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Different Strokes

The vast majority of administrators had little notion of what to expect in Nigeria. It appears as if their ideas of Nigeria were as vague as the Nigerians’ views of England and Englishness, a fact well represented in Mister Johnson. Neither the coloniser nor the colonised had any real insight into the alien cultures they were faced with.

A major obstacle to overcome were the huge distances involved. Yet the problem was not just coming to terms with the vast geographical distances involved, but also the huge cultural gulf. Britain and Nigeria were entirely different worlds, with nothing in common other than a history of slavery. One important area of postcolonial studies is establishing some status of relationship between coloniser and colonised, whether the relationship is manufactured, or whether it is naturally present and needing only to be developed. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the relationship between Britain and Nigeria was manufactured to suit British demands. It seems inevitable that Britain achieved more out of the relationship than Nigeria ever would.
For European administrators, arriving in Nigeria in early colonial times was like stepping back into European history and encountering an almost medieval society of feudalism and patriarchy. Abdul JanMohamed has noted that it was ”an atmosphere of idealistic, paternalistic despotism” (Manichean Aesthetics, 18). There was a completely different feel to Nigeria than Europe, and the administrators soon felt their king-like presence in this barbaric land. It seems inevitable that disillusionment would follow such elevated expectations. Due to problems of language and finances, many administrators ended their time in Nigeria disillusioned, isolated, and highly ambivalent in their opinions of both natives and the Imperial project.

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