ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE (Shakespeare. As You Like It. Act II Scene vii) - The Major Players
The A, B, Zeek of Nigerian Politics
The Peripatetic Dr Zik
The Plot to Kill Zik
Zig, Zag, Zik
Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa
Balewa in Brief
Agent, Apologist or Historian?
The Word of an Historian
The Indiscreet Racist
The Legend of Lugard Avenue
Lugard's Lunacy and Perham's Infatuation
Memo to a Colonial Governor
Sir James Robertson
Rigging of Nigeria's Independence Elections
NB Items starting with ! are recent additions or updates.
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The A, B, Zeek of Nigerian Politics
"Zeek! Zeek! Zeek!" screamed the crowds of Nigerians in Lagos as Dr Azikiwe's cavalcade swept by, and our Nanny, Comfort, jumped for joy when she saw the great nationalist leader.
Of the three eminent Nigerian leaders only Balewa, who did not want Independence and was delighted with the continuing British rule through the qualified Independence granted, led his country as Prime Minister. If that is paradoxical it is not all, for the supposedly peaceful Balewa was assassinated in 1966 to considerable public acclaim, while the fiery turbulent Zik is alive and well at the age of 92. Chief Awolowo, whom I favoured in 1960 - perhaps because his ideas reflected my own which were Fabian, and he too was a Methodist - died some years ago. Like Zik, he had waited for a call to high office that never came.
A member of my old College, Magdalen, has written a biography of 900 pages of Balewa's life, and I enjoyed reading it enormously as it contains a great deal of fascinating information, much of it new to me. Trevor Clark served in the North of Nigeria and here we have the authentic voice of the Northern official. Not just loyalty, but love of the North, its peoples, and its leaders like Balewa. There was a great need for this account, which is not to say that it should be the only one. A more critical account, based on what was often suspected, but which I can demonstrate from direct experience, that Balewa was a stooge of the British and went along with the rigging of the Independence elections, is also needed.
If Southerners are prejudiced against Northerners and vice versa, I also have a prejudice in favour of Trevor Clark, quite apart from the playful desire to be friendly to a fellow Magdalensis, for while happy to argue fiercely with ex-Northern officials, I do have a reluctance to be beastly to them for the benefit of those who never knew what a rotten job it could be to work in Nigeria. It was poorly paid, often unrewarding slog in an extremely unhealthy part of Africa. Even so I am inclined to blame the evil acts committed by Balewa on his British masters. Balewa's many fine qualities are indisputable and are enumerated, even if just a little exaggerated, in Trevor Clark's 900 pages, which needs to be read alongside these notes for a balanced appraisal. Briefly, I am saying that democracy has not yet been tried in Nigeria, and only a qualified Independence has been experienced. Sovereignty is a myth too.
It is possible that Nigeria, even given a true Independence with a true democracy and genuine sovereignty, might have ended in chaos and tears for there were what seemed insuperable problems at Independence; but sadly we will never know, because of British treachery in which Balewa was an accomplice and a beneficiary.
In great books on Nigeria the authors thank a selection of experts and celebrities. I am not one of them, but I see friends and colleagues and acquaintances mentioned, and eagerly search for the truths and the secrets I know those people were privy to, but they are never mentioned. The British got away with their treason in Nigeria because it was well planned, took years to implement, and was recorded, orchestrated and hymned by many writers and historians, some of whom knew they were taking part in a conspiracy against truth. The conventional British line, which shows the British to have done a great job in Nigeria, is largely true if a line is drawn at 1956, for this is when the first stage of the Independence elections were rigged. After 1956 the treachery spreads, the covert actions are mounted, the cover story is peddled, and it all goes wrong and ends in a flood or sea of bloodshed, which even now in 1992 has probably not yet run its course.
Those who come across these draft notes towards a book on British treachery, which I will probably never see in print, will excuse my brevity. The length of these pieces reflects the energy available to me due to the chronic ill health I acquired while an official in Lagos. The spiteful will claim, have claimed, that I cannot tell the truth because sick. Whether malice is also a sickness is an interesting question.
What is absolutely true is that I am not in possession of all the facts. My authority for this is an excellent one, which will be acclaimed by my Northern colleagues, for it was Sir James Robertson himself. We were standing in his office - which seems strange, and now I wonder if that was so. It sounds awkward, but I think that was intended. It did not seem so odd at the time, but I was young then. These days I am rather keen on not standing too much. We must assume that the treachery was painful to Robertson and Whitehall. As he told me, it was necessary. No doubt it was done for the best of reasons. Zik and Awo were no doubt dangerous and - worse - unpredictable, and if 'elected', perhaps they would want to settle old scores with the Northern pro-British leaders like Balewa and Bello. It would have been unconscionable to have stood aside and let such skulduggery take place. It was just and sensible and prudent, in Nigeria's best interest, to preserve stability and good order by a little nudge on the helm, as a parent might guide a child's faltering first steps. It was indeed much more than that, it was duty. So parents sometimes fib to their children - an unpleasant and irksome necessity. Young Smith would not understand all that and steps would have to be taken to silence him. The fact was that he knew far too much already. The Governor General confided all this to me as if it were a routine matter and nothing of consequence like the weather or cricket.
James Coleman's 'Nigeria: Background to Nationalism' is one of those great landmarks written with great energy by young Americans in the 1950's. Tucked away in the notes is a quotation from Zik, which I have never seen quoted anywhere in the hundreds of works on Nigeria that I have consulted. What is absolutely sure is that it was duly noted and underscored on Zik's intelligence dossier. It was from an address given at the time of his election as President of the NCNC in 1947.
"Let it be firmly impressed upon the minds of any person in this country that I regard all people who uphold the status quo and regard the present political servitude of Nigeria as the best of all possible worlds as enemies of progress. Just as worshippers of imperialism must be viewed as international criminals, like their Nazi counterparts, so must their adherents and stooges, who are in reality, accomplices.... But I warn [the stooges] that, when Nigeria shall come into her own, and we are in power... every one of them, indigenous or alien, shall be held to strict accountability and shall be impeached for high treason against the safety of the State of Nigeria."
The address was entitled 'Before Us Lies the Open Grave' and it was published in Zik's own newspaper, the West African Pilot for 31 December 1947.
One can see why Zik might need to be checked. However, the British were not all colonial oppressors. Was not Zik entitled to feel angry at those who denied him political freedom in his own land? Furthermore, who knows how many villainous deeds had been perpetrated by the British and were filed away in Zik's memory under 'Retribution'? Perhaps our people knew that Zik was informed in the matter of all this skulduggery and reasoned that he would naturally seek revenge. 'The Open Grave' was a bit ominous, to say the least. Even so, Zik's language was often inflammatory and exaggerated and could be replaced next day by his deploring the ranting of his young rebels, or a crusade against Communism, or a declaration to defend our British homeland, as at the start of the Second World War. If our people were confused by turncoat Zik, so were our enemies the Communists, because Zik had once stood on a Communist Party platform in London and expressed solidarity with the CP in its struggle against colonialism.
In 1956, a decade after 'The Open Grave', the British neutralised Zik. Zik's change of heart is demonstrated at page 476 in Coleman as Zik's 'masterstroke.' What Coleman does not know is what was behind Zik's apparent somersault. Doubtless Zik believed that, if he pretended to succumb to British blackmail to secure independence, once the British had gone he would be really free to take charge of his country. That was clever of Zik, but he underestimated British cunning. They anticipated that move and after 1 October 1960 were still several moves ahead of Zik.
The Northern leaders after Independence proved themselves to be not just passive dupes or stooges or lackeys of the British. They were quite ruthless and determined to put the vile and unspeakable Southerners down. Perhaps Trevor Clark does not quite bring this out. Zik might have known this because he himself was born and educated in the North. Had he really been just a harmless windbag under British rule? Is it possible that Zik too had acquired a streak of Northern ruthlessness during his upbringing in the North? Did Balewa underestimate the despised Southerner? The proverb Clark selects for his Introduction is apt:
Dan Hakin da ka rena, shi kan tsone maka ido, which translates as 'The blade of grass you despise can pierce your eye.'
6 April 1992
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The Peripatetic Dr Zik':
Dr Zik was robbed by the British at Independence of the power that he had fought for. If it seemed that in the election of 1959 it was his fellow nationalist Awolowo who was targeted by the British - as he was - it was only because Zik had been set up and neutralised three years earlier. Zik was nobbled by the Bank Enquiry of 1956, which simply sprang a trap elaborately prepared by British intelligence. In 1962, having clipped Awo's wings in the 1959 election, the same trick was pulled on Awo by the Coker Commission, as had been used on Zik six years before. The Senior Resident in the West, as he told me in 1960, had for years had a safe full of evidence against Awo. The timing was crucial. Nipping an offence in the bud can lead to a minor breach being corrected. Left to develop into a major misdemeanour and strategically timed, the same offence can be devastating.
Zik had a reputation for devious behaviour, which was well deserved, but he had learned from masters of deceit. The British used every possible stratagem to defeat Zik and there was no intelligence technique that was not employed against him. His 'phone was tapped; his mail opened, or even destroyed, routinely. Plots and dirty tricks were used; conspiracies and sabotage encouraged. That Zik survived this barrage of assaults by a determined enemy is a tribute to the skill of the old fox. Sadly, he did not survive unscathed. By 1956 Zik was caged. Suddenly he is a damp squib on the political scene. His trips to Northern leaders were not those of a major politician seeking alliances but a defeated burnt-out leader begging for scraps.
Zik was a realist. The Bank Enquiry had not only bankrupted him personally, but left his great NCNC, the vessel which would guarantee him power, drifting on to the rocks. The British had struck at his weak point, the money needed for political action. Suddenly to allow political action in a hastily constructed democracy, a house that Jack built, without provision for financing political parties, was irresponsible but calculated. Nigeria was a vast empire of small nations but its politicians were relatively poor people. The graft they employed to pay for political action was a necessary stratagem, hopefully justified in the struggle for freedom from the colonial yoke. What is lawful and decorous in a settled and mature democracy may not be fitting on the battlefield of a struggle to remove a great imperial power from its unlawfully won conquests.
The British built in the legal loopholes in the Regional Marketing Boards and stood back as both Awo and Zik used them to finance political action. The problem was one of perception and trust. For all their tirades against the British, both Zik and Awo were seduced by the English ploys of fair play, decent behaviour, cricket and the rule of law. Educated in the West, they succumbed to the temptation to see themselves as candidates for acceptance by the English establishment. Zik went further along this path after 1956 simply because he knew he had been beaten. He would rest up and bide his time. Meanwhile he would be President and wear a Field Marshal's uniform and try to get a string of medals. Forced to the sidelines, he would have a ringside seat at the humiliation of his implacable opponent, Awo, by the vengeful Northerners.
It would soon become evident to Zik that the NCNC might be next for the chop. With Akintola ruling the West in the NPC interest and a Mid West State ruled by the NPC, it was becoming evident that the East was no longer indispensable as the NPC's ally. The Northerners had never wanted Zik as President and had always loathed him, standing as he did for everything in the South that the North hated. Zik too was extremely frustrated. Since 1956 he had been a figurehead. The British-backed Okotie Eboh, with seemingly unlimited financial resources, now controlled the NCNC. Okotie Eboh had little or nothing in common with Zik, NCNC nationalism or the East. He was from the Mid West and was to all intents and purposes a close ally of the NPC. Okotie Eboh's power came from his unlimited funds. These came from British and other firms by courtesy of the British administration. My colleague Charles Bunker had established this conduit at the instigation of the Governor General in 1956.
The hypocrisy of the British is truly breathtaking. At the very time in 1956 when Zik was being exposed as dishonest, the British were pressurising commercial interests for contributions to Okotie Eboh, which would enable him to replace Zik as the power broker in the NCNC! Having defeated Awo and the Action Group as well as Zik in the North in 1959 by astonishing, blatant chicanery, the British exposed Awo in 1962 for his high-handed use of public funds. The treason of the British in all this chicanery, gerrymandering and election rigging was routine, but perfectly in order because it was deemed necessary to establish stability and unity in Nigeria. Now charges of treason were needed to reinforce the accusations of dishonesty against Awolowo. Unlike the substantial, real treason of the British, Awolowo's alleged treason was pathetic and laughable.
Nevertheless the British were merciful. They were happy to see Awo go to jail for only ten years. They could, after all, have had him executed. However, there was nothing really personal in all this. In British eyes, when it is a criminal's time to cop it, he should go quietly. Framing of likely guilty suspects is an old tradition with the British. Once Awo had been sent down it would be someone else's turn and there would be no hard feelings. In 1966 it became suddenly essential for Awo to be rehabilitated quickly and very neatly used to help persecute Zik, who had been last year's favoured British flavour. There is a practised symmetry here, distilled from centuries of uninhibited wrongdoing. The British have to be flexible and enterprising and sometimes ruthless with rascals and rogues and rebels, as they were with Ben Franklin when they opened his letters. Imagine the rage and disgust they felt when they found that Franklin had purloined letters and was spying on them? No one but an American rotter would stoop to such conduct! British hypocrisy is such a delight unless one happens to be on the receiving end!
There is no evidence that Zik had Balewa and Akintola and Okotie Eboh killed. He was, I think, out of town at the time. Who knows whether the sad news affected his recovery.
Zik had been sorely tried for ten years by the machinations of the British and the Northerners. It is ironic that, had he died, the young Majors' coup would not have been perceived, as it was, as an Igbo plot. Did it matter who put the young Majors up to their bloody deed? If everyone who wanted Okotie Eboh dead had been a suspect, the whole nation would have been on trial. The young Majors were seen initially as public benefactors. Sadly, because Zik was out of town, up to two million of his people were to die.
Had the British not cheated Zik and Awo of their rightful inheritance of power and the leadership of an independent Nigeria, it might have all turned out quite differently. It was the British who created Nigeria. Was it the British who aborted the new nation in a fit of pique on receiving their marching orders?
19 February 1992
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The Plot to Kill Zik
The British adored their stooge, Balewa. After all, he was British made. They heartily disliked Awolowo because he was clever, sensible and moral. Here was a true leader of his people to fear. It was Awo who could have united Nigeria as a sober, balanced and realistic leader. Awo had to be stopped for fear he would upset the Northern bandwagon. Ironically, Awo was safely in jail when the young Majors staged their military coup, which removed Britain's boys from the political scene. How the British must have wished, as they contemplated the destruction of their highly successful master plan for post-Independence Nigeria, that they had activated the contingency plot to poison Dr Azikiwe. For if Awo was feared for his cleverness, and Zik ridiculed for his vanity and mercurial nature, it was Zik who had poured forth his hatred of the colonial regime for a decade through the pages of his West African Pilot, which was Britain's bete noire.
My own appreciation of Zik's character - and he was certainly devious - came from my friend, Francis Nwokedi, who was one of Zik's highly placed lieutenants in the administration. Francis was one of our boys, and needed to display total loyalty to the British if he were to prosper. His opportunity came during the Enugu shootings where he displayed great skill in defusing what had the potential to be a highly embarrassing situation for the British. Francis was commended for his role, and established as one Ibo who could be trusted. He was rightly judged to be a capable, clever careerist, who was cynical about nationalist politics. He was cleverer than George Foggon, the Labour Commissioner, but shared his obsessive ambitions, and understood and got on well with him. For the British, Nwokedi was a type we understood well, as he fitted the stereotype of the Scot on the make, which fitted a number of the proconsuls we sent out to Nigeria. Nwokedi had no interest in Communism and was indifferent to abstract political ideas. As a cunning manipulator himself, he understood all too well how Zik had to be tricky and quick on his feet to survive so much British hostility. As I have recounted elsewhere, Francis explained to me how Zik would always be one step ahead of the British and most certainly never found at the scene of a crime.
Every Ibo civil servant was an unpaid member of Zik's own Intelligence Service. However, although the ubiquitous, loyal Ibo civil servant was well informed, the secret file system and exclusion of even top African civil servants from sensitive positions was intended to protect our political plans for Zik's future. Even so, it was not difficult to divine British attitudes to Zik and to guess that contingency plans did exist to 'silence' or neutralise him. For his part, Zik made it clear that he feared assassination by the British. The colonial regime pooh-poohed this as evidence of Zik's paranoia and his desire to project himself as a persecuted, fearless nationalist. Zik was open to ridicule by the British because he was conceited and vain and took strenuous efforts to avoid going to jail. On this score he had little to fear, for the British too wanted to avoid turning Zik into a martyr. We needed to neutralise him quietly. Assassination would have been counterproductive, unless carried out in such a way that no blame could be attached to the British.
Poisons were the order of the day for British covert operations, and 'Porton Down specials' for all occasions did exist, as Eden was aware when he ordered Egypt's Nasser to be poisoned following on the seizure of the Suez Canal. The Americans too, with whom we shared our knowledge of poisons and chemical and biological weapons, plotted a similar fate for Cuba's Castro. Contingency plans to disable, eliminate or otherwise silence Zik most certainly did exist and what seemed to be Zik's paranoid fears and hypochondria were quite well founded. Even after Independence Zik's fear continued, and he travelled everywhere with a contingent of medical staff. By that time Zik had been effectively neutralised and apparently outwitted by British machinations. Zik had been shunted into the political wilderness with the prestigious but powerless post of Governor General and then, when Nigeria became a Republic, President.
The events of 1966, however, proved to the British that, if Zik had been neutralised, his power to use others to subvert the British master plan for Nigeria was still a reality. If there is a shred of evidence to link Zik with the awesome military coup of 1966, it has never materialised. Zik was in England receiving medical treatment at the time. However, there was widespread suspicion of a Zikist plot, which was to surface and lead to the bloody Biafran Civil War. I have explained elsewhere that, if Zik had been assassinated by the young Majors, two million young people's lives might have been saved in that totally unnecessary conflict.
This was the background to the sensational disclosure during the early euphoric years of Independence that a plot to kill Dr Azikiwe at Apapa (the port at Lagos) had been foiled by the prompt action of the Intelligence Services. It was extremely embarrassing to the British because a senior British official was allegedly involved. The truth was richly comic. There was indeed a 'plot' at Apapa, but it was a plot of land, a highly sought after plot, developed by the Federal Public Works and Lagos Executive Development Board. The Board re-housed Lagosians from the squalor of Lagos Island, and a senior Nigerian politician wanted a plot for a relative. This was quite improper and was resisted as far as possible by the totally honest and incorruptible British official, but political reality removed any choice he had in the matter. He arranged to meet the politician outside the House of Representatives to discuss allocating the required plot.
The British had established a Police Special Branch during the colonial period and plain clothes meant that police were disguised as market women, clerks, or whatever. On this particular sweltering day outside the House of Representatives, the Police were well represented amongst the beggars and traders who hassled passing civil servants and politicians. It was the sharp ears of a beggar in rags who eavesdropped on a conversation between a senior politician and a British official. The Plot at Apapa was the subject of discussion. The British official found the matter distasteful and was nervous. If he spoke in a roundabout way, it was because he was not accustomed to backhander deals which were becoming the order of the day in other Government Departments. Arrangements for the 'plot' at Apapa were in hand. Everything would go according to plan. The 'plot' was ready.
At Police Headquarters the news of a Plot at Apapa could only mean one thing to an Igbo police officer. The beloved Dr Zik was due to visit Apapa with his usual cavalcade of cars and supporters. The British had been rumbled. Zik was to be assassinated by the British at Apapa. This was a total nonsense. The totally innocent British official was interrogated and his story of a plot of land ridiculed as a specious cover story. In due course he was to be sworn to secrecy and deported, despite his protestations. It was the cock-up theory in action. Proof of how easy it could be to manufacture conspiracy theories out of innocent happenings. Which does not, however, explain the total panic in the offices of the British High Commission and in Whitehall. It was true that a totally false story of a planned British assassination plot could still be politically embarrassing to Whitehall. What produced the panic amongst the British was the knowledge that there did exist contingency plans to assassinate Zik. The black farce, which had developed outside the House of Representatives, could have ended up as a major political crisis for the British in this capital of Black Africa.
The British were successful in suppressing news of the Plot at Apapa. Steps had to be taken to ensure that the thoroughly frightened British official never revealed details of what he thought was a total farce. Colonel Henderson was, I think, the Director of the LEDB whose career was cut short like mine. Our colleague, Arthur Skinner, the Director of Federal Public Works, tried to thwart his Minister's plans to award the Niger Bridge contract to someone who offered him a heavy percentage, and Arthur too, after a struggle, gave up. Neither of my colleagues knew anything of Porton Down specials or poisons but, strangely, Arthur like myself developed a rare tropical disease. He was to be diagnosed eventually as having tropical sprue, a disease rarely seen in Africa, but more common in the Far East. His disease would later be known as coeliac sprue and he would develop an associated condition, dermatitis herpetiformis.
How strange! When I stumbled on secret British machinations to destabilise Dr Azikiwe in the late 1950's and remove him from effective power, I was silenced too. I was warned by a Secret Service official to flee before they killed me. My health collapsed and I developed a tropical disease rarely seen in Africa - tropical sprue, coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis.
16 April 1993
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Zig, Zag, Zik
Of course Zik must have inspired the military coup of January 1966. Had he not been side-tracked into the ceremonial position of President? This was Zik, the great nationalist leader rendered powerless. This was tolerable when the NCNC was in an alliance with the NPC, which persecuted Awolowo's opposition Action Group. However, having broken Awo and put him in jail for ten years on trumped-up charges, the NCNC itself was now being targeted. Surely the millions of young Ibos in the Army, professions and the Civil Service, who loved Zik, must have let their love boil over into unconstitutional violence? This is an attractive theory and might seem logical and reasonable in explaining total unreason, but it is only a theory. There is little evidence of Igbo responsibility and none of Dr Zik's. Each assertion of Ibo involvement can be countered by a counter-argument. For example, the young Majors were largely Ibo? Yes, but the many more NCOs and ordinary soldiers were Northerners.
I have made some notes which seem to indicate Zikist involvement. I must in fairness take a contrary line to see if the weight of the evidence points elsewhere.
Whoever killed the Northern leaders and their allies, should not the abominable behaviour of those politicians show clearly that the Southerners generally had been provoked beyond endurance? In that respect the responsibility for what happened must belong to the Northern junta. Even if logic would implicate the Southerners, this excludes another pragmatic rationale, often found to be involved in explosive situations, and that is the cock-up theory. Illegality by the North did provoke a violent and illegal reaction from the young majors, but millions who might have dreamt of revenge were apathetic, as probably Zik was, even if tempted. It is even more probable that his respect for the rule of law totally excluded even thoughts of a bloody reaction.
A Zikist conspiracy theory might go beyond inspiring or backing the young Majors and extend to replacing them with General Ironsi, but reason knocks this on the head. There was no certainty that the Northerners would not respond promptly to the coup and place a Northerner in charge of the headless State. As it happened, when Ironsi did take charge, he abolished Zik's post as President. The latter point is made in a curious study of the coup by D.J.M. Muffett, a Northern sympathiser, who was a close friend of Sir A. Bello. (Let Truth be Told. 1982. Zaria). Not unreasonably as a passionate Northern sympathiser, Muffett is extremely suspicious regarding Zikist involvement, but what is most conspicuous by its absence is any recognition that the British were deeply involved, not only in Northern politics, but through the total power of the North with every aspect of Southern and Federal politics.
Let us try to get closer to the killings, which showed that all claims made by the British for Nigerian democracy, sovereignty and independence were but myths. Why 15 January? Muffett's friends, Bello and Balewa, destroyed any prospect of Nigerian democracy when they took power by criminal false pretences following the rigging of the independence elections by the British. One foul deed leads inevitably to another and another. There was not only guilty knowledge, but also the small problem of the next election. There was also the fear of being found out. This is why the Western Region leaders had to be destroyed. Bello and Balewa, firmly controlled and directed by the British, had been acting criminally at least since 1956, and the West was still not at peace under the thumb of the pro-British North. A final solution was called for. The military would take charge and the date of 'Operation No Mercy' was set for 17 January. And the Army rebelled against their political masters. It was not unruly Westerners who were killed, but violent, criminal pro-British Bello and Balewa. Operation Damissa was not quite the operation Bello and Balewa intended, nor did they expect to be operated on with such surgical precision. It seems that they got some of their own medicine at the hands of the very young men they had depended on to eliminate their enemies once and for all.
Zik was in London. Even if totally innocent, perhaps he had with his remarkable political intuition guessed something was beginning to smell. It was true that he had been a party to the destruction of the West that took precedence over the preservation of Nigerian democracy, or even Nigeria itself. Zik's hands were not clean. He was now rebelling against his erstwhile allies, the NPC, because, having cut Awo down, they could bring Zik to book and settle more old scores. Zik's supporters had seen Zik's game and, while his life was to be spared, they saw no reason to let him continue to pretend that he was the all-powerful President. And let us note that the Igbo Majors were going to the rescue of the West. True they were next for the chop, but even so, what they did led to the release of Awo and his colleagues from prison.
Muffett says that Balewa dreamed of a coalition with himself in charge, in other words a recognition of the fact that there never had been any serious attempt to establish democracy in Nigeria. The British had always intended Nigeria to be ruled by a benevolent dictatorship. It was not only Balewa who was a lackey as was often said, but Bello too. It was all becoming a bit obvious and sick-making. Operation No Mercy was the last straw.
Given the scenario of 15 January and hindsight of a civil war that cost up to one million lives, I regret that Zik and the Eastern Region Prime Minister were not assassinated. Had they been killed, a million other lives might not have been lost, for the plot was perceived as an Igbo conspiracy. The deaths of two Ibo politicians would have silenced this accusation which had such deadly consequences.
Zik's behaviour was erratic and that was a fact, but the role of the British is not brought out in Muffett's account. If it were, Zik's peripatetic approach to politics might make more sense. Anyway, the zigzag approach worked for Zik. He survived while Nigeria died. Had British treachery been absent, Nigerian democracy might have been properly delivered, practised and perhaps even taken root. Zik the shadow happily had a long life; unhappily he was destroyed as a great political figure by British blackmail in 1956, when the British placed their best boy Okotie Eboh in position, supplanting Zik as leader of the parliamentary NCNC. In 1966 Zik zigzagged once too often. For the sake of Nigeria, it might have been preferable for him to die with Balewa, Bello and Akintola.
4 April 1992
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Balewa in Brief
Trevor Clark's biography is a loving life of an honest politician with no faults, who served Nigeria faithfully and was struck down while in pursuit of his ideals of peace, unity, and love of his disparate peoples...
Trevor Clark's biography is of a family man, a teacher and farmer and reluctant politician, who loved the British who had served his country so well. As Prime Minister he held his turbulent country together for six years. After his death it almost fell apart in a bloody civil war...
Trevor Clark's story is of a humble and deeply religious young teacher with high ideals who was totally incorruptible. His fine intelligence and wisdom, his golden voice and eloquence, his exquisite manners and good humour endeared him to all...
Trevor Clark takes some nine hundred pages to get this message, which I have condensed a bit, across. This fat volume is not only a tribute to the North, it is vast like the North, sometimes arid like the North, and heavy as a tombstone. Balewa was a party to census rigging, gerrymandering of the election in his constituency, rigging of Nigeria's Independence elections, destruction of the parliamentary opposition, and a vendetta against Southern politicians. His dictatorial behaviour, his disruptive policies, his totally corrupt administration brought Nigeria to the very brink of self-destruction. Misrule, intolerance and pursuit of vendettas forced a peaceful and responsible officer corps to remove him from power. The coup was celebrated throughout Nigeria, crowds danced in the streets, and his beloved people ransacked and looted his home.
Balewa loved the British and was proud to be a lackey, an agent, a stooge of the colonial power. He did not seek independence, he did not want independence, he wanted the British to stay. Never was there a rebellious nationalist the likes of Balewa. Like many southern officials, I thought Balewa was a creep and a very small-minded little man.
'A Right Honourable Gentleman' is no worse than many similar dusty tomes on politicians, who have held high office serving British interests. I quite enjoyed skipping through Clark's many chapters transcribed from the ever-trusty mine of Nigeriana, 'West Africa Magazine.' It truly is a great labour of love. God knows why anyone ever thought it necessary to stick it together. It is a miracle of words processed doggedly, and highlights the dangerous facility of computers to knock out sentences and string them together without much effort or pause for thought. Who will sell it? Who will buy it? I trust those who do enjoy it will not believe it.
11 April 1992
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Balewa: Nigeria's Lincoln?
A few weeks before Independence in 1960, my friend Francis Nwokedi invited me to dinner at his home in Ikoyi, where we both had our home in what had once been an exclusively white suburb. There was one other guest, a visiting black American who was an expert on co-operation. Because of the other guest's presence, it was not possible to talk on a personal level. I can only think now that ill health produced in me a kind of euphoria because I remember being quite cheerful. Perhaps it was the prospect of my early return to London where my wife and two daughters awaited my arrival. They had gone ahead by boat, taking our seventeen packing cases.
Perhaps because Francis knew that I was in very real trouble which had necessitated a stormy encounter with the Governor General, he seemed troubled. Otherwise he was in his cynical mood. God knows why, but at that time I sensed in my Nigerian colleagues an almost total lack of excitement as Independence loomed. I was particularly fascinated by the thought of the historical significance of this vast great new nation, almost an empire of nations, coming into being. Francis (as he had on other occasions) and his guest ridiculed and scoffed at my idealistic notions.
"What nation!" exploded Francis. "This place?"
Later, like an idiot, I raised again the question of those Nigerians who would be in the pantheon of great statesmen when the historians wrote their books in a hundred years.
"These people! Really, Sean" exclaimed Francis.
"Perhaps there will be people, small town Lincolns we don't know about..." I suggested. I then gave up.
I recall this rather sad dinner with Francis because it seemed symbolic. I was pessimistic about Nigeria's future and I knew Francis was going in some way to play a major and significant role. Shortly afterwards I fled Lagos, using an air ticket that I had obtained surreptitiously. Francis's role as Permanent Secretary and my boss and also my friend made our relationship rather ambiguous. He answered to the Governor General who had said I knew too much and would be silenced if I spoke to anyone about how the British had rigged Nigeria's Independence elections. Soon after I got back to London, Francis 'phoned. He had followed me to London. I refused to see him and put the 'phone down
.For months I frantically tried to alert Government circles to what was happening in Lagos. I spoke to eminent lawyers, top civil servants and was in touch with the Prime Minister's son-in-law Julian Amery, who was Minister at the Colonial Office. Everyone was incredulous at what I told them. The Permanent Under Secretary at the Colonial Office told Amery I had never served in Africa and that I was mad. When Amery, who was very perturbed, persisted, he was told it was a mistake. Of course, they knew who I was, but sadly a fire had destroyed all my papers. Only a file cover with my name on it had survived.
While this charade was taking place I was being offered honours and a top job if I would not say a word. The Governor General was in Oxford and, through Miss Margery Perham at Nuffield College, had established contact via my friend Philip Williams, who was a Fellow of Nuffield.
Shortly before leaving Lagos I had walked in the garden of Nigeria's Director of Broadcasting, Richmond Postgate, who was a friend. There was thick bush alongside the garden and as we peered into it Richmond said prophetically, "I have a sense of evil things going to happen, some kind of cataclysm..."
He was not usually gloomy and despondent, but anyway we moved and he mentioned the possibility of my taking a job as his assistant in the Broadcasting Corporation. I knew this was not to be. I would only get Richmond into trouble with Government House. The last place they wanted me was in broadcasting!
When I had gone out to Lagos on the mailboat Apapa, I had been thrilled at the prospect of Independence for Nigeria. Leaving Lagos five years later I was extremely pessimistic. Liberals back in the UK were now euphoric at African independence. All too often a dialogue was impossible. They knew nothing, but sensed that there had been some kind of victory for progressives. If one tried to educate them, they wanted to know who were the good guys in the white hats. If they were Conservative, who was the Conservative goodie, or the Labour goodie. I was totally disillusioned with politics at this simplistic level. In fact, though I favoured independence one day, I now saw it as ludicrous. Independence in 1960 was a total nonsense. My experience in Lagos also affected my attitude to British politics. I found it hard to view problems from a party partisan viewpoint, and Britain seemed so small and its problems so puny.
The Governor General had said that I would never work again. That is exactly what happened. I was gloomy because of my ill health, but as so many people were offering me employment, I felt that, after a good rest in the UK, I would get back my health and the Governor General would be out of a job himself. Even if I were blacklisted, once the storm had blown over, I would be all right. Of course, I was not. My life had been threatened by the evil Peter Cook who was totally corrupt. Then, as my colleagues warned me, the ghastly Festering Sam Okotie Eboh had me in his sights, and finally the Governor General was threatening to silence me. Surely I was not the only honest Britisher in Lagos? I have mentioned that Postgate, who was brother-in-law of my Professor at Oxford, G D H Cole, had offered me a job. Nwokedi had suggested I might like to teach at the new University in the East and, after my launching the National Provident Fund, had offered me the top job - name my own salary. I knew my days in Lagos were up and declined gracefully.
"You won't mind my appointing your staff, Sean," Francis had interjected before I could reply.
I saw a whole village of mission-educated Nwokedis staffing a new Government Department, and as they flowed in, would millions flow out?
The Haywooods put me up and gave me a farewell lunch. On the plane a telegram arrived for Smith, but it was for another Smith in the adjoining seat, who was Senior Resident in Ibadan. We chatted and were delighted to find that we had both read PPE, had the same tutor Harry Weldon, and occupied the same set of rooms at Magdalen College, Oxford. We were both ill - he was pissing blood - and both in trouble although he did not know it. He knew who I was.
"Smith, the young lawmaker," he said.
Postgate had talked of assignments in the North. "Hausa won't be a problem, Sean?"
"No," I had replied, as if it was a mere detail, but I knew deep down that I was leaving Africa and would never speak Hausa. Then Nwokedi had offered me the job at Zik's University or in Lagos running our Provident Fund. (The idea and achievement was totally Francis's.) Now Smith asked me to be his assistant in Ibadan.
"I hate the bloody paperwork," he said. "And from what I hear, you are good at moving it."
He then told me about the horrible corruption in Ibadan and said he had a safe full of incriminating documents involving politicians. I did not know how to say no. I felt very grateful.
"You don't want me, sir," I said. "I'm in trouble...the Governor General...I'm finished..."
So was he. He turned away and we did not speak again. At the airport terminal in London I picked up a paper and saw his name. His post had been abolished.
At a drinks party in Lagos before I left, a well-known African journalist introduced himself. He then said bluntly, "You are in deep trouble, Mr Smith, but you have friends. 'Phone this number in London. Say 'Donovan'."
The CIA lived up to their reputation. They knew everything about me and my experience in Lagos. Would I return to Lagos in the guise of a newspaper editor. And again, "Name your own salary." I declined again.
If this sounds remarkable, it is more than that to me, for - mainly because I became so ill for many years with a rare tropical disease usually found in the Far East - I was never to be employed again. The events unfolding in Lagos beginning in 1962 were horrendous to those, like myself, who loved Nigeria. To someone who had believed the tragedy inevitable but had tried to stop it, the pain was very real. Viewed through my own struggle to survive, it was absolutely awful. Paradox abounded. Had I been diagnosed, I do not think that I would have survived the treatments then available. What seemed a tragedy of delayed and wrong diagnosis - it was thought I had MS - turned out to be a blessing, because new medical discoveries saved my life when in extremis in 1972. I was indeed the first patient ever to prove that a new treatment for this rare disease could be successful.
In Lagos I had lost weight and complained to my friends at dinner of everything tasting metallic. We had even speculated as to whether I was being poisoned. Philip Haywood was Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education and recently (1991) while staying with the Haywoods in Bournemouth, Phil and Vera reminded me of our conversations on this matter.
A British puppet regime had taken power in Nigeria on 1 October 1960 and its fraudulent origin became evident in 1962 when the parliamentary opposition and the Action Group were destroyed. With the coup d'état "Operation Damisa" - of 15 January 1966 the old North, Britain's power base in Nigeria, was destroyed and four years to the day exactly on 15 January 1970, the Eastern collaborators in the British fix, the nominal independence of 1960, were also defeated and their rebel state of Biafra destroyed.
The strangest irony was that the apparent civilian victors of this tragic civil war were the Western leaders Awolowo and Enahoro, whom the British had robbed of victory in the Independence elections of 1959, and whom their puppet Balewa had jailed for ten and fifteen years in 1962.
What had British machinations against democracy in Nigeria achieved? Two million deaths! A generation of young Africans starved and killed. What kind of British foreign policy was this? The product of an alliance between scheming liberals, who sought an end to colonialism at any price, and Tory realists, who feared communist expansion in Africa? This evil and treacherous gerrymandering appealed to the sick minds of Eden and Macmillan and ensured, with a terrifying symmetry, that Britain's empire in Africa, born in bloody slavery, ended with the cruel and bloody slaughter of two million black subjects of the great white Queen.
Recently I read again the record of the civil war in Anthony Kirk-Greene's excellent but deeply disturbing collection of documents on the war. He, too, speaks of Lincoln and says rightly that, when thinking of General Gowon's great humanity and statesmanlike behaviour at its conclusion, he is reminded of that great American President. (Gowon was deposed in a bloodless coup in 1975 by the immensely popular General Muhammed but in 1976 the latter as assassinated by Dinka. Gowon appears to have been implicated in this assassination with encouragement from the British. All great men are flawed, and Gowon was apparently no exception.)
Kirk-Greene also mentions Balewa, who had a great reputation as well. Perhaps it was Balewa's conscience which troubled him and made him so deeply unhappy as Prime Minister. He knew he had won that office by fraudulent means. He knew every detail of the British Government's machinations. He knew, when he railed in private against British commercial interests exploiting Nigeria, that those same interests had financed his election campaign and that of his partner in Government - the NCNC, led by the great but burnt-out nationalist, Dr Azikiwe.
On 10 February 1957 Balewa wrote an extraordinary letter to his friend, the British Governor of the North, Sir Bryan Sharwood Smith. Those of us in Lagos knew how unhappy he was. He loathed Lagos and consoled himself with the company of young girls, thoughtfully procured by our people. He was not stupid and was very much a realist, and understood full well that he could only function as the ally of and spokesman for British interests so long as the British were in Nigeria. Without the British how could he survive? Could he win a straightforward, honest and fair election? It was doubtful and he knew it.
He wrote, 'I myself do not believe that the present type of federation can exist without the British Administration.' He did not want to be Prime Minister and was tired of politics. 'You will appreciate the delicate position in which I am now placed,' he wrote. His colleagues, like the notoriously corrupt Okotie Eboh, who funnelled funds from British firms into the pro-British political war chest, said he could not quit.
They were quite right. Balewa's role was crucial to the great deception planned and executed by the British. It had taken years to assemble and was a superb piece of political chicanery, of which the bosses of Tammany Hall would have been proud. Henry L. Bretton, an American Professor who studied British skulduggery in detail and at first hand, wrote that 'the very construction of the Northern Region...' (which had the majority of the seats in the Federal Parliament) '...in the form in which it entered the era of independence, represents one of the greatest acts of gerrymandering in history.'
With the greatest respect to the opinions of Anthony Kirk-Greene who served in the North during my years at Federal Government Headquarters in Lagos, and is a great Nigerianist, I do not think it would be in order to put Lincoln's mantle on Balewa's shoulders. I have no reason to believe that Balewa was personally financially corrupt, but he was responsible for his colleagues in his cabinet, and most of them were. He not only held power by fraudulent means, but in his constituency he tolerated, if he did not actually instigate, total electoral corruption. His role in destroying the parliamentary opposition two years after Independence and consigning its leaders up to fifteen years in jail, even if done at the behest of his British advisors and friends, was not only desperate but vindictive and wicked. He was jailing and destroying the very people who had won Nigeria's nominal independence. Of course, it - independence - was the last thing he had wanted himself.
Balewa was not a Lincoln and the British, by their treachery, sacrificed a true friend. Did he really expect the British not to sacrifice him? How could they be expected to respect someone who had so little loyalty to his own country's interests. He should have known that those who slavishly lick the feet of their British masters are always expendable. It is ironic that it was not the Lagos mob, which he despised, which broke into his palace and shot him, but his much loved British trained and uniformed Army officers. When the killing finally stopped exactly four years later to the day, two million young Nigerians, most too young to vote, had been removed from Nigeria's always-controversial census total.
Balewa had some things in common with Lincoln, however. He was a poor small town boy. Balewa was not one of the rich and powerful Hausa or Fulani. Like Lincoln, his death was irrevocably linked with a great civil war. However, more died in Balewa's holocaust than in the US civil war. Like Lincoln, Balewa was an astute politician and an orator who was known, says the London Times, as 'the golden voice of the North.' Balewa was also very determined and a ruthless realist. He said that he longed to return to the North and the life of a simple primary school teacher, but in his heart he must have known that his political associates were right when they said only death would get him out of Lagos.
1 February 1992
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Agent, Apologist or Historian?
In one of his last contributions to an historical journal (African Affairs, January 1987) before his early death from Aids, my old friend Michael reviewed Nigeria's transition from a beacon of democracy at 'Independence' in 1960 to a basket case twenty-five years later, after a series of coups and military dictatorships.
Michael was a liar on a grand scale who was blackmailed by the British in 1960 to prevent disclosure of the fact that the Independence Elections were rigged. Michael was a promiscuous homosexual and he was pressurised to put pressure on the present writer who was his friend. Three British senior service officials had protested at orders from Government House to rig the elections in the British interest, and blackmail of Michael was just one of the tactics employed to shut me up. All that was sought was my word. Bribes included rapid promotion, a brilliant career in the Foreign Service, large sums of money and honours of my choice, which my friend Philip Williams (later the biographer of Gaitskell), who acted as an intermediary, interpreted as a knighthood. The stick was the threat to Michael; the threat to Philip, who was also at risk, promises that I would be permanently unemployed and, if I spoke out, killed.
Michael's carrot to persuade me to be a white man and not betray our chaps was a proposal that he should, with Government approval and on Government time, write a History of Nigeria (The Story of Nigeria). The deal was acceptable to Michael and he broke with me after a rather tearful and emotional parting. Lying in his teeth, he promised that, when he came to speak of the Independence Elections, he would tell the truth of how they were rigged. I pretended to believe him. He was my friend and, although vulnerable and weak, like many others I loved the man.
Nigeria was a basket case in 1960 because of British machinations. Democracy never even got to first base in Nigeria. The Independence was a fraud and the introduction of democracy a cruel sham.
How could a respected historian do this? Quite easily actually. One just went along with the story as made up, put around by the papers and accepted by a gullible public. Had Michael not been in pawn to Whitehall he would have been booted out of Nigeria, perhaps after a squalid trial. His career as an historian would never have got under way.
I was purposely silent for a time after Michael's imbroglio with Government House, but very soon, when it became clear that my lips had not been sealed permanently (I was overheard at a dinner party with US Embassy friends making indiscreet remarks) I too was carpeted at Government House.
Agent? Apologist? Historian of Nigeria? My dear friend Michael was none of these things to me. He was a golden youth with great gifts of love and friendship, and I will treasure forever his joy and laughter and comradeship. We both loved Nigeria immoderately and perhaps excessively. Africa inspired us, excited us and changed and directed the course of our lives. We were both sons of Oxford and in our own way served Nigeria honourably.
12 May l994
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The Word of an Historian
We loved Michael Crowder. He would have been a joy to know anywhere, but Lagos was a different place once he arrived in Nigeria to edit Nigeria Magazine. We first met at the home of Richmond Postgate, the newly appointed Director of Broadcasting, and became good friends, partly as a result of a number of bizarre coincidences.
Michael was a very promiscuous homosexual, which was one thing we did not have in common. However, we had both recently left Oxford, looked like two peas in a pod except that my eyes were blue and Michael's brown, and we passionately loved Nigeria and its people and its history.
Michael gave me his word that he would reveal in his historical writings one day how the British had rigged Nigeria's Independence Elections, but unless he left papers which kept his promise... I waited many years and, in desperation, wrote to him, when I learned that he was in London, to remind him of his promise. His sister replied to say that Michael was on his death bed. He had been expelled from Nigeria and died of Aids. A tragic end.
In Michael's "Story of Nigeria", which he wrote with the blessing of Whitehall and the Governor General, Sir James Robertson, is the sentence, "...Sir James Robertson turned out to be the ideal man to represent Britain during the final phase of self-government." Self-government was an odd phrase to use on the eve of Independence and self-government. Michael was not usually so careless and inaccurate. There had been a pretence or form of participation in the routine of government before Independence, with Ministers appointed by Robertson to Departments which then became Ministries; but Michael was as cynical and truthful as I was about this pretence of black power, and his shrieks of laughter greeted all such instances of window dressing as bullshit.
If Nigeria was self-governing at national level, what were Independence and the Independence Elections all about? The Regional/State Elections had introduced a degree of autonomy at that level in 1956, but the real explanation for Michael's remarkable clumsiness was his knowledge of the enormous lie he was telling.
Michael was blackmailed by Sir James Robertson. He was threatened with a jail sentence and ruin if I continued to tell everyone how Whitehall had rigged the State Elections and the Federal Elections in favour of the Northerners. Michael was terrified and made his peace with Government House. He was no threat to the Whitehall criminals who planned the great evil. He was the ideal tool to fix the historical record and put a seal of spurious authenticity on this gross treachery, and that is what he did.
It is extremely painful to say of Michael, as I must despite my love for the man, that he was as deeply flawed as a historian can be. Michael lied and betrayed the Nigerian people he genuinely adored. Michael broke his word to me too. I was very innocent and naive, and thought most people who were educated were truthful, and that many would have done what I did, and taken a stand against Whitehall's treason which brought about the bloody Biafran civil war in which up to two million, mainly young, people died. I was wrong. Few, if any, I now know would have followed by example. Even those few hesitate when I mention the glittering honours and other prizes, the bribes, which I refused.
I will always remember Michael's laughter and infectious humour. I think of him often. We loved him.
25 March 1994
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The Indiscreet Racist
Fred was ingenious. To the African who objected to rule by a small clique of white men, Fred retorted that the alternative was to subject a large native population to the will of a small minority of educated and Europeanised natives who have nothing in common with them, and whose interests are often opposed to them... Only in 1943 were two very safe Africans appointed to the Governor's Executive Council. Africans were excluded from European Clubs until the early fifties when the first token Africans were allowed in. That was why I declined to join the Ikoyi Club in 1955. In 1960 I caused a stir when, accompanied by my African assistants, I inspected the Ikoyi Club. The Secretary went purple with rage and 'phoned every VIP he could get hold of. "How could you bring those people in here!" he screamed. This was the year of Independence.
Fred may not have been the legend of Margery Perham's heated and frustrated imagination, but he certainly left a legacy of dottiness and nasty racism behind him. Fred's racism was shared by Margery Perham, as Michael Crowder records in the 1972 edition of "The Story of Nigeria." This was a good book that I eagerly looked forward to reading. Sadly it was marred by major omissions of vital facts that Michael knew about.
"When I write about the Independence Elections," Michael promised me before I fled Nigeria in 1960, "I will tell the truth about how the Independence Elections were rigged."
Michael made a point of not writing in any detail about the Independence Elections. His private views of the British occupation were far more scathing than anything that ever appeared in his books. Yet, by not telling the truth about British treachery, he let down his many Nigerian friends and the Nigerian people whom he loved so much. Not even Africans loved Nigeria as Michael did. His history may have been flawed, but his love for the Nigerian people was diamond hard. We did not have the same sexual orientation, but we had so much in common as well as looking alike. I loved him dearly and felt heart-broken when his sister wrote to tell me of his last fatal illness.
12 May l994
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The Legend of Lugard Avenue
Margery Perham's contribution to the Independence issue of Nigeria Magazine is a tribute to her beloved Fred Lugard. As my friend Michael Crowder, the Editor, was one of her acolytes, she could do no wrong. It is not Independence that Margery writes about but, as always, Fred. Her panegyric is so over the top that one feels embarrassed. An encomium is correctly a speech in praise of a conqueror, so it is not inapposite to regard Margery's fulsome praise in that way.
"The name of Lugard will always be linked with that of Nigeria," she announces and then suggests that Nigerians will ask themselves what part this man played in their journey. As Fred had left Nigeria in 1918 and he was generally regarded by Nigerians as a fanatical bully, which was much the view of his colleagues, the Colonial Office and Whitehall, it is doubtful if a single Nigerian was thinking of Fred, let alone thinking well of him on Independence Day. She refers to his legendary name - actually only legendary for the avenue in Ikoyi that had for some years in the 1950's some old-style, rat-infested bungalows, one of which for a few days I once occupied.
Margery tells us how well she knew Fred, almost hinting at a physical relationship with her hero. She worked closely with him, lived near him and, as we know, adored him. She did not, she says, know him in the prime of his manhood, but she thought age must have changed him less than most men.
"He kept his slim, upright figure, with the square shoulders and the erect head of the military man, to the week of his death. He kept, too, the vigour of his movements and the direct and resolute eyes of a man used to command, but in which I, as a friend, could read mostly his kindness and understanding."
The portrait of Fred which faces us, as we read of Margery's adoration, is of a fierce little, demented terrier of a man. On his first expedition into what became Nigerian territory, he was apparently hit in the head by a poisoned arrow. This might account for his notorious ill temper and inability to make friends. If Fred was famous for anything, it was for being pig-headed and controversial. Although he spent six years in Nigeria, the lengths of his leaves in England were notorious. He did not, characteristically, seek long leaves for his staff at the sharp end in the bush.
Fred's style was combative and he always preferred war-war to jaw-jaw, as befitted a conqueror. Margery spends a lot of space trying to find excuses for his disastrous leadership. Much the same goes for Fred's second term of office from 1912 to 1918. Nothing is ever Fred's fault. Always there is a reason why he made so many mistakes and achieved so little. The only accord one feels on reading Margaret's gush is when she records Fred as opposing Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia.
Fred married Flora Shaw, the Colonial Correspondent of The Times. Now the Lugard fan club had two very active members, swollen to three when Margery joined the team. In conclusion she allows mention of some other pioneers, but only to promote Fred to the top of the table and then to suggest that Fred in Nigeria deserved a place equivalent to that of Julius Caesar and William the Conqueror in British history
12 February 1993
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Lugard's Lunacy and Perham's Infatuation
It was inevitable that rich white Europe would impinge on poor black Africa. Sadly, the Lenin/Hobson thesis that this was a bad thing did great harm to Africa. One major problem is the widespread ignorance about Africa in Britain. Once it was agreed by 'progressives' and the Labour Party that 'imperialism' was a bad thing, it was even more acceptable to be ignorant. Getting out of Africa was the answer to all Africa's problems. Yet the relationship would continue. Given the anarchy of former West African colonies in the 1980's, the fashion is changing and it is all right to say, "Pity our people pulled out!"
We left Nigeria too soon. There should have been more development of the infrastructure, of plantations and factories. The discovery of oil was, paradoxically, a major tragedy for Nigeria. Many British officials were fine administrators who, with very limited resources, did excellent work. The inevitable slow rate of progress had its good side too. There was less cultural shock.
Because of ignorance of Africa, Whitehall has got away with murder. Only one or two newspaper editors needed to be bamboozled, and Lugard and his successors could tell a pack of lies, especially with Whitehall's backing, and there would be no problem.
What of historians? A few of poor quality, because access to Government files was nigh impossible. And so the officials themselves became the historians and they short-circuited the journalists. Now we had propaganda turned into instant history. First there was Lugard who, with his fantasies, wove a tissue of lies. Aided by his wife who was as expert a liar as he was, his fabrications still colour Whitehall's attitudes to Nigeria, which can be summed up as pale-skinned Moslem North good, black-skinned Christian South bad. When Lady Lugard died, her place as propagandist for Lugard's crazy ideas was taken on by Margery Perham, who gave the story a few twists to fit changing times. Posing as a liberal, she screened black nationalists and acted as an intelligence officer for Whitehall. Miss Perham was told by me and, if she did not already know my story it was confirmed for her by the Governor General, that the Independence Elections in Nigeria were rigged. She then negotiated with my friend, Philip Williams, who was her colleague at Nuffield College, Oxford. The deal was the one I had had before from her friend the Governor General of Nigeria, Sir James Robertson. If I kept my mouth shut, I could have a top-flight career in the Foreign Service. A top-up bonus was the additional sweetener of any honours I chose. I declined once again.
So when Miss Perhaps wrote in her volume on Lugard, "In public enterprises there are often two accounts of the proceedings, a smooth official story of progress, studded with compliments and congratulations to all concerned, and the true unpublished story of the bitter struggles and the personal conflicts...." she knew what she was writing about.
The line that was pushed right from the very start of Lugard's occupation of Nigeria, and extended through the sixty years of British occupation, was that the North was Nigeria, and the ever-shrinking South an alien and extra mural, marginal extravagance. The truth was that Lugard proclaimed Nigeria as his own creation, and the Nigeria, which had known the British in various guises for centuries pre-Lugard, was an abomination, an excrescence. It spoiled the picture of Lugard, the conqueror of an empire of disparate peoples. To be reminded that Lagos and the South were educated and relatively civilised places with schools, newspapers and Christian churches, spoiled a good story. It was as if, having pushed Sir Edmund Hillary on to the top of Everest, his guide Tensing had remarked, "We come up here for a picnic most weekends in the summer."
The first writer of note to blow the whistle on the Lugards, and their black magic or propaganda approach to fixing the historical record, was Ian Nicolson. (I.F Nicolson. The Administration of Nigeria, 1900 to 1960. Oxford. 1969).I met Ian when he was in charge of Establishments in the new office block in 1958. (This branch of the old Secretariat became, I think, the Ministry of Home Affairs). The Colonial Office had confirmed with him my account of how the election rigging was getting on. I recall Ian locking the incriminating papers in his office safe.
Lugard felt that things like justice should not get in the way of decision-making, and saw justice as part of military discipline. In other words, he could take the law into his own hands whenever he so chose. Sir James Robertson had maybe learned all this from Margery Perham, for he wholeheartedly subscribed to the same philosophy. If elections would put the wrong people into power, it was necessary to rig them so that our boys won. If someone like me protested, have him silenced. Lugard executed people as if he were swotting flies. Robertson, who was also out of the Mussolini mould, had been officially reprimanded for following his master's example and having natives hanged for trivial misdemeanours.
As a civil servant, I was protected by a Code of Regulations and a Public Service Commission and British Law, but Robertson saw no need to accept these. He was Commander in Chief and Governor General, and thought that summary justice was what I needed. He had tried tempting me into the Army with high rank so that I could be court-martialled. It would, he thought, appear more seemly. Even then, he would be ignoring military law, but it was a good try. In the event his well-rehearsed speech went as follows:-
"The Colonial Service is the same as the Army, and you know what happens if you disobey orders on active service - you pay the penalty!" That was it. Standing in his office, I was, in seconds, charged and found guilty. I was to be silenced if I did not accept his terms. He intended to have me killed, just as he had ordered others to be killed.
The Deputy Governor General, who had interceded on my behalf in 1957, had left Nigeria. Sir Ralph (later Lord) Grey had written to me mentioning my achievements and had said that I had been of some service to the State. And now I was on my own and, for refusing the orders of an insane Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, was now to be extinguished by an equally mad Governor General. As 'Nigeria' started under British rule in bloody conflict, often unnecessary and unjust, so it was to the end.
Like Lugard, Robertson loathed black people. He had spent his life working for the Foreign Office in the Sudan, and shared his master's love of the light-skinned Arab. Ian Nicolson zaps not only Lugard and Mrs Lugard, but also their apologist (and Lugard's intimate friend) Margery Perham. At the end of his book, Lugard's claim to any kind of integrity or truthfulness lies in ruins. Mrs Lugard is branded as a highly effective and professional liar of the school of Goebbels, and Miss Perham shown to be as good a historian as Enid Blyton. Perham's infatuation for the loathsome Fred Lugard seems to have softened her brain and to have had her simpering like a love struck adolescent.
The tradition of Lugard, amazingly, lingers on in Oxford, not so much as a lost cause but as a memorial to despicable treason. Academics who play down the effect of evil British policy in Nigeria, such as the rigging of the Independence Elections and the ghastly loss of life that ensued, write selectively of that period. See how they ignore the manner in which British officials, academics, and others play down their role in inciting the Northern people to start a pogrom against Igbos resident in the North. A coup by British-trained young officers had petered out, and legitimate power re-established with the hand-over of power from Ministers to General Ironsi. At that point only a handful of lives had been lost, and there had been general jubilation at the overthrow of a wicked and despotic regime. The role of the British in the events which followed was crucial, but only a huge black hole will be found in the writings of British specialists on this matter. The British had sentenced Balewa to a certain death when they rigged the elections in his favour. Six years later he paid the price for his criminality. Blind with rage at the loss of their stooge and his accomplices, the British struck out against the Igbos who, they felt, had masterminded the overthrow of their beloved Balewa. In so doing they executed a million young children and a million other, mainly young, people.
In her day Lady Lugard had contrasted "the higher types of the Northern States" with the "cannibal pagans" of the South. "The nearer to the coast, the worse was the native type... Sorcerers, idolaters, robbers and drunkards, they were indeed no better than their country." The vituperation of a virulent racist is familiar to those of us who have lived through the aberrations of Hitler's Germany and South African apartheid. That disciples of the Lugard/Perham school, though thin on the ground, still hang on at Oxford, is not so much proof of tolerance as of downright ignorance, perversity and lack of scholastic rigour and integrity.
8 February 1993
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Memo to a Colonial Governor
Margery Perham wrote in 1960 that, "In public enterprises there are often two accounts of the proceedings, a smooth official story of progress, studded with compliments and congratulations to all concerned, and the true unpublished story of the bitter struggles and the personal conflicts...."
Margery knew of what she wrote. That same year she had acted in Oxford as an intermediary between the Governor General of Nigeria, Sir James Robertson, and myself. The offer was any honours I sought, plus a top job. In return I would give my word never to reveal that the British Government had rigged Nigeria's Independence Elections. I declined as tactfully as I could. She was in touch through my old friend, Philip Williams, who was also a Fellow of Nuffield. However, she was Philip's superior and in a position to do him great harm. Following on my negative but diplomatic reply, she put the fear of God in Philip. He probably got the homosexual exposure threat that had already been given to another friend of mine in Lagos, Michael Crowder.
How strange to realise that, if I had accepted that corrupt bargain, I might perhaps have preceded Chris Patten in Hong Kong. Margery Perham's excellent work, from which I quoted, is her biography of Lugard who played a major role in inventing Nigeria, and between times preceded him as Governor of Hong Kong between 1907 and 1912. Although Lugard felt he had little aptitude (p.283) he was reasonably well qualified, if not as superbly qualified as Mr Patten. He did come to think (p.287) that he had made a grave mistake in going to Hong Kong and longed for the man's work that he had done before. He felt he was no more than a willing makeshift (p.297) for a Governor, despite his success. London would say in due course that Lugard was too ambitious (p.354), but he knew that for too long the British Government was not ambitious enough.
Lugard was aware, looking with anxiety over the hills of Kowloon, of a coming storm (p.358). He was not sorry to leave the Colony (p.367). He had staked his professional career to win personal happiness, and it seemed that he had been completely the loser. But as Margery Perham comments, life's gambles are seldom quite absolute in their results. Greatness was difficult to achieve (p.371) "within the cramping physical and political conditions of a Colony which calls for tact and ingenuity rather than for bold innovation and energetic leadership."
I suspect that it will be found that when Chris Patten leaves Hong Kong, his first contribution, as with Lugard, will be seen to have been one of character. Few "realise the immense importance of integrity in the man at the top. Lugard had", says Margery Perham, "absolute sincerity and simplicity, a rock like basis of physical and moral courage." I feel it is commendable that Chris Patten has shown, in a situation where our physical resources are limited, that moral resource has a real role too. The people of Hong Kong needed a shot in the arm, and a very cheeky young General, Monty-like but hatless, has given it to those beleaguered but brilliant people.
20 February 1993
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Rigging of Nigeria's Independence Elections by the British Government
I was put on trial by the Governor General of Nigeria in 1960. Later in retirement he wrote his memoirs but he does not mention me. Although the book was published in 1974, I did not even hear of it until 1991. I had read every major work on Nigeria over several decades and nowhere was Sir James Robertson's book mentioned.
Clearly, in commenting on this book 'Transition in Africa' I am prejudiced. After all I was found guilty of a major crime and severely punished. Naturally, having served my sentence, I am curious to know more about James Robertson. What is indisputable is that Robertson was a highly successful colonial administrator.
Strictly speaking, the Sudan was not a British Colony, and for most of his life Robertson worked for the Foreign Office, but the differences are not really significant. The Sudan was run like a Colony and Robertson's work was no different than it would have been had he worked in Nigeria, which lay to the West on the Atlantic seaboard.
The British Colonies were run in a highly efficient and economical manner. It is true that much that is now accepted as essential services, even in poor African countries today, was not on offer when men like Robertson ruled vast numbers of colonial peoples. However, it is still extraordinary just how much was achieved by what was by any standards an absolutely minimally staffed service. The pay was not good, the health prospects were poor and it was by no means certain that every successful administrator would reach the top of the tree and collect gongs and a knighthood.
The quality of the staff recruited was high and Robertson was not untypical. He was a very capable Balliol graduate with a second in Greats and a Rugby Blue. He learned Arabic and worked very hard under the most primitive conditions for many years before promotion and honours came his way. These were richly deserved. Britain got a bargain in men of Robertson's calibre. The caricature of colonial blimps by liberals is unfair, if understandable. Robertson was not narrow. He had had an excellent education and his work in the Sudan called for considerable intelligence, enterprise and stamina. He wielded enormous power and routinely shouldered responsibilities beyond any that his contemporaries at Oxford would have realised in the Home Civil Service or in industry.
He was, I imagine, excellent company, with an enquiring mind, an amiable, friendly, good-humoured manner, loyal to his friends and, in his own way, to his country. In different circumstances the sort of person most of us rank and file in the service in Lagos would have been pleased to work under. As it was, my job at the Department of Labour, a notorious place to work, was made much worse by Robertson's intervention which was openly criminal.
My friend Michael Crowder, who was to become a distinguished, but flawed historian of African affairs, was surprised at how big a man Sir James was. He was to write of him as a great bear of a man, someone with a large presence and quite a big physique. I was down to seven or eight stone myself, largely due to Robertson, and in those days he seemed big to me too. Now I am fourteen stone myself, Robertson seems average. Michael got the plum job of Editor of Nigeria Magazine because he had cultivated Margery Perham at Oxford and she had recommended Michael to her good friend, the Governor General. When Michael was summoned to a tête-à-tête lunch at Government House he was already indebted to Sir James, and the Governor General reminded him of that fact. He also in a matter-of-fact way told Michael that he knew that he was a queer and that he was friendly with someone who was a thorn in his, His Excellency's, flesh.
"You are living very dangerously, Mr Crowder," said Robertson, topping up Michael's wine glass.
To say that Michael was frightened was an inadequate description of the terror he felt. He could go to gaol! At that point his bowel control became uncertain.
"Tell your friend Smith to stop dabbling in politics, or it might look bad for you. Do you understand what I am saying?"
Michael fled Government House and came straight to me after an enforced rush to the bathroom. Michael was pale and shaken.
"He knows about you, Sean," he stammered. "It was because of you I got the invitation!"
We had both wondered why Michael had been honoured in this way. The notion that I dabbled in politics amused me but did not cheer Michael. Henceforth he would steer well clear of me.
It was His Excellency the Governor General who was completely immersed in politics at a level which astounded everyone who was privy to the secret. When Robertson arrived in Lagos in 1955 he was no routine replacement. His predecessor, Sir John MacPherson, had become Permanent Secretary at the Colonial Office and Robertson headed a team of Sudanese administrators charged to carry out one of the most extraordinary missions in British colonial history. His team was made up of Sir Gawain Bell, who became Governor of the North, and his close friend Geoffrey Hawkesworth, who would take up the equally vital position of Chairman of the Federal Public Service Commission. Why was this team of experienced Sudanese administrators chosen to arrange the handover of power to Nigerian politicians? Quite simply, because what was required to be done was extraordinary. It is doubtful if Nigeria's top administrators would have carried out Whitehall's orders. His Excellency might have said jocularly, 'They've all gone native.' This was a tough assignment for men who would do whatever was necessary.
"Why?" I pleaded, when I saw Sir James at Government House in 1960. "Why did you rig the elections?"
"Because it was necessary," he replied coolly.
And also possible. In the Sudan, international observers were present to monitor the British administration of the elections. Robertson's elections prove how essential it is not to trust British protestations of fair play in running elections.
I was a lawmaker, busy preparing new laws befitting the giant African nation about to be born. My Factories Act had been hailed as the greatest piece of legislation to be placed on the Nigerian statute book. The Attorney General of Nigeria had praised my work highly, and the Chief Secretary, Sir Ralph, later Lord, Grey, wrote a letter for my personal file stating that I 'had been of some service to the state...' The Labour Advisor to the Secretary of State said I had made an extraordinary start to my career - I was, after all, straight out of Magdalen College, Oxford - and he promised that I was assured of a brilliant career.
The first stage of the Independence Elections took place in 1956 and were to decide the government of the three Regions, or States, which constituted the Federation. The British had always favoured the pro-British but very backward North, paradoxically because it did not seek independence at all, but was quite happy with the great powers bestowed on its hereditary leaders by indirect rule from the indifferent British. The chosen people were totally unprepared for independence and would inevitably suffer at the hands of the well educated and politically sophisticated Southerners who made jokes about British officials and ridiculed and even patronised them. The North lacked a University, even the basic elements of an elementary school system. Its civil servants at clerical level were Southerners and its administrators were almost totally British. Something had to be done.
I was astonished to receive orders from His Excellency in 1956 telling me to help fix the 1956 State elections. I was to head a covert operation and, under cover of a study of migration, to take all Labour headquarters staff and transport to help elect politicians backed by the British. I replied with a minute that said, 'No.' These were criminal acts, expressly forbidden by the election laws of Nigeria and I could not carry them out. The Governor General and the British Government had it in for the Action Group, the government party in the Western Region. Robertson's remarks about the Action Group in his memoirs illustrate his deep animosity and hatred towards them.
If that refusal to break the laws of Nigeria and Britain and the essence of democratic parliamentary system was dabbling in politics, I plead guilty. In truth it was His Excellency and Whitehall who were subverting the British Constitution and committing treason against the rule of HM The Queen.
Michael Crowder had received a menacing home visit from a senior police officer who made threatening gestures. My wife and I gave Michael all possible moral support in this grotesque and squalid blackmail by agents of the British Government.
Sir James told me that he had personally issued the orders to which I had objected; that not one of the many other senior officers involved had objected; that I knew far too much and if I would not shut up means would be found to silence me. I did not know all the facts. The operation was necessary. If I would not shut up I would never work again in a responsible position. The press would never be allowed to publish my story. Who would believe me? I would have to agree to work abroad. I was not to be allowed to be employed in the UK. A brilliant career lay ahead if I would give my word. The Colonial Service was like the Army: if you disobeyed orders, you paid the penalty.
Clearly Sir James Robertson was chosen for this treachery because it was known that he was a very hard man with an underdeveloped moral sense. Proof of this is to be found in his autobiography when he was severely reprimanded for executing three Africans who were allegedly acting as agents of the Italians.
I might have said, had I been allowed, that I was a civil servant. Even if I had been in the Army, I would have had the right to a lawful trial. As it was, my rights as a civil servant to appeal to the Public Service Commission were blocked by the Governor General's friend, Geoffrey Hawkesworth.
Amazingly, the Governor General's prediction was correct. The Colonial Office told its Minister, Julian Amery, in 1960 that I did not exist and when he persevered he was then told that all my papers had been destroyed. The Queen's friend, Lord Perth, was closely involved and can verify the truth of my story. His Excellency's Star Chamber trial verdict ran beyond his death in 1974. In thirty years the British Press has played its prostitute role and has been shamed by the bravery of a small County paper, the Wiltshire Times, which published my story in 1988.
Lord Grey has been available to inform successive British Governments of the truth of my account, but they do everything possible to pretend they have not been informed. Deniability is the aim. Having now had acknowledgements from Lynda Chalker, Chris Patten and the Prime Minister, that particular tactic is no longer sustainable. Blocking publication is proof of concerted Government action and an acknowledgement of guilt, if it were needed.
There is little point in listing the-sleight-of-hand deceptions and stratagems Robertson used to avoid the truth in his account. When he is assuredly guilty of treason against our most hallowed constitutional principles, he is a man without honour, as are those politicians and Whitehall employees who gave him leave to behave criminally. His actions in the Sudan and Nigeria led directly to the tragedies which befell those countries. In Nigeria a million people died in the Biafran Civil War because of his machinations.
The degree of complicity of Mr. Major's Government in the conspiracy of silence still surrounding these events has yet to be established. As before, I am sending copies of this statement to various notables, none of whom however has yet interceded, and all of whom must share some degree of responsibility for preventing the full and proper disclosure to the public of these disgraceful events.
28 November 1991
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