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HAROLD SMITH RIP: (1927-3rd January, 2010)

HE FOUGHT OUR BATTLE, THAT IS WHY WE ARE GRATEFUL TO HIM

By Taiwo Akinola – January 4, 2011

It was with great sadness that the progressive communities received the news of Mr Harold Smith’s death on 3rd January, 2010.

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.

Like David Wilberforce, Harold Smith was also a patriot, he saw himself as fighting for the reinstatement of British honour which he says had been cruelly defiled by the sordid, evil machinations of men at the helm of affairs in the old colony who handed over a counterfeit democracy on the eve of independence in 1960.”  But the British Imperial Authority did not take kindly to that; as he observed “The Governor General simply could not understand why I should make such a fuss about which set of Africans the British chose to leave in charge in Lagos.” For his principled position, Harold was given a dose of how Africans were treated. He was sacked from his job without being allowed to seek another job. Hence “I found myself permanently retired at thirty-three with no salary or pension. I had only graduated at Oxford six years earlier.” With two children, it was left to Carol, his equally courageous and devoted wife to be the bread winner of the house.

Harold Smith’s was forced back to Nigeria and his health was destroyed, as he observed “Perhaps fortuitously, this determination to prolong my stay in Africa was to bring me down, for in my final year, the year of the rather tacky if not wholly sham Independence, I became ill with a chronic disease, tropical sprue. As a result I have had a quiet and retired life punctuated by alarming health crises.”

Harold refused to sell his conscience at any cost. He told the story of evil committed by ‘kind, nice, decent British politicians’. They sought to keep Britain from bankruptcy and found a solution in the mineral-rich Empire on the point of independence. It was necessary to bend the rules and, sadly, in due course the rules were totally forgotten. Those who got in the way were innocent like the colonial peoples, but both had to be dealt with quite harshly. Harold Smith accounts as he himself observed ‘My main qualification for demolishing the myth that the British created viable democracies out of savage tribes only to see the ungrateful and greedy natives quickly revert to their tribalistic ways was my personal involvement in these events.

“When I suggest that the British Government meddled with the democratic elections in Nigeria, I write as an authority. I was chosen by his Excellency the Governor General, Sir James Robertson, to spearhead a covert operation to interfere with the elections.”

“I was present in Lagos, Nigeria, during the period 1955-60 in the run-up to Independence, and my recollection of those years is at variance with the record set down by some British historians.”

What he revealed is that “the British Government interfered with the elections so as to achieve Northern domination of Nigeria. The consequences of this abandonment of the rule of law by the British Government is recorded in the turbulent and bloody events which were to produce the Biafran Civil War which grasped the attention of the world due to its daily presence on every nation’s television screens. The pictures of starving children and homeless refugees will not soon be forgotten. Since the fraudulent handover of power to the Northern leaders in l960, not only has there been this bloody civil war which caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Nigerians including many women and children, but five heads of state have been assassinated and there have been three military coups.”

“I have not told this story before because I did not wish to wreck the chances of success of the new nation by revealing the truth behind the fine but phoney ceremonial retreat. It would not have been possible to write this book in the 1960’s anyway as my health was in ruins and my survival unlikely. By the mid-1960’s too, the consequences of the British betrayal were becoming evident and Nigeria was being torn apart by coups, corruption and civil war. If 1960 was too early, by 1966 it was far too late.”

Today we all celebrate and salute the life and  the courage of this great man of impeccable character who, in order to preserve the integrity of the black race and the honour of the ordinary decent British- had the audacity to stand up to the power of the British imperial authority. Though, his life was turned into a ‘single issue’. He will be affectionately remembered and honoured. Even though the judgement of ‘the negative powers’ of the British Imperial authority did not favour him, he is favoured by the judgement of the people and both posterity and God will equally judge him as righteous.  Harold, we will always remember your saintly name.

Harold is survived by his amiable wife Carol who stood with him through this trying period, and two lovely daughters Helen and _____. May they and we all have the heart to bear the loss of a father, a husband, a friend and a lover of humanity.

By Taiwo Akinola, Movement for National Reformation

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  1. #1 by Olusanmi Emmanuel on December 13, 2013 - 1:26 am

    Harold, you were one great star that shone through the dark nights imposed by Imperial Britain on Nigeria. My father told me your story and I will ensure that my grand-children tell it to their children. Because of you, we know that not all Britons are evil brutes that cannot be trusted to be fair and upright. Thank you for being a faithful friend to Nigeria all your life. May God bless the family you left behind and may your singular act of devotion to truth and justice, even at great personal cost to yourself, be counted for righteousness by your Maker. May HE grant you eternal rest and give your family peace.

  2. #2 by Adedotun Adeyeye on April 26, 2011 - 10:54 pm

    What an insight to the bane of our political problems. Truth is like smoke, it can’t be successfuly coversd with woven bascket. This has being our suspicion though, but could not be substantiated. Now that this man of honour has spoken, our eyes are clearer. Good night Harold, sleep well. May God console the wife and the daughters.

  3. #3 by Ericka Mosheshe on January 23, 2011 - 4:36 am

    This obituary brings tears to my eyes. I love Nigeria and it pains me to know so much of the damage we’ve endured over the past decades could have been avoided and was orchestrated by greed – a civil war, 5 heads of state assassinated and 3 military coups. As woman of both Nigerian and British parentage, I am moved by Mr. Smith’s honor and so ashamed to learn of this betrayal by the British government.

    God bless Harold Smith for his morality and courage. I thank him for his determination and defiance in standing for Nigerians’ dignity. I honor him for revealing this pitiful stain on British history, the “suspicion” is not just in our minds anymore. My prayers are with his family – remain proud, we are so thankful for your husband and father. God bless and always keep you with him, Mr. Smith. Rest In Peace.

  4. #4 by jennifer britton on January 14, 2011 - 12:30 pm

    Sean ( Harold) a dear friend for 30 years .You stood for truth and justice for all nigerians.
    we know how hard it will be for Carol,Helen and Louise.
    God Bless you all
    jenny len and family

  5. #5 by henryik2009 on January 12, 2011 - 11:38 am

    Harold Smith deserves our esteem for his courage.May his soul rest in peace.Having said that,i think the British would have been accused of prejudice even if the North had not come out on top.In a multi-tribal state like Nigeria,the ‘losing’ tribes would still have complained no matter how fair the elections were.
    Nigeria’s problem is simply “colonial mentality”.We secured political independence,but we did not end the colonial arrangements that under-pinned colonialism.We should stop sniveling about the British.We need to take responsibility.

    *Check out some posts here:http://henryik2009.wordpress.com.

  6. #6 by Anderson Lucas on January 10, 2011 - 12:35 am

    I met Harold (who I knew as Sean) over forty years ago. I met him and Carol by virtue of knowing one of his daughters, Louise, at Leeds University.

    Although it was only through having a few meals together the impact of talking to both him and Carol was immense. He was one of the most {if not the most} impressive and honourable people that I have ever met.

    Whilst he had very strong and committed views he also had a gentle and comforting attitude as did Carol. Whilst I can’t speak as to the work and campaigning he was involved with (although I was aware of) I can say he has remained in my thoughts all my life. For me his integrity is beyond comparison and the world is a far poorer place with his departing.

    My thoughts at this time are with Carol whom to my mind is an equally inspiring person ( they were to my mind a partnership made in “heaven”[what ever that might be…]) as well as Helen and Louise his devoted daughters.

    My love always…..

  7. #7 by MRS PAULINE GEORGE BAKARE TAIWO on January 6, 2011 - 10:49 pm

    What a revelation. very difficult to believe.
    I wish all Nigerians can be privy to this information.
    May Almighty father forgive Harold Smith for his sin on humanity.
    May his soul rest in peace. At least he revealed the truth before he died.

    • #8 by Anderson Lucas on January 10, 2011 - 12:46 am

      Dear MRS PAULINE GEORGE BAKARE TAIWO

      I noted your comment on the Ttribute page for Harold Smith.

      Without wishing to impose on you, I would be interested to know the situation which resulted in your comment “May Almighty father forgive Harold Smith for his sin on humanity”.

      Kind regards

      Anderson Lucas

  8. #9 by Wilson Ometan on January 6, 2011 - 6:19 pm

    Harold Smith; he lived a truthful, consciencious, fortright and fear no foe life. He’s example shall be emulated by his friends, enemies and us Africans who he lived and worked for. May God grant us and his family the big heart to mourn his loss. Harold, you will live forever.

  9. #10 by Victor Adeyeri on January 6, 2011 - 6:00 pm

    This is a day when all lovers of justice must stand up and be counted. There are no words suitable to acknowledge the courage of this man for standing for what is just at a grave risk to his career and his family. I pay homage to his wife who stood by him through all the changing scenes of life that they both endured.
    One thing is certain ‘The Gods of the Righteous are always slow to anger and plenteous in mercy’. They have seen him through his 83 years of life. No doubt, when it was time for him to answer to the call of his creator on the 3rd of January 2010, he departed gracefully with all the Angels directly to the throne of Grace.
    Harold, Thank you for your earthly deeds, We ( and I know I speak for a majority of Nigerians) salute your courage. In your lifetime, your stand on Nigeria was vindicated. You can now take your deserved place in Heaven and be at peace with your maker.
    I pray that your wife will have sufficient strength to cope with your loss. No doubt , your children are proud of Daddy’s achievement and honourable role in life. Goodnight Harold! REST IN PEACE.

  10. #11 by Felix Adejumo on January 6, 2011 - 9:13 am

    I listened for many months to the recorded radio programme. It is really sad that Africans were subjected to that sort of treatment by those who were supposed to be looking after their affairs.
    He tried his best based on his conscience. May his soul rest in peace.

  11. #12 by Michael Folorunso on January 6, 2011 - 7:48 am

    This man stood on the right side of justice, honor and liberty when he could have gone the ways many of colleagues did and lived there happily after. He was a white man who lost everything so he could bring justice to the black man. He endured untold hardships and pains just so he can protect his own integrity. I must say he triumphed against the British skewed sense of justice, he triumphed against the mischief of the MI5.

    I pray that may God allow him to find a peaceful resting place for all time.

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