Confronting Fictions With Facts


This year, Nigeria celebrated its 100 years since the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates to form Nigeria by the British colonialists on January 1, 1914. There are a lot of fallacies and fiction by some mischievous elements who are bent on distorting history to suit their parochial interests. One of the biggest lies about the amalgamation was that a “resourceful” south was amalgamated with a “barren” north to balance the books. Nothing is farther from the truth as we shall shortly know from the architect of Nigeria himself, Lord Frederick Dealtry Lugard, one of the greatest British empire builders of all times.

In his book, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa, Lugard wrote: “The Transvaal administration began with a loan of £30,000,000; Palestine and Mesopotamia have cost unknown millions but the whole authorized civil expenditure of Northern Nigeria in the year of its inauguration was £86,000, with a further £50,000 for purchase of worn-out steamers and for buildings!”

Lugard discussed the advantage of amalgamating contiguous colonies, from the point of view of internal administration and economic development. “The object is twofold: to promote some uniformity of policy among colonies with common economic conditions, and more or less identical problems of administration; and to relieve the pressure of work at home by decreasing the number of units, and increasing the power and responsibilities of the high official selected to control each group,” he wrote. “On the inauguration of the tax in Nigeria the proceeds were quite insufficient to meet even the necessary salaries of chiefs; but with improved assessment, a more honest collection, and increased prosperity, the sum, without additional burden, has become so large that in the more wealthy Emirates there is a considerable surplus, when all the salaries of the very largely increased establishments of native officials, police and prison staff and co, have been paid. From these funds native court houses, treasuries, schools and prisons for native court prisoners have been built, and the balance, invested in a reserve fund, totalled in 1919 £486, 654, exclusive of the large sums voted by the Emirs towards the cost of the war (First World War). These reserve funds – originally created to meet any emergency, such as famine or cattle disease when Northern Nigeria had no colonial reserve, and was dependent on a grant – in aid – are now available for public works of benefit to the people.” [pages 207 -208 of The Dual Mandate].

On page 516, Lord Lugard wrote that, “Agriculture is the most essential of industries, and increase of output means improvement of social conditions and a larger demand for articles of comparative luxury.” He made it clear on page 613 that: “The partition of Africa was, as we all recognize, due primarily to the economic necessity of increasing the supplies of raw materials and food to meet the needs of the industrial nations of Europe.” These are the reasons why as soon as the British conquered the northern territory they built railways linking the resourceful hinterland with the seaport in the south.

Lord Lugard had this to say on the railway: “the Northern Nigeria railway, built by Sir P. Girouard and Sir J. Eaglesome under the system (which I had strongly recommended), was considered to be the cheapest, most rapid, and in every way the most satisfactory line hitherto constructed in tropical Africa” (page 468). The railway was constructed to evacuate agricultural products, animal resources and mineral resources from the North for exports. These products are produced through human efforts of the hardworking people.

That was how, between 1916 and 1948, the whole Nigeria relied on the North as, within those years, 80 per cent of the revenue to run the country came from the North. Lugard even had to write on page 571 of his book that, “Manifestly, the government, as trustee of the governed, is only justified in allocating such a sum of money, raised by taxation from the people of the interior (on whom falls the bulk of the customs and other taxes), as may seem to be reasonable and equitable for the maintenance of the port and other facilities in which the hinterland is interested.” Thus, it was the North that was really sustaining the South and not the other way round as it is erroneously being peddled now.

In fact, for the coastal areas Lugard had this to say on page 73: “those tribes, however, which inhabit the coastal regions intersected by innumerable salt – water creeks, and covered by the densest forest growth, or interspaced by dreary miles of mangrove-swamp, are precluded from engaging to any great extent in agriculture, and sustain life chiefly by fishing. Since flocks and herds will not survive, and animal life is scarce, they have no flesh diet, and often resort to cannibalism. Here, the exuberant vegetation is too much for man, and the lowest and most primitive tribes are to be found”. Yet someone from this area gave Lugard Centenary Award this year in spite of this insult!

On page 223, Lugard quoted Bishop Tugwell who served in West Africa as noting: “Indirect Rule is direct rule by indirect means. The Emir’s position and salary are secure. His sway, backed by British authority, is rendered absolute, while his people become his serfs, or those of the British Government. Their life is thus robbed of all initiative or desire for progress- intellectual, social, moral, religious, or political.

“To overthrow an organization, however faulty, which has the sanction of long usage, and is acquiesced in by the people, before any system could be created to take its place – before indeed we had any precise knowledge of Muslim methods or of native law and custom – would have been an act of folly which no sane administrator could attempt. The very necessity for avoiding precipitate action, and the knowledge that reform would only be effective, and enlist native cooperation, if it was gradual, made the responsibility all the more onerous.” [page 224]

In the footnote on page 253, Lugard wrote that: “The revenue of the native administrations in the northern provinces of Nigeria amounted in 1918 to £492,663. The salaries of all grades, including native courts, police and prisons, amounted to £304,996; leaving about £188,000 for other expenditure (public works, education & co). In 1919 the total collected was over £950,000, of which the native administration share was £536,000.”

Thus, it is not true that the north had no internal revenue of its own to run its affairs. In fact it was generating surplus and subsidizing the rest of the country. Oil was only found in commercial quality in 1958 and did not feature prominently in the revenue profile of the country until after the civil war. Dazzle us with facts, don’t baffle us with fictions!

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