As Nigerians would once again go to the polls again in few days(April 2,2011), to decide the direction of the country ,in terms of choosing new leadership, let remind ourselves again some of the past mistakes that had (continuously) held us back as a people.A musical maestro, Fela once dubbed Nigerians as ‘Suffering and smiling’…There can be no better appendage to attach to the Nigerian people. Despite the groaning hardship and poverty…the worst epidemic ever bestowed on mankind ,Nigerian still have the ability to smile and smile-‘The happiest people on earth’ cant do any better.'One of the legacies of the British to Nigerians was ,the more populations ,the more you have the well withal to rule the nation'.Hence in the midst of poverty,the population skyrockets to beat the odds .
-‘Personally, now and for some time I feel so ashamed to have killed people to sustain the unity of Nigeria. I feel so sad to have shed blood for the unity of Nigeria...While some of us were dying in the battle field for the restoration of Nigeria as one country, some people have their eagle eyes on one particular subject ‘oil’, the live wire of the economy, the new fulcrum or pendulum of power. While we fought for one country, some people have been reaping where they did not sow .They have been reaping from bogus population figures fashioned to suit their selfish purposes’. The Black scorpion
- “However, Richard Nixon got a very different sense of the situation when he met Rogers and officials of the African Bureau. Following their briefing, he telephoned his National Security adviser and said: “They’re going to let them starve, aren’t they, Henry.”The US President, on the starvation going on during the blockade of Biafra.
-‘The children of Nigeria are suffering unbelievably. I have seen nothing like it since Belsen. Death and pain stalk beside them. Out of every two born one must die... often suffering the greatest agony as they go.”’ Dr. Robert Collis
-‘Since 1914 the British government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs, and do not show themselves any signs of willingness to unite. . . Nigerian unity is only a British invention.’ Abubaker Tafawa Balewa, 1948
-‘Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense as there are “English”. The word “Nigerian” is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.’ Obafemi Awolowo
-"…there was a threat that the Igbos wanted to take revenge. Now sitting down and looking at it, quite honestly in retrospect, I think we used that so as to gain support, to get people committed so that you didn't get caught. It was preemptive."IBB on the of killing of Igbos throughout all nooks and crannies of the Northern Region
-“Let us go and crush them. We will pillage their property, rape their womenfolk, kill off their menfolk and leave them uselessly weeping. We will complete the pogrom of 1966".The theme song of Radio Kaduna,1967
-‘The very circumstances of Nigeria only permit an idiot to be detribalized’. Ojukwu
* * * * * *
How the British Undermined Democracy in Africa”;An Exclusive Account of Nigeria’s 1st Elections.
The account of Harold Smith, a Former British Colonial Officer, New African: May 2005
When you hear British government officials thunder about election malpractices these days, you think butter will not melt in their mouths. But in 1956 and 1959, the British deliberately influenced Nigeria’s independence elections so that the Northerners would dominate the country following independence. And for 45 years (since 1960), one of the British colonial officials involved in the affair has been trying in vain to blow the whistle, but the UK media which likes to think of itself as being free and fair will not touch the story even with a barge pole apparently on national interest grounds.
This story will shock most people, especially Nigeria’s multitude of ethnic groups who are still discussing the mechanism of living together as one nation at the national conference convened in Abuja by President (Olusegun Obasanjo’s government three months ago. New African can now reveal that but for the British dirty work, the Northern domination of Nigeria which has caused so much angst in the country and which led both to the coup of January 1966 and the subsequent “civil war” 1967-1970) that killed two million people would not have arisen and, therefore, the current national conference in Abuja would not have been necessary.
To fully understand this shocking story, we need to go back in time to 1956. The sun is about to set on the mighty British Empire over which the sun was said to never set.
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s landmark “winds of change” speech delivered in South Africa is having an effect. After much agonizing, the British are retreating from West Africa almost in a panic.
As Harold Smith, the star of this story puts it: “The withdrawal took place in haste, because world opinion was beginning to demand that the colonial powers spend money on their African possessions. If this suggests that Britain enhanced its colonies, it simply is not true, If this had been the ease, then Britain would have left behind many more factories, plantations, roads, ports and means of communication in Africa than she did... In 1947, Sir Hugh Foot found that there was not a single university in Nigeria or technical school, and in the North not one secondary school.”
The Nigerian House of Representative in Session
But there is no turning back. Britain has to grant independence to its African colonies. But in Nigeria, the same Britain, led by the same Harold Macmillan, will not leave until it makes sure that in Harold Smith’s words, “its stooges in the North” will dominate the country after independence. It does not matter whether the Northerners are up to the task or not. As it happened, they were not! And Nigeria has suffered for it until this day.
Perhaps the Africans were expecting too much from Britain. As Harold Smith says: “When did Britain itself become a democracy, and has it yet achieved that state? With universal male suffrage in 1884 or when all women got the vote in 1928? Britain’s democratic traditions are of more recent origin than most are aware, When the British removed themselves from Nigeria in 1960 (though in truth they did not really surrender all power to the African people), there was not even universal suffrage as only a minority of the country’s women - those in the South - were entitled to vote.”
Nigeria’s independence elections were held in two stages, the first on a regional level in 1956. And the second on a federal level in 1959. The British did the counting in both instances and, according to their pre-set plan, massaged the figures and the electoral process leading to them so that the politicians in the West, led by Chief Anthony Enahoro and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who more than likely would have won the elections, were declared losers.
At the time, Nigeria’s three regions - North (dominated by the Hausa and Fulani), West (Yoruba) and East (Ibo) - had a measure of independence and were in effect federal states. The 1956 election was, thus, the final regional election before independence. So much was at stake that the major political parties mounted massive campaigns.
Enter Harold Smith. Then only 29, he was a mere labour officer based in Lagos. In the absence of his boss, he had been chosen by the labour commissioner to “keep an eye on things”. In his autobiography written in 1987 (but which is yet to be published in hard copy in Britain because of the “dynamite” it contains), Smith reveals: “At this juncture, the order arrived which was to change my life, It had come through the chain of command, apparently from the governor-general himself.
It was addressed to me personally... The order directed me to arrange for all Nigerian staff of the [Labour] Department and all departmental vehicles to proceed to the minister of labour’s constituency for the duration of the election campaign to work under the minister’s orders and to get his Ibo friends elected. This was a covert operation and a cover story was needed. I was to devise a survey of migrant labour covering the minister’s constituency.
“My reply was brief, ‘No,’ I wrote on the minute sheet, ‘This would be a criminal act,’... The British government was taking credit for its liberal policies in moving towards independence and the honest and fair handover of power to the new democratically elected leaders of Nigeria. Yet here was chicanery and cynical interference in the electoral process beyond belief.”
Smith continues: “The British loved the North and had arranged for 50% of the votes to be controlled by the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), which was largely a creation of the British and hardly a normal political party in the accepted sense, It was funded by the British controlled Native Authorities and was quite simply a tool of the British administration.
“Because of this, independence was to some extent a sham because the results were a foregone conclusion, The North and the British would continue to rule. However, it was still possible that the two advanced and educated Southern parties would unite against the North, so it was necessary to keep them apart. Divide and rule, the old British device for creating conflict, was employed in its most brazen and cynical form to keep the Ibos and Yorubas from working together in Nigeria.”
According to Smith, it was British policy to encourage tribal rule in the East and West by discouraging the creation of new states which would have broken up the two power groups. “Of particular importance,” he told New African on 13 April 2005, “was the need for the NPC in the North to go unchallenged. And it was made quite dear to the leaders in the South that the British would not tolerate more than token electioneering against the NPC in the North…
“What was quite obvious from the orders coming out of Government House in 1956 was that Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe [leader of the largely Ibo NCNC party in the East] was working with the British and the NPC in the North against the Action Group in the West [that was why Smith was ordered to go and help the NCNC via the Ibo minister’s constituency in the East].
“In many respects,” Smith says, “it was difficult to detect in the North where the British administration ended and Northern rule began. Thus, through a cynical display of horse dealing, the 1959 Federal election became a mockery, because the outcome - Northern domination of Nigeria after independence - was assured before a single vote was cast.
“The Northerners never really wanted the British to leave. They feared the Southerners more than the British. The British and the Northern elite worked so closely together that differences of policy could hardly exist. The British claimed that the Northerners demanded - and must have - 50% of all the seats in a Federal legislature. Was it really the Emirs who thought this up or did the British put them up to it? The British agreed anyway... Whoever controlled the NPC controlled the North and the whole of Nigeria. As the British and the Emirs were inseparable, elections were a mere formality.
“This is the story of evil committed by ‘kind, nice, decent British politicians, they sought to keep Britain from bankruptcy and found a solution in the mineral-rich Empire on the point of independence. It was necessary to bend the rules and sadly, in due course the rules were totally forgotten. Those who got in the way were innocent but had to be dealt with quite harshly.”
The principal people, “who got in the way” happened to be the opposition members of the Action Group in the West. A solution was found, they were sent off to jail on trumped up treason charges. Chief Enahoro (who is still alive) got 15 years in jail, and Chief Awolowo 10 years. The seeds of destruction of Nigeria’s democracy had been sown, and the dark clouds of conflict and war were swirling on the horizon.
Smith and the governor-general
The governor-general of Nigeria at the time was Sir James Robertson. He had told Harold Smith in the face in 1960 that the independence elections had been rigged “because it was necessary”. He then threatened Smith if he did not shut his “bloody” mouth.
Sir James had met Prime Minister Macmillan when he was on his way to South Africa to make the “winds of change” speech. London had already agreed that “because of Britain’s self-interest”, Nigeria, one of the richest and most populous colonies in the British Empire, should be left in the safe hands of “friends of Britain” after independence. As such, the North had to win the independence elections by any means necessary.
For Sir James and Macmillan’s government, everything went swimmingly in the 1956 and 1959 elections, except that there was one odd Englishman in the Colonial Service in Lagos, the labour officer Harold Smith who would not do their bidding and keep quiet about it.
Smith, a dashing young man with a bright future, had joined the Colonial Service in 1955 after obtaining a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Oxford the previous year. He had met at Oxford the young lady who would become his wile and co-sufferer, Carol.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
SMITH'S BIO DATA
Born in Manchester in 1927, and at only 29 years of age with movie star good looks, his career was going well. He had brilliant reports. His name was soon known in the distant parts of Nigeria as “Smith the Lawmaker” because he had drafted two of Nigeria’s laws - the Factories Act which was hailed at the time as the “finest piece of legislation to be placed on Nigeria’s statute book”, and the National Provident Fund Act.
His seniors trusted him, they knew he always delivered on time; In short, he was a good man in the service of the Queen. But by 1956, he had become a thorn in the flesh of the British government because, as he puts it, “I chose to believe in democracy and to consider it dishonourable and despicable to tamper with it”.
In fact, he was not alone; there were two other British officials in Lagos who, like Smith, had initially protested against the rigging of the 1956 elections. The two, however, later crumbled under pressure from Sir James and Whitehall. But Smith stood his ground. As he told New African in his home, in the tiny village of Widbrook, near Bradford-on-Avon, England (see interview on p14), “it was decided that I was the ringleader and should be punished.
For 12 years, I suffered the devastating effects of poison which destroyed my gut and simulated the disease, Tropical Sprue, [a disease common in Asia but rarely found in Africa.] My chance survival was remarkable and only after many years of medical research did I feel confident enough to re-commence my whistle-blowing. By this time, the British had created a wasteland in Nigeria.”
He continued; “Many people and institutions, including the oil companies and Tory and Labour politicians were all involved in interfering with the 1956 elections, when I, with my two colleagues, were ordered by Sir James to take a major role in the clandestine arrangement. It was evident on the ground that planning had been in hand for some time.
“And so, our stooges who did not want the British to leave had power thrust upon them. Nobody believed that the mass of people who followed their nationalist leaders in the South could possibly vote for the Northerners, In fact few people voted for the Northerners, hut who cared when the British were counting the votes!
“To leave friends in charge of Nigeria in our absence was surely prudent. The loss of one or two lives is all we can comprehend. An expedient Whitehall decision is calm and deliberate and the risks, fever considered, must be small and, of course, anonymous,”
It is clear at the time that Smith could not adequately fathom the enormity of the power he was fighting against when he confronted the governor-general. Their meeting was quite dramatic. “Sir James confessed to me,” he told New African, “that he had rigged the elections to let me know how much trouble I was in. ‘Why’. I pleaded. ‘Because it was necessary’, he replied.”
“Ah, necessity and Machiavelli, and oil,” Smith writes in his 1987 book. “Without oil, without the profits from oil, neither the UK nor Western Europe can survive. Of course, that was before we discovered oil in the North Sea.”
When Sir James called Smith to his grand office facing the Marina in Lagos, Smith says the governor-general told him; “You know why you are here, Smith. And I want you to know that all your worst fears and suspicions are absolutely correct. All the accusations you have made are correct, I am telling you this because I want you to know how much trouble you are in.”
Smith the Lawmaker was now in real trouble, “It is a cliché to say that my heart sank, but I use it deliberately because it was somewhere in my groin, he tells in his 1987 book. “I had wanted to he proved wrong, but I was being told from the highest possible source that my conclusions were correct. Britain had calmly, coldly and with deliberation set out to tamper with democracy in Nigeria.
“While I was absorbing this incredible disclosure, it became clear that in Sir James’ opinion, I was willfully disobeying orders on active service. I would now do exactly as I was told, and I had no choice...
“I listened to Sir James’ terms, and when he had finished, I said nothing. I looked at the portly figure of the most senior, the most powerful representative of the Queen in Nigeria, and very calmly pronounced two words; ‘No. Sir’,” And Smith’s fate was sealed.
A man of firm convictions, Smith may have perhaps allowed himself here to be carried away by youthful exuberance, because most people would have taken Sir James’ word that there was a choice - keep your mouth shut and continue to be a golden boy, a high flier, an outstanding officer with appropriate remuneration and rewards, or, as Sir James starkly put it; “You will never be employed again by anybody.”
Smith says; “I chose the latter course. I had no choice really. Cheating a fledgling nation out of its birthright was evidently routine practice for some. I could not see myself getting involved in this kind of intrigue. And of course, I thought I would somehow survive. In fact, I did survive, even though I found myself permanently retired at 33 with no salary or pension. I had only graduated at Oxford six years earlier.”
He continues; “The governor-general simply could not understand why I should make such a fuss about which set of Africans the British chose to leave in charge in Lagos. If I would not play the game, I would have to take the consequences. I suppose this was the way Africans were treated, and it was decided I might profit from the same medicine.
“Sir James had said forcefully; ‘You may be under a misapprehension, Smith. I want you to know that I personally gave the orders regarding the elections to which you objected. They were necessary.’ ”
“But illegal. Sir,” I riposted.
“Sir James then tried a different tack; ‘Look here. Smith, he pleaded. ‘Be reasonable. ‘Your work has been brilliant and outstanding. If you will keep your mouth shut. I can promise rapid promotion and a most distinguished career elsewhere in government Service Overseas, but you will not be allowed to work in the UK. You must understand that you know too much for your own good. If you don’t give me your word, means will be found to shut you up. No one will believe your story and the press will not be allowed to print it.’
“Sir James continued: ‘You will never work in a responsible position in the UK again. Be sensible and think of your own interest. ‘You have had a taste of what lies in store for you. I was not personally responsible for what those Whitehall wallahs did to you back in the UK [when they forced the American oil company Esso to terminate Smith’s appointment as personnel manager after his first tour of duty in Nigeria had ended]. Those Whitehall Johnnies are responsible for all this. Now be reasonable and we will forget the whole thing. Just give me your word and think of the brilliant career which lies ahead.”
Smith told New African that at that moment, he almost agreed with Sir James. But then, the governor general shot himself in the foot by pressing too much and rounding furiously on Smith with threats: ‘You will never work in the UK again! You will be absolutely finished!
Smith said he replied: “It was very kind of you to see me, Sir. My position is unchanged. I cannot carry out unlawful orders, as I said ‘goodbye sir’, he turned away. He was very angry. Oddly enough, I felt sorry for him.”
But true to Sir James’ words, Smith has never again worked in the UK. He was only 33 at the time of the confrontation in 1960. And permanently retired! On his return to the UK, he tried two temporary jobs as a postman and labour clerk, and, as Sir James had predicted, the Whitehall Johnnies hounded him out. Imagine an Oxford graduate working as a postman but they wouldn’t even allow him that.
Later, Whitehall realised that stick alone would not keep Smith quiet, so they tried carrots. First, they gave him a secret trial in London, using the same top lawyers that Britain had used at the Nuremberg trials against the Nazis, and found him not guilty of treason. Smith, out of work for so long and poor as a church mouse, was given no defence lawyer. He defended himself.
Then, they offered him a “pot of money”. He turned it down. They next tried a top job in the Fat East plus permanent exile from England. He turned it down too. Finally, they offered him a knighthood. He refused that as well. Perhaps poison would make him change his mind. In fact, he nearly died.
Tropical Sprue (the strange disease Smith caught in Nigeria) attacks the gut and punches holes in it. For over 12 years, Smith battled with the disease, losing weight all the time, and becoming listless and helpless, until medical research came across an antidote in the late 1980’s - don’t eat flour or anything powdery that will sink through the holes in the gut punched by the Sprue and into the bloodstream.
Having done two tours in Nigeria (between 1955 and 1960), Smith still loves the country and talks about it as an authority. He feels exceedingly distressed that his beloved Britain “encouraged” Nigerian politicians in the pre-independence era to become corrupt.
He writes in his 1987 book: “A major proportion of the politicians who made Nigeria notorious for corruption after independence were selected by the British before independence. The politicians and leaders and men of eminence not chosen were often honest, trustworthy and responsible people. Why were these people not brought in by the British? The answer is that the British needed people they could control. They sometimes selected crooks whom they knew they could control after independence.”
He insists that Nigerian institutions: “Did not become corrupt after independence, they were crooked before the British handed over power to a small and elite group of African leaders and civil servants who were for the most part. Britishers with black faces and they continued to rule as the British had ruled.”
The British media
In I 987, after 27 years of trying in vain to get the British media interested in his story (even The Guardian, considered to be the most liberal and progressive of all British newspapers, would not publish it), Smith wrote his autobiography based mainly on his Nigerian experience. To this day, this book has not been published in hardcopy by any British publisher because of its contents. After unsuccessfully contacting many publishers, he finally set up his own website (www.libertas.demon.co.uk) and published the whole book on the site for free.
Smith and his supportive wife, Carol, showed New African piles of letters going back 45 years that they had exchanged with British editors, politicians prime ministers and other officials all in an attempt to get their story into the public domain.
Except for one or two small provincial newspapers, none of the British mainstream media (both press and electronic) has shown any interest. (Go to ‘Nigeria: A Lesson to African Journalists.’)
For The Guardian alone, between 1989 and 2003, and 2003, Smith and Carol a former headmistress and later inspector of schools) wrote 19 letters to the then eeditor, I Peter Preston, urging him to publish their story. They got no reply. They similarly wrote 24 letters between 1995 and 2005 to the current editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger and got no reply From 1988 and 1994, correspondence developed between the Smiths and The Guardian’s former chief columnist and chairman of the Scott Family Trust that publishes the paper, the late Hugo Young.
Smith and Carol also wrote three times between 19933 and 1994 to The Guardian’s deputy editor, Jonathan Fenby, and got no reply. They took the fight to other journalists and writers involved with The Guardian and the BBC, and though some did reply, they would not publish the story.
Desperate to get the story out, Smith wrote to the “Letters Column” of The Independent in London, and though his letter was published the paper would not follow up and do a bigger piece.
The Smiths have since tried all the other British mainstream media from the BBC to The Times, The Observer and all – and none will publish how Britain tampered with Nigeria’s independence elections and stitched the country up
Nigeria: Election Rigging and Dirty Tricks
The case of Harold Smith was looked at briefly in Lobster 25 (not my doing) and not, I might add, in a very satisfactory manner and against the wishes of Harold Smith, who is in ill-health. Unfortunately, Robin Ramsay failed to print out the IBM discs which contain Harold’s writings and relied instead on a number of newspaper cuttings. I have, therefore, edited down some of Harold’s writings and parts of his unpublished memoir Sons of Oxford. (Now on the web as; “A Squalid End to Empire”). An introduction and certain explanatory notes have been made by me.
Harold Smith is a member of that select band of patriotic British citizens who, having blown the whistle on wrong-doing and corruption, have found to their dismay that their adherence to duty brought not a slap on the back but a slap in the face. Smith discovered a plot to rig the elections in colonial Nigeria but no one in authority wanted to hear the truth. Instead, when not met with indifference by politicians and the press, he was initially subjected to persecution, threats of blackmail, and later had his telephone tapped and his home searched. Harold Smith believes that he may even have been poisoned.
JUNE 12:ATTEMPT TO SUSTAIN THE OLD ORDER OF THE BRITISH
Harold Smith’s allegations of vote rigging in Nigeria in the late-fifties are not just an historical curiosity. Following the suspension of Nigeria’s presidential elections in June 1993, which plunged the country into political turmoil, they have a particular resonance. The case to stop the polls after allegations of vote-rigging was brought by a shadowy group of wealthy businessmen and former politicians who wanted the military to continue to rule the country.
The prime motive was to stop a president being elected, for the first time, from the Southern region of the country. Senior Army officers of the sixth military regime to rule Nigeria since Independence in 1960, were concerned that Moshood Abiola would expose the true extent of corruption in the country, as well as pursuing allegations of assassinations of journalists and opponents of the military regime. The corruption, principally from the illegal sale of oil, has turned a once prosperous country into an area of unmitigated economic disaster. Nigeria is now the seventeenth poorest nation in the world.
The military’s call for fresh elections in August 1993 was a sign that the powerful Northern elite in the country will not relinquish power to the Yoruba-dominated South-west. Chief Ojukwu, who led Biafra’s Igbo people away from the rest of Nigeria in May 1967, warned that the issue is power and that prominent Western Nigerians were talking about secession leading to the break-up of the country. Harold Smith would argue that many of these present day problems can be traced back to the events and decisions made in the mid to late fifties to which he was witness.
After the Second World War, Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and the most important colony that Britain possessed, was caught up, according to Martin Meredith (his book The First Dance of Freedom: Black Africa in the Post-War Era, Hamish Hamilton, 1984, provides the basis of the introduction), in a web of regional and tribal rivalry. There was a wave of disaffection over low wages, rising prices, while unemployment, inflated by returning ex-servicemen, swept the towns, resulting in a general strike in 1945. The educated elite were also resentful over discrimination and about proposals for constitutional advancement which the British authorities put forward without consultation.
THE COMPETENCY OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF THE NIGERIAN NATION
In 1944, the versatile nationalist leader, Nnamdi Azikiwe, described by the authorities as the ‘biggest danger of the lot’ to colonial rule, formed the first modern political organisation, the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons, with the object of seeking self government.Initially, the NCNC achieved some success by championing the rights of workers and attracting the youthful support but within a few years the Nigerian nationalists had fallen into disarray and rival factions.
Nigeria’s great size added to the problems of the nationalists. In the North, powerful Muslim emirs still ruled in accordance with Islamic law.
In these feudal societies few traces of modern life had been allowed to intrude. The British went some way to supporting this way of life, treating the North as a distinct and separate entity preserving many of its traditional ways. In all, the North comprised two-thirds of Nigeria’s territory and contained more than half of its population, many of whom looked disdainfully upon the Southern peoples.
The South was divided into two regions each with their own dominant tribal group. In the West, the Yoruba had absorbed many western ideas and skills, while the poorer Igbo in the East had migrated to the other regions. There they found jobs in the administrative classes which caused some tension and created a degree of hostility among the Northerners.
Nigerian politicians were well aware of these divisions. Northern leader Abubaker Tafawa Balewa said in 1948: ‘Since 1914 the British government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs, and do not show themselves any signs of willingness to unite. . . Nigerian unity is only a British invention.’
The Yoruba leader, Obafemi Awolowo, who dominated Western region politics, wrote: ‘Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense as there are “English”. The word “Nigerian” is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.’
Finding a constitutional arrangement which would satisfy so many diverse interests was bound to prove difficult, In 1948, the British announced that a new constitution would be forthcoming in full consultation with the Nigerians. This inevitably led to a power struggle between the rival groups which sharpened all past animosities. Each region had its own ruling political party: Azikiwe’s NCNC controlled the East; Awolowo’s Action Party led the West and the Northern People’s Congress led by the Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, dominated the North.
The 1951 constitution, which gave considerable powers to the regions but kept a strong central legislature lasted only a few years. In 1953, when Southerners pressed the federal assembly for a resolution demanding self-government by 1956, Northern members held back fearing that the North would be swamped by the better educated and more sophisticated Southerners. In the crisis that followed, the British authorities realised the need for a different constitution.
The 1954 arrangement gave the three regions much greater power. Each had its own assembly and the East and the West were able to move separately to self-government, while the North was given more time to prepare. The bitter contest that divided them proved to be, however, an ill-omen for the future.
SMITH'S HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Harold Smith was born in Manchester in 1927, one of seven children. He left school at fourteen to become an engineering apprentice and through hard work at evening classes won a WEA scholarship to Oxford University. He graduated from Magdalen College with an Honours Degree in Politics and Economics, and a Diploma in Public Administration.
A Labour Party activist, he became a civil servant in the Colonial Service in 1955 working in the Nigerian Ministry of Labour’s Lagos headquarters. he left the service in 1960, after a mysterious wasting disease failed to respond to treatment. In 1972, doctors diagnosed his illness as tropical sprue which only responded to treatment slowly. He subsequently undertook unpaid work for unmarried pregnant teenagers and acting as secretary for the Coeliac Action Group. His wife, Caroline, a teacher and later ILEA Schools Inspector, supported the family through thirty difficult years.
In 1955 Harold Smith was interviewed for a civil service post in Nigeria by Mr Barltrop, the Labour Advisor to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who advised him that he would have heavy responsibilities thrust upon him in Nigeria. Labour Officers were ‘very thin on the ground.’
Barltrop’s Deputy, Edgar Parry, a former trade union official who had served in West Africa filled him, in on the real picture in Lagos. ‘The Labour Department in Nigeria is a shambles. Peter Cook, the Deputy Commissioner, who’s been passed over yet again, really runs everything and he’s a total disaster, a homo, a pervert. His speech is almost impossible to decipher and his handwriting is totally illegible.
He does have some skills in settling strikes, perhaps because the workers will sign anything to get away from him. Now he will hate your guts and as soon as you arrive he’ll try to post you up shit creek.’
Parry, however, had anticipated that move and, by what means is not known, ensured that it would be impossible for Cook to move Harold out of Lagos.
Parry continued, ‘Into this Augean stable goes bright, ambitious George Foggon, the new Commissioner, the new broom. He’s come from the Control Commission in Berlin but really he’s just a jumped-up labour exchange clerk. He knows bugger all about industrial relations so we’re sending him a researcher from the TUC whom Cook will tie up in knots. You see, George’s problem is that he can give orders but nobody will take any notice because Cook is really in charge.’
Having painted a black picture of his new bosses, Parry said that he wanted Harold to ‘keep me informed on what George is up to’. He was also to draft a new Factories Act for Nigeria.
Once out in Lagos, Harold found that Cook did indeed control the Labour Department’s administration, including promotions, postings, sackings and bicycle allowances. He made the African employees’ lives a misery whenever he chose.
In the early fifties, colonial administrations had been forced with some reluctance to set up Labour Departments under pressure from progressive Colonial Secretaries in London. Peter Cook’s policy of doing nothing would have found favour with Governor Generals in the past. ‘Notwithstanding the Administration’s long-standing distaste for progressive measures, the blimps did find that the Labour Department had its uses’, Harold recalled.
‘Most important was the Intelligence aspect. Intelligence is the life blood of any colonial regime. Trouble must be nipped in the bud and trouble makers controlled. The apparatus of conciliation and even the encouragement of trade unions made sure that most kinds of dissent or rebellion were channelled into the offices of the Labour Department whence they were immediately notified to the Administration’s Special Branch officers.
The Commissioner of Labour in each colony sat on the main Intelligence Committee with representatives of the Police, Military and Administration. The industrial relations section of the Labour Department in Lagos maintained daily contact with Special Branch headquarters. In the cold war atmosphere of the 1950’s which the British had spread throughout their African possessions, the bogey of international communism was suspected of lurking behind every clerk or railway worker who sought to live on more than two or three shillings (ten or fifteen pence) per day.’
Despite Cook’s apparent inactivity and failure to clear the mountain of paperwork, ‘he did keep a close eye on industrial disputes and could act decisively to damp them down when he chose’.
Harold was not finding it a happy experience working in the Labour Department. ‘I felt sick with the whole situation. What had I let myself in for? It was not that Peter Cook was a homosexual. That need not have been anyone’s concern, but his own and his friends. I was going to be responsible for the running of the juvenile bureau and the proper and fair handing out of jobs and Peter Cook would be - and I was to find he was indeed - seducing and raping the boys in my charge. Edgar Parry, in London, knew this. Foggon, the Commissioner, knew this. Apparently everybody in Lagos knew. How could it be allowed?’
Cook, known as ‘Satan’ to Africans or the ‘Big White Queen’ to his chums, controlled recruitment to the Civil Service and any ambitious young African who wanted to get ahead had to meet Cook’s requirements. One of Satan’s neighbour’s children wandered into a party given by Cook for his friends in the administration. ‘She observed what was described as the black and white necklace dance. A circle was formed of naked white men and black boys. Each participant, while dancing in a circle, penetrated the black boy in front, and so on... The child ran screaming to tell her parents.’
Harold Smith did manage to draft a new Factories Act which was presented to Foggon, who was stunned that anyone had managed to achieve such a feat. The Act immediately went on to the Nigerian Statute Book and was passed without amendment, being generally regarded as the best presented bill to go to the Attorney General’s chambers. ‘It was met with tremendous approval from all sides.’
* * * * * *
Harold had also become concerned about the general level of corruption. He was always being offered bribes and favours, which he turned down, and when a new Labour Officer, Victor Beck, a former TUC researcher, joined the staff, Harold hoped to enlist him in the battle to clean up the Labour Department.
Gradually, Harold began to hear of corruption within the Department and the way Cook used such information to blackmail other officials or to keep them in their place. Cook had even reclassified some files which Harold had and placed them in his personal files. Cook was, himself, taking bribes from the Spanish authorities.
Some twenty thousand Nigerian workers were on Fernando Poo and their conditions were often appalling, despite the presence of a British Vice- Consul. ‘Little or nothing was done to check the most awful atrocities. There were reports on the files of workers being tied to trees and beaten to death.’ Cook, who ensured that this information was suppressed, observed to Smith: ‘They deserve all they get.’
When Harold saw Cook ‘he went on to talk about Fernando Poo and the Spanish who gave Sir John Macpherson (who, following retirement, became Permanent Secretary in the Colonial Office) an incredibly valuable string of diamonds and a necklace for his wife.’ The necklace, however, was not handed over to the government. Cook recalled that ‘Once she saw that necklace that was it. She’d probably never had better than Woolworth’s till she saw that diamond necklace! I know Sir John kept the diamonds and he knows that I know. You see they can’t touch me. I know too much.’
As Harold Smith became more involved in the work of the Department and became responsible for more areas of work, friction increased with Cook. His boss used to taunt him that all the work he was doing to revise and update labour codes would come to nothing.
It was not only the British officials on whom Cook had something. Festus Samuel Okotie Eboh became the Minister of Labour and later Minister of Finance and was to play a crucial role in the later very tragic history of Nigeria. The British Authorities played a decisive part in the selection of politicians for ministerial posts.
‘The essence of colonial rule is that politics is banned for the people of the country while the colonial regime engages in full time politics. The notion that colonial administration functions without politics would be laughable to those administrators or political officers engaged in the trade. The politics of the colonial regime are employed in the selection, destruction and manipulation of the leaders of the native people.
Although the idea of indirect rule has become closely identified with Nigeria, it is not a new idea as every conquering power exercises its authority using existing power structures in the community. To this end in Nigeria a highly efficient intelligence service operated both through the administration which routinely completed intelligence reports and through the army, police and Special Branch. The Labour
Department also played a key role. The major aim of all this is to encourage friends of the colonial regime, people who are “sound”, that is prepared to betray their own people’s interests for personal advancement, and to put down irresponsible elements, that is to say nationalist politicians who act in their people’s interests and cannot be bribed.’
‘A major proportion of the politicians who made Nigeria notorious for corruption after Independence were selected by the British before Independence. The politicians and leaders and men of eminence not chosen were often honest, trustworthy and responsible people. Why were these people not brought in by the British? The answer is that the British needed people they could control. They sometimes selected crooks whom they knew they could control after Independence. Balewa, the leader from the north, was of course the exception, as was Awolowo.
Balewa was so pro-British that he hardly needed manipulating. He was sound because he took advice from his band of British advisors. Awolowo in the West was not sound because he was extremely intelligent, wrote first class books and taunted the British for their stupidity. At the same time he betrayed a love of democracy and touching faith in British fair play that was to lead to his downfall. And yet his integrity, which led to his being jailed in 1962, also saved his life when the first coup took place in 1966.
The mercurial leader of the East, Dr Azikiwe (Zik), was an enigma. A charismatic and the first Nigerian nationalist leader of note. He was seen as an egotistical, temperamental and flawed character by his political enemies, but revered by his Igbo followers. Zik was not feared by the British. His often unpredictable behaviour in the 1950’s may have been more in response to pressure from without than his own faults of temperament. If a nationalist politician had skeletons in his personal or political cupboard the British knew about them. At the same time the preponderance of Igbo members of the lower and middle ranks of the civil service meant that, apart from the highest levels, an Igbo politician who did not know most Government secrets simply was not listening.’
The interlocking blackmail that Peter Cook exemplified in the civil service was paralleled in the control of politicians by the colonial regime. One of Harold’s expatriate neighbours was a Post Office engineer who specialised in tapping Nigerian politicians’ telephone lines. Surveillance of politicians by other Nigerians employed in Special Branch was also routine, as was interception of the mail to prevent subversive literature coming into Nigeria, much of which was burned in the stove at the Post Office.
‘Ronald Wraith, in a fascinating study of corruption in Nigeria, fails to mention the involvement of the British at all. (Although he does demonstrate that corruption was rife in Britain up to the middle of the nineteenth century.) It does seem a little unfair. After all, although corruption undoubtedly got worse after the British left, it was clearly much in evidence while the British were in charge. The British not only tolerated and indulged corruption. They actively took part at the highest possible levels and instigated it and encouraged it in Nigerian politicians, the better to control or blackmail them. The most corrupt act of all is colonialism itself.’
‘By 1955 the problem was how to hand the country back to the Nigerians. A coalition of politicians from the major tribes in each Region filled the ministerial posts. At this juncture there was no Prime Minister and the Governor General presided. Large ministerial palaces were provided for each Minister and Mercedes Benz limousines became normal transport for top politicians. Standards of luxury were dictated by the British colonial regime far in excess of the living standards of most British politicians, let alone Nigerian ones, most of whom had risen from the most humble backgrounds.’
‘The rumours which circulated about Festus Samuel Okotie Eboh were well founded as those in contact with him knew. The Nigerian public wanted to know why he was allowed to get away with it. Why had the Governor General chosen such corrupt politicians? Why did the civil servants not refuse to co-operate with corrupt Ministers? It was evident that the colonial regime still had overall power and was fully informed as to what was going on. It was clearly official policy to let the Ministers be corrupt. In the Department of Labour George Foggon saw it as his job to carry out the Minister’s orders, whatever his personal qualms.’
‘Not only did the Ministers betray ignorance of the proper role of Ministers in a parliamentary democracy, but the top civil servants seemed to be ignorant too. In the Ministry (formerly Department) of Labour Okotie Eboh acted as if he could do what he liked unless he was stopped.
Given top civil servants who lacked training in constitutional and parliamentary practice and substituted a simplistic notion that they merely had to carry out a Minister’s orders and the scene was set for corruption and larceny on a grand scale. Although I was supposed to be in charge of trade testing matters, it was kept from me that Okotie Eboh had sold the trade testing headquarters in Lagos to a large trading company [United Africa Company]. This was not the whole story. The deal was arranged by the Commissioner of Labour.
The trade testing headquarters were on a prime site opposite the main Lagos railway station. Having pocketed the proceeds the Minister then had built a makeshift edifice as a replacement in the bush outside Lagos. It was evident that Government House was fully informed as to what was going on. However, Okotie Eboh was one of the politicians most favoured by the British.’
‘Okotie Eboh was a fat, jovial character of much the same build and disposition as the seventeen stone Governor General, Sir James Robertson. The Minister had until recently been Sam Edah, but had changed his name to that of a family who were powerful in his constituency. Those who disliked the Minister referred to him as “Festering Sam.’
Presumably the Governor General had political reasons for not throwing the rule book at Okotie Eboh. When the Governor General wanted to get rid of Adelabu, an extraordinary politician who, had he lived, might have been Nigeria’s most dynamic leader, he promptly sacked him, presumably because he was seen as dangerous by the British. A rival to Dr Azikiwe, he not only frightened the Igbo leader but frightened the British more. Okotie Eboh was into interlocking blackmail too.
The trade testers were corrupt and were hardly in a position to protest when their office was sold over their heads. George Foggon’s justification for putting through the deal was that he was obeying orders, although he knew he was doing wrong. But the Minister knew George tolerated the corrupt trade testers. George was on thin ice too. Peter Cook could not protest even if he had wanted to. The Minister knew the Department and the follies and weaknesses of its officials intimately. If its top officials could get up to tricks, so could he.
In London, Okotie Eboh was granted VIP status and entertained by the Foreign Office hospitality section, which laid on a constant supply of prostitutes. His trips abroad, ostensibly to attract capital investment for Nigeria, became a notorious round of Foreign Office hospitality and prostitutes.
* * * * * *
‘The three Regions of Nigeria already had a measure of independence and were in effect federal states. The 1956 elections would be the final regional elections before Independence and the major political parties were preparing massive campaigns. The Minister of Labour, whose constituency in the mid-west returned a member to the Western parliament, was campaigning heavily for his party’s candidate. Okotie Eboh was a major figure in the N.C.N.C., Zik’s party, because he was also Party Treasurer.’
In Foggon’ s absence, Francis Nwokedi was running the Labour Department with Peter Cook, while Harold, a ‘mere’ Labour Officer, was charged by the Commissioner to ‘keep an eye on things.’ At this juncture the order arrived which was to change Harold’s life. It had come through the chain of command headed by the Governor General and was addressed to Harold personally.
The order directed Harold to arrange for all Nigerian staff of the Department and all departmental vehicles to proceed to the Minister’s constituency for the duration of the election campaign to work under the Minister’s orders and to get his candidate elected. This was a covert operation and a cover story was needed. Harold was to devise a survey of migrant labour covering the Minister’s constituency.
Harold’s reply was brief. ‘No,’ he wrote on the minute sheet. ‘This would be a criminal act.’ He was immediately ordered to leave the head office of the Department and take over the Lagos office at Alakoro.
‘I was preparing my resignation from the Colonial Service when Vic Beck came to see me. He had brought an apology from Francis Nwokedi. It had all been a dreadful mistake. I was flattered by Francis’s message. I liked him very much. I went along with what he wanted and agreed to return to the central office and my desk. It was the wrong move really. I should have resigned. Strangely perhaps, I thought George Foggon would approve of my action. I had played it by the book!’
Nwokedi was only acting on the Governor General’s orders to prevent him resigning and creating a fuss. Harold’s masters were much more clever than he was in foreseeing his moves and forestalling them. While still awaiting Foggon’s return from leave, Harold was approached by Vic Beck again. Apparently, when Harold had refused to get involved in the covert election plan, the orders had passed to Major Charles Bunker, a Senior Labour Officer. It was unclear whether he had carried them out.
Bunker had been ordered to put severe pressure on British and foreign firms, such as Shell and BP, to make donations to the N.C.N.C.’s election funds (the Party happened to be bankrupt at the time). ‘Threats of official harassment by the Labour Department’s Inspectors were to be made against firms who refused to pay up. In addition fleets of cars with loudspeakers were to be obtained either free or at greatly reduced prices and free or cheap petrol to run them.’
Vic Beck and Charles Bunker went to see Harold to discuss what could be done. “You’re not going to carry out these orders, Charles, surely?” Harold asked. But it was already too late. Charles replied, “I’ve done it.”
‘The British Government was taking credit for its liberal policies in moving towards Independence and the honest and fair handover of power to the new democratically elected leaders of Nigeria. Yet here was chicanery and cynical interference in the electoral process beyond belief. The thrust of the British Government’s policy was against the Action Group led by Chief Awolowo which ruled in the Western Region. Not only was the British Government working hand in glove with the North which was a puppet state favoured and controlled by the British administration, but it was colluding through Okotie Eboh with Dr Azikiwe - Zik- the leader of the largely Igbo N.C.N.C. which ruled in the East.
The actual orders which were clearly a criminal breach of Nigeria’s own electoral laws, as well as being a gross betrayal of trust by the British who were supposed to embody the notion of even handedness, fair play and honesty, had come through Francis Nwokedi, the acting head of the Labour Department, and Peter Cook, the Deputy Commissioner, both close friends of Dr Azikiwe. And Okotie Eboh, the Minister of Labour, was Dr Azikiwe’s Party Treasurer.’
The British loved the largely illiterate and backward North and had arranged for fifty percent of the votes to be controlled by the Northern party, the N.P.C., which was largely a creation of the British and hardly a normal political party in the accepted sense. It was funded by the British controlled Native Authorities and was quite simply a tool of the British administration (it was also supposed to receive funds from the multi-nationals, channelled through British officials).
Because of this, Independence was to some extent a sham because the results were a foregone conclusion. The North and the British would continue to rule. However, it was still possible that the two advanced and educated Southern parties would unite against the North, so it was necessary to keep them apart. Divide and rule, the old British device for creating conflict, was employed in its most brazen and cynical form to keep the Igbos and Yorubas from working together in Nigeria.
British policy was to encourage tribal rule in the East and West by discouraging the creation of new states which would have broken up these two power groups. Of particular importance was the need for the N.P.C, in the North to go unchallenged. And it was made quite clear to the leaders in the South that the British would not tolerate more than token electioneering against the British-favoured N.P.C. in the North. There may well have been tacit agreements between the British and the leaders of the West and East. There was certainly anger from the British when the Action Group in the West was seen to be planning a major election campaign in the North.’
‘What was obvious from the orders coming out of Government House in 1956 was that Zik was working with the British and the N.P.C. in the North against the Action Group in the West. The Northerners disliked all the Southerners, East or West, as being too clever by half, a view shared by the British administration. In many respects in the North it was difficult to detect where the British administration ended and Northern rule began.
The sickening sycophancy of the Northern leaders towards the British and the equally nauseating and patronising contempt (disguised as admiration) displayed by the British to Northern leaders, horrified educated Nigerians. But Southern politicians were needed to work with the North so as to ensure total domination by the North.
Festus Okotie Eboh was the ideal candidate to become the lynchpin of this pact between the North and Zik’s N.C.N.C. which ruled in the East. Okotie Eboh was from the mid-West, so was not too close to the Igbo in the East, although he was Party Treasurer of the Eastern Party. Although from the mid-West, he was not a Yoruba but an Itsikeri, so he could be relied on to be hostile to the Yoruba-dominated Action Group in the West. As Party Treasurer, he held a powerful position so long as he could raise funds for the N.C.N.C. But the N.C.N.C. was bankrupt. To strengthen Okotie Eboh’s position, it was essential that he should be able to raise funds. The British then set about helping their stooge to do this.
Okotie Eboh had to sell a policy of collaboration with the North to the N.C.N.C and to Dr Azikiwe in particular. The Minister of Labour was a cynical party hack intent on becoming rich very quickly. Already in the late 1950’s he was a byword for corruption. Okotie Eboh was not a nationalist and in no sense an idealist. He was a large, fat, cheerful crook and he was much loved by George Foggon and the Governor General, perhaps because he conformed to a stereotype which confirmed their low opinion of Africans in general.’
Zik had a reputation for devious behaviour which was well deserved, but he had learned from masters of deceit. The British used every possible stratagem to defeat Zik and there was no intelligence technique that was not employed against him. His telephone was tapped; his mail opened, or even destroyed, routinely. Plots and dirty tricks were used; conspiracies and sabotage encouraged. That Zik survived this barrage of assaults by a determined enemy is a tribute to the skill of the old fox. Sadly, he did not survive unscathed. By 1956 Zik was caged.
Suddenly he was a damp squib on the political scene. His trips to Northern leaders were not those of a major politician seeking alliances but a defeated, burnt-out leader begging for scraps.’
A warning shot had been fired by the Governor General over Dr Azikiwe’s bows, with an investigation - based on secret police reports - of his African Continental Bank and the Eastern Region Finance Corporation which had been financing the N.C.N.C. ‘Very serious malpractice was revealed as also was the fact that Zik’s business affairs were in a mess and he was practically bankrupt. There was no question of Zik financing his party’s election campaign. The charges were allowed to lie on the table, and although Zik could very easily have been dismissed from public office, as Adelabu was in very similar circumstances, no action was taken by the British which would perhaps have put Dr Azikiwe behind bars, a fate he had always shown considerable ingenuity in avoiding, unlike other nationalist leaders.
The Bank enquiry not only served as a warning to Zik, it made it impossible for the Eastern Regional Government, which was under the spotlight, to divert funds to finance its party, the N.C.N.C. That the North and the West used public funds to finance their parties was no secret to anybody in the British administration.’
Quite how much money was used is not known, but it is a fact that the N.C.N.C. spent £1,200,000, though it only had an income between January 1957 and July 1960 of £500,000. Harold Smith estimates that at least £1 came from British companies in the years leading up to Independence.
‘The result of all this was to make Okotie Eboh a key figure and, after Zik, the most powerful leader in the N.C.N.C. It also meant that Okotie Eboh was able to influence both N.C.N.C. and Zik’s policies away from confrontation with the British and the Northerners and in favour of collaboration and a cynical display of horse dealing which would make the 1959 Federal election a mockery, because the outcome - Northern domination of Nigeria after Independence - was assured before a single vote was cast in that election.’
‘The group of Ministers which gathered round Okotie Eboh was known as the ‘lkoyi clique’ because they lived in the largely European suburb of Ikoyi. A close ally of Okotie Eboh was T.O.S. Benson, the Minister of Information. His offices were next to the Labour Department on the Ikoyi Road.
* * * * * *
‘The roar of anger from Government House at our audacity in questioning His Excellency’s orders at least made it quite clear that the orders was official and not some freakish forgery.’ At this Beck and Bunker put their heads together and decided to pin the blame on Harold Smith. ‘I had persuaded them into this foolish action against their will. After all Bunker had carried out his orders! And Beck made it quite clear he would be perfectly happy to do anything he was told. To make sure he really was pliable, Beck was posted to the North where he happily applied himself to hush-hush political duties.’
Harold Smith had, in the past, volunteered to help in elections in Lagos; he had also volunteered for everything else which came his way. However, he wanted nothing to do with the 1956 election in the West and made his views known. Foggon retaliated immediately by informing him that he had volunteered to take part. Smith told Foggon that he was misinformed. The next he heard of this was a remarkable letter from Sir Ralph Grey, the Chief Secretary, informing him that he had been recommended for immediate dismissal by the Commissioner of Labour for willfully refusing to obey orders to volunteer to help in the elections. The world around him was in a state of chaos.
‘The seventeen stone Governor General of the most populous British colony in Africa, in his white uniform and plumed hat, while posing as a liberal to visiting V.I.P.’s, was secretly rigging elections and destroying the very foundations of democracy in the new state which outwardly would be the fifth largest democracy in the world. Sir James Robertson, not content with that, was urging his newly elected Ministers to loot and pillage the State and make Nigeria’s first great nationalist political party, the N.C.N.C. almost totally dependent for funds on levies and bribes from British and other multinational firms which already had a powerful grip on Nigeria’s economy.’
By the mid-1950’s, when Harold Smith’s wife became the Personal Secretary to the General Manager of BP (West Africa), Shell BP and Exploration were becoming aware that Nigeria possessed vast oil supplies. The Foreign Office knew what had to be done and it was done quickly and efficiently. ‘Our oil’ had to be placed in ‘safe hands’ at Independence.
George Foggon then attempted to have Harold kicked out of the Colonial Service on a trumped up charge, which Sir Ralph Grey scornfully rejected. Harold continued to work flat out on his several combined schedules of work to the last day of his two- year tour in Lagos and his return to London.
* * * * * *
Harold had gone to Nigeria on a contract which was renewable. ‘However, I had made it clear that I was not returning. It was not my intention to have any further contact with the Colonial Office.’ Edgar Parry had made it abundantly clear that he was fully informed on events in Lagos when Harold was first appointed. The election rigging could not have been carried out without the approval of Whitehall. ‘However, it was my very success in finding a new job which put me in touch. Learning I had returned to the U.K., a friend working with a market research firm asked if I would like to work with them.’
The firm had taken on an assignment for the U.S. Government. The State Department wanted to know the reactions of leading British political figures to U.S. foreign policy. ‘This seemed an extremely interesting proposition. Considerations were in my mind. Was the proposed employment strictly above board politically, or was it some kind of semi- intelligence, C.I.A. operation?
Barltrop was shaken. “How could you possibly wish to work for a foreign power?” he asked Smith. Barltrop made the Americans sound like the enemy. Was this a reaction to Suez? He insisted Harold must return to Lagos. ‘I had a brilliant career and rapid promotion to look forward to. I would be throwing away the brilliant start I had made. I chose my words carefully. “Mr Barltrop, the Labour Department was and still is a shambles. It is also corrupt. The Colonial Government is busy rigging the so-called democratic elections to decide who is going to take over at Independence.”
Harold Smith turned down the State Department job and also declined an offer to work for the T.U.C. ‘I could pick and choose from many offers. There was an interesting job going at Esso as Personnel Officer. It was a well paid job and I liked the people who interviewed me. The job was mine if I wanted it.’ Soon after, however, Esso received a secret letter from Whitehall saying that their new Personnel Officer was totally unsuitable for any kind of responsible employment in a senior capacity. He was disruptive, uncooperative and disloyal.
‘Somebody is trying to destroy you,’ Smith was told by a friend at Esso. Esso will not want to upset Whitehall, however unjustified this is.
Harold telephoned Barltrop at the Colonial Office. ‘Mr. Barltrop was dead. He had had a heart attack. Had I caused this by forcing him to lift the lid on the atrocities in Lagos? A Mr Foggon had recently taken over as Labour Advisor to the Secretary of State.’
Foggon’s first act had been to try to get Smith sacked but he had been overruled. He then supplied Esso with a terrible reference on Smith. ‘The bastard wants you dead. You must have a lot on him’, his friend at Esso told Smith. Foggon was rewarded by Whitehall with a C.M.G.
‘With the assistance of these Whitehall officials who had been astounded at my story of cynical election rigging, I returned to Nigeria for the second time in 1958. My story had been checked out and found to be true by these officials. All they could do, however, was to return me to active service, and this they did. At the same time, I knew they were removing a source of considerable political embarrassment for the Government. From Whitehall’s point of view, the Governor General had brought this clandestine operation close to disaster.’
* * * * * *
‘Lagos was changing. Young American college boys were driving and cycling around Lagos and they did not all belong to the C.I.A. Journalists and writers, anthropologists and sociologists, were wandering around the back alleys. Carol took up her old job at British Petroleum and we could pay our bills. Okotie Eboh’s name had become synonymous with corruption in Lagos. During our stay in London, Carol had called on a friend in the City who specialised in unusual deals. Carol had worked for him on leaving University. “You’ll know Okotie Eboh then, Carol, Festering Sam. I’ve been moving his money through London to Swiss accounts. He’s minting it!”’
Harold Smith found that little had changed. ‘The whole of the SIS, MIS and Nigerian Special Branch and related agencies were deployed during the independence elections to make sure that “our boys” won. The covert plan, which succeeded, was to deny the leadership of Nigeria to the two eminent nationalists, Dr Azikiwe (Zik) and Chief Awolowo (Awo), who ruled respectively in the East and the West.’
‘Dr Zik was robbed by the British at Independence of the power that he had fought for. If it seemed that in the election of 1959 it was his fellow nationalist, Awolowo, who was targeted by the British - as he was- it was only because Zik had been set up and neutralised three years earlier. Zik was nobbled by the Bank Enquiry of 1956, which simply sprang a trap elaborately prepared by British intelligence.’ In 1962, having clipped Awo’s wings in the 1959 election, the same trick was pulled on Awo by the Coker Commission, as had been used on Zik six years earlier.
The Senior Resident in the West, as he told Smith in 1960, had for years had a safe full of evidence against Awo. ‘The timing was crucial. Nipping an offence in the bud can lead to a minor breach being corrected. Left to develop into a major misdemeanour and tragically times, the same office can be devastating.’
‘Zik and Awo, were thought to be fiercely anti-British, which was nonsense, but compared to the feudal backward Northerners headed by Balewa, to whom we handed power on a plate, they must have seemed wildly rebellious. Balewa was a smoothie and a creep who was happy to have the elections rigged for him. He was surrounded by British advisors and quite simply did as he was told. Zik and Awo were liberals, or right-wing labour and both were bookish and very Fabian like.’
‘If the Brits select a friend they are very good to him and will overlook every weakness, failing or blemish, so long as it does not affect the central performance. Balewa was a party to the rigging of the North’s population statistics and did his best in his off-duty hours to increase the Northern population in a catch-up exercise He was known to have at least nineteen children. He had several wives and many casual partners. The British approved of his crusade and laid on a supply of very young girls when he was in Lagos and had no access to his usual suppliers. In 1960 Balewa was Nigeria’s Prime Minister.’
Harold Smith was still concerned by the campaign and the part played by the British and made his views known to those who were prepared to listen. There followed an unpleasant meeting with the Governor General, Sir James Robertson. ‘This was very unhappy experience, as I was subjected to continual threats and bluster in an effort to obtain my silence. When it became clear that I would not be bullied the tactics changed and soft words were used and rapid promotion offered, all to no avail. Even at that stage, I still hoped that somehow I had got it wrong, that the whole squalid mess was some awful mistake, but it seemed Sir James read my mind because his opening remarks dashed any remaining hopes I had. “I want to make it absolutely clear at the outset,” he said, “that I issued the orders you will not accept.”’
‘The Governor General admitted that he had known the result of the election before a vote had been cast. Many senior British staff had taken part in the election rigging some of which was complex, ingenious and deeply laid. He went on to lay responsibility for the whole thing on the ‘wallahs’ in Whitehall and on Harold Macmillan, the then Prime Minister. He stated that this whole covert operation had involved many senior British officers and I was the only one to protest. “Your position as a senior officer is exactly the same as if you were in the army,” he proclaimed.
Harold Smith was then offered, on condition that he gave his word never to reveal the election rigging, ‘a brilliant career ahead of you’ in the Colonial Service. He would not, however, be allowed to work in the UK. If he did not agree, he would never work again, later qualified to ‘in a responsible position ever again’. Means would be found to silence him. Smith felt that he had no alternative but to return to the UK in disgrace.
Before he left, Smith was warned by an M15 officer to get out of Nigeria before they killed him. They’ were M16’. The Colonial Service had been M15’s territory but as Independence loomed, the Foreign Office boys from the Sudan took over the positions and M16 moved in with them. More planning went into covert action before Independence than into training people to take over from the Brits. The con was to get
“our boys” - pliable, corrupt Nigerians - into key positions.’
When Harold Smith later discovered that Porton Down had a nerve gas station in Nigeria and that poisons had been developed which mimicked tropical diseases, he began to wonder what lengths the intelligence services might go to silence him. From 1960 until 1972 he suffered the sever wasting of coeliac sprue and then the maddening itch of dermatitis herpetiformis, followed by the awful effects of the leprosy drug Dapsone which was meant to cure it. His medical records covering twelve years also mysteriously disappeared.
Back in London: ‘For months I frantically tried to alert government circles to what was happening in Lagos. I spoke to eminent lawyers, top civil servants and was in touch with the Prime Minister’s son-in-law, Julian Amery, who was Minister at the Colonial Office. Everyone was incredulous as what I told them. The Permanent Under Secretary at the Colonial Office told Amery I had never served in Africa and that I was mad. When Amery, who was very perturbed, persisted, he was told it was a mistake. Of course they knew who I was but sadly a fire had destroyed all my papers. Only a file cover with my name on it had survived.’
There followed thirty years of media indifference, evidence of telephone tapping and the kind of official obstruction familiar to ‘dissidents’ such as Cohn Wallace and others.
* * * * * *
‘The public relations job is not confined to some historians. As an administrator, I drafted and edited many reports which gave a rosy picture of the Labour Department and its work. My aim was to present my Department as efficient and hard-working in an effort to encourage it to be like that, and anyway I would not have been allowed to write the depressing ‘truth’ emphasising all the faults and negative aspects. Henry Bretton, an American scholar, realised all this in 1962 when he wrote that most articles and books on Nigeria did not shed light on its problems. The majority paraphrased official reports written by bureaucrats (like myself) “whose purpose it is to conceal rather than to reveal. Bretton goes on to say that for this reason no real insights should be expected from studies based on official reports of elections in Nigeria. Bretton was very perceptive. If the ‘official’ story, history or report is not the whole truth, how can one find out what really happened?
For the officials who know the secrets risk their jobs, promotion and pension rights if they reveal those dark secrets. Where law breaking is concerned it is my personal belief that the civil servant’s true loyalty must be to the electorate and not to criminals who happen to be civil servants or politicians. In the United States civil servants are positively encouraged and ordered to blow the whistle on criminal activity. In Britain the establishment regards the public, the taxpayers who pay their salaries, as the enemy who must not be allowed access to secrets, for the simple reason that if they knew what was going on they would put a stop to it.’
‘The official story, that the British handed sovereign power in Nigeria over to a democratically elected group of party leaders was written and stage managed by officials. The true story must not be revealed to the public. Keeping these two scenarios going was no problem for the experienced bureaucrat. Even what appeared to be an absolute truth, the granting of Independence in October 1960 is not as well founded as it appears.’
‘The Regions already had considerable powers of self-government and became independent in 1957. British influence and power continued unchecked in the most vital areas of Government after October 1960, and to some extent, so successful have British policy and the machinations of British Governments been, even to the present day. A secret defence pact, which Nigeria’s leaders had to agree to sign before Independence was granted, is but one small example. As the elections were not fair and above board, the legitimacy of the Government was doubtful. The British Government determined beforehand to whom it would be handing the keys of the Nigerian kingdom.
They were the rulers of the North, who had been long favoured by the British.
When the British invaded the Moslem North and realised that a stable, feudal and authoritarian system of government was already in place, they decided to rule through the Emirs. This system of indirect government which has probably always been the stock-in-trade of conquering powers became almost a religion or a fetish and attempts were also made to apply it in Southern Nigeria with disastrous results.
The basic idea was that the Northern rulers could do as they pleased so long as they did not offend the British. The restrictions placed on the Emirs were not arduous and so long as taxes were collected and there was no disorderly behaviour, the Emirs not only had a free hand but were assisted by British administrators and, if necessary, by the force of the British army.
Missionaries were disliked by the British and only allowed into very restricted areas. As the Northern Region covered most of the area of Nigeria and arguably the majority of Nigeria’s population, only a minority of Nigerians had access to the civilising influence and the schools, hospitals and Christian message of the missionaries.
‘Sir Alan Burns, an acting Governor of Nigeria and historian, asked after Independence what British rule had done for the Nigerian people. He said the chiefs had little to complain of, their positions were assured and their incomes more certain. As for the common people, no attempt was made to force upon them “all of the doubtful advantages of modern civilisation.” Dr. Robert Collis was also in Nigeria at that time. He wrote, ‘The children of Nigeria are suffering unbelievably. I have seen nothing like it since Belsen. Death and pain stalk beside them. Out of every two born one must die... often suffering the greatest agony as they go.”’
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After Independence, Okotie Eboh’s opportunities for corruption greatly increased and were one of the main causes of the military coup which took place on 15 January 1966. He was dragged from his ministerial palace and gunned down. His body, riddled with bullets, was thrown into the jungle outside Lagos. In the Civil War which followed up to one million Nigerians lost their lives.
Read more-By Harold Smith;*Lobster 1993 (Editor: Robin Ramsay),The Covert Origins of the Biafran,War.Lobster 1994 (Editor: Stephen Dorril) ), Nigeria Election Rigging and Dirty Tricks .‘New African’ (Editor: Baffour Ankomah) ,May 2005: How the British Undermined Democracy in Africa. “You know, Mr Smith, they have treated you like an African”.A Lesson to African Journalists . November 2008: A Squalid End to Empire.
The British governments thru several of its apparatus have refused to allow Mr. Smith’s works to see the light of day, all attempts by him to publish all these secrets in a ‘book form’ had been frustrated.
However, it is obvious from the little that have surfaced that the Zik/Awo imbroglio and the subsequent East/West divide or the eventual acrimony in the south, was master minded by the British in what Smith termed ‘Divide and rule’ to keep the North perpetually in power. And then, the civil war came, the same British turned the other eyes as millions of civilians (not combatant soldiers) were hacked down by Russian’s Il-28 BEAGLE (ILYUSHIN), one of the most brutal weapons of mass destruction known to man by the mid 20th century.
Yet such people could run and run after a small ‘devil’ of Idi Amin, or Saddam and weep more than the bereaved over Rwanda. In other clime, it is the little man of Zimbabwe that is being given all sorts of doggy names so as to banish him for all eternity into a political Siberia.
The gruesome murder of almost all the first generation leaders on January 15th and the subsequent 'revenge mission (apology to Danjuma), the bitter acrimony and suspicion among the various ethnic groupings, the North/South dichotomy and the unending bitter dialogues that continue to bedeviled the nation till date, could all be traced back to this singular act of history perpetuated shamelessly by an unrepentant world power.
The oil concessions, given to the multinationals during the civil war via the dictate of the British as an instrument of blackmail to support Nigeria against a determined foe known as ‘Biafrans’, still hunt the nation and its people till date.
Going by the statement of Tafawa Balewa, Awolowo, Ojukwu etc quoted initially -is the appendage ‘Nigeria’ or ‘Nigerians’ not an illegal one ? Is that not the reason (why) a 50 year ol’ man in few days is still a baby …? Is that not why the nation has all its best brains living outside its shores, a sparkling, living glory of other nations that appreciate their acts and arts..?
Is that not the reason (why) nothing works and princes are banished from the palaces, while ‘area boys’,’ area fathers’ and ‘abokis’ live in palatial palaces? And corruption is like an endemic and pathological second nature to every one called or named Nigerian.
'ex turpi causa oritur non actio': any legal action arising from illegal action is also illegal.
One day the people shall be bold enough to stand on their feet and speak out!!!!!!!!
Then, they will need no more Ganis,Asaris,Soyinkas,Bola Iges,Tunde Bakares of this world to ginger them to stand ....
at 2:29 AM