Celebrating Green Nigeria, and the achievements this nation has accomplished, cannot be mentioned without discussing the plight and challenges that once plagued this nation. Today we celebrate the strength of our leader’s passed, their endurance, love, vision, and sacrifice. But we forget that our history goes beyond the independence of this nation. Before the amalgamation, and forceful takeover of this country by the British government, The Nigerian people did not just watch their lands get taken from them. They didn’t fold their hands and let themselves be shackled by the Western powers. The men of old had to go to war with the British. The British however, were so advanced in weaponry, and numbers, that they continued to trample on our ancestors. Different communities such as the Ijebu tribe in 1982, the Aro tribe in 1901, and so many communities, stood their ground and fought for their lands. But one war stood out from the rest. This war was fought against the British government, and the Royal Niger Company, for thirty long years. This war was like nothing the British had ever seen, and some scholars believe that this war influenced other resistance against the British government all over Africa. This story is like no other. This is the story of the Ekumeku movement. The Anioma war.Celebratingl Niger company had infiltrated western Nigeria and had Lagos under its grasp. They conducted trade with other regions of the country, but they were still seen as traders, not as a superpower. But that changed after the Bellin Conference of 1884. The British now chose how to trade, who to trade with, and a court that their host was answerable to. This change was fast. The Royal Niger Company became more defined, and its role was without a doubt obvious. It wanted to milk the nation of all its natural resources. In time this superpower wanted to expand its domination into the western igbo which included Asaba and the Niger Delta known then as the “Oil Rivers. In their quest, they noticed that the East was blessed with palm oil, and they wanted these natural resources for themselves, and to enrich the crown. Then at the advent of industrialisation and invention, palm oil was liquid gold. In the 19th century, Palm Oil was useful for many industrial processes. It was used as an industrial lubricant in tin-plate production, street lighting, and as the fatty semi-solid for candles and also for the production of soap. They wanted this land for themselves and they devised a way. In 1888 and the following year, Asaba and Obosi were decimated and razed to the ground. In both strikes, the RNC (Royal Niger Company) had alleged that the eastern communities they attacked, were conducting human sacrifices. In other to curb these alleged “human sacrifices” the British soldiers killed and massacred villages, lived from the livestock of these villagers, and sexually assaulted their women. This oppression and savagery perpetrated by the British led to the rise of the Ekumeku movement.

The Ekumeku; meaning “don’t speak of it” was a secret society consisting of the “Otu Okorobia” which were igbo men from various villages ready to give their lives in defending their homes. The name of the society was given to the people due to the stealth and attack methods they used in fighting. What these men lacked in weaponry, they had immensely in skill, as seen in the guerrilla attacking style of combat they employed. The British continued with their status quo, and in 1870 and 1897, attacked Ndoni village and Onicha-Ado. This strike by the RNC was what broke the horse’s back, and resulted in an all-out war by the Ekumuku against the British government. The response to war by the Ekumeku was served in two waves: 1883-1902 when the locals first organized and fought back, and from 1904-1914 they fought off and on, regrouping and continuing in their fight for freedom. Due to this war, the decade-long riff between the Aniocha and Igbuzo tribes was settled, and they joined forces and fought together. Their numbers increased to hundreds and shook the RNC to its core. They fought killing many British soldiers. Their strikes were well coordinated and well carried out. But unfortunately, their war could not be won by spears and machetes alone. In December 1902, the British government carried out a preemptive strike that broke the organization and killed many. This strike was so brutal that it broke the treaty the organization had amongst itself. The British came with their numbers and ammunition, and they burnt down a series of villages in search of members of the Ekumeku organization. In other to save most of the villages, leaders of the organization gave themselves up to save their people, and were in prison. After that attack, the Ekumeku arose again, in 1904, but this time, they were divided. Instead of the coalition of warriors from every tribe, each village brought out Ekumeku warriors to fight for the village. This did not last, as they were easily defeated by the British. The final blow to the Ekumeku was the amalgamation of the northern and the southern protectorate by the British that made this nation one Nigeria.

 

Although these heroes of old lost the war, we remember their fight and struggle for freedom. They showed us how much strength we have when we are together, and how deep we can fall when divided. Their stories of bravery and their sacrifice give us a reason to fight for this nation just as they did for it. They might have lost in the end, but today scholars believe that the Anioma people and the Ekumeku movement influenced other African tribes to stand up. It is believed that the death of British commander H.C Chapman, who died due to attacks from the Ekumeku movement, inspired the 1952 Mau Mau Rebellion of Kenya. The ultimate outcome of the Ekumeku movement was not a victory against British colonialism, but it did succeed in preserving aspects of Igbo identity and heritage. Today, it stands as a historical example of resistance against colonial forces and the enduring significance of cultural preservation in the face of external pressures

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