Seventy six years after his death on April 11, 1945 and cremation at the Woking Crematorium, Woking Borough in Surrey, England, poor Frederick John Dealtry Lugard has been killed many times thereafter by Nigerians. Though he died peacefully at the age of 87, having been born on January 22, 1858, this soldier, administrator and author, born in Fort St. George, Madras, India, raised at Worcester and educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, has remained one of the most vilified colonial officers in Nigeria. His presiding over Nigeria’s incongruous matrimonial procedure on January 1, 1914 is perceived to be the albatross that plagues Nigeria till today.
Same villainous estimation is heaped on his wife, influential Colonial Editor of The Times, Miss Flora Louise Shaw, over her choice of Nigeria as name in a piece she wrote for Times on January 8, 1897. In her preference for “Nigeria” ahead of other choices like “Sudan,” “Royal Niger Company Territories,” “Central Sudan,” as well as earlier name suggestions like Negrettia and Goldesia, many conservatives believe that Nigeria’s stagnation is traceable to Miss Shaw’s christening.
One of those who recently poured vitriol on Lugard for yoking together unequals is Head Pastor of the House on The Rock Church, Pastor Paul Adefarasin. In a sermon delivered by him and which went viral, Adefarasin labeled Lugard a “devil incarnate” – an expression derived from William Shakespeare’s Henry V – for soldering together Nigeria’s Northern and Southern protectorates, in spite of their disparities of mind, incongruent cultures, dissimilar beliefs and worldviews. This forced unity is perceived to be the foundation of Nigeria’s interminable and intractable challenges.
John Riddick, in his Master’s thesis entitled Sir Fredrick Lugard, World War 1 and the Amalgamation of Nigeria 1914-1919, submitted to the Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan in August, 1966, said that, between 1886 and 1900, Britain, through its nineteenth century chartered mercantile company founded in 1879 by Tubman Goldie named the United African Company, renamed National African Company in 1881 and Royal Niger Company in 1886, explored Nigeria’s interior resources. In 1894, the Royal Niger Company gave Lugard the task to obtain a treaty with Borgu, on a western Nigerian border and he subsequently got another offer from the British West Charterland Company for the exploration of mineral concessions in Lake Ngami in Bechuanaland. Her Majesty, in 1897, also made him Commissioner for the Hinterland of Nigeria, with the responsibility for raising the West African Frontier Force.
By 1912, in the words of Riddick, the Colonial Office had concluded that the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates had to happen. This was because, while the Southern protectorate was recording huge budget surpluses, the north was bedeviled by deficit and crippling Britain which had to subsidize its operations to the tune of about 400 pounds. Southern Protectorate’s annual budget surplus was thus needed to save Britain of the northern drainpipes.
The marriage was consummated in Zungeru, present Niger State, a sparsely populated town of railwaymen and civil servants working for the colonial administration. Zungeru, then capital of colonial administration in Northern Nigeria before it was relocated to Kaduna, was not just where the documents that brought Nigeria into existence were signed, for a brief period, Zungeru served as Nigeria’s capital in the hands of Lugard. According to late British historian, Africanist and human rights activist, Stephen Ellis, a short ceremony consisting of a military parade was held on this day inside a shack that was then Lugard’s office, a place which, like anything Nigerian, is now in total ruins.
In the words of Elis, speaking in a “high-pitched voice,” “clipped assent,” and “strangled vowels characteristic of British upper classes in the age of empire,” Lugard announced that “His Majesty the King has decided that… all the country… shall be one single country.” Ellis however believed that His Majesty King George V, being a mere ceremonial figurehead of the British parliamentary system of government, never personally sent Lugard on this amalgamation expedition but that the soldier, who had earlier in 1907 been the Governor of Hong Kong, with the assistance of his influential journalist mistress, Miss Shaw, lobbied the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Levis Vernon Harcourt, in whose memory Port Harcourt was named, to get this amalgamation consummated. That union has since brought so much bile, prickly hurts and tears to Nigerians. Lamenting amalgamation’s destructive tendencies, Northern Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, had quipped that “God did not create Nigeria; the British did.”
For the benefit of Adefarasin and Nigerian religionists who heap expletives on Lugard, the choice of Fredrick by Britain as “the only man who could successfully inaugurate the (amalgamation) policy” was as a result of his competence. His ability and experience were due to the fact that he had spent the greater part of his life in various parts of Africa, especially having worked in East Africa’s Buganda, the principal Kingdom of Uganda and Lake Nyansa. Lugard was also born of Anglican missionary parents in Southern India. His mother, ex-Mary Jane Howard, labored in the vineyard of the Church Missionary Society while his father, Frederick Grueber Lugard, was a chaplain who served the Madras section of an East India Company. Jane was pious, devoted to Christianity and this was said to have been transposed to his son, Frederick who was reputed for “affection and Christian ardor throughout most of his life.” While Frederick inherited from his father “the heritage of great physical strength and tenacity” he would need this in his subsequent endurance of the “climatic extremes and the rigors of his efforts in Africa.”
I went into all the above resume of Lugard’s to tease out the fact that he was a damn good officer who came to Nigeria to do a job which he did satisfactorily, to the admiration of Britain, his employer. Britain obviously didn’t embark on amalgamation because it loved Nigeria or with Nigeria’s bright future in view. In fact, if you asked Lugard while alive, he would likely tell you that Christ sent him on the mission, just like Adefarasin and other religious leaders do in claiming this as motive for their exploitation of the poverty-stricken minds of the Africans. By the way, upon retirement in 1919, Lugard left Nigeria and settled to a life of writing and contributions to the British society.
Since his exit, Nigeria has been visited by worse internal colonialist afflictions ever. This came in the form of “big fat tummy” soldiers in huge military epaulettes, babanriga and agbada-wearing civilians “with necks like ostrich” – apologies to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti – who are worse than Lugard and who gawked while Nigeria collapsed gradually. The latest among this gang is one led by Muhammadu Buhari. Were they to be as half committed to duty, half dedicated to the ideal of their offices as Lugard was, Nigeria would certainly not be in her present quagmire. So, still holding a man who left Nigeria to her fate almost a century ago, a man who didn’t hide the fact that he was an emissary of a rapacious colonial behemoth, Britain in her quest to better the lot of Her Majesty’s England and not necessarily some conquered territory reputed not to have the ability to govern themselves, is not only escapist, it is silly.
Yes, we may argue, as Adefarasin insinuated, that what Britain bequeathed onto Nigeria was quicksand, a shell if you like, upon which she was expected to erect an edifice. However, since 1960, Nigeria has had the opportunity to dismantle the makeshift, hamstringing colonial structure, both mentally and physically and build an enduring skyscraper. For the sake of argument still, we may say that between Kaduna Nzeogwu, Aguiyi Ironsi and successive military opportunists who used a combination of their youthful exuberance and naivety to destroy the today of Nigeria, we had villains who thwarted Nigeria’s effort at a great country. However, the teething animosities of Nigeria’s civilian rulers too contributed immensely in quashing Nigeria’s growth. The leaders were not only shortsighted; they were corrupt, wasteful and lacked vision. It is said that, among a succession of Nigerian rulers, an estimated $20 billion was stolen from Nigerian public coffers in 30 years, more than total of aids to the country in same number of years. Did Lugard give them the stealing technique? Did he opaque their vision? Were they sub-human? Leaving all these, the most fundamental question to ask today is, what has happened in the last unbroken 22 years of civilian administration in Nigeria?
Apart from the Olusegun Obasanjo government’s squandering of opportunities to set Nigeria on the path of greatness, the health failings of Umaru Yar’Adua, the gross lack of depth of Goodluck Jonathan and the ethnically bigoted mental constitution of the Buhari government, a major reason why Nigerians, not Lugard, should be blamed for why the country has never grown beyond its Lilliputian size, is the opera on display at the National Assembly biosphere in the last few weeks. It was at the national legislators’ attempt to consider the controversial section 52(3) Electoral Act via an Amendment Bill.
As I watched the grisly opera, in my mind, I thanked Waliu Ismaila, a Shaki, Oyo State-born Nigerian doctoral student who lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, who sent me two books – How To Rig An Election, by Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas; This Present Darkness: A history of Nigerian organized crime by Stephen Ellis. Those two books explain the shame of the electoral act amendment, the Petroleum Industry Bill and even Lai Mohammed’s remote-controlled amendments to the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) Act, as well as the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act.
Looking at the universe of elections in the world, Cheeseman and Klaas said that election rigging begins with rigging of election laws. In other words, elections are not rigged basically at the polls but from its fundamentals; its laws. According to the authors, there is a growing cult of counterfeit democrats, especially in Africa, who ensure that elections are incapable of delivering democracy. We now have an equation of rigged elections that don’t succeed in toppling dictators but which help to keep them in power through electoral manipulations. Said the authors, “Thirty years ago, the main aim of the average dictator was to avoid holding elections; today, it is to avoid losing… sophisticated authoritarian regimes begin manipulating the polls well before voting begins.” This is true of Section 52(3) of Nigeria’s Electoral Act.
The truism subsists that any nation that gets its election process right is on the path of a democratic Eldorado. However, since elections give birth to democracy, dictators of yore have moved into the maternity ward to tamper with the births. It is obvious that, for many of the Nigerian political elite, it is not in their interest for the country to get better. As a matter of fact, in free and fair elections, most of them cannot win. It is reason why Section 52(3), which says “The Commission (INEC) may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable,” which gives INEC total discretion on when to deploy electronic transmission of results needed to be hijacked and put in the hands of a malleable executive accomplice, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
No wonder why the Electoral Act now arrived at the dangerous juncture of an amendment that reads: “the commission may consider electronic transmission provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly.” What that means is that our electoral destiny is in the hands of Mullah Isa Pantami Ali Ibrahim, also known as Sheikh Pantami, a man for whom no one else deserves to live except Mullahs and extremists. Did Lugard vote in that spurious and unconscionable amendment?
It is why, with due respect to highly revered Pastor Adefarasin, his slipping into the usual Nigerian false piety of externalizing our national problem nauseates. His religious constituency has underdeveloped Nigeria more than Lugard and his colonial clique did since the soldier-colonialist left Nigeria in 1919. On Sundays, nay, every day of the week, the church and mosque colonize the people’s minds, using the instrumentality of religion as unseen manacles. In terms of shedding of the blood of Nigeria, Nigerian religionists are not different from each of the legislators who voted against the electronic transmission of election results. They are enemies of Nigeria, worse than Lord Lugard and are united by treachery.
In saner societies, Orji Uzor Kalu, Teslim Folarin, Ajibola Basiru and all others in that category deserve to be consigned to the gallows of public disdain. What they inflicted on Nigeria’s electoral sanity is worse than the violence of an insurgent. Like the double-edged sword that violence is on both victim and victimizer, as they stabbed the voting process, they and us are equally dehumanized. Frantz Fanon, in his The Wretched of the Earth, puts the mutual stab and mutual dripping of blood on both of us succinctly. Aime Cesaire, Francophone and Afro-Caribbean author, politician and poet, one of Francophone founders of the Négritude movement, who in fact coined the word “negritude” in French, also treated same theme of our mutual dehumanization in his Discourse on Colonialism. Fannon said that, as French soldiers who tortured Algerian poor later lapsed into extreme neurosis, committing suicide thereafter, the blood that Nigeria’s national legislators spilled from our electoral corpus belongs to us all as a collective. Borrowing from Bukola Elemide, a.k.a. Asa, both of us – jailer and the jailed – are prisoner
If, according to the team from NCC, led by a Ubale Maska, which briefed the legislators on deployment of electronic transmission of election results in Nigeria, only 50.3% of the 109,000 polling units surveyed by INEC in 2018 had 3G/2G network coverage, while 40% had only 2G and 10% lack network of any category and only 3G/2G combination is capable of transmission of results, why can’t the legislators mandate NCC to aggressively upgrade the networks? When you add this to the naive, simplistic and superficial argument of some of the jaundiced-minded legislators who claim that electronic transmission is vulnerable to cyber-attacks and hacking as reason for their voting against it, then you will understand why Jesus wept for Nigeria last week. You will equally realize why Nigeria has been sentenced to an interminable walk in the darkness of the night, a la South African writer, Alex La Guma.