Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Andoma and Keana

The Osana of Keana, Otaki Agbo II
About 25 miles north of the Benue River lies Keana. Keana is well known for its valuable salt pits. 

Keana Salt Works 1950s

This provided (mainly) the women of Keana an industry.

The Chief Of Salt Works (with the Staff of Authority in her hand) with her assistant  

Women at work

It is also one of the two major towns in which the Arago are concentrated, the other being Doma, situated some ten miles west of Lafia. 

It is said that the Arago settled with the Jukun at Kwararafa from where they migrated to Damagudu, then to Oturkpo and finally Idah. There, disputes over succession to the throne of Idah forced them to return via Makurdi under their Chief, the Andoma, from whom the settlement they eventually founded (about 1232 A.D.) derived its name, of Doma.

The Andoma had a younger brother named Keana whom he appointed Barde, war chief, of Doma and whom he sent to investigate the story told by hunters of salt pits some four days march from the capital.

Keana found the salt pits. The salt he discovered, was so good and the chances of making himself rich, so great that he decided not to go back despite his brothers orders to come home . 
He built himself a town by the salt pits and called it Keana.

Angered by his brothers insubordination, the Andoma marched against Keana. 

One version of the story says that when the time came to give battle his soldiers refused to fight against their kith and kin. The Andoma then cursed them all, calling them aragogo, a soubriquet by which the tribe is now known

Another version of the same story says the Andoma did not attempt to fight. All he did was try to destroy the source of his brothers pride. Aragogo, this version says, is a corruption of ilagogo (our speech shall be different) which the Andoma proclaimed after his men had trampled the salt workings into the mud.
The Andoma's next action was to try and shut up the spring. An iron cap was made with which he covered the salt spring. But having omitted, in his hurry, to offer the necessary sacrifices, the salt water burst the cap. The Andoma accepted this as an omen of the wrath of his gods and returned to Doma. 

OKWE Masqueraders

In order to ward off the dissension which he feared he had caused among the tribe, Keana sent the Andoma the first two sacks of salt from the pits. 

In return the Andoma sent him a royal gown and installed him chief of Keana.

Theses picture are from 1964. They depict the production of salt as was done by Keana women over the generations.

The land adjoining each salt spring was divided into plots, some twenty feet by five feet. And we're shared amongst Keana born women in the town.

Each women would collect salt water from the spring and sprinkle it on her piece of land. When the water dried up, it blistered the surface of the land into a whitish appearance. This blistered surface was then scraped off and placed in clay receptacles, then more spring water would be poured into that. The water gradually filtered through holes in the bottom of the receptacles into earthenware bowls. 

The water collected in the bowls was then boiled and after it evaporated only crystals of salt remained. Finally the scrapings were replaced on the surface of the land and the whole process was repeated for more salt.

This seasonal industry was only productive during the dry months of the year. The rainy season would cause the pits to flood and the women would return back to town.

In the past, after the rains, the men would clear the pits using calabashes and pots but as of the time these pictures were taken and onwards hand pumps were used.

Till this day the tradition of sending two bags to the Andoma is continued. This is really not as an act of homage, for the Keana does not acknowledge Domas supremacy, but in accordance with traditional custom, which seeks to re enact the settlement of a dispute between two brothers.

The Andoma (wearing cap) is saluted by two Domas

The IWAGU Masqueraders

An Arago at Doma Performing on the Ajingo

Photo Source: Nigeria Magazine 1964 and 1953

Trivia: The First Nigerian National Anthem.

A world wide competition was held for a poem for Nigeria's National anthem. The winner of the competition was Miss J. L Williams ( A British official of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Welfare) who won £100. She donated her prize money to the Nigerian Red Cross

There was also a competition for the music to the anthems words. Entries were received from as far field as British Guiana, Malta, Canada and Australia. The winning entry was from Miss Frances Benda of London. Her Prize was £1000.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Woman in Owo 1963

The Northern and Southern Cameroons in British Nigeria

The Chief Commissioner's Residence, Buea

Head Gardener At Commissioners Residence

Add caption

Empire Day At Victoria - No smiles

National Ideal Hotel - Seeing Is Believing

The Northern and Southern Cameroons

Chief Commissioner's Residence, Buea

During the "Scramble for Africa" (c1885) the area of present-day Cameroon was claimed by Germany as its protectorate. But, after Germany was defeated by the allied forces in the First World War, the League of Nations placed the Cameroons under a British Mandate (1922) and later, as a trusteeship territory of the United Nations, with Britain administering it.

The Northern area was administered by the Northern Region of Nigeria and the Southern section (Southern Cameroons) was formally administered as two provinces of the old Eastern Region, and then, from October 1954 it was a quasi Federal Territory within the Nigerian Federation with its own Legislature and it's own Executive Council.

Southern Cameroons was divided in 1949 into two provinces: Bamenda (capital Bamenda and Southern (capital Buea). 

Following the Ibadan General Conference of 1950, a new constitution for Nigeria devolved more power to the regions. In the subsequent election thirteen Southern Cameroonian representatives were elected to the Eastern Nigerian House of Assembly in Enugu. Citizens of this region had political representation in political parties such as The National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC).
 In 1953, however, the Southern Cameroons representatives, unhappy with the domineering attitude of Nigerian politicians and lack of unity among the ethnic groups in the Eastern Region, declared a "benevolent neutrality" and withdrew from the assembly. 

Dr E.M.L Endeley

At a conference in London in 1953, the Southern Cameroons delegation asked for a separate region of its own. The British agreed, and Southern Cameroons became an autonomous region with its capital still at Buea. Elections were held in 1954 and the parliament met on 1 October 1954, with E.M.L. Endeley as Premier.

As Cameroun and Nigeria prepared for Independence, South Cameroons nationalists debated whether their best interests lay with 1. A union with Cameroun, 2. a union with Nigeria or 3. total independence.  It appeared a new era had dawned. An era whose objectives was the secession from the British Trust Territory, the Southern Cameroons and from the Federation of Nigeria, in an attempt to build the 'Kamerun' nation, together with the three million people of the French Cameroons (later Cameroun Republic).
John Ngu Foncha (Harry Pot/ Anefo)

The call for secession came mainly from inland districts. Endeley was defeated in elections on 1 February 1959 by John Ngu Foncha a "diminutive Roman Catholic schoolmaster". The one man opposition, who surprisingly became premier with only a few years experience as a politician.

The relationship with the Camoorons was a costly one, for example, from 1922 to the outbreak of war in1939 the Nigerian (colonial) government had spent approximately three quarters of a million pounds more than it received in revenues from the territory. Despite the figures (including a proportion of the assistance received from the Colonial Development Fund) the Cameroons still exceeded revenue by about £700,000.

The Federal Minister of Finance said " we do not begrudge the people of the Cameroon the money that we have invested in their territory, but at the same time we consider it only reasonable that the facts of the matter should be known. Too often have we heard the cry that the Federal Government is neglecting the Southern Cameroon's and I have therefore taken the opportunity on this occasion, when we are once again considering a motion to the financial advantage of the Trust Territory, to give a short history of our financial relationship with the territory" it's no surprise that no Nigerian political party or leader gave any assistance in their struggle to remain in the Federation, which was a surprise to the likes of Dr Endeley, whereas their opponents, the secessionists, we're known to have received outside support.

At the close of colonisation and the independence of most African countries, particularly the British colony Nigeria and the French colony Cameroon in 1960.
The political future of the Northern Cameroon's was not yet decided until the plebiscite , conducted under the supervision of the United Nations. 

Another plebiscite was held after the two countries had achieved independence allowing the people to choose whether they wished to join Nigeria, or the French Cameroon or to form an independent territory with the Southern British Council.

The plebiscite of 1961 impacted on the cooperate existence of the various ethnic groups and Southern Cameroon split from Nigeria.

Boy Eating Sugar Cane

Since the 1970s Nigeria and Cameroon engaged in boarder disputes over the Bakassi Peninsula in the Gulf of Guinea. The  case was heard by the International Court of Justice, which awarded the Peninsula to Cameroon in 2002.

Areas that were once part of Northern Camerooon include :  Dikwa in Maiduguri State, Gwozo in Borneo State  and Jalingo in Taraba state

The District Office, Victoria

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Igogo Festival - Nigeria Magazine 1963.

Oba Olateru Olagbegi II, the Olowo of Owo

Sixteen Obas, all of them Oduduwa’s sons, migrated from Ife to found the Yoruba nation.
They all left Ife on the same day after parting company at Ita-ajero, a place located within the city.  One of them Olowo Arere, founder of Owo’s ruling dynasty, was the favorite of their father and, in addition to the crown which each of the Obas were given, he received a sword.

Like the other fifteen, he left Ife carrying with him some of the customs and traditions of the city, including arts, crafts, music and some of the four hundred festivals which, to this day, are celebrated annually in that city. Festivals like those connected with the harvesting of yams and with the commemoration of the birth and death of heroes and ancestors who are celebrated in Owo today were brought from Ife at this time. 

Olowo Arere migrated with the Ilaro, a large retinue classified into two broad groups: the Ugbama or youths and the Ighare made up of men of over fifty years of age who had performed the Ero ceremony. The Ugbama was assigned with the performance of all manual labor during the migratory period. The Ighare advised them and supervised their activities. This tradition has survived to this day.
Some Members Of The Ighare At The Olowo's Palace

On leaving Ita- agero, Olowo Arere led the Iloro to Uji. It was here that the greeting, Leji, wa gbo wa to, used by the chiefs in saluting the Olowo was developed in appreciation of the fact that the Olowo woke up hale and hearty on his first nights rest outside the city.
From Uji the party moved on to Ipafa hill, which they found cool and airy. The hill supported luxuriant vegetation, which provided them with plenty of shade, edible fruits and vegetables. But they were forced to leave this area by the many thunderstorms, which threatened their very existence. 
They went eastwards stopping at a place called Oke Imade. Here they found no water and when they saw a monkey, they followed it in the hope that it would lead them to water. This is how they arrived at Igbo Ogwata (also known as Okiti Asegbo) where they found water. From then on, the monkey became a sacred animal and its meat a taboo to Princes and Princesses of Owo - Okiti Asegbo is where Olowo Sir Olateru Olagbegi II K.B.E sited the local government offices and town hall.

The party arrived at Okiti Asegbo under Olowo Imade who succeeded his father, Olowo Arere.  Arere had died on the way and his corpse was taken back to Ife where it was buried.

It was at Okiti Asegbo that Olowo Renrengenjen married Oronsen, a princess from Afo. Her father told the Olowo of three taboos which Oronsen observed: First, a head load of firewood was not to be thrown down in her presence; second, water was not to be spilt before her; third, she should not hear the sound of okra being ground on a grindstone. As soon as Oronsen arrived at the palace, special quarters were assigned to her and a maid who would ensure that the taboos were not broken was provided to her.

Oronsen was as quiet as she was beautiful; she had no worries and worried nobody. And though the Olowo had many wives before he married her, he loved her more than he loved them. 
This excited their jealousy.

One day, the Olowo went off to war. Sometime after he was gone, Oluwa, The Olowo’s senior wife summoned his other wives to a meeting to discuss the threat posed to them by this new addition. They all new Oronsen observed taboos but they did not know which ones. Oluwa promised the other wives to find out what they were and they dispersed.
When they met again a few days later, she had bought the necessary information from Oronsen's maid, for a meal of mashed yams.
On learning what the taboos were, they decided to break them. They made what preparations were necessary and sent from Oronsen. As soon as she arrived, one of the women carrying a bundle of wood on her head threw it down before her; another spilt water on the ground before her; and a third began grinding okra on a stone nearby. Oronsens taboos were broken and she was compelled to leave.

She fled from the palace and ran until she came to Olisagho’s house. Here she stopped and beat her palm on the wall of the house to bid its owner good-bye. As she did this, her ring slipped off her finger and fell on the ground. Without noticing this, she continued her flight, dropping her hairpin at Igbo Ogwata. Further on she stopped to rest.

The Olowo returned from battle only to learn that Oronsen fled from the palace earlier that same day. He immediately sent one Isegbe Meso, a group of eighty-one men, to find her. The search party returned without her and another Isegbe Meso was sent out. This time the party found her ring and hairpin. Their approaching footsteps roused Oronsen where she was resting and she fled, leaving her head tie behind. A brother of the Olowo picked up the head tie and the pursuit continued. At last the party caught up with her at Igbo Oluwa and since it was forbidden for anyone to touch an Oluwa's wife, they pleaded with her to return to the palace.

There and then, she demanded of the Olowo the head of the Olowa as the condition for her return and insisted on having it before she took a step towards the palace. But Olowa occupied a very important position as the Olowo’s senior wife and this made the granting of her request impossible. 
Another head was however sent to her by the Olowo. In anger when she saw the substitute that was brought to her, Oronsen demanded a similar sacrifice annually if Owo was to have peace and plenty. 

Then she vanished into thin air.

The tragedy of Oronsen took place in the season of the festival of new yams which featured drumming and dancing. It plunged the Olowo into mourning during which time he banned the beating of drums in the town. Later, a festival was built around the annual sacrifice demanded by Oronsen and superimposed on the festival of new yams. In place of drums, metal gongs (Agogo or Igogo) were used hence the festival became known as the Igogo festival.

The Olowo’s brother, who found Oronsens head tie received the title of Alaja and was ordained the priest of the festival.  The palace where the head tie was picked up became known as ul’aja (uluoja).
Chief Elerewe Dances To The Drumming After The Ban Has Been Lifted

Igogo festival lasts seventeen days. It begins with a ceremony called ighoroli, which takes place on Ugbegu market day.  At about 4pm on this day the Ighare dressed in their traditional wear; white loin cloths tied round their waist with a parrots’ red tail feathers stuck into their hair over their forehead; the Iloro Chiefs and the Edibo Aleli (domestic chiefs) assemble at the Ugha eduma (the meeting hall in the palace). Chief Osowe of Ehin- Ogbe, one of the stewards, greets the gathering by calling each man by his title name. He announces on behalf of the Olowo, the arrival of the Igogo festival. Then one by one, members of the Ighare, in a descending order of seniority, pay homage to the Olowo who presents them through the stewards – Chiefs Ajanna and Osowe – twenty four kola nuts in a special bowl made of lead and a calabash of Palm wine for use in a sacrifice.

Five days later, another Ighoroli is performed. This time the Olowo only serves out palm wine. Then follows Uyena, the clearing of a path supposed to have been taken by Oronsen during her flight. For this service, the Olowo pays twenty-eight kola nuts. Of these four go to the Ugbama who are dressed in a pair of trousers and head wear of calabash bowl formerly painted with white chalk, but today painted aluminum paint.
Younger Members Of The Ugbama Dancing

They carry long canes which they shake as they dance. The canes are carried for use on those who may try breaking the festive taboo by wearing caps or head ties. Each senior member of the Ugbama ties over his trousers, a piece of cloth just reaching his knee and carries horns or pieces of iron rods which he knocks together. The remaining twenty-four kola nuts go to the Ighare who are dressed in their traditional wears. Palm wine is also served at the Ugha Eduma (Eduma Hall).
Owo Chiefs Making Music On Igogo, Metal Gongs

Five days after Uyena comes Uyanna. The Alaja, priest of the festival and the Ighare meet at the Ugha alamuren (alamuren Hall) at about 4pm, then Olowo arrives, attended by the Edibo olowo. He wears a white robe and his hair is stuck with parrot feathers. 
He hands over the sacrificial sheep through the stewards to the Ugbama who are dancing and singing Ema mu wa, aye o yo e, a song they sing continuously until they receive the sheep (which has since replaced the human victims). The sheep is led to the Oronsen grove and sacrificed there.

Oba Olateru Olagbegi II, the Olowo of Owo Seated

At about 6pm four days after Uyanna, the Ugbate ceremony takes place. All the women who are traditionally vested with the powers of selling meat come to the Oba’s market carrying their trade baskets containing knives and pieces of iron – implements of their trade. They come to watch the "sacrifice" Onugho, being led round the Oba’s palace walls. They come dressed in white.

A strip of white cloth prepared and woven by a woman on that very day is tied round the sheep’s belly. The animal is led round the palace walls three times by the Ugbama who dance, singing repeatedly: Atipa a bale a toju de o, onugho gbanre’o. Then they lead the animal away to ul’aja, the spot where Oronsen left her head tie. There they keep an all night vigil.

The Igogo festival reaches its climax on the seventeenth day with all the chiefs dancing around the town on their way to the palace.  They dance to music beating only on metal gongs. At the palace they attend to the Olowo who also dances to Igogo music. The Olowo and his chiefs are all dressed in white loin cloths richly adorned with beads. All the priests assemble at the palace. The Olowo distributes to them peices of the sacrifice involved in the days celebrations, one he goat, one dog, seven goats and thirty six kola nuts. 

Later that evening, the Olowo presents, through Osowe, to all Chiefs, Ighare, Priests and Ugbama who are assembled in the palace: cows, goats, dogs, blocks of salt, snails, cocks, eku ama, eje ale, rats, fish, birds and eggs

During the presentation, the Osowe recites the following incantations on behalf of the Olowo at ugha alamuren:

Okereke ( three times)
Olilolohun (three times)
Oluwagarajigbo deji (three times)
Urun aja ri aja foju
Urun agutan ri agutan gbeghe
Otakun yu otakun wa
Otakun Muli ajen
Ojegejegekun bobo male
Orogbodo oyan ye poma
O poma tan o kun efun
Obelebele ye jin abe rawe
Kema se ejo a se agalamtata
Eyin ‘ka erun ‘baje
Udeli akon moron agba sengwa
Moja esisi mo na arima
Mojiba  agba
Mojiba iba bami
Iseseri odudu oron fo oronmufede
Oluwa agajigbo mo pe
Oronsen deji mo pe
Oronsen More mo pe
Odon jo
Osunsun sun
Aghoro fohun odon
Olowo omo re N.N ( name of Olowo)
Wa sodon ghen eyitoni
Onisale onisare
Oni Ugba ogbi gbo
Onipankan aso anogho
Ugba Eku
Ugba eja
Ugba Ogbigbo
Ugba eghen nene 
Akeke deregbe
Ogun aja
Odo agutan
Aso erenla

At the end of this incantation the Osowe says a prayer for the Olowo and his subjects. From this evening, for seven days, girls dance round the town and young men engage every evening in wrestling contests organized on a quarter versus quarter basis.

The day following the recital of the incantation, the Iloro dance to the palace. 
The Olowo if he is so disposed may dance around the town attended by the Iloro and Owo Chiefs or remain in the palace to receive guests. 
In the evening, Uru, a priest carrying a very long stick covered with white feather comes from Emure ile, six miles to Owo, to perform some ceremonies at Ugha alamuren. At this ceremony, Chief Osowo recites, on behalf of the Olowo, the last twenty-five lines of the incantations he recited the previous day. After he has done, the Uru recites them, striking two bulls horn at intervals.
To round up the festival all the priests gather at the Olowo’s palace at about 10pm, six days after the Uru’s visit. They assemble at the Ugha okunrin where the Olowo presents them with twenty-four kola nuts. Each priest then dances to a tune. Before they leave, all the priests recite O de o de o, Aghoro mama se ‘jo oro, three times.

After they leave the Olowo goes to Oke agbala, a hall within the palace where a priest who has the sacrifice is. This priest only sees the Olowo once a year and only at the Igogo festival. Before he leaves he presents his offering to the priest and his Olori’s dance around the palace and some parts of the town.
Omo-Olowo, Princess Dancing To Igogo Music

To mark the end of the festival, the Olowo’s servants beat a drum at Oke ugha to notify the town. The ban on drumming is lifted… till the following year.

Oba Olateru Olagbeji II Attempts To Return to Owo Town After Two YearsIn Exhile

Sir Olateru Olagbegi II, Olowo of Owo (August 1910 – 1998) was the Olowo (King) of Owo
He was appointed Olowo in 1941 and ruled for 25 years before he was deposed and exiled from Owo to Okitipupa then to Ibadan
His exile from power was a fallout of a regional crisis between two Action Group leaders: Awolowo and Samuel Ladoke Akintola.
The Action Group (launched in his palace a decade earlier) was led by Awolowo in the 1950s. A battle of wills between the two gladiators in the early 1960s saw Oba Olateru pitching his tent with Akintola.
However, his choice only fomented tension in his community.
The military coup in 1966 created an avenue for some citizens of Owo to unleash violence and revolt against Olagbegi. He was banished from power in 1966 by the military administrator of the Western Region. Then the federal government later validated his dethronement as the Olowo of Owo through a decree. A year later, a new Olowo was chosen by the people of Owo and thats how Sir Olateru Olagbegi II lost the throne to politics.
However, the banished monarch regained his throne back after 25 years in exile. and in 1993, he was re-appointed to his former title of Olowo after the death of the reigning monarch
He died in October 1998 and crown was passed to his son Oba Folagbade Olagbegi III.

The newspaper clipping is from 1968 when Oba Olateru Olagbeji II attempted to return to Owo. It was unsuccessful and the people of the town rioted in protest of his return.

Northern Wrestlers, Argungu 1950s

Miss Argungu Fishing Festival 1972 and Maitama Sule

1972: Miss Argungu Fishing Festival. 
Kano State Commissioner for Information and Culture, Alhaji Maitama Sule crowning the winner, Miss Mary Kano. 
- New Nigerian Newspaper

A Prince Is Born

July 1976. "Prince S. I. A Akenzua and Mrs Akenzua were recently at home to a large number of friends and relations at their Ikoyi residence in Lagos, on the occasion of the christening ceremony of their baby boy, pictured here in his mothers arms, while Prince Akenzua, Mr and Mrs J. L Cooper look on admiringly" - New Nigerian Newspaper

Black women have been "toning" their skin for a long time.... This is an ad from the Nigerian Observer from 1961

1955: A Young Fulani Horseman

1950s: 22 Kano Street, Ebute Metta. Lagos

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Ekpe Society. By A.J Udo Ema 1938

In some parts of the Efik country, men do not consider their social standing sufficiently high unless they are members of the Ekpe Society. 
The word Ekpe means Leopard. The name perhaps originated from the belief that a leopard being the most ferocious animal in this part of the country is the king of the beasts. This maybe one of the reasons why a dead leopards face is always covered so that women may not see it.
 Membership is open to all irrespective of birth, rank and (in certain cases) sex. Slaves in the olden days could be initiated into the society if they could afford the membership fee. Eldest daughters of parents from respectable families maybe initiated members, but may not attend meeting and ceremonies of the society. Their only privilege is that they can walk and work out doors when the Ekpe game is played, and can walk past any Ekpe masquerader without being molested. 
The membership fees vary from twenty to fifty pounds I understand that in poorer localities the fees are lower.  Although the membership fees are different an initiated member in one locality will be recognized as such in any other locality provided that the he uses the correct watchword, or wears an emblem signifying his rank and section.
A son of a deceased slave wishing to become a member had first of all to pay for his fathers membership before he was allowed to pay his own. This meant paying one hundred pounds where a membership fee was fifty pounds, but, of course, this is not so today. Any person who dislikes paying this heavy membership fee should remember that amongst the other advantages, which members enjoy, there is a kind of insurance amongst them. Anything happening to a member always arouses concern of the society, and if help is required it rendered ungrudgingly.
Two or three days before a prospective member takes the preliminary orders, he has to be in hiding so that no initiated member may find him. If he is found he either has to bribe his finders or be ready for a heavy fine from the society for appearing in public. Even if the man is discovered in the inner most part of his house the result is the same. Some members leave their work and go round the village in search of prospective members with the objective of getting the bribe.
Some parents may tell their members to give their naughty sons lashes on the back, the usual whip for executing such orders is the tail of a stingray; in certain cases a whip prepared with piassava but similar to horse whip is used. 
Ekpe Masqueraders - Messengers of the Ekpe deity. 1956

As in other African societies, there are sections and grades in the Ekpe society. There are 12 such sections, the names of which need not be mentioned.  Each section has its own president. It is possible for a reasonably rich person to compound a fee for all these sections. A poor person has to begin with the lowest section and gradually work his way up and he can afford the fees of the higher grades.  Once a person has been initiated into any one of the sections, he enjoys the privileges of the society, except that he does not attend the functions of the other sections. 
After the preliminary ceremony and seven days before the day appointed day of initiation, a prospective member goes in for fattening. He is fed and treated in much the same way as fattening girls: he has to paint his body with white clay, ground cam wood, or a yellow substance obtained from a plant. This yellow material is similar to the pollen dust of the Gloriosa Superba Flower. Unlike a fattening girl, a prospective member is allowed to move outdoors. He goes on his daily round of visits. He carries a gong which he beats as he goes to attract attention.  Following him about is a boy – an initiated member – with a mat, for during the whole period of fattening he must not sit on anything but the mat. Occupants of the houses he visits have to give him presents.
During the eleven days the prospective member has to observe very strictly to the following rules. A breach of one may result in a fine or the cancelling of all arrangements and preparations.

1.     A candidate on meeting an initiated member must greet him with the watchword of the society. If he fails to do so he is liable to a reasonable fine by that member. 
2.     He must sit on nothing other that the Mbit Ekpe (The mat of the society)
3.     He must neither wade through nor take a bath in a stream, and must not walk in the rain. If he does any of these things he said to wash off his body the mark of society, and it means the termination of membership.
4.     During this period he must not sleep in another village.
5.     He must not hand over his gong to a non-member.
6.     If during his round of visits food is offered, he must not taste it until an initiated member has tasted it first. If no such person is at hand he must refrain no matter how appetizing the food may be.

The final initiation ceremony is an affair for two people. There is a member who takes care of the society shed; he does the necessary cleaning up, and is called Okporo Efe (Sweeper of the Shed) it is an honorable position to hold.  On e of his duties is carrying out the final initiation ceremony. On the day appointed he takes the recruit to the stream at a time when no people are about – it may be very early in the morning or late in the evening, for it is feared that if people observe the recruit while he is going through the bathing ceremony he may be unlucky for the rest of his life. Every initiated member believes this strongly. 
In places like Calabar and Okoyon, if there is to be an Ekpe game, leopard skins will be tied at various places to show boundary limits. A non-member going into that special area after having seen the emblem is understood to be there for a quarrel, and has to be treated, as he deserves. At Oron, cloth is substituted for leopard skin. 
As rule non-members must kept indoor when the society masquerade is going round the village. In Oron this rule does not bind visitors. The Ekpe society in Orun allows women to walk and work outdoors provided they turn their backs to the masquerade when he passes. Other section of the Efik country does not permit this. 
The presence of a member at a deceased members burial is compulsory, whether relatives invite them or not they must attend and demand all the necessary things for the burial rites. They are at liberty to destroy anything but life if their demand is not registered.
Sometimes member orders in his will that certain of his sons and daughters be thrashed for their naughtiness. When he is dead the will must be carried out brutally and mercilessly; and it is not uncommon sight to see a bleeding skin after a funeral. The Efiat people – the fishermen at Tom Shot at the mouth of the Cross River – do not bury deceased Ekpe members in the absence of other members. What they do is prepare two coffins, put the body in one and take it to the grave where they leave it uncovered. When the members come back they take the second coffin, perform the necessary ceremonies, and after breaking it up and throwing it into the grave, the grave is covered up. 
In any locality it is an unwritten law that no Ekpe member should be buried unless some other members are present.
It is interesting to note that if one of the heads of the various sections gives his walking staff to a non-member whom he sends on an errand, the non-member automatically becomes an initiated member. He continues to be a member until the staff is delivered up. Another this is that, only reliable young members, who can be trusted with secrets, are allowed to know what is going on in the inner circle. Such young members are few.
Ekpe Masquerade and young boy 1957

- From the Nigeria Magazine 1938

Monday, 19 October 2015

On This Day: October 19th 1986......

... the Nigerian journalist, founder and editor of NewsWatch Magazine, Dele Giwa was assassinated in his home. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

1949: Mr M. A Nnadozie and four of his pupils from Umulogho School Nsu. Okigwi District.

They were demonstrating an initiative adopted by many schools at the time to introduce various "uncommon handiworks"  like bag weaving, basket making and carving.

In Umulogho school Mr Nnadozie said "The making of long floor mats might well be developed into a village industry to replace the indian and other imported fibre mats now on sale in many of the large stores"

The twine used was made from the bark of a plant botanically called Firmiana Barteri ( Ufuku in Igbo)

Sunday, 13 September 2015

On This Day 49 Years Ago: 13th September 1966 - The death of Sir L.P Odumegwu Ojukwu: A sons account by Lotanna P Ojukwu.

"My father died after trying to encourage and convince the would be Eastern Nigerian emissaries to Lagos to seek for a peaceful resolution to the conflict crisis that had already developed, which led to the massacre of Igbos in many parts of the country.

I was home on holidays from the United Kingdom when my father died. Sir Odumegwu had travelled to Nkalagu to see into the affairs of his baby, The Nigerian Cement Company.

Massacres of people from Eastern Nigeria were quite rampant at the time, and there were talks of possible secession. High ranking Eastern Nigerian government personnel and dignitaries were being assembled to go and negotiate with the Federal government of Nigeria for some form of reconciliation.

My understanding of the situation at the time was that the appointed emissaries were all quite reluctant and didn't want to embark on the mission.

Sir Odumegwu took it upon himself to see these emissaries individually and speak with them, encourage and convince them that they had to go and negotiate.

Sir Odumegwu and myself drove to Enugu from Nkalagu to see the emissaries and finally my brother ( Emeka Ojukwu) the then military governor. For a fourteen year old like me at the time, I observed that in most of the places and homes we visited, there was a lot of difficult discussions among the people. Finally, a very unusual and most surprising difficulty was when we visited my brother.

Our attempt to gain entry at the military governors state house gate was hopelessly halted. We were searched and delayed. Normally, Sir Odumegwu was expected and should have passed through when he came to the gate, but there we were. I left the car after a while and was busy running around the gardens of the state house while we waited for whatever difficulty to be cleared up.

One whole hour after we got to the state house,not even a call was put through to the military governor; neither did my brother even call. My father eventually became agitated and started wondering what was going on himself. We were all very anxious as to why the delay and why the military governor would not come down to see us and our father. That night, the delay continued and we did not start our drive back to Nkalagu until about 9pm or 10pm.

With all of that, one would begin to think about it that Sir Odumegwu, who had suffered two previous heart attacks in the last three years, still went around at that difficult time engaging the emissaries to convince them to go and negotiate . This agitated him enough, and the event at the state house capped it all. Through out our drive back to Nkalagu from Enugu, my father was very quiet and by the time we got to Nkalagu, somehow things were not so well anymore with him.

We all went to bed, but by 3 am my step mother woke me up to say that my father was ill and that we needed to call a doctor to come and help him. Apparently he had suffered another heart attack. It wasn't till 6 am that we got into a hospital with the limited medical facilities at the Nkalagu factory complex. My father lived only for a further day and died the next morning of 13th September 1966

So really he died trying to save Nigeria, trying to convince some high ranking civil servants to go for peace negotiations in Lagos

My father was completely detribalised . And for a man who made all his money and had all his properties in Lagos, it must have been a very anxious time for him. I can imagine what he would have suffered thinking that Nigeria would be torn asunder by the developments and seeing things get worse by the minute. It must have been a very anxious time for him"

Culled from the book In Quest of Perpetuity - Bio Sketches of Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu. Written by Ifeze

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Burial of Major General Aguiyi Ironsi 49 years

July 29, 1966.
As part of a nationwide tour. Major General Aguiyi Ironsi visited Ibadan and had earlier hosted traditional rulers from all parts of the country in Ibadan Government House.

His plan was to spend the night at the Government House then continue on his tour, but at 4am his host, Lieutenant Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, Military Governor of Western Nigeria, alerted him to a possible mutiny within the army.

In the early hours of the morning, Government House, Ibadan, was surrounded by soldiers led by Theophilus Danjuma.
Theophilus Danjuma

Danjuma arrested Fajuyi, Ironsi and his ADC and questioned Ironsi about his alleged complicity in the January coup of the same year.

Here is an account from Senator Andrew Nwankwo Ironsi’s Aide-De-Camp in an interview given to Sun News.

“After we were informed that there was a coup, my close friend Lieutenant Sanni Bello assured me that if it was his own people he will protect me, because, there was tension in the land and we knew a coup was imminent. So, we agreed to protect each other depending on where it would be coming from.

The road to the valley of death

After our arrest they marched myself and Ironsi down to where Fajuyi was.
They used telephone cables to tie our hands behind our legs, leaving us with a little space to walk. Ironsi was put in a Land Rover, Fajuyi in a mini bus and myself in another bus. They drove us towards Iwo Road, 10 km from Ibadan, where we stopped by a small forest.
Fajuyi was leading and as he tried to cross a small stream, he fell down, the soldiers were unruly, it appeared some of them had for the first time taken Indian hemp, so when he fell down some of them started beating him.

My escape
As Fajuyi fell down and they were beating him, Sanni Bello (the friend Nwankwo had made a pact with) came to me and tapped me and said, we could do something now.
It was providence, maybe I was not destined to die. I took a few steps from them and jumped into a nearby ditch, all in a split of a second. Bello came and stood by the ditch and was shouting that I had escaped pointing at another direction. So the soldiers ran around that direction shooting into the bush and when they felt they must have killed me, they shot Fajuyi and Ironsi by the side of the stream.
Bello made sure that he was the last to leave the place”.

Major general Ironsi’s body and that of Lieutenant Colonel Fajuyi were later discovered in a nearby forest.

The Video

The funeral of Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, the Nigerian Head of State assassinated during the counter coup in 1966.

Music : Harcourt Whyte Nna Chebe Nwa Gi