THE GUARDIAN (Newspaper of Farringdon Road).htm

The Whore of Farringdon Road

The Politics of Ignorance

Return to Essays

Return to Home Page

The Whore of Farringdon Road

As a Mancunian, liberal, and life-long Fabian and Labour supporter, it may surprise some when I say that, although I have read The Guardian for nearly half a century, I dislike the paper. I do not particularly trust the rest of the press either, for The Independent, though admirable in a number of ways, has been unfair to Labour, and particularly Neil Kinnock, and has blatantly published, almost verbatim, MI5 black propaganda on Irish issues. The Observer employed Kim Philby in very dubious circumstances, and its present ownership does not inspire trust. I read all these newspapers and trust none.

The Guardian employs radical writers, I will be told, so it must be all right. Maxwell employed Paul Foot too, and the Express group employs, or did, Michael Foot - a Beaverbrook admirer - and various other Tribune socialists, but I do not trust those papers either. As a child, I read my father's Daily Mail and have therefore never had a problem with the Tory slant of that paper.

When I was fifteen, I heard Frank Allaun speak on the Press at my youth club at Oswald Road school in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester. Frank was very fair, and anyway did not need to exaggerate his thesis, which was that the Press was owned by capitalists and Tories, and was heavily biased against Labour. I was to know Frank well in later years, but look back on that evening with particular warmth, as it was then that I decided to take an active part in the Labour Party. I assumed that Frank was a Labour man, but was surprised to discover later that he was at that time the regional organiser of the Young Communist League. However, Frank was deeply involved in Labour politics and after 1945 was certainly in the Labour Party, for when I joined the Labour Party League of Youth in Chorlton in that year, Frank was behind it and gave a series of talks on socialism.

I think that Frank was at Metro Vickers during the war and edited the works newspaper. He also wrote for an ILP newspaper, Labour's Northern Voice. This paper published long, spirited essays by Mrs Bruce Glazier, whom Frank adored. (It was edited by an ILP-er with whom Orwell stayed when he went North to write 'The Road to Wigan Pier'. Another Guardian journalist was a regular contributor, but wrote under a pseudonym.) If Frank's politics confused me, I was not the only one, for later he would be thought to be a communist fellow-traveller, but I found Communists very suspicious of him. "Because he's an ex-Communist?" I would ask. "No", they would reply, "because he is not what he seems to be.

Frank wrote to me when I was in the RAF on national service, and I met him again when back in Manchester. I revived the League of Youth in Chorlton, and quickly set about opening branches throughout Manchester. I started to speak in Platt Fields with Frank, and soon incurred his displeasure when I took an anti-Communist line. There would be warmth between us, but then suddenly he would be very cool and seemingly hostile.

When he became a Labour MP, I went to him to reveal that the British Government had rigged Nigeria's independence elections. Frank was quite unhelpful and seemed jealous in some way. When I remarked that I could never be an MP (we were in the tea room at the time) he said, "You're only saying that because you can't get a seat!" I thought this remark childish. Outside on the terrace he said, pointing to the wall of the House, "That's where there'll be a plaque to me one day." I was quite stunned at this. Abruptly he changed tack and invited me to see the House from the Gallery. We were talking as I stepped into a lift, but in mid-sentence he waved good-bye as the lift moved. I had thought we were in the middle of our business, and he had departed. More strangely still, he had played the same silly trick when he had invited me to visit him once at the Guardian office in Cross Street, when he had been appointed Industrial Correspondent. Perhaps my confusion about Frank Allaun spilled over into distrust of The Guardian, but somehow I was not surprised when The Guardian rebuffed me when I tried to get them to take an interest in Whitehall's machinations in Nigeria.

These preliminary remarks are a preamble to explain any seeming prejudice on my part to The Guardian, for in examining The Guardian's refusal to publish my story, I am still a little mystified. Perhaps MI5 has infiltrated The Guardian, or its editors are supine to Whitehall, or playing a cunning game of deception, but one thing is certainly true, The Guardian not only will not publish my story, but is hostile to me too. I have never expected The Guardian to accept the truth of what I am saying without close examination, but no one from that paper has ever spoken to me on Nigeria or shown signs of wanting to. A very curious exchange of letters between myself and a Guardian essayist, who mentioned he had lived in Nigeria, ended abruptly when I seemed to be getting somewhere. I learned later that this mysterious figure - he would not reveal his background or why he had been in Nigeria - was a former Foreign News Editor of The Guardian. The Guardian's Religious Affairs Correspondent had worked in Nigeria too, and was regarded as an expert, having written an excellent book on the country. I had met him when I was twelve because I was a friend of his cousin, but even that would not persuade Schwarz to respond to my letters.

A point made in a letter by this Guardian essayist is the subject of this paper. Whether it is a substantial reason or an excuse for rebuffing me, I do not know. The point made was that the British did not rig the elections - and therefore I was a liar - because they did not need to. The North covered most of the country and had a majority of the seats, and was therefore invincible. The election results were therefore a foregone conclusion. Strangely, this argument was not new to me. I had heard it from Communists who suggested that the worse things got in Nigeria, the better, because a revolutionary situation would develop. Because I loathe this kind of communist claptrap I may have difficulty in writing about it.

Is this what The Guardian is telling me? The clearest exposition of the Guardian line is by the communist writer on Africa, Ruth First, in her book, 'Power in Africa: Political power in Africa and the Coup d'Etat'. Because writers like First equate the British with the devil, British policy is never examined seriously or, I would suggest, truthfully. It is all subsumed under colonialism or imperialism, and is ipso facto a bad thing. It is difficult to write about this kind of nonsense, for otherwise apparently intelligent people accept it. It is quite impossible to point out that much of the British record is good or even excellent. Surely, if making a case, it is important to be fair and to get one's facts right? Sadly, this is not thought to be necessary if you are on the left and discussing Africa. As a result, I find myself appearing to be a supporter rather than a critic of Whitehall policy, for I am for ever, in taking a balanced view, making the point that blanket condemnations of British policy are a nonsense. Some aspects of British policy are bad, and do not need to be exaggerated. As to motivation, though greed and cruelty are there, there is also altruism and genuine goodwill. This is all anathema to the unthinking left. They know, and do not require evidence. So twisted is their logic that they cannot accept that the British rigged the elections, because suggesting this is to accept the thesis that the British could ever run honest elections in Africa, or that there were decent and honest colonial officials.

Certainly I met the blimps and in some ways, I suppose Sir James Robertson had certain blimpish qualities. Indeed he did rig Nigeria's elections, but he was also a human being, and no human being is totally evil, or wrong, or a cardboard figure. Most certainly he gave me a bad time, but he told me to my face what he thought. This was a loaded confrontation and not really fair to me, but he did see me and gave me a chance to accept his terms. I have discussed Robertson elsewhere, because, if we are to get to the truth of what really happened in Nigeria, it is essential to understand and get into the minds of our people. I am in the business of finding the truth - not pursuing a vendetta while blinded by dogma. It is the Ruth First/Guardian thesis that I wish to examine.

Whitehall was fully aware of Northern fears of Southern domination, and may have encouraged them for their own devious purposes, but the fear was real and not imagined. A promise was made to give the North as many or more parliamentary seats than the South. If the simpletons at the Guardian believe that this means that the North inevitably could win power in Nigeria legitimately, they are naive in the extreme. It does follow from this reasoning that the British did not rig the elections because there was no need. My evidence that the elections most definitely were rigged - and who would know better, because I was intimately involved - is an acute embarrassment to the Ruth First/Guardian school of thought. This is why, presumably, they are so anxious not to look at the evidence.

Ruth First was a professional communist worker. She was sincere, dedicated and compassionate. In my opinion, she was also confused, muddled and wrong-headed, and probably so starry-eyed and idealistic that she did not even begin to comprehend that she was a mouthpiece for Stalin's evil empire. We met once, and I liked her, but when we began to talk, I knew that it would not be likely that we could have a proper exchange of views. For brevity I am probably oversimplifying our short meeting. She was helpful, and generous in suggesting that we might meet again, and that she could introduce me to her publisher. In the situation of South Africa - who knows? - perhaps many liberals went communist under those ghastly oppressive conditions. Ruth First was assassinated, probably by the South African government. If, in differing with Ruth First I seem to be slighting a brave and courageous fighter against oppression in South Africa, I ask forbearance. West Africa is not South Africa. Perhaps I will have an opportunity to explain this in a paper, as it is perhaps this confusion that is responsible for the Guardian's total misunderstanding of West African politics. It is probable that it is simply ignorance of the totally different circumstances that is responsible for the impasse between the Guardian and myself.

Let us examine the comic-book view of Nigeria presented by my critics at the Guardian. Consider the size of the North. A line on the map separating North and South represents what? Initially, an administrative division. The North was run from Kaduna, the South from Lagos. The South was further divided into East and West, run from Enugu and Ibadan.

The differences between North and South are real enough, without being exaggerated, and to some extent British policy made these differences more acute. For example, the British kept Christian missionaries, and therefore a system of schools and educational provision generally, out of the North. Yet there are many other cleavages in Nigeria that are not North/South. There was indirect rule in the North. When introduced into the South it was a failure. The generalisations - crude and incorrect - such as Muslim North and Christian South - have a limited usefulness. Polo-playing pricks in the North and black-loving LSE liberals in the South was a good joke, but the officials in North and South were basically the same people! The romantic, sentimental caricature of the Northern official, to which Anthony Kirk-Greene has perhaps unwittingly contributed from Oxford - has been harmful to truth and is quite simply a caricature. There were progressive officials in the North and backward officials in the South. The hundreds of tribal groups and linguistic areas did not neatly divide at an administrative frontier, drawn on the map by the British.

So what are First and the Guardian saying when they state that the North had a majority of the seats? That there was no democracy in the North? I do not think so. Rather that the North was pro-Emir, pro-British, pro-NPC, and there was some truth in these generalisations because the history of the North under the British had been authoritarian and anti-democratic. At conversational level one did talk of a backward, reactionary, Muslim North of illiterate peasants, ruled by authoritarian native administrations and Emirs. There was a limited truth in this, but it was not the whole truth and Azikiwe and Awolowo sincerely believed that, given a fair contest, which they absolutely did not get, they would appeal to the ordinary Northern voter over the heads of their natural rulers, and command a majority. It was not a foregone conclusion that the NPC would win. Had it been so, the extensive machinations, that I observed, to secure an NPC victory would not have been necessary or have happened.

The Guardian, in not listening to me - someone who had direct and top-level experience - is concocting a story and disregarding evidence. As often happens, this kind of dotty left-wing extremism meets and finds an ally with the right-wing extremism of Whitehall and MI5, which claim that everything in Nigeria was above board. I have written papers explaining British machinations and the cover up provided, unwittingly perhaps, by Ken Post's book on the independence elections, so do not need to explain the covert action here. The point I am making is that it is an absolute nonsense to talk of 'the North' in the terms of Ruth First and the Guardian. There were Muslims in the South and particularly in the West, who were progressive. To equate this great religion with backwardness and reaction is totally unfair and inaccurate.

Zik and Awo were deeply conservative too, even though they talked of socialism. To them, socialism meant piped water and hard top roads, schools and dispensaries. I can assure the Guardian that the Governor General and headquarters staff in Lagos generally did not share the Guardian's simplistic views about the North. The great covert action to neutralise Zik and appoint Okotie Eboh as his minder and as the real force in the NCNC, would not have been necessary if 'the North's' win was inevitable. A major battle took place to keep Awo from campaigning effectively in the North. None of this would have been necessary if the Guardian had been remotely correct in its bizarre thesis. The oppressive regime in the North would not have been necessary if the Northern peasants had been as docile and stupid as the Guardian paints them. One can be uneducated and illiterate, and still be wise and sensible. All this is, I hope, not over the heads of the Guardian and its Religious Affairs Correspondent. Illiterate, too, may mean illiterate in English, but not illiterate when it comes to reading the Koran.

The Guardian's line of reasoning is quite spurious and designed to deceive. It was not a supposed majority in one part of the country which determined the result of the election. This was totally irrelevant. A perfectly legitimate election would have been possible, had the British not rigged the results. The major qualification to this statement has to be the presumption that the British census figures had not been tampered with, allowing seats to be created where the population did not justify them. Where such seats might have been created, the registration and voting figures had to be rigged to justify the creation of the seats, for very low figures would have given the game away. The presence of agents and candidates could have led to the detection of such fraud, and the fact that there was widespread harassment of opposition agents and candidates in the North, with British officials looking the other way, is strong evidence that such hanky-panky was in fact undertaken.

Once election fraud by the authorities, in this case the British, has taken place, the matter is not over and done with. Subsequent elections also have to be manipulated, and this is one reason why elections in supposedly independent Nigeria got off to a very bad start and deteriorated even further. The British had set in motion a sequence of events which replicated the original fraudulent election results. Unravelling deceit on this colossal scale is not a simple task. Nor was the original criminality simple. A great deal of planning went into ensuring a victory for the pro-British North.

The Guardian, by not taking evidence from me and others involved, which would have proved conclusively the truth of my story, have destroyed their credibility. There is something rotten here in the Guardian's behaviour. It is their own standards by which they should be judged, and by those standards which they proclaim, they have lamentably failed. How has this come about? The events I have described are shocking, particularly as they strike at the roots of Britain's reputation as a great democracy, which espouses decency and fair play. Presumably this is too much for the editors at the Guardian. Mr Preston may say he would have published in 1960, but if he lacks the courage to publish now, it is absolutely certain he would not have had the courage then. To claim, as the Guardian has, that its readers are simply not interested in this treachery, is to insult the Guardian's readers, but it is only an excuse. There are all kinds of treachery and many degrees in each category. An editor can protect himself by threatening to publish secrets he is privy to. Secrets can be traded and deals done. Once such a deal has been done, the paper is stuck with it. Perhaps Mr Preston is holding the line for a deal done by his predecessor. There may, of course, be more sinister reasons. With the treatment I have received from the Guardian over many years as evidence, it is probable that the Guardian has been infiltrated by MI5. However, given what British journalists will do without being bribed or threatened, does it matter?

6 June 1992

 Return to Essays

 Return to Home Page

The Politics of Ignorance: Nigeria and the Cross Street Hacks

Professor John P. Mackintosh wrote a book of 650 pages and concluded that, if the Northern politicians could command their own Region, the North could rule Nigeria in perpetuity as the North had a majority of the seats.

This was played back to me by a retired journalist on behalf of the Guardian when I tried to get that newspaper to take an interest in how Dr Azikiwe and Awolowo had been cheated of power by the British. The Guardian has no interest in British machinations overseas, treason, election rigging or whatever. They want to know nothing, but if pressed further, they will say that they know it already and anyway it is not important.

The Guardian does, however, have a point. The most vital stratagem in ensuring that the pro-British North would rule was to give them 50% of the seats in the House of Representatives. Clearly the Guardian believes that Professor Mackintosh wrote 649 pages too many as did the Guardian's own Walter Schwarz - a childhood acquaintance - in his excellent 'Nigeria', and also many other academics who have tried to explain why the Nigerian Civil War took place with the deaths of up to two million young people.

There are many other mysteries here, and I happen to know quite a few of the answers as I was closely involved in the British plots against Zik and Awo. An additional mystery is why the Guardian prefers to bask in its ignorance. Actually, the Guardian is not so naive. They already know what happened in Nigeria, but if they admit it they will feel obliged to publish. They play the same game as the British Government and are presumably on the payroll. Geoffrey Taylor of the Guardian is coy and will not reveal what his experience is of Nigeria. Walter Schwarz was there during the Civil War in the late 60's and before that was employed on the best informed and prestigious magazine, 'West Africa.'

I was entrusted with a major role in the election rigging on the personal orders of Sir James Robertson, the Governor General, but that excites no interest from Taylor or Schwarz. Besides which, they may believe it was a good thing that the North was given 50%. Perhaps the North merited 50% of the seats. Anyway, the British had their reasons and Awo and Zik were both revealed to be engaged in criminal activity by commissions of enquiry.

Schwarz deserves respect. His book is objective, well researched and scholarly. In fact I suggested he update it and also incorporate the solutions which I have arrived at, by virtue of having been an insider to several of the major problems that scholars of Nigeria still wrestle with. Taylor sounds like an ex-Marxist, like Ken Post who wrote a big book on Nigeria's independence election which, sadly, is deeply flawed. Both Post and Taylor have now swung to the other extreme, and their eyes fill with tears each time they see the label on a Camp coffee bottle. They are back in the Boys' Own Paper they read so avidly at school, and regret the sweeping criticisms they once made of colonialism and our great empire.

The 50% Northern fix was only stage one of the master plan. Stage two was to keep the Southerners out of the North and to collect the maximum legitimate vote for the NPC. What that vote was we shall never know, because the win was essential and the numbers were juggled when and where necessary. Stage three was to destabilise Zik and place him under the control of Okotie Eboh. This was the stage at which I came in. It was my job to guarantee the safety of Okotie Eboh's Warri seat. My colleague Charles Bunker's job was to funnel large sums of money from British multinationals like Shell and BP to Okotie Eboh, who used the money to keep the bankrupt NCNC on the road. (He also funnelled vast sums to a Swiss Bank through middle men in the City of London). Okotie Eboh was the vital link man between the NCNC and the NPC. Stage four in 1962 was to destroy Awolowo, and the final stage was intended to remove Zik from the largely ceremonial post of President and scatter the NCNC to the wind.

The wily Zik, as I have explained elsewhere, decided it was time to leave town. Balewa should have seen this as a very dangerous sign, but he was bloated with success at having almost destroyed his Southern enemy and also having established an almost total Northern dictatorship with the assistance of his beloved British ally. Operation Damissa took place early one morning in January 1966.

The British plot to destroy Nigerian independence was responsible for the deaths of up to two million young people in the bloody civil war which was the direct consequence of this evil. The Guardian would not listen to me in 1960, and they therefore have good reason not to come clean now. These people were only journalists and not the sort of people one would expect to be responsible or to aspire to a sense of honour, therefore we should not look for contrition. The paper was once great but has long been heavily infiltrated by the SIS and the CIA. Its radical stance is largely due to these agents who find this cover most protective.

Nigeria is controlled by a Northern-based military regime as it has been for the past thirty years. There has been no true democracy in Nigeria and there is no certainty we shall ever see it. Sadly, we will never know whether Awolowo might have been the great leader Nigeria and Africa so desperately needed in the 1960's; a handful of grubby hacks helped see to that.

12 March 1992

 Return to Essays

 Return to Home Page