Hidden Histories: British imperialism & genocide


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Hidden Histories

by William Bowles € Saturday, 24 June, 2006

      ³You know why you¹re here, Smith. And I want you to know
      that all your worst fears and suspicions are absolutely
      correct Š I am telling you this because I want you to know
      how much trouble you are in Š Smith, I want you to know that
      I personally gave the orders regarding the elections to
      which you objected Š If you will keep your mouth shut, I can
      promise rapid promotion and a most distinguished career
      elsewhere Š but you will not be allowed to work in the UK.
      You must understand that you know too much for your own
      good. If you don¹t give me your word, means will be found to
      shut you up. No one will believe your story and the press
      will not be allowed to print it.² ­ Sir James Robertson, the
      then governor-general of Nigeria to Harold Smith in 1960.

Y¹know it astounds me (though I know it shouldn¹t) that Œour¹ governments have 
gotten away with so many lies over so many decades and we¹re not talking about 
little fibs here, we¹re talking about events that determine the lives-and 
deaths-of millions of people. Indeed, the fate of entire continents hinged on 
the engineering of massive lies about events and their causes.

Airbrushing the crimes of capitalism has reached new heights with the invasion 
of Iraq, but make no mistake, it is by no means new, it is merely the latest and
the most brazen. The major difference is that the latest Big Lie was revealed 
even as it took place. Earlier crimes against humanity and equally as horrendous
in scale have, with the complicity of the media, been hidden from view.

Without exaggeration successive British governments, whether Labour or Tory have
proved to be the most cunning at weaving a web of deceit about the way they have
manipulated our perception of events. This includes engineering election 
results, frame-ups of politicians, murders, bribery and corruption that extends 
to the highest levels of government.

But crucially, none of it would have been possible without the active connivance
of the media, both corporate and state in the deception (and more often than 
not, parallel crimes of omission). This particular story has been buried for 
fifty years in spite of innumerable attempts to get the media to report it.

Entire histories have been completely erased from the record. Take for example 
the British role in Nigeria. Last week a friend sent me a copy of New African 
magazine from May of 2005 which contains a complete account of one of the many 
Œhidden histories¹ of British machinations on the Œdark continent¹.

This particular history haunts Africa to this day and one that the British 
Establishment have yet to pay for, for it resulted in the deaths of millions and
almost led to the break-up of Nigeria. The results determined the nature of the 
Nigeria of today including all the talk about post-colonial Œcorruption¹. And, 
it should not surprise readers that lusting after oil was the primary reason.

The author of this story, Harold Smith, has been threatened, offered a 
knighthood, ostracised, poisoned and finally blacklisted for fifty years for 
trying to tell the truth. He was a loyal if naïve servant of the state, who 
obviously believed all the myths about the Œneutral¹ civil service- until he 
tried to live by them.

³We thought the English were lawful and decent people.² ­ Harold Smith

In fact it¹s a case-book example of British colonialism¹s Œdivide and rule¹ 
tactics. It epitomises just how devious the British ruling class are, they have 
had after all, centuries to invent and perfect every trick in the book. It 
should also put paid to any illusions the Œleft¹ have about the Labour Party 
which was entirely complicit in the many crimes committed by British imperialism
including the events that took place in Nigeria.

By 1956, the demands of the Nigerian people for independence were unavoidable. 
It was the year of MacMillan¹s ŒWinds of Change¹ speech, made in South Africa 
(of all places). But the British ruling class were determined that at best, a 
light breeze would waft through Nigeria and if change was to take place, it 
would the kind of Œchange¹ that would essentially change nothing, except the 
colour of the ruling elite.

³We had betrayed the Nigerians and undermined their democracy! We had taken 
millions of slaves from this area of Africa and shipped them in dehumanising 
conditions to America, and now we were pretending to be decent, the good old 
British were giving independence and behaving properly, but we weren¹t! It was 
the same bloody dirty games we had been playing for centuries.² ­ Harold Smith

To this end, the British colonial rulers utilised the Œspecial relationship¹ 
they had established with their local administrators in the North-dominated 
largely by the Hausa and Fulani-who were more than willing to collaborate with 
the British colonial authorities in order to maintain their own, personal power,
that of the Emirs.

Harold Smith, a low level administrator, was directed to make sure that a 
British creation for maintaining colonial power, the Northern Peoples Congress 
(NPC), won the upcoming elections, an order he refused to carry through 
labelling it a ³criminal act.²

The NPC was funded by the British-created Native Authorities and according to 

³it was difficult to detect in the North where the British administration ended 
and the Northern rule began. Thus through a cynical display of horse dealing, 
the 1959 Federal election became a mockery, because the outcome ­ Northern 
domination of Nigeria after independence ­ was assured before a single vote was 

When Œindependence¹ came, in 1960, British control and domination through a 
rigged election was assured with a government dominated by the North, a 
situation that led directly to the Biafra war, a war that resulted in 2 million 

When opposition leaders objected to the rigged election they were simply framed 
on trumped up charges and thrown in jail.

But the story of this lone colonial administrator¹s opposition to British 
manipulation of the Œindependence¹ process reveals a far more insidious process 
at work, the connivance of the corporate and state-run media in the cover-up.

When Smith returned to England he attempted to get the Œliberal¹ press to 
publish his story, but as Sir James Robertson had predicted, neither of the two 
leading Œliberal¹ newspapers, the Guardian and the Independent initially would 
even reply to his letters.

³This is dynamite, we dare not touch it.² ­ Harold Smith on journalists¹ 
responses to why the story was unprintable.

Smith relates the forty-five years he spent trying to get the press to tell the 
public his story including the hundreds of letters he sent over a 45-year 
period, all to no avail.

Eventually, he wrote a book about his experiences but this too was ignored. 
Eventually he published it on the Web for free (www.libertas.demon.co.uk).

Smith¹s exchanges with the newspapers indicate the nature of the relationship 
between the media and the government.

³Reading through the written material Š it occurs to me that perhaps there is a 
simpler explanation of why your story has not been published. Maybe in an 
earlier period, pre-1990 when the 30-year rule would have bitten, you had some 
cause to feel that the authorities were trying to suppress something and the 
newspapers were their allies ­ but I stress I have absolutely no knowledge of 
any involvement on the Guardian¹s part.

³Now however, it is at least possible that the problem is journalistic. Is the 
Nigerian election of 1960, however corrupt, a story our readers would be 
interested in? ­ Hugo Young, the Guardian, 2 June 1993, to Harold Smith

Predictably, Mr Young resorted to smearing the indefatigable Mr Smith with the 
following dismissive note,

³Dear Mr Smith (1) I have not the least idea what the Guardian did or did not do
about Nigeria long before I joined it. (2) You seem to be in a state of demented
obsession, which causes you to defame me (and others) to all and sundry. Please 
desist. (3) This will be last communication. Do not trouble our fax machine or 
our secretaries.² ­ Hugo Young, The Guardian, 13 May, 1994 to Harold Smith [my 
emph. WB]

Thus we read why the one of the alleged Œexperts¹ on Africa, Alastair 
Hetherington, could not find space in his book The Guardian Years on the first 
and at the time most devastating calamities to befall Africa, the Biafran War, a
war that came about as a direct result of the rigged elections of 1959-60,

³Dear Mr Smith Š I am sorry that you did not find any reference to Nigeria and 
the Biafran situation in my book The Guardian Years. The omission may well be 
because the book was originally 120,000 words long, and had to be cut down to 
80,000. Š I am afraid that I cannot become involved in correspondence on the 
subject now.² ­ Alastair Hetherington, former editor of the Guardian, 10 June 

Readers may well be aware that similar arguments have been used to excuse why 
the corporate and state press have not covered similar revelations about the 
invasion and occupation of Iraq either because it¹s merely ³history² or because 
as the BBC stated as to why it has not covered the BRussell¹s World Tribunal on 
Iraq. BBC news director Helen Boaden had this to say when pressed as to why it 
had not covered the Tribunal,

³We¹ve covered the issues discussed many times and will continue do so, though 
we did not cover this ­ not least for logistical reasons.² (Email to Media Lens 
reader, June 29, 2005)

Only one newspaper, the Morning Star, reported on the Tribunal,

There was nothing in the Guardian, the Observer, the Independent, the 
Independent on Sunday, the Financial Times, The Times or any of the other 
Œwatchdogs of democracy¹. There were also zero mentions at BBC news online. ‹ 
6, 2005

Ms. Boaden does not have the excuse of 'history', merely that of Œlogistics¹ 
though apparently there are other, unstated reasons as to why the BBC could not 
inform its viewers/listeners. Thus, over the past fifty years, absolutely 
nothing has changed, the media is as complicit now as it was back in 1960 in 
hiding the real state of affairs from the public. This should surely disabuse 
everybody of the false notion that we have a Œfree¹ press intent on telling the 
truth either about current or past events. It also raises the issue of the 
degree to which the corporate and state-run media actively collude with the 
state in suppressing the truth, something that the unfortunate and courageous 
Harold Smith discovered to his cost.

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