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”. 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.


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.


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.


  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.
  4. Stanley Alpern; Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey. London: C. Hurst & Co., 2011

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.


  • Omipidan, Teslim. “30 Facts About Nigerian Leaders That Will Leave You Really Amazed”.
  • 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

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.”


  • 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

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.


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

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.


  1. Face2Face Africa
  2. Franco, Jules (2020, September 17). Meet Cuba’s Machete-wielding Freedom Fighter. Institute of the Black World 21st Century.

The Owu-Ife War (1821-1828)

Owu-Ife war / Yoruba land map
Map of Yorubaland in the 19th Century

The Owu-Ife war, as its name denotes, was a bloody conflict that broke out between the people of Ile-Ife and natives of the neighbouring town of Owu between 1821 and 1828. Its significance lies in the fact that it was a war that opened the gate of tragedy for other wars in Yoruba land.


Causes of the Owu-Ife War

Owu-Ife war broke out barely four years after the collapse of the Old Oyo empire. On the surface, the war outbreak was the result of a disagreement between two market women over five cowries. The main cause, however, was the hatred which Ife people had created over the years for Owu people over the latter’s policy of using Oyo refugees for forced labour and even selling them off as slaves.

The Owu-Ife war broke out in the wake of 1821 when Owu declared total war on Ife. The people of Ife regarded Owu’s action as a vagrant violation of the land’s tradition and constitution and quickly called on the rest of the Yorubas to condemn Owu for its wilful action. Many towns heeded to this appeal; among them were ljebu and the neighbouring town of Ikoyi.

The appearance of these Ife allies on the battlefield, unfortunately, prolonged the war. When it finally came to an end in 1828, it left Owu in total ruin, a mere devastated village, a position in which it was for many years before it finally disappeared from the political theatre of Nigeria.


Although the war came to an end in 1828, its effects and the destructive fire it lit continued to spread to every part of Yoruba land. Its end also witnessed the arrival of the Fulanis from the north with the intention of fishing in troubled water. The Fulanis’ first encounter with the combined forces of the Yorubas took place in 1840 at Osogbo in which they were defeated. It was this defeat that transformed them from the menacing enemies which they wanted to be to mere supporters of recalcitrant sides.

The Osogbo war brought the Yorubas together but not long after they won the war, they reverted to their inter-tribal wars. One of these wars was the Egba-Dahomey war.


  1. Law, R. (1973). THE OWU WAR IN YORUBA HISTORY. Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, 7(1), 141-147. Retrieved March 11, 2021, from
  2. Omipidan, Teslim. (2018). Historical wars in Yorubaland. highlifextra.
  3. Smith, R. (1973). Owu in Yoruba History. By A. L. Mabogunje and J. Omer-Cooper. Ibadan University Press, 1971. Pp. x + 123, ill., maps. 12s. 6d. (Nigerian). Africa, 43(1), 83–84.

Igbo Pre-Colonial Political System/Administration

Igbo pre-colonial Political System
The Igbo pre-colonial political system/administration was described by scholars as acephalous, a term which means leaderless, headless or chiefless.


This term is considered suitable for describing the Igbo pre-colonial political system because it was decentralized and based on village and direct democracy where everyone has the authority to contribute to decision making.

Council of Elders

Each Igbo village was seen as a political unit inhabited by related families who were bounded by common beliefs and origin. Each family head in the village held the ‘Ofo‘ title and they all together formed the council of elders. The council of elders presided over important issues such as the village’s welfare, safety, development and so on.

The Okpara

Among the council of elders, one was recognized as the most senior. He was the Okpara. He could call for and adjourn meetings and could give judgements as well.

The council of elders were believed to be earthly representatives of the Igbo ancestors. They maintained the age-long customs, traditions and laws of the land. These included laws against misbehaviour or immoral acts in which suitable punishment would be meted out to its perpetrators.

The Age-Grade

Another important institution in the Igbo pre-colonial political system was the age-grade. The age-grade consisted of youngsters of the same age-group. The senior age-group maintained peace and order in the village and also provided security to ward off external attacks, while the junior age-group concentrated on the sanitation of the community and other necessary duties.

The age-grade was also involved in the administration of the village, and as well acted as a check to the council of elders and other administrative bodies.

Ozo Title Holders

Another level in the Igbo pre-colonial political administration was the ‘Ozo’ titleholders. This expensive title was conferred on wealthy and influential men in the community who after getting the title become recognized and could then preside over meetings with the village elders.


Also, the priests were not left out in the administration of the village. Great importance was attached to them for they were believed to be the mouthpiece of the gods e.g. Aro’s long juju. Even the council of elders consulted the priests on matters that were beyond their powers i.e. matters that needed spiritual intervention.

Therefore, different institutions were doggedly involved in administering the Igbo community, and powers were equally shared among them.

In conclusion, the pre-colonial political system in Igboland can be said to be similar to the modern republican system of government in which the people are governed by their consent.

Learn about the Yoruba Pre-colonial Administration and the Hausa Pre-colonial Political System.

If you have questions, kindly use the comment box below. Thanks for reading,


  1. Teslim Opemipo Omipidan. Pre-colonial Systems in Nigeria. highlifextra.
  2. Abiola Ola; A Textbook of West African History; 3rd edition; Ado-Ekiti; Omolayo Standard Press & Bookshops Co. (Nig.) Ltd.; 1984
  3. Debbie C. C.; Essential Government Textbook for Secondary Schools; 2nd edition; Lagos; Tonad Publishers, 2008

Classic / Old Nigerian Movies That Are Worth Watching Again

Old Nigerian Movies

It is known by all that early Nollywood filmmakers produced low-budget movies, but still, Nigerians back then, both young and old, watched them with excitement and enthusiasm. Even till today, most of these old movies are in demand because of their didactic plots, beautiful casting, and the memories they hold.

highlifextra brings you a list of old Nigerian movies that you should consider watching either for the first, second or hundredth time. You can read the history of Nollywood here.

Watch/Download Classic or Old Nigerian Movies

1. Domitila (1996)

Domitila was produced by Zeb Ejiro, starring Sandra Achums, Enebeli Elebuwa, Maureen Ihua, Charles Okafor, Ada Ameh, Kate Henshaw, Basorge Tariah Jr, and Anne Njemanze. It is a movie about young girls and their quest to survive. Young girls were lured to big cities where they lived on prostitution, some for survival and some for greed.

2. Glamour Girls (1994)

Glamour Girls was a huge success at the time of its release. It is among the movies that put the Nigerian film industry on the map. The movie highlights hardship in Nigeria which resulted in a subculture that is replete with corruption and desperation.

3. Saworoide (1999)

A Nigerian political movie produced and directed by the popular Tunde Kelani. It stars Kola Oyewo, Lere Paimo, Bukky Wright, Peter Fatomilola, Adebayo Faleti and so on. Saworoide depicts the setting of an old Yoruba tradition in the town of Jogbo where a person cannot be crowned king without a ritual which involves the playing of saworoide, a brass drum.

4. Living In Bondage (1992)

Living In Bondage was directed by Chris Obi Rapu, written by Kenneth Nnebue and Okechukwu Ogunjiofor and produced by Ogunjiofor. The film marked the beginning of Nollywood. It is a story of love, betrayal, suffering and redemption.

5. Karishika (1996)

This is a movie about witchcraft, juju and initiation produced in 1996. In the movie, Lucifer sends the lust demon known as Karishika (Queen of Darkness) to steal the souls of men with sex.

6. Osuofia in London (2003)

Osuofia in London is a Nigerian comedy film produced and directed by Kingsley Ogoro and starring Nkem Owoh. The film which shot Nkem Owoh into the starlight is arguably one of the highest-selling Nollywood films in history.

7. Oleku (1997)

Oleku was adapted from Prof. Akinwumi Ishola’s novel which was written in 1974. Oleku is a love movie about ASAKE, LOLA and SADE who got entangled in a relationship with Ajani, a final year university student seriously looking for a life partner due to pressures from his Mother. This movie sparked a fashion revolution in Nigeria with the short aso-oke Iro and Buba called Oleku.

8. Diamond Ring (1998)

Directed in 1998 by Tade Ogidan, Diamond Ring tells the story of a spoilt child, Chidi, who was sent to a University at a young age by his parents. At the university, Chidi joins a gang who later rob a mortuary. Unknown to Chidi and his gang members, the booty from the heist comes with grave consequences.

9. Aki Na Ukwa (2003)

This comic movie was directed by Amayo Uzo Phillips in 2003 and starred Osita Iheme, Chinedu Ikedieze, Amaechi Muonagor and Oby Kechere.

10. RattleSnake (1995)

RattleSnake was Nollywood’s first attempt at producing an action movie. It tells the story of a young boy, Ahanna, played by Francis Duru, who was lured into a life of crime and robbery following the demise of his father.

11. Nneka The Pretty Serpent (1992)

The movie tells the story of a mermaid who disguised as a human on earth. Her mission is to go after married men, hypnotize them and later destroy them. The home video helped launch the careers of the likes of Ngozi Ezeonu , Ndidi Obi, Rita Nzelu and Eucharia Anunobi amongst many others.

12. Silent Night (1996)

In this 1996 movie starring Ramsey Nouah Jr, Segun Arinze and others, a student in search of excitement joins a gang of armed robbers, believing that such action will alleviate his boredom and his father had to sentence him to death by firing squad.

13. Scores To Settle (1998)

Scores to Settle, starring Richard Mofe Damijo, Liz Benson and Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, tells the story of Sade who was rejected by her in-laws. Sade hits the streets with her two sons after the death of her husband, embarking on a long journey of suffering as she faces insecurity, poverty and hunger.

14. Owo Blow (1997)

Owo Blow tells the story of a young man who, as a result of the family problem, ended up on the streets. The movie starred stars like Prince Leke Ajao, Adewale Elesho, Lanre Hassan, Bimbo Akintola, Sam Loco Efe, Binta Ayo Mogaji, Kayode Odumosu, Rachael Oniga, Adebayo Salami and others.

15. Baby police (2003)

The comic movie revolves around Dada, a mischievous six-year-old who constantly bothers his neighbourhood with pranks and theft. Dada’s mother begs her brother when he visited to take Dada Lagos (the big city) to teach him some discipline. Once there, his uncle begs him to behave but Dada just can’t.

These are classic or old Nigerian movies you will definitely want to watch again.