Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Amalgamation Day January 1,1914

Modern-day Nigeria came into being on January 1, 1914, with the formal amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of the former British colony. Therefore January 1, 2014, will mark 100 years of the union.Here is a picture of "The Amalgamation day" celebrations on the 1st of January 1914

Friday, 27 December 2013

Julius Berger (1862- 1943)

Berger was the founder of the eponymous International Construction firm.
He was a German-Jew who started out in the Transport business and later established Julius Berger Civil Engineering AG in 1905.
It became a major contractor carrying out the construction of roads, drainage systems and railways in the eastern Prussian provinces and also in Turkey, Iran, Romania and Egypt.
In 1942 he and his wife were thrown in a Concentration camp where they died of hunger and exhaustion.
The company was revived after World War II. In 1965 it secured its first job in Nigeria- The construction of Eko Bridge.
It has since become one of Nigeria's leading construction companies securing major projects such as Tin Can Island Port, Ajaokuta Steel Plant,The 3rd Mainland Bridge, Abuja Stadium and Abuja International Airport.
It is currently Nigeria's largest private employer with 18,000 staff. Thank you Bimbola Babarinde
Picture 1 & 2 Julius Berger
Picture 3 Julius Berger in 1925 together with members of his staff at the Teliv Tunnel construction site in Romania

Monday, 23 December 2013

Oloku 1950

The principal god worshipped in the town of Okuku is Oloku. This god was brought by the ancestors of Okuku from Ile-Ife and his priest is called Aworo.
The yearly festival of the god takes place when the first yams are ready, towards the end of May or the beginning of June.
The Aworo then goes to his farm and brings back a yam which he divides into four pieces and places on the shrine of Okuku.
The Aworo and the chief of Okuku, the Olokuku, Cook and eat pounded yam, after which the people of the town start to use their own yams and their is a general celebration.

It is said that the Aworo lights a fire in the market as a sign of rejoicing, but the Olokuku scatters the burning sticks. The Aworo then challenges the Olokuku to a wrestling match which, however, must always end with the Olokuku throwing the Aworo. This is taken as a sign for renewed rejoicing and thanksgiving that Oloku has spared their lives for another year.

The position of Aworo Oloku belongs to one family. When an Aworo dies he is succeeded by his eldest son, whether a child or a grown man.
The Aworo does not cut his hair. It is normally plaited. As also often do priests of Sango, the god of thunder.

The Aworo Oloku in this picture became the Aworo at about 6 years old, at the time of the picture he was about 16.

The name Okuku means the " survivors of the dead". After leaving Ife their ancestors went to  Ara, but on the death of the Chief his younger son was chosen as his successor instead of the eldest who left Ara in anger taking the god Oluku with him. After much wondering he settled in a place called Itokin. This town increased and prospered until the Ijesha Ararat war about 1760 when it was attacked by the Ijeshas and destroyed. After sometime a few people crept out of the ruins and we're advised through the system of divination called Ifa to leave. When they reached the present site of Okuku they were advised by Ifa to stop and to take the name of Okuku. - Nigeria Magazine 1950

Bonny - Nigeria Magazine 1958

It is not so long, in years at least since Bonny was one of the most important ports on the West Coast. Less than 100 years; and that is little enough time for a thriving community to fall into obscurity. 

As a landfall, it is still important. Great ships, larger by far than those known in the heyday of Bonny trade, still seek the entrance to the Bonny river among the shores  and sandbanks of the Niger Delta. But now they steam past the town, following the channel that will take them to Port Harcourt, the thriving, new centre that has taken Bonny's trade.
Every commercial coastline shows examples of upstream ports that have gone out of use because ships have grown larger and deep water berths have become necessary. Bonny shows the reverse of the picture, for port harcourt lies inland up some thirty miles of tricky winding waterways. The cause of Bonny's decline is the same as the cause of her earlier success: there is no land communication inland. The early eighteenth century (and earlier) traders needed local help to ferry goods through the Delta labyrinth  to the only place where ocean going ships could lie in safety on what is, for most of the year, a dangerous lee shore. Now, the dredging of the channel to a new, hard-ground commercial centre gas left Bonny without even the smallest share of the growing Nigerian trade.

Founded in the fifteenth century, the early west African trade transformed Bonny from a mixture of small groups of people into a powerful island state, rich in a degree comparable only with Calabar. Her military an economic position, together with the political influence that followed, gave to the town virtual control  of the trade of the whole Delta.

Behind the growth of Bonny lay the age old demand for slaves and the new and growing demand for Palm oil. Both these commodities the men of Bonny were anxious to supply or act as the middle men for suppliers further inland. Bonny was bred and sustained by this  trade, the gateway to her prosperity and the key to her glory.

Yet that same trade caused her undoing. Apart from the growth of new ports. ( Port harcourt in the 1920s, but Lagos and Forcades came much earlier), internal dissentions hurried on degeneration that, commercially could barely be foreseen. Successfully trade nurtured ambition and jealousies which did as much as anything to bring  about the downfall of the town. Twenty critical years was enough to cover the change.

In looks, mid - twentieth century ( as seen in the pictures) has changed little from the town of 1856 described by the Reverend Hope Waddell as " a semblance of mean houses, without order....with winding foot tracks for streets and huge iguanas, four or five feet long, sacred and used for juju"

Winding foot tracks still represent streets ( As of the time this article was written in 1958) few modern houses have risen beside old fashioned and "mean" ones whose roofs of corrugated sheets are brown with age and rust. Not only are the iguanas no longer sacred, they have disappeared .

Christianity, within a hundred years, has wiped out traditional religion, the hub of traditional life . In a way this is regrettable, for most of the cultural institutions  evolved by that strange mixture of tribes have gone with it. To her resounding victory, Christianity built along the weedy Marina  fronting the Bonny River, a monument  - a small cathedral hanging with chandeliers. The cathedral is a worthy tribute to Rev. Adjai Crowther, the first Christian missionary to Bonny in 1864

Bonny eventually did retrieve some significant relics from the ruins of her past glory.Kingship founded, it is said in 1450 by Ashimini. It was slowly waning. Until  the Eastern House of Chiefs  forced Bonny to fill a long vacant throne and kingship assumed importance once again. 

Bonny it is said, was founded by Alagbariye who, with a handful of followers, formed the nucleus of the present day town.Local tradition traces the origin through the Ijaw tribe to Benin. It gives his occupation as hunting and the name of his settlement as Okolo-Ama( land of curlew) Igbo immigrants christened her Ibani or a Ubani ( after a patriarch of the founders ) a name which was later anglicised to Bonny. 

Immigrants and slaves from the hinterland swelled Okolo - Ama. As she expanded her pattern of traditional life gradually evolved . She remained a fishing town until immigrants began to settle. Their arrival paved the way between Bonny and the hinterland ; this was the first rung on the ladder of progress. With trade, developed the "House" system, which later became a pronounced feature of Bonny organisation. It was a system in which identical interests and economic necessities rather than kinship bound the people into units know as "Houses". Each "house", consisting of a master, his family and other dependants , was a unit for cooperative trade and local government. Each graded its members into rank which carried with them duties and responsibilities , privileges and rewards.

By 1700 she was exchanging elephant tusks, pepper oil and slaves for copper rods, fish and European goods. Some of her people rose to factors and brokers for Europeans, mostly Netherlanders, and for their own countrymen.

The demand for slaves to work on American plantations and in mines plunged Bonny into the human traffic. Her thickly populated hinterland proved a never failing source of slaves. By 1790 Bonny had become Africa's biggest slave market, exporting annually a minimum of 20,000 slaves of whom 16,000 were Igbo.By now the "house" system had fully grown . It became a strong institution, for many of the "houses" had amassed wealth and their masters became powerful. Such names as Jumbo, Banigo, Stowe, Allaputa and Green became prominent. Royalty accorded them recognition as chiefs, thus adding to their status and authority.

These chief exercised absolute powers of life a death. They showed much  brutality in the course of everyday life. Their actions were, apparently to avoid and stem revolts among their thousand Bondmen and domestic slaves and the maintenance of a peaceful atmosphere for the success of the "house" and it's commercial ventures. Traditional religion aimed at preserving this life but the fears it engendered were at the root of their lust for torture and bloodshed. . They approved of sacrifices which they sincerely believed to promote the well being of their state. No sacrifice was too great. Thus, in the fifteenth century , Princess Osunju was sacrificed for supply of water and Princess Ogbolo was offered to the Bonny river god. Indirectly it justified the sacrifices of commoners for the welfare of the " house".

Each "house" built up an army from its stock of bondmen and slaves for its defence against rival "houses" . The need to fight a common foe - The Kalabari , for example, who proved a threat to their power by quickly recuperating and thriving  after each conquest - united under the Amanyanabo (King). At such times, large trading canoes  sixty feet long and seven wide, rowed by sixteen to twenty paddlers, and capable of carrying a hundred and forty persons, we're mounted with brass and iron cannon of large calibre and converted into war canoes .With these, Bonny commanded the waterways to the hinterland, defended herself, and terrified stubborn people to subjection.

By 1830 Bonny was exporting  " as much slaves as all the rest of Africa put together" or, as Dr Madden put it, " more than three quarters of the whole African supply". In 1839 and 1841 Bonny signed treaties which guaranteed for her a payment of 2,000 dollars and 10,000 dollars respectively in return for the end of slave trade. In order, therefore, to avoid the economic bump which loomed large in the path of the slave trade and in order to maintain her lead in the trade business, she quickly switched over and, in a few years, built herself a reputation far greater than that she had made in human trafficking.

By 1846, Bonny had become the centre of the palm oil trade in the Niger Delta area. annual shipment reached 15,000 tons. She did such roaring business that King Pepple's income from shipping dues and other sources was estimated, in 1853 £15,000-20,000 annually. At the commencement of the oil season in 1854, Bee-croft estimated at £500,000 sterling the value of ships and cargo in the river Bonny. Two years later, twenty six vessels on the rivers Bonny and abandoning formed an aggregate of 13,216 tons. Those were Bonny's best years - years that  witnessed her glory. Her efficient political , military and economic organisation and her observance of the treaties of 1850 , 1854 and the twelve articles added to them by the Bonny Court of Equity in 1856 contributed greatly towards her success in the last lap of her progress.

The attainment of her climax was quickly followed by a change of fortune. The deportation of Pepple in 1854 marked the beginning of her decline. The Pepple's were ambitious. In their bid to gain ascendancy over the surrounding towns and concentrate all trade in Bonny, each had plunged the state into wars . Yet each Peppel had managed to command the support of his chiefs by confining his ambition within the orbit of the States constitution .

Then came King William Dapa Pepple. When at 20 he ascended the throne in 1837, he brought his intelligence to play on his accepted policy of  his predecessors. Within seventeen years he had succeeded in piloting the state to success and glory, making a name for himself and accumulating wealth. His chiefs noticed a deterioration  in his government. It was as though the fulfillment of his ambition had brought out certain inherent tendencies which, once released, set the fateful course that led to Bonny's downfall. It was known that he had no regard for the state and her protectorates. He made no attempt  to conceal this. On the contrary, he snapped the cordial relations between him and his chiefs  and treated Bonny and her allies as slaves.

Chief W.I Allaputa in 1958

This oppression and tyranny led his chiefs to revolt against him in 1853. The resultant dispute was detrimental  to Bonny and British trade; yet, Peppel would not be controlled by the state's constitutions . In 1854 his chiefs decided to have him as King no longer . Realising his life was in danger, he fled, under Consul Beecroft's protection, to Fernando Po.

His successor, Dapu, had a very short reign and the years that followed his death saw the prevalence of anarchy  due  to jealousy between the  "houses" of the four regents who formed the quartumvirate.

From March 1858 the town of Bonny was in open warfare. Some super -cargoes and principal chiefs requested the reinstatement  of Pepple . The preferred a despot rule to the insubordination which caused an estimated loss of some 2,000 puncheons of oil annually.

Their request was not granted and the state continued in confusion. Law and order deserted Bonny. Criminals increased in number and misfortune haunted the town. In 1862 Bonny was burned by rival "houses" . That same year an epidemic of yellow fever spread in Bonny, killing in less than four months more than half the 290 European residents.

Then came the final act of the drama. Out of the confusion arose Oko Jumbo who, by 1879, had become the most powerful chief in Bonny, having 7,000- 8,000 armed men . In 1869 he engaged Jaja, a rich and powerful slave of  the "house" of Pepple in a civil war. It lasted till 1870 when Jaja fled and founded Opobo, from where he applied the strangle hold on Bonny. Jaja blocked Bonny's trade routes to the hinterland for three years and succeeded in diverting trade and attention to Opobo where trade conditions were more favourable.This blockade, the growth of direct trade between Europeans and the hinterland and, later the development of Port harcourt wrote " FINISH" across Bonny's prosperity, her fame and power .
Canon and gun carriages lie around Bonny Town. They belong to the various houses of the town
St Clements at the Marina

St Stephens 1958
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Saturday, 7 December 2013

How Mbazulike Amaechi hid Mandela from the apartheid regime in Nigeria

ONE of the few surviving nationalists and former Minister of Aviation in the first republic, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi has revealed how he hid the foremost South African nationalist and former president of South Africa, Chief Nelson Mandela for six months in Nigeria to evade his arrest by officials of the apartheid regime in that country.
Amaechi, who spoke with Vanguard at his Ukpor country home in Nnewi South local government area of Anambra State said people like Mandela are great assets to humanity and should not have gone through the pains of life.
The former minister, popularly known as ‘the boy is good’, said it was a privilege to him being asked to live with Mandela when he ran away from the apartheid regime and came to Nigeria in 1963, adding that they shared great moments during the six months plus Mandela lived in his house.
According to Amaechi, even when Mandela returned to South Africa and was sentenced to life imprisonment, he still wrote him letters from prison, showing how appreciative he was.
The interview with Amaechi on Mandela went thus:
PRESENTLY, the foremost South African nationalist, Nelson Mandela, is sick and in the hospital. We want to know if you had any relationship with him in the past or an encounter?
Yes, he was the leader of the Africa National Congress, ANC. He led the group that struggled for democracy in South Africa. That was the time of the apartheid regime in South Africa and when the British government was desperately looking for him to imprison him; he ran away from South Africa and took refuge in Nigeria.  That was when the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the President of Nigeria and late Dr. Michael Okpara the Premier of the Eastern Region.
When Mandela came to Nigeria, Zik as the leader of the nationalist group in Nigeria in consultation with Okpara decided that they should find a nationalist of Mandela’s caliber who would accommodate him. So they called on me to take Mandela and accommodate him.
At that time, I was the parliamentary secretary and also a member of the parliament before I became a minister. He moved in to my house and stayed for about six or more months with me and my wife. I was then newly married while he was in his early 40’s or so.
We used to go out together and both the British intelligence and the South African intelligence services knew that he was with me, but there was nothing they could do about it because I was in government. Then, after sometime, during our discussions, he said: “My stay here, how long will it last? “I think I better return to South Africa. They will either kill me or send me to prison and it will spur the other nationalists remaining to continue with the struggle.
So, after about six or seven months in my house, he decided to move back to South Africa. When he went back, he was promptly arrested, charged and sentenced to life imprisonment. He went to prison, but the nationalism in him did not depart from him.
He continued doing his best for some of his colleagues. He wrote me a letter from prison asking me to find employment for one Dr. Barange. Barange’s father was a lawyer who defended the nationalists in a previous case, while Barange himself was a geologist. The apartheid people in South Africa were seriously looking for him and so Mandela wanted him to get out of South Africa. I was able to get a job for Dr. Barange at the University of Ife as a senior lecturer in Geology.
Mandella wrote me from prison. In fact when you called that you were coming, I went to my office to search for this letter. This is the letter he wrote me from the prison on the 18th of February, 1964, he signed the letter as Nelson Mandela, prisoner No 116570/63.
Then during his 74th birthday, he was still in prison, I joined his family to send him goodwill messages.
When he came out from prison, I wrote him too. When he came to Nigeria after his release, he specifically requested to see me and Dr. Azikiwe. So, when he came to Enugu, the then governor, Col. Robert Akonobi, because we were in military rule then, wrote me to say Mandela wanted to see me. I honoured the invitation and I went to Enugu with my wife to see him. He was in the company of his former wife, Winnie. We shared some time together before he went back to South Africa.
After that visit in 1993, have you been communicating with him?
Yes, my last letter to him was on 18th November, 1993.
Since the last letter, have two of you been communicating?
No. We have not spoken to each other again. When he was appointed the President of South Africa, I was invited to his inauguration ceremony, but the military here did not allow me to go. They said I needed clearance to go and I did not get it.- Vanguard

Sule Baki: Retired interpreter for the United Africa Company Ltd Zaria. 1950

"I don't know when I was born. It's a long time ago. About eighty years, I think. But I still remember the days of my childhood at Kontagora.
My father was called Amadu - People only had one name in those days - and he had four wives. But they didn't see much of him, because he was a trader and used to travel about the country. He bought Ivory and took it to the white traders at Eggan. We had never seen white traders before.
First, I learned to farm and also to read the Koran. But when I was about twenty I went to Lokoja to work for the Royal Niger Company. They had two steamers the "Liberty" and the "Empire" Although I started as a labourer on the "Liberty" I worked up to quartermaster and finally became bosun.
I was on the steamer for many years. Carrying palm products to Akassa and Forcados. I remember when the bush was cleared to make Burutu, and I saw many other new trading stations opened on the river. Sometimes we went up the Benue for Ivory, gum and gutta.
One day both the "Liberty" and "Empire" were sent to Forcados. We found many people waiting for us. Each steamer took eighty four of them on board, and we brought them to Lokoja. They were the first Government people to come to Nigeria.
By now I had a wife and two children. I was going to take them home but the Niger Company asked me to go with my family to Keffi. I used to take the pay from there to the tin miners at Naraguta.
Next I helped to open Jos. We had to cut trees and grass, and build mud and stone houses. After, I worked in a bank in Jos for a long time. In 1919 I was sent to Kano canteen to be a salesman, and a few years later the agent made me his interpreter.
Then 1929 came. This was an important year for me. The United Africa Company was formed, and I began to work for the general manager of the Zaria area, Mr F.G.C. Wallach. I was his interpreter and I told him many things about Africa. He called me his adviser on African Affairs. That was a fine title, wasn't it?
I was proud that the company found my experience useful. My work was very interesting too. I went on doing it till 1942, then the company gave me my pension.
Now I have plenty of time to look back on those happy years". Nigeria Magazine 1950

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Nelson Mandela 1918 - 2013

Nelson Mandela in Nigeria

After his release from prison Nelson Mandela travelled to many countries in Africa and abroad to thank those who had supported the ANC during the years of struggle and to implore them to continue to pressurize for democratic transformation in South Africa. Here, Nelson Mandela gives a salute as he disembarks a Nigerian jet during his state visit to Nigeria.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Save Us From Extinction-Abuja Artists Lament

Source: Daily Trust, By Sunday Michael Ogwu.

Pre-colonial Nigerian arts were predominantly made for important ceremonial occasions most of which were connected with births, puberty, marriage and rites of passage (death), nonetheless many of Nigeria's great works of the past adorn the world's major museums where they enjoy a place of honour among other master pieces.The artist was required to provide appropriate artworks for such occasions and thus provided motivation for artistic creation, these works have become part of the sum total of mankind's cultural heritage.Nigeria became renowned for Art works such as the bold and imaginative Nok terra cottas, described as the oldest sculptures in Africa South of the Sahara, the bronze and terra cotta heads of lfe which represent a naturalism comparable to that of classical Greek sculpture, the famous heads, figurines and plaques from the foundries of the ancient city of Benin and the lgbo-Ukwu bronzes.Nigerian art has however come of age having evolved from experimentation with diverse materials and techniques which have produced unique art forms which are now tailored towards the personal and material benefit of tourists, collectors and other consumers.No wonder Lilian Bulle Fagg, Historian of Yoruba and Nigerian art and pioneer in the systematic study of African art recognized Nigeria's pre-eminence in African art and observes that "in Nigeria alone can we discern the mainstream of artistic development through two millennia and more... it is to Nigeria that all the African nations must look as the principal trustee of the more durable fruits of the Negro artistic genius."The seemingly huge reputation of Nigeria in the world of art has been bankrolled largely by tourist and foreign art collectors as the averaged Nigerian attitude to a beautiful art piece remains mere admiration without any meaningful financial commitment.When Sunday Trust visited the makeshift art village located along the airport road in life camp, Jabi Abuja, it was a testament of tribulations as these naturally gifted group wait in nostalgia for the faith that awaits them with the declining patronage from foreigners or tourist on account of the non provision of an art market in the country's capital that will strategically position for tourist and Nigerians alike to patronise.The art village comprises of about 30 to 40 exhibitors specializing in different forms of art from painting to sculpture, art furniture, ceramics, clay works, artefact and art history beautifully adapted to contemporary human needs like center tables, television stands, console frames, garden chair, wine rag wall frames space fillers, flower pots, kitchen chair to mention but a few.George Usen Henry a regular customer of the art village and a chattered artist by profession who was approached by our reporter said: "everyone's' attention has drifted towards music and we have relegated these form of art largely because we don't see them as often, rather we see more of the digital forms and other forms of arts like a new car, watch or computer aided designs."One interesting thing that caught the eye of most visitors was the sale of Nigerian old currencies including the silver jubilee medal of Nigeria's independence, Eunice Chinyere Augustine who deals on this interesting piece of history said, " We sell this old currency to customers to enable them teach their children about our history and culture, and it's a must have for every home if you ask me."Although the space currently occupied by the exhibitors is said to belong to an individual, Sunday Trust observed that the make shift pavilion have been marked for demolition by the Development Control unit of the Federal Capital Development Administration (FCDA) supposedly for not conforming with the master plan of the FCT.This development has forced some of the exhibitors to close shop while others were said to have abandoned this rear talent to take up paltry paying jobs as sales boys/girls in supermarkets, security attendant in private residents and fine arts teachers in private schools around AbujaOur reporter also scooped that he art village has been privileged to host customers like the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala which unfortunately has not translated into any form of deliberate infrastructural provision as witnessed in other climes.Lawrence Akinsheye Ilori one of the exhibitors summed up their frustration when he said, " Most of our customers are the rich and foreigners but this location is not where a foreigner can easily access because there is no security presence and is not strategic at all so except for hearsay or passersby, we would have all gone into extinction."The few Foreigners who through adventure or exploration of our land mark have identified these art village have also cut down drastically on their purchase, this according to Taiwo Jimoh who specializes in art furniture is due to the frustrating customs requirements to export our art work. Some of the tourists told us that when they get to the airport, they are told to get some approval from our museums and the amount required for such approval is even far much more than the cost of the art pieces."Augustine Odeh, a consultant said: "Art is a massive foreign exchange earner for countries like Italy, Kenya, South Africa and Greece, but we cannot get there if we do not add values to what we have. The masterpiece produced by these "art hawkers" will only attract true monetary value if they are structurally grounded and that is the secret of successful artist like Nike Lee, 27/7 in Oshogbo and Pablo Picassoart works are better with the amount of time spent on a piece as well as the quality of material input, so the question is who will commit so much into a piece knowing fully well that the next minute they will be chased out of their location by the FCDA or even asked to quit by the original land owner should he want to develop his property?"