History Through the Headlines (1), By Muni-King Keazor & Ed Emeka Keazor
“The West African Pilot”, June 4, 1945: ‘Imoudu returns to Lagos after a period of 2 years in detention. 50,000 accord him a befitting welcome’. Michael Imoudu, the president of the Railway Workers Union had been arrested and detained by the colonial government under wartime emergency powers in 1942 (this had been during the Second World War 1939-1945).
This is a look back at the headlines that made Nigerian history over the last 160 years of the Nigerian press.
The Lagos Weekly Record, May 26, 1917: ‘Obituary: The Late Rt. Rev. Bishop Johnson MA D.D.’ An obituary notice announcing the death of Assistant Bishop James ‘Holy’ Johnson. Born in 1832 in Sierra Leone of Yoruba recaptive slave parents, he attended the C.M.S Grammar School and Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone and was ordained a priest in 1863. He was, for several years, the presiding clergyman of the St Paul’s Church, Breadfruit, Lagos. In this position, he was to exert his influence as a staunch Africanist, whose outspokenness against colonial prejudice and maltreatment of African’s. Described as one of the earliest Nigerian nationalists, long before Herbert Macaulay, who served under him in the United Negro Improvement Association. He was of such rigorous integrity, that he was nicknamed ‘Holy’ Johnson, by his colleagues, admirers and detractors alike. A nominated member of the Lagos Legislative Council, he was a stubborn advocate of the equal rights of African’s.
Daily Times of Nigeria, June 3, 1944. ‘Forthcoming Lagos Town Council Election. Candidates for the Five wards of Lagos and the mainland’. The first Lagos Town Council Elections were held in 1920, and elections continued for candidates for the Town Council annually. The 1944 elections were kicked off by the nomination of candidates in advance of the scheduled election date of June 15, 1944.
Daily Times of Nigeria, June 3, 1944: ‘Latest Exploit of West African Forces in Burma Campaign: RWAFF Observer describes gallant defence of ‘White City’/The Nigeria Regiment saw extensive action during the Second World War, with intense involvement first in the Horn of Africa, as part of the Royal West African Frontier Force, where they were at the forefront of joint action in the liberation of Ethiopia and present-day Somalia and Eritrea in 1940. Organised into two divisions, the 81st and 82nd West Africa Divisions (1943 and 1945 respectively), several thousand of them were to see bitter action fighting against the Japanese Imperil Army, in the liberation of Burma. The two divisions earned acclaim for their bravery and battle skills in several engagements in the area of the Kaladan Valley, in Burma. Its successful campaigns were the basis of the naming of several military barracks in Nigeria, after Burmese towns the Regiment saw action. These include Dodan, An, Dalet, Arakan and Myohaung Barracks, amongst others.
Daily Times of Nigeria, June 7, 1944: ‘Allied Invasion of Europe begins from the west. Armada of 4000 vessels crosses channel and effects landing’. The famous D-Day campaign of the Allied Forces during the Second World War was targeted as a wholesale attack to recapture Europe, starting with France, by a landing via sea on the beaches of Normandy, France. This bloody series of battles were ultimately successful in recapturing territory initially captured by Nazi Germany in 1940. Alongside a powerful thrust by Soviet Forces, the campaign was to result in victory for the Allied Forces in Europe in May 1945 – the famous Victory in Europe. The battles of the Second World War were painstakingly covered by the Nigerian press at the time, naturally on account of the involvement of the nation’s colonial overlords of the period.
The West African Pilot, June 4, 1945: ‘Imoudu returns to Lagos after a period of 2 years in detention. 50,000 accord him a befitting welcome’. Michael Imoudu, the president of the Railway Workers Union had been arrested and detained by the colonial government under wartime emergency powers in 1942 (this had been during the Second World War 1939-1945). This detention had been on account of his Unionist activism. Upon his return from detention, he was accorded a hero’s welcome, with over 50,000 people lining the streets of Lagos Island, from Oshodi to Oko-Awo to welcome him.
Daily Times ‘Highlife Column’, Saturday June 1 1963: ‘Stars in Steve’s Show’. A piece showcasing impresario Steve Rhodes’ Show on the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV), featuring Canadian folk singer and guitarist, Joan Waite and Nigerian choreographer Yetunde Ajayi and her trouple, in a production titled ‘The Flirt’. The Saturday Highlife Column was arguably the nation’s most popular entertainment column. In the same vein, Steve Rhodes was one of Nigeria’s foremost music producers and quintessential impresarios of the time. The son of the highly respected Supreme Court Justice S.B Rhodes, he had studied music in Germany, before returning to Nigeria to work initially as a producer with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation till 1958, and later with the WNTV as programme director, where he devised a high quality range of programme content, for Africa’s first television Station till 1961. In 1970, he established his legendary choral group, ‘The Steve Rhodes Voices’, which survives till date, 11 years after his passing in 2008.
Sunday Concord, June 3, 1984: ‘The Village Headmaster returns’: The Village Headmaster was a television drama series created by the late Ambassador Segun Olushola in 1968, featuring life in an imaginary village, ‘Oja’ in Western Nigeria. It ran from 1968-1983, making it the longest running series on Nigerian Television. It was to return to broadcast in 1985
Daily Times of Nigeria, June 1, 1994: ‘NADECO is Illegal- Police IG’. The National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) was formed on May 15, 1994, by a broad grouping of Nigerian political stakeholders, all united in the quest of actualising the results of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections. They had in a communique on their formation, called for the government of Sani Abacha to step down within two weeks. The response of the Abacha government was robust and draconian. First, the group was declared an illegal grouping and in due course several of its members were arrested and detained.
Daily Times of Nigeria: Abiola warned formation of parallel government is treasonable offence. Following from the comunique of NADECO, Aare Moshood Abiola had been encouraged to declare himself president, following from which he was subsequently to effect what became known as the Epetedo declaration on June 11, 1994
Ed Keazor is an historian, lawyer, film-maker and writer, while Muni King-Keazor is a journalist, writer, and women’s editor of Happy Home Magazine.