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Legal and Diplomatic Implications for Contemporary Nigeria.








Head, Department of International Law,

Faculty of Law, University of Lagos.

















18, Ezoti Street, Behind Oba’s Palace,

Airport Road, Benin City.





I wish to begin by saluting the initiative of all those who had thought it fit and proper to institute this annual lecture series in memory of the great historian, Jacob Egharevba, a man who, by dint of hard work and tenacity of purpose, was able to leave behind a worthy heritage in relation to the history of Benin. The man in whose honour we are gathered here today, was able to bring his great intellect to bear on the study of Benin and its people so much so that we and succeeding generations can be proud beneficiaries of his learning and contributions. Of him can truly be said that he achieved greatness and through the sublimity which he exuded in all that he did, was able to leave his foot-prints on the sands of time.


Africa’s engagement with the rest of the world has historically borne traces of lopsidedness, inequality and grudging tolerance if not, in fact, total disdain and mockery from other peoples and nations. While today, it is indisputable that Africa is the cradle of human civilization, it is a sad reminder of race supremacist attitudes and tendencies in certain quarters that records of Africa’s encounter with the outside world continue to embody considerable prejudice and partisanship aimed, more often than not, at justifying the atrocities perpetrated against our ancestors. This asymmetrical relationship has endured to this day so much so that Africa is compelled to continue to seek ways and means of re-asserting itself in order to emerge from the peon of marginalization and irrelevance to which it had been confined.


The need for interrogating the historiography of African continent especially as it pertains to the Euro-African encounter can hardly be more compelling. Not only should the records be set straight, we need to draw the necessary lessons from what transpired in the past in order not only to obviate a repeat performance but also to enable us occupy our historical position in the scheme of things without any feeling of guilt, inadequacy or diffidence. The time is surely ripe to confront the arrogance of all those who wish to re-order our realities along their own images and interests or re-write our history with a view to covering up or suppressing their sordid past.


It should be remembered that Africa was the last continent to be colonized. With particular reference to the British, it must be stated loud and clear that the perfidious Albion was well practiced in the art of deception in his relationship with the natives, be it Amerindians, Australian aborigines, Indians or Sarawaks. This equipped them with the audacity to overrun and overwhelm the ill-prepared African formations in their brisk but devastating encounter.


It is against this background that it is intended to examine the Anglo-Benin Treaty of 26 March 1892. We shall begin by situating the treaty in the historical context within which it was concluded and examine the architecture of the Treaty before coming to grips with its rationale vis-à-vis the colonial project of the British. Finally, an attempt would be made to elicit lessons from the conclusion of the Treaty and conclude with some prognosis, based on our previous interaction and experience with the rest of the world.


The Euro-African Encounter in Historical Perspective


Africa has always held a fascination for Europeans. As Pliny once observed, “Ex Africa simper aliquid novi” ( There is always something new out of Africa). The so-called ‘Dark Continent’ was an object of both folklore and derision to the Europeans who harboured abysmal ignorance about Africa and its peoples. Aside from biblical references to the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba and a mythical Christian Kingdom of Prester John, in the European mind, Africa was generally terra incognita. It was not until the Age of Discovery that Europe began to evince a smattering knowledge of Africa and its peoples. By the time the Portuguese arrived at the Benin River in 1486, Benin was already a flourishing state with diplomatic relations with Oyo and beyond.1 By 1494, the Portuguese had not only established diplomatic relations with Benin, following the visit and positive report of Joao Afonso d’Aveiro to Lisbon but also firmed up their trade with the people of Benin in pepper, ivory, cloth and which, regrettably, was later to be extended to slaves, an activity which was to endure for the next 300 years.2


The entry of Britain into Benin in 1553 through Captain Wyndham, first to trade in pepper and soon after, slaves marked the beginning of the long British connection with what later came to be known as Nigeria.3 The concentration of the British on slaves rather than tropical produce, like the Portuguese before them helped to consolidate the transformation of Africa into “a warren for the hunting of black skins.”4 Having broken the monopoly of the Portuguese, the British wasted no time in establishing their dominance in the entire West African seaboard.


Paradoxically, it was under the guise of stamping out the unholy traffic in human beings that the British were able to entrench their colonial hegemony in Nigeria. It should be recalled that throughout the period of trade between the British and their local suppliers, no attempt was made by them to venture into the interior, not only on account of the tight hold of the local potentates on their domain, but also because of fear of contracting any of the innumerable tropical ailments for which they were yet to provide a cure.5


Furthermore, the British never owned land in the localities where they operated but had to lease land from the local population for the erection of their warehouses or barracoons for holding slaves prior to their trans-shipment to the New World.6 This testified to the acknowledgement of the sovereignty of the native rulers by the British at the outset of their interaction with Africa. In fact, no British vessel could enter a rover nor could any transaction commence without the offering of presents or “dashes” to the local rulers. With time, these presents matured into full-scale custom duties known variously as “shake hands”, “topping”, or “comey”, levied on every ton of cargo or slave exported.7 It is instructive that not infrequently, the local chiefs resolved commercial disputes between the British and their


suppliers as well as providing the requisite security for the various transactions, thereby enhancing a mutually beneficial rellationship.8


In sum, the transitional period before the confrontation that led to the colonization of Nigeria formally recognized some parity between alien powers and the local potentates in accordance with the norms of classical international law. The British implicitly and explicitly acknowledged the sovereignty of the local rulers by accepting their own status as being no more than that of foreigners trading in territories over which as yet they could not exercise any political control. However, as the power and influence of the British trader increased, the autonomy and independence of the local chiefs suffered some diminution. By the beginning of the 19th century, the power and authority of the chiefs had all but evaporated so much that they could not withstand the machinations and shenanigans that ultimately resulted in the forced incorporation of their territories into the British Empire. Thus, by stealth and treat, the British were able to establish their hegemony in the various places where they had interacted with the local population.


Treaties and the Colonial Enterprise in Nigeria9         


The usual means of establishing colonial hegemony was by conquest. However, in the case of Nigeria, it was a mixed bag of persuasion by way of treaties and ‘pacification’ which, in actuality, signified resort to the Maxim gun, a weapon which was no match for the bows and arrows of the natives. Accordingly, the British, by brute force, extended their power and authority to far-flung parts of the world, thereby creating the much celebrated empire over which the sun never set.


The controversy still rages among scholars as to why the British in Nigeria made use so much of treaties as an instrument of colonization. For example, Omoniyi Adewoye, Nigeria’s leading legal historian contends that it could be explained by their love and predilection for form and tradition.10 According to him, “A potent factor in consolidating and stabilizing colonial rule was the imported European legal process. In the hands of British colonial administrators, as was a veritable tool, stronger in many ways than the Maxim gun…”11


His opinion would seem to have been corroborated by that of a British writer who observed that “Trade may have followed the flag or vice-versa, but almost before either of them arrived in the Englishmen’s knapsacks the law of England had taken root.”12


Others have laid the resort by the British to treaties with the local chiefs to necessity arising from their inability to effect conquest in one fell swoop and immediate establishment of full-fledged colonial rule thereafter.13 The sheer convenience of treaty-making as against military


action, in the view of Obaro Ikime, for example, explains the predilection of the British for treaties in many parts of Nigeria.14


However, it is submitted that no single explanation can be considered adequate or valid to unravel the motivation of the British for treaty-making. Although the British generally held the local potentates with whom they were negotiating in great contempt, their frenetic effort to secure the agreement of the local potentates was largely borne of expediency. They did not for a minute consider the African parties as equal partners but sought their “X” marks on the documents in a bid to secure their hold on the territories in question against any claims over the said territories by other prospective European colonial Power(s). As Elias had observed, “[The] local rulers were styled ‘kings’ before the execution of the treaties, but more often regarded or treated for all practical purposes thereafter as ‘chiefs’ only, implying that they had full sovereign powers to sign the treaties which ipso facto turned them into subordinates of the new sovereigns”.15


It is worthy of note that British penetration of the domains of the local potentates was effected through anti-slave trade treaties, commercial treaties and so-called treaties of protection, depending on the circumstance at hand. Accordingly, the anti-slave trade treaties provided the perfect framework for interference by the British in the internal affairs of the African party. It should be recalled that it was not unknown for the British Consul to meddle in local chieftaincy disputes right up to destooling unfriendly chiefs or influencing the appointment of preferred candidates!16 Under the guise of stamping out the unholy trade “at source”, the British were able to waive aside any claim to sovereignty and non-interference in their internal affairs by the local chiefs. Since the international community had acquiesced in any step taken to put an end to slave traffic, it became quite easy for the British to invoke international anti-slavery instruments in riding roughshod on the independence of the African sovereigns.


On the other hand, the commercial treaties sought to extract monopoly rights from the hapless African chiefs and deprive them of jurisdiction in commercial disputes involving British supercargoes and African traders which they had been exercising hitherto.17 Not only did the treaties envisage the establishment of consular and equity courts whose buildings enjoyed extra-territorial status, their administration was put squarely under the superintendence of British Consuls without exequaturs, much to the chagrin of the local chiefs and traders. In effect, the Palmerstonian policy of ensuring that the long arm of English law protected the Englishman wherever he went became the precursor to full-blown colonization. Treaties that were modeled along the lines of capitulation treaties of the Ottoman Empire with the West paid mere lip service to mutuality, with little chance of the African party enjoying similar protection for its own traders or missionaries in the domain of the British monarch.18


With regard to the treaties of ‘protection’ forced down the throats of the local chiefs, it needs be stated, without any fear of contradiction, that they were a mere prelude to de facto imposition of British rule over inhabitants of what later became known as Nigeria. It is worthy of not that in 1888, the Alafin of Oyo had consigned the entire Yorubaland to the “protection” of the British in exchange for an annual ‘dash’ of 20,000 bags of cowries!19  Some other rulers settled for much less, items such as handkerchiefs, padlocks as well as sergeant-major uniforms featuring frequently as consideration for subjecting themselves to British rule and dictation.20  As Umozurike had observed, it is quite intriguing that the treaties should be termed treaties of protection when the party against which protection was, in fact, needed was the colonial power seeking to imposes it in the first place!21


It would be recalled that when King Jaja of Opobo had sought clarification on the word, “protection” contained in a treaty presented for his signature, the reply of the British Consul was instructive:


“I write as you request with reference to the word ‘protection’ as used in the proposed Treaty that the Queen (of England) does not want to take your country or your markets, but at the same time is anxious that no other nation should take them; she undertakes to extend her gracious power and protection which will leave your country still under your Government; she has no wish to disturb your rule…”22


However, as Ikime has asked,


“…[H]ow could Jaja continue to rule his people as of old if, as laid down in Article V of the treaty, he was bound to act on the advice of British Consular officials in matters relating to the administration of justice, the government of the resources of the country, or in any other matter in relation to peace, order and good government and the general progress of civilization?”23


As Jaja was later to discover, much to his chagrin, the colonial protectorate was no more than an artifice for the total take-over of the protected state by its protector with the connivance of the international community as prescribed under the Act of Berlin of 1885. Indeed, the colonial protectorates envisaged under the so-called protection treaties have been rightly described as “the outcome of a para-legal metamorphosis…[with] no place in international law as a juridically justifiable institution.”24 they were actually a subterfuge for the incorporation of the respective territories into the British Empire and the British made no pretences in swallowing up territory after territory that they had claimed fell under their protection.


In view of the foregoing, it is clear that the situation existing both before and after the Berlin Congress in 1884–5 facilitated the perpetration of perhaps the greatest havoc in history by one group of people against another. After over three centuries of enslavement of the African people, the world was to witness another unprecedented travesty when an entire continent was raped and pilloried by the same set of countries that had felt no compunction in visiting misery and exploitation on our people. The odious atrocity has left an indelible imprint on the consciousness and reality of the African people so much so that hardly can any apologies or restitution suffice or atone.


The Treaty of Benin with the British of March 26, 1892


Pursuant to the expansionist designs of the British in the Benin area, in particular, and the Oil Rivers Protectorate, in general, it was felt that Benin should be brought speedily within the ambit of the protectorate.25 Not only did the British frown at the overlordship of the Oba of Benin in the hinterland in the Urhobo and Itsekiri areas, the sphere of influence of the Oba, especially in relation to trade and other matters was sufficiently irksome to the British that they decided that it was time for flag to follow trade. The appointment of Henry Galway as Vice-Consul for the entire area in 1891 signaled the intention of the British to plant their feet firmly on ground.


However, there was the small matter of how to disguise their intentions before the powerful Oba Ovonranmwen of Benin who generally superintended the trade in Benin and the adjoining areas in items such as palm oil, rubber, gum copal, gum Arabic, incense gums and timber, much to the annoyance of the British.26 As the British had done elsewhere, a carrot and stick approach was felt desirable in the circumstance. While they were most uncomfortable with the Oba’s predilection for what they considered fetish practices, the British decided to postpone their rendezvous with “the City of Blood”27 until much later, opting instead for negotiation with a ruler between whom there was no love lost. Accordingly, it was in this conjuncture that the 1892 Treaty was hatched. It should be pointed out immediately that the feelings of distrust and mistrust were mutual and the negotiations that led to the treaty smacked of a cat-and-mouse game.28


It is instructive that the British were determined to assuage the loss of prestige they had suffered when previous visits of emissaries were shunned by the Oba and his chiefs.29


Hence, this time around, Galway had commenced his mission by making elaborate plans, including reconnaissance of the Benin River as well as dispatch of numerous messengers to assure the Oba of the peaceful intentions of the British.30 However, he still managed some arm-twisting by informing the Oba that he would make only one attempt to negotiate and that



he would not be offering any presents unless and until a treaty had been signed, unlike previously, when presents were given on arrival, a fact which he believed had caused the failure of the mission.31 The emphasis on the offering of presents by a visitor to his host became somewhat trivialized when it was actually an African tradition merely symbolizing the bona fides of a visitor before his host rather than a bribe or “dash” which the British had transformed it into.


Galway had arrived in Benin without an armed escort but could not be immediately received by the Oba. Nevertheless, the Vice-Consul took advantage of meeting the principal chiefs of Benin, by explaining the purpose of his mission with a view to softening the ground. However, when the chiefs could not deliver by expediting his meeting with the Oba, he felt it necessary to issue a thinly-veiled threat to depart at once and not return as a ‘friend’ if they were not forthcoming.32  In response, the chiefs only requested that he met them again, but this time, with only ‘the three leading men’. Although he agreed, he considered them all ‘a set of intriguing and lying individuals’, hell-bent on preventing or frustrating his meeting with the Oba. 33 Eventually, the Oba signaled his agreement to meet him but not until after he had been compelled to watch a specially arranged wrestling match, perhaps to symbolize the impending encounter with the Benin monarch.


After another two hours of waiting, the Oba finally appeared in full regalia, accompanied by his chiefs and courtiers to receive the British agent. Galway immediately rejected the Oba’s interpreter who he believed to be incompetent and substituted Ajayi, his own Akure interpreter, without any objection from the Benin side. The interpreter was saddled with the task of passing Galway’s remarks to the Oba through the principal chiefs. 34


While all this was going on, the Oba kept consulting with his chiefs, repeatedly inquiring whether Galway’s mission was for peace or war, more so as the Oni of Ife was said to have sent him a warning in 1890 that the Ifa oracle had foretold a great disaster in Benin35 while a man about to be sacrificed during the ugie-ivie ceremony in May, 1891 had also reportedly prophesied that white men would come to ‘spoil Ado.’ 36


It needs be emphasized that Galway had come armed with a standard form treaty of protection, modeled along the lines of the one earlier signed with Jaja. He was not actually prepared for negotiations. All he wanted was the signature of the Oba on the prepared instrument. However, once the Oba was assured that there would be no ‘war palavers’, he agreed to give his consent to the treaty though he himself refused to sign it and even refused to touch the pen pleading that such would have been in contravention of an important ritual.37 In the event, all the chiefs touched the pen in symbolic acceptance of the treaty as soon as


 the Oba’s name (‘Ovurami’ instead ‘Ovonranmwen’) was written. 38


A Critical Analysis of the Treaty


As earlier indicated, the Treaty was the standard one used in consolidating the British stranglehold on different parts of the Oil Rivers Protectorate which the British had proclaimed on June 5, 1885. in fact, Galway had signed the Treaty as ‘Deputy Commissioner and Vice-Consul, Benin District, Oil River Protectorate,’ in other words, a vice-roy performing routine functions within his area of jurisdiction!


The opening clause of the Treaty tells an obvious lie to the effect that it was in compliance with the request of the Oba of Benin that the Queen of England intended to “extend to him, and to the territory under his authority and jurisdiction, her gracious favour and protection.” The British were impelled to so pretend in order to mask the fact that the Treaty was a colonial diktat. However, Art. 2 immediately exposes the true intent of the British to deprive the Oba of his independence at the foreign plane by stipulating that the Oba “agrees and promises to refrain from entering into any correspondence, Agreement, or Treaty with any foreign nation or power, except with the knowledge and sanction of Her Britannic Majesty’s Government,” a variant of the so-called ‘negative-sovereignty’ clause. 39


In other words, the Oba, to all intents and purposes, was to become a vassal of Queen Victoria, totally incapacitated in foreign affairs in the classical sense of a protected state. More significant is the fact that full and exclusive jurisdiction, whether civil or criminal, over British subjects and their property in Benin as well as over foreign persons enjoying British protection in Benin was reversed to Her Britannic Majesty. This was to be exercised by “such consular or other officers as Her Majesty shall appoint for that purpose.” 40


As I had observed elsewhere, treaties such as the one in question could not be likened to the capitulation treaties signed with the Ottoman Empire, under which certain sovereignty. 41 On the contrary, the Anglo-Benin Treaty was a leonine treaty forced down the throat of the African party with the singular objective of usurping the powers and functions of the Benin monarch.


More poignantly, all disputes between the Oba of Benin and other Kings and Chiefs or between him and British or foreign traders or between the Oba and other neighbouring ethnic groups, which could not be settled amicably between the two parties, were to be submitted to “the British Consular or other officers appointed by Her Britannic Majesty to exercise jurisdiction in the Benin territories for arbitration and decision, or for arrangement.” 42


This was, quite plainly, another act of usurpation of the powers and responsibilities of the Oba within his domain. For, if the British had actually accorded due recognition to the Oba, it would never have crossed their mind to erode and hijack the judicial powers of the monarch over all persons, things or acts located within his domain. Not only did it smack of insufferable arrogance and race supremacy tendencies to accord extra-territorial status to all British subjects as well as British-protected persons in Benin, the action of the British was imperialist in nature and gregarious in the extreme.


Art. V of the Treaty was, arguably, the most outrageous. Under it, the Oba of Benin engaged “to assist the British Consular or other officers in the execution of such duties as may be assigned to them; and, further, to act upon their advice in matters relating to the administration of justice, the development of the resources of the country, the interest of commerce, or in any other matter in relation to peace, order, and good government, and the general progress of civilization.”


Even the most liberal reading of this clause cannot disguise the complete take-over of the sovereignty of the Benin Kingdom. The brazenness of the British endeavour was, quite simply, incredible. That an alien without firing a shot could extract such surrender remains a mystery. Perhaps, as happened elsewhere in Nigeria, the interpreter did not do a good job in communicating the true intent embodied in the text of the Treaty.43 perhaps Oba Ovonranmwen was agreeable to consenting to the British proposals as long as war was avoided. But whatever rationale one can provide, the Treaty was yet another act of chicanery perpetrated against the African people by those out to subjugate and humiliate us.


As if the was not enough, the British compelled the Oba to open up his territory to trade by all foreigners, with rights to own houses and factories therein.44  Besides, no hindrances were to be placed in the way of Christian missionaries while all forms of religious worship and religious ordinances were to be exercised throughout the domain of the Oba.45  In effect, it was ‘Open Sesame’ for all alien adventurers to exploit the wealth and resources of the Benin kingdom. And, as a final seal on the unequal arrangement, the Treaty provided that in the event of any wreckage of any British vessel within his domain, the Oba was obliged to render assistance to the crew and do everything in his power to prevent plunder and deliver any salvaged goods to the rightful owners of their agents while the resident British Consular officer should exercise powers of arbitration for any claims for salvage.46


Interestingly, the Treaty merely provided that it shall come into operation “so far as may be practicable, from the date of its signature.”47 While there was no provision for implementation


by way of municipal action by both Parties, it has been observed that the British actually saw the Treaty as a mere stop-gap before unleashing their expedition aimed as they claimed at stamping out human sacrifice in Benin.48


Lessons for Contemporary Nigeria from the Anglo-Benin Treaty


Although Nigeria won its sovereignty and political freedom from the British colonialists nearly 50 years ago, it is a matter of regret that the British left only in order to stay behind. The ‘middle class’ solution to Nigeria’s decolonization, to borrow Chinweizu’s characterization,49 ensured that, at independence, power passed to the more reactionary or conservative faction of the ruling class.50 The implication of this, among others, was that our political leaders, like the Bourbons of old, simply put, learnt and forgotten nothing. The neo-colonial structure put in place in the country has meant a continuation of the modalities of engaging the rest of the world bequeathed to the country at independence by its erstwhile colonial exploiter. The events which ultimately led to the imposition of British hegemony in Benin over a hundred years ago have continued to be replicated in different ways in Nigeria till this very day.


It should be recalled that soon after independence, Nigeria nearly signed the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact, under which Nigeria and Britain would have enjoyed the right of overflight over each other’s airspace by military aircraft at a time when Nigeria did not even have an air force! In 1965, Nigeria became one of the first countries to ratify the World Bank Investment Disputes Settlement Convention, under which Nigeria was obliged to submit all disputes involving it and foreign investors to a forum in Washington, thereby accepting parity in status between it and foreign companies. Finally, Nigeria briskly embraced the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968, thereby effectively tying its hands behind its back and robbing itself of the possibility of acquiring nuclear weapons in a world where the weak is often ignored and shorn of all respect by the powerful.


These are just some examples of Nigeria’s naivety and inability to apprehend international realpolitik and order its foreign policy and especially, treaty-making accordingly. If there is truly any lesson to be learnt from the Euro-African encounter in the 19th century, it is that political and military impotence carries a stiff price tag. In a world where only bones are left for late-comers, we just cannot afford to be taken for granted. Nigeria must do all it can to ensure that it plays in the Big League. A situation where the most urgent issues confronting the world are discussed behind our back should no longer be tolerated.


Admittedly, the international nuisance value of states depends on a number of variables, including population, GDP, Human capital development, size of armed forces, etc. Yet, Nigeria would need to put on its thinking cap if it does not wish to lapse into re-colonization. With the forcible incorporation of its economy into the global capitalist economy, Nigeria has little choice than to speedily resolve the disarticulate nature of its economy. Continued dependence on the export of mainly one product-petroleum-for the bulk of its foreign earnings makes the country very vulnerable to the vagaries of the world market and a so-called global economy which has lately been tottering dangerously


As far as treaty-making and treaty implementation go, there is a great need to overhaul the bureaucracy servicing the activity. Situations that led to the conclusion of the recent Green Tree Agreement, for instance, must be avoided. The procedures for treaty-making and treaty implementation should be well understood by all those involved in the exercise while input from the people by way of public hearings concerning the most important engagements should be actively encouraged.


It is self-evident that Nigeria is a most important actor on the African continent if not, in fact, the world. I am on record as having stated that a Nigeria goes, so does the rest of Africa.51 Indeed, Nigeria possesses tremendous hope and promise which must not continue to be betrayed but must be fulfilled in the interest of the Black race. What Azikiwe had called our manifest destiny must be realized soonest in order to ensure that we remain a beacon to the African and Black worlds. Since foreign policy is, to a large extent, a continuation of domestic policies, Nigeria must endeavour to put its house in order and get its act together if it whishes to be taken seriously by the rest of the world.


Treaties are mere instruments for realizing foreign policy objectives. Accordingly, the real task confronting Nigeria lies in the domestic plane which, as stated earlier, determines a country’s posture abroad. If Nigeria is able to get it right domestically, that would surly impact positively on our image and standing in the world.


Perhaps the most significant lesson from the British-Benin debacle is that weakness severely incapacitates an actor in international relations. The fact that the British, within five years of entering into an engagement with the Oba decided to overrun his domain, seize him and banish him far from his domain, loot the priceless treasures of the palace, humiliate and oppress the population should be a lesson for us all today not to take anything for granted. In the dangerous and difficult world that we inhabit, it is a wise precept to hope for the best while preparing for the worst.


Today, greedy eye of numerous foreign exploiters are riveted on our raw material. We are all living witnesses to the invasion of countries by powers that are primarily interested in the resources of their victims. We have heard of neutron bombs that would kill people but leave farmsteads, factories and other structures standing for the appropriation and enjoyment of the victors the morning after. In order not to suffer the fate of our forefathers, we must apprehend the validity of the admonition of Vegetius: Qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum (Whoever desires peace must prepare for war). Granted that Nigeria should not engage in wars of aggression but we need to strengthen our defence capabilities for, it is commonly said that attack is the best form of defense.


The 19th century was the period when we were colonized. The 20th century was the time when we managed to recover our sovereignty from forces that did not have any qualms in slicing out an entire continent like an apple-pie to be shared among themselves. The 21st century should be the era when we are able to consolidate on our nation-building efforts in order to ensure that, never again, would we be subjected to the stranglehold of foreign powers that are out to exploit and humiliate us.


The signs all point to an imminent resurgence and transformation of the African condition. In spite of the high incidence of Afro-pessimism in many quarters, I make bold to say that the only way for Africa today is up. The imperceptible changes occurring in Nigeria, Africa and the African Diaspora are enough and sufficiently encouraging to justify the feelings of Afro-optimism that have animated this presentation. However, keeping hope alive does not imply that we should lay back and put everything on auto-pilot. It requires the combined effort of all the progressive forces in the society to create and empower the Nigeria and Africa of our dream. The journey has already started and, all things being equal, we would get there.

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1 See G-C. K. N. Onyeledo, “international Law” Among the Yoruba-Benin and the Hausa-Fulani in AFRICAN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL HISTORY 156 (A. K. Mensah-Brown, ed. 1975). See also J. U. EGHAREVBA, A SHORT HISTORY OF BENIN 1 – 14 (1969).


2  A. B. Oyebode, Treaty-Making and Treaty Implementation in Nigeria: An Appraisal. Unpubl. D. Jur. Dissertation, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, Canada, at p. 10 (1998).


3  Ibid. at p. 11.


4  K. MARK, CAPITAL, Vol. 1, p. 751 (1967)




6  S. O. Biobaku, An Historical Account of the Evolution of Nigeria as a Political Unit in CONTITUTIONAL PROBLEMS IN NIGERIA 223 (L. Brett, ed. 1960).


7 Ibid.


8 See O. IKIME, THE FALL OF NIGERIA 3 (1977). See also CROWDER, loc. cit.


9 Cf. Akin Oyebode, Treaties and the Colonial Enterprise: the Case of Nigeria, 2 Afr. J. Int’l & Comp. L. 17 (1990)




11 Ibid. at 14.




13 See, e.g., J. C. ANENE, SOUTHERN NIGERIA IN TRANSITION, 1855 – 1906,  at 63 (1966).

[14] See supra note 8, at 39.


15 Elias, International Relations in Africa: a Historical Survey in AFRICAN INTERNATIONAL HISTORY, supra note 1, at 98.


16 Cf. Oyebode, supra note 9, at 21-22.


17 For more on this, see supra note 2, at pp. 21-29.


18 For an analysis of the origins and types of the capitulation treaties, see C. H. Alexandrowicz, The Afro-Asian World and the Law of Nations (Historical Aspects), 123 Hague Recueil Des Cours 150-157 (1962).

19See Treaty with the Alafin of Oyo and Head of Yorubaland, July 23, 1888 in XVII HERTSLET’S COMMERCIAL TREATIES 199 (1970).


20 Cf. Oyebode, supra note 9, at 20




22 89 BRIT. STATE PAPERS 1089, quoted in C. H. Alexandrowicz, The Role of Treaties in the European-African Confrontation in the Nineteenth Century in AFRICAN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL HISTORY, supra note 1, at 55.


23 IKIME, supra note 8, at 38 – 39.



25 Cf. RYDER, supra note 1, at 266.


26 Ibid. at 268.


27 Cf. R. H. BACON, BENIN, THE CITY OF BLOOD, London, 1898, passim.


28 RYDER, op. cit. 268 -70.


29 Ibid. at 268.


30 Ibid.

31 Ibid. at 269.


32 Ibid.


33 Ibid. at 270.


34 Cf. RYDER, op. cit. at 270.




36 RYDER, ibid.


37 Ibid. at 271.

[48] Ibid.


39 Cf. Alexandrowicz, supra note 24, at 64-65. See also id., supra note 22, at 55.


40 Art. III.


41 See Oyebode, supra note 9, at 22.


42 Art. IV

[49] Cf. eg., Oyebode, supra note 9, at 28-29.


44 Art VI.


45 Art. VII.


46 Art. VIII.


47 Art. IX.

[48] Cf. RYDER, op. cit. 272.


49 See his THE WEST AND THE REST OF US (1975)


50 Cf. Oyebode, Towards a New Policy on Decolonization in NIGERIA AND THE WORLD (A. B. Akinyemi, ed. 1978).


[51] See Oyebode, External Imperatives of Democracy in NIGERIA: PATH TO SUSTAINABLE DEMOCRACY 204 (Oseni and Sambo, eds. 2000).

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