The name Sir Henry Urmston Willink (1894-1973) does not ring a bell in the modern day Nigeria. It was not so about fifty-nine years ago. Sir Willink was a British politician and public servant. He rose to be British Minister of Health from 1943-1945. He later became Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge between 1953 and 1955. His papers are held till today at the Churchill College, Cambridge.
On September 2,1957, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa(1912-1966) deputy leader of the NPC and Federal Minister of Transport was appointed Nigeria’s First Prime Minister by the then second Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir James Wilson Robertson(1899-1983) who served from June 15 1955 to November 16 1960.
On September 26 1957 the British government appointed Sir Henry Willink to chair a commission to inquire into the fears of Nigerian minorities and means of allaying them. The commissioners arrived in Lagos on November 23, 1957 and between that date and April 12, 1958, they held public sittings and had private meetings and discussions in each region, in Lagos and in the Southern Cameroons. They returned to London on April 12, 1958.
In its report published on July 30, 1958, the Commission stated that although real fears existed in every region, it was satisfied that setting new states would create problems as great as those they sought to eliminate.” In every region the fears expressed were of a government based on a tribal, or in the North a religious, majority. Rightly or wrongly, it was feared that the Regional governments, secure in their majority, would not be ready to respond to criticisms or to meet the wishes of the minorities”. Other members of the commission were Gordon Hadow, Phillip Mason, J.B. Shearer while K. J. Hilton served as the Secretary. The commission published 108 pages for its conclusions and recommendations.