History Through the Headlines (7), By Muni King-Keazor and Ed Emeka Keazor
In an interview conducted at the Crossroads hotel, where Fela and his entourage moved into after the destruction of his property on February 18, 1977, Miss Bukola Adebiyi described her reasons for moving into Fela’s Kalakuta Republic.
This is a rehash of stories that made the headlines through 160 years of Nigerian press history for the week of July 16-22.
The Lagos Standard, July 20, 1904: ‘Dull State of Trade in Lagos’: The front-page piece discussed the depressed commercial environment in Lagos at the time, highlighting the proliferation of small trading concerns on the Lagos Island. Additionally, the paper highlighted the seeming success of the Syrian traders in Lagos, referring to their nickname, ‘Coral’, sourced from their call to prospective customers, announcing their coral products. The Syrian and Lebanese traders first arrived in Lagos in 1885, with the first being the family of Elias Khoury Younes, who was to lead a charge that increased over the decades and evolved into the burgeoning and successful Levantine community in Nigeria today. However, it is important to mention that Lebanese immigrants were encountered in Kano as far back as the 16th century.
Lagos Standard, July 20, 1904: ‘Lagosian on Bits’: This outlined the resignation of Dr. Orisadipe Obasa from his post as assistant colonial surgeon. Dr. Obasa (born George Stone Smith in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1863) studied Medicine at St. Thomas’ Hospital London, qualified in 1891, and was appointed assistant colonial surgeon in 1900. He was married to Charlotte Obasa, an heiress and entrepreneur in her own right.
Dr. Obasa was one of the founders of the Peoples’ Union, Nigeria’s first political association, in 1908. He remained a stalwart of the party through the 1920s, and was also one of the founding members of the Reformed Ogboni Fraternity.
West African Pilot, July 20, 1938: ‘Muslim Community Rejoices Over Govt’s Grant of Holidays’: This piece chronicled the colonial government’s final bow to the sustained advocacy and campaign of the Muslim community for two public holidays linked to the holy festivals of their faith. As such, the days of the Eid El-Fitri and Eid El-Kabir celebrations were grantaed the statuses of public holidays in Nigeria, which they remain till date, alongside the later addition of the Eid El-Maulud festival.
West African Pilot, July 18, 1938: ‘Lagos Defeats Kumasi by 6-2 Goals In Brilliant Encounter’: The Inter-Colonial Cup was a football competition between the teams of Lagos Colony and the old Gold Coast, mainly Kumasi and Accra. This fiercely contested competition began in the 1930s, with editions running from 1935 through to the 1950s under its new name, the JALCO Cup. In this legendary encounter, the Lagos XI, led by Shittu Ade Fashola, defeated the Kumasi team by six goals to two.
West African Pilot, July 18, 1939: Warship Nigeria Is To Be Launched’: The Colony Class Cruiser ship was launched on July 18, 1939, and was to see action throughout World War II, especially in the Mediterranean. She survived the War’s privations, and in 1954, was sold to the Indian Navy. Subsequently reconstructed and renamed the Mysore, she took to the seas again in 1957, before its final decommissioning in 1985.
West African Pilot, July 22, 1959: ‘Zik Isn’t Bothered Who’s Going To Lead Africa. Our Attention First To Stable Economy’: The headline piece examined speculations relating to the leadership of an African Federation, which was the subject of discussion amongst African leaders at the time. African leaders were eventually to realise this dream with the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963.
West African Pilot, July 22, 1967: ‘ECN v Store! It Will Be More Than A Friendly’: The Stationery Stores Football Club of Lagos was without question the most dominant team in Nigeria in the period 1966 to 1969. It won the Challenge Cup for two consecutive years from 1967 to 1968. The ECN Team was owned by the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria and equally exercised dominance over Nigerian Football, with Challenge Cup wins in 1960 and 1965, prior to this encounter. As a result, it was seen that these were two of the most dominant teams in Nigeria. To add to the frisson was the fact that they were both Lagos teams.
Both teams’ fierce rivalry during this period was only balanced by the fact that their players formed the vast component of the National Team but remained such that even a friendly match like this was going to be a tense, competitive affair.
THe ECN Team boasted legends such as the late Paul Hamilton, Sebastine Brodericks, Lawrence Omeokachie, Shedrack Ajaero and Luke Okpala. Stores, founded by the late Chief Israel Adebajo, equally comprised legendary names like goalkeepers Peter Fregene and Lawal Inua Rigogo, Kenneth Olayombo, Augustine Ofuokwu, Tony Igwe, and schoolboy sensation, Muyiwa Oshode, amongst many others.
Both teams were to continue their successful runs through to subsequent decades. ECN lifted the Challenge Cup once more in 1970, then featuring the legendary Amusa Shittu.
Stationery Stores suffered a decline after the death of Adebajo in 1969 but, propelled by fan power, won the Challenge Cup twice more in 1982 and 1990, and the National League in 1992. They reached the finals of the African Cup of Champion Clubs in 1993.
The PUNCH, July 16, 1977: ‘Inside Fela’s Battered Kalakuta Empire(2), Why I left Home’: In an interview conducted at the Crossroads hotel, where Fela and his entourage moved into after the destruction of his property on February 18, 1977, Miss Bukola Adebiyi described her reasons for moving into Fela’s Kalakuta Republic.
The PUNCH, July 17, 1977: ‘West African School Certificate Exams: Nigeria Records The Highest Leakages’: In this piece, Professor Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike, registrar of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), underlined the seriousness of the examination leakage scandal of 1977. He cited that the highest percentage of occurrences was in Nigeria. He further stated that the papers might have to be printed abroad, to forestall this problem subsequently. The scandal was nicknamed ‘Expo 77’ in the popular social lexicon. In its short form ‘Expo’, it was subsequently used to describe exam malpractice or any form of unlawful advance knowledge of information.
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.