Open Letter from Harold Smith to the distinguished statesman and former Prime Minister, Lord James Callaghan.

29 December 1997

Dear James Callaghan,

I am reading Ken Morgan’s fine biography of your extraordinary life of public service with great interest. I am coming to the conclusion that, as British foreign policy was based on ‘bipartisan consensus’, all major politicians were knowledgeable regarding the decision to intervene in Nigeria’s democratic process, which led to its total destruction.

Politicians at that time were, of course as now, men of honour. Whatever hard decisions were made, they must have entailed considerable deliberation by people and experts with enormous experience and knowledge of Nigeria, such as yourself and your mentor Margery Perham. I am not about getting judgmental or displaying indignation. At the time my career was extinguished (and almost my life) in 1960, my politics, beliefs and background were indistinguishable from your own.

(May I digress to mention a constant irritant. Anyone who does not see it as blindingly obvious that you could have easily taken a first-class degree at Oxford is either very stupid or malevolent. I was advised that, had I taken three years I would have been capable of a First. In the event I very happily won a Second in my second year. As I have little doubt that you are brighter than I am, the only question in doubt is whether you would have concerned yourself to take a First. There is absolutely no doubt that it was within your capability. As I left school at fourteen and had so much in common with you, I claim to be privileged to kill – once for all, I hope – this boring occasional put-down by your inferiors in character and generosity of spirit.)

I enclose a printout of my Internet Home Page, which gives its location. Everything I write has been supplied freely to Government and the Secret Services. They have only to ask to be given any information they seek.

Yes, I do think that those who carry out ‘necessary’ treason to our laws and constitution and democracy should in due course justify such conduct. The delay should not be nearly forty years. Neither should Mr Blair in 1997 feel compelled to operate a ‘cover-up’.

As my health is a struggle and precarious at seventy (as it has been since 1960), I am very conscious of the need not to bother you unduly in your incredibly active retirement. However, for the sake of the vitally important historical record and ‘truth’, I would appreciate your contribution to the resolution of what exactly happened in connection with British interference with the Independence Elections in Nigeria. If Western type parliamentary democracy was perceived to be a non-starter in Nigeria, why did we proceed with the Westminster model? What was the ‘necessity’ quoted to me by the Governor General? The Cold War? Communism? Vital oil fields? A pre-emptive attempt to protect the unity of Nigeria? To protect the North? Was it the belief that democracy was untenable and a benign dictatorship would best serve British interests?

The Smiths send their very best seasonal greetings to Lady Callaghan and yourself.

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