By Sam Caulcrick
Nigeria as a nation came about as a necessity of circumstances – the beginning of the First World War in 1914; similarly, former Yugoslavia’s creation was the aftermath of the end of the same war in 1918. Yugoslavia is no longer in existence. It disintegrated violently after protracted incompatibility among its constituents. Nigeria, in its case, continues to limp along with unsustainable fault lines. To understand why Nigeria’s fault lines are becoming more expansive, one needs to know about the architect of Nigeria’s geographical expression. Sir Frederick Lugard, the effect of that conflagration – World War I – and the different ways of life of the Nigerian nationalities; all the residual components are pulling it apart instead of cementing it.
The Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 officially sanctioned British claims to Nigeria. The British declaration of the Oil Rivers Protectorate, the Niger delta area, followed immediately in June 1885, with the creation of the posts of Consul and Vice-Consul for outlying points and a Commissioner and Consul-General based at the port of Old Calabar. In 1893 by an Order in Council, the territory was expanded to include the immediate hinter land and was renamed the Niger Coast Protectorate. The enlarged jurisdiction included all areas under the treaty to England along the coast. But not those lands along either side of the Niger River in the interior which were under the control of Sir George Goldie’s Royal Niger Company.
From 1886 to 1900, the Royal Niger Company represented the only source of British influence in Nigeria’s interior. The charter granted to Goldie called for the abolition of slavery, respect of native customs and laws, freedom of trade, and the collection of duties to cover the expenses of administrating the natives. To the Crown’s advantage, the use of the charter company permitted the spread of British rule without the accompanying high costs. In return, the Company monopolies squeezed out the Brass men. This native tribe made its livelihood by transporting goods from the interior to the coast. The embittered tribesmen recoiled at their treatment and launched a vicious assault on the Company headquarters at Akassa in 1895. The attack and various malpractices led Lord Salisbury to review the Company’s charter and revoke it in 1899.
A year and a half later, on January 1, 1900, the British government took control of all that formerly belonged to the Royal Niger Company. The administration was reorganised to include: Lagos Colony, Niger Coast Protectorate, Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, and Protectorate of Northern Nigeria; the latter two being governed by a High Commissioner and Governor respectively. Further changes occurred in 1906 when the Lagos Colony and Niger Coast Protectorate merged into the Southern Protectorate. At this time, administrative responsibility for the colony was shifted from the Foreign Office to the Colonial Office. Finally, the name “Nigeria” was chosen for the colony in preference to Niger Sudan, “Negrettia”, and “Goldesia.” However, a British with checkered history would, due to commission or omission, leave an indelible impact on the lives of the citizens of this geographical expression – Lord, Sir, Frederick Lugard. More about him in a while.
In Nigeria, the history of British interests up to 1914 centred upon commerce, Christianity, and enough government to ensure effective control. Due to the rigorous climate, large European settlement and expropriation of native land and authority had failed to be a problem. Furthermore, with the lack of men and money, indirect rule utilising the native governing structure to the fullest extent had developed in Northern Nigeria. On the other hand, a direct rule was set naturally in the Southern Protectorate, where the tribal system was much more egalitarian. The administrative forces were more numerous, and existing concepts of colonial rule were different.
Before Lugard entered into West Africa, English interests for two centuries had centred first on the slave trade and later on the exploration of the Niger River. Discovering the wealth the Dutch and Portuguese had accumulated, Liverpool slavers began operating off the West African coast, and by 1713 dominated the trade to the New World. Subsequently, an estimated 24,000,000 slaves were taken by European1traders, with 22,000 leaving annually from Nigerian ports.
Lugard had the ability and had spent the more significant part of his life in various parts of the British Empire, gaining the necessary experience. Frederick John Dealtry was born in 1858 to Anglican missionary parents in southern India. From his father, the heritage of great physical strength and tenacity well-marked Lugard’s facility to endure the climatic extremes and the rigours of his efforts in Africa. He, however, had a checkered beginning. He first sought to join the Indian Civil Service army class but failed to pass the examination. Turning to the regular army in 1877, he finished sixth among a thousand applicants and won entry into Sandhurst.
Lugard’s preparation was sharply curtailed by the problems of England’s foreign policy. After only eight weeks of training at Sandhurst, his class were commissioned – the Russian challenged the British in the Near East in 1897. Assigned to the 9th Regiment of East Norfolk, the young subaltern joined it in India at the end of 1878. Enthusiastic in supporting the empire, Lugard marched with Gough’s brigade through the Khyber Pass and experienced action in Afghanistan in 1879. Captain Lugard’s army career abruptly ended in 1887.
Practically penniless, Lugard took deck passage on a coastal steamer to Mombassa, British East Africa. A British Consul procured a position for him with the African Lakes Company. And it resulted in a new life of much responsibility. His latest employment exposed him to the dreadful ravages of the African slave trade in East Africa. It aroused his interests in its abolition through the extension of British control. Though religious motivation and humanitarianism had given considerable impetus to opposition to slavery at this time, Lugard’s actions instead reflected his desire for adventure to blot out his unhappy memories.
Despite Lugard’s profoundly religious youth, he did not become a crusader against the slavers until later. Dissatisfied with the derelict financial operations of the African Lakes Company, Lugard left it in 1889 to join Imperial East Africa Company. For the next four years, he played an essential role in extending its interests in Uganda. While with the East Africa Company, there was an allegation of a financial infraction. Lugard returned home in 1893 to clear his name.
Consequently, in 1894 Lugard accepted Sir George Goldie’s offer to work for the Royal Niger Company in West Africa. Before Lugard entered into West Africa, English interests for two centuries had centred first on the slave trade and later on the exploration of the Niger River. Discovering the wealth the Dutch and Portuguese had accumulated, Liverpool slavers began operating off the West African coast, and by 1713 dominated the trade to the New World. Subsequently, an estimated 24,000,000 slaves were taken by European traders, with 22,000 leaving annually from Nigerian ports.
Lugard’s first assignment on joining the Royal Niger Company caused him to make a dramatic dash to Borgu in northwestern Nigeria to insure British juris diction through a treaty with King Nikki. In 1895 and 1896, Lugard left West Africa temporarily for financial reasons to take a position with the British West Charter-land Company in South Africa. While looking for diamonds amidst the wilds of the Kalahari, he received an offer from Joseph Chamberlain, Secretary of State for Colonies, to head a West African military force. Lugard accepted and returned immediately to West Africa. For .the next two years, he organised and trained a staff of 2,000 to 3,000 native soldiers to ensure the British claims to Nigeria’s hinterland. Ultimately forcing the French to the point of armed conflict on the western border.
From 1900 to 1906, the most significant development in Nigeria’s history was Lugard’s introduction of in direct native rule as a means of colonial administration. In 1900 as the High Commissioner of the Northern Protectorate, he found British control tenuous at best. With a tiny military force, Lugard deposed all Muslim emirs, who refused to recognise British suzerainty. He abolished the slave trade, guaranteed freedom of worship, and ruled justly along the general prevailing guide lines of European morality. He rejected some Fulani leaders and accepted others loyal to his will. He success fully established his administration at Zaria, Kontagora, Kano, Sokoto and other significant centres in Northern Nigeria by 1904. Lugard left West Africa to become the Governor of Hong Kong in 1906.
From 1911, the Colonial Office had muted the unification of the area now known as Nigeria. Thus the goal of amalgamation was to bring the two distinct, incompatible areas together by establishing a central government over the entire colony. This task, however, was to become immeasurably more difficult with the beginning of World War I, for the conflict forced many administrative and economic changes on Nigeria. These, in turn, were to challenge Lugard’s ability to reconcile them with the political system he hoped to instal.
Meanwhile, from 1900 to 1912, governors Sir R. D. R. Moor and Sir Walter Egerton directed the British direct rule system in Southern Nigeria. The slave trade was abolished, and those already slaves were legally recognised as such by a House Rule law, a unique protective tribal custom of Eastern Nigeria.
Sir John Anderson of the Colonial Office wrote Sir Frederick in April 1911, stating the anxiety to unify the Nigerian Administration. They have all agreed that Lugard is the man – if only he will take it for sufficient time to give it a good start. Lugard, now married and Governor of Hong Kong since 1906, eagerly accepted Sir John’s invitation. Returning to Nigeria, he spent 1912 and 1913 as Governor of both Protectorates while preparing for the consolidation. Whitehall set Sir Frederick’s goals for the unification for better financial management and a coordinated policy at the highest levels. It was meant a better-divided colony on an ethnic and geographical basis and established a comprehensive public works program.
In I906, as stated earlier, the Colony of Lagos became a component of the Southern Protectorate of Nigeria, administered by a Governor, and the capital moved from Calabar to Lagos. In the Southern Protectorate, the Governor had exercised more direct control making much less use of native leaders than in the North. The Northern Protectorate had been governed by a High Commissioner who operated through a system of native rule called “indirect rule”. The British government generally believed, in 1912 when the plan for the amalgamation of Nigeria was accepted, that Sir Frederick Lugard was the only man who could successfully inaugurate the policy.
The human carnage of the First World War, the destruction, and the ruin created grave pressures throughout the World. Though remote, the continent of Africa encountered these powerful forces also. In Nigeria, the conflagration impeded the colony’s administrative development while it spurred its economic growth. Nigeria did not escape the blood bath because Nigerian troops fought in both East and West Africa. Before the outbreak of the war, the British government needed to repatriate some of the Foreign Service personnel to prosecute a war brewing in its backyard. It, therefore, bought into the idea proposed by Lugard in 1911 and decided to give Nigeria a centralised colonial administration.
British involvement in World War I and up to the end of the war encompassed the humanitarian interests of restricting the slave trade, the economics of exporting tropical products, and the political interests of colonial control for reasons of power and prestige. World War I, however, marked the decline of concern for abolition and the end of European competition for colonies in Africa. Activities between the wars concentrated on Nigeria’s economic value to England. After World War II, they were to be concerned with the native’s drive for independence. By 1919, with the end of the war and the completion of Lugard’s amalgamation, Nigerian history became the beginning of an ending future.
Sir Frederick Lugard’s rule in Nigeria suffered specific maladies throughout, particularly the war years. The most immediate problems evolved from his personal inability to delegate authority to his subordinates. With exceedingly complex communications, the lack of decision-making powers often left a Resident Officer handcuffed. Thus the burden of detail always fell on Governor-General. Lugard’s centralism style of administration prevented the development of broad policies that local newspaper critics thought should be introduced to lead the colony toward eventual self-rule. On the other hand, Lugard failed to remove certain obvious contradictions in his amalgamation plan because he concentrated on administrative minutiae.
For example, Sir Frederick Lugard thought that indirect rule would maintain the integrity of the native tribe and make it possible for British control. It did in Northern Nigeria and required a reduced number of supervising British foreign service officers. Because of the egalitarian nature of the south, particularly the southeast, there were strong oppositions to indirect rule. Lugard’s personal creation worked amazingly well in the Northern parts, providing the British with adequate control of a vast area at very little expense. Its only significant disruption was the Satiru Uprising in February 1906, which, however, was rapidly crushed by Lugard and the loyal Sultan of Sokoto. From 1906 to 1912, the consolidation of the institutions and practices of indirect rule proceeded under the direction of governors.
In some instances, in the Southern Province, the installation of Lugard’s amalgamation programs caused some minor uprisings. The first disorder occurred in Iseyin in southwestern Nigeria in October 1916. With the recent introduction of indirect rule, the relationship between the British administrator and the native chief was uncertain. The influence of the war added to its instability. Furthermore, Lugard’s newly installed Native Court System caused resentment among the native functionaries. The latter had lost their positions in the former judicial system. Finally, some mistrust grew between the natives and newly placed District officers who had yet to build their usual rapport with the tribal chiefs. As a result, the Iseyin revolted killed two government officials and threatened to spread rebellion throughout Yoruba land. Quick punitive action by the area’s Resident Officer, the Alaafin, and Lugard, however, nipped it in the bud.
The second native rebellion, the Egba Uprising, also occurred in Yoruba land in June 1918, resulting from the hatred and accusations of the Ijemo Massacre.
But Lugard stubbornly disobeyed the Colonial Office directives continuously not to merge the two diametrical ways of life. He argued that his method would influence the indigenous societies through an English adviser to the tribal leadership. Thus he expected the gradual assimilation of western ideas in education, medicine, law, and economics. The ruling class in Northern Nigeria would corner those for their children and any favoured ward. Yet the training of teachers, lawyers, clerks, and other professionals meant creating a westernised native elite which, in the years following Lugard’s rule, was rejected by its former native society. Furthermore, it held a worldly vision much broader than that of a tribal unit.
The preservation of Nigeria’s northern and southern divisions also helped to prevent total amalgamation. First, Lugard continued separate administrative policies for all matters other than defence, transportation, justice, and finance for apparent contradictions. Sir Frederick justified this arrangement to his superiors in Whitehall because Northern Nigeria’s dictatorial style suited his management style. He, therefore, slowed the progress of Northern Nigeria in vital societal areas, waiting for indirect rule in Southern Nigeria to advance to a comparable stage. Southern Nigeria, meanwhile, did not wait for the colonialists as they pushed towards modernism, primarily through personal efforts. Second, unification occurred only at the top of the colony’s government. It could be asserted that the war prevented later changes from being made in the governing structure. There is little merit in this suggestion as Lugard particularly desired to maintain the system to benefit his own designs and ego. Furthermore, he never suggested the need or wish to advance to the total centralisation of the colonial government.
Sir Frederick’s insistence on implementing his designed Scheme further impeded Nigeria’s unification. The Scheme was devised by Lugard to allow him to administer Nigeria from both Lagos and London. To cope with this administration plan, the Governor-General refused to construct a large centralised administrative staff in Lagos. It would have necessitated either his constant presence or the arduous task of allowing an assistant to govern in his absence. Either choice seemed repulsive to a person who was very much his own man. As a result, Lugard maintained the same system, in effect, before amalgamation, with two lieutenant-governors to rule in his absence. While daily affairs generally fell under the purview of the lieutenant-governors, substantive policy and most decisions of any significance continued to be made by Lugard; sometimes inconveniently located in his basement quarters at the Colonial Office, in London.
In fairness to Lugard, it must be pointed out that his system was based on the possible art. Under the circumstances, he needed more foreign services staff to supervise the administration of the Southern Protectorate. Most of them had been withdrawn back to Britain to prosecute the war. The Southern divisions under his administration were still resisting indirect rule. Lugard reasoned amalgamation could any other course of action have been followed, especially after 1914? Despite his positive and contradictory nature, Nigeria did withstand fairly successfully the immediate pressures of the war. Perhaps this was Lugard’s most vital point, for significant changes in the administration occurred under the two governors who followed Sir Frederick. As a whole, Lugard’s system of amalgamation remained rather artificial in its construction around himself.
The very necessities brought on by the war suggest the long tenure of Sir Frederick in Nigeria. His consistent disobedience of Colonial Office policy might have created a serious attempt to find a more compliant substitute had circumstances been otherwise. Lugard’s stubbornness and deception using direct taxation and use of native treasuries caused the Colonial Secretary, Sir Louis Harcourt, many irritations. However, Sir Frederick’s strong will, the war, and his “indispensable” status ensured his position. But it left faeces to offend the psyche of the nationalities that make Nigeria.
A natural product of war is change, they say. In the case of Nigeria, this is especially true due to the simultaneous installation of a centralised government. As the record goes, the economic expansion of Nigeria’s natural resources during the conflict contributed immediately to the colony’s wealth and forecast a bright future. Much less spectacular was the attempt to establish a uniform rule throughout the territory, which suffered from a significant manpower loss and the aberrations of Sir Frederick Lugard, the Governor-General.
In a much larger sense, the amalgamation period represents a significant turning point in Nigerian history. The political and economic union of the colony marked the first stages of its emergence from the “Dark Continent” into the World’s family of nations. But the lingering mistrust the Lugard sowed persists until this day. Nigeria quickly turned its back on “barbarity”, despite being divided along tribal lines and cursed with slavery in the immediate past. It began to learn the political, economic, and social values favoured by the Western World, significantly aided by the participation of the Africans in the hostilities, which drastically lowered his vision of the European’s superiority. Similarly, the growth of an African intelligentsia and a new national awareness spurred greater political participation.
Materials culled from the 1966 scholar work of John F. Riddick at the Graduate College Master’s Thesis at the Western Michigan University, U.S.A.