Opinion

Nigeria’s crisis: A case against Britain (3)

British imperial design etched in Lyttleton 1955 Constitution sealed the fate of Nigeria as a neo-colonial outpost. By a despatch No. 265 PREM 11/1367, no. 305 of 24th January, 1954, Mr. Lyttleton reported to Churchill on 1953 Constitutional Conference that “so far all goes well… we may pull it off” and “the progress here… is almost fabulous and going ahead by leaps and bounds” and noted that Nigerian leaders were now fighting each other instead of Britain. In a similar despatch (265 PREM 11/1367, No. 303 of 29 January 1954) Mr. Lyttleton reported that “the conference has been a great success” and “believed all our imperial interests have been safeguarded.”

The declassified British Imperial Documents is littered with evidence of breach of trust as Britain took sides with the North against the South as captured in the Despatch (PREM 11/1367, no. 375 of August 1953) being a Cabinet Memorandum by Mr. Lyttleton on the possible breakdown of the 1953 London Constitutional Conference over the future of Lagos where Mr. Lyttleton upheld the Hausa/ Fulani as “warriors, with the dignity, courtly manners, high bearing, conservative outlook” but cast the Yoruba and Igbo as people of “lower manners and inferior fighting value, somewhat intoxicated with nationalism” and went ahead to dress down Azikiwe and Awolowo while Balewa was held up as paragon of virtues. Concluding, Mr. Lyttleton declared that Britain “cannot let the North down.”

Several documents (in particular C0 554/2123, no. 116 of November 7, 1959) Britain was determined even after skewing the constitutional framework and political infrastructure in favour of the North, to rig the 1959 elections in favour of the NPC against Southern parties. To that end, Sir Robertson had anticipated “great troubles” but the official British position was that any election that did not produce the desired winner, that is the NPC, Britain will refuse Nigeria independence. Already it is public knowledge that Britain through its last colonial governor, James Robertson committed high treason by planning and rigging the 1959 Independence general election in favour of the NPC.

The New Africa magazine report of 2005 as corroborated by British declassified imperial records vindicated Mr. Harold Smith, a British Oxford-trained colonial civil servant who was detailed to rig the election, but he refused to be part of the high crime and got punished for his principled stand. Governor Robertson had told Mr. Smith, “I want you to know that I personally gave order regarding the rigging of the election to which you objected.”

He pointedly asked Mr. Smith to “keep his mouth shut” or else means will be found “to shut you up.” After rigging the December 12, 1959 election in favour of the NPC, Governor Robertson according to his Despatch (C0554/2123, no 156 of December 16, 1959) invited Sir Balewa telling him that the constitution empowered him to ask a member of the Parliament whose party has majority to form government and for that purpose that he has invited him to explore the possibility of forming government based on coalition of parties since NPC did not have outright majority.

Sir Abubakar asked Robertson to declare him the Prime Minister as such mandate was sure to afford him confidence and bargaining advantage with individuals and parties. He assured Sir Robertson that he was sure of getting the cooperation of persons across the regions and the parties to run the resulting government and Governor Robertson obliged him contrary to parliamentary convention.

Azikiwe protested Governor Robertson’s action pointing out that such mandate to Sir Balewa was premature as parties were still negotiating as to coalition to form government. It is pertinent to note that NCNC and AG were already in a talk to form a coalition to form the government since their combined electoral strength outweighed that of NPC, but Governor Robertson preferred NPC. After conceding government to NPC, based on rigged constitutional framework and political infrastructure, colonial officials in Despatches (C0 554/1841, no 29 of December 7, 1958 and CO 584/1841, no 29, Dec.4, 1959) hoped that the North would continue to dominate Nigeria which of course it knows would not conduce to peace and stability.

But against this likelihood of instability Britain had by the constitutional framework designed an authoritarian government which, according to it, would neither be democratic nor just but can be trusted to keep Nigeria together against all odds with British support and that was the reason it planned Anglo- Nigeria Defence Pact even before granting Nigeria independence. NPC’s, and generations of Northern leaders’, quest to maintain this artificial domination of Nigeria has engendered destructive politics starting with Awolowo which led to the 1964/1965 Western Region crises that ignited the coup d’états and the resulting Biafra War which consumed over two million lives and property worth billions of naira. Nigeria has remained in crises since 1970. All historical records point to British direct acts in instigating crisis in Nigeria.

Britain instigated North to believe that the January 15, 1966 coup was an ‘Igbo coup’ to snatch ‘Northern domination’ of Nigeria. This British incitement resulted in the Northern acts of pogroms against the Igbo in the North. This pogrom and the counter-coup of July 29, 1966 led to Biafra secession. The Aburi Conference, the local means Britain sanctioned to resolve the crisis and the resolutions freely reached by Nigerian military rulers was sabotaged by Britain and that crisis led to Biafra War. Biafra War was substantially managed by Britain’s unabashed diplomatic, material and logistical support in terms of supply of weapons and military technical know-how to Nigeria.

All these were to assure its neo-colonial strangle-hold of Nigeria. Of course, Britain in all its efforts to keep Nigeria ‘united’ had always clothed its selfish interests in altruistic garb of helping to prevent ‘Africa’s disintegration’ which according to it, Nigeria’s dismemberment signifies. But this is not true. Its interests lay in maintaining Nigeria as a drag holding African progressive forces down with no chance of rising to challenge British and western imperialism.

In a despatch (CO54/1841, no 29, Dec 1958), Colonial Office had pessimistically reasoned that “it will be fascinating to see in 5/10 years’ time how right or otherwise we were in our efforts to keep this ill-assorted people together.” But some Colonial Officials in despatch (CO 554/22122, no 82 of December 1958) had warned that British colonial policy of preferment of the North against the South would lead to disaster.

Against all these crimes against Nigeria, the British Government under Queen Elizabeth under whose reign these crimes were perpetrated against Nigeria had the temerity to mock Nigeria in 2016 when President Buhari attended a Conference on Corruption in London when Prime Minister David Cameron reported to the Queen, in the presence of the House of Commons Leader Chris Grayling, Speaker John Bercow and Archbishop Justin Welby concurred that Prime Minister’s declaration that “Nigeria is a fantastically corrupt’ country.

But Britain had known all along that Nigeria as created cannot be anything but corrupt and unproductive. In a despatch (CO554/2479, no 11, 15 September 1960) Sir Robertson had reported that ‘Nigeria’s greatest handicap is the rifeness of graft and corruption…’” To break this British yoke, Nigeria must seize these pieces of evidence and confront Britain with its crimes against her and seek remedies in appropriate world fora – political, diplomatic and judicial. And above, it must take its destiny in its own hands by convoking a National Conference to agree to live together or disintegrate in peace. That is the course open to all free men and even slaves.

 

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