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Samuel Olumuyiwa Jibowu: First African Judge of the Supreme Court of Nigeria

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Image of Samuel Olumuyiwa Jibowu

Justice Samuel Olumuyiwa Jibowu (August 26, 1899 – June 1, 1959) was the first African to serve on the Supreme Court of Nigeria; the first African police magistrate, the first Nigerian High Court judge and a pioneer of the Nigerian Judiciary. He was also Chief Justice of Lagos and the old Western Region of Nigeria successively.

Samuel Olumuyiwa Jibowu was the first surviving male child of Samuel Alexander Adebowale (First Secretary of the Egba United Government) and Mary Elizabeth Jibowu (nee Pearce).

He attended Abeokuta Grammar School, Abeokuta and taught at the school prior to attending college. In 1919, he left Nigeria for London where he attended Oxford University, England and earned a degree in Civil Law. He was called to the bar in 1923 at Middle Temple, London.

By 1931, he was a police magistrate, the first African to hold such a position during the time colonial authorities doubted the integrity of Africans. In 1942, he was appointed as a Judge of the High Court. He later became a puisne Judge at the High Court in Benin City and in 1957, he was appointed as the Chief Justice of the Lagos High Courts and the Southern Cameroons.

Olumuyiwa Jibowu was a tall, robust and resplendent figure. He was the only black magistrate in Nigeria before 1934 and was highly respected for his sterling principles. His elevation to the Higher Bench was therefore a thing of joy to all Nigerians. He was perhaps the strictest of all the judges of his time but behind the rigid exterior was a thesaurus of untainted goodness.

READ ALSO: 25 Interesting Facts you did not know about Cross River State

Justice Samuel Olumuyiwa Jibowu was husband to Mrs. Cecilia Jibowu (née Alakija), niece to Adeyemo Alakija (1884 — 1952), founder of Daily Times of Nigeria, and Lady Deborah Jibowu of Iddo Ajinare in Ekiti State. They bore him seven (7) children.

Jibowu headed the Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate the corruption in the Cocoa purchasing company of Ghana for which nearly 30,000 cocoa farmers had been alienated from the Nkrumah regime.

Olumuyiwa Jibowu was a tall, robust and resplendent figure. He was the only black magistrate in Nigeria before 1934 and was highly respected for his sterling principles. His elevation to the Higher Bench was therefore a thing of joy to all Nigerians.

He succeeded the equally talented Adetokunbo Ademola (1906—1993) as the Chief Justice of Western Nigeria in 1958 and died on the job a year later on June 1, 1959. He was 59.

Jibowu Street, a street in Yaba, Lagos, is named after him. 

How Alhassan Dantata became West Africa’s Richest Man in the ’50s

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Alhassan Dantata

Alhaji Alhassan Dantata (1877 – August 17, 1955) was a Nigerian businessman who was the richest man in West Africa at the time of his death.

Birth and Early Life

Dantata’s father was Abdullahi, a man from the village of Danshayi, near Kano. Alhassan Dantata was born in Bebeji in 1877, one of several children of Abdullahi and his wife, both of whom were traders and caravan leaders.

Bebeji attracted many people of different backgrounds in the 19th century, such as the Yorubas, Nupes, Agalawas, etc. It was controlled by the Sarki (chief) of Bebeji who was responsible for the protection of Kano from attack from the southwest.

Alhassan Dantata was born into an Agalawa trading family. His father Madugu Abdullahi was a wealthy trader and caravan leader while his mother was also a trader of importance in her own right enjoying the title of Maduga-Amarya. Abdullahi, in his turn, was the son of another prosperous merchant, Baba Talatin. It was he who brought the family from Katsina, probably at the beginning of the nineteenth century, following the death of his father, Ali.

Abdullahi already had a reputation of some wealth from his ventures with his father and therefore inherited his father’s position as a recognized and respected Madugu. Like his father, he preferred the Nupe and Gonja routes. He specialized in the exchange of Kano dyed cloth, cattle, slaves, and so on for the kola of the Akan forest. Surprisingly, he had added cowries brought to the coast by European traders to the items he carried back to Kano.

Image of Alhassan Dantata
Alhaji Alhassan Dantata of Kano (1877-1955).

However young Alhassan was brought up in the care of an old slave woman, who was known as “Tata” from which circumstance young Alhassan became known as Alhassan Dantata because of her role as his ‘mother’ (“Dantata” means “son of Tata”).

Education

Dantata was sent to a Qur’anic school (madrasah) in Bebeji and as his share of his father’s wealth (as so often happens), seemed to have vanished, he had to support himself. The life of the almajiri (Qur’anic student) is difficult, as he had to find food and clothing for himself and also for his mallam (teacher) and at the same time read. Some simply beg while others seek paid work. Alhassan worked and even succeeded at the insistence of Tata in saving.

While still a teenager, great upheavals occurred in the Kano Emirate. This included the Kano Civil War (1893-1894) and the British invasion of the Emirate (1902). During the Kano Civil War, Alhassan Dantata and his brothers were captured and sold as slaves, but they were able to buy back their freedom and return to Bebeji shortly afterward.

Dantata remained in Bebeji until matters had settled down and the roads secure. Then he set out for Accra, by way of Ibadan and Lagos and then by sea to Accra and then to Kumasi, Sekondi, and back to Lagos. He was one of the pioneers of this route. In 1906, he began broadening his interests by trading in beads, necklaces, European cloth, etc.

Career

Before Alhassan Dantata settled in Kano permanently, he visited Kano City only occasionally to either purchase or sell his wares. He did not own a house there but was satisfied with the accommodation given to him by his patoma (landlord.). It was during the time of the first British appointed Emir of Kano, Abbas (1903-1919), that Dantata decided to establish a home in Kano.

In 1912, when the Europeans started to show an interest in the export of groundnut, they contacted the already established Kano merchants through the Emir, Abbas and their chief agent, Adamu Jakada. Some established merchants of Kano like Umaru Sharubutu, Maikano Agogo and others were approached and accepted the offer.

Groundnut Pyramids

Later in 1918, Dantata was approached by the Niger Company to help purchase groundnuts for them. He was already familiar with the manner by which people made fortunes by buying cocoa for Europeans in the Gold Coast. He responded and participated in the enterprise with enthusiasm, he had several advantages over other Kano business men.

Dantata could speak some English because of his contact with the people on the coast, thus he could negotiate more directly with the European traders for better prices. He also had accumulated a large capital and unlike other established Kano merchants, had only a small family to maintain, as he was still a relatively young man.

Alhassan Dantata had excellent financial management, was frugal and unostentatious. He knew some accounting and with the help of Alhaji Garba Maisikeli, his financial controller for 38 years, every kobo was accounted for every day. Not only that, but Dantata was also hard-working and always around to provide personal supervision of his workers. As soon as he entered the groundnut purchasing business, he came to dominate the field.

When the British Bank of West Africa (now First Bank of Nigeria) was opened in Kano in 1929, Alhassan Dantata became the first Kano businessman to operate a bank account when he deposited twenty (20) camel loads of silver coins.

Dantata became the chief produce buyer especially of groundnuts for the Niger Company (later U.A.C). Because of this, he applied for a license to purchase and export groundnuts in 1940 just like the U.A.C. However, because of the great depression and the war situation, it was not granted.

However, Alhassan Dantata had many business connections both in Nigeria and in other West African countries, particularly the Gold Coast. He dealt, not only in groundnuts but also in other merchandise. He traded in cattle, kola, cloth, beads, precious stones, grains, rope, and other things. His role in the purchase of kola nuts from forest areas of Nigeria for sale in the North was so great, that eventually whole “kola trains” from the Western Region were filled with his nuts alone.

Image Groundnut Pyramids
The Groundnut Pyramids of Kano were an “invention” of Alhassan Dantata.

When Alhassan Dantata finally settled in Kano, he employed people, mainly Igbo, Yoruba, and the indigenous Hausa, as wage earners. They worked as clerks, drivers, and labourers. Some of his employees, especially the Hausas, stayed in his house. He was responsible for their marriage expenses. They did not pay rent and in fact, were regarded as members of his extended family. He sometimes provided official houses to some of his workers.

Business Interests

Alhassan Dantata founded, with other merchants (attajirai), the Kano Citizens’ Trading Company for industrial undertakings. In 1949, he contributed property valued at £10,200 (ten thousand, two hundred pounds) for the establishment of the first indigenous textile mill in Northern Nigeria. Near the end of his life he was appointed a director of the Railway Corporation.

In 1917, he started to acquire urban land in the non-European trading site (Syrian quarters) when he acquired two plots at an annual fee of £20. All his houses were occupied by his own people; relations, sons, servants, workers and so on.

Relationship with Women

Because of his Islamic beliefs, Dantata never transacted business with a woman of whatever age. His wife, Umma Zaria was his chief agent among the women folk. The women did not have to visit her house. She established agents all over Kano City and visited them in turn. When she visited her agents, it was the duty of the agents to ask what the women in the ward wanted.

Way of Life, Food, and Health

Dantata was a devout Muslim. He was one of the first northerners to visit Mecca via England by mail boat in the early 1920s. He loved reading the Qur’an and Hadith. He had a personal mosque in his house and established a Qur’anic school for his children.

Alhassan Dantata paid zakkat annually according to Islamic injunctions and gave alms to the poor every Friday. He belonged to the Qadiriyya brotherhood.

Image of Aliko  Dangote
Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa, is a direct descendant.

Although Alhassan Dantata was one of the wealthiest men in the British West African colonies, he lived a simple life. He fed on the same foodstuffs as any other individual, such as tuwon dawa da furar gero. He dressed simply in a white gown, a pair of white trousers (da itori), and underwear (yar ciki), a pair of ordinary local sandals, and a sewn white cap, white turban, and occasionally a malfa (local hat).

READ ALSO: Abubakar Tafawa Balewa: The Golden Voice of Africa

He was said never to own more than three sets of personal clothing at a time. He never stayed inside his house all day and was always out doing something. He moved about among his workers joking with them, encouraging and occasionally giving a helping hand. He ate his meal outside and always with his senior workers.

Dantata met fully established wealthy Kano merchants when he moved to Kano from the Kauye, like Maikano Agogo, Umaru Sharubutu, Salga, and so on. He lived with them peacefully and always respected them. He avoided clashes with other influential people in Kano. He hated court litigation. He lived peacefully with the local authorities. Whenever he offended the authorities he would go quietly to solve the problems with the official concerned.

Alhassan Dantata enjoyed good health and was never totally indisposed throughout his active life. However, occasionally he developed malaria fever; and whenever he was sick, he would go to the clinic for treatment. Because of his simple eating habits, he was never obese. He remained slim and strong throughout his life. Alhassan Dantata had no physical defects and enjoyed good eyesight.

Politics

Dantata never became a politician in the true sense of the term. However, because of his enormous wealth, he was always very close to the government. He was in both the colonial government’s good books and maintained a very close position to the emirs of Kano. He was nominated to represent commoners in the reformed local administration of Kano and in 1950 was made a Councillor in the emir’s council, the first non-royal individual to have a seat at the council.

Death

In August 1955, Alhassan Dantata fell ill and because of the seriousness of the illness, he summoned his chief financial controller, Maisikeli, and his children. He told them that his days were approaching their end and advised them to live together.

He was particularly concerned about the company he had established (Alhassan Dantata & Sons) and besieged them not to allow the company to collapse. He implored them to continue to marry within the family as much as possible and urged them to avoid clashes with other wealthy Kano merchants.

Three days later, he passed away in his sleep on Wednesday, August 17, 1955. He was 78.

Dantata was buried the same day in his house in the Sarari ward, Kano. At the time of his death in August 1955, he was reportedly the wealthiest man of any race in West Africa.

Legacy

It was, and is, rare for business organisations to survive the death of their founders in Hausa society. Hausa tradition is full of stories of former successful business families who later lost everything.

However, Dantata left able heirs to continue his business in a grand way. The reason for this was that his heirs were interested in sustaining the family name and the employment of modern methods of book-keeping; the only local merchant to do so at that time.

Alhassan Dantata’s entire estate was subdivided according to Islamic law among the eighteen (18) children who survived him. Among his descendants are Aminu Dantata (son), Sanusi Dantata (son), Abdulkadir Sanusi Dantata (grandson), Mariya Sanusi Dangote (granddaughter), Aliko Dangote (great-grandson), Tajudeen Aminu Dantata (great-grandson), and Sayyu Dantata (great-great-grandson).

You can also follow me on Twitter @AmazingAyo

Further Reading

Adeleye, R.A. (1971) Power and Diplomacy in Northern Nigeria 1804- 1896: The Sokoto Caliphate and Its Enemies, London: Longman.

Alhassan Dantata: Things You Didn’t Know About Him

Dan-Asabe, Abdulkarim Umar (November 2000). “Biography of Select Kano Merchants, 1853–1955”

Loimeier, Roman (1997). Islamic Reform and Political Change in Northern Nigeria.

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa: The Golden Voice of Africa

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Image of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912- January 15, 1966) was Nigeria’s first Prime Minister. He was popularly known as “The Golden Voice of Africa“. Tafawa Balewa took its name from two corrupted Fulani words: “Tafari” (Rock) and “Baleri” (Black). Thus, Balewa grew up with the nickname, “Black Rock.”

Tafawa Balewa had very humble origins. His father was a slave who rose in service of the Madaki of Bauchi and became a district head.

Image of Prime Minister Sir-Abubakar-Tafawa-Balewa-
Alhaji (Sir) Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912-1966), Nigeria’s first and only Prime Minister (1957-1966).

Early Life and Education

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was born in Tafawa Balewa, present-day, Bauchi State. He remains Nigeria’s first and only Prime Minister. As a boy, he started his early education at the Koranic School in Bauchi and like most boys of his age, Balewa studied at the Barewa College for further education and subsequently acquired his teaching certificate. He returned to Bauchi to teach at the Bauchi Middle School.

In 1944, along with a few learned teachers from the North, Abubakar Tafawa Balewawas chosen to study abroad for a year at the University of London’s Institute of Education, which today forms part of University College London. Upon returning to Nigeria, he became an Inspector of Schools for the colonial administration and later entered politics.

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Political Journey

He was elected in 1946, to the colony’s Northern House of Assembly, and to the Legislative Assembly in 1947. As a legislator, he was a vocal advocate of the rights of Northern Nigeria, and together with Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, who held the hereditary title of Sardauna of Sokoto, he founded the Northern People’s Congress (NPC).

In the Northern Region’s first elections in 1951, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa won seats in the Region’s House of Assembly and in the House of Representatives in Lagos, where he became a minister in the Central Council. In 1952, he became Nigeria’s Minister of Works and in 1954, Minister of Transport and the senior minister and leader of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in the House of Representatives.

Nigeria’s First Prime Minister

In 1957, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, a position he held until his death. 

As Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa developed a favourable reputation in international circles. He was considered a pro-Western leader but was very critical of South African racial policies and of French plans to test atomic devices in the Sahara.

His last public act in January 1966 was to convene a Commonwealth Conference in Lagos to discuss action against the white supremacist unilateral declaration of independence by Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Image of Balewa Five Naira note
The Five (5) Naira note features Balewa’s portrait.

Assassination and Death

In January 1966, a discontented segment of the army attempted a coup d’etat in which Tafawa Balewa was abducted and murdered.  The circumstances of his death still remain unresolved. His body was found at a roadside in Ifo, present-day Ogun State, six days after he had abducted by soldiers. Balewa was buried in Bauchi.

News of his assassination spurred violent riots throughout Northern Nigeria and ultimately led to the bloody counter-coup of July 1966.

Legacy

Throughout his career, Tafawa Balewa played a leading role in national policymaking.  Nevertheless, he often seemed limited in his own personal power, because as the deputy leader of the NPC, he was answerable theoretically to Sir Ahmadu Bello, premier of the Northern Region and president of the NPC.

Image of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Independence Day Speech
Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912-1966), Prime Minister, Federal Republic of Nigeria (1957-1966).
Photo Credits: Terry Disney/Getty Images

Some political observers have concluded that this relationship with Bello hindered Tafawa Balewa in handling the major crises which arose in the first years of Nigeria’s independence. It was one of these crises, the Western Region elections of 1965, which led to chaos in the Western Region and was the immediate cause of the downfall of Tafawa Balewa’s government.

Today, his portrait adorns the ₦5 note. The Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi in Bauchi State is named in his honour.

You can also follow me on Twitter @AmazingAyo.

Why Nigeria, others boycotted the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games

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Image of Opening Ceremony of the 1976 Montréal Olympic Games, July 17, 1976.
MONTREAL 1976 OLYMPIC GAMES - OPENING CEREMONY. JULY 19, 1976 - GAZETTE COPYRIGHT PHOTO, MICHAEL DUGAS, PHOTOGRAPHER. OLYMP76

The Olympic Games offer a uniquely peaceful and mutually respectful meeting-place for the nations of the world to showcase their skills in various sporting events. However, it hasn’t always been that way, and the Olympics were once a particularly bright flashpoint in one of the tensest geopolitical dramas in the ‘70s.

Image of Olufemi Olutoye
Major-General Olufemi Olutoye, President, Nigerian Olympic Committee (NOC), announces Nigeria’s withdrawal from the Olympics Games in Montreal, July 16, 1976/Montreal Gazette.

In 1976, Montréal became the first Canadian city to host the Olympic Games. It was the XXIst (21st) Olympiad which held from July 17 to August 1, 1976. The Games included memorable performances from many athletes, including Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci and American decathlete Bruce Jenner.

At 3:00pm on July 17, 1976, more than 73,000 people gathered in the Olympic Stadium to take part in the Opening Ceremonies. The rituals began with the arrival of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Prince Philip and Prince Andrew and by International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Lord Killanen and Commissioner of the Games Roger Rousseau.

This was followed by the procession of athletes into the stadium. After the Queen officially opened the Games, the Olympic flame was carried into the stadium by two 15-year-old athletes, Sandra Henderson from Toronto and Stéphane Préfontaine from Montréal, to the sounds of the Olympic Cantata written by Louis Chantigny.

However, with all the pomp and pageantry that graced the occasion, Nigeria and 27 other African countries announced just days before the opening ceremony that they would boycott the summer games in Montreal.

This action by these African countries meant the loss of over 440 competitors (173 from athletics alone), including world class runners like Filbert Bayi from Tanzania (who held the world record in the 1500m), John Akii-Bua from Uganda (who held the world record in the 400 metres hurdles) and Nigeria’s boxer in Fatai Ayinla-Adekunle, who won a bronze medal at the world amateur championships two years earlier.

Image of Nadia Comãneci
Romania’s Nadia Comãneci becomes the first person in Olympic Games history to score a perfect 10 in gymnastics, 1976/Paul Vathis, AP.

In addition, Montréal lost a million dollars in seat refunds and event cancellations in the first two days of the Games.

But why would Nigeria and other African countries boycott an important event like the Olympics?

In June 1976, South Africa’s apartheid government massacred over 350 anti-apartheid protestors during the infamous Soweto riots. This generated uproar among other Africa nations causing hostile relations with the apartheid regime. Though South Africa had been barred from major sporting events around the world and subsequently expelled from the IOC in 1970.

However, on the eve of the Olympic Games, New Zealand’s rugby team embarked on a controversial tour of apartheid South Africa in defiance of an informal but widely observed international athletics embargo on the country. The Africans called for New Zealand’s expulsion from the Games, but the International Olympic Committee rejected the idea.

In retaliation, 28 African countries sat out the following summer’s Olympic Games to be held in Montreal, Canada.

As a result, Nigeria and 27 other African countries walked out of the 1976 Games. In fact, some athletes who were already taking part in preliminary competitions had to pack up and leave. It was a key moment in the fight against racial segregation and discrimination in apartheid South Africa, which would end almost 18 years later with the election of President Nelson Mandela.

Though rugby wasn’t even an Olympic sport, black-ruled African countries saw an opportunity to punish the rugby-obsessed white minority of apartheid South Africa.

The boycotters considered it unacceptable for any country or any international sporting organization to legitimize the South African government in any way, as New Zealand’s rugby team had done.

The threat of an African boycott had already kept South Africa out of the 1968 and 1972 Olympics but the African states threat to skip Montreal failed to bar New Zealand from the games or to compel the country to cancel the rugby team’s tour of South Africa.

WATCH VIDEO: Why Africa Boycotted the 1966 FIFA World Cup

With the clock ticking toward Montreal’s opening ceremony, the boycott threat led to tense negotiations which ended in stalemate. The IOC argued that its hands were tied because rugby was outside the Olympic Games. Nonetheless, the rugby tour continued and New Zealand was not ejected.

As a result, Nigeria and 27 other African countries walked out of the 1976 Games. In fact, some athletes who were already taking part in preliminary competitions had to pack up and leave. It was a key moment in the fight against racial segregation and discrimination in apartheid South Africa, which would end almost 18 years later with the election of President Nelson Mandela.

Seeing black athletes sacrificed their chance to play in the Games also raised the morale of black youth protesters in South Africa.

The boycott resulted in cancellations and rescheduled events, and organizers issued refunds totalling $1 million.

Boycotts would also affect results in the two following Summer Games when Canada and the United States of America boycotted the 1980 Games in Moscow over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and Eastern European countries retaliating in 1984 when they boycotted the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Sources

Historica Canada

Montreal Gazette

The Atlantic

The Guardian

Lord Lugard and the 1902 fall of Kano

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Image of Lord Lugard

The capture of Kano by the British Royal West African Frontier Force signalled the end of the Fulani Empire in West Africa. The Fulani people were nomadic cattle-herders and fierce horsemen, who in the early 1800s, imbued with zeal for Islam, established a fundamentalist Muslim state among the Hausas in Northern Nigeria under their leader Uthman dan Fodio (1754-1817), Commander of the Faithful. His successors were Sultans of Sokoto, the empire’s spiritual centre to the west of Kano.

Image of Kano City
Aerial view of Kano City, 1911.
Kano (1880-1900)

The empire of Emirates owing obedience to the Sultan was in decline by the 1880s, when the British, French and German governments began seriously to carve up the interior of West Africa between them. It took them twenty years or so, during which they stopped the slave trade and human sacrifice while encouraging Christian missionary work.

A key figure was a forceful British colonial administrator, Frederick Lugard (1858-1945). After experience in India and East Africa, he was in his mid-thirties in 1894 when he was approached by Sir George Goldie (1846-1925), head of the Royal Niger Company, which, to the annoyance of the French, had seized control of the River Niger with its own fleet of twenty gunboats. Goldie recruited Lugard in a race against the French to sign a trading agreement with a key chief in the interior. He was successful, at the cost of a poisoned arrow in the head.

Image of Lord Frederick Lugard, Governor-General of Nigeria (1914-1919)
Lord Frederick Lugard (1858-1945), Governor-General of Nigeria (1914-1919).

In 1897, Britain’s Secretary of State for the Colonies, Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914) commissioned Lugard to raise and train the new West African Frontier Force, recruited from the local tribes, with British officers. Three years later, the government terminated the Royal Niger Company’s contract and established separate protectorates over Northern and Southern Nigeria, with Lugard in charge of 300,000 square miles in the north, still largely unexplored by Europeans.

Under the principles agreed at a conference in Berlin in 1885, it was necessary for a colonial power not merely to announce that it had taken over a particular region, but to establish a visible administration there. Other imperialists would then back away politely.

The Fulani were between a desert and a sandstorm. Even if they stopped the British, they would be promptly invaded by the French. They made terms with Lugard, who confirmed the Emirs in office when they agreed to be guided by British Residents in future.

British dominance of northern Nigeria was far more theoretical than real in 1900, but Lugard proceeded to make it a reality, more by bargaining and diplomacy with the local rulers than by force. His principle was always that colonial power was best exercised indirectly, through the local chiefs and structures already in place.

Conquest of Kano

By 1902, however, he found it necessary to subdue the principal Fulani Emirates. The colonial office was opposed to the use of force, but Lugard was not a man to be constrained by Whitehall (a metonym for the British civil service and government). Kano was a major trading centre with a flourishing slave market, defended by mailed horsemen and protected by walls up to 40ft thick and 50ft high.

Lugard sent against it a Frontier Force detachment of some 700 African soldiers, their British officers, four artillery pieces and four machine guns. They were led by Colonel Thomas L.N. Morland (1865-1925), an adventurous Canadian-born British officer (he ended up as General Sir Thomas Lethbridge Napier Morland).

The defenders fired from the walls, but the artillery breached a gate and when the storming party formed up, the defenders departed, leaving the city to be taken. The population seemed either unconcerned or positively relieved and the British emptied the town’s noxious jail, which was so small and crowded that prisoners were regularly trampled to death.

The Frontier Force went on to take Sokoto the following month after the reigning Sultan, Attahiru, had fled. The British installed his brother in his place and caught up with Attahiru, who was cut down by a stray bullet during a skirmish.

Conclusion

The Fulani were between a desert and a sandstorm. Even if they stopped the British, they would be promptly invaded by the French. They made terms with Lugard, who confirmed the Emirs in office when they agreed to be guided by British Residents in future.

There was to be no interference with Islamic religion and law, but slave trading was banned and domestic slavery was to be phased out. There was more trouble with some of the Fulani Emirs, but by 1906, Lugard was fully in control and in 1914, Northern and Southern Nigeria were merged into one country, with Lord Frederick Lugard as Governor-General till 1919.

In 1922 he wrote: “For two or three generations we may show the Negro what we are: then we shall be asked to go away. Then we shall leave the land to those it belongs to, with the feeling that they have better business friends in us.”

Kaduna Nzeogwu: Hero or Villain?

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Kaduna-Nzeogwu

Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was the first Nigerian to become an officer in Military Intelligence. Born on February 26, 1937, Nzeogwu was only 20 when he joined the Nigerian Army in March 1957.

From officer training in Teshie, Ghana, the young man was moved to the elite Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, the United Kingdom, where after two years of training he was commissioned Second-Lieutenant in 1959.

Image of Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu
Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, after the January 15 killings, wears his arm in a sling at a press conference in Kaduna, January 19, 1966/Historic Images.

Kaduna Nzeogwu: An Enigma

In April 1967, Kaduna Nzeogwu, in an interview with the journalist, Denis Ejindu of ‘Africa and the World‘, dispelled fears of a looming war. He said:

No, nobody wants to fight. The East which is best equipped and best prepared for war does not want to attack anybody. The North cannot fight and Lagos cannot fight now. If they had attacked the East in August or September, they would have had a walkover. Today, I think they will be ill-advised to try.”

Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was simply a man carried away by youthful exuberance. A soldier who wanted the best for his country, bold and brave, who did not understand that the problem with Nigeria was more than a band of young Majors could solve with the barrel of the gun.

Image of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Independence Day Speech
Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912-1966), Prime Minister, Federal Republic of Nigeria (1957-1966) Photo Credits: Terry Disney/Getty Images

Nzeogwu was smart and lucky. He was well loved by many of his fellow officers and subordinates. His superiors loathed him. The Major was seen as one who believed he knew it all. They therefore sent him to the Nigeria Military Training College (NMTC) Kaduna to train future officers. He was not to be trusted with a command position. And Nzeogwu was there as Chief Instructor.

Nigeria’s First Military Coup

The First Military Coup carried out in Nigeria on January 15, 1966, was bound to fail because as an Intelligent Officer of three years, Kaduna Nzeogwu’s intelligence did not teach him not to embark on such a near-impossible dream, even though they achieved some of their aims which were to eliminate the senior officers who occupied strategic positions.

The Commanding Officer, One Brigade, Kaduna, Brigadier Samuel Adesujo Ademulegun was killed with his pregnant wife, Latifat (Sisi Nurse) in their bedroom.

In Lagos, Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari was executed; Chief-of-Staff Army Headquarters, Colonel Kur Mohammed, Adjutant General, Lieutenant-Colonel James Yakubu Pam, Quarter Master General, Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Chinyelu Unegbe, and Commanding Officer, Fourth Battalion Ibadan, Lieutenant-Colonel Abogo Largema were all killed in cold blood.

The nation’s first and only Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was not spared. Two Premiers, Sir Ahmadu Bello of the North and Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola of the West died as well as Finance Minister Festus Okotie-Eboh.

How it was foiled

In May 1967, just a month after Kaduna Nzeogwu’s chat with Ejindu, the war was imminent. Nzeogwu did not see it coming. And it consumed him. Now, this is where the irony lies. The civil war happened just because some sections of Nigeria felt the January coup, which Nzeogwu was instrumental in, was a grand plan by the Igbo to take over Nigeria. Thus, the North paid back with a counter-coup on July 29, 1966.

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Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi (1924-1966). Nigeria’s first military Head-of-State (1966).

About 30,000 innocent soldiers and civilians were murdered in the 1966 anti-Igbo pogrom. Some millions more were to be later killed during the war.

Interestingly, those who foiled the coup were senior Igbo officers. Major-General Johnson Aguiyi- Ironsi, Lieutenant-Colonels Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, Conrad Chukwujimje Dibia Nwawo, Alexander Attah Madiebo, and Major Alphonso Keshi.

As Brigade Major, Two Brigade, Kaduna, Keshi informed Madiebo of the coup. Madiebo moved over to the Brigade Headquarters where Nzeogwu had taken over Ademulegun’s seat and worked on Nzeogwu. Ojukwu, Commanding Officer Fifth Battalion, Kano stood his ground strategically and all worked with Ironsi to fly in Nwawo, then Defence Attaché in London, and Nzeogwu’s teacher. Only then could the Major be softened.

Kaduna Nzeogwu: Death and Legacy

Kaduna Nzeogwu did not believe in Biafra. He was named Kaduna by his Northern friends and spoke Hausa fluently, even more than the Igbo language. He wore Hausa clothing in lieu of Igbo’s. However, he was killed by Nigerian soldiers of the 21st Battalion near Nsukka on July 29, 1967. The troops were under Captain Inua Mohammed Wushishi. The sector was led by Nzeogwu’s friend, Lieutenant-Colonel Folusho Sotomi. He was only 30.

Chukwuma Nzeogwu hailed from Okpanam, near Asaba, present-day Delta State, Southern Nigeria but he remain buried in an Army cemetery in Kaduna, his place of birth, in full military honours, with his body mutilated and eyes gorged out by unknown irate Nigerian soldiers.

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Kaduna Nzeogwu’s interview with the BBC in Kaduna, January 15, 1966.

Nigeria made Nzeogwu. Nigeria killed Nzeogwu. Nigeria buried Nzeogwu and gave him full military honours.

Despite being a bachelor, Kaduna Nzeogwu was never a womanizer nor was he a drunk. He believed in the country, Nigeria. But the Igbo, especially the Okpanam people continue to suffer because of a bloody coup he was involved in and explicitly carried out.

So, was Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu a hero or a villain? Let us know in the comment box below.

You can also follow me on Twitter @AmazingAyo.

Does the Republic of Biafra still exist?

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Among the Igbo, Biafra remains a topic that freely elicits intense emotions despite the fact that the Nigerian Civil War ended some 50 years ago. There are those on one end of the scale who are willing to bet their life on the fact that Biafra survives and provides a clear path to their salvation while on the other, others work with the belief that Biafra belongs to history.

Those who believe Biafra is in comatose somehow occupy the center of the scale; keep alive on a life support system that should be sustained until she rises again.

Now, the begging question is, does Biafra still exist? But before we get to that answer, what led to Biafra in the first place?

Origin of Biafra

According to Ùkpúrù, Biafara or Biafra appears to be located on the southern bank (some later accounts say north) of the’ Camarones River, referenced in a map of 1584 by Abraham Ortelius from Antwerp in modern Belgium.

The Ortelius 1584 edition of an atlas is considered to be the first proper atlas, depicting Africa with designated inland cities. The river Camarones, where Cameroon gets its name (from the Portuguese term for prawns), is today known as the River Wouri.

The first European up the river in 1472 was the Portuguese navigator and explorer, Fernão do Pó, whose name was given to Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea.

What does Biafra mean?

It arose from a town on the river known as ‘Biafra’ or ‘Biafara’ in the area east of the Benin Empire. The coasts of these regions later became known as the Bight of Biafra.

Biafra was identified as the capital of a kingdom of the same name and this town continued to appear on maps at the same river location. Nevertheless, this kingdom does not seem to exist today; if these maps are correct in terms of this town’s location, ‘Biafra’ would be somewhere near today’s Cameroonian town of Yabassi which is also on the Wouri River.

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A 15th-century map of Biafra.

Of note, Biafra would be in the Nkam district of Cameroon’s Littoral Region, which is where Yabassi is today, which is also the Cameroonian department through which the Wouri passes.

The exact location of the settlement, or whether this town existed or not, has not been ascertained, it could be that the town and kingdom were entirely composed of an amalgam of different kingdoms, such as the Bamum Kingdom and other territories. In any case, in the 19th century, the city and ‘kingdom’ of Biafra was excluded from maps.

When was Biafra created?

After the failure of the Aburi Accord, which held in Aburi, Ghana, between January 4 and 5, 1967, Biafra resurfaced again. This time, in the then Eastern Region of Nigeria.

Following the secession speech of the Military Governor of the Eastern Region, Lieutenant-Colonel Emeka Ojukwu, on May 30, 1967, Biafra, officially the Republic of Biafra, was then created. It existed from May 30, 1967, to January 15, 1970, when Major-General Phillip Effiong made his famous “the Republic of Biafra, hereby, ceases to exist.”

The erstwhile country took its name from the Bight of Biafra.

However, how Biafra got its name as a new nation is attributed to one Chief Frank Opigo, an Ijaw traditional ruler from present-day Bayelsa State, who suggested the name “Biafra”.

Ojukwu, as the governor of the Eastern Region, had gathered stakeholders from other minority tribes in the region. That is, the Ijaw, Ibibio, Efik, et cetera, to come up with a name that would reflect the diversity of the region.

Opigo’s suggestion of Biafra was acceptable with everyone present, in reference to the Bight of Biafra that covers the entire region.

However, not all the minorities were in support of Biafra. A perfect example is Ken Saro-Wiwa, an illustrious Ogoni man and a famous writer, who disapproved of Ojukwu and Biafra.

Also, another Ijaw man, Major Isaac Adaka Boro fought against Biafra during the war.

The Republic of Biafra

The inhabitants of the Biafra Republic were mostly the Igbo people who led the secession because of economic, racial, cultural, and religious tensions among Nigeria’s various peoples. The new country’s development was one of the causes of the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Nigerian-Biafran War.

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Major-General Phillip Effiong ended the Civil War after ordering the surrender of all of the Biafran Armed Forces.

The Land of the Rising Sun was chosen as the national anthem of Biafra, and Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Haiti, Tanzania, and Zambia formally recognised the country.

France, Israel, Portugal, Rhodesia, South Africa, and the Vatican City are countries that did not officially recognise Biafra but offered support and assistance.

Biafra was also funded by non-state actors including Joint Church Aid, Ireland’s Holy Ghost Fathers, Caritas International, MarkPress, and the U.S. Catholic Auxiliary Services.

Biafran’s forces agreed to a truce with the Nigerian Federal Military Government after two-and-a-half years of war, during which a million people had died in fighting and starvation, and Biafra was reintegrated into Nigeria.

Does Biafra still exist?

January 15, 1970, marked the official surrender of Biafran forces to the Nigerian military which effectively terminated the existence of the Republic of Biafra which was proclaimed 30 months earlier in 1967.

Adding credence to this termination would be Effiong’s concession speech at the Dodan Barracks, Lagos.

And I would like therefore to take this opportunity to say that: I, Major-General Phillip Effiong, Officer of Peace Administering the Government of the Republic of Biafra, now wish to make the following declaration:

That we affirm we are loyal Nigerian citizens and accept the authority of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria.

That we accept the existing administrative and political structure of the Federation of Nigeria.

That any future constitutional arrangement will be worked out by representatives of the people of Nigeria.

That the Republic of Biafra, hereby, ceases to exist.”– Phillip  Effiong, former Biafran General, handing over in 1970.

In fact, Ojukwu himself while in exile had this to say about Biafra in his interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) after the war.

I am Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu. I was sometime general of the People’s Army, the leader of Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War in the years 1967 to 1970.

“In all of all the world wars, the most cruel is the civil war. The Biafrans fought with everything they had. They were out-manned, out-gunned, out-everything. But they stood; held up, shoulders back, chest out and they stayed properly, classically British.

“We could not understand the British Government could even fail to see the justice of our position; we could not understand even, that the world, seeing injustice could just stand…by and when we cried out in pain over the suffering of the children with extended stomachs, kwashiorkor, and all these things, we…we cried out.

“We felt actually the world owed us understanding and that was the one thing the world never gave us. Our people suffered greatly. They were deprived, they were bombarded, and they were totally rendered totally destitute in the period.

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Biafran General, Emeka Ojukwu.

You might also ask me immediately then, ‘why continue the war?’ Because we the Biafrans saw ourselves throughout the entire period under the threat of genocide. And even when we couldn’t fight anymore and moved forward into surrender, we surrendered practically in the belief that this was the end.”

From these two speeches, we may be wont to quickly conclude that the Republic of Biafra went into extinction after the civil war ended in 1970. However, the agitations of some groups in the South Eastern Region of Nigeria would certainly obliterate that thought.

Although some of those who experienced, fought, and survived the civil war agreed that it was a cruel period that resulted in the deaths of innocent citizens and prayed for such not to happen again. Others who fought the war, say they have no regret to have engaged in it.

A fight for a modern Biafra?

What an average supporter of the Biafran Republic, mostly the Igbo, must know is that the then Eastern region that constituted Biafra are now states with their governors firmly in control of their own affairs. Also, some of the minorities who fought against them during the civil war are still not convinced of a Utopia. The Biafra of 1967 was a single territory governed by one man. Today’s proposed Biafra is ten states governed by ten men.

According to Emeka Ojukwu, the creation of Biafra in 1967 was about injustice and a threat to genocide. But what about the Biafra of today?

In his No Victor, No Vanquished speech on January 15, 1970, General Yakubu Gowon asserted that “the so-called ‘Rising Sun of Biafra’ is set forever.”

It will be a great disservice for anyone to continue to use the word ‘Biafra’ to refer to any part of the East Central State of Nigeria. The tragic chapter of violence is just ended. We are at the dawn of national reconciliation. Once again, we have an opportunity to build a new nation. My dear compatriots, we must pay homage to the fallen, to the heroes who have made the supreme sacrifice that we may be able to build a nation.” – General Yakubu Gowon’s acceptance speech, January 15, 1970.

Gowon came up with what he described as the 3Rs–Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction–an effort intended not only to reintegrate Biafrans into Nigeria but also to restore their ravaged homeland.

But to many Easterners, the initiative was designed to fail as they affirm that the Federal Government did nothing to reconstruct their devastated areas.

No doubt, the war had ended. The Igbos and other tribes who fought the war are now Nigerians. But have any lessons been learnt by both sides?

You can follow the author on Twitter @AmazingAyo

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Flora Nwapa: Mother of Modern African Literature

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Flora Nwapa, born Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwakuche–Nwapa (January 13, 1931–October 16, 1993), was a Nigerian author who is best known as the Mother of Modern African Literature.

A forerunner to a generation of African women writers, she is remembered as the first African woman author to be written in English in the United Kingdom and internationally recognised, with her first book, Efuru, published in 1966 by Heinemann Educational Books. She is best known for recreating life and customs from an Igbo woman’s point of view.

Who was Flora Nwapa?

Nwapa was born on January 13, 1931, in Oguta, now Imo State, to the wealthy and influential family of Christopher Ijoma Nwapa (a landowner and managing director of the British palm oil exporting company) and Martha Onyenma Onumonu Nwapa (a schoolteacher). Flora was the first daughter of six children.

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Flora Nwapa (1931–1993), was the first African woman to publish a novel in the English language in 1966.

She attended the C.M.S Central School, Oguta, Archdeacon Crowther Memorial Girls School, Elenlenwa, Rivers State, Queens College, Yaba, Lagos.

Nwapa then studied English, History, and Geography at the University College, Ibadan (now the University of Ibadan) from 1953 to 1957. While there, she became president of the Queen’s Hall and met with the Queen of England, Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip during their official visit to Nigeria in 1956.

In 1958, Flora Nwapa attended the University of Edinburgh where she graduated with a Diploma in Education.

Marriage, Family, and Career

She returned from Scotland and became an education officer in Calabar. Nwapa then became a Geography and English tutor at Queen’s School in Enugu in 1959. Between 1962 to 1967, she was Assistant Registrar at the University of Lagos.

When the Nigerian Civil War broke out on July 6, 1967, she fled Lagos with her family and, like many Igbo people, moved to the Eastern Region.

Nwapa married Chief Gogo Nwakuche, a businessman with whom she had three children; a daughter, Ejine (b. 1959), a son, Uzoma (b. 1969) and another daughter, Amede (b. 1971).

Flora Nwapa is also known for her governmental research on reconstruction after the Nigerian Civil War. From 1970 to 1971, she served as Minister of Health and Social Welfare for the Eastern Central State (now consisting of the states of Imo, Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi, and Abia). She was the first female Minister of the Region.

In this position, she found a home for some two thousand war orphans. She was also Commissioner for Lands, Census and Urban Development from 1971 to 1974.

Literary Career

Nwapa made her entrance into the literary career with the novel Efuru, which is based on an old folk tale about a woman chosen by the goddess of the sea to be her worshipper. The book, which she started in 1962, was the first novel to be written in English by a Nigerian woman, questioning conventional portrayals of women.

A central character, Efuru refuses to give up on destiny and tradition because of the obstacles she faces in her two marriages, showing that a woman can live with or without a man in her life.

The novel was published in 1966 by Heinemann Educational Books as part of the African Writers Series after consulting her good friend, Chinua Achebe, who edited the series.

Nwapa’s second novel, Idu, published in 1970, is a story about a woman whose life is tied to that of her husband. When he dies, she decides to hunt him out of the land of the dead instead of living without him.

A war novel, Never Again (1975), which was her third book, is based on the Nigerian Civil War.

Over the course of twenty-seven years, Flora Nwapa had written six novels, nine children’s books, three plays, two collections of short stories, a book of poems, and countless essays.

Some of her published works include: One is Enough (1981), This is Lagos and Other Stories (1971), Cassava Song and Rice Song (1986), Wives at War and Other Stories (1980), Driver’s Guard (1972), Mammywater (1979), etc.

The Lake Goddess, her final novel, was published posthumously in 1995.

Efuru

Published in 1966, Efuru is an eponymous novel about a young woman and is set in a rural community in Eastern Nigeria.

It is the first book to be published by a Nigerian woman.

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Efuru, published in 1966, is the first book written by a Nigerian woman to be published.

The heroine of the novel, Efuru, is the daughter of Nwasike Ogene, a revered and celebrated man in the tribe. Efuru falls in love with the poor farmer, Adizua, and elopes with him because he doesn’t have the resources to meet the conventional requirements of marriage.

As the story progresses, we see how Efuru helps her husband financially, rejects the idea of supporting him on the farm and chooses to be a trader instead. Her effect on her husband is strong enough to make him abandon his farm tools and join her in her trade.

Efuru and Adizua have a girl child, but he soon abandons her, just as his father had done in the past. After Efuru loses her daughter to the cold hands of death, she finds out that her husband has married another woman and had a baby with her.

Her in-laws try to convince her to keep living in their marital home, but she declines and decides to go after him.

She decides to go back to her father’s house after failing to find him. He welcomes her with pleasure because she can take better care of him than anyone else.

Later, Efuru encounters an intelligent young man named Gilbert in her age group. They’re getting married. This time, following the customs of the land. For a while, their marriage has been a happy one as Gilbert and Efuru do business together as partners. However, things start to fall apart when Efuru is unable to conceive any child.

READ ALSO: Margaret Ekpo: Fighter and Defender of Women’s Rights

When Efuru was released, the novel received a lot of criticism, most of which was aimed at Nwapa’s “poor prose” and “inauthentic plot.” But, over time, Efuru became an icon of literature, inspiring many African women and giving Flora Nwapa the title of “Mother of Modern African Literature.”

Read here for a full book review of Efuru…

Honours and Awards

In 1983, the Nigerian government, headed by President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, conferred on her the OON (Official of the Order of Niger) title, one of the country’s highest honors.

Flora Nwapa was awarded the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife) Merit Award for Authorship and Publishing at the Ife Book Fair in 1985.

In 1989, she was named a Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, a position she held until her demise.

Nwapa was also a member of the PEN International Committee in 1991 and a member of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes Committee in 1992.

In 1978, she was awarded the highest chieftaincy title of Ogbuefi (killer of cow) in Oguta, her hometown.

Death and Legacy

Flora Nwapa died of pneumonia at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, on October 16, 1993, and was laid to rest in her hometown of Oguta, a location that influenced much of her writing. She was 62.

At her death, she was survived by her mother, husband, two daughters, and one son.

Apart from writing books, Nwapa, with the aid of her husband, became a publisher when she launched Tana Press in 1974 after becoming unhappy with her publisher.

The company, which published adult fiction, was the first native publishing house owned by a black African woman in West Africa. Between 1979 and 1981, she had written eight volumes of adult fiction.

In 1977, Nwapa also set up another publishing company, Flora Nwapa and Co., specialising in children’s fiction. With these books, she fused aspects of Nigerian culture with the general moral and ethical teachings.

With her own example, she also inspired other women to break the conventional roles of women as wives and mothers and to strive for equality in society through entrepreneurship.

Kenule “Ken” Saro-Wiwa (1941-1995), the late Nigerian-Ogoni environmentalist, writer, and activist, in paying tribute to her at the funeral said:

Flora is gone and we all have to say adieu. But she left behind an indelible mark. No one will ever write about Nigerian literature in English without mentioning her. She will always be the departure point for female writing in Africa. And African publishing will forever owe her a debt. But above all, her contribution to the development of women in Nigeria, nay in Africa, and throughout the world is what she will be best remembered for.” 

Sources

Flora Nwapa – Wikipedia   

Flora Nwapa | Nigerian author | Britannica

Flora Nwapa | ZODML

Nwapa, Flora (1931–1993) | Encyclopedia.com

Remembering Flora Nwapa – Daily Trust

Flora Nwapa: Everything To Know About Africa’s First Female Author

A Book Review of Flora Nwapa’s Efuru

Candido Joao Da Rocha: Nigeria’s First Millionaire

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Have you ever asked any of your parents for money, especially continuously, and they gave you this reply: “Do you think I’m Da Rocha?”

Well, I experienced it and growing up, I never knew the meaning of the statement, until I came across a book a friend gave me, when I stumbled on the name “Candido Da Rocha”.

He was a rich man who would, from the balcony of his one-storey building, throw down coins to children and in a tangle of bodies and flapping hands, struggle for them. So, I remembered vividly why my parents denied being “a Da Rocha” anytime I ask for monies I don’t literally need as a child.

Also known as Nigeria’s first millionaire, Da Rocha was a rich entrepreneur, businessman, landowner and creditor who owned Water House or Casa d’Agua on Kakawa Street, Lagos Island, Lagos. It was named Water House because it was the first and only house in Lagos in those days to have a borehole and in turn sell water to the residents.

And when Da Rocha met the electorate, he told them: “I am Candido Da Rocha, your candidate into the House. Vote for me if you like. And if you don’t, all well and good.”

Candido Da Rocha, a native of Ilesha, present day, Osun State, was born to the family of Joao Esan Da Rocha, who was captured as a slave when he was 10 years old on his way to school in Ilesha. Candido was born in the Bahia region of Brazil. His mother was Angelica Josephina Da Rocha. His father returned to Lagos, Nigeria in the 1870’s where he built his wealth and passed it to his son, Candido.

Due to his wealth, his friend, Herbert Macaulay, nominated him as a candidate in one of the elections of the time. And when Da Rocha met the electorate, he told them: “I am Candido da Rocha, your candidate into the House. Vote for me if you like. And if you don’t, all well and good.” That statement ended his sojourn in politics as he lost the elections with acquiring just 20 votes.

Despite his wealth and political clout, no major street nor monument is named after him in Lagos.

Indeed, Da Rocha was a very modest and generous capitalist. During the Second World War (1939–1945), when the authorities of Kings College were looking for a place to relocate the students in the boarding house – among whom were Tiamiyu Bello-Osagie, who would become one of Nigeria’s most celebrated gynaecologists; Adenekan Ademola, son of Nigeria’s first indigenous Chief Justice, Adetokunbo Ademola; Dapo Aderemi, son of Sir Adesoji Aderemi, the legendary Ooni of Ile-Ife – Da Rocha volunteered his Bonanza Hotel on Customs Street, Lagos, and did not collect a dime for the period it was used.

READ ALSO: Muhammadu Ribadu: Nigeria’s First Minister of Defence

Even after the war, when government asked influential Nigerians to contribute to the rehabilitations fund, he made substantial donations and he instructed that the amount should not be disclosed to the public.

Despite his wealth and political clout, no major street nor monument is named after him in Lagos. Candido Da Rocha died in Lagos on March 11, 1959. He was 99. Four of his children survived him and his remains lies at the Ikoyi Cemetery.

1843: The Year Christianity entered Abeokuta

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Before the coming of Christianity to Abeokuta in the mid-19th century, the Egba people of Abeokuta were peaceful forest dwellers of the Yoruba country, in present-day Ibadan, of whom nothing was known until their 18th-century rebellion against the central authority of the Oyo Empire.

How did the Egbas leave their forests? What caused their fight with the Alaafin of the Oyo Empire?

The Freedom from Oyo

Liberation took place around the year 1780 under the Lishabi’s leadership. The warrior was a resident of Igbehin, who had been born in Itoku. It was him who freed the Egba people by organising concurrent killings of the Ajele or Ilaris in all the towns of Egba, which began at Igbehin. In total, more than 600 of them were wiped out in a single day.

Ilaris were the agents of the Alaafin and the collectors of the tribute paid to the treasury of the Alaafin from all territories under the Oyo Empire.

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The Olumo Rock, Abeokuta, 1826/LitCaf.

These Ilaris behaved like an army of occupation in the places they had run. Their oppressive rules mark them as an instrument of oppression and suppression of the people. It was the reckless lives of these Ilaris in Egbaland that threw up Lishabi and his colleagues who vowed to put an end to the evil law at all costs when they destroyed the Ilaris in their midst.

So soon as the news reached metropolitan Oyo, the capital of the Oyo Empire, the Balogun didn’t waste any time sending the army to crush the Rebellion. The Egba, however, expected revenge and integrated it into their strategy. The revenge army was defeated, and the liberation of the Egbas from the yoke of the Alaafin was secured.

Exodus from Ibadan

Around forty-nine years later, in 1829, Lamodi of Igbehin, who was also the Balogun of the Egba, living in Maye’s camp in Ibadan, determined that the Egba should find a way to escape Maye’s abuse. Previously, the Egbas had learned of Abeokuta in their search for a safe place to settle in. They then sent Sobookun, the Chief of Ilugun, and others to bring a handful of soil, and the outcome was fruitful.

It should be noted that the Egba people did not arrive at Abeokuta at the same time in 1830. The first batch to arrive in Abeokuta consisted of Egba Alake, Oke Ona, and Gbagura. Consequently, Olufakun took the Owu people to Abeokuta. In an epic battle, Lamodi lost his wife while trying to save his first son, Osota from being captured by Maye’s army, who were pursuing them.

However, before he died, he relinquished leadership to Sodeke, the Seriki of the Egba. It was Sodeke, who commandeered the Egba Alake into Abeokuta. Balogun Olunloye led Egba Oke-Ona while Oluwole Agbo brought the Gbagura to Abeokuta.

Arrival at Abeokuta

It was discovered that the leader of Iloko, called Idowu Liperu, had lived in the settlement earlier. He had crossed the River Ogun and eventually settled on the farmland where three hunters, Jibulu, Ose, and Olunle, joined him.

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Sodeke, the Seriki of the Egba people who led them into Abeokuta in 1830.

Unlike Liperu who built a house with the aid of the then Olubara Lafa, the three hunters stayed in caves under the Olumo Rock. They were the ones who told the delegates of the Egba, who had come to take earth samples, about the Rock.

Who discovered Olumo Rock?

A farmer named Adagba and others moved to Olumo to join Liperu and the three hunters who had settled there. Adagba was a courageous man who had his farmland very close to the Olumo. The settlement was renamed “Oko Adagba” (Adagba farm) another name for Abeokuta.

Olumo means, created by the Lord.

However, scholars have argued that the meaning of Olumo is Oluwa fimo meaning, God has put an end to our wars against our enemies and their sufferings.

Abeokuta, also known as Abe Olumo, means “Under the Stone.”

Wars against Enemies

Between 1830 and the turn of the century, the settlers in Abeokuta were forced to fight several wars for the survival of an expanding settlement.

In 1832, the Ijebu-Remo people incited the new settlers to take up arms against several Ijebu-Remo towns in the Owiwi War.

In 1834, the attempted invasion of Ibadan also challenged them in a war that resulted in the heavy defeat of the Ibadan army at the Battle of Arakanga, which demonstrated the power and indispensability of the warriors of the Owu settlers, who had only recently been persuaded by Sodeke to settle with them in order to boost the defenses of the new settlement.

Years after Sodeke’s death, they would also fight some wars with Dahomey where they roundly defeated King Ghezo’s army (I shall write on that later).

The Arrival of Christianity

In 1839, just nine years after the founding of Abeokuta, the Egbas (who had been freed from the slave trade and settled in Sierra Leone, where they had been taught by the Europeans and had accepted Christianity) began to move to Badagry and then Abeokuta (when they learnt that their people had left the Egba forests).

On December 19, 1842, Reverend Henry Townsend (1815-1886) had arrived in Badagry to spread Christianity in the region. He was sent by the Christian Missionary Society (CMS) in England to gather more information about the Yoruba nation and, in particular, the people of Egba, who wished the missionaries to be present in Abeokuta.

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Reverend Henry Townsend (1815-1886), founded Christianity in Abeokuta.

Once Townsend arrived in Badagry, he learned that he had been preceded by some “Messengers of Peace,” the Methodists headed by Reverend Thomas Birch Freeman had set up a mission in Badagry.

In fact, on December 11, Freeman had visited Abeokuta at Sodeke’s invitation and had just returned to Badagry when Townsend arrived and the account Freeman had given of his reception in Abeokuta encouraged Townsend.

Townsend reached Abeokuta on Wednesday, January 4, 1843. A horsemen’s party was sent to receive him, and it was a great reception. Many of the Egba denizens left their markets and homes to catch a glimpse of the “white man” as they greeted him in the English language: “How do you do, white man? How do you do, you that are coming?”

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The Reverend Thomas Birch Freeman (1809-1890) was the first foreign missionary to enter Abeokuta. He was of mixed ancestry (black father and white mother). He started the Methodist Church (Ìjọ Elétò) in Nigeria/Wikipedia.

Since Ifa had already predicted the coming of Townsend, Sodeke welcomed him warmly and made the clergyman sit on his lap, a sign of sincere acceptance and hospitality. Sodeke’s four wives were present as well.

Certain chiefs who welcomed the visitor were Okukenu (who later became the first Alake), Ogundipe, Osundare, Ogundeji, and Ogunbona. Because Ake was paramount to the Egbas, it was agreed that the august visitors would be quartered there and that they would be given three acres of land to build on.

Christianity in Abeokuta

The first church service which ushered in Christianity to Abeokuta took place on Sunday, January 8, 1843, and Townsend preached the sermon from the Bible Book of Luke 14:12-24. The service was conducted in Chief Sodeke’s residence, and Andrew Desalu Wilhelm (c.1820-1866), a former Egba slave, who had already been a catechist and had followed Townsend from Badagry, acted as an interpreter.

bishop-samuel-ajayi-crowther
Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (c.1809-1891), translated the Holy Bible into the Yoruba Language in 1862.

One week later, on Tuesday, January 10, 1843, Reverend Henry Townsend had to return to England via Sierra Leone for his ordination, and Sodeke had given him gifts that included an elephant tusk, a large white goat, and twenty cowries in a covered calabash.

While he was gone, Wilhelm was managing the work in Abeokuta work, and Christianity in the settlement developed tremendously.

The Church in Ake – First Church in Nigeria

A section of the land given to Townsend by Sodeke was used to erect a building simply referred to as Ake Church in 1844 (now St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Ake, Abeokuta).

The walls and seats were made of clay, while the palm fronds were used to cover it. With Wilhelm’s zealous preaching leading to the great converts, the traditional worshipers became furious and burnt down what was, in fact, the first church in Nigeria in 1846.

church-at-ake-first-church-in-nigeria-christianity
The Church at Ake, the First Church in Nigeria, 19th century (illustrated).

Instead of dampening their excitement, the converts were ferociously encouraged to further expand their area, both numerically and physically.

With the aid of Exeter in England, the burnt church was restored and dedicated on March 21, 1847, at a cost of £30.

The Ake Church was the first building in Abeokuta to be built with corrugated iron roofing sheets. Aggressive evangelism still persisted, and even when the building had yet to be completed, Townsend and Crowther held services in front of the house in Ake.

Later, membership increased to about 200 participants. By 1852, the number of worshippers had grown so much that they needed to expand the church at a cost of £200.

Image of Alake Okukenu Sagbua
Okukenu Sagbua I, was the first Alake of Egbaland. He was enthroned on August 8, 1854.

On March 17, 1859, Bishop Brown, who had come from Sierra Leone, dedicated the expanded church. At that ceremony, a priest was ordained, and a hundred and eighty members were confirmed by the Bishop.

Years later, in 1911, Reverend Josiah J. Ransome-Kuti, the father of Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti and grandfather of Fela Kuti, was appointed a clergyman of the Ake Church after he had previously served as the superintendent of the Abeokuta Church Mission.

Impact of Christianity in Abeokuta

In August 1846, when Townsend returned for the mission work to spread Christianity in Abeokuta, he was joined by a native and one of the Sierra Leonean freed slaves, Reverend (later, Bishop) Samuel Ajayi Crowther (c.1809-1891).

The efforts of the missionaries affected the citizens of Abeokuta in diverse ways. Apart from the social rejuvenation that occurred, people began to profit from ginnery and cotton exports, which began in 1849. Human sacrifice and slavery were also restricted.

The first newspaper in present-day Nigeria, Iwe Irohin was published in Abeokuta in 1859, and the Bible was first translated into the Yoruba language in the year 1862.

In order to establish the value of legal trade, the missionaries encouraged the entry of European merchants to Abeokuta. The nobles of the town started to develop good etiquettes through the observations of these foreigners.

Image of Iwe Irohin
Iwe Irohin, 21st edition, September 1860.

Many neighboring cities, who heard of the success and prosperity of Abeokuta, also welcomed missionaries into their midst, which eventually led to the establishment of Christian stations at Oyo, Ibadan, Iseyin, Ile-Ife, Ilesa, and other Yoruba towns.

Read Also

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Sources

Townsend, Henry: Dictionary of African Christian Biography

LitCaf Encyclopedia

Tucker, Sarah (1853), Abbeokuta; Sunrise Within the Tropics. Pg. 84-93.

How the “Curse of Ogun State” may cut short Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidency

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muhammadu buhari

On May 29, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, was sworn in as the 15th Head of State and the 5th elected civilian President in the history of Nigeria along with his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, GCON. It was a landmark victory for their party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), as it was the first time in the nation’s electoral history that an opposition party (APC) would topple a ruling party (the People’s Democratic Party [PDP]) through the ballots.

The last time an opposition party was toppled, it was through the bullets (and not ballots) of some dissident soldiers in the Nigerian Army on the morning of Saturday, January 15, 1966. The then ruling party, the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), lost many of her political leaders during that military putsch.

Image of Muhammadu Buhari, Yemi Osinbajo
President Muhammadu Buhari with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, 2015.

Nevertheless, the main focus of this article is the “unwarranted” history against President Muhammadu Buhari and every Nigerian Head-of-State with an indigene of Ogun State as his deputy.

Muhammadu Buhari – Yemi Osinbajo

President Muhammadu Buhari hails from Daura, Katsina State, in the North-Western geo-political zone of the country while his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo hails from Ikenne, Ogun State, in the South-Western geo-political zone of the country.

Interestingly, every occupant, as of today, of the first (President/Head-of-State) and second (Vice President/Deputy Head-of-State) high offices in the nation that hails from the South-West is from Ogun State.

Image of Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi
Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi (1924-1966). Nigeria’s first military Head-of-State (1966).

Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi – Babafemi Ogundipe

The first South-Westerner to attain that high office was Brigadier-General Babafemi Ogundipe (1924-1971). When Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi (1924-1966) assumed power as the first military Head of State in January 1966, Ogundipe was chosen to be his deputy by the Supreme Military Council.

Ogundipe who hailed from Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, joined the Royal West African Frontier Force in 1941 and served in Burma between 1942 and 1945 during World War II. He re-enlisted after the war and rose to the rank of Brigadier in May 1964.

He was only 194 days in office as the de facto Vice President of Nigeria, when his boss, Aguiyi-Ironsi was killed in the counter-coup of July 29, 1966, by northern soldiers at Lalupon, about ten kilometres from Ibadan in present-day, Oyo State.

babafemi-ogundipe
De facto 1st Vice President of Nigeria, Babafemi Ogundipe (1924-1971).

Murtala Muhammed – Olusegun Obasanjo

The second was General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd.), born around 1938, two-time leader of Nigeria (1976-1979; 1999-2007), who became the country’s first civilian president since 1983 when he took office for the second time as an elected President in 1999.

Obasanjo hails from Abeokuta, Ogun State. Unable to afford a university education, he joined the Nigerian military in 1958 and received training in the United Kingdom and India. In 1967, Nigeria was embroiled in a civil war as the Igbo, one of Nigeria’s three main ethnic groups along with the Yoruba and the Hausa-Fulani, attempted to secede and form the Republic of Biafra. Obasanjo was lauded for leading an attack on Biafran forces that principally ended the war.

Image of Murtala Muhammed
Murtala Muhammed remains the youngest Nigerian Head-of-State to die in office at 37 years, 3 months and 5 days; and the only one to die before the age of 40…

After the war, and a successful bloodless coup, which toppled then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd.) (b. 1934), Obasanjo served as deputy to General Murtala Ramat Muhammed (1938-1976) as Nigeria’s military leader. Obasanjo was only 200 days in office as deputy Head-of-State when Murtala Muhammed was assassinated in an abortive coup on Friday, February 13, 1976.


Follow @HistoryVille on Twitter for more historical facts.

Sani Abacha – Oladipo Diya

The third is Lieutenant-General Oladipo Diya (rtd.), born in 1944 in Odogbolu, Ogun State. He was appointed Military Governor of Ogun State from January 1984 to August 1985.

Image of Sani Abacha, GCON
Gen. Sani Abacha: Arrested and charged Abiola with treason.

Diya was Commandant, National War College (1991-1993) and then was appointed as Chief of Defence Staff. He was appointed Chief of General Staff in 1993 and Vice Chairman of the Provisional Ruling Council in 1994.

As the Chief of General Staff, he was the de facto Vice President of Nigeria to General Sani Abacha (1943-1998) until 1997 when he was arrested for treason. Nevertheless, his office was still vacant when his boss, Abacha died of a heart attack in June 1998.

The fourth and current occupier of this position is Professor Yemi Osinbajo (b. 1957), who as I had written at the beginning of this article, also hails from Ogun State.

prof-yemi-osinbajo
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2015-date.

Interesting Facts

Among all, only Obasanjo rose to the first office from the second office. Ogundipe “ran away” to London after the death of Aguiyi-Ironsi while Diya who was arrested for treason was in detention at the time of Abacha’s death and therefore could not have succeeded him as Head of State.

Another South-Westerner who rose to the first office in the land is Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan (b. 1936). Like Obasanjo, he hails from Abeokuta, Ogun State.

He is a British-trained Nigerian lawyer, industrialist, politician, and traditional chieftain. He was appointed as interim president of Nigeria by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida on 26 August 1993. His administration only lasted for three months. Shonekan was not a Vice President but was selected by Babangida to lead the nation as an interim leader.

Summary

In conclusion, it is frightening to note that every Nigerian leader with an Ogun State indigene as his deputy, whether removed or sustained, died in office. Now, we have an Ogun State indigene as the number two man to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Although these events happened during the military era, it is yet to happen in the civilian era. I pray it does not happen in this civilian era.

You can follow me on Twitter @AmazingAyo.

You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel for more interesting historical videos every week.

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