WASP In A Way Of Making A Colony

The disparity of economic relations between the Global North and Africa is intuitively clear but hard to grasp. Back in the days, the ‘centre – colony’ relations were carved in stone of European national legislations, providing a clear-cut agenda for champions of the African independence. After a brief reshaping most of the continent’s countries nailed their colours to the mast and  put out to a journey of a sovereign rule. The old ship, however, was still the same – crafted from the colonial tinder by colonial carpenters and sailed by the old-school crew.

There is no wonder that when navigating the high seas of international politics she stuck to the beaten colonial routes. At the same time, the equivalence of former exploitation and modern ‘liberal market’ relations became hard to perceive, because new motley political maps celebrated everybody’s independence.

In order to comprehend the absence of African Renaissance immediately after the independence, scholars coined a new terminology of ‘post-colonial’ studies. But instead of mushrooming some new big-word theories let us cast a fresh look at the British politics in Nigeria and compare them to the modernity. Apparently, many genuine tools of ‘indirect governance’ by the white Anglo-Saxon protestants (commonly referred to as WASP) remained essentially the same.

Colonial lure and thrifty management

Within a national economy, a government balances side effects of the domestic market. Among sovereign states, the comparability of their economic capacities safeguards fair relations. But if not balanced by administrative resources, the market inevitably leads to the exploitation. The British market-oriented ethics of efficiency define their search for profit opportunities. In these lenses, a colony is just a profit opportunity that is not protected by an administrative resource. Today this understanding of the matter is even more valid, since the accountable democratic governments of the West have to follow the market logic when placing their taxpayers’ money outside the country. And please don’t let the human-rights twaddle fool you. The good old story of the ‘white men’s burden’ to bring progress to the rest of the mankind was already taken onboard when Portuguese colonizers set sails for the first time. The truth is that today the West minds the very same business, but it’s run so efficiently that became almost invisible.

Since the XV century, the precious Nigerian resource in question was the manpower. Its exploitation over the ageshas been characterized by the evolution of European technologies. The first Portuguese sails veiled the dawns of Bight of Benin approximately in the 1430s when costs of ship building fell below expected profits from slave trade. Unlike other Europeans, the British, who took up the torch from Portuguese in the XVIII century, consciously preferred to deal with belligerent tribes. It allowed them to cut down the costs and skim the creams of local feuds. In XVIII and XIX centuries, they acquired Edo, Igbo, Nupe and Hausa slaves from Oyo; Yoruba slaves from Benin; Idoma, Igbo and Ibibio slaves in the cities of Brass, Banny and Opobo. Without even touching the ground, they harnessed the same profit that the Spaniards and the Portuguese reaped by onerous military conquests.

Later in the XIX century, the pace of British industry created a huge demand for palm oil, rubber, cacao and peanuts. Inconveniently, it coincided with the havoc of Oyo and Benin demise and emergence of Sokoto Caliphate. The chaos ceased to be lucrative and was at odds with economic interests of Albion. Besides, in the run-up to the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, Germany and France joined the competition in West Africa, which instilled apprehensions in London. To tackle this predicament, the British took over Lagos in 1851 and launched a campaign establishing administration of the territories that became Nigeria. It was typical of the British that they restricted their presence down to the indispensable minimum. Instead of taking responsibility for the evolvement of the concurred masses, they bred a social organism that exploited itself to the benefit of the ‘mother country’.

After the WWI, which claimed 12 thousand Nigerian lives in Cameroon, Togo and Tanzania in English battles against Germany, the British decided to impose some new managerial technologies on their beloved colony. They contrived a smart set of instruments that were easy on the eye but put together created a perfect exploitative system. Firstly, they introduced compulsory unpaid works and obligatory levies on all Nigerians. Secondly, the new levies were raised in cash while the only way for the locals to make the necessary money was by selling farm products to the British monopolies. The monopolies, in turn,controlled the prices for the goods they needed. Furthermore, the monopolies never interacted with peasants directly. Instead of that, they concluded futures contracts with local compradors, who then faced the peasants and extorted the goods for even lower prices in order to increase their own profits.

Actually it was the same slavery but in a new guise. The peasants were forced to work for free and pay cash by underselling products that colonialists needed them to produce in the first place. The white men stayed out of the picture, while wealthy and loyal local compradors performed the dirty work. A win-win-win situation for the British administration, really.

After the WWII, when next 10 thousand Nigerians died in Somalia, Ethiopia, Burma and Maghreb in new British battles against Germany, human technologies of far-reaching communication rendered an on-site management redundant. It coincided with rising civil consciousness in Nigeria that manifested itself through a forceful reaction to the gory suppression of strikes in Enugu in 1949. The British evacuated their administration and conceded to the natives the privilege of running the monstrous business to the welfare of its beneficiaries overseas. Under the cover of celebrated Nigerian statehood the Constitution of Little tone of 1954 perpetuated colonial fundamentals of Nigerian society. When the First Republic collapsed in 1966, the sequent military regimes froze it essentially intact for the next few decades.

Today, just like centuries ago, Nigerians work for miserable loans in western-born companies, worship Western institutes and greener pastures of the Occident. They cherish tribal prejudices and notions that replace their civil identity and responsibility. The tycoons who manage to break through and climb the top of the rapacious organism called Nigerian economy remit their lucre west wards and work hard to make sure the system does not change. Just like centuries ago, WASP watch locals loading their ships voluntary with their own hands for glass beads in exchange. The progress is hard to overlook – there used to be palm oil, now it’s crude.

A little something in exchange

A colonist never comes barehanded. There is always a rattle to distract your attention and a doctrine to induce the necessary behavior. It started with glass beads and missionary preachments, then through vogue and propagation of European ethics down to the modern deification of liberal democracy and tinsel splendor of consumerism. The point is always to leash the ‘target audience’ in their blind faith of proper inferiority, to deprive them of self-esteem and genuine march of social evolvement.

In the XV century, when England was struggling through the shambles of feudal rivalries towards centennial absolutism under Tudors, the states of Oyo, Ife, Benin and others already enjoyed well-ordered systems of checks-and-balances.

Uzama Nihiron in Benin and Oyo Messi in Oyo were councils to elect kings, who remained accountable to their electorate under pain of death and never demised power to their scions. The only European country that approached this level of rulers’ accountability was Poland, and even though in the late XVI century. Unless the encounter with the European ‘civilization’, the indigenous African institutions could have evolved into progressive governments capable of giving a head start to all currently practiced forms of statehood.

As for the rattle, it has always been cheap to produce and pricy to buy. A colonist would never share the know-how, but keep waiving it in front of a native’s eyes. The price scissors is what makes the exploitation work. Costly imported groceries in exchange for cheap labor and minerals. Today just like in the good old times, folks.

And yes, the British built railways in Nigeria and contributed to the country’s industrialization and GDP. But they did so exclusively to the extent necessary to secure proper revenues. It fades in comparison to the socially oriented businesses they run back home. Industrial capacities on colonial ground remain isolated from the local society. In the early XX century, they converted half a country into palm sanctuaries and urged sedentary tribes from their habitats. The very same process took place in England quite a while ago. The so called ‘enclosure’ of communal lands for coercive expansion of sheep grasslands provokedin the XVII century the Great English Revolution, sequence of civil wars and massive exodus to America. It is believed to be the flagrant social abuse that awoke civil awareness and definedthe transition of Albion from feudality to the modern age. Apparently, the industrial progress that the British brought to Nigeria was middle-ageold and totally inadmissible in their own country. One hundred years latter things haven’t budged an inch. Now foreign companies mine minerals in Nigeriaand leave a mess around.

  1. Divide and rule

One thing that characterizes the ‘indirect rule’ is fomentation of hostilities. The British conquered Lagos in 1851, plundered the City of Benin in 1897, Kano and Sokoto in 1903. These are well-known episodes of machine-gun massacres. Less known are the multiple episodes of making catspaws of local parochial chiefs that actually led to the seizure of immense Nigerian territories.

In 1881, the British gave arms to Oyo for the conquest of Ibadan and other Yoruba states. In 1888, when the victory was secured, they dictated a protectorate to Oyo. Starting from 1899Frederick Luggard,the First Governor General of Northern Protectorate has been sending offers to Amir-ul-Momineen of Sokoto to enthrone his protégés in rebellious emirates. While the British were helping to ‘consolidate the Caliphate’, they took over one by one Adamawa, Bauchi, Zaria, Gombetill in 1903 the Caliph received a generous offer to keep his position as a ‘traditional ruler’ under the wise and benign British protectorate. The offer was backed by 20 canons and multiple machine-guns benevolently pointing towards the palace.

In 1945 the Richard’s Constitution, despite vehement disagreement of Nigerian leaders, fixed segregation of the country into three regions, basing on ethnical principle. It was admittedly done to prevent rise of national awareness and keep local politics in straitjacket of interethnic contradictions. In the same vein, in 1956 was crafted the Constitution of the First Republic which was doomed to collapse in the military rule.

Nowadays, the West does not seem to be preoccupied with religious extremism, interethnic clashes and terrorism in Nigeria. It rather tacitly connives at it with a restrained smile of condescendence. You ask ‘why’? Because it does not really impede the oil production and keeps Nigeria on leash of complete export dependence.

Let us draw some parallels here. Libya was turned into a social paradise of a united prosperous nation and was about to start trading oil in Euro right before Muammar Kadaffi– who by that timehad spentover 40 years at the helm of the grateful nation – all of a sudden has been declared a maniac. In the 1970thIran was the only West’s friend in the Middle East, who traded oil unrestrictedly in counterbalance to the united opposition of Sunni Umma. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the USA fostered SadamHusein of Iraq to fight a murderous war against the new obstinate Iranian regime. While they bombed Tehran in 1988, oil prices sank to their historical minimum. Later in 2003, they started a war against the same SadamHusein. An equal story happened to Afghanistan: the US bred Taliban to fight shuravi (the Soviet army), later the White House declared them terrorists and launched a controlled and unabated havoc in the country that is still ongoing. The drug production in Afghanistanunder connivance of the US administration grew 40 times, which makes it tantamount to the British Opium Wars in China of XIX century. In all cases, the pretext for intrusion was the ‘international’ terrorism and violation of human rights. Apparently, the human rights are not that much violated by the most gory terror group of all times – Boko Haram, since the West keeps such a good distance from its deeds.

The Arab Spring of 2011, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, Venezuela are countries torn by internal conflicts, where the West vigorously backs their favorites. Like hundreds years ago, they still meddle with their promises of better governance into domestic affairs of resourceful societies, while overlooking conflagrations in parts of the world that don’t promise them good profits. The scheme is also old-fashioned: first, you fan embers of conflict in a target society, then pick a side that is eager to collaborate and decry anotheras terroristic. Next,you extort conseccions from your winning protégé and introduce a tacit monopoly to extract local goods for your benefit. Now the role of monopoly is played by transnational corporations with very intricate forms of ownership. However, the world trade balance reviles the truenature of all these policies in the end.

  1. So, what now?

What does the continuity of colonial ways mean to us, the Nigerians? It means that the Western domestic reality that they are trying to sell us as a model roleis nothing but a new rattle for the ‘developing’ countries. The truth of this reality has nothing to do with the lip service they pay to us. First of all, the supremacy of law cannot be introduced from the outside. It is the result of the inherent Western history, 93% of which was spent fighting each other in unabated bloodsheds. Moreover, the beautiful truce among predators that they enjoy nowadays has nothing to do with what they commit outside their circle. And as for the celebrated prosperity, it mostly rests on the nutritive base that the ‘developing’ countries render them.

Instead of recreating preposterous narratives in our own heads, and delve foolhardily into the same loop over and over again, let us look around for less bloodstained model roles to follow. There are also other kids in the sandpit: China has a great experience of becoming a great power after a long period of colonial devastation; Japan became the ‘most Western country of the World’ without losing the authenticity of its culture; Russia has always had enough resources and thereforeput values before bargains.
But best of all, let us finally start growing on our own roots.