Last week my friend, Babs Sobanjo, forwarded me the following piece said to be an extract from a Confidential Document by the British colonialist, Lord Frederick Lugard, who established the geographical contraption he, with the help of his lover, gave the name Nigeria.

The piece, snotty in the extreme, typifies the British in their calculating, self-serving, devilry. It represents Lugard's appraisal of the African as represented by Nigeria and Nigerians.

But, for me, it provides food for thought, even if his generalization is silly. The characterizations are grave, grievous and damning. But I cannot blame Frederick. It cannot be his fault. As the Yoruba would say, akuko wa lo fi ogbe ori e fun kolokolo je – our cockerel volunteered its flaming crown for the scared fox to feel and see that its nothing but flesh!

And as Babs says, it is "nasty but true." Babs goes further to say, and I agree: "For our fathers and grandfathers, this was pardonable but for us not to have moved dramatically from this perception, it is worrying to say the least.."

Here goes Lord Frederick Lugard: (Caps mine)

"In character and temperament, the typical African of this race-type is a happy, thriftless, excitable person. LACKING IN SELF-CONTROL, DISCIPLINE, AND FORESIGHT. Naturally courageous, and naturally courteous and polite, full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity, fond of music and loving weapons as an oriental loves jewelry. HIS THOUGHTS ARE CONCENTRATED ON THE EVENTS AND FEELINGS OF THE MOMENT, and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future, or grief for the past. His mind is far nearer to the animal world than that of the European or Asiatic, and exhibits something of the animals' placidity and want of desire to rise beyond the State he has reached. Through the ages THE AFRICAN APPEARS TO HAVE EVOLVED NO ORGANIZED RELIGIOUS CREED, and though some tribes appear to believe in a deity, the religious sense seldom rises above pantheistic animalism and seems more often to take the form of a vague dread of the supernatural"

"HE LACKS THE POWER OF ORGANIZATION, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business. HE LOVES THE DISPLAY OF POWER, but fails to realize its responsibility... he will work hard with a less incentive than most races. He has the courage of the fighting animal, an instinct rather than a moral virtue... In brief, the virtues and defects of this race-type are those of attractive children, whose confidence when it is won is given ungrudgingly as to an older and wiser superior and without envy...Perhaps the two traits which have impressed me as those most characteristic of the African native are HIS LACK OF APPREHENSION AND HIS LACK OF ABILITY TO VISUALIZE THE FUTURE."

---Lord Frederick John Dealty Lugard, The Dual Mandate, pg.70 (1926)

Sheathe your dagger, fellow Nigerians, the imbecile Lugard is long dead. There's no point in getting mad at him. On the other hand, our madness should be directed at ourselves: leaders and followers alike.

Let us look all around us and see how much of "self-control, discipline, and foresight" we possess or exhibit, be it in our personal or public lifestyles. What "self-control, discipline and foresight" did our Heads of State, Presidents and Governors have in looting the public treasury with abandon and carrying their loot abroad to benefit foreign countries? What "self-control, discipline and foresight" have we, as citizens got in the manner we drive on our roads, or show complete disregard for the next person? What thoughts of communal or common interest do we have in our actions and behaviour? How much do we care about not littering the street, not blocking drainages, not building houses haphazardly, not blocking streets with our parties such that other people's right of way are trampled upon?

Aren't our thoughts "concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment"? Don't we demonstrate a "lack of ability to visualize the future"? Otherwise, would we remain the way we are, doing things the same way and expecting different results? Would the need for a holistic electoral reform in conformity with Justice Uwais' recommendation be such a difficult thing to grasp? Would we still be running a system of governance whereby three-quarters of national revenue are being consumed in wages, salaries, allowances, etc of legislative and executive gravy train? Would Local Government Councilors, House of Assembly members, be on full time and be earning more than a professor? Many things just don't make sense, but we go ahead nevertheless as no one can be bothered, and feathers must not be ruffled. Would we, at this point in our lives and at this juncture of the 21st century still be grappling with electricity, with pot-holed roads, without a modern rail system, without good education for our youth? What kind of beings are we?

Lugard says: "the African appears to have evolved no organized religious creed". Shame. Serves us right. Would he say such nonsense if we as Africans had worked at our own religion, allowed it to evolve, refined it, upheld it, intellectualized it, rather than swallowing the foreign ones handed down to us that makes us invoke experiences of foreign lands and spirits of their ancestors rather than ours? Granted that Lugard himself, foolish as he was, forgot that the religion he practiced and saw as of his people belonged to some other races.

The Nigerian "loves the display of power". Doesn't he? Isn't our bigmanism – "you-no-know-me? – a character trait? Isn't the world sniggering at our leaders as the strut about the place like demi-gods helping no one and serving no one but themselves?

Lugard says, the Nigerian "lacks the power of organization". Doesn't he? I would imagine that goes without saying. I have just come back from Abuja and the bedlam I saw on the roads made me weep. I am left in no doubt that in another five years', Abuja would be unrecognizable by its filth and chaos. What are we doing? Why is it so difficult to organize the traffic, effect road markings, and set some order to life? Why, in so short a time from the departure of el Rufai, is Abuja going to the dogs? Why couldn't we organize our sports such that credible age-group categories competitions field only those truly within the categories? Why are our values so warped?

Why has it been such a problem establishing and maintaining durable and credible structures for the sustenance and growth of the country? Why would basics like credible census, compulsory birth and death certificates, be such rocket science for us? Why would it be so difficult to see that the Federal Government has no business in funding Local Governments that are arbitrary creation of the military in the first place?

Why are so many things wrong with us, so many obviously wrong things carried on same way while expecting different results and mouthing a 20-2020 nonsense?

What a country – Lugard, methinks you're right after all.

NB:

"The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa" was published in 1922. It discusses indirect rule in colonial Africa. In this work, Lugard outlines the reasons and methods that he recommended for the colonization of Africa by Britain. Some of his justifications included spreading Christianity and ending barbarism.

Lord Frederick John Dealtry Lugard (22 January 1858 – 11 April 1945) was High Commissioner of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria till 1906, having earlier, in August 1897, organized the West African Frontier Force which he commanded until December 1899. He was Governor-General of Nigeria from 1914-1919,