In the Afternoon of British-Nigeria…
Drawing from the exposition in (II) we cannot refrain from asking a pertinent question. Why did a colonial government go to the exteme extent of creating the seeds of division, fear, hatred, enmity, suspicion and calumny among the various ethnic groups in a country she established by force and deception? Definitely, from the beginning there must have been a clandestine motive or in realpolitik lingo, a pragmatic national interest for Britain in the design and establishment of Nigeria.
The brief historical background of Nigeria as a colony recorded in (II) is the genesis of the Nigeria’s problem of today. It is easy to blame the British Colonial Government for all the current woes of Nigeria, but that is not the purpose of this elucidation.
The short history is mainly presented to help Nigerians to understand the cause of a special phenomenon that is not peculiar to only Nigeria. It is a political experience common to all people in history, who are being oppressed and being used/abused as fodder in the service of the whims and caprices of their oppressor.
In the state of primitive nature where morals and ethics are yet to be properly defined, there is nothing wrong about this type of hegemonic practice of the powerful brute attacking and subjugating the weak by force. But when a nation, a society, a man or a woman lays claim to civilisation of a higher culture, it is then that this inhuman atrocious practices become morally indefensible. More so, when the oppressors use the power of their grand royal position, of their sophisticated religion, of their higher intelligence or enlightenment to rationalise the inhuman practices of enslaving other mankind, it is then that these sacrilegious deeds become unforgivable.
Having a conscience and possessing the knowledge of right and wrong are the salient ingredients one would expect from a supposedly civilised person. Particularly, from those that sanctimoniously claim, as the primary goal or propaganda of imperialism, that they needed to bring civilisation to the downtrodden and poor people of the world.
It is not that the British government and her emissaries in the Colonial Office were bereft of the notion of conscience. It is just that as it was then and as it is today, the British self-interest will always override any altruistic consideration. A moral consideration that would likely allow the colonies to develop in a way that can lead the up and coming countries to becoming equal competitors in the skewed global economy, was definitely not acceptable. It is very important to always remember that the global economy under which all Peoples of the world are compelled to compete was designed and it is regularly adjusted or slanted to favour the already developed Countries.
At the turn of the twentieth century and with the ever-growing enlightenment of the continent of Africa coming from the freed slaves who have tasted the forbidden fruit of knowledge; and with their zealous crusade to reach out and to sow the seeds of freedom to the people of Africa, the enlightened freed slaves gave a real shock to the status quo of imperialist powers. The colonial administration in turn decided that the areas of the empire that had not been infested with the cankerworm of the freedom education would be prevented, as a matter of covert colonial policy, from the supposedly African rabble-rouser who were seen as troublemakers.
This was the underlying factor behind the policy of the Colonial Secretariat of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria that led it to become a vanguard for the protection of an archaic, ruthless and oppressive feudal system that had hitherto never been seen before in black Africa. The policy of protecting feudalism was cleverly used as a veritable weapon against the educated ex-slaves who were bent on causing unnecessary confusion through their liberation philosophy of educating the minds of Africans in this part of the ‘King’s Glorious Empire’. The colonialists found the answer to this intractable problem in Indirect Rule Administration.
Indirect Rule Administration is often attributed as a creation of Frederick Lugard; this is of course a concocted myth. The whole British political system from the time of William the Conqueror in 1066 is built on Indirect Rule philosophy. Despite several efforts from erudite British philosophers and scholars through the ages past to promote a revolutionary change away from the oppressive monarchical absolutist political system, they only succeeded in scraping the nose of the political monster without any serious fundamental damage. The spiritually awakened British thinkers and philosophers failed to eradicate the entrenched power structure of king and subjects that inherently negates the principle of equality of all persons in a society/nation.
Indirect Rule in the latter-day Britain is now called Parliamentary Democracy. It is all a case of an elaborate cover up of the greatest inhuman system of inequality of persons ever sustained for so long. Although, everyone involved, in the deception of the sham democracy that was built on only officially permitted privileges to subjects of the crown rather than on true citizenship rights, appreciates the fundamental flaw by its inherent abuse of equality of all persons. It is only under this inverted perception of reality that the dichotomy between a house of commons and a house of lords becomes acceptably a progressive political development.
Thinkers spurned by the establishment either as a result of their blood ancestry linkage to the Crown or as a result of assimilation into the upper class echelon could still be seen, even at the turn of a new millennium, defending this idolatrous system with a fervent hypocritical passion that beggars belief and common sense.
There is no doubt in my mind that these privileged scholars all know that it is share deceit to hold on to this position because most of them were students of politics, economics and philosophy from the prestigious university of Oxford or Cambridge. From their association with the works of great western thinkers, even of British scholars, the elites of Britain know about the inherent immorality of setting up a person or a family as an object of adoration, reverence and worship.
Yet, the modern press in Britain regularly argue that the British tradition is the best pragmatic political arrangement in the world. Typically, these mouthpiece of the establishment turn their noses at the American type of democracy and at anybody who canvasses for real economic and political freedom for the people in any part of the British Empire.
There was a time when this kind of political activities that seek to campaign for freedom for everyone were classified as traitorous and treasonable engagements and were duly treated as serious criminal and subversive actions against the power of the State. It was the unintended fallout from the Second World War of 1939-1945 that took the wind out of the sails of British obduracy with respect to the wishes of the Peoples of her Empire for a right to self-determination.
It is therefore a fallacy to credit Fredrick Lugard with a system that had been in practice for almost a thousand years before Lugard set foot on the soil of Nigeria. If there is any credit at all, it is to the effect that he applied an existing political practice effectively to achieve his own peculiar and adjudged good aims for Nigeria. Whatever other good works Lugard did in and for Nigeria, he should be remembered as the man who succeeded in digging the great gulf of segregation, discrimination and reckless political partisanship in the body polity of Nigeria forever.
What Fredrick Lugard did in Nigeria has a lot in common with what Hendrik Verwoerd did in South Africa. The apartheid and segregation philosophy by colour espoused by Verwoerd and the indirect rule administration built around a divide and rule machinations were both from the same stock of belief. This is the conceited and unnatural faith in the supremacy of one man over another and the use of natural differences of either colour of skin or of language or of religion or of intelligence to construct a political ideology around which the political economy of a country is erected.
This is the social and political minefield through which the educated Southern Nigerians had to wade through to make a case for Nigeria to be allowed self-rule in order to free the artificially created country, meant solely for exploitation and to recover their battered self dignity from colonial supremacist ideology and a reckless carefree economic domination.
The salubrious gain the indigenous people of the empires made from the First and Second World Wars was the fact that the principle under which the wars were fought became the catalyst that hasten the defeat of the underlying philosophy around which empire doctrine was constructed. The emancipation philosophy preached by John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Jean Rosseau, John Stuart Mills and others who have propounded world-changing theories about natural rights to freedom, equality of persons, political rights of every man to justice, and on the need for a contractual consent between the people and their rulers came to the forefront after the wars. The argument for upholding an empire on behalf of the ‘native’ people became no longer defensible in the light of the fight against Adolf Hitler that was couched in the same refrain. That is, the right of a country to enjoy freedom and self-determination with respect to their political arrangements and the right of indigenous people and nations to resist any forceful territorial occupation of their land by another foreign nation.
Aftermath of the Second World War
The Colonial Office in Whitehall sensing the change in the mood of the world with respect to an out-of-fashion ownership of Empires by the Europeans quickly put in place a damage control mechanism all over the British Empire. In my random observation and review of the colonies released as independent nations from 1947 to 1960s, all these countries have shown a common pattern of political problems of social instability and dysfunctional institutions that are difficult to explain off as mere coincidences.
It was not difficult for the ever hard-working British Colonial Civil Servants, who had seen the political usefulness of a divide and rule strategy that enabled a handful of British administrators to manage millions of indigenous people in their various postings, not to see its continued usefulness even after awarding fictitious independence to the colonial countries. Albeit, this time around it would be done under a covert remote control strategy.
First, the officers of the Crown ensured that as the wind of political and economic changes was blowing across the world, they had to remain in control of political power to guarantee that all the gains of Empire building were not lost and taken over by the enemies of the British Empire. These enemies, in the biased view of the colonial administrators, were the half-baked educated and ungrateful ‘natives’. They reckoned, the ungrateful ‘natives’ had been given everything, such as: free education and training, overseas scholarship, prestigious employment and privileges to live in reserved colonial residential quarters, etc. They reasoned, these enemies of the crown waging wars of liberation against their colonial benefactors should be taught some lessons in political machinations.
The covert policy design was therefore couched to ensure that, whatever happened these groups of so-called ingrates would never be allowed to occupy the State Houses of the independent nations. Under this policy, the sabotaging of the political activities of enemies of the Crown was adjudged a fair game. Hence, the core personalities and the moving intellectual forces in the nationalist struggle for independence were technically blocked or schemed out from winning the political party elections. And thus they were cleverly debarred from gaining the opportunity to control/direct the national affairs of the emerging countries at the final count.
First, the covert policies were generally designed to sabotage the people’s candidates; to manipulate the selection or election processes; to gerrymander the population censors and the spatial distribution so as to favour the colonialist’s preferred candidates in the allocation of parliamentary seats. Since politics is said to be a game of number, the design of a deceptive population census has worked and is still working wonders ever since for the vassals of the British Empire.
Secondly, the artificial divisions and cultural differences among the ethnic groups that have been nurtured through the years under the divide and rule principle were made permanent by institutional arrangements and other policy measures. The strategy varied from country to country, but essentially it was to magnify and gerrymander the population census of the different groups and to load their favourites with fictitious numbers that they knew would make a significant difference to the outcome of national elections.
The colonial administrators brought to the fore-front the religious differences of the people as part of the divide and rule strategies. The partitioning of India into two, on the eve of British departure, was a classic example. The strategy was repeated in very many different forms in all the other colonies.
The colonial administrators promoted the adoption of the Westminster Unitary form of Parliamentary Democracy during constitutional conferences using ‘native’ stooges as echo chambers; notwithstanding its impracticability and its inappropriateness under a true democratic regime built on the principle of equal rights of all persons and not on an inherited superior feudal rights of brigandage of a few.
Thirdly, the colonialist planned not only to accord a toothless political independence but they ensured never to hand over or allow any semblance of economic independence in the emerging nations.
In line with this avowed intention, and as the independence dates were drawing nearer, they vigorously introduced, encouraged and strengthened the participation of European entrepreneurs in the private sector of the local economy. And at their departure after independence, the Europeans transfered the management of the banking, commerce and the established fictitious manufacturing industries to stooges and trusted safe hands who were expected not to disturb the profitable apple cart and the outflow of capital flight. Of course, the so-called industries were mere assemblage plants for imported finished products that depended wholly on Britain for very expensive technical experts and for already finished products cleverly labelled as raw materials on paper.
Fourthly, to make assurance doubly sure, they planned to commit these countries to massive debts that would be incurred for unsolicited and unrequested capital development projects. Through these projects they planned to twist the hands of the incoming but naive politicians of these countries who would be forced, after the purported political independence, to negotiate for financial assistance, technical aids and other malevolent handicaps, broadly classified as bilateral agreements. Examples of such projects were railways, roads, and building infrastructures like hospitals, schools and universities.
For example, the University of Ibadan project was “underestimated… by about 90 per cent”(14) of the project cost. These additional costs fell on the new fledging Nigeria State to cough up. The reverberation of the unintended financial commitment of this magnitude led to massive students’ and lecturers’ disturbances in the 1960s at the university. This was the result of the inability of the Federal Government of Nigeria to meet the overhyped expectations of the students and lectures because of lack of financial resources. According to John D. Hargreaves in The Idea of a Colonial University, “Like all aspects of colonial legacy, it contains serious problems for the inheritors”. (15)
As late as the 1990s, another good example is the Hong Kong Airport project that was based on the same political design. The plan for the construction of the airport was conceived on the eve of British departure from Hong Kong. The principal architects and all the major contractors were sourced from Britain and, of course, the cost was borne by the citizens of Hong Kong who did not ask for the project.
Lastly, as the noisy demand for independence reached a crescendo in each of these poor colonial countries, the British Colonial Civil Servants started creating new political structures. They embarked on fundamental reforms of the existing institutions that had hitherto served the empire favourably well. They calculated and feared that if the structures were left intact these institutions could become veritable instruments in the hands of the nationalist for the unraveling of the elaborate House of Deceit built on the colonial sands.
In all the above-mentioned strategic steps, the Colonialists succeeded even beyond their wildest dreams. They gave the countries political independence, as the ‘natives’, mostly the poorly informed and cultivated puppets who were earmarked for high positions had demanded. They organised rigorous procedures of Constitution drafting, of boundary adjustments, of political reforms and of removal of once upon a time erstwhile collaborators but now deemed undesirables. They conducted population censuses, arranged elections, and conducted political transition processes in different forms depending on the caliber and intellectual status of the attentive nationalists.
In every respect, the British Government achieved her main objective to put in the Government State Houses of these countries nothing else but their clones and puppets. The result of this landslide achievement was the fact that these countries though were independent politically but they were all tightly tied to the political and economic apron strings of their former colonial rulers many years after being given the sham political independence.
Nigeria as the country under our focus is a classic example of such independent colonial countries that had the misfortune of British colonisation. After 57 years of independence from Britain, Nigeria still has her deformed artificial heart and other live wires attached to a generator surreptitiously hidden in the hands of the British establishment or her local vassals.
It is easy to discount the above observations with a wave of the hand as of no serious importance. However, the fact remains that without having an indepth understanding of these crucial historical facts and fatal diabolical events about Nigeria, we cannot correct the endemic imbalances in the body polity. Without a good knowledge of the past, all concerned Nigerians or true friends of Nigeria who are genuinely desirous to see this country with so much potential for top-flight greatness, will remain in the dark about the riddle holding the country back. The question on the lip of everyone is, why has the country consistently failed to crawl to the tarmac of progress; why is she unable to even draw up a flight plan and not to mention a demonstration of capability for a fanciful take off? Hence, if Nigerians insist they will not seek understanding about our history, we will forever continue to waste our time, our lives, and our resources for nothing on behalf of Nigeria that was deliberately designed to fail.
There is a need, more than ever before now, for each Nigerian to embark on a reeducation programme about our history and how we get to where we are at this moment in time. It is by knowing the truth of the past that we can have a good understanding of our present peculiar circumstances. I am optimistic that if so-called Nigerians would consciously make a determined effort to seek and to know the truth of our past, therein lies the precious seeds of our redemption from ‘slavedom’ to freedom and to a truly sovereign Nation State.
I am sorry to tell you that at this moment in history, Nigerians are yet to be totally free from mental and spiritual colonial domination. It is time to set yourself free. It can be done and it should be done if you set your mind to it from now.