E.H. Duckworth’s Clean-Up Lagos Campaigns: the political use of ex-centric colonial discourse on African dirt

Terri Ochiagha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On April 3 1952, former colonial Inspector of Education, Edward Harland Duckworth (1894–1972) – founding editor of the cultural magazine Nigeria – announced the birth of a sanitation venture he christened “The Clean-Up Lagos Campaign” in a Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation radio programme. The initiative declared war on “squalor and filth” in Nigeria’s colonial capital, Lagos. Duckworth urged Nigerian citizens to join his army of “volunteers” to wipe Lagos clean of literal dirt, and by extension, eliminate the moral stench exhaled by advertising bills plastered on buildings and monuments. The short-lived campaign was amply disseminated in the Nigerian press and (alongside its two encore performances of 1960 and 1967) featured in confidential Commonwealth Office papers of enormous political import at the height of the Nigerian Civil War. However, it was not Duckworth’s first intrusion into Lagos’ sanitary arena. This article examines Duckworth’s ex-centric discourse on dirt as a remarkable permutation of more generalised colonial standpoints. While Duckworth’s ambivalently enunciated views on dirt respond to his personal eccentricity and undisguised quest for power and recognition, his campaigns, rather than mere asides to an eccentric colonial life, shed light on one of the most understudied dimensions of Nigerian colonial history – the political use of deviance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-37
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Dynamics
Volume 44
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Apr 2018


  • Nigeria, colonial, history, sanitation, dirt

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