Sir Henry Hesketh Joudou Bell

In 1909 Bell was promoted to the post of governor of Northern Nigeria and it was at this point that his career began to falter. The permanent officials at the Colonial Office, particularly Charles Strachey, felt that he had too little knowledge of Nigerian affairs to cope unaided. Charles Temple was appointed chief secretary, with a dormant commission, to shore up Bell's administration. Temple was a ruthlessly determined, ambitious, and very skilful officer who had been in Nigeria since 1901 and had been one of Sir Frederick Lugard's pioneering administrators. Bell arrived in the protectorate already seriously handicapped in his dealings with the tough and independently minded Northern Nigerian political officers. It was hoped that he would have some impact on the economic development of the region, but in practice his influence was so limited that he could do little more than occasionally delay and question the actions of his senior officers who were convinced proponents of the policy of indirect rule. These officers had little time for Bell, decrying his lack of social background, his fear of the climate, and, above all, his apparent lack of credibility when compared to Temple. Events came to a head when a satirical doggerel verse outlining the many faults of Bell was passed around the protectorate until, inevitably, someone could not resist placing it on his desk. Bell unwisely made a great play to find the culprit, even taking the matter up with the Colonial Office. It was thought that this ditty explained his departure from Nigeria in 1912, nearly a year earlier than expected. Lugard was appointed as his successor.

He wrote 10 books on his journeys and on the role of witchcraft including:

Foreign Colonial Administration in the Far East

Obeah; Witchcraft in the West Indies

Witches and Fishes

Northern Nigeria | Northern Nigeria Administrators


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by Stephen Luscombe