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 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.
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 office of the sanitary inspector was established during the colonial era of Nigeria. At the dawn of their establishment, they were known as sanitary attendants because their primary function then was to serve as helping hands to colonial masters (sanitary inspectors) who execute sanitary duties themselves.
On a clearer note, colonial masters who oversaw sanitization were called ‘sanitary inspectors’ while Nigerians who worked under them were referred to as ‘sanitary attendants’.
The sanitary attendants handled meager duties such as marking tall or bent trees, noting dilapidated buildings, pasting announcements or warning bills, interpreting for colonial masters, etcetera.
As time went on, the sanitary attendants were assigned more professional functions such as daily sanitary inspection, collection of water samples, noting mosquitoes’ breeding sites, and so on.
Many of the sanitary attendants improved their education level and thus earned more recognition for their office. They began to execute functions such as felling tall trees that were close to residential buildings, identifying infectious disease cases, disinfection and disinfestation, liaison between the colonial masters and villagers, verification of notices issued by their colonial masters (sanitary inspectors), retention of daily, weekly and monthly returns and others.
In the 1920s, Dr. Isaac Ladipo Oluwole played a crucial role in improving the status of Nigerian health workers, including the partly recognized sanitary attendants.
Dr. Oluwole returned from Britain as a public health physician and became the first African Medical Officer of Health (MOH) in the Lagos colony. In 1920, he established the Nigerian School of Hygiene in Yaba, Lagos, which was the first of its kind in Nigeria, and trained qualified people to become sanitary inspectors.
During this period, the sanitary attendants were now referred to as sanitary inspectors and were put in charge of:
Routine sanitary inspection of houses, markets, schools, and communities.
Waste disposal and environmental sanitation, pollution control, and industrial sanitation.
Water sampling and sanitation.
Port health duties (air, land, and seaports)
Control of communicable diseases (infectious diseases).
Building and urban planning.
Vector and pest control e.g. Malaria control.
Prosecution of public health offenders in the court.
Meat and food inspection.
The disposal of the dead (corpses).
Occupational health and factory inspection.
Vaccination/inoculation of both schoolchildren and adults.
Health education on personal and public hygiene.
Another factor that improved the status of the sanitary inspectors was the establishment of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948 as people with a higher level of education joined the profession.
In 1988, the name of the profession was changed to environmental health officers in line with the internationally accepted name of practitioners of the profession and also to accommodate members of the profession who graduated from the university with a degree in public health, environmental health, and epidemiology.
Fast forward to recent years, the present situation of the sanitary inspectors in Nigeria is disheartening as little regard is given to them and their functions. The profession is withering away at an increasing spate and people now tag it ‘old-school’ while some are not even aware of their (sanitary inspectors now environmental health officers) existence.
Thanks for reading, highlifextra.com
Professional Association of Environmental Health Officers of Nigeria (PAEHON); “Preventing disease through proper environmental management in the 21st century in Nigeria”; 2001;
Sani Garba; Environmental Health in Nigeria, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow; 2004;
Omipidan. Teslim Opemipo (2014). Colonial Rule in Nigeria and Nigeria’s Struggle for Independence. highlifextra. https://oldnaija.com/2014/11/05/colonial-rule-in-nigeria-and-nigerias-struggle-for-independence/
Ayodeji Olukoju; Local And Global Dynamics In The Transformation Of The Port-City Of Lagos Since The Nineteenth Century (PDF); Department of History and Strategic Studies, University of Lagos.
Image Credit – Émi Ni Afrika
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In 1891, the Ijebu people, dwelling between 50 and 60 miles north-east of Lagos on the Magbon river, set a blockade and charged customs dues on the trade route to Lagos which as at then was a crown colony. The Awujale (traditional ruler of Ijebu) closed down Ejirin market, cutting off Lagos from a source of up-country trade.
The British government persuaded the Awujale several times to open the blockaded route but the Ijebu ruler remained adamant. However, in May, 1891, a British acting governor, Captain C.M Denton C.M.G, together with some Hausa troops (mostly slaves who fled the North to South and were recruited by the British army) went to Ijebu kingdom to convince the Awujale to open the blockaded route and allow the free passage of goods into Lagos.
Breach of Agreement
However, this agreement did not last long. A white missionary was denied access to pass through the Ijebu kingdom and was sent back. The British government was provoked by the action of the Ijebus and authorized the use of force on their kingdom. Britain gathered troops from Gold Coast (Ghana), Sierra Leone, Ibadan, and Lagos (the Hausa troops nearly 150).
Colonel F.C. Scott C.B was the commander of the troops of 450 men gathered by Britain. On the 12th of May, 1892, the captain and his men, including some carriers, sailed up the Lagos Lagoon and landed at Ekpe. When they got to Leckie, another set of carriers (about 186 in numbers) were recruited.
On the Ijebu side, 8000 men with old rifles would be fighting the British. The British underestimated the fighting prowess of the Ijebus and this gave them a hard time penetrating into the interiors of the Ijebu kingdom.
Course of the Battle of Imagbon (British-Ijebu War)
On the first day, the British army razed down four villages with some of their men sustaining fatal injuries. The next day, they proceeded to Atumba and gunned down the Ijebus with machine guns. Britain lost 12 men, a Briton and 12 Africans. Every Ijebu villages they came across was burnt to the ground. The Ijebus were losing the battle but were determined to prevent the British army from crossing the Yemoyi river.
The goddess of the Yemoyi river was said to have taken human sacrifice in order to prevent the intruders (British) from crossing. The river was dug deeper to make it impenetrable by all means for the British army. However, the British army managed to cross the sacred Yemoyi river and unleashed havoc on the Ijebus. They proceeded to the village of Imagbon.
The Ijebus had lost over 900 men while Britain lost only 56 men and have about 30 wounded. The Ijebus were still determined to fight on but shortly afterwards, the Awujale surrendered and conceded defeat. The British union flag was later raised above Ijebu Ode.
Captain Scot warned his men against pillaging which some didn’t heed to especially the Ibadan irregulars who were later deprived of their arms. The toll gates in Oru built by the Ijebus were destroyed and some of their shrines were also torched.
This war is known in history as the Battle of Imagbon, British-Ijebu war and1892 Ijebu Expedition.
The British troops were awarded The East & West Africa Medal with Clasp dated ‘1892’. Today, one of these medals can be found in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Ijebu kingdom was later annexed to the colony of southern Nigeria.
Gbola Gboyega, (2019). Operation Danasungbo: An Account of British/Ijebu War of 1892.
Roddy Owen – A Memoir by Bovill and Askwith
Colonel Scott’s Report London Gazette No 26303 dated 1st July 1892
Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala, popularly known in Nigeria and across the globe as ‘Ajala the traveler ‘, was the man who toured the United States of America on a bicycle, and the world, on a motor scooter better known as Vespa.
From the ordinary son of a traditionalist, Ajala rose to a global celebrity and his name became a song sang on every lip. During his prime, Ajala was envied and praised by both the young and old for his courage, determination, and success.
Even in 1972, the Nigerian music wizard himself, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, immortalized Ajala and his adventures in a song included in his album titled ‘Board Members’. Obey sang thus: “Ajala travel all over the world (2ce), Ajala travel (2ce), Ajala travel all over the world.” Below is highlifextra’s detailed account of the life, career and death of the legendary and iconic Ajala the traveller.
Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala was born in Ghana into a Nigerian polygamous family of thirty. He was one out of the twenty-five children produced by his father and his four wives. Shortly after Ajala’s birth, his family moved down to Nigeria where he schooled in Baptist Academy, Lagos and Ibadan Boys’ High School.
At the age of 18, Ajala went to America to further his studies; he was admitted into the University of Chicago where he studied as a pre-medical student. His initial dream was to become a medical doctor and return to Nigeria to disparage the practice of voodoo and the people’s belief in superstitions but Ajala’s lifetime dream changed along the course of his life; he found something more interesting to him than donning lab coats and using stethoscope.
Ajala came into the spotlight in 1952 when he went on a lecture tour across the United States of America on a bicycle covering a total of 2,280 miles.
Throughout the lecture tour, Ajala dressed in the traditional attires of Nigeria one of which was described as “elaborately flowered robes with a felt-like head-dresses to match”. He did this in a bid to enhance the purpose of his lecture tour which was to educate Americans about the progress of his country, Nigeria, and Africa in general, and to enlighten them that contrary to the popular belief held in America, Africans don’t walk about naked or covered in leaves and loin clothes.
The news of Ajala’s bicycle tour spread across the United States of America like wildfire and quickly made it to the dailies and television.
Below is a text of how Ajala was described in Global Television Formats: Understanding Television Across Borders: “Perhaps even more significant for our discussion of the show’s global and local dynamics, however, was the participation of Nigerian contestant, Olabisi Ajala, a sophisticated world traveller and secretary to his country’s prime minister. Olabisi is an attractive and charismatic black man who held a degree in psychology from Columbia University and was an expert in ethnology, the subject he chose for Lascia o Raddoppia? Olabisi recurrently appeared on TV wearing traditional Nigerian clothes, and he managed to transform every night on the show into a celebration of his ethnic and cultural heritage. The final night however, Olabisi entered the TV studio wearing an impeccable tuxedo, while Mike wore the traditional Nigerian costume, demonstrating once more his ability to interact with his contestants’ most genuine aspects of identity, be it regional, Italian or foreign and Other.’’
Ajala’s fame also landed him big movie roles. After his bicycle tour across the United States of America, he got his first role (of $300 per week) in the movie White Witch Doctor produced by the popular 20th Century-Fox Motion Picture. He played the supporting role of Ola, a companion of Loni, a famous African hunter played by Robert Mitchum. Also in August, 1955, he signed a movie contract with the Eagle Lion Studios of Hollywood which involved making movies with European and African backgrounds.
The already famous Ajala the traveler did not limit his tour to the United States of America, he visited a total of 87 countries with his scooter in six years.
He visited countries such as Israel, India, Australia, Iran, Russia, Ghana, Cyprus, Egypt and so on where he met with some of the greatest leaders in the world such as: Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Jawarhalar Nehru of India, Niki Khrushchev of the USSR, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran, Ronald Reagan of America, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of Nigeria and many more.
Ajala the traveller was known as a man of many women. His marital life featured different women from different parts of the world. In 1953, a Chicago nurse named Myrtle Basset filed a paternity suit against Ajala for denying being the father of ‘their son’ which she claimed Ajala himself named Oladipupo and also signed his birth certificate.
Despite the lawsuit, Ajala held firmly to his ground denying being the father of the boy. Ajala proposed a DNA test but the nurse was reluctant at first and when she eventually agreed to surrender the baby for the test, Ajala disappeared into the thin air which made the court ruled against him. In March, 1953, a domestic court mandated Ajala to pay $10 per week for the upkeep of Oladipupo, also named André.
That year, things did not go down well for Ajala. In March, 1953, he was arrested on the charges of forgery, grand theft and worthless check by the police of Beverly Hills, California. Ajala pleaded not guilty to the charges, he claimed he was duped by one Arnold Weiner who was an ex-bank accountant. Arnold Weiner in turn defended himself, he admitted showing Ajala how to write cheques but claimed he didn’t dupe him.
However, Ajala was sentenced to one year jail term and later deported from America. His deportation was not solely because of the forgery charges levelled against him but also because he had failed to keep up with his studies at the Santa Monica Junior College, thus invalidating his visa. Ajala resisted deportation and protested because, according to American authorities, he feared tribal execution. The authorities said Ajala was scared of being killed by his father if he was deported back to Nigeria which led to his protest.
Ajala had climbed an 80-foot radio tower where he screamed that he would rather leap to his death than be deported. Ajala protested on the tower for about 24 hours turning deaf ears to the pleas of the immigration authorities. He eventually jumped down from a height of 15 feet but was lucky to only have sustained a sprained back. The authorities also said Ajala, after the tower protest, embarked on hunger strike which Ajala debunked. He claimed he was only observing the 30-day Ramadan fasting. However, Ajala was flown to London instead of Nigeria. He had previously requested to be flown to Canada but his request was turned down because Canada refused to approve his application.
By December 1954, Ajala returned to America with his wife, Hermine Aileen who later divorced him in August 1955 on the charges that he was being adulterous. In December, that same year, Ajala married a 19-year-old white London radio-Tv actress, Joan Simmons.
Ajala the traveler maintained his global celebrity status for a while but soon went out of the limelight though his name still kept ringing in the ears of people. He retired to Nigeria where he lived with some of his children.
Things turned worse for the Ajala in his latter years as he fell from the famous and rich world traveller to a common man struggling to met his ends somewhere in Lagos, a rented apartment in a two-storey building on Adeniran Street, Bariga to be precise.
When Ajala fell sick, he couldn’t get adequate medical care because he didn’t have enough money, and his swarm of children were not there for him, only two of his children lived with him and they are: Olaolu Ajala, a 20-year-old student of Baptist Academy, Lagos and Bolanle Ajala, his 17-year-old daughter.
It is sad to know that the once world famous Ajala the traveler died a poor man on the 2nd of February, 1999 at the General Hospital, Ikeja as a result of paralysis from stroke. However, he has found a place for his name in the history of Nigeria and the world.
Thanks for reading, highlifextra.com
Innovative Travels- The story of Ajala travel all over the world
Tunji, Bolaji. ‘Sad End of Olabisi Ajala.’, The Guardian, 20 February 1999, pages 8-9.
African Actor Jailed For Worthless Checks, Jet, 12 th March, 1953, page 46.
Abiyamo- The Untold Story of AJALA TRAVEL, Africa’s Most Legendary Traveller
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The Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, visited Nigeria for the first time on the 28th of January, 1956, four years to Nigeria’s independence and stayed for 20 days.
She was received with a military parade at the Ikeja Airport in Lagos and welcomed by dignitaries such as the then Governor-General, Sir James Robertson, his wife, the Minister of Labour (Festus Okotie-Eboh) and the Oba of Benin, Oba Akenzua II.
Nigerians, eager to see the Queen, stormed the streets of Lagos with banners and flags. Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were driven past the cheering crowds in an open car to the Municipal Boundary.
Queen Elizabeth II also met with the Oba of Lagos, Oba Adeniji-Adele II. Little Folashade Lawson, daughter of the Chairman of Lagos Town Council, presented Queen Elizabeth II a bouquet on her knees.
Before the Queen left on the 16th of February, 1956, she visited other parts of Nigeria such as Port Harcourt and Kaduna where she graced the Dubar festival.
The National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA) was founded in Accra, Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1920 by the educated elites from English-speaking West African colonies led by Joseph Casely Ephraim Hayford, a Ghanaian and Dr. Akinwande Savage from Nigeria. Other co-founders and early officials included Edward Francis Small, F. V. Nanka-Bruce, A. B. Quartey-Papafio, Henry van Hien, A. Sawyerr, Chief Oluwa and Kobina Sekyi.
The NCBWA’s first meeting was held at the Rogers (African) Club in Accra from 11th to 29th of March, 1920. It was attended by fifty-two delegates: forty-two from Gold Coast (Ghana), six from Nigeria, three from Sierra Leone and one delegate from The Gambia.
In 1921, the NCBWA sent a delegation to London to present a petition stating its demands to Lord Milner, the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The delegation, led by Chief Oluwa, included Mr. Herbert Macaulay, Mr. Egerton Shyngle, Dr. Akinwande Savage and Mr. Casely Haford, the president of the congress.
However, the journey to London was an exercise in futility. The members of the congress were accused of self-centeredness and were also said to have represented no one but the educated and elite class of their colonies. The colonial office also argued that West Africans were not yet ripe for representative institutions and it would amount to foolhardiness allowing them this.
Demands of The National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA)
One major demand of the NCBWA was granting elective principle in West Africa. They demanded that in the selection of representatives into the Legislative and Executive councils, the elective principle must be used.
Another demand is that improved educational and social facilities must be provided for West Africans and that at least, one University must be established in West Africa.
The NCBWA also demanded the establishment of a federal form of government for the four British West African colonies.
They also wanted African judges and magistrates to be appointed and a West African Court of Appeal be created as the highest court of appeal in the British West African sub-region.
They demanded the establishment of a legislative council in the four Anglophone West African colonies.
The Congress also demanded the judicial system to be independent of the Executive Council.
They demanded that African kingmakers should be granted the right to select, install and depose African chiefs.
The National Congress of British West Africa demanded that Africans be appointed to occupy high positions in the civil service and the judiciary
In 1929, Sir Hugh Clifford, when setting up the legislative council for Nigeria, made a recommendation for elective representation which was granted by the new Secretary of State of the colonies, Winston Churchill. Nigeria then became the first colony to adopt this elective principle in British West Africa.
It must be noted that when the elective principle was granted, only those earning £100 and above which as of then was a large amount of money, can vote.
However, the accusation of being self-centred spelt a big doom for the NCBWA as the congress became a shadow of itself after 1930, even though it met thrice after the London tour; its members met in 1924 (Freetown), in 1926 (Bathurst) and 1930 (Lagos). The National Congress for British West Africa achieved some of its aims before its demise.
Achievement of NCBWA
Through the efforts of the Congress, the elective principle was introduced in British West Africa.
It contributed to the establishment of a legislative council in each of the West African colonies.
It helped in creating more room for Africans in administering their own government.
NCBWA contributed to the political awareness in British West Africa by organizing conferences in Accra, Lagos, Freetown and Bathurst.
It helped in the establishment of political parties in British West African colonies, e.g, the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) formed by Herbert Macaulay in 1923
It helped in the establishment of higher institutions in West Africa, e.g. the Achimota College in Ghana, the Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone and Yaba College in Lagos, Nigeria.
Challenges or Problems of NCBWA
One of the major problems the National Congress of British West Africa faced was finance. Since the financial base was not too strong to shoulder these expenses, the Congress could not be as effective as it should have been.
The leadership of the Congress was isolated. One of the reasons was that the chiefs did not support them and their activities. Another reason is that they couldn’t convince non-members that NCBWA’s struggles would benefit them.
The Congress was faced with rivalry from similar groups in the colony, one of which was the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society. The society worked tirelessly against the success of the National Congress of British West Africa. For example, the Society indicated in a cable to a Secretary of State for the colonies that the Congress had not been given the mandate of the Gold Coasters to represent them in London.
The activities of the National Congress of British West Africa were a threat to the smooth administration of the colonial territories. Therefore the governors in the respective colonies in West Africa did everything they could to frustrate them.
Another problem of the National Congress of British West Africa was that they could not bring along the mass of the people to support them in their efforts.
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C. C Dibie; The Essential Government for Senior Secondary Schools; Feb. 2003, Tonad Publishers.
Eluwa, G. (1971). Background to the Emergence of the National Congress of British West Africa. African Studies Review,14(2), 205-218. doi:10.2307/523823
E. Ola Abiola. A Textbook of West African History; 3rd edition; Ado-Ekiti; Omolayo Standard Press & Bookshops co. (Nig.) Ltd., 1984
Olusanya, G. O. (1968-01-01). “The Lagos Branch of the National Congress of British West Africa”. Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria. 4 (2): 321–333. JSTOR 41856752