A popular anecdote states that a divorced woman will always remember three things about her ex-husband. The first, all the good things she did for her ex-husband. The second, all the bad things the ex-husband did to her. And the third, the evil she would do to her ex-husband if the opportunity arises.
This is position between the British realm placed on the stead of an ex-husband and some scholars and politicians of African descent acting on the stead of a divorced wife who see nothing good in British colonial adventure in Africa.
The present writer’s maternal Grandmother Alice Adaozele Onyeachonam, nee Enenmo of Umuosowe lineage, Umuodafe Quarters, Ibusa, Delta State of Nigeria was born a twin in 1904 with a twin brother four years after the British conquest of her town, then Igbuzo City-State.
Up to that period of Nigerian history twins were still regarded as taboos, even with the strong exertions of the emergent Christian missionaries and British colonial administration.
While some secretly continued to throw their twins into the Evil Forest then known as Isikisi to evade the prying eyes of the missionaries and British authorities, others devised a new method of evading the prying eyes of the people whose glue to the heinous tradition remained irrevocable.
While some of the unfortunate twins died from hunger, exposure to rain, heat of the sun, and cold of the night and through tireless cries, some were lucky to be rescued by fearless and humane Christian missionaries and their new converts who consequently adopted the abandoned twins. Ironically, some of these unfortunate children turned out to be the harbingers of Western civilization in their communities.
The present writer’s grandmother and her twin brother were fortunate to be spared by their parents through the combined fear of British colonial authorities, exertions of the Christian missionaries, the undaunted love of their children, and their ability to circumvent the prying eyes of the community.
Since her parents already had two males at the time, it was resolved that my grandmother should be spared and her twin brother discarded. Fortunately for her twin brother a discreet information about a woman in another Village who gave birth to a still-child was relayed to them. Consequently, her twin brother was secretly transferred to the bereaved mother who took her up as her own child. The child grew up to establish a strong and big family today, while my grandmother begot my mother, Elizabeth.
As a child I noticed that my mother was very close to the man’s eldest son who was then a local pharmacist but I never knew the level of their relationship. I was aware that my mother never paid for my treatment or for drugs.
It was however when one of my junior uncles–the son of my grandmother’s senior brother who, taking advantage of the closeness of the two families, proposed marriage to the granddaughter of my grandmother’s twin brother that the relationship became apparent to me.
He was strongly reminded that he was engaging on an impossible mission because the girl in question is his first cousin, and for advancing such an idea he was further interrogated to find out if they had had affair which would have amounted to a heinous incest.
Contemporary African historians should by reason of objectivity ponder, first, what should have been the present state of the Continent without European colonial interventions both in moral and political terms? Second, what was the situation under the so-called age of oppression and exploitation compared to the age of independence, better known as post-colonial Africa? And thirdly, drawing a comparison between the above two episodes of African history, the question arises, on whose shoulders should the burden of the present state of African underdevelopment and perennial instability be placed?
It is not enough to drum up the self-inflicted sentiment of European colonial oppression and exploitation without the juxtaposition of the pre-colonial African situation with the present state. There should be expository comparative analysis of what it was before the time, what it was during the time, what it was after the time, and what it is at the present. It is only through the cumulative analysis of the above four episodes of African history that an objective conclusion on pros and cons of British colonialism in Africa could be drawn.
Historical scholarship on whose realm and context the subject of colonialism rests does not rest on straight-jacket presumptive conclusion. It must be founded on ¹objectivity constructed on extant and proven evidence, and not on ridiculous political sarcasm by by-way African scholars and populist politicians.
There must always be two sides of the same coin, otherwise the coin ceases to be a legal tender. Rome colonized the Anglo-Saxons and the latter’s colonial experience had both sides of the same coin. This explains why the historicism of European colonialism in Africa needs further revisionism–the era of reflective judgment.
On the moral side of the coin of British colonialism in Africa, there is no gainsaying the fact that the British colonial adventurism in Africa brought a high sense of moral and value judgments, high level of territorial unity, ethno-political cohesion and common sense of identity and patriotism. Most African groups reeling proudly on common ethno-cultural identities today never saw themselves as one people safe for Pax Britannica.
The tireless and sacrificial roles of European Christian missionaries in initiating and advancing the present trajectories of modern development through the introduction of Western education cannot go without strong commendations.
The roles of British humanitarian organizations and philanthropists in advancing the abolition of slavery and slave trade cannot just be wished away by the sense of emergent anti-colonial patriotism. Even the risky adventures and ultimate price paid by the countless explorers searching for their unknow River Niger and source of the ancient Nile which subsequently heralded the opening of the Continent are feats that go beyond colonial stigmatization.
The heinous practices of human sacrifice and killing of twins which were callously upheld by African customs and tradition were stopped by the combined forces of Christian missionary exertions and the power of maxim-gun.
Arising from my direct lineage history it will therefore amount to a misapplication of historical facts founded on objectivity in moral judgment for me to detest the appreciation of the good side of the British coin of colonialism, and by extension engage on casting aspersions on the body, spirit and soul of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II–the institutional symbol of that good side of the British coin of colonialism.
For to me, the Victorian Age of British Empire running through the Age of the Georges to the Second Elizabethan Age that ended on 8th day of September, 2022, was the resurrection era of Africa Continent. There is therefore no reason why Queen Elizabeth II should not be celebrated by objective-minded Africans.
It is my opinion that those who today engage on unrestricted vilification of Queen Elizabeth II and by the same token see in British colonialism in Africa nothing good to behold are the same people whose ancestors before the arrival of the British conquerors engaged in the heinous exploitation of their African kinsmen through destructive slave-raids, slave trade, slavery, human sacrifice and killing of twins.
Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD (Odogwu of Ibusa Clan, Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka). E-mail: email@example.com