History Through The Headlines (6), By Muni King-Keazor and Ed Emeka Keazor
The proposal for an amalgamation had first been decided in 1898 by the Niger Committee, established by the office of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and the exact timetable for this was subsequently laid by the department. Frederick Lugard was later to be entrusted with responsibility for its final implementation from 1912, culminating in the actual amalgamation ceremony at the Supreme Court, Tinubu Square, Lagos, on January 1, 1914.
This is a rehash of stories that made the headlines through 160 years of Nigerian press history for the week of July 8-15.
Lagos Weekly Record, July 15, 1893: ‘Meeting of Chamber of Commerce’: The Lagos Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1888, and it comprised expatriate trading entities in the city. In its early phase, it was led by Wilhelm Heldbeck, the agent for G. L. Gaiser Limited, the leading German firm in Lagos at the time, who was followed by George William Neville, manager of Bank of British West Africa, the first commercial bank in Nigeria.
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce admitted its first Nigerian members in 1948, and was incorporated in 1950. From an initial modest number of 18, it today boasts of a membership of over 2000 people.
The Lagos Weekly Record, July 15, 1893: ‘A Table of Principal Events in Yoruba History – a Review’: John Otunba Payne was the first African to act as the registrar of the Supreme Court of Lagos. Of Ijebu royal origin (with the original name of Adepeyin), he was responsible for naming the first streets of Lagos. He was also the publisher of the influential ‘Payne’s Almanack’, which recorded activities in the colony and beyond. His record of the ‘Principal Events in Yoruba History’ can be credited as the first written history of the Yoruba (a term initially used in describing the people of Oyo, but which subsequently extended to all descendants of Oduduwa).
A more comprehensive History of the Yoruba was written by Reverend Samuel Johnson, and this was reproduced and published in 1921 by his brother, Dr O.badiah Johnson.
The Lagos Standard, July 9, 1909: ‘Lagosian on Bits’, was a column dedicated to events in the Colony. This edition lamented the lack of iron posts to ensure the installation of lighting in inner Lagos. Electricity had first been introduced into Lagos in 1898, with the provision of street lights on the Lagos marina. Prior to this, Lagos streets had been lit through gas lighting. Consumer electricity, which enabled the powering of individual properties, was later introduced in 1929.
The Lagos Standard, July 14, 1909: ‘The Proposed Amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria’: This is analysed in a front page editorial of the Standard. The proposal for an amalgamation had first been decided in 1898 by the Niger Committee, established by the office of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and the exact timetable for this was subsequently laid by the department. Frederick Lugard was later to be entrusted with responsibility for its final implementation from 1912, culminating in the actual amalgamation ceremony at the Supreme Court, Tinubu Square, Lagos, on January 1, 1914.
The Lagos Weekly Record, July 15, 1918: ‘Abeokuta Notes and News’, “Dr Oguntola Sapara”. This piece announced the arrival of Dr. Oguntola Sapara, a medical doctor, at Abeokuta. He had started his career in the civil service as a dispenser, and subsequently travelled to the United Kingdom, where he gained admission into the St. Thomas Medical School in 1888, qualifying in 1895. Upon his return home in 1896, he resumed service with the Colonial Medical Service as assistant colonial surgeon.
The year 1918 was hugely significant for Sapara, as he successfully applied native herbs in combating the influenza epidemic of that year. He was also to infiltrate and neutralise the Sopona Cult, which actively practised the spreading of the small pox micro-organism as part of its tenets.
The Nigerian Pioneer, July 13, 1923: ‘The Power Station at Ijora’: This iconic Station was first of such opened in 1923 by the Public Works Department (later the Ministry of Works), headed at that time by H. F. Peet as director of public works. This coal-fired power plant was to be an invaluable asset in the generation of electricity at the time.
The disused power station can be seen today, in all its faded glory, from the Eko Bridge in Lagos.
The Nigerian Tribune, July 15, 1950: The Wedding of Justice Olumuyiwa Jibowu, the first Nigerian to sit as a justice of the Supreme Court: Born in Abeokuta in 1899, Sir Olumuyiwa Jibowu attended Oxford University, and was called to the English Bar, at the Inner Temple, in 1923. He was appointed a police magistrate in 1931, and a judge of the High Court in 1942 – the first African to be so appointed to these two positions. He got married on July 8, 1950, to the former Miss Deborah Fasan, at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos. Described in the report as ‘the grandest wedding witnessed in Lagos in recent years’, it was attended then by the cream of Lagos society.
The Nigerian Tribune, July 9, 1950: ‘Women Beat Men By 5-2’: In a football match played at Ibadan, on June 1, 1950, a female team largely drawn from students of St. Theresa’s College, Ibadan, defeated a selection of players from the Ibadan Press, the Journalists XI, with a 5-2 scoreline. The male team was comprehensively outplayed by the well-drilled female team. Members of the victorious team included Cordelia Hendricks (goalkeeper), Theresa Adeniyi, Pauline Kuye, Georgina Melie, Ekanem Inyang, Debi Dediare, E. Sunday, Margaret Bassey, F. Ladega, C. Anthony and Elizabeth Akinade. The men’s team comprised stalwarts of journalism, such as Gabriel Fagbure, Geo-Thompson and Des Dokubo (editor of the Defender newspaper).
Then, women’s Football had been popular in Nigeria for several years, with one of the earliest documented matches being played in 1943 in Onitsha. By 1950, however, there were several women’s teams across the country. Ironically, this was at a time when women were forbidden from playing football on football association (FA) pitches in the United Kingdom.
The West African Pilot, July 1959: ‘PhD For Aluko’: Dr. Sam Aluko (1929-2012) was an economist who served almost all his career at the University of Ife. He also served as adviser to Nigerian governments at the regional and national levels.
The West African Pilot, July 14, 1959: ‘Foncha Calls In An Expert To Examine Financial Aspects of Secession’: John Ngu Foncha was the leader of the Kamerun National Democratic Party (KNDP), which from 1955 advocated for a separation from the Nigerian Federation. Cameroon had been, first of all, a Mandate Territory, administered by the League of Nations. The English-speaking Northern and Southern Cameroons were administered by Britain from 1946, upon which the territory was assimilated into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. The KNDP succeeded in wresting control of the Southern Cameroons from the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), led in the Southern Cameroons by Dr E. Endeley, in 1959. The KNDP then had the platform to actively pursue a separation from Nigeria – as revealed by this article.
A UN-organised plebiscite was held on February 11, 1961, with options for union with French Cameroon, Nigeria, or Independence. Southern Cameroons chose a union with the Cameroons, while Northern Cameroons chose alignment with Nigeria.
The Nigerian civil war commenced on July 6, 1967 with hostilities at Gakem, near Obudu in present day Cross River State. The West African Pilot, owned by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was a member of the Consultative Assembly of the then Republic of Biafra, apparently endeavoured to keep some form of journalistic neutrality during the early stages of the conflict. Three headlines in the first fortnight after the hostilities commenced illustrate this. There are:
July 13, 1967: ‘Chief Okereke Appeals to Ibos in Lagos. Have Faith in Federal Government: Eschew All Acts of Sabotage.’
This statement was credited to Chief Njiole Okereke, said to be the then leader of the Ibo community in Lagos, who appealed to his kinsmen to align with the Federal Military Government of General Gowon.
July 14, 1967: ‘Door Is Still Open for Peace: Ogoja Falls To Federal Troops’.
Major-General Gowon held a press conference to report that Ogoja had been captured by federal forces and that Nsukka would fall shortly – and this happened within a week. He described the Ffederal offensive as a ‘Police action’, further declaring that the January 1966 coup plotters, namely Major Kaduna Nzeogwu would still be made to answer for their acts. Major Nzeogwu was, ironically, to be killed in action in the Nsukka sector on July 19, 1967, a little over two weeks after the press conference. Enugu, the capital of the Biafran Republic fell in October 1967.
July 15, 1967: Government Issues Petroleum Control Decree: Tough Check on Control Products – Bid to Control Transportation and Storage.’
As part of the adopted war-time measures, the Federal Military Government imposed controls on the transportation and storage of petrol. This was for a number of cogent reasons, which included the fact that petroleum production, serving the rest of Nigeria, was located within Biafran territory. Hence, the conservation of supplies was imperative.
Daily Times, July 11, 1994: ‘PENGASSAN May Join Strike Today’. In the course of the protests against the annulment of the June 12 elections and the subsequent detention of its acknowledged winner, Aare Moshood Abiola, Nigerian trade Unions embarked upon a series of strikes. The National Union of Petroleum Engineering Workers (NUPENG) had embarked on a strike, and was followed by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), led by Chief Frank Kokori, on July 11, 1994. The strike was to last for two months, until September 1994.
The nation was virtually at a standstill as a result of the action, while the leaders of the unions were sacked by the government. Chief Kokoro was also to spend several months in detention as a result of this action.
PENGASSAN was formed on August 15, 1978.
Muni King-Keazor, a journalist, photographer and writer, was former editor of Happy Home Magazine, while Ed Emeka Keazor is an historian, lawyer and film-maker.