• Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

THE BEGINNING OF THE COLONIAL PERIOD IN IKA BY CHIEF DR ONYEKPEZE

Mar 2, 2024
onyekpezeCHIEF DR ONYEKPEZE

THE BEGINNING OF THE COLONIAL PERIOD IN IKA BY CHIEF DR ONYEKPEZE

This had to do with the intrusion of the British into the territory of the Ika Nation. This intrusion meant the over-throw of the indigenous independence of the Western Igbo States, including Ika, whose culture, artistic ingenuity and mode of life had possibly impressed some of the early colonial visitors.

Before the British influence spread to Ika when they formally arrived at Agbor in 1901, Ika people had begun to feel the presence and impact of the whitemen in Ika area. Between 1880 and 1910, some Ika Kingdoms, Akumazi, Igbodo, Umunede, Agbor Ute-Okpu Owa and Abavo, like other Western Igbo communities, became heavily involved in Ekumeku Movement, which was foundation of a resistance movement against the Royal Niger Company’s attempt to establish authority in Asaba hinterland.

In 1887, the first Englishman visited Umunede. In 1890, the Royal Niger Company established a trade post in Umunede. In 1895 Bishop Tugwell stopped at Igbodo where the people saw a white man for the first time. In 1898 some white Roman Catholic Missionaries visited the Obi of Agbor to seek permission to establish a Leper Settlement at Ohiomo then under Ika District. In 1899, the British Government replaced the Royal Niger Company with the United African Company (UAC) Ltd. In Umunede. In 1900, the first British Patrol was led by some Benin Chiefs to Agbor,

A Centenarian respondent had this to say in the experiences of those days; “I used to hear about Ndi Ocha, Potokin, like every other person in those days. I never saw them myself. We were often told that they were found around the Mba miri, (Delta side), from where they went to places with guns and carry away igbon, (slaves), to their countries. I can recall that my father said that children were hidden always inside the houses with the elderly people and the doors properly fastened when the young people had gone to their farms. Children, even adults, were afraid to loiter on the street during the day not to talk of the night.

He emphasized that children were prevented from crying for a long time, especially in the night. He told me a story of how a child who was crying in the night and was kidnapped by a person who passed as a friendly neighbour. This kidnapper screamed from outside the wall of the compound like a masquerade that wanted to intimidate him into stopping his crying. In attempt to carry the intimidation further, the mother of the child asked the ‘pretender masquerader’ if it would like to carry the troublesome child to its home for its supper. And while doing so, she tossed the child up, which was snatched from her from above the wall. That was the last she saw of the child”.

In that way, my father told me that people’s yams, goats, sheep and other materials were their own only on the day they saw them last in those far places like Urhobo, Aboh, and he was afraid when such days would come to Ika area. He said that things could disappear at any time. He emphatically asked. “If some parents could wind up and sell their children, in those places, what more, selling other people’s property if they could. If they could not look for a human being, would they look for a goat?” This, my father told me made the pre-colonial days very unsafe and fearful.

Unexpectedly, British arrived at Agbor after which traders and Missionaries came one by one; European goods spread, and some men and women were converted to Christianity. This time, the British Patrol continually took place at Agbor and thus came the British Administration, which stopped all bad happenings such as stealing, fear, etc, which were found everywhere. Agbor became the administrative station for the Ika, Asaba, Kwale, Auchi and Ishan people. Government offices and schools started to be opened, first in the frontage of the palace of Agbor.

THE BEGINNING

On arrival, the British had to hand over readymade system of intermediaries through whom the Benin dealt with local inhabitants, and it was natural for the Ika, who succeeded in maintaining their own organization by the use of Ihaime titled men system. The result was that on the formation of Native Courts, which were administrative as well as judicial units, the senior title holders, who had experience of one foreing people, were again put forward to perform the same duties for the British. Naturally, they were described to the Political Officers as the senior titled men of their quarters, and accepted at their face value, were appointed as court judges. As had the idea of hereditary titles arisen, so had the ‘warrants’, which were then regarded in the same light, and passed from father to son, irrespective of the latter’s true position in the indigenous society. The result had been that these Ihaime, backed by their position as court judges, assumed a prestige and standing in their areas, which were totally out of keeping with their real status in the clans. On the other hand, an Obi or Okparan-Uku had greatly profited by his membership of the Native Court in that power and influence had correspondingly increased, and the Obi or Okparan-Uku who showed considerable sense and moderation in his exactions had usually succeeded in welding his clan into a more compact unit. But as the power of the Obi or Okparan-Uku and Ihaimę had increased so, pari passu, had the influence and standing of the Ndichen Ogbe diminished.

INTRODUCTION TO MODERN SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT

The system of government in force up to the introduction of Native Administration was that of the Native Courts as on arrival The Native Court areas were treated as the administrative as well as the judicial units, and the Court members, who were presumed to be the proper village heads, were dealt with as such. This system had some evil effects in some areas. In cases where the villages that formed the Native Court area were more or less related, the system tended to produce greater cohesion and unity, and eventually a clan consciousness. But where, as with the Umunede Native Court and the components, the effect was that the aspiration of the less important villages were subordinated to those of the greater ones. This was the case of Mbiri whose political entity was lost sight of in the larger members of the Umunede clan with the result that they kept aloof from, and are now backward than their Umunede neighbours.

As has been stated earlier, the Native Court system tended also to create a bureaucracy of chiefs, who had not the title of right to the position they made for themselves, and who usurped the power of the indigenous village heads.

SEE ALSO: THE BIRTH OF IKA NATION; IKA IN THE BEGINNING BY ONYEKPEZE

The proposals that followed were thus framed with a view to giving the Ndichen Ogbe/Idumu and the Ndichen-Uku as a whole, more recognition than they had previously, and thereby broaden the base of the administration of a clan. The Native idea was that each Ogbe, although forming part of the clan, was in itself a separate unit, and to give expression to this idea, Onyęchen Ogbe as being personally responsible to the Obi or Okparan-Uku for the proper administration of his Ogbe. This method did away to a large extent with the Ihaime system. It was proposed therefore, that there should be constituted a village council composed of the Obi or Okpara-Uku and council. This council would be the administrative and executive body for the whole clan, the medium through which the Political Officers would administer the clan area. All matters affecting the clan would be discussed with the council beforehand, the collection of taxation, the framing of the clan estimates, and the usual routine questions that arose.

Even though the records of the early years of British Rule in Ika are very scanty as most of them were burnt in a fire, which took place in the District Office in 1918.

In 1901, the British made Agbor an Administrative Headquarters. In 1904, Telephone from Lagos to Asaba through Agbor was made; the first District Commissioner was meant for Agbor alone.

In 1906, Agbor District was opened under a District Commissioner, Captain M.O.S. Crew Read, who travelled to Auchi Ubiaja and Asaba; towards the middle of this year, 1906, the District Commissioner, Crew Read, was murdered at Owanta; fifteen title holders from Agbor including Obi Gbenoba were selected to attend the Native Council at Benin; a Battalion of the West African Frontier Force arrived Agbor; Army Barrack, Police Station, District Office, Prisons, Telegram and Military Hospital, were established in Agbor. In this year, 1906, Telephone line from Agbor to Auchi was made. A Native Court under the Presidency of the District Commissioner was established in Agbor Town. In the same year, a Native Court established at Igbodo and Umunede came under its jurisdiction. From 1907 till 1912, there was no Native Court in Agbor District, but several of the Agbor title- holders represented the District in the Benin Native Council.

In 1908, Benin Chiefs escorted British Patrol Officer to Agbor. In 1912, a District Native Court with Telephone and Tower Clock at the top, which also functioned as a Council, was opened in the Government Station, and was attended by those Agbor Chiefs who were members of the Benin Native Council, and by several other important personages from the other clans of the District.

In 1918, the Agbor District was joined to Asaba under the name, Asaba Division. The District Officer (D.O) was stationed at Ogwashi-Uku, while an Assistant District Officer (A.D.O.) was left at Agbor in charge of Agbor District; in the same year, 1918, a separate Native Court was opened for Agbor, Owa, Abavo, Umunede and Oligie and Emuhu clans (Emuhu then was taken as a clan); British Constabulary soldiers set foot at Agbor; the records of the District were burned in a fire, which took place in the District Office.

In 1921, Agbor District Council came into being; a Native Court with ‘D’ grade was established at Igbodo, Akumazi, Mbiri Otolokpo, Ute-Okpu. In 1922, a Native Court was established in Owa-Oyibu. In 1927, Agbor District Council was inaugurated; Native Court was built at Agbor Town; District taxation was introduced; a Native Treasury was opened at Ogwashi-Uku for the whole Asaba Division; five Obis, those of Agbor, Owa, Umunede, Akumazi and Abavo, started to be paid salaries.

In 1929, a separate Native Treasury was opened for the Agbor District. In 1930 there was a change in the method of collecting tax. Assessment Notices were issued directly to the Onyechen (Onyisi) of the town who was made responsible for the collection of tax in his town. In 1931, a sessional Court was opened at Akuku-Agbor because of distance from Agbor. In 1932, judicial proposal was made and each town was to have its own court with Onyechen of the town as president. In this year, 1932 Intelligence Report of each clan was written and in 1933, Obika, the Obi of Agbor was sent to Benin to study the Local Administration, and the Re-organization of Clan Native Authorities gradually came into operation in Ika. In 1934, the Obi of Owa, Efeizomor1 was sent to Benin to study Local Administration.