In August 1937, the emir of Katsina – an ancient state in the far north of Nigeria – passed the afternoon taking tea with Lord Lugard, the famous British imperialist who had conquered his country thirty-five years before. Lugard’s country house in Surrey had become an established place of pilgrimage for the Muslim royals of British-ruled northern Nigeria, and Emir Muhammadu Dikko spent this fourth visit (as he recorded in his diary) with ‘my old friend Governor Lugard’, reminiscing about former times and joking affably about how good it was that they had decided not to fight and kill one another in their first, historic encounter. Indeed, in Katsina the following year, the emir celebrated the Islamic festival of Eid by unveiling a bronze commemorative plaque next to the gate through which British forces had entered on 28 March 1903. Shortly afterwards, he wrote to Lugard with a photograph, saying that while he personally would always remember that happy day in the history of his emirate, he had erected this memorial ‘lest future generations of my people should forget’.
It is some twenty years since David Cannadine published his seminal reinterpretation of British imperialism, Ornamentalism: How