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ARO-CHUKWU IN PRE-COLONIAL NIGERIA I SOCIO-ECONOMIC, RELIGIOUS AND JUDICIAL FUNCTIONS

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The Aro people have a mixed identity with Akpa and Ibibio ancestry, sited in present-day Abia state, Nigeria. However the socio economic, religious and judicial relevancy of the Aros people in relations to their oracle Ibini Ukabi or the long juju oracle as some refer to it would be discuss in the paragraph below.

From the religious and judicial perspective the Ibini Ukpabi shrine, was a mediating god among the Aros (19 communities), Ibini Ukpabi at the height of its powers was the most powerful deity in Igboland. Large numbers of votaries and pilgrims often times travel to the shrines of Ibini Ukpabi to worship and receive answers to their personal and spiritual questions. The oracle inhabited a cave near a stream located at the bottom of a steep hillside in Aro territory.

Ibini Ukpabi, was known for its unbiased judgement, neighbouring villages visited the shine not just only for religious activities but also for judicial functions against perpetrators of crimes and seek fair justice, it was a form of supreme court whose judgment was final, there was no appeal, if found guilty the culprit would have to walked into dark tunnels and those found innocent went back to their relatives. There is also a hill of rag where the condemned were instructed to undress and leave their clothes before they disappeared into the tunnels around the hill never to return (mysterious disappearance).

The Aros were missionaries for the oracle when they travelled, serving as a mobile oracle in judicial decisions, as well as helping individuals to pray to the oracle for happiness and prosperity. The Aros served as goodwill ambassadors for the oracle, establishing strong religious connections that then translated into beneficial trading relationships, and enjoyed economic prosperity.

This was how well Ubini Ukabi was known, but with the advent of Trans-Atlantic slave trade from 1650 to the 1850s, there was a sharp shift in what was known of this Oracle. The shrine became corrupted, commercialized, and used for selling slaves during the slave trade. Sometimes the Oracle through its Custodians demanded a price for assistance, usually in the form of slaves, whom it would ‘‘eat.’’ Sometimes the oracle would demand slaves as the judicial penalty, and sometimes the oracle would enslave persons as part of its judgment.

The slaves demanded by the Oracle were then engulfed by the mouth of the cave, from where they were escorted to the Cross River, which led them to Calabar for ultimate sale to the Europeans in exchange for commodities. It was to this end that Prof Afigbo pointed out that; “the wealth of the Aro oligarchy and its ascendency was based on the slave trade”

The Aro proclamations of religious title allowed them to perform economic activities, most profitable among which was the slave trade, without fear of molestation from competing groups, it also gave Arochukwu people prestige leading to protection. Hence, through the oracle they maintained a stranglehold on the slave market in the interior of the Bight of Biafra throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Until the British Government was able to forcefully put an ending to the obnoxious trade in human.

Question:

  1. Critically examine the rise to rise to prominence of the Aro people in Precolonial Nigeria
  2. Ubini Ukabi: the central piece of the Arochuwku People in precolonial Nigeria.

Contributed By:- Akinola Segun Augustine (Ba.Ed History, Acicrm, Hrp)

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MUNGO PARK EXPLORATION TO NIGER RIVER

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The period of exploration coincide with period when European interest was in trade and humanitarian projects. There was also a strong component of intellectual curiosity about the geography and people. Thus it was to this end that in 1797, Mungo Park went to West Africa in hopes of navigating the Niger River. However there was more to his exploration which would be considered in the paragraphs below.

MUNGO PARK was given birth to 1771, He also earn a degree in Medicine and Botany at the University of Edinburgh by January 1793. He was the seventh in a family of thirteen, at the age of 14, taking up an apprenticeship with a surgeon named Thomas Anderson in Selkirk, and later he got married to the daughter of Anderson after his return from the first voyage to River Niger.

Mungo Park as the seventh child of twelve children in a middle-class family of reduced circumstances, he was aware that he had to work hard for worldly success, it was to this end he took over exploration for desire to be new and have a hallmark in history upon the sand of time.

Mungo Park being a British explorer;he was determine to know the course of the Niger River between 1797 and 1806 on two separate expeditions.  Mungo Park was commissioned by the African Association of Great Britain who was then looking out for a successor to Major Daniel Houghton, who had been sent out in 1790 to discover the course of the Niger and had died in the Sahara, it was to this end that Park was selected. With an annual salary of 271 pounds a year, he was commissioned to navigate as far up the Niger River as he could, then to exit via the Gambia.

Read How Alfonso Discovered Benin

After much voyage en-route waters by June 21, 1795 he reached the Gambia River and ascended the river 200 miles, he was able to locate British trading station called Pisania. On December 2, he was accompanied by two local guides, he started for the unknown interior. He chose the route crossing the upper Senegal basin and through the semi-desert region of Kaarta. Park journey was full of difficulties, and at Ludamar he was imprisoned by the local chief for four months. He latter escaped alone and with nothing left for him aside his horse and a pocket compass.

However, he became stranded and had to return back to Scotland, but getting to Kamalia he became sick, and was helped by a man in whose house he lived for seven months. He got back to Scotland on 22 December 1797. He had been thought dead by the African Association of Great Britain that sponsored his voyage, he returned home with news of his exploration of the Niger River, his experience of being held down ups and down. He gave a detailed narrative by 1799 in his journal titled Travels in the Interior of Africa.

However by 1803 Mungo Park was invited by the government to lead another expedition to the Niger. Which preparation was made for and he took off alongside about 35 men on 31 January 1805, close to the Niger only eleven Europeans were left alive with him; the rest had died of fever or dysentery, Traders along this section of the Niger did not believe Park was exploring purely for intellectual curiosity but was scouting European trading routes, they saw Park as a threat to their trading dominance.

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They therefore seek means to kill Park, he then took a defence mechanism of staying away from the shore towards the middle of the 2 to 3 mile-wide river while attacking anyone who came near with weapons shooting them, and in return earning the rage of local rulers, in some cases slaughtering significant numbers of natives using superior firepower, in one of the expenditure he got stocked by a rock seeing his enemies around he jumped into the water ad some of his co explorer and got drown. At the confirmation of his death his wife received a previously agreed upon £4,000 settlement from the African Association. She died in 1840. Mungo Park’s remains are believed to have been buried along the banks of the River Niger in Jebba, Nigeria.

In conclusion though Park could not get the trace to the Ocean, but he laid the foundation and clue. Thus, the mystery of the source and trace of the Niger would finally be solved 25 years after Park’s death, in 1830. Richard Lander and his brother, who became the first Europeans to follow the course of the Niger from source to ocean.

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History of Broadcasting in Nigeria

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Historical background and development of the Nigeria press in the political arena. The historical background and development of the Nigerian Press commenced with the printing media on 3rd December 1859 by a Christian Missionary named Reverend Henry Townsend who established the first Newspaper in Nigeria called ‘’ Iwe Iroyin fun awon Egba ati Yoruba” which literary means “A Newspaper for the Egba and Yoruba’’.   The demise of ‘Iwe Iroyin’ later resulted to the emergence of other Newspapers like Anglo-African, Lagos Time and Gold Coast Advertiser ,Lagos Observer , The Eagle and Lagos Critic, The Mirror, The Nigerian Chronicle, The Lagos Standard, Lagos Weekly Record , African Messenger ,The West  African Pilot , Nigerian Tribune.

The era not only resulted to the emergence of Newspapers in Nigeria but also gave birth to an articulated vibrant and veteran journalists who made judicious use of this created institution {press} to fight Colonialists under nationalist struggle which gradually led to Nigeria Independence in 1960 and as a matter of fact, this has placed them in front role in Nigeria political arena since then. Corroborating this, M. H. Kukah in 1999 stated that journalism was the major vehicle through which the anti-colonial struggle in Nigeria was carried out. Many of the Major figures in this struggle are Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ernest Ikoli, Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, Dutse Mohammed Ali, Mokwugo Okoye  to name but a few who were newspaper publishers, journalists, commentators and or editors. Their newspapers served as platform for mobilising the people, spreading nationalist awareness and for opposing the worst manifestation of colonial subjugation and the racialism which is customary to them. Also Fred Omu {1978}, the pre-eminent historian of the Nigerian Press said the early Nigerian Press provided the most distinguished intellectual forum in Nigeria history. One in which the high standard of debate, discussion, the quality of thought and expression cannot fail to fascinate the modern reader.

After the Independence, the Nigerian Press was so developed to the extent that so many Newspapers and Magazines were established, and electronics media such as WNTV, WNRC and NBC among others have been metamorphosed to Nigerian Television Authority {NTA} And Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria {FRCN} with many stations across the Nation as well as other stations owned by the State Governments. Although, private individuals were not empowered to own electronic media as it is for publishing counterparts. The interesting fact about Nigerian Press at this stage of our political development is that men of the press continuously playing their roles which appears as a threat to the selfish desires of some people in government who intend to monopolised and controlled the public space as a result of which instruments available in government were sagacious use to achieve their objectives.

Origin of Radio in Nigeria 

In Nigeria, radio started with the introduction of the Radio Distribution System in the year 1933 in Lagos by the British colonial government under the Department of Post and Telegraphs (P&T). The Radio Distribution System (RDS) was a reception base for the British Broadcasting Corporation and a relay station, through wire systems, with loudspeakers at the listening end. In 1935, the Radio Distribution System was changed to Radio Diffusion system. The aim was to spread the efforts of Britain and her allies during the Second World War through the BBC.

The Ibadan station was commissioned in 1939, followed by the Kano station in 1944. Later, a re-appraisal of radio broadcast objectives gave birth to the establishment in 1950 of the Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS). The NBS began broadcast in Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna, Kano and Enugu on short wave and medium wave transmitters.

Through a Bill by the House of Representatives, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) was established in 1956. The NBC took up the responsibilities of radio broadcast in Nigeria. The Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) was established in 1978. The Voice of Nigeria (VON) which served as the external service was established in 1990. With the creation of more states and each state wanting to propagate its people and culture, the pace for radio broadcast began in Nigeria and has spread fast across the length and breadth of the nation. Each state owns and operates at last one radio station.

Origin of Television in Nigeria 

The evolution of television in Nigeria followed a similar pattern as that of radio. The irony here is that while it was the Federal Government that started the first radio broadcasting station in the country, it was a regional government that first ventured into television broadcasting. On 11 October, 1959, the then Western Region sent out the first television signals in the whole of Nigeria and Africa. The principal aim of establishing the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) as was claimed by the proponents was to serve as surrogate teacher in improving the regional school systems that were handicapped by ill-qualified teachers or a shortage of them in certain subject areas.

Picture of West African Pilot By Nnamdi Azikiwe

Picture of West African Pilot By Nnamdi Azikiwe

The Eastern Regional Government followed by establishing its own station on October 1, 1960, the day Nigeria gained political independence from Britain. The aim was also for formal and non-formal education. But sooner or later, the aims were abandoned and the station, just like that of the West, became fully commercial.

The Northern Regional Government established its own station and it came on air in April, 1962, as Radio-Television Kaduna (RTV Kaduna).

Television stations were established in Nigeria with the ostensible reason of providing adequate services in education, and social and economic development. However, it was soon realized that they had gone commercial and depended heavily on foreign programmes.

The establishment and running or managing television stations remained in the hands of federal and state governments until Decree No.38 of 1992 that deregulated broadcasting media and established the National Broadcasting Commission. This paved the way for private ownership of the electronic media of radio an history of Nigeria mass media

The Book started by explaining to us the growth of periodic publications in Nigeria dating back to when Iwe Iroyin came into being back in 1859 by Briton Rev. Henry Townsend. Then the book also talked about how Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo used their own publications to fight for freedom until Nigeria gained independence in 1960 despite all the odds. The attack by the nationalists and other newspapers contributed to this achievement.

The book then highlighted how the try to stop the newspapers from publishing reports so that they will not use their publications to attack the government, this also forced the federal government to establish its own medium of information, The Morning Post, the publication did not last after revoke by the people who claimed the paper was just working for the government and not really serving its people, that made the government to acquire 60% of Daily Times. The Daily Times was seen as a fair paper then and the government felt acquiring the paper will allow them to get to the people again.

The activities of Press as highlighted also include battling the military governments of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and the late Gen. Sanni Abacha, the chapter made it known that the press played a lead role in chasing away the military leaders, although, many people died as many journalists lost their lives during the course of fighting for democracy in Nigeria. Mr. Dele was assassinated by letter bomb and up till this moment, the killers have not yet been identified.

The press also played a major role in ‘sustaining’ the country’s democracy by fighting corruption in the country and highlighted the case of ex-speaker of the House of Assembly, Salisu Buhari, who was ousted after his true identity was revealed by the press, he was trialed and jailed thereafter.

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The emergence of Radio and Television was highlighted in chapter 3 and 4. Broadcasting proper started in 1936 when the first Radio Distribution Service (Re-diffusion) was opened in Lagos and distributed the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC London) programmes. Then in May, 1960, the former western region established its own radio station and on August 28, 1961 witnessed the passage of a bill which gave the Federal Government complete control of the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (NBC). The chapters go on to explain how many decrees were set up by the Federal government including the one which forbids the Federal Government from establishing radio stations outside the four national stations and that the state owned radio stations’ transmitters should not exceed 10 kilowatts. This however was not the case as the rule was violated as many state radio stations acquired powerful transmitters which could be picked beyond their territory; they also established more radio stations especially the FM station.

Many private radio stations were created including Ray Power 100.5 FM which happened to be the first private radio station to go on air in 1993 and today we have over 25 private radio station in Lagos alone.

Television broadcasting was also not left out as the book highlighted how Television came into Nigeria in 1959, a year before the independence of the country. Officially though, the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) was commissioned on Saturday, October 31, 1951 and transmitting from the grounds of parliament building and has its slogan as first in Africa.

In May, 1977, when the Nigeria Television Authority was inaugurated and was empowered with the sole responsibility of undertaking Television Broadcasting in Nigeria. Individuals were not allowed to operate television stations as at then as the government believed that it could be dangerous for individuals to run it. In 1992 however, the government of Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida bowed to the cries of proponents of private broadcasting in Nigeria, who have repeatedly clamoured for the chance for private broadcasting stations. They have argued that job opportunities would be created, boost freedom of expression, especially as there was no source where the public could express themselves since the broadcasting stations were all government owned hence the criticism og government was not allowed on the government owned stations. After all the agitations, General Babangida bowed to the public and when the decree 32 of 1992 was promulgated, it brought an end to about sixty years of government monopoly of broadcasting in Nigeria.

The National Broadcasting Commission was established to oversee the affairs of broadcasting in Nigeria and its responsibility includes issuing of licenses to new broadcasting stations, renewal of old ones and also lately, the NBC have been strict about the contents of TV stations and Radio stations. Therefore, they also supervise and monitor what goes on air.

Many private broadcasting stations were then given the green light which saw the emergence of 11 private new televisions including Clapperboard, which is now known as Superscreen Television was the private television station to go on air. After that, many TV stations have gone on air too notably African Independent Television (AIT) and Channels Television.

Read Also: Agba Jalingo And 6 Other Journalists charged with treason since 1963.

Competition is also getting tighter as Television stations compete with each other to ensure quality programming to beat off competition from other television stations. However, on the negative side, some television station, most notably the government owned ones, allow proliferation, preferring to use the greenhorns instead of employing the services of young professionals and also, the number of NTA-owned stations is getting too much daily and it’s not as if they are bringing to the homes quality programmes, nearly all the 36 states in the country has its own Federal Government-owned stations and the states also have theirs. Study shows that the government (both the Federal and the state) control about 90% of the television station we have in the country.

The book went ahead and talked about the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) which was established as a result of the domination of the world’s air waves by western media in the wake of the advances in information and communication technology with their ethnocentric and Eurocentric reportage, analyses and comments. The western world focused all its reports on Europe alone not minding what was going on in Africa. This is what informed the African leaders to establish news agencies that would disseminate their view points to correct the perceived imbalance in international news flow. Hence, the News Agency of Nigeria was established in 1976 by General Olusegun Obasanjo’s military administration.

The decree at which the body was established empowers NAN to seek, obtain and receive through subscription, payment or exchange, international, regional, local and other news features. The News Agency of Nigeria in its editorial policy seeks to uphold the integrity of the Federal Government of Nigeria and promote harmonious relationship between and among the various ethnic components of the nation by informing and enlightening opinion comments NAN must bring to bear on its discussion of national and international issues. Like the saying goes, he who pays the piper dictates the tone, NAN focuses its reports on the Federal capital, state capitals and other urban areas in Nigeria than from rural areas just as they also focus on the third world countries than the developed countries. Today, the agency provides good percentage of the news and news features which are used by radio and television stations, as well as newspapers and magazines in the country

The success of Broadcasting and journalism in any country cannot be achieved without certain bodies controlling or overseeing the affairs of press in a country which prompted the government to establish the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and all other regulatory bodies being mentioned in chapter 6 of the book. Other regulatory bodies mentioned include the Nigerian Press Council, The Nigerian Guild of Editors, Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON). All these bodies have their different responsibilities they are playing in ensuring professionalism in Journalism practice in Nigeria just as Broadcasting. The book went ahead to talk about the deregulation of the Broadcasting Industry in Nigeria and started with how the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission decree was established and how they failed to live up to its billings and the example of the Bellview Plane crash of 2005 when African Independent Television (AIT) was shut down by the NBC because of offensive broadcast of the scene of the plane crash at Lisa Village in Ifo, an outskirt of Ogun State. Because the commission felt they should have been the first to broadcast such national tragedy, they decided to wield the big stick on AIT who did their work professionally ahead of the not too serious government officials.

These are the rewards of some broadcasting organizations for doing their work diligently. The NBC was heavily criticized by stake holders in the broadcasting industry for not really performing its roll but acting as the dog of the Federal Government. For instance, when the NBC should be fully in charge of looking into granting new Television/Radio stations licenses, they leave the duty for the presidency via the Ministry of Information and only serve as advisors to the Government; this doesn’t make the commission an independent body. Besides this, many broadcasting outfits complain of high price fees charged for the granting of licenses and renewals as against the fees charge against the government owned stations.

However, deregulation also faces its own obstacles as many of the privately owned television stations never showed professionalism in terms of quality reporting, there were too many radio stations and television stations not necessarily operating professionally as far as they make their money through commercials. In a nutshell, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission just focused on giving licenses to the stations without thinking of whether to show professionalism or not. The political philosophy of the press in Nigeria was also highlighted in chapter 8, where many theories were looked at including the Authoritarian Theory, the Libertarian, the Social responsibility, Soviet communist’s theories, Development media theory, Democratic-participant media theory. These theories were said to be more or less concepts of what the press should be and do, which informed the explanation of the philosophical foundation of Nigerian Mass Media.

Contributed by:-SHITTU QUDUS OLASUNKANMI

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Arts & Culture

The History Of Onitsha

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The history of Onitsha is said to have begun with the migration of its people from the Benin Empire towards the end of early part of the 16th century as a result of a wave of unrest, war and displacement unleashed by the Islamic movement from North Africa. One version said that it was during their passage through the outskirts of Ile-Ife that they acquired the name Onitsha, a corruption of Orisha Udo.

Another version has it that their migration to East of the Niger has to do with a misunderstanding that arose between the Onitsha family and Oba Esigie (1404-1550), following the slighting of their shrine, Udo, by the Oba. According to the legend, it was customary for newly installed Oba to pay homage to all important shrines in the Benin Kingdom by slaughtering a cow in the shrines enclave. But Oba Esigie is said to have refused to do this at the Onitsha people’s Udo-Shrine, hence the quarrel and the migration down towards the River Niger area and across it.

Ukpabi disagrees with the Oba Esigie angle and posits that the misunderstanding and migration was rather as a result of “a fight over a farmland. These other people fighting over farmland with the others and interest started coming. And because of interest, bitterness ensued and the two brothers decided to go their separate ways. One said, no, ‘I will now leave you, I’m going to Ado N’Idu.’ ‘Ado’ means border. ‘I will leave you and go and settle down on my own. I’m no longer going to be with you.’ That’s the issue. So, the two brothers had to separate.”

Onitsha, capital of Igbo Kingdom
The immigrant settlers from Benin were said to have been helped by the Igalas to cross the river to settle in Onitsha in the 16th century, which was originally called Ado N’Idu. It soon became the capital of an Igbo Kingdom. In 1857, British traders in palm oil established a permanent station in the city, and Christian missionaries soon followed, headed by Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (a Yoruba) and Reverend John Taylor (an Igbo).  In 1884, Onitsha became part of a British protectorate. The British colonial government and Christian missionaries penetrated most of Igboland to set up their administration, schools and churches through the river port at Onitsha.

Have You Read About THE FACTS ABOUT THE GREAT WALL OF BENIN?

Historically, Onitsha became an important trading port for the Royal Niger Company in the mid-1850s. Following the abolition of slavery, trade in palm kernels and other cash crops boomed around this river port. Immigrants from the hinterland were drawn to the emerging boom town as did the British traders who settled there and coordinated the palm oil and cash crops trade.

Colonial relics and post-colonial architectural wonders
Areas bordering Old Market, New Market Roads, Upper Market Road, Modebe Avenue, Iboku, Old Cemetry, Old Hospital, Mbanugo St, Emejulu St, Obi Street, Benjamin St, Court, Enugu Road, Awka Road, Egerton, etc are known as Whitemen Quarters; so-called because the white colonial masters who first settled in Onitsha, used to live here. And, even till today, the white colonial style of buildings such as you see at Yaba, Ebute Metta and Central Lagos, can be seen existing, side by side, with the new, on these streets. Onitsha is made up of three groups of people. The first is the Edo.The second, Igalas. They were the people that were fishing at the Niger by the time Onitsha people came to settle there. The third, the Igbos who are very close to the Niger and had integrated with them. These three groups make up what is today known as Onitsha.”

“Their tradition is blended with the three peoples, first the Edos, second the Igalas”, Ukpabi says. “In fact, in the past, there were some villages in Onitsha that spoke Igala. And they are made up of two villages. They are still in Onitsha. Onitsha is made up of nine villages. Two out of the nine are purely the Igalas: Ogbodu and Obigboru. So, that is how Onitsha people came to be.

“The ones with Edo influence are the monarchy itself. That’s the Eze Chima, that is the ruling villages. They are four in number. Umueze Aroli, Okebunabu (which include Umudei and Ogbabu) and Olosi. The present Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Achebe is the 21st Obi of Onitsha.”  Inter-marriages, says Ukpabi, have long existed between the Igalas and the Edos. “The people our ancestors met fishing at the bank of the River Niger were purely Igallas. They were following the Niger all the way from their place to Onitsha. So, they don’t normally come to the upper land. They remain there. They have their buildings in their canoes. So, we attracted them into coming to the hinterland. We started intermarrying with them. One of the outstanding monarchs of Onitsha, Obi Eze Aroli, the mother, Enubi, is from Igala.”

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