BAD GUYS (And GOOD GUYS): Right and Wrong in Good Books
The Administration of Nigeria 1900 to 1960: I F Nicolson
Catch 22 (and a Bit) - Smith's Word of Honour
Colonial Cadet in Nigeria: John Smith
Crime and Punishment: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Nigeria by Walter Schwarz, and Nigeria: Background to Nationalism by James S. Coleman
The Nigerian Federal Election of 1959: K W J Post - The Last Great Act of Treason?
Transition in Africa: Sir James Robertson
The Trial: Franz Kafka
NB Items starting with ! are recent additions or updates.
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The Administration of Nigeria 1900 to 1960: I F Nicolson
The Governor General of Nigeria, Sir James Robertson, told me in 1960 why the British had decided to destroy democracy at its birth in this giant empire named Nigeria. We had favoured the North since Nigeria was invented. A crackpot named Lugard was largely responsible. His women disciples, including a lovesick academic Perham - later to offer me a knighthood - were not only infatuated with Lugard, who looked like a demented rat, but were crazy about the North.
The best book on Lugard and his lady friends is by I F Nicolson, 'The Administration of Nigeria 1900 to 1960.' It is sad that Nicolson did not write a second volume taking the story on from 1960. Anyway, Nicolson knew that we had rigged the Independence Elections, for we discussed this in his office in Lagos, and he placed my files and papers relating to British corruption in his safe.
We had decided to give power to Balewa, a Northerner, because he was quite a benevolent person who could be easily guided by our people. He was not really a politician and was quite gentle and honest for a political stooge. Idealistic young Sandhurst-trained officers shot Balewa in 1966. A pro-British officer, General Ironsi then took over, but he seemed to be under the influence of a friend of mine, Nwokedi - an Easterner. There was a counter coup and Ironsi was killed.
When the Governor General ordered me to get involved in the first stage at State (or Regional) level of the Independence Elections in 1956, I refused. I was to assist the Minister of Labour Okotie Eboh, a notoriously crooked politician and friend of Robertson. Okotie Eboh was my Minister. He too was shot, to everyone's delight, with Balewa the Prime Minister.
The British had planned for the Western power base of Awolowo, a nationalistic leader, to be destabilised. For all I know, the Southerners had won the Independence Elections, but no way were they to be allowed to run Nigeria after the British left. Nicolson knew this in 1958 because Colonial Office officials were stunned when I told them what Macmillan had planned for Nigeria. They asked Nicolson to confirm what I told them and he did. The Colonial Office then returned me to Lagos to see Nicolson.
Nwokedi, who was my senior colleague, was one of our golden boys and a friend of mine. He was an ally of Dr Azikiwe, who became Governor General at Independence and later President. Nwokedi was largely responsible for the Biafran Civil War starting. The British organised a pogrom against Dr Zik's Easterners resident in the North, and Ironsi was killed as were tens of thousands of Ibos. Kirk-Greene participated in and wrote about these events, but has yet to reveal the squalid truth. This pogrom made civil war inevitable. Two million died.
Although our stooges got shot, the British were resourceful and for another thirty years have played an active role in deciding who would rule as military dictator. Our sponsored dictatorships have been relatively benevolent. Nigerians have never known democracy so do not miss it too much. Western style democracy does not appeal to them, as they dislike the very idea of joining an opposition. As the Government controls the spoils, many Nigerians leave the losing Party and join the winning Party to get some loot.
I told everyone that what we were doing in the late fifties was wrong and would lead to disaster, but I was told by the Governor General to shut up or be killed. I fled Nigeria in 1960 and for my pains I never worked again and have been targeted by British Intelligence to ensure that I never blew the whistle on British treason in Africa. I declined a knighthood and large sums of money in return for my silence. The Governor General told me that I was the only honest Britisher in the Nigerian Colonial Service!
2 June 1997
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'Catch 22' and a Bit: Smith's Word of Honour
My career and health were destroyed during Government service in Nigeria. However, Whitehall thinks that I am a thoroughly bad hat and will not talk to me. That is not totally true. They will talk to me. They had said that for nearly forty years, but only if I give my word of honour. The rewards on offer were mouth-watering - knighthood, tens of thousands of pounds (in 1960's money), a great career with rapid and instant promotion in the Foreign Service. They say I will not talk to them. I say they will not talk to me. The Catch 22 and a Bit is the terms on which they will not talk to me. They will not talk to me unless I give my word of honour never to reveal why they want my word of honour before they will talk to me.
They want my scout's honour, cross my heart - which, as a boy - I solemnly believed was the highest form of oath, especially if one added '...hope to die' as a postscript. They deny rigging Nigeria's Independence Elections, which of course privately they freely admit that they did, and are furious about it because I would not join in. They feel about me as both major party leaders feel about Mr Ashdown. He is allegedly sanctimonious, smug, pious, condescending, patronising, or - in other words - honest.
They must have my word of honour never to reveal what they say they never did, i.e. rig Nigeria's Independence Elections. How can I swear never to reveal something that they say they never did? After a long pause Sir Humphrey would say, "Well, you must stop saying we did it!"
"But you did," I insist. "You sacked me because I wouldn't take part at a very high level..."
"Well, of course, we did. We know that. The point is that nobody else knows!"
"But you won't know when you have become one of us. Just keep your mouth shut."
"After I have given my word?"
"Exactly. Give your word. Forget all about it. Keep your mouth shut, or else..."
"You will regret it. An officer in the Colonial Service is exactly the same as an officer in the Army who disobeys orders on active service. You know the penalty...!
"I declined your offer to become a Colonel in the Army."
"You are impertinent, and you know far too much. You can never be allowed to return to the UK."
It got much worse.
Mr Major's Government recently denied that they had me poisoned in Lagos. It was just a coincidence that I developed a permanent gut-wasting disease and lost half my weight and looked like a skeleton. It took twelve years to name the disease that rarely occurs in Africa. I was saved in extremis and my case troubled the specialists. The Government said that Porton Down, which manufactures poisons that mimic tropical diseases for use against enemies of Britain, had not poisoned me.
I asked how they knew. They replied that the Director of Porton Down had told them so. (A few weeks later he was reprimanded by the House of Commons for lying to them on another issue.) I told the Ministry of Defence that I would have been very surprised if the Director of Porton Down had said anything else. It was noteworthy, I added, that at the time Porton Down had a branch in Nigeria where they were testing poison gas and other means of keeping the Queen's peace.
Curiously, the Government had also built a vast, very expensive mental hospital in the bush nearby. What it did was a mystery as it was kept fully staffed but empty. It must have been like the hospital in the film 'Coma', with its warehouse of spare bits of corpses. When the distinguished American author, John Gunther, heard about it (probably from the CIA), he went along and asked why such an expensive facility was kept empty at such cost when the need for hospital care in Nigeria was so great. The Superintendent told him that, although there were indeed many thousands, even perhaps millions, who needed help, they were not the type of patients for whom the hospital had been designed. It could not possibly be connected with Porton Down experiments involving dropping poison gas from the air and seeing what happened if it accidentally drifted over African populated areas...
A Rear Admiral recently wrote to me to say that I now had his permission to publish my remarkable story. He added, somewhat unnecessarily, that this did not mean that I would be published. The Government wanted it known that they were no longer banning publication. Even the Cabinet Secretary was anxious to tell me that I was no longer banned by the Major Government. Nothing changed of course. Except that I was sounded out about accepting a pension, on the usual terms of course. The interview with an MP only took place on condition that I agreed that we could not discuss why the interview was taking place. In other words, officially, I suppose it never happened. Certainly nothing came of it. Presumably because I refused to give my word never to reveal something quite dreadful, which officially never happened.
Over to you, Mr Blair!
12 May 1997
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John Smith of Kano, Colonial Cadet in Nigeria
John Smith's 'Colonial Cadet in Nigeria' is a book of great charm, which filled me with admiration for the author and rekindled the love of Nigeria I shared with him. This modest, honest, straightforward and not uncritical account is of the final years of an occupation which lasted only sixty years, and already thirty years have passed since the British withdrawal.
The book is also invaluable for demonstrating how indirect rule worked. What was initiated as an inexpensive way of running an occupied country with a handful of administrators necessarily entailed a very close relationship between the people at all levels and the British. The record was a proud one. If there was modest development, there was also the minimum of interference with the native culture. Remarkably too, for this was imperialism triumphant, there was also deep affection and even love. Nevertheless, every effort, including blatant criminality, was made by the British to ensure that in the independence elections, the pro-British Northerners won. The British were the servants of the Emirs and the Native Administrations and the political party - the NPC - formed with the help and encouragement of the British to contest elections, ran the Northern Regional Government and, in due course, the Federal Government.
In John Smith's account, the opposition party NEPU is viewed as an intrusive/disruptive element. The British certainly often appeared to turn a blind eye to the harassment NEPU suffered at the hands of the Native Administrations and the Emirs. John Smith is so innocent of the undemocratic stance that he portrays while protecting his charges, and this was not untypical, that one can almost feel this total identification with the interests of the Emirs. In rigging elections in the North (and Northern officials, while admitting the fact, will be hurt that what they did should be seen, not as duty arising from necessity, but as election rigging) the British did nothing unusual. It was merely an extension of the extremely varied, normal routine, which primarily was to act in the Emirs' interest.
Indirect rule was not simply a system where the British used the rule of the Emirs, that is to say, where the Emirs were the agents of the British. In many ways, as Smith demonstrates, it was the other way around - the British were the agents of the Emirs. When Northern officials are charged with fiddling the elections, they openly admit it but express astonishment. Why the fuss? That was their job. They organised the election arrangements superbly, despite tremendous problems, and went on without hesitation to ensure total victory for their bosses, as a natural continuation of the same process. What seems criminality on a grand scale to the impartial observer was to the British simply a matter of getting on with the job.
Faced with a Southern official, who levels charges of gross corruption, the Northern official is bemused, amused and then a bit put out. "Come on, old chap," they say, "That's putting it a bit strong. It was our job to look after our people. Outsiders and trouble makers had to be checked." The point that I am making is that the British stood for order and stability and keeping everything quiet and peaceful. Quite how British officials became so indoctrinated with this ethos of the status quo is a mystery to me. Perhaps it was acquired at Oxford from Miss Perham. Aliens were missionaries; Southern officials; forces of evil like trade unionists; radicals like LSE-trained education officers; insensitive industrialists; foreigners; and particularly representatives of international bodies; and Southerners. The election business simply added NEPU politicians; nationalists from the South; political agents and journalists; busybodies; and other do-gooders to the list. All had to be and were outwitted with great skill by Northern officials.
John Smith alone can be safely excluded from anything improper. His integrity and intelligence are exceptional and remarkable. There were other Northern officials of the same high calibre who served 'their people' (and by that, without sarcasm, I mean the Northern peoples) with tremendous love and devotion far beyond the call of duty. I may seem confused and ambivalent in both indicating criminality and yet admiring Northern officials. I understand this, and that same paradox is an essential part of the record of British rule in Nigeria and particularly the North.
To progressives, ignorant of what the British did in Nigeria, I will be looked on as totally reactionary, and my views will be seen as very close to the Northern officials, whom I apparently criticise. I would point out that Northern officials were rarely responsible for initiating the policy they carried out. In some ways they had to make the best of a bad job. As individuals they were often men of exceptional calibre, as were Southern officials too.
17 June 1992
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CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (Prestupleniye i nakazaniye) Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1866)
A horrible crime has been committed, but the core of Dostoevsky's novel is Raskolnikov's attempt to find a moral justification for his crime. He was, he claimed, going to use the money for which he committed murder, to become a benefactor of mankind.
The Governor General of Nigeria, HM The Queen's personal representative, confessed to me in 1960 that he was a criminal in that he was rigging Nigeria's Independence elections. His point in seeing me was to offer, firstly inducements to buy my silence and, secondly threats against my well being and, indeed, survival if I refused to give him my word to keep quiet. Why had the British Government decided on this criminal folly? I put the question to Sir James Robertson that day in his private office in Government House on the Marina, overlooking the lagoon.
"Because it was necessary," he replied calmly. "Look, Smith," he added, losing his composure momentarily. "You don't know all the facts..." Nevertheless, when he later adopted a more threatening posture, he went on to say that I already knew far too much!
The political situation in Nigeria deteriorated rapidly after independence. The British puppet regime, headed by Balewa, had waged war on its opponents in the South. A military coup was acclaimed by the people, but swiftly, following splits on tribal lines, a bloody civil war broke out which cost the lives of two million young men, women and children.
Those who do not believe that the British Government is capable of such infamy may be tempted to vent their anger on the messenger. The truth is that I opposed this criminality from the start, and paid a high price for being loyal to our democracy and traditions and the rule of law. I have researched deeply into the question of the motives for this treason for thirty years, and if the reasons or excuses which I produce do not seem adequate, I must stress that I would concur in that judgement. These are the reasons or excuses I have discovered, and unless Lord Grey, for example, who is still alive (1992) is prepared to enlighten us further, we may never - as the criminals may have destroyed the records - get a better explanation.
Raskolnikov's motives are one by one proved to be false, as perhaps Robertson's too will be one day. It is evident that there was deep mistrust of Dr Azikiwe, the nationalist leader, by the British., In 1943 the British Colonial Secretary described Zik as 'the biggest danger of the lot.' Over the years Dr Zik had made some bloodcurdling speeches which had thoroughly alarmed the British. In 1947, for example, he labelled imperialists and their accomplices as international criminals like the Nazis, and promised retribution when Nigeria became free. Nine years later Zik was proved right, because it was during the first stage of the independence elections that I got my orders from H.E. to interfere massively in the election and began to appreciate how hollow were British promises of an open, free, fair and honest election. The British for their part would say that they had to get their blow in first, knowing what Dr Zik had in mind.
It is highly probable that the British were going to favour their allies in the North anyway, and looked around for evidence of extremist threats to justify what they were already planning to do. It might be said of Dr Zik's extremist and sometimes inflammatory speeches that he had the role of a dedicated nationalist to maintain. It was important to appear to be a valiant fighter against the imperialist yoke. Personally, I always regarded Zik's hyperbole as a joke. He was an armchair rebel and had not the slightest intention of going to jail or sacrificing his very comfortable life style for the cause.
The British might argue that what they were doing was in Nigeria's best interest. It is, however, more likely that, in subverting the democratic process to place Nigeria in the hands of pro-British elements, Whitehall was only seeking to protect its own interests. Do the British care that this treachery caused the deaths of two million Nigerians? In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov suffers a crisis of conscience, but we have seen no signs of contrition from the British Government. Raskolnikov, whose name is derived from the Russian word for 'schismatic' is an extremely complicated character. So too were the British, who were presenting themselves as thoroughly honest and decent democrats, while flagrantly destroying Nigeria's first experiment in democracy after years of autocratic colonial rule. According to the election results as presented by the British, the majority of the Nigerian people had voted, not for their nationalist leaders, but for the feudal elite who had little interest in democracy or even the welfare of the whole of the Nigerian nation.
When the criminality has the approval of a British Prime Minister like Macmillan or Eden, not even a police inspector like Porfiri Petrovich, an astute psychologist, will be smart enough to bring the criminals to book. The question of punishment, therefore, only arises when it is decided how to punish those who tried to expose the criminality. The criminals were awarded high honours for their treason, which resulted in the deaths of two million people.
Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov suffered a crisis of conscience because he murdered two women. How conscience-stricken should one feel for two million?
In truth, the more one kills the less one feels. Constant repetition obliterates the moral sense, perhaps. And the architects of Nigeria's bloody contest, where treachery in the name of unity had Nigerians rejoicing in the deaths of Nigerians, witnessed no killings, so why should they even regret their evil machinations? Could it be that conscience stirs, not in direct, but inverse ratio to killing? Put that way, one understands both Raskolnikov's unhappiness and Whitehall's oblivion.
Bomber Harris planned mass killing of German civilians without the slightest concern for his victims, because he had killed individual Kurds, and twos and threes and small family groups while strafing rebellious tribesmen from the air in Iran. Our boys in blue, who carried out Harris's orders, sometimes dropped their bombs in the sea, and most often five miles from their intended targets. It was alleged that it was to stop this cowardice or regard for women and children that cameras were fitted to our bombers to record where the bombs were released - a unique reversal of conventional morality. Those who declined to kill were punished, as I was punished for refusing to betray the people of Nigeria.
Dostoevsky's debate as to whether or not the end justifies the means is now something of a cliché, but it is as vitally important as ever. Necessity makes us bend the rules, ignore the law, flout convention and decency. The necessity is to ensure that things come out right. The desire is to take the chance out of political events. It may not work, millions may die cruelly, but at least we tried. When the perpetrators of crime are those charged with preventing it, the title of our novel should truly be 'Crime without Punishment', or 'Punishment of the innocent is no crime and this is your very own criminal Government telling you so.'
20 July 1992
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Nigeria by Walter Schwarz and
Nigeria: Background to Nationalism by James S. Coleman
Schwarz is a typical writer on Nigeria. He writes of Independence giving the official story; he reads some academic accounts, chiefly Coleman, and a recent history or two, usually Michael Crowder, and blends them into a readable, informed and useful account. That is what journalists do. They act as an intermediary between reality and the general public. When journalists, as reporters, write from Damascus as the shells fall, we can check their accounts against other journalists' copy. When journalists write books they are not 'there' when they write of earlier events, but may use their writing skills, unwittingly and no doubt unintentionally, to such effect that we almost feel they were there. Academics do this too, when they have got rid of student nuisances, and settle down with a pot of coffee or a glass or two of sherry to their 'real' work.
I wish the many journalists who wrote about Nigeria's independence and what it meant for Africa had spoken to me. I would have told them it was a total fake. They were conned into thinking that it was the British Empire's finest hour. A great trust had been fulfilled, etc. etc. The Governor General, who was not the blimp that they might have imagined, but an Oxford-educated street fighter, experienced in covert intelligence, anti-Communist operations, terrorism and pulling the wool over inquisitive journalists' eyes, knew how to deal with Fleet Street. Each important journalist was given a minder to make life pleasant and protect our sensitive and pure-minded scribblers from bad influences, i.e. people like me. It was also thought a good thing to keep them happy and amused with the sorts of comforts which they would expect. When journalists said that they would like to meet the locals, or get some local colour, or get their feet wet, the administration knew exactly what they wanted and laid it on - plenty of drink and black girls, or even boys.
Well, at least Schwarz had read Coleman whose work is excellent. I met many young Americans in Lagos but have no memory of Coleman, although he was apparently around the Labour Department where he met one of my colleagues, Tokumboh. He also spoke to Bola Onitiri who lodged in my home in London as a student while I was in Lagos. Bola returned to Ibadan as a Professor of Economics with a very rosy view of the British. They had indeed looked after him rather well, and I had done my bit too, I suppose. Anyway, it was usual then for Nigerians to keep their heads down and never ever to show signs of not loving the British and all their works. From their point of view I was extremely dangerous, a viewpoint shared incidentally by the Governor General, as he told me himself.
So Schwarz gets his stuff from Coleman who got it from Tokumboh and Bola Onitiri who followed the Yoruba tradition of telling the white man what he wanted to hear. This is a universal custom in the downtrodden (a misnomer, really, speaking of the Yoruba. They are rich, conservative, proud, even arrogant and patronising) when replying to questions from the powerful. The British police do not have to beat people up to get confessions. Most of the British lower classes know what is expected of them and readily comply. (Care on the part of the police is necessary because the confessions often go way over the top and have to be edited down rather than exaggerated, and cut and edited to dovetail in with the rest of the 'evidence'. Was it ever thus?)
The story in Schwarz is the official story. It sounds truthful and realistic and authentic. The central truth nevertheless is a lie. It is understandable that this should happen because the British took very great care to cover up their criminality. The British are not stupid. They know the penalty for being found out. They had, moreover, a lot of experience in the business.
Why did I not seek out the reporters? I did. I told everyone I could, and this got back to the Governor General, who was very angry. The actual incident involved my being overheard over dinner at the Lagos Resthouse restaurant talking to an official of the American Consulate and one of my young American friends. The latter was one or more of the following. He was a post-graduate student, a writer, a historian, a do-gooder, someone vaguely attached to the US Consulate or a CIA man. There were quite a few young Americans around like this. Coleman and Bretton were not untypical.
The administration was not making life easy for me. I now see why they kept me on the move, or on the hop, around various offices in Lagos, under threat and very much under a cloud. If I had got settled, I might have had more time to seek out visiting academics etc. to tell my story to. As it happened, no-one published my disclosure anyway, so maybe it would not have made any difference. Just to make sure, my friends were subjected to the most awful harassment. That explains why Michael Crowder's version of Independence, which he wrote little about, is deeply flawed, because it is a lie, pure and simple.
Did Tokumboh and Onitiri know that the independence elections were rigged? Of course. What Coleman would have done if they had told him the truth, or if I had spoken to him (and it is possible that I did) I do not know. Look at the curious case of Ken Post, who wrote the authoritative study of the elections and gave the British a glowing testimonial, not just a clean bill of health. Ken knew much more than he 'let on'. But having done his duty, he was suitably rewarded by appointment to Ibadan University. Had the British known that Ken was a Marxist who did not believe a word of it, would it have made any difference? The fact is, they got what they wanted.
Coleman did not know? Did he not speak to his own Consular people? Did he not speak to the State Department? Did he not speak to the CIA? Did he not speak to Nigerian journalists? Did he not speak to any honest British officials? It seems not.
Sources are like a stream. Maybe it does not matter whether you drink from the stream or not. Michael Crowder was a wonderful friend to have, and I cherished and was for ever proud that I had known him. He liked me too. Yet Michael gave me his word that he would blow the whistle on British treachery one day, but he never did. Histories go on being written, the stream of life flows on, and the old lies are still there in the bed of the stream.
23 March 1992
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'The Nigerian Federal Election of 1959' by K W J Post. The Last Great Act of Treason?
'The last great act of the British Raj.' So wrote Ken Post, a young British academic-to-be (if his researches were acceptable) of Nigeria's Independence Elections of 1959. As the elections were rigged, Ken got it wrong, but British colonial historians often quote his verdict with approval, for he supported their prejudice that the British had behaved honourably.
The bulk of Nigeria's territory lay in the Northern Region and the British backed up the Northerners' demand for 50% of the Federal parliamentary seats by stating in the 1950's that the North did indeed have over 50% of Nigeria's population. At that time I was in charge of statistics in the Department of Labour's Headquarters in Lagos and I did not believe a word of it. What were the true figures? I did not know, nor did, nor does anybody else. An American, Professor Henry L. Bretton, believed the elections to have been rigged. He wrote that "... the very construction of the Northern Region, in the form in which it entered the era of independence, represents one of the greatest acts of gerrymandering in history."
I have written to many of the academics involved, including Ken Post, about Nigeria's independence elections, which were in two stages. None reply to my letters. I wrote to tell them of how I had been ordered by the Governor General to rig the elections. It was beyond question, without a doubt, that in fact the last great act of the British Raj in Africa's largest British territory, practically an empire of nations rather than a colony, was treason. In 1956 a conference was held at Nuffield College, Oxford, to consider how Nigeria's elections could be studied. When I asked the Warden of Nuffield to see a report on this conference, I was told it was not available, for quite spurious reasons. Had a study been made of the election at Regional level in the North, which preceded the 1959 election, it would have been quite clear that the election was a total farce. It was decided that it was not possible to study that election.
A totally inexperienced young graduate student, Ken Post, is selected to make a one-man study of one of the most complex and important general elections to be held in Africa. The African giant, Nigeria, is the most populous country on the continent. Its sheer physical size and ethnic diversity is truly incredible. On election day, where would Mr Post position himself? He could as easily have stayed in London and read the Nigerian newspapers and British official reports. And as all newspapers in the major part of the territory were British-controlled - a licence was required from the British to start a newspaper - his information, his primary sources were British in origin, not Nigerian. However, Mr Post could speak to the voters and write to them? Sadly, the voters were mostly illiterate and did not speak English anyway. It seems Mr Post spoke no African languages and employed no interpreters.
Yet Mr Post produced a detailed, fact-filled, fat volume which appears quite intimidating, and reached very clear and decisive conclusions. British public relations had transformed a poor, squalid, backward colony into a beacon of democracy, a model democracy, the twelfth largest democracy in the world. And yet in six years the window dressing had slipped to reveal near total anarchy, the destruction of the parliamentary opposition, trumped-up treason trials, a totally corrupt political elite, a military coup, the assassination of three Prime Ministers, a bloody pogrom, one of the bloodiest civil wars in world history and the total destruction of that democracy, hailed by Mr Post and given his imprimatur of being fair, decent and honest.
One in five Africans is a Nigerian. The most important black African State has been described as the African Giant, the Brazil of Africa, and the Texas of Africa. In area it covers 923,768 square kilometres (356,669 square miles) and is four times the size of the United Kingdom. From Badagri to Lake Chad is about as far as New York to Chicago. Communications in Nigeria were primitive if not non-existent. If Mr Post visited a town, it would be a different world from the surrounding area, which it might be impossible to reach.
Of course, Mr Post knew that this was a British election. British officials were in control of the electoral machinery. It would indeed have been very surprising if Mr Post had returned to his supervisors, his professors at London and Oxford, and announced that it was all a great fix. Would his book have been published? Did the award of a doctorate depend on this work? Would he have been appointed by the British to the post of Lecturer in Government at Nigeria's prestigious but sole University, had he discovered and published the truth? What did the roll call of distinguished professors of presumed great integrity intend by this unlikely of all academic, but also of incredible politically explosive potential, projects?
Presumably they knew that Nigeria's terrain is extremely varied, ranging as it does from thick coastal mangrove swamps and rain forests to dry savannah regions in the extreme North. Eminent geographers claim that there are 434 ethnic groups in Nigeria speaking 395 mutually unintelligible languages. The major groups are the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba and the Ibo, and some ten groups account for some eighty per cent of the population. Remarkably, nearly 50% of the population may be under the age of fifteen. (Remember that all British, Nigerian, official and other figures are largely guesswork. I did my share of guessing when compiling those official reports! As the official who planned and drafted Nigeria's major Act of Parliament in the welfare area, the Nigerian Factories Act, and planned and pioneered the prestigious National Provident Fund, I needed reliable figures if anybody did!)
Mr Post had an impossible task. I do not question his integrity. In fact, he compiled a comprehensive, detailed, exhausting and voluminous work. If I question its accuracy, value or integrity, it is because it is almost totally dependent on tainted and very suspect British official sources which I had conclusive evidence were corrupt. When I was invited to a meeting with HE the Governor General, Sir James Robertson, to discuss all this at Government House in 1960, his personal assistant, the beautifully mannered and charming John Bongard told me not to mention unsavoury matters.
"You mean the election rigging?" I asked.
"No. He wants to talk about the election rigging, but don't mention buggering black boys," said Bongard.
When I asked the Governor General why he had rigged the Independence Elections, he replied quietly, "Because it was necessary."
Livy said, 'Treachery, though covered up, always comes out in the end.' 'Deeply concealed acts of treachery,' said Cicero, 'are often disguised with the pretence of duty or necessity.'
Carefully read, Mr Post occasionally indicates reservations to his general thesis, but he carefully skirts the rocks that would sink his vessel. Quite simply, the fact that the British-controlled NPC exercised totalitarian power over two-thirds of Nigerian territory made the election results a nonsense. There had been a secret agreement inflicted on the Southern leaders, binding them not to campaign in the North. What sort of election was this where the pro-British party, which was hardly recognisable as a normal political party, was guaranteed success?
'And so in 1960 Nigeria's leaders (with, be it noted, the enthusiastic mandate of an exemplarily administered general election behind them) moved into sovereignty...' I was a returning officer in Lagos where the pretence and reality almost met. However, through my network of official contacts throughout the country, I heard of British officials and their agents lining up every available voter to vote for pro-British candidates. Mr Post got it wrong. This was the greatest act of sophisticated gerrymandering and skulduggery of any election in the so-called free world (in modern history). Two distinguished historians, both friends of mine, were blackmailed into silence because they knew this truth.
If Nigerians after 1960 (although British officials were still in place over large areas) rigged elections shamelessly, they had learned from experts. Let us consider how the British ran an election in Prime Minister Balewa's constituency in 1964. In the general election that year an 'affidavit described how three abortive attempts had been made to nominate a candidate in the Prime Minister Balewa's constituency. At the first attempt, the nominators were arrested; the second time they were carried away by thugs; on the third occasion they were kidnapped and held until the lists closed.' In sixty one constituencies in the North, NPC candidates were returned unopposed. It seems the nominations of the opposition candidates somehow were overlooked. (Martin Meredith. 'The First Dance of Freedom.' Abacus. 1985. P. 179). As the British were still running the administration in Northern Nigeria, one can see why Balewa was so grateful to them.
Post's Eurocentrism and Britishness is evident throughout his study. "Nigeria still has the test of running a Federal election without the assistance of a largely expatriate administration." In fact the staff who ran the 1959 election were almost totally Nigerian. Should they not be credited with running an honest election too? Is Post suggesting that the presence of one Britisher produced an honest election? That, without that one Britisher, the staff at each polling station were probably corrupt? This maligns the whole Nigerian nation and is quite monstrous. To one like myself who had been intimately connected with British chicanery in these elections, it is absolutely infuriating to find Post's flawed reporting passed off as objective evidence of British fair play.
If the relative honesty of British and African peoples is to be put in the scales in a Nigerian context, is the integrity of the people who conquered by force of arms outside the rule of law to be valued higher than the innocent victims of this conquest? If Mr Post's innocence leads him to believe that the British were impartial in a contest between the pro-British North and the nationalist South, his study is undermined. The British handed power to the North at Independence, not because of an election result, but because it was the only condition on which power would be granted in 1959. In fact the election was totally rigged. With the evidence of interference known to me, no-one would accept that the British behaved honestly in the 1959 elections. If Nigerian-run elections post 1959 were corrupt, the Nigerians lacked the expertise to pass them off as honest. The British had that expertise and successfully pulled the wool over the young and inexperienced Mr Post's eyes in 1959.
The 1959 elections were orderly, efficient and largely peaceful on polling day. The British arrangements went smoothly. It is these attributes that Mr Post confuses with fairness and honesty. In truth he was watching the Africans exclusively. His verdict exonerates those he observed. This was one of the greatest confidence tricks perpetrated by a colonial power in Africa on a subject people. Mr Post was selected by the crooked British to see if one of the African parties was interfering with the election. Had he examined the machinations of the British in the way they set up the contest, he would have been compelled to cry fraud! By and large the verdict of the election had been delivered before polling day. Mr Post had no authority as an observer to state as he does, for example on page 345, that polling in the 311 constituencies and 25,000 polling stations went off with remarkable smoothness. This is a measure of his inability to appreciate what he was really doing. And even had there been 25,000 impartial Mr Posts to warrant such a sweeping statement, it would have proved little. People who rig elections are crooks but not necessarily stupid. They do not do business in the open, but in private, as one would expect.
As Post reminds us, the registration and poll were voluntary. Allegations that the British in the major part of the country, the North, which covered at least two thirds of Nigerian territory, marshalled every adult male who could walk through the registration and polling booths, apparently escaped Post's attention. He expresses no surprise that the politically inexperienced and apathetic peasants in remote rural areas with few if any attributes of civilisation - tarred roads, clean water, schools or medical provision - produced a percentage poll of 89.2. Knowing British chicanery, Mr Post was right not to be surprised. From reports I received from contacts throughout the country, I was not surprised either. The lower figures of 74% in the East and 71% in the West are acceptable as a reflection of the higher literacy and political awareness in the coastal regions and were certainly due to truly voluntary registration and voting. The Southern figures were comparable (if somewhat lower) with voting figures in British general elections, as Post notes. In the North, incredibly, albeit with British assistance, the percentage poll was 10.5% higher than in the British General Election of the same year! Even Mr Post acknowledges that the British in the North lent a hand to get Northerners to register. Yet he draws back from the realisation that the British would complete the job and marshal largely illiterate peasants through the same booth to vote for their pro-British masters. Why bother to tackle the enormous job of registration if the voters were not going to turn up to vote? And as Post records on page 205, it appeared that almost the entire eligible male population was registered in a majority of Northern constituencies, 'voluntarily'. Presumably if the British had 'helped', registration would have been 200%.
To recap: In addition to the illegal gerrymandering, that I witnessed, by my British colleagues which would have, if known, rendered the election results null and void, the British had given the pro-British North 50% of the seats. They had forced the Southern nationalists to keep out of the North. 'Voluntary registration' had achieved near total figures in the North and voting percentages were also incredibly high. In these British-arranged circumstances a Northern (and British) win was an absolute certainty. Any informed person betting on a Southern win against these odds would have been declared insane. And did those who registered know what they were doing so voluntarily? Post adds a footnote to page 205 to suggest whether they were really aware of what was happening was an entirely different matter. A knowing Post gives us here a cynical smile. Post does not really believe they registered of their own volition. If they had, we would have to assume that they knew what they were doing. Post thinks that preposterous, as it probably would appear to most people. And here Post gets himself into a logical bind. He cannot bring himself to admit the truth. Yes, they did not need to know what they were doing, because they were not registering of their own volition. Mr Post, by his own admission in that footnote, gives the game away. Just another British fix.
Another astonishing fact was that the Northern Emir-controlled Government party, the NPC, did not even need to fight its opponents in the West and East. They could sit back and let the Southerners fight each other. The NPC contested only one seat in the West and none at all in the East. The NPC was indeed an unusual political party. The truth is that it was not a proper political party at all, but a regime devised to perpetuate the wishes of the British, both before and after the Independence elections. No wonder Post remarks on page 240 that the outsider experienced difficulty in penetrating the inner workings of the NPC.
In 1956 the present writer was ordered by the Governor General to take all Department of Labour staff and vehicles to campaign in Warri for the chief stooge of the British in the South, Festus (Festering) Samuel Okotie Eboh, the most corrupt and probably therefore the politician most favoured by the British in the South. I refused to take part in this criminality as already stated. Now in stage two of the Independence elections we had the NPC sending a team headed by a Federal Minister to Warri to campaign for the leader of a supposed opponent! The truth of course is that Okotie Eboh was the politician charged by the British to tie the NPC and NCNC together so that a pro-British alliance would rule Nigeria after Independence. Dr Azikiwe, who had been blackmailed by the British to ally himself with an implacable enemy, dutifully visited the Northern leaders in May 1958 to cement the deal, which had been set up even earlier in 1956 at the instigation of the British.
Okotie Eboh was the most important politician for the British. This is why such extraordinary measures had to be taken to make sure he won. I knew this in 1956, which is why the Governor General warned me that I knew far too much. If I revealed what I knew, he said that means would be found to silence me. The British could always deliver election results to please their friends, even when one British official broke ranks. There was one exception and it illustrates how grotesque Post's conclusions were about the Independence elections.
On 7 November, shortly before the general election, a plebiscite was held in the Trust Territory of the Northern Cameroons, organised by the same British officials whose behaviour we have been discussing. The Northern Cameroons ran alongside the Northern Region and the NPC expected the British to deliver the goods as usual. But the British failed; the Northern Cameroons did not vote to become an integral part of Northern Nigeria. The NPC leaders were furious. It could only be that the British were delivering the goods elsewhere. Suddenly it was quite clear. The British wanted the Northern Cameroons so that they could build a military base. Wrong, said the British. It had to be pointed out to the Sardauna of Sokoto, the feudal and totally undemocratic leader of the North, that, although 'our people' had run the elections, the suspicious United Nations had insisted on sending UN officials to supervise the elections.
However, the British do not give up so easily. In the 1959 vote there had been 70,401 against 42,979 to postpone a decision to join Northern Nigeria. In 1961 those who did not want to join the North had increased from 70,401 to 97,659, but those who wanted to join the North increased from 42,979 to an astonishing 146,296, a more than threefold increase. This remarkable turnaround could not possibly be due to the presence of one very experienced Northern hand, Mr D.J.M. Muffett who was a close friend of the Sardauna? Mr Muffett had been the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Nigeria during the 1959 federal election and his robust approach to registration had produced figures the Soviets would have admired. Now, to resolve an intractable problem, the Sardauna appointed Mr Muffett as Resident General in the Northern Cameroons and the results were as gratifying to the Sardauna as the landslide win for the North had been in the 1959 General Election. Mr Muffett had been resourceful, enterprising, inventive, daring. He attacked problems head on. What would the Sardauna have done without such brave captains?
Post makes no reference to the celebrated presence of the CIA and its role in the Independence elections. He does mention that Patrick Dolan's public relations firm was working for the Action Group Government of the West. The informed would know that Dolan was a close friend of Wild Bill Donovan, chief of the CIA. Dolan was a spy and war hero known for mission impossible tasks against the Nazis. Post did not mention this, presumably because it might have drawn attention to the fact that the whole of the SIS, MI5 and Nigerian special branch and related agencies were deployed during the Independence elections to make sure that 'our boys' won.
Francis Nwokedi, whom the British had chosen to have the key post in Nigeria after Independence, head of the Foreign Service, was my friend. It was an uneasy friendship and it existed and survived, not in spite of, but because I criticised Francis and stood up to him. He despised crawlers. He knew I was like his wife Betty, which is what she told him. I thought he could have been bigger than he was. I knew he had played along with the British, but this was a ploy - or was it? Anyway, he was also a close friend of Dr Zik, but the British did not know that. Not that it mattered after 1956 because Zik had been broken at last. He was now a burnt-out case, and could be relied on to be a ceremonial President with no power at all after the election.
As I have remarked, the Governor General said that I knew far too much, and he would know. I have indicated how I knew so much. It should be remembered that I was part of the British establishment. The Labour Department expatriate staff made no claim to be very cerebral. (The African staff were, however, quite brilliant). I made friends in other departments including one that will not surprise the astute reader of what has gone before. One informant was in charge of counter-intelligence. Another tapped all leading politicians' 'phones. As the Governor General rightly said, "I knew too much." This rigged election put into office a gang of crooks who for six years ransacked this great giant, this great empire of a nation, a commonwealth in itself. 'Nigerians' are so diverse, so exuberant, and so full of excitement and laughter... When the military rose against these crooks, a civil war started and one thousand days later up to two million young Nigerians were dead. This was treason to our democracy.
I have written this election study as a duty, a debt, that I owe to a dear friend now dead. Philip Williams, the biographer of Hugh Gaitskell, pioneered the study of elections at Oxford. One of his students once interrupted us at tea at Trinity. He was to be Dr David Butler. David was sent away because at that time Phil, who was a don at Trinity where he had sumptuous rooms, and I were being served tea and toasted crumpets from a silver tray by a uniformed butler. As Labour people, neither Phil nor I saw anything amiss in this. We believed that the workers deserved the best. After tea Phil would unroll great charts and we would explore the mystery of some general election.
"How do you do it, Phil!" I once exclaimed.
"I'll tell you a secret, Harold," Phil said very seriously. "You get the results, you get all the information you can, you take a dozen pencils and note pads and you knock yourself out for weeks analysing it all!"
In 1957 I told Phil how we had rigged the elections in the first stage Regional (State) level of the independence elections. I had resigned from the Colonial Service and taken a job as Personnel Officer at the Esso Fawley Refinery. We started a second baby; we had a house, a car, a dog and a cat as well as a well-paid job. However, I knew too much, and the British Government took my job, my car, my home, my dog and cat (I still grieve for them) and forced me to return to Nigeria. If you are surprised, I must tell you that the SIS has unlimited power. Anyone who stumbles on secret operations is liable to be silenced. You are a non-person. You have no rights. You cease to exist. That is exactly what the head of the Colonial Service told Sir Julian Amery, the Government Minister for the Colonies. He told Amery I did not exist. I had never been in Government service; I had never served in Africa.
In 1960 I fled from Lagos and reported to Phil at his home in Chorleywood on the 1959 election and how we had rigged that one. The above report is the study Philip might have made - but so much more ably - had he not been blackmailed into silence because of me. (As was another historian friend in Lagos, Michael Crowder.) Margery Perham, the doyenne of Oxford Africanists, put pressure on Phil. She was acting for her friend, Sir James Robertson, the Governor General. There is a four-letter word for Perham and it is not one to be used lightly, and it is not lady. She made an honourable man suffer as her dishonourable friends made millions of young Africans suffer even more.
Ken Post worked incredibly hard to produce this book on Nigeria's Independence election. If I cannot accept its conclusions, and I wonder if they were dictated, I can acknowledge a magnificent if flawed work, which my dear friend Phil Williams would have thoroughly enjoyed. The book is packed full of brilliant description, facts and analysis, and is truly the creation of a first-class scholar. I am told that Ken now has serious reservations and takes a less sanguine view of what he so brilliantly studied. If I appear to have been over critical in pursuit of what I know because of secret information not available to Ken, I hope he will appreciate the necessity that was dictated by the tragic consequences of this despicable treachery by the British.
Another American Professor Schwarz also believed Mr Post may have been too sanguine in his conclusion about the fairness of the elections. Certainly one of Nigeria's great nationalist leaders totally rejected Mr Post's conclusions. When Chief Awolowo found himself charged with treason by a Government fraudulently elected, the prosecution based its case on the thesis that he had turned to insurrection having lost faith in the ballot box as a result of his experiences in the North in the 1959 Independence election. Did Balewa think up that masterpiece of sophistry all by himself?
The Russians were always damned because in their kind of elections the Government or official candidates always won with thumping majorities. In some of the roughest and undeveloped terrain in Africa, Professor Post records registration and voting figures which can only be compared with the USSR. Even with Nkrumah on the rampage, Ghana only came up with voting figures between 20 and 30%. Nigerian figures of 90% in the North simply demonstrate British zeal going overboard when trying to do a chum a good turn. Remember that few British colonial civil servants had experience of elections either. If only the Britishers' enthusiasm had stretched to providing tarred roads, clean water, schools, hospitals, and other basic services for their Northern friends, but the Emirs did not want them.
As Sir Alan Burns proudly pointed out, '...no attempt was made to force upon Nigeria all of the doubtful advantages of modern civilisation.' Evidently most of the British in the Burns' mould regarded the North as some kind of private zoo or reservation. In the capital, Lagos, with relatively civilised facilities, the percentage poll was 76.2%, which is still highly creditable. The North produced a percentage poll of 89.2%.
The election studies in Nigeria were modelled on studies of British elections since 1945, made under the auspices of Nuffield College, Oxford. The aim was to preserve a careful, contemporary record of events important in history. The first stages of the Independence elections took place in 1956 at Regional (State) level. Strangely, the one election in the North which scholars would have been most keen to know about, was not able to be studied. These were the first direct elections to the Northern House of Assembly. The reason was, of course, that they were rigged. Somehow this did not seem to fit in with '...a sentiment among Europeans that if they are to go it must be with honour, honour defined by European standards (sic) of good government and democracy.' This was the clarion call by Professors Mackenzie and Robinson who, with Miss Perham, the guru of all matters colonial, headed the colonial studies scene at Nuffield and Oxford.
It was really the British colonial officials in the North who were determined that it was their Southern counterparts - the mission boy nigger lovers - who would be powerless. Did Dr Azikiwe and Awolowo really believe that the British were going to hand over the richest black colony in Africa to nationalists who loathed the British? (Ghana was small beer and of little concern.) The means to this end was the census and it was said that British officials in the early 1950's had wanted to bolster the North, and that this had influenced their counting.
The only people who would be in a position to question Ken Post's endorsement of the Independence elections as fair would be fellow academics. This is why two historians, one an election specialist, later to be eminent, had to be blackmailed into silence. Michael Crowder and Philip Williams were my friends. If I could not be blackmailed because my record was clean and I was a respectably married heterosexual, pressure could be applied through my friends who were more vulnerable. Michael was on the spot in Lagos and very promiscuous, and Sir James Robertson personally threatened him with prosecution if his friend Smith did not keep his mouth shut!
The name of the game in handing over Nigeria to the pro-British North was to make safe a vulnerable target for Soviet penetration. An oppressed colony was assumed to be an obvious target for Soviet imperialism. A newly 'independent' nation safely inside the Commonwealth with moderate and responsible, i.e. pro-British leaders, would expand the free world. Nothing need change in the economic relationship. There would be no savings as the colonies paid their own expenses. The prisoner paid for his own handcuffs even if they looked like a silken cord. A handful of doctorates and knighthoods cost nothing. Years of planning and grooming and fine tuning to be thrown away so Awo and Zik could rule? The idea was preposterous. The independence arrangement, strategy, plan, was executed perfectly. It was a well-oiled machine. It was pure theatre and at the end of the play the performers applauded the audience. The players thought the play was over - it had only just begun.
Britain gave Nigeria to Balewa on a plate because independence was not granted at the point of the terrorist's gun. Had it been so, Awo or Zik might have won the prize. If Awo and Zik had, paradoxically, delayed the transition, they could probably have dictated their own terms. Awo and Zik thought they could deal with the British stooges from the North most easily when the British left, but they were wrong. Both were easily outmanoeuvred by the simple, but ruthless, Balewa and his British advisors. For Awo and Zik, in truth, Independence had come too fast. Our Northern puppets, who had never wanted independence, had to be rushed into it. That was only Act One, although some thought Independence was the name of and the whole of the play. Act Two was the destruction of Awo and Act Three the elimination of Zik.
I do not say that all the events in Nigeria between 1950 and 1970 were planned by or dictated by the British, but some very treacherous covert action did take place. If the central aim - to keep power in pro-British hands - is appreciated, then much falls into place. Zik thought he was the ace, but he was not. Awo was the ace. Zik was the joker in the pack. Zik was easily railroaded into the presidential siding and given a set of uniforms to play with like a black Barbie doll, while Awo was beaten up. How the British High Commission rejoiced when Awo got ten years and Enahoro fifteen years in jail. Revenge was sweet!
The Coker Commission helped to prove that even if one doubted the charge of treason, Awo had undoubtedly diverted millions of public funds into his party machine. However, this had been known to British intelligence for years. Had they nipped this in the bud, they could not have used it to jail Awo at their convenience. I know this to be true because the Senior Resident in the West, a fellow Magdalensis named Smith, told me he had all this stuff in his safe in 1960, and it had been there for some time. Post was told all this too, as can be seen from his book. Polling day was on 12 October 1959. Post dates his Preface 31 August 1961. The following year the Coker Commission was set up to - surprise, surprise! - discover what had been known all the time and help put Awo out of politics. One major threat to British control of Nigeria had been removed.
Awo may have thought that diverting funds to further the pursuit of freedom from the colonial yoke was morally justified. The British were not the sort of colonial street fighters who let moral considerations deter them from going for the jugular. Awo went to jail, not because he was charged with being a criminal - that was irrelevant - but because he trusted the British to be moral. After all, they could have made provision for political party financing from public funds. They could also have acted quickly to stop the offence. Of course, that would have seemed hypocritical when the British were financing the NPC - the party which drew on the major geographical area and major part of Nigeria's population - from public funds. The British bided their time like Fabius (who gave his name to the Fabian Society), and like Fabius, when they struck, they struck hard.
Mr Post's study is replete with voting and registration figures, all of which have passed through British hands. As such they are tainted, very suspect and quite unacceptable. Sir James Robertson in 1960 not only accepted that the elections were rigged, he was anxious to convince me that they were, in order to underline the trouble I was in. He emphasised that the orders had come from him and that hundreds of senior officers had been involved in this covert operation. He stressed that I was the only one to object.
I already knew that the 1956 State (first stage) Elections had been hopelessly compromised. This was how my troubles had started when Sir James sent me personal orders to take all Labour Headquarters staff and vehicles to assist the NCNC campaign against the Action Group. This was the Minister of Labour's constituency although he himself was not standing. The order came through Francis Nwokedi who was, like Okotie Eboh, a close friend of Dr Zik. I was friendly with Nwokedi, who was to head the Foreign Service after Independence; serve with Ironsi in the Congo; be Ironsi's close colleague after the military coup; be responsible for the Nwokedi report which proposed scrapping the Federation and precipitated the Northern pogrom; and finally became a Biafran leader, gun runner and hawk.
Also in 1956 the Governor General ordered my boss Charles Bunker to pressurise British and other firms to provide large sums of money, cars and petrol to Okotie Eboh who was the National Treasurer of the NCNC. It was this vast financial power which made it possible for Okotie Eboh to become the major force in the NCNC, drive Dr Zik into a back seat and seal an alliance, as the British demanded, with the NPC.
With all this evidence and much more, the elections were clearly a total fraud and the British role had been entirely criminal. It is for this reason that there is really no point in examining Mr Post's numbers as if they were factual. This criminality also reinforced commonly expressed doubts about the integrity of the Northern census returns, which had been designed to back up a demand that the North be given 50% of the parliamentary seats.
If all British chicanery were planned to give Nigeria unity and stability, the strategy was badly misconceived and totally flawed. British gerrymandering could put the NPC in power in 1959 but could the NPC retain power and, worse still, win an honest election without the British presence? The answer was evidently in the negative. Thus was born, probably at the instigation of the British and with the connivance of the remaining, mainly Northern, British administrators and the huge British High Commission staff, the strategy to de-stabilise and destroy the parliamentary opposition so ably and democratically exercised by Chief Awolowo. This and the gross corruption of Britain's puppets inevitably led to the military intervention that ended in a bloody civil war in which up to two million innocent young people died.
I do not know the true Northern census figures. Neither do I know the true election returns for the 1956 and 1959 elections. I do know that these elections were totally rigged and that the British, not the Nigerians, engaged in wholly reprehensible, criminal behaviour. If the Nigerian politicians did engage in corrupt electoral practices post 1960, they had been taught by their masters in 1956 and 1959.
There was nothing personal in the vindictiveness shown to Awo and Zik by the British. The nationalist leaders were not rotters; they were intellectuals who were rather unsociable and aloof, and did not suck up to the British, unlike the Northern creeps. Awolowo and Enahoro were men of considerable intellect and principle, but they would tangle with the British. Not too long after they were condemned as treasonable, criminal and evil, they were reinstated and back in harness at a Federal level with the full backing of the British and their Northern dupes, for it was Zik's turn to be worked over and taught a lesson. In fact, the wily Zik, when he saw defeat looming in the civil war, ratted on his party and his people and was allowed to join the winning side. Of course, it is wrong to talk of anyone winning in a barbaric war, which cost the lives of a generation of young people. Neither the Nigerians nor the Biafrans won this bloody contest. Surely there were only losers? Not quite. It is true that the Nigerian people lost, but it was the British who won for their allies in the North ruled as always and even survived when split up into many states, because none of these states crossed the frontier between North and South. The integrity of the North survived even the fragmentation intended by the creation of many new States.
The game plan was to keep Nigeria in Britain's pocket and in the free world. Both of these aims have been achieved by British foreign policy towards Nigeria during the thirty years since the nominal Independence. The necessary arrangement between colonial power and the Nigerian 'successor elite' (W.H. Morris-Jones) even outlasted the collapse of the USSR and its allies, and the end of the cold war. The operation was a great success. Tough that two million Nigerian young people had to be killed to protect British interests in the cold war, but as the British would say, omelettes cannot be made without breaking eggs.
I should very much like to have Professor Post's answers to the following questions: -
9 February 1992
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Transition in Africa: Sir James Robertson (Confession of a Witness to the Death of the British Empire)
It has been suggested that tribalism is the reason for the tragic history of Nigeria since Independence in 1960. See Margery Perham's weasel words in Sir James Robertson's 'Transition in Africa', an apology for treachery and treason.
The very occupation of a territory with politics banned must, I suppose, bottle up tensions and suppress real or imagined discord. Meanwhile, totally irrelevant issues are made meaningful. What is real to the occupying power, like a war, affects the Colony because the local administration wills it. So l00,000 Nigerian men served in the British Army in the Second World War, mainly in the Far East. My clerk, Mr Fadeyebo, was ambushed by the Japanese and wounded while floating on a river raft in Burma. When the survivors were rounded up on the riverbank, the British officers and men were bayoneted by the Japanese. When a Japanese officer approached Fadeyebo, he feared the worst, but the officer said, "This is not your war, black man, we are not at war with you", and he was left with the other wounded Nigerians lying under the trees. Two of them survived. (The experience of war must have affected those of the 100,000 Nigerian soldiers who survived, but although important, this fact is irrelevant to my present concern.)
We are often told that the aim of British foreign policy has long been a unified Nigeria. Those of us who lived in Nigeria before Independence might question the truth of that because we recall how the British governed strictly in accordance with the maxim of 'divide and rule'.
The manner in which 'Nigeria' was created was of course the responsibility of the British, not of the millions of Africans of hundreds of tribes who one day found themselves contained within straight lines drawn on the map of West Africa, and told they were subjects of the Great White Queen. A great event for a young African who could now, if a missionary came to his village, go to a missionary school, become a Christian, get a job as a Government clerk and own a bicycle. Other events would mould him, events largely dictated by men in a foreign land, as a foreign war had taken Mr Fadeyebo to Burma. If a clerk was befriended by a sympathetic British administrator in the rush to Independence in the late 1950's, he would find himself sitting behind that white man's desk at Independence, living in a European house with servants and a brand new Ford Consul parked outside.
If unity is required, do you exacerbate tribal differences by dividing the nation on tribal lines, creating a Northern Hausa/Fulani Moslem State; a Western Yoruba, Moslem/Christian State; and an Eastern Igbo Catholic Christian State? Do you confine missionary activity to the South so that the Moslem North has no schools, and all the educated Africans who staff the Government civil service come from the South and are mainly Catholic Ibo? When the educated South inevitably produces nationalist leaders, do you, seeing the danger to the feudal backward North, provide an educational system in the North? The problem was ignored and nothing was done.
It seemed to the disinterested observer before Independence that the British did everything to emphasise and exacerbate tribal differences. Even the system of rule and administration was different. Indirect rule in the North confirmed the power of native chiefs, who naturally found that their interests were identical to the British. In the South the British could speak in English to the missionary-trained locals, which might be a mixed blessing when the village bright boy returned from London with better degrees in British law than the big white chief, who often made up the law as he went along. (British officials had to learn a local language to pass a promotion bar. A thankless task because when he had passed he would be promoted to a region where his newly acquired language was useless.)
At one time, so strong was the split between North and South, that separate stamps were printed. The different policies, systems, languages had their effect on the British rulers. Those in the South encouraged the missionary schools and inspected them. Work had to be found for school leavers, and public utilities and plantations sprang up to absorb them. Clean water, electricity supplies, dispensaries and roads followed in the wake of enthusiastic British administrators, who were dubbed 'nigger-lovers' by their less active polo-playing colleagues in the feudal North.
We must not labour the point. The North, West and East were not truly separate countries. Lagos, more or less, ruled them all, and Lagos was controlled in turn by Whitehall. Take away the brakes on political activity, have three Prime Ministers each leading his own 'tribe' and each looking to the British overlord for fair play, equal treatment and perhaps occasional favours in return for loyal behaviour, and any pretence of unity might disappear, especially when a scramble starts to be the privileged one to whom the British would hand over the keys of the whole kingdom.
The other major assumption shared by all commentators was, of course, that the British would hand over power without fear or favour to whichever political party commanded a majority in the second and final stage of the Independence elections which took place in 1959.
It was true that the British always got on well with the leaders of the Moslem (and to a degree pagan) North. This was well known to be so, and no one would bother to deny it. The Northern chiefs were so happy with British rule that they did not want the British to leave at all, particularly so if the bolshie Southerners, whom the Northerners loathed almost as much as their British administrators - if that were possible - were to take over in Lagos. Naturally the British did not wish to upset their Northern friends. It was even said by the British that if the Northerners were not guaranteed freedom from rule by the Southerners they might march on the South and drive the despised missionary-trained bolshies into the sea. It was left unclear whether the chiefs would do this themselves or whether they would depute the task to their British advisors.
Was this to be an intractable problem? It will be seen that if the North won the national elections, there would be those who would suggest that the British had favoured the North and given them a helping hand. Poor losers of course. However, if the North were to win it would solve what might otherwise be a terrible problem.
Not everybody trusted the British, but nobody cared what the communists said. Uncle Joe did not get where he did by winning elections either. As for the Fabians and other do-gooders, their doubts were quashed by the very fact of Independence being granted at all. Had not they campaigned for this in so many pamphlets and speeches? It was almost unbelievable and euphoria short-circuited their critical faculties. Even the British had been happy to confess to imperialism and an empire won by conquest, but suddenly it all became a sacred trust which had been accomplished. It only remained to see to which of the carefully trained and nurtured responsible leaders we would hand on the sacred flame. More succinctly the creeps were at long last going to be paid off.
It was true that successive Governors General had found the southern nationalists, led by Zik in the East and more parochially perhaps Awo in the West, a bit of a trial. Zik had just emerged from a Government enquiry into his running of a bank. He had not been exactly cleared but neither had he been jailed, and a more subdued and perhaps wiser Zik, after winning a vote of confidence in a fresh election in the East, seemed prepared to co-operate with the British.
Nigerian statistics were always a bit problematical. My own experience as head of the statistics branch at the Department of Labour had not been reassuring. The number of unemployed in Nigeria - a derisory figure which British politicians would have envied - on slightly closer examination turned out to be the total calling in at the handful of Labour Exchanges in the larger towns.
A possible insoluble problem suddenly loomed less large when the British announced that the North contained 50% of Nigeria's population. What had seemed to be a three-legged race now seemed to be something else. The NPC ruled the North with little opposition, but the West and East were at each other's throats. The North could be unbeatable. The only question was which of the southern leaders would decide to throw in his lot with the North. A Zik in opposition could be dangerous, but a new less belligerent Zik might be safer in Government. One might have thought a largely Moslem West would get along better with the Moslem North, and indeed, once the tragic and futile Biafran war started, such an alliance would come about.
If the British in Whitehall had been able to influence events, these were the thorny problems they would have mulled over. Had they done so, the right man was available to advise, because a former Governor General, Sir John MacPherson, was the top official. If anyone advised Harold Macmillan on Nigeria's possible intractable problems, it was Sir John.
If Sir John disliked Zik, he positively loathed Awo whom he regarded as a smart arse. Awo had responded to the news, which must have been a blow, that the North would have 50% of the votes, with a cheerful resolve to take the war into the North with a small army of election agents and propagandists. Awo had modelled his party machine on the British Conservative Party, and he was to command his troops from a helicopter, from which he would descend and perhaps seem like a god to the simple northern peasant. Awo's plans were noted by the new Governor General with some dismay. Was this another intractable problem looming on the horizon?
Whatever ideas Whitehall came up with to ease the transition, one big decision was taken. It might have been thought desirable to leave everything to the experienced men on the spot. On the other hand, if there were intractable problems, would the experienced men on the spot necessarily be the right men? Even top officials could get to love the country and its people. Tough decisions might need tough people who could take an overall view without sentiment. There were liberals in the Colonial Office, but very few in the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office ran the Sudan and when the Foreign Office cracked the whip the Sudan administrators jumped on the Sudanese. Not everyone trusted these tough ex soccer blues to observe the rules when it came to Sudan's turn to hold elections, and the presence of international observers was insisted on. It is a tribute to the reputation of the British in Nigeria that no one questioned their ability to run honest elections. Not that there had ever actually been any elections to speak of, but that was perhaps the reason no one questioned the honesty of the British. They were after all granting elections and they were going to go! Quit! Exit! Depart forever! No more Governor General in white suit and plumed hat. No more Government House tea parties. No more Union Jacks and Empire Day. No more Residents and District Officers to kow-tow to. Already these local and powerful gods were being renamed Local Government Advisors! What a come down. Little wonder, except in the North, that they deserted their sacred trust almost to a man in favour of the generous compensation lump sum and pension. Or was there a more sinister reason for the defection of these dedicated officials? Had they been ordered to cross a bridge too far?
In came experienced Sudanese officials as Governor General in Lagos, Governor in the North and Chairman of the Public Service Commission. Tough policies might produce casualties and a strong man running the Commission to which unhappy British civil servants would appeal, was a sound precautionary measure. A new Governor in the East rounded off these precautionary measures in the run up to the General Election, which would be in two stages, at Regional (State) level and finally at the Federal and National level.
Unity was now the overriding theme, and it was sensible that it should be so. Precious little had been in evidence during British rule. This great nation not only contained one quarter of Africa's black people, it was in West Africa, unique in having no permanent white population, not one, as white settlement had been banned as the region was so unhealthy. Other colonies amounted to nothing against this giant. Nigeria would be the major force in black African politics. Economically it was rich and would be extremely wealthy when its newly-discovered rich oil fields came on stream. What is not often realised was that the bulk of the British Colonial Service - a misnomer really - was employed in Nigeria. As the colonies employed and paid the officials, only a small secretariat ran the Colonial Office and they were from the Home Civil Service. The so-called Colonial Service was really a small recruiting office, mainly charged with finding decent people to work for small pay in often awful and unhealthy conditions in Nigeria.
But was the necessity of unity being used to cloak some tough policy decisions? Certainly when I questioned British policy in Nigeria in an interview in 1960 with the Governor General, Sir James Robertson, I got a very tough answer. No one could be really surprised when the North won the Federal Elections in 1959. Quickly, the Governor General - even before the results were all in - declared the North the winner and as rapidly blessed an alliance with Zik's party, the NCNC.
I was not at all surprised for I knew, even before the 1956 State elections at Regional level, that this was how it was going to be. The Governor General in 1960 confirmed to me what he had let me know in 1956. There had been an intractable problem and means had been found to resolve it. Unity had made this necessary. The Northern census results were to be challenged in many ways, but they were never to be confirmed or accepted as accurate, and that is still the position thirty years on.
Was that all the necessary action to be taken? Had Zik not been brought to heel with a carefully prepared Bank Enquiry that could easily have jailed him? A close friend of Zik told me more than I can reveal. When I questioned him, as I was a great admirer of Zik at the time, he said,
"The next time there is trouble, Zik will be abroad. He will never be caught as he will always have an alibi."
"What cynical rubbish," I replied.
Having said that, my friend was clearly wrong when it came to the Bank Enquiry, because the British nearly nailed Zik, whether they were justified or not.
After that close brush with the law, a great manipulator took control of Zik's party. Zik had made many great personal sacrifices for his NCNC and had personally financed it for years at great personal cost. Now he was broke and someone who could raise vast sums of money, as if from thin air, would be the real power-broker in Nigerian politics. Chief Festus Okotie Eboh - 'Festering Sam' - was not only a very cheerful character and master crook, he was much loved by the British in Lagos and Whitehall. Okotie Eboh was not his real name - he thought it sounded good. Like Robert Maxwell, not much about him was what it seemed. Like Maxwell too, he was greatly feared and he was also a great wheeler-dealer. The Governor General knew him to be a thief, a master criminal, a trickster, someone totally corrupt. He was also something of a rapist. Not the first person one might think to be made Minister of Finance by the British, after a spell as Minister of Labour.
The NCNC made him Party Treasurer and British officials, principally Charles Bunker, a Senior Labour Officer, were ordered by the Governor General to extract large donations from multi-national companies for the NCNC and NPC. Thus, in 1956, four years before Independence, Government-approved corruption was institutionalised and at a national level by the British. This was the first lesson in democratic politics that the British taught Nigerian politicians. As the NPC in the North were inexperienced in these matters, the British arranged their finances, so they came from Native Administration (local Government) funds. Okotie Eboh thought big, and decided when he became Minister of Labour that he owned the Ministry, so why should he not sell its offices if he chose? He sold a prime office site opposite the Lagos Railway Station to a company, which had long had designs on the site. The Governor General had him over at Government House and told him to be more circumspect next time as people were talking! The importance of Okotie Eboh was that he was the man who could use his newly-acquired wealth to weld the Northern NPC and the Eastern NCNC together. The wedding actually took place with the blessing of the British in 1956 before even the first stage of the Independence Elections. I was a witness at this wedding. It was about unity, and two totally different parties coming together in a partnership to solve an intractable problem. It was a secret wedding and most people believed it took place in 1960 after the results of the Federal Independence Elections were announced.
Awolowo was to pay a big price for being rude to the British and being a smart arse. The British wanted revenge. That very word was to be used, although when Sir James Robertson recorded it, he said it was only natural that revenge against Awo should be sought by the parties who formed the Government. As to why anyone should seek revenge on Awo, Sir James could only suggest that he had invaded the privacy of the Northern Chiefs' harems by flying overhead in a helicopter. The real truth was that he had actually dared to send the British to Coventry and his Party would not speak to British officials! Presumably it was because of this helicopter prank that the British harassed Awo's Action Group when it campaigned in the North and meted out brutal treatment, including turning a blind eye to the murder, of AG campaign workers.
It was in the name of unity that the British Government rigged the Nigerian Independence Elections most successfully from start to finish. I almost wish that Sir James Robertson had not placed his trust in me and confided to me the British Government's plans in 1956 before the elections took place. It put a very heavy and grave responsibility on my shoulders.
29 November 1991
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THE TRIAL (Der Prozess, 1925): Franz Kafka
The confrontation of an individual and a baffling bureaucracy is something I have experienced since the day in 1956 when I realised that British democracy was a fraud. Kafka's hero, Joseph K, is accused of a crime that does not exist, and is made to feel guilty. His attempts to obtain justice lead nowhere. I know these feelings too. My 'crime' was to refuse to break the law by rigging Nigeria's Independence elections. How can I clear myself when I have committed no crime? No crime?! Did I not refuse to obey Whitehall's orders! Did I not let my colleagues down by refusing to commit treason against the Nigerian people! Have I not tried to publicise this evil, covert action which led to the deaths of two million innocent Africans?
I thought that I could walk away, but the Queen's men were determined that, like Humpty Dumpty, I was going to take a great fall and they came after me.
Like Joseph K, I have tried to obtain justice from an authority that will not communicate with me, for the very good reason that they have pronounced me dead. All my attempts to obtain justice have been fruitless. I brought something new out of Africa, a plea for justice for the African people, but they say that that was impossible for I was never in Africa. Will my struggle too culminate after thirty years in total frustration, loss of dignity and death like a dog? Undoubtedly, though I would rather die a dutiful and faithful hound than live for one day as the criminal politician or evil bureaucrat who refuse to answer my letters.
Destroying Nigerian democracy was evil of a very high order. Those who have looked the other way are the many notables, politicians and journalists who have been deaf to my pleas. A handful of politicians and journalists have given me encouragement because they could do no more. They have sustained me. Edmund Burke spoke for me and my experience when he said that "for evil to triumph, good men need do nothing."
31 July 1992
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