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Africa and the iniquities of imperialism and colonialism

By Steve Obum Orajiaku
30 January 2020   |   2:00 am
There is no hard and fast rule in the definition of the two terms - imperialism and colonialism - but an attempt by certain eminent authorities of international relations can render a generally acceptable exposition.

There is no hard and fast rule in the definition of the two terms – imperialism and colonialism – but an attempt by certain eminent authorities of international relations can render a generally acceptable exposition. Although the two terms are not exactly the same thing but over time they have been used interchangeably. Let’s probe the following interpretations: “Imperialism is a policy which aims at creating, organising, and maintaining an empire; that’s a state of vast size composed of various more or less distinct national units and subject to a single centralised will.” (Moritz Julius Bonn) cut from his book “Imperialism,” Encyclopedia of the social sciences.

Also, “Imperialism is … employment of the engines of government and diplomacy to acquire territories, protectorates, and/or spheres of influence occupied usually by other races or peoples, and to promote industry, trade and investment opportunities.” (Charles A. Beard) derived from the book “American Foreign Policy in the Making, 1932-1940: A Study in Responsibility. And finally, “Imperialism means domination of non-European native races by total dissimilar European nations.” (Parker T. Moon) pulled from his book titled “Imperialism and World Politics.”

By inference from the above three distinct definitions, one thing is dominant – the advancing of one’s horizon and the arbitrary not unilateral cum bilateral encroachment on another’s geographical sovereignty often disguised as a benevolent act. A proper probing of the motives of imperialism and or colonialism as perpetrated by the imperialist states will clearly show war, brutality, exploitation, pillaging, expropriation, degradation, misery and hatred meted out to the now called “backward” colonies or subject sovereign states. Yet a deeper research into the primordial status of most of the colonies will truly show that they had attained, to an appreciable extent, development in their own class and perhaps more than the greedy imperialist state who invaded the former, swiftly.

But Ethiopia seems an exception in African … obviously she fought gallantly not to be colonised by Italy in 1896, regrettably a feat Nigeria missed to clinch due to their heterogeneous nature when Britain invaded the African most populated nation. Yes, Italy tried to absorb Ethiopia and thus unify her Eastern African colonies, but she suffered a humiliating and crushing military defeat at Aduwa by the Ethiopians rather superior forces in the year mentioned above. There was a relapse when prior to World War II, Italy repeated the onslaught on Ethiopia, triumphed, and quickly organised Italian East Africa.

Little mention here of the world crass conspiracy at Berlin Conference to divide Africa under whatever guise where, as escaping robbers share their loots, the 13 European countries, on the invitation of Otto von Bismarck, converged to apportion to themselves Africa nations for colonisation purposes in 1884. The atrocious deeds of the imperialist states on their colonies are not entire. Few were certain commendable and noteworthy acts which their coming was associated with.

The work of William Gorgas in Panama and also that of Walter Reed in Cuba are unarguably the most commendable examples of hospitality rendered of medical services, courtesy of the imperialist forced overtures. Similarly, the training of the indigenous people for management of the lower administrative posts by the British colonial government was a known characteristics. At the time, the United States had it as their foreign policy to squarely coach the Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines right from the start when these lands gained separation from Spain.

However, irrespective of these seemingly marvelous contributions, the record of services and inputs by the imperialist states was not impressive. In the calculation and judgement of the imperialism and colonialism apologists and sympathisers, “even the most advanced nations, have been doing no more than groping their way forward at home during the past decades.” As an individual, I don’t tolerate injustice, not even from a overzealous friend or meted out to an enemy… therefore I beg to disagree with the foregoing defense. Apparently, in justification of the iniquities of imperialism, the author of the above quote has written. But if the achieved technological and industrial innovations which ultimately introduced the advancement presently enjoyed is commendable and nobody actually “groped” on that, in the same vein, the unimpressive records of service by the imperialist states remains inexcusable and in fact quite reprehensible.

If you are looking for a typical example of the monuments of heinousness and infamy of imperialism, you don’t look far…a cursory visit to Nigeria will do.  Colonialism, as Imperialism has no static definition. To those Asia and Africa nations who agonised and gained independence … “colonialism is anything that involves white man dominating the dark, the big powers prevailing over the small.” It has been misconstrued by the sponsors of modern imperialism and colonialism, (and it’s quite unfortunate) that this is all about massaging the White Man’s Burden. What! This ill-fated foul staggering in the owners compound, must it be the stranger’s responsibility to help with the slaughtering? How appropriate is it for one to take pills for the headache suffered by another? In his classic book, entitled “Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism,” Ghana President Kwame Nkrumah painted a picture of “Neo-Colonialism as a new and more insidious form of imperialism, widely prevalent and particularly pernicious and dangerous.”

The height of the aggression on colonialism came in 1960 when United Nations admitted 17 members and consequently passed a historic Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples through the instrumentality of the General Assembly. Thus, the Declaration criminalised “the subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation.” It also called for “immediate steps to transfer all powers to the people of (dependent) territories, without any conditions or reservations.” A robust synergy, notwithstanding, but this meddling and trffling by the white supremicist with the affairs and concerns of the black race, is no longer convenient.

In conclusion, the abject economic and social condition of especially Africans as manifestly a stalemate situation in Nigeria, for example, is what incongruous imperialism can do. If Nigeria was never colonised…(have you ever once thought of such possibility), what would have been their fate as at today? Without sounding too optimistic, I am convinced that they will be much better than what has befallen them presently. If you think that the component regions that made up what today is known as Nigeria were underdeveloped before the imperial monster, sorry master British invaded them, according to the then standard of development, then your historical search may be shallow and perfunctory.

If the current documented facts is anything to go by, then it must be true that a substantial indices of development in virtually all the now suppressed colonies in Asia and Africa particularly our progress-jinxed Nigeria, were visible prior colonisation. The inception of colonisation, if it served any dividends whatsoever, was marginalised to the betterment of the imperialist states while in a rapid progress, further growth in the respective colonies, nosedived. But enough of this bemoaning and lamenting, with us the potential capacity to conquer whatever the effects of the atrocities laden upon the hapless colonies, there is in abundance. It is just that the bad leadership in Africa particularly, which is our albatross and undoing, is “compounding the felony,” making a bad situation worse. When and if this is headlong tackled conclusively, achieving Africa breakthrough in all ramifications will be a walkover, a sail through, a cinch.
Orajiaku a freelance journalist and social activist, wrote from Lagos.

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