By Jide Ajani
He insulted your great-grandfather, great-grandmother, great-grandaunt and a few grand parents – he did mine too. Or did he merely say what he saw of and thought about them? Ponder that!
He was a soldier of fortune. That makes him what you would call a bad guy.
Now, when a bad guy puts you down with insults, you wonder what moral license he has to do that. So, what do you do to a soldier of fortune who thinks so lowly of your grannies in their own country?
Banish him? Wage war against him? Talking about war, he mounted a campaign and conquered the territory of your grannies – which you now inhabit.
Unfortunately, he is dead – as dead as Julius Caesar.
His name, Lord Fredrick Daltry Lugard!
This bad guy got married to one Victoria, described as beautiful; and went on to amalgamate the Southern and Northern protectorates in 1914, giving birth to the nation called Nigeria. But all these do not matter.
It is how he described Nigerians that concerns us here.
Writing in the book, DUAL MANDATE, on Page 70, some 12years after the amalgamation (1926), Lugard took your grannies, my grannies, to the cleaners. The following is how he described them:
“In character and temperament, the typical African of this race-type 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 jewelry.
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 animals’ 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 supernatural. 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…. 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 ability to visualize the future”.
This was what Lugard said of your fore-fathers, my fore-fathers.
In the book, THE FATE OF AFRICA: From the Hopes of Freedom to the heart of Despair (A history of Fifty Years of Independence), Martin Meredith, writes that “In northern Nigeria, Frederick Lugard set out to rule 10 million people with a staff of nine European administrators and a regiment of the West African Frontier Force consisting of 3,000 African troops under the command of European officers. By the late 1930s, following the amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria into one territory in 1914, the number of colonial administrators for a population of 20 million people was still less than 400”.
In proportional terms, what the above revelation tells us is that for Northern Nigeria, Lugard took charge at the rate of one administrator for some 1, 100,000 (one million, one hundred thousand people). So when he says “Nigerians will work hard with a less incentive than most races”, he knew what he was talking about. Examining Lugard’s description of the Nigerian within the context of what has gone down in 100 years since amalgamation, he may have actually been describing some leaders who would take charge of the country some five decades later.
Consider Lugard’s analogy, honestly.
Are Nigerian leaders not excitable? On a general scale, did Nigerian leaders, since 1964/’65, not lack self control, discipline, and foresight, which led to the 30month war and the consequences of its outcome? Yes, the five majors who executed the January 1966 coup may have been “naturally courageous”, but if they thought the leaders of the First Republic were “full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity”, how best can leaders of today be described? Be the judge of that!
Their “thoughts are concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment”, and they suffer “little from the apprehension for the future or grief for the past”, Nigerian leaders have continued to do the same thing the same way while expecting a different outcome. Heads of government, five decades after Lugard’s caustic assessment, started developing minds “far nearer to the animal world than that of the European or Asiatic” and the best example of this can be found in the insane acquisition of wealth on an incremental basis – because whereas Nigerians had always thought the incumbent would be the worst ever, they are always shocked beyond belief when the successor commences his unique expedition in looting.
Lugard continues: “He lacks the power of organisation, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business” but he “loves the display of power, but fails to realise its responsibility”. Perhaps, no set of challenges best captures this assessment of Lugard than the fact that apart from the well-monitored, well-guided and well-guarded June 12 presidential election of 1993 (some 20years ago), no election in Nigeria’s history has been adjudged free and therefore, not fair; the management of the economy, inspite of the huge mineral resources, particularly petro-dollars from crude oil sales, the economy and the infrastructure needed to drive same, are disgracefully in shambles.
“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 ability to visualize the future”.
The visualization of the future which Nigerian leaders had engaged in the last two decades had only gone further to prove the point: Lack of foresight. First was the phrase, “Everything For All By 2000” (Education, Housing, Health et al). Year 2000 came and has gone just like that, but there was nothing for all. Then came the 202020 idea, a dream that envisions Nigeria becoming one of the 20 most advanced economies in the world by 2020, just some seven years away.
The illogicality of this 202020 logic is that with the present construct of leadership and governance, even if other countries of the world arrest their development, Nigeria would not inch near the best 20 advanced economies of the world. With corruption fueled by greed of the leadership cadre in the country, the compass for the 202020 voyage is already broken.
Away from Lugard’s insults, one thing which he said and which ought to have been capitalized on by Nigerian leaders is the fact that the Nigerian “will work hard with a less incentive than most races”.
For a people whose needs are very modest, can’t Nigerians leaders just rise above greed, pettiness and myopia and meet the very modest and basic needs of the people?
Perhaps, that is what the centenary celebrations should seek to address; and that is what Nigerians expect, looking forward.
But is anybody still angry that Lugard insulted our grand-parents? Maybe, the soldier of fortune should have embargoed his assessment for Nigerian leaders post 1965.