One British bobby and 150 Nigerian policemen once kept order on Northern Nigeria

I bumped into a former British District Officer who once “ran” northern Nigeria, where hundreds of people have just been killed by Islamic fundamentalists.

“When I was there, there was one British policeman and 150 federal Nigerian police for the whole area, and there was no trouble. They’re pious Moslems, but they liked having a good time and enjoyed life. People got on well together.”

What went wrong? “Corruption. It’s sucking resources out of the north to places like Lagos in the south. Also, the population has trebled. So … masses of young people, with little chance of making much of their lives.”

A mild-mannered elderly man (Nigeria became independent in 1960), he is distressed at the violence. He still reads and listens to the news in the Hausa language – “unfortunately they speak rather fast and the words have changed since I was there.”

He doubts where the riot police and armoured cars sent by the Federal Government will do much good. “In my day, we ruled with a light touch. We had to. We had no means of doing otherwise.”

He seems slightly surprised he got away with it.

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