This original article, titled “Lugard And Colonial
Here we go:
(“More like sovereign heads of state than servants of the same British Crown” – the rivalry and ‘diplomacy’ of imperial proconsuls hampered the creation of
Photo: Lugard’s arrival at Calabar on a tour of the Central and
DIPLOMACY IS NOT AN ACTIVITY usually associated with colonies or colonial officials. By definition colonies were not sovereign states and where relations with other countries were concerned, these were conducted for them by their imperial governments. Likewise, the colonial official did not ‘represent’ his country in his colony, even when he bore a diplomatic title like that of ‘Resident’ in Northern Nigeria, but rather exercised power on its behalf over people who had lost their sovereignty.
Given this, a special problem arose as to how to conduct relations between colonies occupied by the same metropolitan power that were territorially contiguous but administered as separate entities. To take Africa as an example,
The three contiguous British territories of the Niger – the Lagos Colony and Protectorate, and the Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria – provide a fascinating case study of the way in which these contiguous British administrations conducted relations with each other very much as would friendly (and sometimes not so friendly) sovereign states with particular concerns, boundaries and ways of life to defend. Before the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria was formally proclaimed in 1900, it was declared British policy to amalgamate it with its southern neighbours. The fact it took fourteen years to amalgamate them, was in large part due to often bitter ‘diplomatic’ wrangles between their respective officials, and the way these officials perceived their colonies as ‘countries’ with special interests which it was their business to protect. Sir Frederick Lugard, as High Commissioner of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, highlighted the anomalies of this situation when he wrote to Sir William MacGregor, Governor of the Lagos Colony and Protectorate, over the boundary between the two British territories in March, 1902:
I venture to remind Your Excellency that though, in my opinion, it matters little where the exact frontier is placed, since both Protectorates are British, since before long it is your hope and mine that they will become still more closely connected, and since I have the good fortune to have succeeded in working in co-operation and harmony with Your Excellency, still I have an obligation no less than that which you so strongly feel yourself to safeguard the traditional and just rights of the chiefs within my administration.
The three British colonial possessions of the Niger that were amalgamated between 1906 and 1914 each had a different origin which helped determine the specific character they quickly developed under their British administrators. The oldest of the three was the Lagos Colony and Protectorate, dating back to 1861 when the British occupied the island-port of
Photo: Top Left: Sir William MacGregor, Governor of the
Right: Sir Frederick Lugard, High Commissioner for the Protectorate of
Bottom Left: Sir Percy Girouard, Lugard’s successor in the North
To the east of the Lagos Colony and Protectorate lay the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, much of which in 1900 still had to be conquered or, in British colonial parlance, ‘pacified’. This Protectorate, formed from the old Niger Coast Protectorate and part of the lands of the Royal Niger Company, whose status as a Charter Company with the right to administer territory on behalf of the Crown had been withdrawn the year before, comprised a multitude of different ethnic groups. Its origins went back to the mid-nineteenth century when British consular officials began to exercise authority over certain coastal states in an attempt to suppress the slave trade and protect the interests of British palm-oil merchants. It was ruled from Old Calabar in the far south-eastern corner of the territory by Sir Ralph Moor.
The Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, proclaimed on January 1st, 1900, when the British flag was hoisted at Lokoja at the confluence of the Benue and the
A colonial governor can seldom have been appointed to a territory so much of which had never even been viewed by himself or any other European.
It may seem curious that so soon after their conquest, and given the arbitrary nature of their boundaries and the heterogeneity of the peoples and polities enclosed within them, these British-created colonies could even be thought of in terms of countries. Yet, within a short space of time, their respective colonial administrations had imposed on them a separate, albeit British-derived identity, in terms of differing legal systems, administrative organisation and patterns of economic development. The administrators of these three territories saw them as having the attributes of countries and, if they were to be amalgamated, as all were agreed they eventually should, this should be done on terms that were in no way disadvantageous to their individual interests.
The actual decision to amalgamate the British territories on the
All were agreed that the long term goal should be the amalgamation of the three territories. For the present this was impractical because of lack of communications and the problem of the climate which dictated the appointment of younger men as senior administrators and would make it difficult to find a man with sufficient seniority to oversee all three territories. At this early stage, differences of opinion began to emerge between the British officials on the spot as to what form the organisation should take. Moor favoured the immediate amalgamation of
Chamberlain, as Secretary of State for Colonies, accepted that for the time being there should be three territories, so in 1900, with the declaration of the British protectorate of Northern Nigeria, the renaming of the Niger Coast Protectorate as the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the retention of the Lagos Colony and Protectorate as a separate administrative entity, there were established three British administrations on the Niger whose long-term goal was amalgamation. But as the Nigerian historian and administrator, Isaac N Okonjo, so shrewdly observed:
Not for the last time were British political officers to identify themselves too closely with the interests of the region of Nigeria in which they served and which they had grown to love at the expense of the wider interest of the country as a whole.
The principle source of friction between the three territories on the
The principal source of friction lay on the boundary between Northern Nigeria on the one hand and the
As early as April 1900, with Lugard’s agreement, Macgregor set off on journeys into parts of Yorubaland claimed by the North. Not only did MacGregor pass on to the Colonial Office complaints made by Yoruba towns he claimed for Lagos about ‘forcible and harmful interference by officers of Northern Nigeria, of whom our boundary natives stand in unreasonable and unreasoning dread’, but he alleged that these border towns had also a ‘great dread of being transferred to Northern Nigeria’. MacGregor also wrote that he considered that he had already ‘shown that it is impossible for Lagos to cede Kishi’ (The author’s italics).
Lugard, who considered MacGregor over-solicitous of, and deferential to, his ‘native chiefs’. Was particularly annoyed at the charges laid against his officers. Indeed he wrote to MacGregor that apart from not feeling it necessary to represent to the Secretary of state complaints against or adverse reports upon Lagos officials: ‘….I deprecate allowing natives to practice their traditional policy of playing off the officials of one Administration against that of the other’. Even so, Lugard has MacGregor’s charges investigated and one of the border officials, Pierce M Dwyer, Assistant Resident in Ilorin, assured him ‘that during my period of service in Illorin [sic] I have been most careful to refrain from any act that might be considered by the Lagos Government as interference’.
The boundary disputes between Moor and Lugard were no less acrimonious. The basic differences between the t were summed up by Captain Woodruffe, one of the Southern Boundary Commissioners, who held that they:
Arose from the fact that from the Northern Nigerian point of view, geographical considerations were of little or no importance….further….the Political Officer, Northern Nigeria, stated that he did not see what race, Native Custom and tradition had to do with the question as he, personally, did not consider the natives had any feelings of sentiment or cling to customs and laws they and the people before them were used to, and further, in his opinion that if any natives were ordered by one Government or the other to go either North of South they would do so.
The Southern Boundary Commissioner, by contrast, considered that ‘natives were very much in the habit of maintaining their old allegiance, however slight’.
Although Moor and Lugard signed an agreement with regard to their boundary west of the Niger, they were unable to settle that east of the Niger. They did, however, come to an understanding as to what was for the time-being workable, and agreed joint patrols along their undefined borders because the ‘natives’ in the area were not yet ‘pacified’. But the divisions between them were too deep. In the event Lugard appealed to the Secretary of State for a ruling, talking about the question of transfer of lands in terms of ‘cession’. Meanwhile he assured Moor that he had not been ‘activated by hunger for land’.
Matters were easier on the Lagos-Southern Nigerian Protectorate frontier. But even though disputes concerned matters of much less moment, such as the position of a marker point in a river, they were sometimes referred home. As Bull minuted to Antrobus on Moor’s despatch about the markers:
It is merely a question of words, and it is a little surprising that a man of Sir R Moor’s capacity should have referred home on such a point, when he has been told that Mr Chamberlain is prepared to agree to anything he may settle with OAG (Officer Administering the Government) Lagos in this matter. But these internal boundary questions, though trivial, have a knack of bringing out the most businesslike characteristics of all three administrators of
While the objective of amalgamating the three Nigerian territories had been established by the Niger Committee from the outset, no time limit had been set for its achievement. The Committee did, however, recommend that the three territories form a Customs Union pending amalgamation, and Lugard, before assuming duties in the North, had proposed in 1899 that he would adopt the same ‘customs, regulations and management’ as Southern Nigeria and Lagos ‘in so far as they are applicable to an inland territory’. But once out in