Nigerian nationalism is on warpath against those seeking to rule the country trooping to a UK platform with ties to the Empire imagination. The argument against such trend can be powerful when a veteran of radical nationalism as the author of this piece put pen to paper. The author who has been at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru is now with the Department of Sociology, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto in the Northwest of Nigeria.
By Abubakar Sokoto Mohammed, mni.
Chatham House has been in the news in Nigeria recently arising from the frequency of the visits of the presidential candidates of the major political parties in the forthcoming 2023 General Elections to this royal court in London. President Muhammadu Buhari has been a regular visitor to Chatham House during the 2015 and 2019 elections and after. But we probably need to remind ourselves about some of these places.
Chatham House was founded in 1920 in London, United Kingdom and it is located at St. James Square near the Buckingham Palace, not far from Lancaster House. Chatham House which is also known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs is an “independent” policy institute. Its stated mission is, “To provide commentary on world events and offer solutions to global challenges” (my emphasis). There are actually two of such houses’ in the UK diplomatic arsenal. The second is the Lancaster House.
Lancaster House is a magnificent mansion with aristocratic and imperial antecedents located in the city of London, United Kingdom. The construction of the house started in 1825 and was completed in 1840. Lancaster House was initially owned by some British landed gentry. It was at one time the most valuable private house in London.
Subsequently, the Lancaster House became the property of Her Majesty’s Government and it is situated next to Buckingham Palace at St. James Square. It was managed by the Colonial Office and now the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The Lancaster House has been very historic in hosting royal coronations, banquets, official dinners, arts exhibitions, musical concerts and conferences.
The significance of Lancaster House to imperialism was its use as the venue for the negotiation of “Self-Rule” and later “Independence”. This was between the British Colonial Office, under the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the African politicians who led their political parties in the agitations for independence from colonial rule in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
The realization of a “Wind of Change” blowing across Africa was intuitively foreseen by the major colonial powers made them to accept the “decolonization” process grudgingly. This was to prevent the complete loss of their colonial empires. Lancaster House provided the venue and facilities for the compromise between African politicians and the British Colonial Office whereby some “agreements” were reached for “Self-Rule” initially, with the Queen as the Head of State.
The ideology of liberal democracy was chosen for the colonies, “independence constitutions” were drafted which accommodated the interests of the British Empire and the African politicians. There were no decisions on National Unity, Nation Building or the Economic Development of the African people with particular reference to the total control of their natural resources. Mult-party politics, parliamentary chambers, common law, official language, monetary policy and currency were all imposed on the African colonies as a condition for independence within the Commonwealth. The European companies were to continue business as usual.
All the major political leaders of Nigeria and other African British colonies attended the Lancaster House to negotiate for independence peacefully. The roll call of attendees at the Lancaster House conferences included Sir Ahmadu Bello and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa who led the Northern People’s Congress delegation, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Ladoke Akintola who led the Action Group delegation, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr Michael Okpara who led the National Convention for Nigeria and the Cameroons delegation, which incidentally included Comrade Michael Imoudu and Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti.
It was at Lancaster House that the Regional Constitutions, Regional Houses of Assembly and Houses of Chiefs, Regional Civil Services and other central institutions were imposed on the newly independent nation.
Other African nationalist leaders who were at the Lancaster House comprised of Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Dr Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Dr Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Comrade Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
Now, Back to Chatham House
Chatham House further claims, “To be a world-leading source of “independent” analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world for all”. It also “conducts research in which it undertakes ‘independent’ and rigorous analysis with the aim of setting the agenda and shaping policy by encouraging new ideas and forward thinking in international affairs.”
All these aim, objectives and activities of Chatham House are euphemisms for the direct imperial control of the policies and programmes of the erstwhile colonies in Africa and other parts of the world. As a “Royal Institute”, its “independent” posture is untenable. Its arrogation of the power to “offer solutions to global challenges”, “setting agenda” and “shaping policy” are paternalistic and presumptuous.
And hence the interesting nature of the list of the current guests of Chatham House from Nigeria include Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Party, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party and Mr. Peter Obi of Labour Party.
We can easily see the link between the historic activities at Lancaster House and the current puppet show at Chatham House. Why do politicians aspiring to lead an apparently independent nation have to go to Chatham House in London to present the policies and programmes of their parties for contesting elections in Nigeria? How many votes do the staff of Chatham House and their patrons have in the Nigerian election?
The politicians claim to be invited by Chatham House to London. Must they accept the summons to report to a foreign institution what should be their policies and programmes for our country? Where lies our sovereignty if Chatham House must put a stamp of approval on our national aspirations?
These appointments by the Nigerian politicians confirm the neo-colonial status of our country beyond any reasonable doubt. If any of the politicians wins the election, can he rule without the input of the Chatham House puppeteers?
Another interesting question to ask is, what are the consequences of the Chatham House “Agreements” on the Nigerian citizens who are absent at the conferences? Do the votes of the Nigerian citizens really count, or the endorsement of the imperial powers count more?
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, also had to go to Chatham House to present the plans of INEC for organizing and managing the General Elections to be held in Nigeria. Invariably, this was to seek for the inputs and approval of Chatham House. Curiously, INEC is a body enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the registered Nigerian citizens are the genuine voters in the elections.
The summons of the INEC Chairman to Chatham House may not be unconnected with the financial and logistic support which the European Union and the United States of America provide to INEC. This has very serious implications for our sovereignty and the credibility of the elections. Do the Nigerian electorate count in all these imponderable occurrences? Just as the Electoral Law prohibits the political parties from receiving foreign financial donations, INEC should equally be barred from accepting any foreign assistance in whatever guise.
Ending Imperialism But, First, the Origins of Imperialism
The origins of imperialism must be traced to Western Europe since the ancient times Before Christ. The territorial exploits of Alexander the Great, “The King of Macedonia” and “Conqueror of Persia” are well known in history, including the acquisition of Egypt. The city of “Alexandria” is today the relic of the subjugation of Egypt by Alexander the Great.
The fame of Julius Gaius Caesar is not only in the overthrow of the Roman Republic. His vaulting ambition led to the establishment of the Roman Empire with the annexation of various nations in Europe, Africa and Asia. Egypt did not escape Emperor Caesar’s domination.
In continuation of this notorious European origins of imperialism is also the case of Napoleon Bonaparte I who carried out a coup d’état against the French Revolution and embarked on foreign invasions to inaugurate the French Empire. Napoleon could not wait for the Pope to crown him as the Emperor of France. Egypt again fell under the dominion of Emperor Napoleon.
Western European imperialism continued developing into different formations namely: slavery, capitalism, colonialism, Nazism, apartheid and neo-colonialism. These developments were accompanied with qualitative changes in tactics and strategy. Later imperialist champions such as Great Britain had the famous claim that, “The Sun never sets on the British Empire”. This was because when the Sun is setting in its Eastern colonies of Asia, it is rising in its Western colonies of the Americas. So, imperialism has come a long way in the history of relations among the nations of the World.
To End This Imperialism
Having traced the ancient origins of imperialism to Western Europe and its continuity from Lancaster House to Chatham House, it may not be out of place to ask, when will imperialism end? We can also pose a corollary question, when shall we be truly independent?
In my humble opinion the following recommendations will see to the end of imperialism in Africa and the seizing of true independence, the day the following conditions are met:
- When African and Nigerian leaders stop going to the metropolitan capitals (London, Paris, Washington, D.C., etc.) to take directives and give account of their stewardship over the heads of their citizens.
- When all the natural resources of Africa and Nigeria are fully controlled by our sovereign countries and used exclusively for the development of our citizens through the mechanization of production and massive industrialization.
- When all the foreign reserves of Africa and Nigeria are brought back to our respective countries to develop our local economies. This will encourage the creation of a common African currency.
- When all foreign military bases and alliances are abolished in Africa and
- When adequate logistic infrastructure is developed to facilitate trade among African countries (shipping lines, airlines, roads, waterways, communications, etc.). This will facilitate integration, self-reliance and prosperity on the African continent.