Britain is a heartless operator and Nigeria is its hapless victim. No other person than one man Britain feared to hate and love at the same time aptly captured the essential British character the way Nnamdi Azikiwe did during his nationalist heydays. Azikiwe had, in a moment of anger arising from his disappointment with British subterfuge had this to say about Britain and their colonial officials and people: “There is nothing so bad or so good that you will not find Englishman doing it, but you will never find an Englishman in the wrong. He does everything on principle.
He fights you on patriotic principle, he robs you on business principles, he enslaves you on imperial principles.” Nnamdi Azikiwe, Premier of Eastern Region, in exasperation over the British colonial governor of Eastern Region’s disagreement with him over the premier’s civil service reforms rooted to indigenizing the higher levels of the civil service. Azikiwe’s disappointment with British officialdom was the British Secretary of State for the Colonies’ defence of the governor against Azikiwe, the Premier.
If Azikiwe held this opinion of Britain officials and people, why did he not relate to them as such by being more careful and defensive instead of cooperation which Britain exploited to deal with Nigeria by turning it into a neo-colonial facility, a dysfunctional state, a turbulent and incoherent society? What has remained imponderable was Azikiwe’s turnaround to work with the British colonial authorities to the detriment of the nationalist movement spearheaded by the Nigerian youth movement between 1946 and 1948 through the Zikist Movement which had dreamt of achieving independence for Nigeria without conditions but on platter of freedom.
We put this background in place to underscore the devious role Britain played to constitute and maintain Nigeria as a dysfunctional and unworkable state and country, and yet it does not sincerely feel any remorse for its crimes against Nigeria; instead it sheds crocodile tears at several difficult conjunctures of Nigeria’s tortured history.
Britain prides itself as a modern democracy founded on rule of law and freedom at least since it 1680s revolution that successfully transformed its absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. By 1849 when it officially took the steps of officially interfering with indigenous communities of the areas that became constituted as Nigeria by appointing a consul, conquering Lagos in 1851 and colonizing it in 1862 and the eventual conquest of the other hundreds of ethnic nationalities culminating in the amalgamation of the North and South of Nigeria in 1914, it never adopted democratic principles to govern them.
Instead, it adopted feudalism and autocracy, the very ideas their people had jettisoned since 1688 to govern the people. The worst practice deployed against Nigeria was using very bad people to rule as was the case with Captain Frederick Lugard, a soldier of fortune recruited by Sir George Taubman Goldie as a security-man for his company, the Royal Niger Company which had British Royal charter over the Niger-Delta, Eastern and Middlebelt before it revoked the charter and repurchased the area in 1900.
Lugard had learnt the practice of using indigenous African potentates to hold down the conquered areas by his master, Sir Goldie who applied the principle of indirect rule in his company’s administration of the areas conquered and subjugated under his commercial control. Lugard had also witnessed the practice of indirect rule in Uganda where he had also served as a soldier of fortune.
So, when Britain took over Nigeria in 1900 from Sir Goldie’s Royal Niger Company, it appointed Lugard, first the high commissioner for the North and he introduced indirect rule using the Sokoto Caliphate governance structure to administer the area. In 1912, Lugard was appointed Governor-General with a specific mandate to amalgamate the Nigeria’s North and South.
He accomplished the amalgamation in 1914. But the tragedy that befell Nigeria was the Lugardian constitutional framework founded on indirect rule which in his simplistic evaluation was made applicable to the southern and middle-belt regions whose governance structures were, and still remain different from the Sokoto Caliphate. He imposed this unitary administrative structure regardless of the socio-cultural differences between these areas. Lugard was removed in 1919 whereupon Sir Hugh Clifford was appointed governor.
On assumption of office, Governor Clifford was sincere enough to adjudge the Lugardian administrative structure as an “untrammelled autocracy” not practiced anywhere else in British West Africa and he presented a memorandum to British authorities for reform but he was rebuked and ordered to continue the Lugardian template. He was told pointblank that British official policy had chosen that feudal autocracy as its colonial policy in Nigeria and any British colonial official not comfortable with it had no business being posted or remaining in Nigeria. From that period, British policy and praxis were directed at consolidating that policy.
Governor Clifford’s observation that British policy of imposing the Sokoto Caliphate’s feudal and autocratic system on Nigeria amounted to conquest and subjuga-tion of Southern Nigeria ad areas in the North not subject to Sokoto Caliphate fell on deaf ears.
The third grievous harm done to Nigeria by Britain was the urban settlement policy based on segregation. Britain had designated the traditional towns and cities as the exclusive preserves of the indigenous muslim population while strangers’ quarters (Sabongari and Tunduwada) were created for Southerners and non-muslim northerners. In this way, the culture of apartheid was introduced which effectively induced in Nigerians the feelings of alien citizenship whereby people combined to form a nation were by deliberate public policy segregated and made to feel strange without a sense of common citizenship. This British policy promoted distrust and ethnic hatred between the tribes and particularly between the Hausa/Fulani and the Igbo who were ready to mingle the populations.
The fourth most devastating British policy was the imposition of a political artifice that ensured the domination of all other groups by one group, the Hausa/Fulani it found worthy and able to manage the grotesque entity it created. Thus, by this political infrastructure, political constituencies without a genuine demographic data gave the North 50% representation in the central legislature. This political masterstroke ensured that the North against the Southern regions would be the master of joint deliberations and invariably a dominant partner in the formed amalgamation.
These evils done to Nigeria by Britain have made Nigeria to be crisis-prone and it has suffered several crises including countless riots, pogroms, civil war and now debilitating instability including secession, armed robbery, insurgencies, banditry and kidnapping as acknowledged by British High Commissioner Catriona Laing who declared that “Nigeria is really struggling and facing many problems” everywhere and needs help. Britain is not sincere with its declaration of concern for Nigeria and the promise of help.
In crying for Nigeria, Britain is only shedding crocodile tears as the condition of Nigeria is actually a British handwork meant to engender a dysfunctional state and a neocolonial facility forever tied to the apron string of Britain.
Britain never created Nigeria to function as a coherent, stable and effective state and country. Britain never desired that the productive forces of Nigeria be utilized or efficacious as that cannot conduce to British intentions to have Nigeria as an enclave for supply of raw materials and a dumping ground for British industrial goods and services.
Making Nigeria work destroys Nigeria’s function as a drag on Africa and a counterfoil to Africa’s progressive diplomatic bearing in the comity of nations. So, let nobody be deceived by British concerns and shedding of crocodile tears. It does not mean its effusive concerns and declaration of goodwill, fellow feeling or support. Rather Britain is happy that its intentions for Nigeria have come to fruition and are working as planned.