By Oduche Azih
The above insolence is hardly news.
From the many headlines of reports covering this story, I have deliberately chosen the above because it is particularly offensive – to me. The speaker was the current UK High Commissioner, (i.e. ambassador) to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright. I have taken the liberty to check the information available online concerning him.
By the time Mr. Paul Arkwright was born in Bolton, (of the Wanderers fame) England on March 2, 1962, I was almost 14years old and had already marched for both Princess Alexandra and Queen Elizabeth. Nigeria had been “independent” for two odd years, and I had assumed that I was finally done with the UK. I was however not in a position to participate in the protests by Nigerian undergraduates against the retained constitutional linkages bordering on security that shackled Nigeria to its erstwhile colonial masters in London.
Now fast forward to 1966, to 1967. Paul Arkwright must have been barely out of diapers, if indeed he was a sharp kid. Meanwhile I had joined the Biafran war effort as a field operative in the Propaganda Directorate. With the correct history suppressed, what then does Paul Arkwright know beyond the sanitized version of events and potential future outcomes served in the British Foreign Service training academies two decades down the road?
If indeed the British High Commissioner was stating the official position of the UK government, pray what UK was he referring to? Does it include Scotland? In a world of fluid boundaries that we live in, which we hope Mr. Arkwright is smart enough to recognise, we find it strange that the UK, while loudly asserting its sovereignty vis-a-vis Europe and recognising the inalienable right of Scotland to pull out, would hold the patently untenable position of deciding what is good for Nigeria or any of its component parts for that matter.
I hardly take myself too seriously. However, this is one occasion when I do. I have taken this insult as a personal affront. If I was an academic or researcher at Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College, MIT or Stanford, the likes of Paul Arkwright would normally have a heck of a time getting to step into my cloistered environment. I clearly imagine young Paul Arkwright in my class, exuding the lack of confidence expected of someone of his background. He would be very much out of place. That is why I feel so bad about such unguarded and ill-informed comments by him on matters clearly beyond him. With his condescending attitude, would Arkwright have survived in an environment where world renowned Indian born astronomer Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was leading the field more than sixty years ago. I hope he never gets posted to New Delhi. With this attitude, they may literally eat him for breakfast.
Since the reinvigoration of the nonviolent agitation and protest by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, many have gone into the archives to unearth earlier analysis of the unrelenting anti-Igbo stance of the main British government propaganda organ, the BBC. To the BBC and Mr. Arkwright, the Catalans, the Basques, the Scots, the Eritreans, the Chechnyans, the East Timorese and the turbulent South Sudanese are nationalists. But not Ndigbo, not Biafrans. Some pejorative expression will be cooked up to describe one of the most vibrant, articulate and educated groups on the African continent. Earlier today, I watched an ad on the BBC where the narrator among other things included the lie that the network NEVER TAKES SIDES IN ANY WAR OR REVOLUTION! Pheeew! That certainly took my breath away.
If Mr. Arkwright ever read the confessions of colonial civil servants Mr. Harold Smith and others after the declassification of the records pertaining to British colonial era atrocities, I wonder if he learnt anything from them. Or has his vow at the Foreign Service Academy inured him and his ilk to the finer aspects of our shared humanity. It is then all about service in the interest of Queen and non-existent empire. If Britannia was so stiff-necked, why then did it not try to hold out against China in Hong Kong?
The perfidy of the United Kingdom as a colonial and postcolonial power knows no limits. No analyst has been able to point out even one sector where British intervention and obstructionism has advanced the interest of our Hausa-Fulani co-travellers. They remain as backward as ever, thanks to Her Majesty’s people.
The Ashanti Kingdom, Amritsar, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, etc. The story is all the same. It is most interesting and humiliating that China is bringing direct foreign investments into the UK, and even offering to revamp its nuclear power industry. The Ahiara Declaration clearly foresaw a situation whereby Ndigbo, Biafra-by-whatever-name-called, and perhaps a new, improved and truly democratic Nigeria, free from the current contrived hegemonic stranglehold, would call the Whiteman’s bluff.
To the UK, that was to be an unacceptable affront. The alliance with the forces of darkness was the step that has led us so far to this sorry mess. I recommend Basil Davidson’s BLACKMAN’S BURDEN to anyone interested in pursuing my line of argument. It even makes the conclusions drawn by Karl Maier in his THIS HOUSE HAS FALLEN understandable from a historical perspective.
Hence Ndigbo have all this while been shackled to a train that is willy-nilly running off a cliff. This is a man-made disaster. As the UK’s man-on-the-spot, Ambassador Arkwright bears a major responsibility. We have read what happened at Yalta during the 2nd World War, where the Polish people were sold for a mess of pottage. We have also been witnesses to the unconscionable romance of David Hunt and others with General Yakubu Gowon after the murder of General Aguiyi Ironsi.
Perhaps my grandchildren may yet pore over the inexplicable intervention of Arkwright as Nigerians were striving to work out a sustainable union. May God forgive him. Better that he mends his ways.
Oduche Azih wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.
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