Categories
History

Iwe Irohin – The First Newspaper In Nigeria

Iwe Irohin Newspaper - First Newspaper in Nigeria
A facsimile of Iwe Irohin, the first newspaper in Nigeria

In the 1840s, the missionaries of the Presbyterian Church began to arrive in Nigeria. They settled in an area known as English Town in Calabar. Among these missionaries was Reverend Henry Townsend who later moved to Abeokuta in the 1850s.

 

In Abeokuta, Reverend Townsend established a printing press in 1854 which he used, five years later, to publish the first newspaper in Nigeria called Iwe Irohin Fun Awon Ara Egba Ati Yoruba.

The first edition of the newspaper came out on November 23, 1859. The newspaper was published fortnightly (every 15 days) and sold for 120 cowries (Ogofa owo eyo), the English edition cost a penny. Later on, the name of the newspaper was shortened to just Iwe Irohin.

James Ede, an Egba man trained by Henry Townsend served as the chief printer of the newspaper. Iwe Irohin was highly patronized by the few literates of that time living in Egba and other parts of Yoruba land. The circulation of the paper was around 3,000 copies. Its pages were usually divided into two columns and had no pictures.

Reverend Henry Townsend’s main purpose of setting up the newspaper was to make the new converts read and write. He said, “my objective is to get the people to read and to beget the habit of seeking information by reading.”

Iwe Irohin newspaper contents

Iwe Irohin newspaper published news of church activities, arrival and departure of religious dignitaries, ordinations and so on. It later broadened its contents by adding stories about Abeokuta’s affairs, cotton and cocoa statistics. Starting from 1860, the newspaper carried advertisements from local firms and government agencies.

Reverend Henry Townsend
Reverend Henry Townsend

The newspaper was cautioned by the C.M.S authorities in 1863 for some of its contents that antagonized the colonial government, but this didn’t stop Townsend from running the newspaper. Although Iwe Irohin maintained a good level of objectivity, it equally provided alternate opinion on policies such as the closing of Ogun River to trade with the aim of preserving warriors from the temptation of capitalism.

The demise of Iwe Irohin, the first newspaper in Nigeria

In January 1866, the newspaper appeared in two versions, one in English and the other in Yoruba. In 1867, Rev. Henry Townsend’s printing press in Abeokuta was razed by Egba people due to cultural and political clashes that occurred between the Egbas and the British which resulted in the expulsion of all Europeans in Egbaland.

This brought an end to Iwe Irohin, the first newspaper in Nigeria. But before it finally collapsed in 1867, the newspaper had already fulfilled its mission which was to develop a reading habit in the people, therefore, leaving them to yearn for news after its demise.

Iwe Irohin was followed by Anglo African which was edited by Robert Campbell, Lagos Times And Gold Coast Colony Advertiser by Richard Beale Blaize and many others.

Resuscitation

On the 21st of December, 2012, Iwe Irohin was resuscitated in Abeokuta, capital of Ogun State, after 140 years of its demise. The re-launch took place at the Press Centre, with dignitaries in attendance expressing their joy over the resuscitation.

Thanks for reading, highlifextra.com

References:

  1. History And Development Of Mass Media In Nigeria – Ifedayo Daramola, PhD, 2013
  2. Omipidan, Teslim Opemipo. (2016). Development of Newspaper in Nigeria – highlifextra.
  3. Oduntan, Oluwatoyin. (2005). Iwe Irohin and the Representation of the Universal in Nineteenth-Century Egbaland. History in Africa. 32. 295-305. 10.1353/hia.2005.0018.
  4. Times, P. (2012, December 21). First Nigerian newspaper, Iwe Irohin, resuscitated 140 years after it died. Premium Times Nigeria.
Categories
History

The Arrival of Europeans In West Africa

Europeans in West Africa
The history of West Africa which had hitherto been mainly events committed in West Africa by the West Africans themselves was forced to change course and pattern at the wake of the fifteenth century.

 

This change was to a large extent due to the sudden appearance of the Europeans, mainly of Portuguese origin, at the coasts of this part of the world. These unusual visits which started as a child-play at the beginning eventually changed the history of the people of the region of West Africa.

One may even wish to ask the questions why did these Europeans decide to visit West Africa? What effects did these visits have on the history of West Africa? First, let us examine the motives behind the visits.

Why Did the Europeans Visit West Africa?

Evidences have shown that the Portuguese who visited the coasts of West Africa in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, did so for a number of reasons. One of these, and perhaps the most important was the urge in Europe during this period to establish a sea-route, possibly along the coast of Africa, to India and the spice island. What brought about this urge was the inconveniences encountered by the European traders in these areas along the overland routes, these overland routes along the bank of the Mediterranean Sea ran through important towns like Milan, Florence, Genoa and Venice, in each of these towns traders from Europe often paid tolls for going through them.

In addition, some vagabonds had made these routes terribly unsafe to traders; in fact, they had converted them into a den of highway robbers. The end-result of these inconveniences was the sky-rocketing prices of article from, the Far East. Such articles like ginger, pepper and spices became luxurious articles for a significant number of people in Europe.

It was the uneven social situations caused by these high prices that inspired some people in Europe to look for an alternative route to India possibly along the coast of West Africa. If this route could be established, it was thought, the tedious trekking along the overland route, coupled with the paying of exorbitant customs duties, would disappear since the sea which was going to be the highway was nobody’s property.

Arrival of Europeans in West Africa
Again, there was the intention to spread Christianity to what the Europeans described as the lost peoples of Africa. In the first instance, the crusade against the Turks in the thirteenth century encouraged the Christians in Europe to carry faith and salvation to the land of the heathens especially to Africa, where the work of evangelism had not been known. Added to the above was the urge in Europe during this period to look for the empire of a mighty African ruler called ‘Prester John’ who, they thought, could help them on their task of Christianising and civilising the ‘unfortunate’ and ‘primitive’ inhabitants of the ‘dark continent’. It was also thought that was his famous king would certainly be willing to begin with Europe a profitable trade, particularly in gold, gold-dust, diamond and other mineral deposits which were believed to exist in abundance in this place.

Finally, the European visits were motivated by the burning desire of some Europeans to collect more knowledge about the peoples of other lands as well as the types of life led by them. This urge became extremely great as a result of the invention of the compass and other sea-faring equipment.

These inventions, in no small measures, fired the inspirations of these academically hungry European biologists to get in touch with the “black monkeys” that inhabited the African continent in order to study their structural build-up properly. It can thus be summed up, therefore, that what brought the Europeans to the coasts of Africa in general, and West Africa in particular, were multifarious. These included the intention to establish an alternative sea-route to India and the Spice Islands, the urge to introduce Christianity to the lost peoples of other lands, to spread the European brand of civilisation to other peoples, to contract commerce through Prester John, with the rich peoples of West Africa; and to know more about the biological structure of the people who inhabited other lands, African continent inclusive.

Now, all these said and done, let us ask this question – “What were the consequences or these visits? “

Thanks for reading, highlifextra.com

Categories
History

Kegites Club of Nigeria – Ranks, Slangs and History

By dia fingas and dia kariability, we shall know them”

Kegites Club
Kegites got their name from the word ‘keg’ which is a local container for keeping palm-wine. There is an indescribable magical feeling that accompanies the merrymaking of members of the Kegites Club.

 

Their activities are so electrifying that anyone who does not subscribe to their ways, maybe due to religious or ideological alignment, may find themselves creating space for the glamour that coils around their high-spirited activities.

Known for cultural, high-spirited dancing, coupled with songs borne out an amalgam of lewd and didactic lyrics. Kegites are mostly found in Nigerian tertiary institutions. The Kegites Club is dubbed to be the most popular socio-cultural club in Nigeria.

Brief History of the Kegites Club

Each club is called Ilya and there are about a hundred Ilyasis in Nigeria. The Kegites club originated from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife). It was formally formed in 1962. Then the University of Ibadan took the second formation in 1972.

Chief Olusegun Adesina was the first Chief to be coronated followed by Emmanuel Abiodun, Bisi Olatunji and others who served as executives alongside the chief. They are known as world chief.

The motto of the club was formerly ‘the basis of African unity’ and ‘world peace is palm-wine’. It was later changed to ‘unity in diversity’. Members of the club were formerly known as palm-wine drinkers until 1986 when Chief Anthony Uzodinma Ogidi changed it to Kegites due to the negative comments and perception the former name garnered.

Kegites Club Logo
Over the years, many students in other institutions have found the activities of the club fascinating and thus obtained autonomy from the University of Ife (the world headquarters of the club). Among such institutions are Federal College of Agriculture, Akure (ILYA du TRACTOR), University of Ibadan (ILYA du UI) which obtained its keg of office in 1972 and several others.

Members of the club are found in learning institutions in Brazil, Canada, Ghana, India, Liberia, London. The objective of the club is to promote Africanism in their songs, promote peace, resuscitate cultural norms, and discourage social vices. Notable members of the club are late Obafemi Awolowo, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Professor Wole Soyinka, Dr Orji Kalu, Governor Akeredolu (SAN).

The Jarasis Language

The aesthetics of the language of Kegites can not be overlooked. When singing and conversing, they speak an esoteric language which is a mixture of English and the Yoruba language with jargons only understood by members of the club. The language is called Jarasis. A club is called Ilya; the University of Ife being the founding club is called Ilya du world that is, ‘World Headquarters’.

A transport minister is called Transporta; Cricket is the one in charge of singing; Drumito is the drummer; Songito is a singer; Parrot is the public relations officer; Tapper rotates the holy water (palm wine).

Titles/Ranks of the Kegites Club of Nigeria

CHIEF: This is the president of the club in an ilya. He is in charge of accepting new member in the club that is called liberation and has the power to do many things.

ELDER: He is the second in command, that is the vice president to the chief.

FEDA: He is the secretary of an ilya.

PARROT: He is the director of information in an ilya, he passes information to the comrades.

PHILOSOPHER: He is the comrad who knows everything about the club, he teaches and tutorise both animales and comrados in the zoo.

H.O.D: Head of drums, he is in charge of the drum in an ilya he also teaches the other comrades how to beat the drums.

SONGITO: He is the vocalist of the club, he lead in songitizing in jara.

MIGRATOR: He organizes ketekete (vehicles) for external gyrations.

TAPPER: The person that rotates holy water .

MARSHAL: The provost in an ilya , he make sure that the comrads behaves well in an ilya.

LUPOUR: He is the person that shares the holy water for the comrades.

ZOO COMMANDANT: He is the person in charge of the co-ordination of the zoo class.

AJUCTANT: The person in charge of the chief’s items.

CURATOR: A person in charge of the shrine, all the chieftaincy parapitenal is usually put in the custody of the curator.

SPECIAL DUTY (Spedu) : The person also carries out some duty in an ilya.

ELDERSIS COUNCIL: Selection of chief and elders in an ilya who take some important decisions in order for the club to move forward.

CHIEFSIS COUNCIL: This council is the highest body in the club comprising of ab, xy, xyz, archival and metusela chiefesis.

SPIDER: He designs all the comradic materials example includes capito, regalia, neckito.

Kegites
Notable Kegites Slangs and their Meanings

Karid: to be recognized as a member qualified to make contributions.

Regalia: the official attire, a white jumper or Kampala dress with gourds embroidered on it.

Holy water: palm wine.

Comrad: student members.

Ilya du Queen: East London University

Ilya du Punjab: Punjab University, India.

Emusifere: Hemisphere (to describe the location of a club)

Transformjara – Initiated

Galagala – World

Opeke – Female Kegite

Emblem – Calabash

Iyla du Akete – Lagos State University

Iyla du Lagoon – UniLag

Zoo – A place where new members are groomed.

Kegistic Langwaja – This is the approved language of the kegites club.

Baby Ilya – A newly commissioned branch of kegites club that has no keg office or a chief, but attached to an ilya and overseen by a cordee (coronator).

Kegites Club Anthem

Imbibe Imbibe in majesty
Holy water is good for me,
Holy water from kegite stream
That makes us happy every day.

It is believed that the cap worn by them is a cap of wisdom. And so members are wise people who have chosen to revel in the beauty of culture and palm-wine drinking. ‘May you walk and never stumble’ is a common prayer for members of the Kegites Club of Nigeria.

Thanks for reading, highlifextra.com

Categories
History

How The Cornrow Hairstyle Was Used As An Escape Map From Slavery Across South America

 

African Cornrow hairstyle
Cornrows have become a crowd favorite for women of every culture in the last 10 years. Whereas it used to be worn by children, especially young African and African American girls, the style has become widely popular across women of all ages.

 

But many do not know the deep and rich history of the hairstyle that saved the lives of many. Moreover, they do not know of its role in the freedom struggles which have led to the liberties we now enjoy.

Cornrows have long been a facet of African beauty and life. In many African societies, braid patterns and hairstyles indicate a person’s community, age, marital status, wealth, power, social position, and religion. In the Caribbean, the style may be referred to as cane rows to represent “slaves planting sugar cane”, and not corn.

The style consists of braiding the “hair very close to the scalp in an underhand, upward motion in order to create a single line of raised row, creating the cornrow”.

Blackdoctor.org writes on the history of cornrows:

“Depictions of women with cornrows have been found in Stone Age paintings in the Tassili Plateau of the Sahara, and have been dated as far back as 3000 B.C. There are also Native American paintings as far back as 1,000 years showing cornrows as a hairstyle. This tradition of female styling in cornrows has remained popular throughout Africa, particularly in the Horn of Africa and West Africa.

African Cornrow hairstyle
Historically, male styling with cornrows can be traced as far back as the early nineteenth century to Ethiopia, where warriors and kings such as Tewodros II and Yohannes IV were depicted wearing cornrows.”

Now to its role during the Transatlantic Slave Trade:

During the Atlantic Slave Trade, many slaves were forced to shave their hair to be more ‘sanitary’ and to also move them away from their culture and identity.

But not all enslaved Africans would not keep their hairs cut. Many would braid their hairs tightly in cornrows and more “to maintain a neat and tidy appearance”.

Enslaved Africans also used cornrows to transfer and create maps to leave plantations and the home of their captors. This act of using hair as a tool for resistance is said to have been evident across South America.

It is most documented in Colombia where Benkos Bioho, a King captured from Africa by the Portuguese who escaped slavery, built San Basilio de Palenque, a village in Northern Colombia around the 17thcentury. Bioho created his own language as well as intelligence network and also came up with the idea to have women create maps and deliver messages through their cornrows.

The site Edtimes explains,

“Since slaves were rarely given the privilege of writing material or even if they did have it, such kind of messages or maps getting in the wrong hands could create a lot of trouble for the people in question, cornrows were the perfect way to go about such things.

African Cornrow hairstyle
No one would question or think that one could hide entire maps in their hairstyle, so it was easy to circulate them without anyone finding out about it.”

Afro-Colombia, Ziomara Asprilla Garcia, further explained to the Washington Post in the article, Afro-Colombian women braid messages of freedom in hairstyles:

“In the time of slavery in Colombia, hair braiding was used to relay messages. For example, to signal that they wanted to escape, women would braid a hairstyle called departes. “It had thick, tight braids, braided closely to the scalp and was tied into buns on the top.

And another style had curved braids, tightly braided on their heads. The curved braids would represent the roads they would [use to] escape. In the braids, they also kept gold and hid seeds which, in the long run, helped them survive after they escaped.”

Garcia said with satisfaction that there has been a resurgence of braided hairstyles in Colombia in recent years. But this reality is not only evident in Colombia but all around the world.

Categories
History

How and Why Flora Shaw, Lord Lugard’s Wife, Coined the name Nigeria in 1897

The origin of the name ‘Nigeria’ lies in one of Africa’s most popular rivers, the River Niger. It is important to know that Lord Lugard’s wife, Flora Shaw, was credited for naming the country ‘Nigeria’.

History has it in profile that Flora Shaw coined the name ‘Nigeria’ in 1897. How did it happen?

 

Who was Flora Shaw?

Flora Shaw, the woman who named Nigeria
Flora Shaw, the woman who named Nigeria

Flora Shaw was a journalist and author with four children novels and one adult novel to her name. She was born in Woolwich, South London, to an English father, Captain (later Major General) George Shaw, and a French mother, Marie Adrienne Josephine (née Desfontaines) who was a native of Mauritius.

She began her career in journalism in 1886, writing for the Pall Mall Gazette and the Manchester Guardian. She was sent by the Manchester Guardian to cover the Anti-Slavery Conference in Brussels.

Later on, she became Colonial Editor for The Times, which made her the highest-paid woman journalist of the time. With that connection, she was sent as a special correspondent to Southern Africa in 1892.

How did Flora Shaw Name Nigeria?

A straightforward answer to the question “who named Nigeria” is Flora Shaw. But, how did it happen? Before ‘Nigeria’ was coined, it used to be known by different titles which include Royal Niger Company Territories, Niger Sudan, Niger Empire and so on.

Flora Shaw and Lord Lugard
Flora Shaw and Lord Lugard

In an essay that first appeared in The Times on 8 January 1897, by “Miss Shaw”, she suggested the name ‘Nigeria’ for the British Protectorate on the Niger River. In her essay, she made the case for a shorter-term that would be used for the territory to replace the official title, “Royal Niger Company Territories”.

She thought that the term “Royal Niger Company Territories” was too long to be used as a name of a Real Estate Property, under the Trading Company in that part of Africa.

She was in search of a new name, and she coined “Nigeria”, in preference to terms, such as “Central Sudan”, which were associated with the area by some geographers and travellers.

She later married Lord Fredrick Lugard on the 10th of June, 1902. They had no children. She died of pneumonia on 25 January 1929, at the age of 76, in Surrey, England.

Categories
History

The Egba-Dahomey War (1851-1864)

Dahomen Women Warriors during Egba-Dahomey war
Dahomen Azazon Women Warriors

The Egba-Dahomey war, as the name suggests, was a war that broke out between the two neighbouring kingdoms of Egba and Dahomey (now the Republic of Benin) over territorial expansion caused by the quest of the latter to stabilize her economy.

 

The Egba-Dahomey war was the third of the destructive wars that plagued the Yoruba nation in the nineteenth century, following the Owu-Ife war (1821-1828) and the 1840 Osogbo war.

Background of the Egba-Dahomey War

In the 1820s and 1830s, the old Oyo empire, also called Oyo-Ile, witnessed political unrest which gradually faded her leadership role in Yoruba land. The Dahomey kingdom which was then part of the Oyo Empire seized the opportunity to declare herself independent from Oyo in 1930 but soon discovered that the independence wasn’t worth it because of her extremely low economy caused by her barren northern land where probably only plantain could grow, and the crumbling slave trade at the coast which the kingdom had really depended on for several years.

These unfavourable situations made the Dahomeans reach a conclusion that expanding their territory is the only solution to their economic problems and the only place where this expansion was possible was in the east towards Egbado and Ajase-Ipo which were part of Egbaland, and in the south towards the port of Badagry.

Egba Dahomey Map
A good look at the positions of these kingdoms on a map will show how uncomfortable this expansion would be to the Egbas who instantly opposed the idea, stating the inconveniences it would bring to them. On the other hand, the Dahomeans failed or refused to reason with the Egbas probably because of their desperation to resurrect their collapsed economy. It was on these ground that the disastrous Egba-Dahomey war broke out.

The Outbreak

In 1851, the Dahomean army (which was made up of women), under the rule of King Gezo, marched into the heart of Abeokuta, the capital of Egba land and unleashed havoc on the unsuspecting Egbas. However, the heavily armed Egba army, even though unprepared, was able to repel the attack and killed many of the Dahomean armies while the captured ones were enslaved.

Later, in about 1853, the Egbas revenged by attacking and destroying Lefulefu and Referefe, two towns at the border of Dahomey, with little resistance from their inhabitants.

The efforts of the ‘Amazon women’ (Dahomey women warriors) to defeat the Egba army is a surprising and important aspect of the Egba-Dahomey war that cannot be left out. Due to the fact that women are considered better off catering for the family at home, preparing food in the kitchen or trading at the market, it may then be amusing that Dahomean women instead of men went to war.

But these Amazon women were ferocious, muscular, and highly skilled in torturing and decapitating their enemies. They were trained to endure pain for a very long time. If not for their bosoms, these women whom no one dare underestimates would be completely mistaken for men.

Dahomey Amazon Women Warriors

The Amazon women or ‘N’Nonmiton‘ (which means our mothers) as they were called in Fon language, were even said to be stronger, more skilled and ruthless than the men of Dahomey. Jean Bayol, a French naval officer, who visited Abomey, the capital of Dahomey, in December 1889, said he watched how a young N’Nonmiton-to-be Dahomean girl named Nanisca, who had never had blood stains on her hands, killed a prisoner in cold blood;

“she walked jauntily up to the prisoner, swung her sword three times with both hands, then calmly cut the last flesh that attached the head to the trunk[…] She then squeezed the blood off her weapon and swallowed it.

This indeed shows how brutal the Amazon women warriors were trained to be. But however, they were no match for the Large, well-trained and equipped Egba army. The over 3000 Amazon women, under the command of the Dahomean king, Gelele the son of Gezo, were defeated again in 1864 when they attacked Abeokuta for the second time.

Dahomey kingdom was then forced to sue for peace which thus ended the long time enmity between her and the Egba kingdom. It must be noted that this enmity between Egba and Dahomey had existed before 1851. According to oral history, in 1884, the Egbas, infuriated by the attacks on her communities by the Dahomeans, launched a surprise attack on Dahomey in which king Gezo was almost captured and his precious umbrella and sacred golden stool were seized.

King Gezo of Dahomey| Wikicommons
King Gezo of Dahomey- Wikkicommons

The Aftermath of the Egba-Dahomey War

After the war ended in 1864, the Egbas established their authorities on the disputed lands of Egbado, Ajase-Ipo and the port of Badagry. Also, the town of Ketu which assisted Dahomey during the war was attacked and destroyed by the Egbas.

However, the victory of the Egbas over Dahomey was backed by certain factors. The first was the ultimate support Egba enjoyed from the British nationals in Egbaland. The British nationals, especially those who had arrived in Egbaland since the 1840s, knew for certain that the fall of Egba would spell a big doom for them, and therefore supplied the Egba army regularly with ammunition throughout the war, and also trained them in the modern strategy of war.

Another factor was the role certain Yoruba kingdoms played during the war in favour of Egba. Yoruba kingdoms like Ibadan and Ijebu were said to have given Egba their ultimate support during the war. But this support was noted to have been short-lived as these kingdoms were involved in protracted conflicts (Ekitiparapo/ Kiriji war and Ibadan-Ijaye war) in the latter years.

References:

  1. E. Ola Abiola; A Textbook Of West African History; 3rd edition; Ado Ekiti; Omolayo Standard Press & Bookshops co. (Nig.) Ltd; 1984
  2. Richard Burton; A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahomey. London: RKP, 1966
  3. Omipidan, T. O. (2021b, March 10). The Kiriji War (1877-1893). highlifextra. https://oldnaija.com/2021/01/01/the-kiriji-war-1877-1893/
  4. Stanley Alpern; Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey. London: C. Hurst & Co., 2011
Categories
History

In 1999, This Nigerian Senate President was Removed Over Whether His Name was Evan or Evans

Evan Enwerem
Evan Enwerem

One should expect almost anything in the political scene of Nigeria. But should one expect the removal of a Nigerian Senate President from office because of his name? Yes, because it happened back in 1999, to Evan Enwerem.

 

Senator Evan Enwerem was removed as the first president of the Senate in Nigeria’s fourth republic because an investigating committee wasn’t sure whether his real name was Evan or Evans.

Evan Enwerem’s case became the first major political scandal of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s civilian regime in 1999. As at then, the country had just ended military rule and had Obasanjo (who was once a military ruler) serving as president of the country.

Enwerem was elected to the Nigerian Senate in 1999 to represent the Imo-East Senatorial Zone. On the 3rd of June, 1999, Enwerem beat his chief rival, Senator Chuba Okadigbo, for the Senate presidency.

President Olusegun Obasanjo backed Enwerem for President of the Senate against Okadigbo and with the support of Obasanjo’s allies in the governing parties, plus support from two Nigerian opposition parties, Enwerem easily defeated Okadigbo with 66 votes to Okadigbo’s 43 votes.

However, Evan Enwerem did not know that his victory would not last long as he only reigned for five months before being kicked out of office over his name which he described simply as a typographical error.

But some analysts were not surprised by his removal because he emerged as Senate president under some controversial circumstances.

How The Removal of Evan Enwerem Happened

From 1980 to 1983, Evans Enwerem served as the chairman of the Nigerian Airports Authority (NAA) before getting elected as the governor of Imo State in the 1990s when the then head of state, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, lifted the ban on political activity in Nigeria.

At the commencement of the fourth republic by Obasanjo in June 1999, Enwerem was elected to the Nigerian Senate as a senator representing Imo East in 1999.

But he wanted more than that, so he began moves to grab the lead seat in the Senate (Senate president). Running against a stronger opponent, Chuba Okadigbo, for the Senate president seat began his woes and that of the Senate.

Chuba Okadigbo
Chuba Okadigbo

Okadigbo, from Anambra State, who had served as Political Adviser to President Shehu Shagari in the second republic, was the popular choice for the senate president position.

Ahead of the inauguration of the Senate in 1999, Okadigbo, in a quiet campaign, visited almost every senator-elect to appeal for support for his aim to be Senate president.

Having an “overwhelming majority” of the Senators of the dominant Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Okadigbo was confident of winning, but days before the contest, reports said Obasanjo began a campaign against him, using two opposition parties and a few senators from the governing PDP.

On election day in June 1999, Enwerem defeated Okadigbo by 66 votes to 43 votes. He became Senate president against the desire of the majority of his party members in the PDP.

“That election was to signpost the instability that was to characterize the Senate and nay, National Assembly for the eight years Obasanjo served as President,” according to the Vanguard.

Enwerem during his time as Senate president did not hide his allegiance to Obasanjo and soon question marks were raised on his qualification to continue to hold the post.

It started with a publication from a Lagos-based magazine, TELL. In its August 1999 edition, it alleged that Enwerem had altered his personal records and name. Later accused of corruption, a Senate committee was set up to investigate Enwerem.

During this period, there was a long debate over whether his name was Evan or Evans with allies of Okadigbo maintaining that he had intentionally falsified his name and age “for a dubious gain”.

Enwerem claimed that it was a spelling error, nevertheless, on November 18, 1999, he was removed from office. His removal occurred on the day he followed Obasanjo and his entourage to the airport to see the president off on a foreign trip. In Enwerem’s absence, reports said Okadigbo’s allies mobilized signatures to remove him from office as Senate president.

He was, however, allowed to remain in the Senate as an ordinary member representing Imo East till the end of his tenure in 2003.

Okadigbo, who replaced Enwerem as Senate president, was loved at first but it didn’t take long for him to also be accused of corruption. In 2000, he was impeached but remained in the Senate as the senator representing Anambra North.

Thanks for reading, highlifextra.

References:

  • Nwankwo, Ugochukwu. “BOOM: HOW ATIKU MASTERMINDED THE IMPEACHMENT OF EVAN ENWEREM – OBASANJO”. Abia Pulse News
  • Omipidan, Teslim. “30 Facts About Nigerian Leaders That Will Leave You Really Amazed”. highlifextra.com
  • Sufuyan (2007-08-03). “Nigeria: Enwerem, Former Senate President, Dies At 71”. Thisday
  • Mildred Europa Taylor. “When a Nigerian Senate president was removed over whether his name was Evan or Evans”. Face2FaceAfrica
Categories
History

This Is The Reason Wole Soyinka Was Declared Wanted in 1965

Wole Soyinka
Daily Times Newspaper, October 1965

Chief S.L. Akintola was slated to give a victory speech after the rigged 1965 regional election which returned him to power as Premier of the Western Region.

 

On 15 October 1965, just before a radio broadcast of the Premier’s speech, a certain armed man allegedly gained entrance into the premises of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) at Ibadan, and seized the tapes containing the Premier’s pre-recorded speech.

The armed man, alleged to be Wole Soyinka, then compelled the continuity announcer to broadcast another tape which he had brought along with him. Instead of the triumphant address of the Premier, the people of Western Nigeria heard, inter alia, the following defiant message:

“Akintola get out; Akintola, get out and take with you your band of renegades who have lost with you any pretence to humanity, and have become nothing, but murdering beasts. . . .

The lawful government of Western Nigeria is the UPGA government, elected by the people of the West. Let every self-seeking impostor get out now before the people, losing patience, wash the streets in their polluted blood. . . .

In the name of Oduduwa and our generation, get out! Before the frustration of ten million people, their anger and their justice in an all-consuming fire come over your heads.”

This incident embarrassed and angered the Premier, and Wole Soyinka was swiftly declared wanted, detained, and subsequently charged with the offences of conspiracy and theft of the Premier’s tapes.

Soyinka’s detention caused many influential literary figures and public intellectuals to lodge protests and appeals for clemency with the Nigerian government.

Although Soyinka unsuccessfully raised an alibi, at trial the prosecution failed to secure a conviction due to the conflicting testimony of several witnesses concerning the identity of the armed man.

According to Justice Kayode Eso (as he then was), who presided over the trial, the proper course of action in the circumstances was to acquit and discharge the accused person.

Resisting pressure from powerful Western region politicians who wanted Soyinka convicted at all costs, Justice Eso held as follows: “All the eye-witnesses [at the radio station] were positive that the [armed] man who held them up was not masked.

The place was well lit, they said, and they had no doubt about their examination of the gunman’s face. The gunman, they had all said, was bearded.

[One of the witnesses who gave evidence for the prosecution testified that Soyinka, whom he saw two hours before the incident at the radio station, was clean-shaven].

While l can understand a bearded man at five o’ clock in the evening becoming clean-shaven at 7 p.m., I cannot unravel the mystery of a clean-shaven man at 5 p.m. becoming bearded at 7 p.m. [when the incident occurred] except he is somehow masked.

Wole Soyinka
Wole soyinka

And the overwhelming evidence placed before the court by the prosecution itself, was that the gunman, who held up the cubicle that night was not masked. That ‘un-masking’ kept up recurring like a ‘recurring decimal’.

It is clear to me therefore, that no tribunal should be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that it was the clean-shaven ‘Wole Soyinka’ at 5 p.m. without a mask who metamorphosed into the bearded gunman at 7 p.m.

With this sharp contradiction in the evidence of the prosecution, I am bound to give the accused person the benefit of the doubt. I therefore find him not guilty and he is, accordingly, acquitted and discharged.”

Reflecting on this incident several decades later, in 2019, Soyinka recalls that he was strongly motivated to intervene in the old Western Region Crisis on behalf of the disenfranchised people whose democratic rights had been frustrated by brazen electoral fraud:

“I was one of them, my voice was being stolen. I could not sit down and accept that somebody should steal my voice. I felt at one with the majority of the people.”

References:

  • J.F. Ade Ajayi & Yemi Akinseye George, ‘Kayode Eso: The Making of A Judge’ (Ibadan: Spectrum Books 2002) 144-150
  • Ademola Adegbamigbe, “Wole Soyinka at 85: His Ibadan Radio Station Invasion and Why Court Set Him Free” (The News 15 July 2019)
  • Henry Louis Gates Jr., ‘Being, the Will, and the Semantics of Death’ in Biodun Jeyifo (ed.), ‘Perspectives on Wole Soyinka: Freedom and Complexity’ (University Press of Mississippi, 2001) 65
  • Ugo Ezeh – NPP
Categories
History

The untold story of Fela Kuti and Thomas Sankara’s Friendship

Fela Kuti and Thomas Sankara
The friendship between Fela Kuti and Thomas Sankara should hold little or no surprise for those who have spent the shortest period of time familiarizing themselves with the duo.

But this relationship between the two African legends, although very public, is still strangely one of the most under-discussed friendships of a famous African pair.

 

Fela Anikulapo Kuti was a musician with a thousand and one things to say about the corruption of unforgiving military governments in Nigeria while Thomas Sankara, on the other hand, was the populist’s darling committed to the undoing of what he saw as the asymmetries of Burkinabe society.

The two men would have bonded together over their views of what power should be translated into. They loved Africa and its peoples and thought community was much preferable to the individuation fostered by westernization.

The musician was not an ideologue but the soldier was a Marxist. But there was a simplistic confluence between the kinds of Africa sought by Kuti and Sankara: all they wanted was to see their people eat, stay healthy and be free from all kinds of oppression.

But it could not have been simply politics that brought the two men together because Sankara was a consummate guitarist and a learned fan of African music. Fela Kuti would arguably have found common grounds with the Burkinabe leader even if not for politics.

We do not have much in the way of documents that detail the friendship between Sankara and Kuti. On top of this, we know of only two instances that the two men met.

One of the occasions on which they met was the Panafrican Film and Television Festival or FESPACO in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in 1987.

That meeting has been immortalized in a spoken-word song by IR, Kabaka Labartin and Bassilar Membrane. The song described the meeting in these words:

When Thomas Sankara and Fela Kuti met, there was laughter.

When they spoke, they had no fear.

These and other sentences were interspersed with portions of speeches delivered by Sankara. This ode to the famous friendship has become many people’s evidence that the two men were indeed friends.

By all indications, the two men remained in correspondence after meeting. A year after Sankara was riddled with bullets by mutinous members of his own army, Fela was asked in an interview what he felt about the coup and he responded:

“His departure is a terrible blow to the political life of Africans, because he was the only one talking about African unity, what Africans need, to progress. He was the only one talking.

His loss is bad (Long silence) but my mind is cool because Sankara’s death must have a meaning for Africa. Now that Sankara has been killed, if the leader of Burkina Faso, today, is not doing well, you will see it clearly. This means that in [the] future, bad leaders would be very careful in killing good leaders…”

Whatever tears he may have shed, Kuti did away from the eyes of the public. But it was quite clear that in Sankara, Kuti found a leader likable enough not to criticize, something about which Nigeria’s leaders of the time had sleepless nights.

Thanks for reading, highlifextra.

References:

  • Felabration – Remembering Fela Kuti; All You Should Know, highlifextra
  • The untold story of Thomas Sankara and Fela Kuti’s friendship, Face2FaceAfrica
Categories
History

Carlota Lucumi: This Yoruba Woman Led One of Cuba’s Biggest Revolts In 1844 That Later Inspired Fidel Castro

Carlota Lucumi
Carlota Lucumi

Several slave revolts were triggered in the 1800s especially in the Caribbean where slavery had taken a huge rise despite abolitionist effort to end it.

 

Sugar and cotton plantation owners flourished during the time and needed as much cheap labour as they could get in order to increase production which would then have a positive effect on their income.

As enslaved Africans began to build a stronger community and sense of ownership, they started to rebel and fight their masters. Although several of the revolts ended with leaders being killed, the revolts shook the white enslavers any time they would happen.

In the history of slave revolts, several of them are linked to brave men or male leaders who risked their lives for others while women were celebrated more as activists and pioneers of several movements.

However, stories like that of Carlota Lucumi prove that Afro Cuban women also had a huge impact during slavery and in fact led revolts as well.

In 1843, Carlota Lucumi rose among few other enslaved Africans working on the Triunvirato sugar plantation and surrounding plantations in Matanzas, Cuba.

After months of secret planning with her other counterparts, Firmina – also a woman, Filipe Lucumi, Eduardo, Narciso and Manuel Ganga of the Acana plantation set out to strike on November 5, 1843.

They led a rebellion against the mayor and Julian Luis Alfonso Sole, owner of the sugar mill and his assistants setting several houses on fire including the house where slaves were often kept and punished.

West African In Bahia And Cuba Book
According to the book West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba: Soldier Slaves in the Atlantic World by Manuel Barcia Paz, the rebel leader had their own weapons and used leather as both a weapon and protection from spears and stray bullets.

The November 1843 revolt successfully spread through more than 5 plantations where slaves, following in the shadow of Carlota Lucumi and her partners, seized their own freedom and killed as many white enslavers as possible.

An article on IBW21 explains that Carlota is said to have celebrated her successful attack on María de Regla, an overseer’s daughter whom she struck down with a machete.

Carlota Lucumi was killed and her body found on the morning of November 6, 1943, by her loyal followers on the Triunvirato estate who then went into an uproar and killed as many whites as they could.

Oral Cuban history has it that she was captured by white soldiers who tortured her by tying her body to her own horses which dragged and pulled her till she died.

Although the revolt was not successful in the long term, it played a significant role in the history of Cuba as it was the largest and last rebellion that caused major fear in the white society in the 19th century eventually leading to the 1868 Cuban independence movement. According to IBW21, it shaped the course of Cuban history — and Fidel Castro’s ideology of the oppressed rising up to defeat their oppressor.

Celebrated for her role in leading a revolt, Carlota is a Yoruba born woman who was kidnapped from the Kingdom of Benin where she was born and raised till about the age of 10.

She is called Carlota Lucumi mainly for belonging to the Lucumi ethnic group which was and still is made up of Afro-Brazilians of Yoruba descent.

During the days of slavery, the Lucumi ethnic group was greatly feared in Cuba and were similar to the Maroons. They led several revolts and often established their own settlements.

References:

  1. Face2Face Africa
  2. Franco, Jules (2020, September 17). Meet Cuba’s Machete-wielding Freedom Fighter. Institute of the Black World 21st Century. https://ibw21.org/reparations/meet-cubas-machete-wielding-freedom-fighter/