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Chatham House: Myths and realities

By Omotayo Ishola 
26 January 2023   |   3:03 am
It is an election period in Nigeria. The public discourse centers around personalities that offer themselves for offices, particularly “presidency” which in Nigeria context is the most expensive and the most powerful (not America) in the world!

It is an election period in Nigeria. The public discourse centers around personalities that offer themselves for offices, particularly “presidency” which in Nigeria context is the most expensive and the most powerful (not America) in the world!

Must our aspirants honour Chatham House to showcase their blueprints, capability and showmanship or not? Why do they ignore the local institute and some national media for the London option? Whether their attraction or romances with “Chatham” leverage their electoral value at the expense of wooing Nigeria voters at home, the debate goes on among others. 

The point remains that we are still the underdog as Nigerians and Africans notwithstanding our flag independence, which most Africa countries birthed in 1960 and others after! 

The reality show is that whether we’re professionals as engineers, medical, legal, artists including writers until we export our skills abroad either in London, Atlanta, New Jersey, Boun, Cardiff, we are neither fulfilled nor economically enhanced! It is the reality that perforates the air of racial equality we parade without attendant manifest accomplishment to the effect. 

Why is the Blackman the underdog in World civilization order? Why were we sold as “slaves” to earlier Arabian knights and much later to the European merchants? 
Why were we later colonised like “Serfs’ ‘ without political and economic past? 
Why have we refused as Nigerians the giant of Africa and the hope of black race across the world failed to tame and harmonise our diverse resources in natural endowment?

Why do we run abroad as doctors, scientists, writers, academics for enhancement and visibility on a global fissure?

Until we answer all these posers realistically, our commissions are purely the ranting of the pot calling the kettle black or vice versa on the actors of Chatham House.

The Chatham House has become a replica of the House where we had partied our way into a temporary independence from the British lord with the colonial officers’ presidency as “master of ceremony.” It is within this premise that the existing colonial president predicted albeit prophetically, those six years down the line the independence flag freedoms nation would collapse. From Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Uganda, Mozambique, Angola, enter the period of militarism that completely eroded whatever form of civility we imbibed from colonial tutelages. 

“Chatham House” shorn off hypocritical posturing of many analysts, is a metaphor for our collective inadequacies in past colonial Africa, moreso in Nigeria. Our rule of law is still held in abeyance, the press rather than being a “watchdog” had become the poster boys of the establishment. Opposition is cleverly stiffened and only those who chorus “Hosanna” catch the mice of our leaders who are buccaneers in office.

Why have our leaders with very few exceptions not be large minded enough to catch the big fishes in opposition parties and civil society to build a sanitised society where the British, the Portuguese, the Americans, Chinese and Indians would envy and flood Nigeria as co-competitor for World economic order, instead of as dumping ground for western and Eastern wastes? 

If the truth needed to be told, the concept of colonialism is however unsavory to the heat especially having regard to the postulations of Africa. 

Radical extremists like Walter Rodney, Fratz Fanon, and others; it was colonialism that opened up the options to civil institutions and inclusive space that ramified as a challenge to the western imperialist design. Whatever may be their inadequacies the western capitals like London, New York, Paris and others still offer a scintilla of hope and fruitfulness for the flowery of open discussions, open dialogue, institutional accommodation, ethnic and religious accommodation than prevailing post-colonial African States!

What are these to sell to a nation unrepentantly pillowed on religious bigotry, ethnic exclusionism, social stratification, and intellectual sophistry as we engage as Nigerians rather than to sell your ideas to our open world? 

The first point of mass mobilisation against the intolerance of the civilian government of the First Republic was promoted in London to a Nigerian audience. It was that feat championed by the opposition in contradiction to the intolerance of the coalition government of the day that accorded the abrogation of the defence pack among other inconsiderate policies of post-colonial Nigeria. 
 
The public opening expressed and delivered in London sparked off genuine opposition to the government of the day’s apparent kept vague and pre-established foreign policies which included Anglo defense pact and our premeditated intervention in cringe crisis without weighing the pros and cons of issues at play. 

This posturing reverberated into the house of representative where Aliyu Mohammed Ribadu (unofficial deputy prime minister) urged the opposition to be put in asylum if the country would have peace and instability for progress.

That was how the seed of intolerance complex with arrogance of power started to brew leading quickly to a declaration of state of emergency in the west, the notions of reasonable felony trails, the return of unpopular Samuel Ladoke Akintola as premier, the false declaration of 1964 results, the massive rigging of Western regional election in 1965, and the eventual collapse of the First Republic on January 15, 1966!

The European might have done a lot of havoc by the concept of slave trading, colonialism, capitalism and imperialism but what have we done to reco-ordinate ourselves into higher ideas of collective integration, cultural sense of justice to all, religious tolerance, ethnic accommodation, fair and equitable distribution of resources to all that would enable us to outsmart, outperform, and outshine the departing colonial lords?

While our pre-colonial history was arguing with “might was right” with the ethnic alienation and bitter conquest of one another, our post-independence experiences have shown without any iota of doubt that six decade of their departure we have not collectively enacted a cohesive core values among ourselves that would prove to the world the very evils of colonisation and Allied concepts we are ever ready to condemn. 

From Abiola unnecessary annulments to the killing of Ogoni activists, up to the present non-state actors’ claim to negotiate state sovereignty, we have not gotten the necessary inbuilt mechanism of patently resolving our internal crisis of amalgamation with fairness and justice. 

Nigeria would fare better had colonial lords stayed with us for long or the reasonable future. An opinion poll will confirm this thesis, this myth and realities on “Chatham House” adventure. 
Ishola, a veteran journalist and legal practitioner wrote from Ilorin, Kwara State.