By Donu Kogbara
A FRIEND just sent me an excerpt from The Dual Mandate In British Tropical Africa, a book that was written in 1922 by Lord Frederick John Dealtry Lugard, the British colonial administrator who spent 13 years in Nigeria â€“ first as High Commissioner, of the Northern region, then as Governor-General of both the Northern and Southern Protectorates – at the beginning of the twentieth century.
I feel that Lord Lugardâ€™s comments about the African/Nigerian character deserve a wider audienceâ€¦and that even those of you who learned about Lugard at school and are already aware of his views might appreciate a reminder:
â€œIn character and temperament, the typical Africanâ€¦is a happy, thriftless, excitable person. Lacking in self-control, discipline, and foresight. Naturally courageous, and naturally courteous and polite, full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity, fond of music and loving weapons as an oriental loves jewelleryâ€¦
â€œâ€¦His thoughts are concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment, and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future, or grief for the past. His mind is far nearer to the animal world than that of the European or Asiatic, and exhibits something of the animalâ€™s placidity and want of desire to rise beyond the state he has reached. Through the ages the African appears to have evolved no organised religious creed, and though some tribes appear to believe in a deity, the religious sense seldom rises above pantheistic animalism and seems more often to take the form of a vague dread of the supernaturalâ€¦
â€œâ€¦He lacks the power of organisation, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business. He loves the display of power, but fails to realise its responsibility…he will work hard with a less incentive than most races. He has the courage of the fighting animal, an instinct rather than a moral virtue…
â€œâ€¦In brief, the virtues and defects of this race-type are those of attractive children, whose confidence when it is won is given ungrudgingly as to an older and wiser superior and without envy…Perhaps the two traits which have impressed me as those most characteristic of the African native are his lack of apprehension and his lack of ability to visualize the futureâ€.
As you can see, even though Lugard said a couple of nice things about us, his attitude was extremely patronizing and insulting overall.
Iâ€™ve discussed the above quotation with various Nigerian pals and opinions are almost equally divided between a) people (like me) who are embarrassed by Lugardâ€™s dim view of us but think that he was totally or partially right and b) people who think that he was a libellous racist who was talking complete and utter rubbish.
What do Vanguard readers think?
The morbid rumour mill
THISÂ week, the country has been ablaze with rumours thatÂ President Yarâ€™Adua left the Villa greviously ill and on a stretcherâ€¦and then subsequently died abroad.
When I spoke to a friend who would know whether he was alive or deceased, he cheerfully assured me that obituaries would be premature and that the President was fine and did not have to be carried onto the plane that took him to Saudi Arabia for medical tests. In other words, every aspect of the story is a lie.
This rumour has become a regular feature of Nigerian life. Every few weeks, an unknown culprit decides to launch a story about the Head-of-Stateâ€™s alleged demise and the story feverishly gathers momentum until millions of people totally believe it and start to discuss the political implications in hushed tones.
One Friday afternoon a few months ago, I received a call from someone who told me that his phone hadnâ€™t stopped ringing since morning because several people had contacted him to say that the President had just passed away. When
I made enquiries, I discovered that the President was fine and had gone to the mosque.
Iâ€™m very curious to know whether it is the same person who originates the story every single time or whether there are different originators on each occasion.
And what I donâ€™t understand is this: Why should anyone take it upon himself or herself to wake up one fine day and initiate such mendacious and malicious gossip?
Is it that they sadistically delight in putting the entire nation through tension and uncertainty? Is it that they donâ€™t have anything better to do with their time?
Iâ€™ve heard these morbid rumblings from the rumour mill so many times since Yarâ€™Adua entered the spotlight in 2007; and Iâ€™ve decided to stop participating in the endless speculationâ€¦on the grounds that it is irresponsible to do so.
The person or persons who keep manufacturing falsehoods about Mr Presidentâ€™s supposed death are sick in the head. They constantly manipulate us into swallowing and discussing an unverified tale of woe. And we shouldnâ€™t allow them to enjoy the warped satisfaction they gain whenever we unwittingly help them spread their lies.
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