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White man’s burden to loot

By Owei Lakemfa
EXACTLY a fortnight from today, Nigeria will be marking its 50th  independence anniversary from colonial rule. The motives of colonialism are usually wrapped in layers of religion and the alleged sacred duty of the Whites to spread civilization.

Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865-1930) Literature Nobel Prize Laureate famous for his poem If, has an infamous poem which rationalized and glorified colonialism; presenting it as a burden and sacrifice of the Whites. Titled:  “The White Man’s Burden”, the  first stanza reads:

“Take up the White Man’s burden

Send forth the best ye breed

Go, bind your sons to exile

To serve your captives’ need;

To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child”

Far from such childish and racist presentation, Joseph  Chamberlain who took over the British Colonial Office in 1895 was emphatic that colonialism was a business enterprise and that the development and prosperity of Britain depended on developing the colonies.

In August 1895  he appealed to the British  public: “I regard many of our colonies as being in the condition of undeveloped estates  …If the people of this country are not willing to invest some of their superfluous  wealth in the development of their  great estate, then I see no future for these countries, and it would have been better not to have gone there”.

Lord Lugard who helped conquer and colonise Uganda and Northern Nigeria put the reasons for colonialism in a clear light. In his 1922 publication The Dual Mandate In British Tropical Africa, he wrote that “The  congestion of the (European) population, assisted by the  discovery of  the application of steam  to industrial uses, led to the replacement of agriculture  by manufacturing industry, with the consequent necessity for  new markets for  the product  of the factory, and the importation of raw materials  for industry, and of food  to supplement  the decreased  home production, and feed the  increased  population.

The same phenomenon was to be seen in Germany and  elsewhere in Europe”. Lugard analysed  that towards the end of the  nineteenth century, tea, coffee and cocoa, previously unknown luxuries were the European’s  “daily beverages and white bread his daily food. Sugar was cheap, and  rice, sago, and other tropical products  were in daily use…These products lay wasted and ungarnered in Africa because the natives did not know their use and value. Millions of tons of oil-nuts, for instance , grew wild without the labour of man, and lay rotting in the forests.

Who can deny  the right of the  hungry people of Europe to utilize the wasted bounties of nature(?)”

Lugard who was then the colonial governor of Nigeria  declared: “Let it be admitted at the outset that  European brains, capital and energy  have not been, and  never will be, expended in developing  the  resources of Africa from motives of pure philanthropy; that Europe is in Africa for the mutual benefit of her own  industrial classes, and of  the native races in their progress to a  higher plane; that the benefit can be reciprocal,  and that it is the aim and desire of civilised administration to fulfil this dual mandate”.

France, he said, was desperate to colonise “due to the belief  that it was by expansion  in Africa alone  that she could hope  to find the means to recover from  the effects  of the war with  Germany in 1870”.

King Leopold II of Belgium who seized the ‘Congo Free State’ initially lied  that his reason for colonialism was for “humanitarian and  scientific research”. Later, he confessed that it was just to loot the territory, and that he owned the Congo and its riches.

He wrote in 1906: “The Congo  has been, and could have been, nothing but a personal  undertaking. There is no more legitimate  or respectable right than  that of an author over his own work, the fruit of his labour…My rights over the Congo  are to be shared with none; they are  the fruit of my own struggles and expenditure”.

The looting, exploitation and dehumanisation of the Indian people by the colonising  British East India Company was so  criminal that  British Secretary of State,  Charles  James Fox had to take a bill to parliament  in1783 arguing that the company cannot enslave  30 million Indians just to make maximum profits. But King George III intervened to stop the bill and Fox was forced out of government for two decades.

The same  British East India Company in order to colonise,  and for profit shipped tons of opium into China. When the Chinese Emperor Lin Zexu  in March 1839  petitioned Queen  Victoria that China would impose the death penalty for opium importation, sale and usage unless the British company stopped its harmful trade, the British Empire invaded China and fought what came to be known as the Opium Wars of  1839-1842 and 1856-1860.

The colonialists would not willingly  allow independence for the colonies. When the Philippines  which was colonised by the United  States agitated  for self-government, American Senator Albert Beveridge   argued on the Senate floor that the Filipinos like other colonised peoples are not capable of self-government.

“Self-government is no base and common thing, to be bestowed on the merely audacious. It is the degree which crowns the graduate of liberty, not the name of liberty’s infant class, who have not yet mastered the alphabet of freedom…The  Declaration (of independence) applies only to people capable of self-government.

How dare any man prostitute this expression of the very elect of self-governing peoples to a race of Malay children of barbarism, schooled in Spanish methods and ideas?”

Senator Beveridge believed that colonialism is a divine calling.

“He (God)has made us the master organisers of the world to establish system, where chaos reigns. He has given us the spirit of progress to overwhelm the forces of reaction throughout the earth. He has made us adepts in government that we may administer government among savage and senile peoples.

Were it not for such a force as this, the world would relapse into barbarism and night.”  Please let’s meet next week on the Black Man’s Burden to decolonize.


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