Pa Edwin Clark, former Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South Leader has expressed the viewpoint that the British colonial government introduced corruption to Nigeria during its colonial rule.
Clark in his 688-page autobiography titled: “Brutally Frank,” launched in Abuja, last Thursday highlighted cases like the removal of local chiefs who refused to cooperate with the colonial government, such as Nana Olomu and Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, who were deported as a result. He also mentioned instances of fraudulent land acquisition and corruption involving powerful individuals like Dore Numa, who was rewarded by the British government despite engaging in corrupt practices.
Furthermore, Clark touched upon allegations of corruption involving Nnamdi Azikiwe, a prominent political figure during Nigeria’s struggle for independence. The implication is that these instances of corruption persisted and were even passed down within Nigerian society after colonial rule ended.
Clark said, “It can rightly be said that the British colonial government was the first to introduce corruption to Nigeria in their scramble for Africa with other European countries after the Berlin Conference of 1884 through the traditional chiefs, who acted as their agents.
“A typical case which affected my people is the role played by the British colonial government in using a powerful local chief in the Niger-Delta, Dore Numa, to remove other local chiefs from office when they refused to cooperate with the colonial government. A good example is Nana Olomu of Koko Benin River. An expedition war was staged against him in 1892 and he was later deported to Accra in the Gold Coast. This gave the colonial government uninterrupted entry into the interior land.
“Similarly, they used the same Dore Numa against His Royal Highness, Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi of Benin Kingdom in 1897. He too was deported but this time to Calabar, where he spent the rest of his life. This gave the British officers room to loot local artifacts and monuments. The looting of artifacts in 1897 was carried out by Capt. Philip, who further sold them to various countries in Europe. It is remarkable that today, a lot of these artifacts sold to Germany are being voluntarily returned by the German government after 124 years.
“The same British government rewarded Dore Numa by making him a Paramount Chief of the Itsekiri people and the political agent of the British.
“This gave him enormous power over others. The British government used him to acquire extensive land in Warri township which was leased to prominent businessmen in the same Warri township. In fact, there was much to be said of British corrupt practices as in the famous 1925 case of Omenta v. Dore Numa – a case which Omenta brought in defence of Agbasa people. Dore Numa had fraudulently leased to the British a portion of Agbasa land. An intelligence report stated that the case went on to Appeal in 1934; whereas, Dore Numa had died in 1932.
“It was expected, based on the foregoing, that this trend of corrupt practices would be handed over to Nigerians when eventually they became part of the government.
“There was one of such alleged corruption case involving the Premier of Eastern Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe, the foremost politician at the time. A Nigerian Tribunal of Enquiry was appointed to enquire into allegations of improper conduct (on the 4th of August, 1956), by the Premier of the Eastern Region and certain other persons holding ministerial and other public offices in the Eastern Region of Nigeria. The alleged improper conduct was in connection with the affairs of the African Continental Bank (ACB) Ltd. and other relevant matters with the minutes of evidence taken before the Tribunal by Nigeria.
“A statement was made by the Hon. Premier in the House of Assembly on the 8th of August, 1956 during the debate on a motion to appoint a Judge of the High Court of the United Kingdom and independent persons to serve in a Commission of Enquiry to investigate the relationship of the Hon. Premier with ACB. This enquiry was going on at this particular time when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the pre-eminent champion for the struggle for Nigeria’s independence. He was indeed very popular all over Nigeria.
“Once again, I want to re-emphasize that corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of society and unless corruption is reduced, it will destroy Nigeria.