History Through the Headlines (5), By Muni King-Keazor and Ed Emeka Keazor
In an advertorial piece by the federal government outlining infrastructural developments carried out on Nigerian airports, it was detailed that the Murtala Mohammed International Airport was completed in March 1979 at the cost of N240 million. Modelled on the Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, Netherlands, construction had been started in 1975 as part of the Second National Development Plan (1975-1980).
This is a rehash of stories that made the headlines through 160 years of Nigerian press history for the week of 1-7 July.
The Lagos Weekly Record, July 5, 1913: ‘Position of Women in Native Africa’: This article examines the prominent role of African women in pre-colonial traditional societies, with case studies from the Ekiti, Owo and Oyo people, which particularly examined the role of women in the coronation of various Kings. The specialist role of women in traditional societies was also emphasised, contrasting with the patriarchal environment in which they found themselves after the advent of colonialism.
The Lagos Standard, July 2, 1913: ‘The late Mr G.A. Williams Editor of The Lagos Standard: This announced the death of George Williams, the editor and publisher of the Lagos Standard, who also founded the newspaper in 1895. The Lagos Weekly Record and the Lagos Standard were the two main newspapers in existence at the time of the amalgamation in 1914, and they shared the same bold, activist editorial style, representing the interests of Africans against high-handed colonialism.
The West African Pilot, July 5, 1939: ‘Air Raid Alarm To Be Sounded Tomorrow’: At the onset of World War 2 (1939-1945), war-time precautionary measures were put in place, including air raid alarms and blackouts, in anticipation of possible air raids of the German forces. Nigeria, however, was to escape the effects of this conflict, unlike during World War 1, when German forces made substantial incursion into Nigerian territory.
The West African Pilot, July 2, 1945: ‘Alex-Taylor Denies Giving Any Loan To Workers On Strike: Prisoners Now Sort Mails at Abeokuta’: The Trade Union Congress strike of 1945 spanned from June through to August of the year, with workers seeking a cost of living allowance (COLA). The renowned Lagos lawyer, also the oldest legal practitioner in town at the time, Alex Taylor (father of the legendary Justice Idowu Conrad Taylor), was rumoured to have been supporting the workers with a financial loan to fill the gap caused by the forfeiting of their salaries during the strike. Alex Taylor denied this allegation, although certain opinions were that he had indeed done so in secret.
The newspaper also highlighted how the colonial government was compelled to utilise convicts to fill in for striking postal workers.
The West African Pilot, July 10, 1953: ‘Two Great Women Leaders Are Received By New Women Body’: The new women’s body was The Federation of Nigerian Women Societies, founded in 1953, with Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti as its president. The Federation had its origins in the Abeokuta Women’s Union founded by Ransome-Kuti in 1946, and progressed into the Nigerian Women’s Union that was founded in 1949. The Nigerian Women’s Union, however, had been preceded by the Lagos Ladies League, formed in the 1920s by Charlotte Obasa, which later metamorphosed into the Nigerian Women’s Party, created in 1944 – the first women’s political party in Nigeria. The Federation of Nigerian Women’s Societies, in contrast, was solely focused on advocating for the rights of Nigerian women across the board.
The start of the Nigerian civil war: The hostilities of the Nigerian civil war commenced in the first week of July 1967 and were sadly to continue for two-and-a-half years. The sequence of events immediately leading up to the actual fighting are detailed below in press reports from the Daily Times of Nigeria.
The Daily Times, July 4, 1967: ‘Explosions!’: An explosion occurred opposite the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, Obalende, Lagos on Sunday July 2, 1967, and was said to have resulted in the deaths of four persons, with injuries to several others.
The Daily Times, July 5, 1967: ‘Nigeria Not On Verge of Civil War’: The federal commissioner for information, Chief Anthony Enahoro, issued a statement declaring that Nigeria was not on the brink of a civil war, possibly in a bid to defuse the tension in the mind of the public.
The Daily Times July 8, 1967: ‘Fighting Begins. Govt Urges Public To Remain Calm’: The Federal Military Government was to confirm, in a press release, that fighting had indeed broken out with Biafra on July 6, 1967; hence, after almost a year of political tension and manoeuvering, the bloody and wasteful had civil war commenced in earnest.
The Daily Times, July 2, 1969: ‘114 Lawyers Pass Bar Examination’: The results of the final examinations of the Nigerian Law School were published on this day, and the successful candidates included some prominent names who would eventually make their marks, both in the profession and on the larger national scene. These included the late Oba D.V.F Olateru-Olagbegi (SAN) (a former lecturer at the Nigeria Law School and Olowo of Owo); Dr. Samuel Mosugu (SAN), (lecturer and practitioner); late Chief Ajibade Ojora (corporate counsel); late Samuel Asagba, practitioner and former general secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA); Mrs Phoebe Ajayi-Obe (SAN) (the second female to take silk by becoming a senior advocate), and Pastor Fidelis Oyakhilome (police commissioner and former governor of Rivers State), amongst many others.
The Daily Times: July 19, 1979: ‘0.7 Billion Naira on Airports. Written By Sunday Nwaobi. Federal Ministry of Information’: In an advertorial piece by the federal government outlining infrastructural developments carried out on Nigerian airports, it was detailed that the Murtala Mohammed International Airport was completed in March 1979 at the cost of N240 million. Modelled on the Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, Netherlands, construction had been started in 1975 as part of the Second National Development Plan (1975-1980).
The Daily Times, July 6, 1991: ‘Sisi Clara is Dead’: The announcement of the passing of one of Nigeria’s most loved actresses and media personalities, Elsie Olusola (nee Nkune), on July 4, 1991, at the Central Hospital, Warri. She was married to another national treasure – actor, playwright and diplomat, the late Ambassador Segun Olusola. Elsie was best known by Nigerians for her character, ‘Sisi Clara’, in the legendary weekly TV drama, “The Village Headmaster”. Her character was a cantankerous, plain-speaking, tough, single, female figure, who proudly proclaimed herself the only ‘London-trained seamstress’ in the mythical ‘Oja Village’.
Apart from her role in this series, which debuted on Nigerian Television in 1968 with ‘Sisi Clara’ as one of the pioneer characters, she also starred in the Ossie Davis film, Countdown at Kusini, which equally featured other stars of “The Village Headmaster”, Funsho Adeolu and Jab Adu, alongside an international cast that included the great Ruby Dee (Raisin in the Sun, Do the Right Thing, American Gangster, etc), Thomas Baptiste (Wild Geese, Ipcress File etc) and Greg Morris (Mission Impossible). A trained broadcaster, Elsie also worked with the Voice of America in the 1970s.
Upon her retirement from the media, she returned to her hometown, Warri, where she ran her family business – the legendary Zena Nightclub – which in its heyday played host to Highlife legends, such as Rex Lawson, Atomic 8, etc.
Elsie fought a long and gallant battle with cancer, until her sad departure.