The Politics of Colonialism. A critique of "The Case for Colonialism"

Academic Paper, 2019
21 Pages




The Problem of the Legitimacy of Recolonisation

The Problem of motivating potential Western Colonisers

Consolidation and perpetuation

The aim and method of ‘The case for colonialism’: the rehabilitation of Colonialism

Colonial Heritage

Colonial Heritage embraced in the Gold Coast?

A revival of Colonial thoughts in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Tribalism and Slavery

The [A] Case for Colonialism?



The Case for Colonialism was published in 2017. At the time it was published we were engaged on a number of projects. But we had always intended to review the Paper when the projects were concluded. However, the projects took longer than we had planned and one of the projects is still ongoing, so we have had to delay our review to now. Accordingly, we apologise to Dr Gilley for revisiting the discussions he probably thought he had already concluded.

The aim of the case for colonialism was to rehabilitate Colonialism; give it compassionate and humanitarian meanings and hence make it respectable again. In other words, the aim of ‘The case for Colonialism’ was to revise the extant History of Colonialism.

The research method adopted for the case for colonialism was textual reviews and criticisms.

The case for colonialism was contemptuous of some Third World Politicians, whom it flayed for using the spectre of Colonialism to subjugate and frighten their people into acceptance of poverty and poor Governance. It laid the blames for the parlous states of some of these countries’ infrastructures and decaying economies at the doors of anti-colonial politicians. And underlying the Paper’s criticism of anti-Colonial Politicians was the argument that there had never been anything wrong with Colonialism as its detractors and anti-colonial politicians have claimed. Instead the problems lay with Colonised people themselves because some Third World countries, particularly in Africa, had been better-off under Colonialism, that since Independence these countries have been unable to improve their developmental indices and that, indeed, some of them have actually regressed and have become worse since their Independence.

The central argument advanced by the case for colonialism that some Third World countries should be recolonised was not a new thought. Similar arguments have been articulated in the past and they belong to a growing corpus of revisionist history texts written by Racist, Populist and White Supremacist Scholars. These Scholars claim that Colonialism was inevitable otherwise Western Civilisation would never have arrived on the Continent of Africa since Africans, as they were, could not have independently develop the science, mathematics, technology and the organised civil government which Colonialism brought to them. Thus, the case for colonialism simply restated the arguments of the Balliol School, Oxford University, of the Early 1930s1. The Balliol School held that black people have never created any civilised institutions because they do not have the mental capacity to do so and that even when white people had created civilised institutions and left them to black people the institutions had subsequently become derelict because black people reverted to barbaric state after the white people who created the institutions had left. The adherents of Balliol School held that White people must then return to recolonise and begin the painstaking processes of reorganising and re-establishing the derelict institutions. In a way, Davidson aptly puts the Colonialists’ justification for Colonialism as follows2:

‘Do not ask us to abandon our responsibilities for governing Africans for you must otherwise confirm these people in a savage life…Support us in our powers of dominion and you will ensure rich benefits for Africa…

Those, then, were the aim and method of the case for colonialism. And they summarise as follows: a) that Western Colonial Governance in Africa created civilised and strong state institutions and left it for Africans. b) That prior to Western Colonialisation Africa did not create any civilised institutions and that what institutions there were were fragile and were sustained by rudimentary economies. c) That Africans were unable to manage the institutions they inherited from their Western Colonial Masters. d) That the West must now return and recolonise some Third World countries in Africa and South East Asian Sub-Continent in a mixture of humanitarian cum-enterprise mission. Accordingly, the case for colonialism sets out the following policy issues which it claimed Western Recolonisers must address in order to ensure that recolonisation is successful: first, policymakers must formulate and implement policy measures to legitimise and manage potential resistance on the part of the recolonised people. Second, Western Recolonisers must formulate and implement factors of motivation to tempt Western Governments off the fence and make Colonialism an attractive proposition to them. And third, Western Governments must formulate and implement policies that would ensure that the gains from recolonisation are consolidated and are long lasting.

It is the examination of these policymaking suggestions that are one of our principal objectives. In our examination, we will draw examples from the British Empire and our examples will be based specifically on Britain’s most populous West African Protectorate, namely, Nigeria. We are drawing our examples from Nigeria because the case for colonialism drew on Sebe’s work and Lugard’s Administration of Nigeria as examples and because the Protectorate of Nigeria is our ongoing research project.

The title, ‘The case for colonialism’, indicated that the Paper’s aim and method were to define some sets of new knowledge that would propel Colonial Scholarship in new and hitherto unexplored directions and hence move it away from established grounds. Thus, it is important, therefore, that its method is appropriate to the task it has set itself. The case for colonialism set a time period of ‘100 years’ (1817 – 1917; 1860 – 1960; 1917 – 2017)? Whichever of these time periods it meant our second principal objective is to examine its aim and method. Our aim is to examine the historical evidence the Paper has unearthed and how it has used and adduced them to move Colonial Scholarship forward and hence prove ‘The case for colonialism’.

The Problem of the Legitimacy of Recolonisation

The Paper rightly anticipated that the problems of legitimacy and acceptability would arise. But the methods it has proposed to confer legitimacy and respectability on recolonisation and hence make it acceptable to contemporary population of the countries which are to be recolonised showed that it was not well-informed about the theory and practice of Colonialism. The theory and practice of Colonialism argue that a foreign and incoming culture, which has defined itself as superior to an primary culture because it perceived its assemblage of material and non-material cultures to be superior to those of the primary culture, must use its superiority to overpower the primary culture and impose its will. Colonialism was, therefore, underpinned by the assemblage of armamentaria and the use of the assembled armamentaria to achieve the conquest of the primary culture and to subsequently establish Tyrannical and Authoritarian Rule over it. Thus, Colonialism did not proceed by reasoning; instead it proceeded by Military Might. It ruled by Decrees, Orders and Proclamations. It was not a democracy and its method of Governance did not include provisions for popular participation, either by direct or indirect suffrage. Therefore, the Paper’s policymaking suggestion that Western Powers should not be unduly concerned about popular consultative democracy was not ground breaking because for Colonialism to have taken root, survived and prospered as it did it had to be authoritarian; it had to be tyrannical, and it had to have superior military power and it had to be prepared to use overwhelming and destructive military force without compunction. And it did use them.

The method of legitimisation that has been proposed in the case for colonialism reinforced our belief that there are gaps in the state of the Paper’s knowledge about the History of Colonialism and its Principles and Practice because in the absence of such gaps the Paper would have known about Political Officers (POs) and the centrality of their roles in the propagation of Colonialism. The Paper and, indeed, much of its literary informants would also have known that part of those roles was Political Propaganda on behalf of Colonialism.

For instance, in the British Empire ‘Pacification Expeditions’, which were a euphemism for massive military attacks, were led by POs, except where it became necessary to use military force that POs would formally handover the leadership of an Expedition to the Military Commander. Part of the POs’ propaganding roles was to seek and achieve political legitimacy for Colonialism from Obas, Kings, Emirs, Sultans, Chiefs and Headmen, as the case may be, through peaceful negotiations or by threatening the use of force. Usually, the POs would despatch messengers to inform villagers or towns’ people that the ‘Whiteman’ was coming, that he was a representative of Her or His Majesty’s Imperial Government, that he was coming in peace, that the leaders of the towns or villages and their people should come and submit unconditionally, that if they submit Her or His Imperial Majesty’s Government would help them to secure and develop the resources of their country and that if they did not submit they would face attacks by overwhelming military force. Some submitted, while some vehemently refused to submit. The latter were often attacked3 and their leaders were often killed, captured, deposed, summarily tried and hanged4 or deported5. Thus, Colonialism offered only two options: submit or be destroyed.

That critical Observer of the Protectorate of Nigeria, Sir Hugh Clifford, wrote about one of the methods which Colonialism used to secure legitimacy as follows6:

‘I have been struck since my arrival in Nigeria by the suspicion and apprehension with which political officers of the Government appear to regard any developments which, in their opinion, are likely to render the natives more emancipated and independent than they at present are. The idea is that contact with the less servile sections of the population would tend to render the people less amenable, and by weakening the authority and decreasing the power of the Native Administrations, undermine the position and influence of the European officers by whom these Administrations are more or less effectually controlled’

Sir Clifford wrote in 1919 and his observations showed that the case for colonialism’s proposition was in use in British colonies more than 100 years ago. The pliant and submissive natives, whom Sir Clifford identified in his Report, were co-opted into the Government. These servile and submissive natives were regarded as ‘friendlies’ and those who wanted to be treated as equals were regarded as ‘hostiles’ and the latter often faced destructive Punitive Expeditions7 and Collective Punishments8. By and large the pliant leaders became the choice of the departing Colonialists to head the Governments of the emerging Post-Colonial Independent States. And almost a hundred years later the case for colonialism has proposed the same tried and tired approach to securing the acquiescence of the inhabitants of recolonised territories by looking for pliant natives who could be trusted to help to manipulate their people.

Thus, the case for colonialism has not broken any ground. What would have been ground-breaking would have been to situate the Western systems of Statecraft – which it clearly admires – involving large and increasingly amorphous governments and bureaucracies in African contexts and then pose the questions: are these fitting in African milieu? What is African milieu? How do we fit Western Statecraft into the milieu? The African milieu which is being referred to here was the one Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe referred to when he stated in 1957 that Africans were communal people and that the Post-Independence Government he would want to establish in Independent Nigeria would be rooted on African communalism. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was alumnus of American Universities, made that statement at a meeting in the US. That statement brought the FBI into Nigerian Independence negotiations between Britain and Nigerian Nationalists because to the FBI Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was a Communist. It destroyed Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe’s political leadership of Independent Nigeria and elevated a pliant Alhaji Tafawa Balewa to Prime Ministership at the head of a centralised Westminster model of Governance instead of the loosely-coupled Constitutional Confederation9 which had made provisions for the Regions to determine their political and economic future and to secede if they wished. The edifices constructed by Britain fell apart in the aftermath of the 1965 Federal Elections and in January 1966 the first of the many military coups occurred and subsequently the Biafran War.

The case for colonialism would have been more thoughtful if it had made efforts to review colonial records for evidence and if it had examined the Western system of Governance as part of the problems which have bedevilled Post-Colonial Third World countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its arguments and suggestions would have been more relevant if it had designed researches to examine why Western system of Governance has not worked for these Third World countries; if it had use the researches to analyse and establish the utility value of Western system of Governance in African milieu, and if it had used its findings to formulate alternative systems of Governance for the countries concerned. Instead, what the Paper has done was to argue that there had never been anything wrong with Colonial system of Governance throughout the historical period it has established; instead it was the people who were wrong. Accordingly, it proposed a restart of the old systems of Colonialism, but with new compliant faces. And it dismissed the communal systems of African economic, political and social organisation which had worked for millennials before Colonialism as weak institutions as if institutional strengths and effectiveness were one and the same thing and as if both were coterminous with the sizes of institutions. Thus, in the view of the case for colonialism institutions that worked in El Dorado would also work in Aba, which was quite simplistic and solution focused because it was positing solutions without first defining what the problems were.

So, here, then, is a question for the case for colonialism: were people to refuse to submit to recolonisation as it clearly anticipated, would the Armed Forces of the Recolonising Powers be deployed to enforce recolonisation and ensure that they submit? This is an important question. Because our ongoing research10 suggests that in Nigeria there would be resistance to Recolonisation. And in that country there are now a growing body of thoughts, particularly in Southern Nigeria, which have begun to question the very essence of Nigeria. The core of these thoughts is a re-examination of Nigeria as an entity11. Our evidence suggests that Nigerians do not identify with Nigeria as a country because of its artificiality and because it was created to make the Administration of its vast people and territory manageable for Britain. Thus there are questions being raised as follows: if the Municipalities of Liechtenstein and Luxembourg could exist as an Independent States, why not the City of Benin which was founded circa 900 AD with African system of Democratic Governance?12 Why not Chinua Achebe’s Biafra? And since Nigeria is one of the Third World countries which would be recolonised here then are some further questions for the case for colonialism: how would recolonisation proceed? That was to say, would the new Colonial Government be based on the 1914 Amalgamation Ordinance? Or would the Pre-Colonial Independent States re-emerge and choose their own system of Governance?

The Problem of motivating potential Western Colonisers

The case for colonialism’s search for motivators indicated that, in essence, Colonialism or recolonisation, as the case may be, has no intrinsic values in itself, so it needed to be promoted to Western Powers as a quasi-humanitarian cum-economic endeavour.However, before its search for economic motivators began it wanted to set the methodological agenda for the future analyses of the Economics of Colonialism. In the agenda labour and land, the two factors in which colonised territories have comparative advantage, would thenceforth be zero-rated as input factors to productive outputs. The Paper’s ultimate motive was to undermine current scholarship on the Economics of Colonialism, which has argued, inter alia, that Colonialism was exploitative and that it extracted resources from the colonies. But in seeking to undermine current scholarship the Paper undermined its own argument, because when it zero-rated labour and land it undermined its own ability to use the rational economic principles to justify its call for recolonisation, which latter was one of the central arguments of the case for Colonialism.

Thus, since rational economic rewards could no longer be constituted into motivational factors because the Paper had zero-rated labour and land and had defined Colonialism as an economic burden on Colonial Powers the search for how to make Recolonisation attractive to potential Colonisers became increasingly onerous. The Paper, however, subsequently returned to rational economics via one of the factors of production, namely, Enterprise. Therefore, a rehabilitated Colonialism would be transformed from its current pariah status into a respectable business enterprise. Colonialism would become services which could be lent-leased. Western Powers, instead of being Colonisers, would be transformed into Western Powers cum-Consulting Multinationals or Transnational, as the case may be, peddling colonising services across the artificial national borders created by their 18th – 20th Century predecessors. However, no explanations have been offered as to the value which these Western Powers cum-Consulting Multinationals or Transnationals would be adding to their services. And no explanations have been offered as to where the value would be added since labour and land which constitute the inputs to the production of whatever services would be produced had already been zero-rated in the recolonised territories. Indeed, there is no information on what the services themselves are, how they would be constituted and what they would cost the Colonisers to produce and the Colonised to access. More importantly, the Paper offered no information as to the control systems it would design and implement in order to monitor the quality of services and prevent Recolonisation from becoming the conduit pipes for exploitation, extraction, tax evasion and transfer pricing.

Some Populist Scholarships are in some instances quite oblivious to how poorly thought their claims sometimes are. They do not validate or have use for evidence. In some of them evidence which are contrary to their perspectives are dismissed as Leftwing and Conspiratorial. And most important, their claims often contain very rudimentary analyses, knowledge and understanding of the concepts involved in their claims. This was the situation with the case for colonialism when it concurred with one of its informants’ argument that Colonialism was not an economically benefitting Imperial undertaking. The argument demonstrated that neither the case for colonialism nor its informant understood the Political Economy of Colonialism. Again, to recall our example, the British Empire. In the British Empire production, trade and the allocation of national wealth in British Protectorates were carried out in strict accordance to English Law of the Exchequer. And one of the Laws of England which obtained in the Protectorates was that each Imperial Possession must be self-financing and that no British taxpayers’ fund, whatsoever, was to be spent on any of them. However, each Imperial Possession must pay annual levy for the upkeep of the Empire13: which we argue was equivalent to the Protectorates paying Her or His Majesty’s Imperial Government for its services, excluding Royalties which were paid to Private Equities by the Protectorates under separate financial arrangements which were also in strict conformity to English Law. Thus, there is nothing new in the proposition which has been advanced in the case for colonialism that Western Powers-cum multinationals-cum-transnationals would provide recolonisation in the form in which it is modelled as services.

Imperial Possessions were called Protectorates. They were called Protectorates because it was the economic value of the land together with the minerals and natural resources above and underground which were being colonised and protected. The principle underpinning the designation of Protectorates was that the land was fallow, blank and empty, even if there were people who have occupied and lived on it from time immemorial. The people who have lived on the land from time immemorial were either a nuisance or bonus because they could be massacred or used as unpaid labour to work and extract the resources. Thus, firstly, it was not for nothing that Britain committed the Royal Navy‘s Fleet and Royal Marines to mount Punitive Expedition against Benin14. It did so because it had its mind set on Benin Rubber Industry, which was at the time the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa, and on the potential resources of the Benin Delta, namely oil. It struck oil in the Benin Delta in 195515. Secondly, it was not for nothing that Britain waged a protracted war of conquest against the Igbos and destroyed Aro-Chukwu and its defenders because they stood in the way to its taking possession of Enugu and Udi Coalfields16. And, thirdly, Britain waged a protracted war to conquer the Munshi and Bauchi people because it had its mind set on the Tin Mines of Jos-Bauchi Plateau17.

In the latter case, the US was to benefit, economically, from Nigerian Tin Ores during WWII, because the Japanese conquests in South East Asia interrupted the US’ supply of Tin Ores from that region18. The term economically has been emphasised to demonstrate that if Nigeria, at the behest of Britain, had not supplied its Tin Ores to the US the industrial sectors which consumed Tin Ores in their manufacturing processes would have had to close. The US’ economic outputs from those sectors would have reduced to zero, the people employed in those sectors would have lost their employment and the US as a whole would have been economically worse-off. Thus, Colonialism was not uneconomic by any forms of economic variables one may want use to measure it. It would be interesting to see Gilley’s and Hammond’s data.


1 McDougall, W. pp82 – 101

2 Davidson, B. p37

3 TNA: CO446/30: Text of letters sent to the Emir of Katsina and the Sultan of Sokoto

4 TNA: CO520/13: Aro Operation 1902:The trials of Aro Chiefs

5 TNA: CO520/103: Oba Ovonramwen Detention and Deportation

6 Ibid TNA: CO583/78

7 TNA: CO 520/16: Punitive measures against Ngwa Town, Northeast of Aba

8 TNA: CO583/36, CO583/45 and CO583/48

9 Awolowo, Obafemi pp47 – 55. See also Olusanya, G.O. chapters 3 - 5

10 Britain’s killing fields: the human costs of Colonialism in Nigeria

11 Ukaegbu, Fabian N. pp3 – 26

12 Egharevba, J. U. p1

13 Igbino, J. p270

14 TNA: ADM123-127, and TNA: ADM116-87 Benin Punitive Expedition 1897

15 Ibid Igbino, J. p265

16 TNA: CO520/7 – CO520/11 and CO520/13: Aro Expeditions 1901 – 1904

17 TNA: CO583/76: Military Operations in Bauchi Province: The Supply of Compulsory Labour to Bauchi Mines

18 Op cit Igbino, J. p268

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The Politics of Colonialism. A critique of "The Case for Colonialism"
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politics, colonialism, case
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Dr. John Igbino (Author), 2019, The Politics of Colonialism. A critique of "The Case for Colonialism", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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