The Case Against the British
BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN
“By 1914, modern Nigeria came into being under an autocratic Governor, Sir Frederick Lugard, who succeeded in isolating one Nigerian group from the other….It was Charles Temple, the senior resident in the North and his racist fellow traveller, Sir Richmond Palmer, who indoctrinated Northern emirs about their total difference, not only politically, but even racially from their Southern compatriots. Sir Theodore Adams went as far as to say, in 1941, that the emirs considered the Northern provinces as a separate country and that enforced cooperation with the South would lead to a demand for ‘Pakistan”
“With Lord Lugard’s arbitrary conception of Nigeria in mind, one can begin to see the many and varied problems colonialism created in Nigeria, across West Africa, and around the world. Not least among these problems, for Nigeria in particular, was the problem of a unifying national identity. It is no wonder that diverse peoples, forcibly united into single states, sometimes turn to separatism”–Jack McCaslin
Gradually the chicken is coming home to roost as Nigeria fractures into it’s pre amalgamation components of the Northern and Southern protectorate. The British was at the same time the amalgamator of Nigeria and its divider-in-chief, to borrow the parlance of the Nigerian Presidency.
After joining the two protectorates together, they spent the rest of their colonial and neo colonial rule wrenching them asunder. “A frequently heard quip was that if all the Africans were to leave Nigeria, the Southern and Northern administrations could go to war….in administration, in land policy, in a dozen different fields of colonial government, the administration reinforced not the unity of the colony, but the differences between North and South”. As Nigeria, once again, tethers on the brink, we must begin to lay all the cards on the table. That it is not all of Nigerians fault and that Nigerians are more the victim than the villain in its predisposition to political implosion. As Nigeria and Africa, sink deeper in the pit of developmental failure, there has proceeded apace the minimisation of the role and responsibility of colonialism in the bleak fate of the former colonies.
In the spirit of full accountability and colonial entrapment of Nigeria, it is necessary to let the facts of colonialism speak for themselves.
I got really nauseated at the smugness and deriding condescension of Prime Minister David Cameron talking down Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt” the other day.
Never mind that (indulging in his habitual sham self-righteous indignation), the Nigerian President, Mohammadu Buhari eagerly embraced the role of uncle Tom and enthusiastically endorsed the indictment.
It grates on the nerves not because Cameron’s allegation is not true but because it is the seed his British forebears sowed that has predictably blossomed to become this monstrous oak beginning with the superfluous cruelty and racism of Frederick Lugard. The Nigerian crisis is as much (if not more) the responsibility of the British as it is of Nigeria. This responsibility does not just stop at the ill conceived creation of Nigeria. The bad beginning was persistently reinforced with the insemination of hate and division and Nigeria has (as programmed) consequently become a house divided against itself. This house has fallen, wrote Karl Maier a while ago. Yet there is this British cynical indifference to how Nigeria has become a prison into which inmates are consigned haven committed no crime.
The political malignancy that increasingly debilates Nigeria is a self fulfilling prophecy of British colonialism. They encouraged the two halves of Nigeria, the North and the South, especially the former, not to see one another as mutual partners in the difficult task of forging a Nigerian nationhood but as antagonistic rivals who have every reason to be fearful and suspicious of one another. It was under their guidance and tutelage that the party being groomed to take control of Nigeria was, in flagrant and defiant show of regional separatism, christened the Northern Peoples Congress, NPC. How would it have looked if the corresponding dominant parties in Eastern and Western regions called themselves Eastern Peoples Congress (EPC) and Western Peoples Congress (WPC). Against the rule of the development ethic, British colonialism of Nigeria started by fostering the politics of consumption over the politics of self-sustenance and development. If the North is perceived today as a ‘parasite’ on the South, it is a perception that hacks back to the amalgamation prescription of underwriting the cost of administrating the North with the economic surplus realised from the South.
Lord Lugard who, by all accounts, had a pathological hatred and contempt for the South, spitefully framed this arrangement as “a marriage between the “rich wife of substance and means (the south) and the “poor husband” (the north) which would lead to a happy life for both. Words matter. It is difficult to fault the assessment of Harold Smith that ‘Lugard certainly left a legacy of dottiness and nasty racism behind him…his fabrications still colour Whitehall’s attitudes to Nigeria, which can be summed up as pale-skinned Moslem North good, black-skinned Christian South bad”. So when, in their perennial inter ethnic bickering, you hear Southerners bemoan that the fulani has appropriated Nigeria as family patrimony and estate-to which the latter concurs, it is a soundbite inherited from the ‘line that was pushed right from the very start of Lugard’s occupation of Nigeria, and extended through the sixty years of British occupation, that the North was Nigeria, and the ever-shrinking South an alien and extra mural, marginal extravagance’. All along, evidence abound in the dark musings of British colonialism patriarchs that they knew all was not well and will yet get worse with Nigeria. It is the reason why the notion that the British set up Nigeria to fail is as perplexing as it is compelling. Try this for size “Sir Francis Cumming Bruce was the incumbent British High Commissioner to Nigeria in the uniquely fateful days, weeks and months of 1966. In that capacity and more than any other individual, he was responsible for persuading the North against secession. Of his encounters with Cumming Bruce, the frontline British journalist in Nigeria in the late 60s, Walter Gould revealed “Cumming-Bruce was able to persuade the Emirs that secession would have been an economic disaster…As Cumming-Bruce stated: ‘But it wasn’t on the face of it easy to get them to change, but I managed to do it overnight. On a second meeting with Cumming-Bruce he greeted me with the comment: ‘I sometimes wonder whether I did the right thing in keeping Nigeria together”.
President Mohammadu Buhari was right when he, in what has turned out a self-indictment of gargantuan proportions, hypocritically proclaimed ‘corruption will kill Nigeria if Nigeria does not kill corruption”
What he was unable to articulate was that this peculiar degree of corruption fundamentally derives from the subconscious alienation of Nigerians from Nigeria. You don’t revel in a behaviour that damages and wrecks what you love- which is what corruption does to Nigeria. British colonialism and neo colonialism have groomed and nurtured Nigeria in a manner that precipitated the alienation of Nigerians from Nigeria. It has created a Nigeria without Nigerians, who have no empathy, who harbour no emotional nor sentimental attachment to Nigeria. In place of bonding the citizens of Nigeria, they sowed and cultivated mutual fear, division and hate. There is the prime example of the insulation of the North from Western education with the predictable outcome of fomenting a modernisation wedge between the South and the North. British economic and soical policies, noted Mahmud Tukur, ‘such as blocking access to western education for the masses in most parts of northern Nigeria, did not bring about development but its antithesis of retrogression and stagnation’. They encouraged and engineered wedge issues, tribalism and cultural division. Emile Durkeim may not have Nigeria in mind when he propounded the theory of ‘alienation and anomie’ but no characterization better defines Nigeria than a ‘state of anomie’, of normlessness. It is difficult if not impossible to discern any long term vision of Nigeria in the instant gratification syndrome that has come to define the governance and politics of Nigeria.
As the Nigerian political crisis snowballs, the logic of neo colonialism and globalisation has highlighted the imperative of the intervention of the international community. Only a fortnight ago and with his back against the wall on the spiralling security crisis bedevilling Nigeria, Buhari specifically requested the United States (U.S) to relocate its Africa Command (AFRICOM) headquarters from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria. The request comes against the background of Africa’s collective disavowal of the American initiative at its formation years ago. This is a mark of the desperate straits Nigeria has found itself. The governor of Katsina state, Aminu Bello Masari, conveniently forgot this international outreach backdrop when (playing the nationalist patriot game) he castigated anyone calling for the intervention of the international community in Nigeria as unpatriotic. “For any compatriot to wilfully call on foreign powers to meddle in the internal affairs of Nigeria is to display the highest level of unpatriotism”. He admonished. To the contrary, the moment we become mutually unintelligible on issues that bind us together (as it is presently the case) the better to seek third party intervention to forestall violent breakdown. No critical member of the international community owe the obligation for such intervention than the United Kingdom, UK, at least as atonement for the many mishaps it has foisted on Nigeria. Here is a reiteration of such mishaps as reported by Gould “If Cumming-Bruce (British high commissioner) had not interfered in the civil war, Nigeria would have fragmented into several states, possibly as a confederation, in the style proposed by Ojukwu, and most importantly war would have been avoided. However, Cumming-Bruce was only extending British policy that had been formulated in the run-up towards independence: that Britain’s investments will be best protected if the country was left to run in a ‘safe pair of hands,’ those of the Northern rulers…” This is the realpolitik of British neo colonial policy on Nigeria- which makes sense and serves British purpose to the extent there is a Nigeria, stable and secure enough for British economic exploitation. The moment this utility evaporates, it then becomes untenable to argue that the vested interests of the British patriarchy is served by the perpetuation of Nigeria’s political status quo.