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FIRST MAN TO REACH THE NORTH POLE WAS ACTUALLY THE UNCLE OF ONE ICONIC CELEBRITY

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Against the icy backdrop of the Arctic, a team of determined explorers make their way through the hostile terrain. After five weeks of struggle, mercifully, they reach their destination. They’ve just become the first men to ever set foot upon the North Pole. More than a century later, one of the group’s descendants would also find fame — but in an entirely different way.

By Claire Harding

Mission to the North Pole

Peary expedition

Bettmann/Getty Images

A Hollywood icon

Hollywood

Ken Levine/Getty Images

For years after the expedition, Peary received all the praise for its success — while Henson faded into obscurity. Now, steps have been taken to secure him his place in history. And today, his great-great-grand niece is an icon in Hollywood, thousands of miles from the tundra where her ancestor made his name.

Matthew Henson

sailing ship

Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons | no known copyright restrictions

Born to a family of freed slaves in Nanjemoy, Maryland, in 1866 Henson lost both of his parents at a young age. Left orphaned, he decided to pursue a life of adventure, becoming a cabin boy on the ship Katie Hines at just 12 years old. On board, he developed a close bond with the ship’s captain, gaining an education under his tutelage.

Washington, D.C.

PhotoQuest/Getty Images

During his time on the Katie Hines, Henson traveled extensively, visiting destinations as far afield as China and North Africa. But when Captain Childs passed away, he returned to land, working as a clerk in Washington, D.C. And it was there he encountered the man who would change the course of his life for good.

Connecting the Pacific and Atlantic

US DOT/Wikimedia Commons | {{PD-USGov}}

By then it was 1887, and the U.S. government was looking to secure a trade route through Central America, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The Panama Canal was still some years away, and planners had proposed Nicaragua as the ideal location. So, naval officer Robert Peary was dispatched to lay the groundwork for the project.

Robert Peary

rainforest

Ildo Frazao/Getty Images

While preparing for his mission, Peary entered the store where Henson was working. And when he heard about the clerk’s seafaring background — and discovered his desire for adventure — he hired him to serve as an assistant on the Nicaragua trip. And together, the two men set off for the jungles of Central America.

Nicaragua

Arctic

Arctic-Images/Getty Images

As it turned out, the pair made an excellent team. Having successfully survived two years in the wilds of Nicaragua, they formed a working partnership that would span the next two decades. But while their relationship had begun in the sweltering heat of the jungle, it was the cold expanse of the Arctic that would come to define them.

Greenland

Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

On their early expeditions to the frozen north, Henson and Peary explored the island of Greenland. In fact, they became the first people to map the great ice cap in its entirety. And in the 1890s they shipped a number of meteorites from the Arctic to the United States, selling them to raise funds for future expeditions.

The North Pole

SS Roosevelt

DEA/BIBLIOTECA AMBROSIANA/Getty Images

But Peary’s biggest dream was to make it to the North Pole, the most northerly point on planet Earth. And in 1906 he came within less than 200 miles of his goal, on board the custom-built ice breaker SS Roosevelt. But it would be another three years before the explorer, along with Henson, would realize their lofty ambitions.

The adventure begins

Inuit family

The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

On July 6, 1908, Henson and Peary left New York with a crew of 20 others. Stopping in Greenland, they bolstered their ranks by taking on a number of Inuit people, before setting sail for Ellesmere Island off the Canadian coast. And there, they spent the winter sheltering close to Cape Sheridan, ready to reach the pole the following spring.

Technical skills

Matthew Henson

Geo. Grantham Bain/picryl

Over the course of their expeditions, Henson had proved himself a worthy companion time and time again. Although Peary was considered the brains behind the operation, his loyal assistant was the one with the technical skills. In fact, even the sledges used to pull their supplies across the ice were designed and built by his hand.

Mahri-Pahluk

Matthew Henson

via Picryl | The World’s Work/ Wikimedia Commons | {{PD-US}}

It was in his dealings with the Inuit, though, that Henson was truly irreplaceable. Having learned the language, he ingratiated himself with the locals, who dubbed him Mahri-Pahluk, or Matthew the Kind One. And over time he mastered the art of dog sledding, eventually becoming as skilled as the natives at navigating the Arctic terrain.

“I have come to love these people”

Peary expedition

Library of Congress /Wikimedia Commons | {{PD-US}}

“I have a steady job carpentering, also interpreting, barbering, tailoring, dog-training,” wrote Henson in A Negro Explorer at the North Pole, his memoir from 1912. “I have come to love these people… They are my friends and they regard me as theirs.” In fact, he became so close to the Inuit that he fathered a son with a local woman, as did Peary.

Henson’s descendants

Matthew Henson

Bettmann/Getty Images

Years later, some of Henson’s descendants still live in Greenland — although others have also spread out across the world. As it turns out, one of the explorer’s present-day relatives resides a little closer to home. And this person just so happens to be a Hollywood star who frequently graces the silver screen.

Right-hand man

Matthew Henson

Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons | {{PD-US-expired}}

Back in 1909, though, Henson had yet to secure his legacy. He was still mostly known as Peary’s right-hand man. But although he wasn’t the one calling the shots, he was indispensable on the pair’s Arctic mission. And when it was time to choose the six men who’d make the final push to the pole, his presence was guaranteed.

Reaching the pole

Robert Peary

Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Having deposited caches of supplies along their intended route, Henson, Peary, and four Inuit men left their base camp on April 2, 1909. And for five days they traveled towards the pole, driving their dog sledges for as many as 14 hours without stopping. Then, on April 6, having traveled over 170 miles, they reached their destination.

The American flag

Peary expedition

Robert Peary/Wikimedia Commons | {{PD-US}} | Bettmann/Getty Images

Using the position of the sun to map their location, Peary determined that the team had finally arrived at the North Pole. Unfurling an American flag, they hoisted it into the air and snapped a photograph to mark their achievement. Then, they turned around and began the long journey home.

Frederick Cook

Frederick Cook

via Wikimedia Commons | {{PD-US-expired}} | Brown Bros/Wikimedia Commons | {{PD-US-expired}}

Months later, Peary sent a message to The New York Times announcing his achievement. But he wasn’t the only man laying claim to the North Pole. The previous year, American explorer Frederick Cook had departed Greenland, following a route described by Norwegian Otto Sverdup at the turn of the century.

A counterclaim

Cook expedition

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Like Peary, Cook was determined to become the first man to reach the North Pole. And according to him, he succeeded. In September 1909, just days before Peary’s announcement, he contacted the New York Herald with his own claim. In April of that year, he said, he’d completed his mission to the heart of the Arctic.

Controversy

Frederick Cook

Henry Guttmann Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In fact, it was these claims that prompted a panicked Peary to make his own announcement from a wireless station in Labrador. Now there were two explorers who each claimed to have reached the pole first. And it was initially Cook who swayed public opinion, arriving in New York to plenty of fanfare on September 21.

Smear campaign

Robert Peary

Christie’s/Wikimedia Commons | {{PD-US-expired}} | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Peary, though, had the establishment — and plenty of money — behind him. Having already prevented a friend of Cook’s from shipping the explorer’s instruments back to the U.S., he launched what amounted to a smear campaign against his rival. And before long, the tide had turned in favor of the more seasoned adventurer.

A matter of some debate

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For many years, Peary was recognized as the man who discovered the North Pole, while Cook’s claims were dismissed as unproven. But in 1988 a study by the National Geographic Society cast doubts on the official version of events. And ever since, the question of who made it to the top of the world first has remained a matter of some debate.

Footprints in the snow

Bettmann/Getty Images

And even if we take Peary’s claims as gospel, the situation still isn’t as simple as it might appear. Because ever since the 1909 expedition, Henson has claimed his footprints — and not his employer’s — were the first to mark the pole. Apparently, he’d gone on ahead as the expedition approached its final goal.

Henson’s claim

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

At this stage, reports claim, Peary had been confined to a dog sled, physically unable to go further on foot. Speaking to the press at the time, Henson said, “I was in the lead that had overshot the mark by a couple of miles. We went back then and I could see that my footprints were the first at the spot.”

A friendship shattered

Bettmann/Getty Images

Tragically, Henson and Peary’s friendship would never be the same. Given the political climate of the time, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the wealthy, white explorer received most of the credit for the record-beating expedition. But over time, his assistant’s role in making history has come to be recognized as well.

Shared credit

mystery woman

Roc Canals/Getty Images

Today, Henson is typically credited alongside Peary for discovering the North Pole, although doubts remain regarding the legitimacy of their claims. And his descendants — the children and grandchildren of Anauakaq — seem proud of their ancestor’s legacy. But what of the Hollywood star who can trace her roots back to one of history’s most unlikely Arctic explorers?

Taraji P. Henson

Matthew Henson and Taraji P. Henson

Bettmann/Getty Images | Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation

The star in question is American singer and actor Taraji P. Henson, who made her name starring in movies such as Hidden Figures and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. On the surface, her glitzy life of Oscar nominations and Hollywood parties might seem a world away from Henson’s grueling Arctic adventures. But the pair actually share a close connection.

“The brother of my great-great grandfather”

Taraji P Henson/Instagram

In an interview with the African American Literature Bookclub, Taraji was questioned about her relationship with the Arctic explorer. She responded, “He was the brother of my great-great grandfather. Matthew would send him letters about his travels while out on his expeditions.” Sadly, though, these historic messages have not survived into the modern day.

Lost correspondence

Saisha Beecham/Instagram

Taraji continued, “Somebody in the family had all this great correspondence until one day when their apartment was robbed and the letters were lost, probably thrown away like trash.” In other words, it’s possible a stash of unknown letters penned by the great polar explorer are hidden away somewhere, and might yet come to light.

Hope and love

Matthew Henson and Taraji P. Henson

Apic/Getty Images | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Like those of her famous ancestor, Taraji’s roots stretch back to the Maryland village of Nanjemoy. But she was actually born some 40 miles north, over in the southeast corner of Washington, D.C. Taken from the Swahili language, her name means “hope,” while her middle name Penda translates to “love.”

Diverse heritage

Taraji P. Henson

Cieon Movies/YouTube

Interestingly, Taraji’s connection to Henson isn’t the only notable thing about her heritage. According to a video uploaded to YouTube by the Africa Channel in 2012, she’s also descended from Cameroon’s Masa people through her mother’s line. But despite her diverse background, the actor and singer has always forged her own way in life.

A passion for acting

Washington, D.C.

12019/Pixabay

Initially, reports claim, Taraji planned to take an electrical engineering course at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. But soon, she realized acting was her passion, transferring onto a drama program at Howard University. And in order to fund her studies, she worked part-time as a singer and dancer on a cruise ship out of Washington, D.C.

Breaking into Hollywood

Courtesy Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

After starting out as a background performer, Taraji’s breakthrough role came in 2001 as Yvette in the coming-of-age movie Baby Boy. And from there, she went on to blaze a trail through Hollywood in much the same way that her great-great-grand uncle left his indelible mark on the North Pole.

Awards and nominations

Taraji P. Henson

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Over the years, Taraji has won a number of accolades for her performances, including a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors’ Guild Award. She was also the first woman of color to receive the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actress, and has been nominated for an Academy Award and three Primetime Emmy Awards.

Hidden Figures

Fox 2000 Pictures

Today, Taraji is probably best known for her portrayal of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson in the hit movie Hidden Figures, released in 2016. That same year, she was named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. And while her legacy might not involve conquering any polar terrain, it’s surely one of which Henson would’ve been proud.

Life after the North Pole

Bettmann/Getty Images

And what of the explorer himself? How did he adjust to life back in the United States — and did he and Peary ever make amends? According to reports, Henson enjoyed a relatively quiet existence after returning from the North Pole, taking a job at New York City’s custom house. In fact, it was a recommendation from the president himself that helped him to secure the position.

Explorers Club

Matthew Henson
Bettmann/Getty Images

Henson lived a life of relative obscurity until 1937, when he was made an honorary member of New York’s legendary Explorers Club. Then, a decade later, he received a duplicate of the silver medal given to Peary after the expedition. Finally, in 1954 he visited the White House, during which he was given a special commendation by President Dwight Eisenhower.

Arlington National Cemetery

Matthew Henson
Bettmann/Getty Images

Tragically, history doesn’t record whether or not the two men spoke again before Peary’s death in 1920. But eventually, the two were reunited in death. Although Henson was initially laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City, he was reinterred with honors at Arlington National Cemetery in 1988. Now, his grave sits close to that of his esteemed companion, their destinies linked together once more.

Survival skills

Matthew Henson and Taraji P Henson
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images | The Heart Truth/Flickr | {{PD-USGov}}

Speaking to the African American Literature Book Club, Taraji credited her ancestor’s indomitable spirit for getting her where she is today. She said, “I think I get my survival skills from him, and also my belief that nothing is out of reach, that I can achieve anything, if I apply myself. I never quit. I think that’s something I was born with from his genes.”

Source: Mind Your Dollars

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History

QUEEN ELIZABETH (1926-2022)

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The world stood still on last as Queen Elizabeth II, United Kingdom’s longest-serving monarch, died at Balmoral Castle, Aberdeen, Scotland, aged 96, after reigning for 70 years. The Queen came to the throne in 1952 and witnessed enormous social and political change not just in her kingdom but also around the world.

As provided for by royal tradition, her son Prince Charles, who was also the longest serving the Prince of Wales, spanning almost five decades, automatically ascended the throne as King Charles III.

Expectedly tributes have been pouring in from around the World in honour of this most distinguished lady who in many ways became a symbol of the best standards of royal culture in Western Europe. As a former British colony, Nigeria joined other world leaders in mourning the British monarch.

President Muhammadu Buhari described as sad the news the passing of Queen Elizabeth ll who performed her duty to the very last minute when she invited Liz Truss to form the next government barely two days before her death.

New United Kingdom Prime Minister, Liz Truss, said the death of Her Majesty the Queen is a huge shock to the nation and to the world. According to her, the late Queen’s life of service stretched beyond living memories, and in return, she was loved and admired by the people in the United Kingdom, the Realms and territories of the Commonwealth which she headed. and all around the world.

President of the United States of America, Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden said in a joint statement that the Queen in her lifetime defined an era. “The thoughts and prayers of people all across the United States are with the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in their grief,” the statement said.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan has described the late queen of England as a champion of social change and a protagonist of modern Britain. He said Queen Elizabeth was a well-loved sovereign. On his party, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he was ‘deeply saddened’ over the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, saying ‘her unwavering, lifelong dedication will be long remembered.’ “She was a good friend to the UN and a reassuring presence through decades of change,” Guterres said.

Elizabeth was born in Mayfair, London, as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth). Her father acceded to the throne in 1936 upon the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, making Elizabeth the heir presumptive. She was educated privately at home and began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

In November 1947, she married Philip Mountbatten, a Prince of Greece and Denmark, and their marriage lasted 73 years until his death in April 2021. They had four children: King Charles, Anne, the Princess Royale; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. When her father died in February 1952, Elizabeth—then 25 years old—became Queen.

Significant events include Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver, Golden, Diamond, and Platinum jubilees in 1977, 2002, 2012, and 2022, respectively. Elizabeth was the longest-lived British monarch and the second-longest reigning sovereign in world history, only behind Louis XIV of France. She also installed 15 Prime Ministers of UK.

Queen Elizabeth II held the record for the most countries visited by an individual monarch. She visited more than 120 countries on six continents. Canada is the country she travelled to more than any other country outside the United Kingdom.

We also recall that in 1956, Queen Elizabeth II visited Nigeria, three years after she ascended the throne. Sir James Robertson served as governor-general during this period, making him a proxy to the throne. During her visit, she toured the country with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. She spent a total of 20 days from 28 January to 16 February.

The second time Elizabeth II visited Nigeria was in 2003, hosted by then president Olusegun Obasanjo. The purpose of her visit was to open the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which was in held Abuja on Friday, 5 December.

Indeed, Nigeria and the United Kingdom enjoy a special relationship. The United Kingdom is regarded as a second home to many Nigerians. According to reports, there were approximately 178,000 Nigerian nationals residing in the United Kingdom as at 2021.

Also, according to a data by UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency, the number of Nigerians studying in the United Kingdom (UK) has risen from 13,020 in the 2019/2020 academic session to 21,305 by the 2020/2021 session. The figure, which amounts to an almost 64 per cent increase within a year.

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History

THE QUEEN’S BRITAIN STOLE OUR FUTURE

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QUEEN Elizabeth II’s exit from the mortal plane was bound to excite extreme sentiments because she personified the good, bad and ugly of our history. She was historically and politically our “mother”, who wore the British crown with such charm, charisma, grace and majesty that truly inspired.

By Ochereome Nnanna

How much of the British legacies in Nigeria can we attribute to (or blame on) the late Queen? Or, how many of the British legacies can we not attribute to, or blame on, her? Though a ceremonial, constitutional monarch, the Queen retained the post of Commander-in-Chief of the British forces with the power to declare war as she did over the Falklands in 1982.

Every new Prime Minister still went to her to collect the instrument of power. No major decision was taken without consulting with her. She remained the Head of State of 14 independent countries and leader of the 54-member Commonwealth consisting of over 2.5 billion people; a third of the world’s population.

In her 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth was forced by circumstances beyond her control to superintend over the dissolution of the British Empire through the granting of independence to the former colonies. The manner in which Nigeria’s independence was packaged is responsible for the crises we are still experiencing. Any building with a faulty foundation will collapse sooner or later. But the kind of foundation that Britain laid for Nigeria was such that it would neither stand nor fall. Britain opted for this kind of foundation so that, in cahoots with some anointed local agents, it would continue to manipulate and exploit the system long after independence.

In 1914, Frederick Lugard amalgamated Nigeria in a manner of mixing water and oil. Water and oil can be in the same bowl but they will never mix. The Northern Protectorate (the Sokoto Caliphate, which was already an Islamic Republic) was saddled upon the Southern Protectorate ruled by indigenous kings whose people were rapidly embracing the Christian faith and Western outlook.

Nigeria should have been three countries or at least, a confederation of three or more autonomous regions with the free option by any of its constituents to quit the union. But, due to British interests, the North was saddled on the South; a neo-imperialist arrangement that remains till today.

The Queen herself supervised the final packaging of Nigeria for independence that doomed her permanently. The first was the lopsided manner in which the electoral constituencies were shared between the North and South just before the pre-independence regional and federal elections between 1958 and 1959. Though the population of the South was more than that of the North, the North was given more electoral constituencies.

The North, with its huge landmass was made one region, while the South, which was roughly one-third its size, was split into two regions. The geopolitical advantages were massively stacked in favour of the North. Also, the military advantages were in the North’s favour both in terms of institutional locations and personnel recruitment. The North was placed in a position to dominate, whether under democratic or military rule, with Britain always behind it against the South.

There is this allegation of a British secret pact with the Sokoto Caliphate which is not part of Nigeria’s official history. According to this notion, the British authorities, after a mock military exercise in a secret location in Sokoto, handed Nigeria over to the Sultan and the Northern People’s Congress, NPC, leaders. If you hear some Fulani ethnic irredentists boasting that Nigeria “belongs” to them, it is probably an offshoot of this alleged exercise. We can also see it in their leaders’ pattern of handling the South like their colony.

It is evident in the parasitic tendency of Northerners. They take over commanding sectors of the economy exploitatively and consumptively, not productively. These include the Military, Police, Customs, the Ports Authority, the oil sector, the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), Immigration, the Judiciary, and others. Nigeria is set up to enable the North exploit the South while maintaining the negotiated privileges of Britain.

Queen Elizabeth’s British configuration of Nigeria is such that you need Northern approval before you can change anything.  Before the North gives its approval, it must listen to Britain first. This is why all coups planned by Southerners and Middle Belt officers failed with mass executions, while Northern coups were mostly bloodless “palace” coups. This was why Biafra failed to secede, and anything “Biafra” is addressed with military nihilism.

This is why “restructuring” has failed after over 50 years of agitation by Southern politicians and pro-democracy activists. This is why the Constitution cannot be amended to correct imbalances and promote equity. This is why peaceful change is impossible in Nigeria and development is retarded. And this is why the country is bleeding from all pores and the system is imploding.

Even those who thought the system the British left behind benefited them are worse off in every item of the human development index. They are fleeing their region in their thousands everyday to shelter in the same South they have dominated like internal colonialists.

Sometimes people ask the question: why continue to blame Britain for our woes after over 60 years of independence? We have just painted a picture. So, it is not as if people have not tried to peacefully or violently to correct Britain’s deliberate act of rigging Nigeria against Nigerians for their own benefit.

Today, when our leaders are sick (which is most of the time) they run to Britain. When they want to educate their children, they send them to Britain or America. When they steal our money, they hide it in British banks. And when we chase after them, they run to Britain. Would these be the case if Nigeria were normal?

Queen Elizabeth’s Britain stole the future of Nigeria!

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History

NIGERIA, DEATH OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II AND THE VERDICT OF HISTORY

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The death, few days ago, of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, no doubt, has brought to an end a chequered chapter in the history of mankind; a historic chapter that saw Britain pioneering the industrial revolution and also a chapter that marked remarkable expansionism and acquisition of colonial territories by the British Monarchy solely for economic exploitation of the indigenous peoples.

By Malachy Chuma Ochie

For purposes of clarification, the British monarchy from its inception is a form of constitutional government whereby a hereditary sovereign rules as the head of state, not just of the United Kingdom but also of the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories.

The monarchy is also recognized as the head of the British Armed Forces. In real terms the British monarchy wields enormous powers such that it is its royal prerogative to appoint the British Prime Minster. This monarchy traces its origins to the 10th century when medieval England and Scotland consolidated into the kingdoms of England and Scotland. The institution of the monarchy in Britain has a rich history.

Queen Elizabeth II succeeded her father, King George VI in 1952 after his father, who had dined with his wife as well as Elizabeth’s younger sister, Princess Margaret, passed on in his sleep. Though she was designated as Queen, it was not until 1953 that she was formally crowned at Westminster Abbey. Incidentally, at the point she knew she was the Queen designate; she was in Kenya savouring the beauty and natural endowments of that East African country. She will be remembered as monarch who reigned longest in Britain’s history.

Without doubt, the Queen represented so many things to so many people. Expectedly, since her death the global media have been awash with tributes pouring in from world leaders. As a person, I mourn the Queen passionately, probably not for the same reasons Britons are mourning. Fundamentally, I mourn because she was of the family of God. God enjoins us in His word to mourn with those who mourn even as we rejoice with them that rejoice in times of joy.

I mourn because she played significant roles in the decolonization process of African states, it is also on record that British colonialism brought “light and civilization” to a “Dark and benighted” African continent; a people “without root and history”; a people “stewed in savagery and barbarism”. After all it was the British missionaries that brought us the “word of God” through which such evil customs and traditions like killing of twins, human sacrifice and worship of dead gods were exorcised from the consciousness of the native Africans.

In discharging this “divinely ordained” assignment, the British monarchy initiated policies that would permanently distort the space and mind of the Africans. We were to be sanctified with the word of God; our stony hearts were meant to be removed and replaced with hearts of flesh. Unfortunately, the British succeeded in creating more atavistic Africans that have raped and ripped off the African continent by a devious British acquiescence.

The British monarchy originated the twin evils of slave trade and colonialism; devious systems through which the monarchy sustained its policy of exploitation and expropriation. For instance, the British monarchy was instrumental to the establishment, expansion, and maintenance of the British Empire and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The English Empire was first proclaimed in 1532 AD by Henry VIII. It was Queen Elizabeth I that granted the Royal Charter (an instrument of incorporation) to noted slave traders. In 1660, King Charles II formed the Royal African Company in 1660, which extracted gold and ivory from Ghana (then known as Gold Coast). Through the trans-Atlantic slave trade, hundreds of thousands of Africans were transported to the new world especially the Americas; with the initials of the slave merchants burned with hot iron into the body of each slave. Only a monarchy driven by the most grotesque evil could unleash such ill-treatment to fellow human beings. The British monarch’s global significance and power stemmed directly from the enslavement of people of colour.

The establishment of the Commonwealth by the monarchy is also misleading. Composed of about 52 “independent and equal” member states, members of the Commonwealth are anything but equal. The Commonwealth emerged from post-WWII decolonization process as a means of reassuring the British public that the demise of the British Empire would not diminish Britain’s global prestige. The monarchy is head of the Commonwealth. The role of head of the Commonwealth allows the monarch to continue their position of international privilege and influence, which stems from colonial histories.

I mourn because in 70yrs on the throne, the British Monarchy failed to correct several historical injustices, which its colonial policies entrenched and have sustained in several parts of the world. Unlike the colonial policy of the French, which espoused the principle of “assimilation”, the British Monarchy promoted a policy a deliberate exclusion, divide and rule, expropriation of labour and resources and purposeful stealing of indigenous crafts of the local people.

The British Monarchy, it’s argued, is responsible for most of the crisis we have in our world today. The British Monarchy, for instance, is responsible for the no love-lost between India and Pakistan. Britain created the problem called Kashmir region, a region that has been the driver of several conflicts between India and Pakistan. Britain created the crisis in Sudan by its colonial policies of creating a large political structure in the form of countries just to satiate its insatiable appetite for economic exploitation. There wouldn’t have been the Darfur tragedy if British Monarchy didn’t authorize the merging of north and south Sudan.

This British colonial policy of acquiring territories for economic exploitation without taking into cognizance of the history, culture and religion of the people has been the basis for incandescent ethnic nationalism in many African states. The same is true of many countries in Asia and the Middle-East.

It is also true that the British Monarchy created the monster called Nigeria by unilaterally lumping together disparate ethnic nations as one country. Even one of the key players in the fraud called Nigeria, Sir Peter Smithers and former Principal Press Secretary to British Colonial Secretary, Alan Lennox-Boyd, who died in 2006, confessed to the tragic monster Britain created and called Nigeria. Smithers died at the age of 92yrs. In the London Times of Wednesday, July 15, 1998, with the headline banner “Nigerian Lesson” duly signed by Sir Peter Smithers he said, and permit me to quote him:

“During the negotiations for the independence of Nigeria, the view of the Secretary of State at that time, with which I agreed, was that in Nigeria we should attempt to put together a large and powerful state with ample material resources, which would play a leading part in the affairs of the continent and of the world. This was attractive but it involved forcing several different ethnic and cultural groups into a single political structure. The negotiations were complex and very difficult, the chief problem as I remember relating, significantly, to the control of the police and the military. In the retrospect of 40 years, it is clear that this was a grave mistake that has cost many lives and will probably continue to do so. It would have been better to establish several smaller states in a free-trade area. In exculpation, it must be said that we did not then have the examples of the collapse of Yugoslavia and of the Soviet Union before our eyes. I should now be clear for but the willfully blind to see that it is extremely dangerous to force diverse racial and social entities into a single rigid political structure such as that which is being built upon the foundation of the Maastricht Treaty. Recent history suggests that it would be best to complete the development of the Common Market and to call a halt to political integration in Europe.” Those were the exact words of Sir Peter Smithers.

In her 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II and British establishment saw nothing wrong with the contraption called Nigeria but has continued to sweep the Nigerian conundrum under the carpet. In the face of mounting challenges facing the Nigerian state, in terms of civil unrest, poverty, under-development, terrorism, militancy, banditry, struggle for self-determination etc, we cannot but conclude that the foundations of these ailments were laid by the British even before our political independence. There are clear evidences that the British meddled with the independence elections to ensure that they enthroned their preferred candidates in power through which they can remotely control the destiny of Nigeria.

Nigerian leaders, with the active connivance of the British have remained stiff-necked and unwilling to unbundle the contraption called Nigeria simply to sustain Nigeria as its biggest market in Africa. They are afraid that addressing the Nigerian question would divide the country; a country that has been divided along its worst seams already. Without doubt, Nigeria’s many problems could be traced to the criminal amalgamation in 1914 of the northern and southern protectorates. Is it any wonder then that someone like Smithers would conclude that if the issues of Nigeria’s union is not addressed, the country would continue to experience internal strife, corruption and under-development.

While it made administrative sense to the British to amalgamate the South of Nigeria the north, there was no practical sense in it; essentially because despite the nearness of the north and south of Nigeria there were fundamental differences in their peoples, religion and culture. The major reason for the amalgamation was to release the northern protectorate from the leading strings of the British treasury. The intention was to use the surplus economic resources from the south to sustain the northern protectorate.

In implementing the mandate of the amalgamation, Lugard constructed a Nigerian state with strong regional governments and a weak centre. This effectively ensured that the North was protected from Southern influence. In 1946, the British colonial government further divided Southern Nigeria into two regions: East and West. The North was left intact and so retained its position as the dominant region both in population and landmass. This created an imbalance and tilted the balance towards Northern Nigeria. Furthermore, the adoption of indirect rule system did not help in building a homogenous country. The system was a great success in the north as the central nature of local administration made it easy for the British to control the people using their local political structure. Indirect rule was partially successful in the west and not successful in the east. The British deliberately discouraged nation building and national integration

The British’s divide-and-rule policy is evident in the educational policies it pursued; for example, while the south was exposed to western education, the north was, as a matter of British deliberate policy, protected from the “adulterating” influence of western civilization. A more serious demonstration of the policy of divide-and-rule was the introduction of parliamentary politics in the south in 1922 without a corresponding introduction to the north. It took 25yrs to do so in the north. That was in 1947. It was under this political arrangement that the British ruled the country thereby sowing seeds of separation rather than cohesion. The Land and Native Rights Ordinance of 1910, which created separate laws for landowners in the north and south, contributed in making visible ethnic divide and instilled ethnic consciousness. The result of such policies is the separation of southerners in the north from the indigenous Hausa/Fulani people who lived within walled cities.

We can continue this expose ad infinitum. In whatever way we look at it, we cannot run away from the conclusion that the British monarchy has done more harm than good especially in Nigeria. And so when some individuals call for the renaming of our premier university of the seat of government to Queen Elizabeth II, one runs away with the impression that proponents of such idea could have brains stuffed with cotton wool. It is such crude mentality that would provoke another to suggest that the Queen should have died a slow and painful death.

While I am not disposed to any of the foregoing opinions, I am persuaded that if history is history indeed, it would be on the wrong side of the British monarchy, which Queen Elizabeth II symbolized and personified for 70yrs; yet she did nothing to remedy these historical injustices. The new king still has a date with history. Who knows, he could trigger a remedial process that would reduce tensions in many countries and save lives. Irrespective of the gains we could attribute to the British monarchy, it is fair to conclude that it has done more harm than good. All the same, I commit the soul of the departed Queen into the hands of God who is the most righteous judge both of the living and the dead.

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