About Harold Smith

1927 - 3rd Jan. 2011

Born in Manchester, in 1927, Harold Smith was educated at Oxford University in the traditional manner thought suitable for those who would run

the Whitehall civil service machine, of the British Empire. The Colonial Office recruited him into the Labour Department in 1954, after he took his final examinations [Philosophy, Economics and politics] at Magdalene College a year ahead of his class and got a second class upper. He also obtained the University Diploma in Social and Public Administration so he was considered particularly well fitted to serve the Crown in Africa. This is not a small accomplishment for a boy who left school at fourteen. He was posted to Nigeria and he arrived in Lagos in 1955 with his lovely wife Carol, both worked as British officers serving on the headquarters staff in Lagos.

At his recruitment he sought out and attained assurances that he was being recruited to assist in helping to prepare Africa for independence. However, on the ground, he soon found out that things were different. When the British removed themselves from most of Africa and from Nigeria in 1960, the programme was forced on them by the outcome of the Second World War. Though in truth they did not wish to surrender power to the African people; but set about to rule though the imposition of colonial local agents. This meant circumventing democracy in order to achieve their goal.

Harold Smith was also an idealist who lived for humanity. Once he realized the reality of colonial rule, instead of cooperating, Harold displayed unusual courage by taking on, at high personal cost and risk, the British colonial authority that violated the honours of Africans and the ordinary decent British who were of the majority. As he observed after when he received the order to take part in the manipulation ‘My reply was brief. ‘No,’ I wrote on the minute sheet. ‘This would be a criminal act.’ He saw the orders as clearly a criminal breach of Nigeria’s own electoral laws, as well as being a gross betrayal of trust by the British who were supposed to embody the notion of even handedness, fair play and honesty.

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