Tuesday, 25 November 2014


1964. Thirteen year old Innocent Uzoma as Udom ( regent ) Eze Ukwu was the most important person in Oguta. He crowned the King and Iyasere of Oguta and removed their caps when they died. The caps were then deposited on the Agu Nze shrine

The people of Oguta - descendants of Ekenyi and Ameshi- were among the different groups that settled in Ado no Oba ( Idu an Oba) at a time when the territory ruled by the great Benin Obas was disturbed by civil wars. During the conflict between Gbunwala and Asije, the people migrated. The course of their migration exposed them to various experiences as they headed towards Illah on the bank of the Niger in an attempt to find a more healthy settlement. After years of difficult sojourn, they left Illah and moved to Inyi passing through Obocha and Akpanum.
At last they arrived Ogbanyi Iberu otherwise known as Obodo Akpuluekwe.

Some of the migrants detached themselves from others and founded a string of towns in their wake, the main party was replenished by other ethnic groups who joined them at Osse Aomori and other places. In the process the Benin culture of the migrants became mixed with the various other ethnic groups among whom they lived with temporarily. Today certain traditions and words of Benin origin have survived. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


The four pictures above are of the same piece of work "Queen Elizabeth II " by the famous painter and sculpter Ben Enwonwu (1956)

The first picture is of the day in 1956 it was unveiled in The London Tate Gallery.

The second picture is of it's showing with great fan fare, outside the House of Representatives in Nigeria of the same year, which remained its home for the next four decades. 

The third and fourth pictures are of it's new home.

I was given these picture anonymously with details of where it is located, which I will leave nameless....for now. With a few calls I have verified it's authenticity.

Ben Enwonwu, was the leading light in Nigeria's rich aggregation of artists. He sculpted this piece of art in 1956. 
With this accomplishment, he had "arrived" but in 50s England a black man from Africa sculpting a British Queen didn't go down well with everybody and it was received with mixed feelings.  
Subsequently, its commissioning received little attention from the British press. The Times of London wrote only five lines about this pioneering feat, but regardless of the controversy, it still received the royal stamp of approval !!

In his time Ben Enwonwu was associated with excellence, prestige, and was a pioneer in every sense of the word. The Enwonwu crater on the planet Mercury was named in his honour. 
So why on Gods good earth is this globally (even galaxally :) ) celebrated artist's most famous breakthrough so disrespected in Nigeria? 

Now I have to ask, how did we get like this? At what point did we have total disregard for everything to do with our culture, traditions and history, even, to the point of the subject being withdrawn from the traditional curriculm in schools? Why?!

We all need to accept responsibility for this. We as a nation have a bad track record in maintaing our history and as people we have little or no maintenance culture. 

The sad thing is Nigeria possesses some of the brightest, most creative erudite minds. 
Minds, that have the capacity to design, build and invent, but we have fallen short of long term plans to consistently keep them in good shape. Plans to let future generations appreciate what has come before.

It's not just this piece of art it's other works, sites and documents of historical significance, these items tell stories of events from our past and have captured and encapsulated both our cultural history and human emotions.
They serve as time capsules, heavy with information from the moment they were created brimming with historical significance. It is of the upmost importance to preserve and maintain pieces of art, sites, documents, images for future generations. 
As Marcus Garvey once said "A people without the knowledge of their history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots". So, we must endeavour to maintain our heritage to inform the future.

Cultural heritage should be based on the aspects of our past that we cherish, want to keep and pass on to future generations and the outside world. 

Today efforts to preserve cultural heritage has gained new momentum throughout the world. Nigeria is still trying to catch up. I still have hope, because protectin our heritage should be an essential part of our national identity. While cultural heritage preservation has not yet become firmly rooted in the Nigerian consciousness, a great number of people and organisations see cultural resources as critical to the nation’s economic development in areas such as tourism. We need to do more!

Ironically, Ben Enwonwu also expressed dissatisfaction of our preservation culture in Nigeria, most especially his own 14ft bronze sculpture of Sango, the Yoruba god of thunder, and conditions it was kept. Little did he know another famed pieced would eventually be used as a makeshift bed abandoned in a "warehouse".

I believe he will be rolling in his grave with where one of his greatest achievements calls home. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


I'd like to take this opportunity to invite you all to the 1st Nigerian Cultural Trade Show on Thursday, 2nd October 2014 at the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos (Time:10 am to 10 pm ) 

Hosted by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany Lagos, 
Goethe Institut Lagos, Nigeria and Nigeria-German Business Association

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Agbegijo Masqueraders 1964

The Egungun masqueraders are known as one of the most awe inspiring and fearful cult groups of Yorubaland. The Egun are a group of people who are specially trained to communicate with the dead, and this particular ability makes them the mediators between the ancestors of the clan and the living. 
An Egungun festival, therefore, is a very serious occasion and the big masquerades impersonate the spirit of the dead, who are believed to reside in them while the dance is on. These masquerades are considered sacrosanct and it is absolutely forbidden to touch them. The young boys who surround them are there to protect the onlookers from the charged and dangerous touch of the masquerades.

These pictures are of a special group of Egun whose purpose it is, is to entertain. These Egun are called Agbegijo (we take wood to dance) These pictures were taken in 1964 by Ulli Beier in Oshogbo. The Agbegijo here came from three different compounds. Every male child born into one of these compounds were to join the society and dance under a mask - but when the child grows up he may choose any profession he likes and may or may not participate in the Egun dance again.

Their names of the masquerades are as follows 
Picture 1: Obo The Baboon

Picture 2: Enimuoru- the man with pot nose

Picture 3: Elenu Robo - the man with small mouth

Picture 4:Idahomey - The Dahomean warrior

Picture5: Asewo - The Prostitute

Picture 6 : Omuti - The Drunkard

Picture 7: Even the "European dancers"

Explorer and environmentalist Newton Jibunoh

A picture from Newton Jibunohs first adventure 
" I had the opportunity of meeting and speaking with the press in Accara, Ghana. I showed some of my trophies which included the head of an animal which I killed when it tried to attack me in the Oasis along the Sahara, the stove with with I made my meals with and some sand and stones from the desert" 1966

Dr. Newton Chukwukadibia Jibunoh b. January 1 1938 Just after his University education in the  60s and at a time when the entire world was undergoing great socio- political and cultural changes; Newton Jibunoh sought out challenges in which to make his own contributions towards creating a better world. He chose the rare and daring challenge of a solo expenditure of driving across the Sahara desert in 1966. Predictably, this became a life-changing experience and the inspiration for his now internationally-remarkable achievements in expedition and environmental matters

Thirty-three years later in 1999, Dr. Newton Jibunoh decided on his second Sahara desert expedition; this time travelling in the reverse direction from Nigeria to Europe. The motivation behind this second desert expedition was to bring to the world's attention the plight of the millions of people in Africa affected by the fast-encroaching Sahara desert. After his second Sahara expedition, Dr. Jibunoh founded FADE-Fight Against Desert Encroachment, an international Non-Governmental Organisation. NGO accredited to the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development.

In 2008 at 70, Jibunoh embarked on his third and final trip across the world’s largest desert. The objective of the 60 day expedition was  to raise awareness on the effects of desertification on desert dwellers, global warming and climate change. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Initiation Into Agbalanze Society 1964

One of the highest rungs in Onitsha traditional society ladder is attained through the acquisition of the Ozo title. Ozo is an expensive title whose premier function is to confer on its recipient the priesthood of the ancestral cult. Apart from this primary objective, Ozo elevates one from the status of commoner to that of an aristocrat, making him a member of an exclusive club - the, Agbalanze.

Ozo starts off with Ikpa mmuo a solemn, sacred rite which gradually broadens out into mmacha, a lively secular function. To qualify for initiation, a candidate must have performed the ceremony of inyedo mmuo. The ceremony involves the consecration by the okpala, chief priest if the candidates family, of ikenga, chi, ofo, and okposi, carved emblems of ikenga ( the candidates god of fortune) chi ( his personal god, somewhat like the guardian angel of the Christian religion), ofo ( his god of righteousness), and his ancestral spirits . 
Consecrated, the carvings become the place where these spirits will repose in the candidates house. The acquisition of the ndi mmuo, as they are collectively known. Is an essential; for it is at their alter that the final ordination rites are performed.
It is here, too, that the candidate will, after his ordination, make annually a sacrifice of a goat to the spirits.

The candidate next causes a series of peace offerings ( igo mmuo) to make on his behalf by the senior priests of his paternal and maternal families. These offerings serve to notify the spiritual elements of his intention to be initiated and to invite their blessings. The offerings are followed by the payment of the initiation fee which runs as high as £700 (1964)
This amount is shared by member of the Agbalanze Society within the extended family ( preferably his own) through which he chooses to attain membership in the society. This feature of Ozo title taking gives membership in the Agbalanze an added attraction. For as long as men aspire after the title within the extended family lineage through which the candidate attains his ambition, there is the chance of recovering all his initiation expenses and more. Besides, it offers him a measure of security in his old age.

Usually the ordination to priesthood takes place on the day the initiation fee is paid. All the Agbalanze  in the extended family assemble at the home of the chief priest of the candidates family for the ceremony which is presided over by all  the chief priests in his extended family. 
Transferring his osisi ( staff of office) to his left hand, each chief priest takes a kola nut in his right hand and they pray simultaneously. After prayers, each breaks his kola nut and offers the candidate a piece. The remaining pieces are pooled together and distributed among all present. Next, each chief priest invites the candidate to a drink. This is followed by prayers for the members of his family, then others disperse.

The Agbalanze retire with the candidate to his house where the ordination, ( ikpa mmuo or isi mmanya) is conducted. Immediately the ordination is over. The novitiate, now designated an mkpalo performs his first first religious service, that of pouring a libation of corn beer to his ikenga, chi, ofo and ancestral spirits. Next, a goat is sacrificed in thanksgiving. 

When he has attained this level, a novitiate could pause for as long as is necessary for him to find the money to carry through the next and final stage. Until then he is entitled to preside at ceremonial functions within his family and extended family, but only when delegated to do so by the chief priest. Normally it is customary to allow one week between the attainment of the mkpalo stage and the next stage, the mmacha.

The ozo dance, the climax of the mmacha, the social side of the initiation, generally takes place on an oye weekday. Before it, the novitiate secures the services of his relations since it involves plenty of work. He then invites every ozo title holder who is in town to dance. On the eve of the day of the dance, able bodied Agbalanze throughout the town arrive at the novitiate residence. After the have been presented with kola nuts, then a meal is served.
After dinner, the candidate dressed in white attire and the Agbalanze from his extended family retire to the nze shrine where the ceremony of iwalu ozo ( acquiring ozo ) is performed.  Towards the end the candidate is rubbed all over with white chalk, a symbol of purity.

To be continued.....

Nigeria Magazine 1964

Picture 1: The Agbalanze novitiate, Ezo Ozo, receiving the ozo staves from his family chief priest who had earlier covered him all over with chalk, stuck eagles feathers in his hair and presented him with a trumpet.

Picture 2: The novitiates wife arrives dancing for the embrace. She and her husband dance towards the Ozo staff held horizontally and separating them. The bar is lifted high above their heads to let them embrace but the wife turns away at the last moment sending the novitiate rocking with later as seen in PICTURE 3....his seconds pleads with her and make her some presents on his behalf . Eventually they embrace. 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Chief Bennett Osita Umunna

Nigerian business man, politician and father of Chuka Umunna (tipped to be the first black Prime Minister of the UK) he became a director of Crystal Palace in the late eighties after investing £50,000 in the club and then the chairman of Rangers International (Nigeria). 

In the 90s Mr Umunna declared his intentions to run for governor of Anambra state. Sadly he was killed in a car accident soon after declaring his gubernatorial ambitions.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Walter Richard Samuel Miller (1872 to 1952)

Walter Richard Samuel Miller
1872 to 1952
Anglican (C.M.S.) 
England/ Nigeria 

Dr. Walter Miller, a pioneer medical and education missionary.
He worked in Nigeria for over forty eight years and was a close friend of Lord Lugard. At the time this picture was taken, he was living in retirement near Bukuru Nigeria. (Nigeria Magazine 1950)

His obituary in the Times of 1952 describes him as the "the apostle of (sic) the Hausa." Indeed he was. One of the Hausa, apparently a Muslim, in an anonymous biography of Dr. Miller written in Hausa, eulogizes him thus:

Likita Mila yana son Hausawa da Fulani fiye da misali. Idan da za a kirga irin aikin da ya yi na taimako dai dai da dai dai da kowa ya yi mamaki […] Idan akwai Turawan day a kamata a tuna da su saboda aikin cid a da kasan nan tamu gaba, idan akwai wanda ya isa godiya ga dubbai, idan akwai wnada ya kamata a rubuta tarihinsa da rubutun dutse, ko da kumfan zinari, Likita Mila yana daya daga chin wadannan.
Meaning: "Dr. Miller loved the Hausa and the Fulani very much. If his humanitarian services were to be counted one by one, they would all be surprised. If there are Europeans to be remembered for their contributions to the development of our land, if there are any to be thanked and their biographies written in gold, then Dr. Miller must be one of them." 

Walter Richard Samuel Miller was the only son out of the eight children born to his parents. At his birth in 1872, his mother, who had been looking forward to having a son, decided to name him Samuel and dedicated him to the service of the Lord, thus following in the footsteps of Hannah in the Bible. Young Samuel was converted at the age of fourteen at a children's special service mission held at Clifton College. 

As he was growing up, Samuel nurtured the thought of working in the colonial bureaucracy in India although his father wanted him to go into business. He ended up, however, in medical school--St. Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School being the obvious choice for him. While attending one of the camp meetings at Keswick, Miller considered becoming a missionary doctor after listening to Mrs. Bird Bishop tell stories of the needs she saw during her travels in Tibet. He filled out the declaration form from the Student Volunteer Missionary Union (a part of the Student Christian Movement) to register his intentions of becoming a missionary. He had considered northern Nigeria as a possible option to begin his missionary career and had in fact spent three months in Egypt studying Arabic in preparation for such a venture but Hausa--not Arabic--had captured his attention. Nevertheless, an appeal from Canon--later Bishop--Taylor Smith, a missionary to Sierra Leone, to assist in the growing medical needs in Freetown took him to Sierra Leone instead of northern Nigeria in 1897. However, Miller did not stay long in Freetown as a bout of malaria sent him home not long after his arrival there. 

Nigeria continued to be an attraction for Miller. In England he assembled a team of likeminded people that included Bishop Herbert Tugwell, E. A. Richardson, Claud Dudley Ryder, and Richard Burgin, and they began to make preparations to visit northern Nigeria. But before setting out they were sent to Tripoli, Libya, for further Hausa language training. In Tripoli Miller met Abdul Majid Tafida, a lad from Kastina in northern Nigeria who had accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The lad's father had died in the Sahara desert en route to the Holy Land but the lad, undeterred, had continued on, wanting to complete the religious obligation. Miller helped him reach Mecca and promised he would see him again in Egypt upon his return. But by the time Abdul Majid got back from Mecca, Miller had returned to England on his way to Nigeria. 

The party of five young men left Liverpool in 1899 and arrived in Lagos around Christmas that same year. Their goal was to get to the city of Kano, famous among the Hausa but little known to Europeans. A year earlier Canon Robinson had visited Kano and learned quite a bit of Hausa-enough to write out its grammar--but he had also, as Miller noted, "experienced almost unbelievable difficulties." [1] Apart from doing missionary work Miller was commissioned by the British and Foreign Bible Society to translate the Bible into Hausa. 

In January the party began its journey on horseback and on foot from Lagos to Kano--a distance of about 800 miles. Finally after three months of a long and toiling journey the missionaries got to Kano through Zaria, another Hausa town south of Kano. 

In Kano the party received a cold reception from Emir Aliyu the Great who refused to grant any of their requests. The emir told them, "Start a school? No. We have our own and our children are taught the Holy Kur'an. Medical work? No. Our medicine is in the Holy Kur'an and the name of Allah! We don't want you; you can go. I give you three days to prepare--a hundred donkeys to carry your loads back to Zaria, and we never wish to see here again." Miller and his companions would have been killed but for the intervention of the Waziri (Prime Minister) who refused to allow any harm to be done to them. 

The emir of Zaria was equally reluctant to allow them to settle in his domain. As they wondered where to go, as they did not intend to return to Lagos, they got a letter from Colonel Lowry Cole who was "in charge of a military expedition to take over the Hausa country" [2] asking them to move southward from Zaria to a military camp in Girku where they could be given protection until an agreement could be reached with the emir of Zaria. 

While waiting for further instructions in Girku, Claude Ryder died of dysentery followed by E. A. Richardson three days later. Then came the bad news: all the British soldiers had to go to Ghana to fight in the Ashanti-British war. With the soldiers gone, The missionaries lost their protection. The Emir of Zaria Kwasau ordered some "highwaymen" to destroy the temporary mission station. One early morning as Miller recalled, "All our huts were on fire; our stores, my medical instruments and drugs all burning; our sleeping hut and little grass church alone remaining." [3]Afterward Governor Lord Lugard ordered the missionaries to leave Girku and move southward to Loko, on the Benue River, where two other missionaries recently recruited for the Hausa mission, Rev. G. P. Bargery, and Hans Vischer, met them. 

Meanwhile, Bishop Tugwell had returned to his diocese in Lagos and Miller, sick with malaria, went back to England along with Burgin, the fifth member of the original party. Thus ended the first attempt to begin mission work among the Hausa. Only Bargery and Vischer remained in Loko. 

In England Miller made contact with Abdul Majid, the lad he had met in Tripoli who was staying with some missionaries in Egypt. Arrangements were made for Abdul Majid to meet Miller in England. The two returned to Nigeria in 1901 but when they got to Loko, only Bargery was there; Vischer had left to attend his father's funeral in Switzerland. 

Meanwhile, the situation in Zaria was now favorable to mission work as the colonial soldiers had saved Zaria from attack by a notorious slave trader named Nagwamachi, the emir of Kontagora also known as the "King of the Sudan." [4] This endeared the British to the emir of Zaria and, as an act of gratitude, he invited Miller and his colleagues to Zaria. Miller and Bargery arrived in 1902. 

The emir gave Miller a place to build a mission compound. Having settled down, Miller began translating the Bible and started his medical work. Nevertheless when he realized that the people did not trust his medicine he decided that the better option was to open a school. This initiative did, indeed, prove more successful as the emir and some of his courtiers sent their children to the school. Miller kept a dispensary open, however, as a way of gradually gaining the people's confidence in the white man's medicine. 

The school began as a boys' school but later girls were admitted. To help the girls, missionary ladies were recruited, one of whom was Miller's sister Ethel who would later gain a reputation for unguarded attacks on Islam. News of Miller's school in Zaria spread throughout northern Nigeria and the new students were recruited from beyond Zaria even as far away as the Plateau, Kabba, and Niger provinces. 

The mission compound expanded rapidly but this growth created tension between the mission and its hosts. The situation worsened with the arrival of children of Hausa converts who had already heard about Isa (Jesus) through a fiery Qur'anic teacher, Ibrahim. Ibrahim had taught that Isa was superior to Mohammed and had begun to revere Isa above the Prophet. Before being impaled in the market square in Kano for refusing to recant his teaching, he had asked his followers to flee Kano to neighboring Hausa cities to await preachers from the West who would tell them more about Isa. Some of Ibrahim's disciples (called Isawa or "the followers of Isa") met Miller in Zaria in 1913 and told him their stories.[5] The Isawa children soon formed the majority of the students in Miller's school in the city. The growth of the Christian population in the city required more space but the emir would not allow further expansion except outside the city. 

Miller also became engrossed in the politics of the emirate because he saw that Zaria suffered under the rule of their oppressive emir named Aliyu. This involvement endeared Miller in the hearts of the ordinary Hausa who came to him at night to tell him about atrocities committed by the emir. Miller began to send reports of his abusive regime to the colonial Resident [6] of Zaria Province, Captain Abadie, also known to the Hausa of Zaria as Mai Jimina ("the owner of an ostrich"). As a result, Emir Aliyu was dethroned in 1921 and sent into exile. As the new emir feared Miller and did not want him in the city, in 1929 the mission was moved to a nearby site about two miles outside the city and given the name Wusasa. 

Discouraged at losing his friends in the city, Miller moved to Kano to continue his translation of the Bible into Hausa. He finished it in 1932 and it was published by the British and Foreign Bible Society that same year. Since then, the Miller Hausa Bible has been of immense help in evangelism among the Hausa in northern Nigeria. The first four indigenous missionaries to the Hausa sent by the Sudan Interior Mission--all of them from the Tangale ethnic group--considered the Miller Hausa Bible their most significant tool for evangelism. 

Miller's work in Kano became less exciting at that point. He was much more involved in the local church than in any meaningful evangelistic work among Hausa Muslims. After finishing his Bible translation work, Miller became a bit idle and decided to return to England for good. 

But England had changed and definitely had nothing to offer Miller, now in his sixties. He resigned from the Church Missionary Society in 1935 and returned to Nigeria where he eventually settled in Bukuru, a tin mining city south of Jos in the Plateau Province. There he devoted himself to writing projects--one of which was his own biography--and to teaching Hausa as he was now considered an indisputable authority in the language. 

At that time Miller was, as he put it, the "oldest remaining European resident in Nigeria." He died on August 27, 1952 at the age of 80 and was buried in St. Piran's cemetery in Jos. Certainly E. A. Ayandele is right to have called Miller "the best known white man in Northern Nigeria." Miller devoted the best part of his life to Nigeria where he labored for fifty-five years--perhaps the longest a white missionary has ever served in that country. 

Miller never married due to what he called his puritanical background, but adopted African children. The best known of Miller's adopted children were Abdul Majid Tafida (Miller) whom he had met in Egypt and the Rev. Henry Miller, a redeemed slave from Chad. The Majid Tafida family became the first Christian family in Katina Province. One of Henry's daughters, Mrs. Maude Akanya, was the first woman in northern Nigeria to be appointed a commissioner. Dr. Miller is survived by many grandchildren and great-grand children.

This article was written by Dr. Musa A. B. Gaiya, Senior Lecturer in Church History at the University of Jos Department of Religious Studies, Jos

Picture: My copy Nigeria Magazine 1950


This statue of Emotan is located in Oba Market road, opposite the Oba market, Benin City. Emotan was a market woman who traded in Oba Market during the reign of Oba Uwafiokun in the fifteen century. During Uwafiokun's reign, Prince Ogun (the exiled heir apparent). paid secret visits to Benin and on many of these visits Emotan would warn the Prince to stay away from certain chiefs who were secretly working for his brother and on a few occasions Emotan actually hid Prince Ogun from his adversaries at great risk to herself. 

When Prince Ogun eventually regained the throne as Oba Ewuare, he showed much appreciation to this remarkable woman and when Emotan died,  Ewuare commanded that she should be buried at the spot were she sold her goods at Oba Market . 

A sacred tree "Uruhe" was planted in her honour.

During the reign of  Oba Osemwende {1816AD-1848AD} the commemorative tree fell and another Uruhe tree was replanted on the same spot. That tree fell again in the 1950s. 


A lasting monument, a statue, made by JA Danfordd, the western regional Director of the British Council, was erected on March 11, 1954 by the Benin Divisional council and unveiled by Oba Akenzuwa on March 20, 1954.

Picture taken in the 1960s

A Nigerian Icon: Tai Solarin (20 August 1922 – 27 June 1994)

Augustus Taiwo "Tai" Solarin was a Nigerian educator and author. He established the famous Mayflower School, Ikenne, Ogun State in 1956. In 1952, Solarin became the principal of Molusi College, Ijebu Igbo, a post he held till 1956 when he became the proprietor and principal of Mayflower School.

"...By the time he graduated from Wesley, Ibadan, in 1936 and finished his five year teaching appointment with Rev. Mellaw, he decided to enlist in the Royal Air Force and leave the country in 1942, when the war in Europe was still raging, Solarin trained as a pilot with the RAF in Canada between 1942 and 1944 ( he could take a plane into the air but could not land it and so did not make his commission)" After he was discharged from the RAF he decided to study in Manchester University in 1946 and the University of London in 1949 where he obtained his bachelors and masters degrees respectively. It was in Manchester (1947) he met his future wife Sheila and they married in 1951. - NewsWatch Nov 1985


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji (19 May 1964 – 12 August 1989)

Today is the 25th anniversary of the death of Nigerian football player Samuel Okwaraji. He died while playing for Nigeria in the 1990 Fifa World Cup qualifying against Angola at the National Stadium in Lagos.

Even though he was also a qualified lawyer with an LLM in international law, his football career was what brought him to great prominence. He had a career in Europe which included playing for NK Dinamo Zagreb, VfB Stuttgart and SSV Ulm 1846. 

He made his debut for Nigeria against Algeria at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu in a Seoul 1988 Olympic qualifier.
He also played a key role at the 1988 African Cup of Nations in Morocco, where he scored the fastest goal of the tournament against Cameroon in the group stages. He represented Nigeria in Seoul in the same year, before his last outing against Angola on August 12, 1989 in Lagos. During which he collapsed ten minutes from the end of the World Cup Qualifier against Angola in Lagos and died from congestive heart failure.

Paul Hamilton, who was then part of the coaching setup, explained how Okwaraji broke into the Nigerian squad as a foreign-based player-cum-student.

"We had gone for a playing tour of Germany and the then Nigeria Football Association (NFA) chairman, retired Group Captain John Obakpolor paid us a visit at our training ground. He spoke to (Manfred) Hoener (then Nigeria's head coach) and myself alone. He told us of a young Nigerian student who was schooling and playing football in Germany.

"The student turned out to be Samuel Okwaraji and immediately he was invited to join the camp. Okwaraji impressed me in his first training session and that was how he got invited for the preparation for the Maroc '88 Africa Cup of Nations,".
"He was always among the first to report to camp before our matches. And you cannot miss his hard work and that impressed the coaches and that was how he made the team to Morocco. It was painful that he died just when he started his career. I still remember his goal at Maroc '88 from outside the box against Cameroon. It was a fantastic goal from a fantastic player. That was the kind of memory he left with many of us who knew him".

Monday, 11 August 2014

A Bini's View By Edun Akenzua (Great grand son of Oba Ovonramwen).Nigeria Magazine June 1960

January 4th1897, is a day no Bini  will ever forget. It was the day tragedy struck our country, the day we lost our independence, the day that saw the end of what had once been one of the greatest African Kingdoms. It was the day that James Phillips and six other Englishmen were murdered by Bini warriors.

When it is remembered that for many centuries Benin had maintained good relations with European countries, it may seem strange that these Englishmen were murdered. Too often, this murder is dismissed as " just another" typical act of wickedness by the Bini's, who in the nineteenth century, were gaining a notorious reputation at the hands of the missionaries and representatives of the British Government . But this has not always been so, as anyone who reads the accounts of earlier travellers to our country can see.

Dr Olgert Dapper, whose account of travels along the the West Coast of Africa was published in 1688 said that " the Bini's are all decent people, surpassing all the Negros of the Coast in everything, living peacefully together under good laws and justice , and show great respect to the Dutch and other foreigners visiting the Coast for commerce and also to each other.They are not much given to stealing nor are they drunkards...."

Less than a century later , Jean Barbot wrote, in his description of the Coast of North and South Guinea, published in 1732:" ....Europeans are so much honoured and respected at Benin that the natives gave  them an emphatic name or title of .....children of gods "

At the end of the eighteenth century, Captain Hugh Crow wrote: " .... I was much pleased with the gentle manners of the natives of Benin, who are truly a fine tractable race of people"

Why then did this hostility show it's ugly face in the nineteenth century? Why, too, did such traditionally friendly people murder white men they had once liked? Was it the fault of the Binis, the fault of the Phillips group, or did the Europeans perhaps over tap the friendliness and hospitality of the Binis! 

When my grandfather, King Ovonramwen, succeeded to the throne of Benin, it was apparent that the relationship between the British and Binis was being badly strained. In 1862, Sir Richard Burton,  who was Consul at Fernando Po, a missionary friend, visited Benin. He attempted to dissuade Ovonramwen's father, King Adolo, from making human sacrifices to propitiate his gods. Although the two, in Burton's own words, were " most hospitably " received, it was obvious that Adolo would rather have lost the friendship of the Europeans than incur the wrath of gods on whom the welfare, not only of himself, but also of the whole of his people seemed to depended. Naturally, he found it difficult to regard those men who decried his gods as friends.

The practise of human sacrifice was indeed reprehensible, but because it was so much a part of the religion of old Benin, it could not be so easily dismissed as Burton and his friend would have liked. They attacked too, the practice of slavery . But this also would have been very difficult for Binis to understand . After all, for years had not one of their main points of contact with the Europeans been over traffic in slaves? When suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the Europeans turned around to attack them for a practice which not so long ago, they had encouraged and actually taken part in, the Bini man was naturally bewildered.

To understand the Bini Massacre in 1897, one must appreciate the very great lack if understanding between the British and Binis that existed in those days. On the one hand you had a people, steeped in customs and traditions which were, by English standards, admittedly horrible; on the other, you had the British self righteous and utterly confident that all their values were the right ones, to the point of never seeing that the people they were trying to convert, had reason, however misguided, for their traditions and practices.

Phillips,too, was shocked by the appalling state of affairs in Benin and he did not waste time  in trying to rectify things. Perhaps if he had, he might have lived.

Early in the year 1897, he decided to visit Ovonramwen to try once more to persuade him to stop the terrible customs. At that time in Benin, the Ague Festival was being held. During this festival the King was neither to see nor be seen by non Binis. This was a custom that existed among other African peoples and it was of utmost importance to Benin for it marked the time for rededication of loyalty by the Binis to their King. Unfortunately, Phillips ignorantly chose this, of all times to insist on seeing the King. He may have been ignorant of the customs of the people, but he was altogether tactless.

It must be stressed here that in those days, Binis were, almost to the point of fanaticism, devoted to their gods although those gods were insatiable in their lust for human blood. The Ague Festival itself was a time for extensive human sacrifice. But however wicked this may have seemed to the outside world, it was a great religious festival for Binis of those days. Thus, when Ovonramwen received a message from Phillips to say that he and a party of white men were on their way to see him, he was placed in the most difficult position. He would not violate his deepest religious belief by seeing them , so he sent a message to them to say that they would have to wait a month before he could receive them.

But Phillips did not wait for a reply to the message he had sent from Ughoton ( Gwatto) and he and his party continued to Benin. He was met on the way by Ovonramwen's messengers, headed by Ologbosere.

Phillips and Ologbosere met after the former had covered about twenty four miles on his trek to Benin. Ologbosere, who is believed to have been nursing hatred for all Europeans since they started "intruding" on his peoples tradition, made up his mind that Phillips should not see the King. 
Ologbosere was a brave warrior who loved tradition but he was also rash. He hated to think of a further breach in custom were the King to give audience to Phillips party.

Although Ologbosere definitely ordered Phillips to turn back, it was a sad oversight that he failed to try to explain toPhillips why the King would not see him. It is generally believed , too, that if Phillips had been made to understand our peoples custom, perhaps, he would have respected it and returned. But as things were, he thought it was madness to trek back the twenty four miles, as it seemed ,for no just reason. He refused to retreat.

Thus, we in Benin believe today that our Empire was destroyed through a simple misunderstanding between European and African.

On the other hand Ologbosere, angered by the Englishmans " obstinacy" was bent on upholding tradition at all cost and he ordered his men to attack the Englishmen. Thus , of the nine Englishmen who set off to see the King, only two escaped. Phillips fell with the other six.

When Ovonramwen heard of the massacre, he knew at once that trouble would soon come to Benin. Thus, human sacrifices were intensified in the slender hope that the gods would ward off the danger that seemed imminent. This would help to explain the really lurid accounts of the human sacrifices witnessed  ( and characteristically exaggerated ) by Ling Roth, surgeon to the punitive expedition, in his book Great Benin.

Within six weeks of the massacre, what Ovonramwen feared, happened. A punitive expedition of 1,500 men was sent to Benin. In fact, this was another and greater massacre. An army, armed with rifles, revolvers and cannons was set against warriors , at best , equipped with dane guns and more generally fighting with spears. The Binis were soon conquered.

But this did not satisfy the British . The city was burnt down.
Many people believe today that the British decided to burn down the town as an " appropriate finale" to the punishment for the people who murdered their sons in cold blood. I am sure the British had their reason for this. What ever their reason, that should have been punishment enough. But they carried away all our works of art as well, and today we have to buy them back at extortionate prices from the descendants of those who took them. If the British had been so intent on showing us a better way of life, they could, at least , have given us a better example than to remove our treasures and fire our city. 

With the safty of the nation in view. Ovonramwen was advised to flee. Reluctantly, he agreed and sought asylum in the court of Ezomo, one of his senior chiefs. Ologbosere escaped to the bush. But it was the King the British wanted. After threats by the British, six months later, Ovonramwen was betrayed by some of his chiefs.

His trial on September 1 1897 in the Consular Court House was most pathetic . 
It was a sad demonstration of the ignorance of Ovonramwen and his court. Although he was found not guilty of the murder of Phillips, he was told he could never rule unless he undertook never to deal in slaves and to abolish human sacrifices.  Moreover, he would have to accompany the British on a study tour of Calabar, Yorubaland and Lagos, where good government had been established.

Better they had killed or exiled him than suggest this to a King, whose predecessors never left the Palace, a King, who was deluded into the belief that by Gods own decree he should never leave his own domain. His courtiers told him that it was another device of the British to exile him and that he should go into hiding. They thought the British would grow tired of waiting for him and then would go, after which he could return to the throne unmolested.

Ovonramwen adhered to that advice, childish as it was, and his so that when the British wanted him again, he was nowhere to be found. It did not take a long time for him to be discovered and he was deported at once.
That was a terrible fate for a King who was considered devine, who had been one of the mightiest Kings of Africa. As he left for Calabar, he lamented:

Benin, O Benin. Merciless and wicked.
I go forth on the errand on which thou sent me
The Godsof my fathers will judge thee and me.
In the end it seems that Ovonramwen was more bitter with his own people than with the British. Indeed, it is popularly believed today that Ovonramwen felt that it was some ambitious Bini Chiefs who deliberately betrayed him. 

It should be recalled that shortly before this " palaver" , there was a sharp misunderstanding emanating from political differences in Benin. It seemed that some of the Chiefs were jealous of, disliked and sought to crush the monarchical system, which, traditionally, was hereditary. It is natural that in a land such as Benin where the institution of hereditary monarchy is as old as time. Such open rebellion against the crown had to be quenched with all haste. In a raid that followed, many of the supporters of the Chiefs were executed for treason. Those that escaped were left in silence to plan their next move - sabotage.
It is feasible to conjecture therefore that those trying months during which Ovonramwenwas being tried and finally deported, was most probably the time for which the saboteurs were waiting. In fact, just before the execution of the deportation order, it is recorded in history that one Chief Iyase actually ordered his followers to build a pseudo palace for him in an area lying north west of Benin . He became a "tin god" and sought to seize absolute power. However, the British did not intend that the vaccine created after the deportation of the peoples King should be followed by civil war and bloodshed. After all, enough blood had been shed already in Benin City. They intervened , and , for the meantime, made the power seeking Chief the Regent. After consultations either the people of Benin and on discovering they stuck firmly to their traditional system of monarchy, which was the pride of all Edos and the glory of Benin throughout the ages, as my grandfather, Aiguobasimwin, succeeded his father Ovonramwen and became King as Eweka .

But Binis today tend to attribute the cause of the ruin of thier Empire and it's utter destruction by the British, not only to the rashness and tactless of Ologbosere , who was captured and executed by the British 2 years later, but also to the impetuousness and foolhardiness of the Englishman, James Phillips. Otherwise, Benin might have survived, and probably she might even gave converted from her old ways in peace and understanding like so many other African peoples.

Thus, one can see that there were apparently two sides to that bloody business that robbed Benin of her sovereignty and formed a bitter and remarkable epoch in the Benin History. One was the deportation of a King; the other, the ruin of an Empire. It is not an unpopular belief that Ovonramwen might not have been deported if not for the evil machinations of an ambitious Chief and his radical supporters.


Gloria Okon (1950 -1985)

Gloria Okon was a Lady who was arrested in 1985 by the National Security Organization (NSO) at the Aminu Kano International airport, Nigeria on suspicion of drug smuggling. Soon after, the NSO alleged that she had died in custody, the government subsequently constituted a commission of inquiry to investigate the matter.

Conspiracy theorists allege that Gloria Okon was a drug mule working for the wife of General Ibrahim Babangida .The theory goes on that Babangida spirited Okon out of detention to the United Kingdom and sold the public the ruse of a dead Gloria Okon.

Some have said the late journalist Dele Giwa uncovered this and that is why he was killed.

Nigerian Athletics in the early 20th Century

In the early part of the 20th century, the best athletic performances were to be found at the Nigerian Regiment Sports held annually in Kaduna. The Battalion sports, prior to the Kaduna Meeting, provided an athletic leaven throughout the country at centres such as the ones in Ibadan, Kano and Calabar. These meets produced some exceptionally talented runners like Amadu Panshin of the 4th Battalion (mile and 10 miles cross country) 

But it was in the early 1930s that saw the dawn of athletics in Nigeria, especially school athletics. In 1931, the Aionian group of schools in the Western Provinces started its own competition, followed, in 1933 by the inauguration of the Grier Cup Competition also in the West. The Fisher Shield in the East completed the regional cycle of inter school athletic competitions which was rounded off by the HusseySheild competition between teams representing the schools in the North and South of Nigeria.

The Aionian Shield and Grier Cup Competition went from strength to strength: but the Fisher Shield and Hussey Shield Competitions, after reaching a Zenith in 1939 lapsed during the War. No doubt, this period produced some outstanding athletes such as G. A Garrick who created the Nigerian High Jump record in 1938, H. J Ekperigin whose record in Long jump in 1937 was not eclipsed until 1947, Shehu Kafin Madaki's (Shot) , J.K Oye and S Okoro who both dazzled spectators in the pole vault competitions.

The people behind the scenes who did so much to promote Nigerian athletics must not be forgotten. Some of these names  Hussey, Grier, Urling -Smith and Fischer were perpetuated in the titles of the competitions ; but there were many others, Mr E.J.H. Bowler who made the magnificent laterite track at Kano for the 1934 Hussey Shield and Mr J. B Gott who undertook the task of collecting and training Northern teams. Behind these two hovered the effervescent spirit of the inimitable Jerry Cornes, one of England's greatest runners. Mr C. T Quinn Young toiled almost single handed to bring prominence to the sport in the East and In the West Mr A.H Clift,  Mr A.J Carpenter and Mr Frank Smith work so hard for the sport.

During WW2, The Grier Cup Competition alone managed to keep going. Many of the Army Units held meeting in various parts of the country.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Lost Child

The BBC will air a documentary on the life of Lady Sara Forbes Bonetta

The documentary will be looking back to the mid-19th century to uncover a remarkable and unique tale that has remained in the footnotes of history. It is the story of Sara Forbes Bonetta, a young girl rescued from a life of slavery in West Africa (Nigeria), brought to England and taken under the wing of Queen Victoria, who raised Sara as her god-daughter within the British middle class. 

She became a celebrity in England and was admired by many for her intelligence, social skills and musical talents, this film charts the happiness and heartbreak in this extraordinary woman’s life and examines how she became part of the changing debate about slavery, race, identity and empire. 

The Lost Child will air on Saturday, 24 May at 11:10 and 23:10 as well as on Sunday, 25 May at 17:10 on BBC World News, channel 400 on DStv.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Lailo Dance 1950s

The dance from Abeokuta, known as Lailo, is specially performed to honour an intrepid hunter who, in Yoruba mythology, is a symbol of strength and prowess. 1950s

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Baro Station 1916.

Baro, town and river port, Niger State, west central Nigeria, on the Niger River. Originally a small village of the Nupe people, it was selected by the British as Nigeria’s link between rail and river transport; its solid bank—rare along the Lower Niger—could be used for loading river craft with Northern Nigeria’s cotton crop. 

Although the 350-mile (565-km) Baro–Kano railway was completed in 1911, it was shortly eclipsed in importance by a railroad built farther north, and the Baro–Kano line is no longer in use. 

Most of the town’s local trade is in sorghum, yams, rice, millet, fish, palm oil, shea nuts, peanuts (groundnuts), and cotton. Swamp rice is cultivated commercially both by farmers in the vicinity and at the government’s irrigated rice projects at Loguma and Badeggi.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

A Street Photographer, Lagos 1949

Nigerian Postman. Lagos 1939

Juvenile justice in Nigeria 1948

Nigeria’s system of juvenile justice, is modeled after the British system, it was established in 1914, although it has been modified in various locations to accommodate local customs. Juvenile offenders are legally defined as those aged 7 to 17, and they are subject to the authority of the juvenile court.

1948 - Here are a few pictures demonstrating some of the processes a juvenile will go through before his appearance in court

1.  Young boy arriving at the remand home.

The inspector who is charge of the "Special Children's Police Branch" hands over the remanded boy to the warden of the remand home, together with the remand warrant signed by the magistrate. During the time the boy resides in the home, the warden will study his manner and will report on him to the Probation Officer who is preparing a comprehensive report for the court.  

2 Cooking and grinding

The boys carrying out, under supervision, all the domestic duties of the remand home. The kitchen is a popular place to work in for obvious reasons. 


3 Schooling at the remand home

Since the boys only stay in the remand home for a few weeks, the aim is  to occupy them and improve them as much as possible in the time . Their day is taken up with domestic duties, gardening, schooling and leisure time recreation

4 The Magistrates of the Juvenile court

When a youth is brought before a Juvenile Court. The proceedings do not take place in public. The environment is informal so the child may talk freely without fear. There is no dock or witness box. The Chairman always sits with two lay Magistrates, a man and a woman. They are specially selected because of their knowledge of local conditions and interest in the welfare of children.

(Sitting beside the Chairman is Mrs Agbaje and A. Kudeyinbu II, Chief Bajulaiye)

Nigerian Magazine 

Nigeria and WW2

During the Second World War some 375,000 men and women from African countries served in the Allied forces. They took part in campaigns in the Middle East, North Africa and East Africa, Italy and the Far East.
Men of the 81st and 82nd West African Divisions served with great distinction against the Japanese in Burma, as part of the famous ‘Forgotten’ 14th Army. The 81st was composed of units from the Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast (now Ghana), while the 82nd comprised further reinforcements from Nigeria and the Gold Coast. Both Divisions formed part of the RWAFF (Royal West African Frontier Force).

Here some aspects of military life (official and  informal ) on the men of the Nigeria Regiment.

1. A Hausa sergeant having a shave by a civilian barber. 

2.  An old soldier of past wars. His medals include those of the Ashanti war, the 1914-1918 war and the life saving medal of the Royal Humane Society

3.  A group of lorry drivers

4.  A sergeant receiving treatment from an Army dentist.

5. An Army cook