsibilities falling on all of us and the new philosophy we intend to follow.
It is our intention to build the nation on the foundation of honesty and hard work and to bring about unity among all Nigerians living in whatever part of the country with respect, love and understanding towards one another. Everyone must realize that we are one nation irrespective of the tribe from which each of us originates. At our present stage of development we need not be divided by tribal unions, political parties or trade unions. It is our experience in the past that such bodies had not worked for the common good but for sectional interest. I do not need their greetings or congratulations as this is not the time for jubilation or flattery but for hard work and selfless service. This is the way to reach our common goal in satisfying the aspirations of the common man.
My assumption of office does not change the administrative structure, and machinery set up by my colleague, Major Nzeogwu at the end of the last Government. Civil servants will continue to run the civil administration under my authority. I warn them, however, that they must be honest and show in everything they do concern for the rights of the common man. They are not masters but servants of the public.
In local administration the Native Authority system will continue but reform will be introduced. Native Authorities must cut down on unnecessary expenses, do away with redundant staff and use public funds correctly and efficiently. Misuse of authority will not be tolerated. Administrative Officers who are charged with advising Native Authorities in the Provinces and seeing to it that Government directives are carried out must wake up to their duty with vigour and zest.
The new Government will support private initiative in industry, commerce and agriculture. However we must wipe away immediately the attitude of the past when it was regarded that Government money could be borrowed with no intention of repaying. In future the Government will only help businessmen who are serious and honest. The Government will also see to it that past debts arising from loans by public corporations are repaid according to the terms of the loans. Those who refuse to pay will have to face the consequences.
Public funds must be spent wisely and honestly. The new Government has no intention to be vindictive but it will at the same time watch closely the activities of people who had in the past engaged in corrupt practices. Any subversive activity on their part will be severely dealt with. The Military Command will maintain vigilance.
I said at the beginning that I need your support. I expect this from those in the public services whether Government or Native Authorities or the private sector but what I particularly pray for is the support of the ordinary private Nigerian citizen.
Jama’a Allah shi ba mu alheri.”