Colonialism And The Ekumeku War

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2.
Colonialism & the
Ekwunokwu [Ekumeku] War

In the Nigerian geo-political experience, literature is replete with accounts of indigenous resistance to colonial incursion. Often cited are cases of the Caliphate, Ijebu, Ibadan, Benin Kingdom, Kings Jaja of Opobo and Nana of Itsekiri, but little is recorded of the Ekwunokwu [Ekumeku] War involving Anioma against the British colonialists.
Following the Berlin Conference of 1885, the area that came to be known as ‘Nigeria’ came under British sphere of influence. Three years later, Asaba [a core Anioma city] began to play host to the headquarters of the Royal Niger Company [RNC], which for a while was the de facto administrative authority for European traders and missionaries in that area. The Company was chartered and limited by the British Crown, and granted a trade monopoly.
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In spite of the superiority of their arms, the colonial soldiers suffered heavy casualties. They just could not match the guerrilla tactics of the freedom fighters; the enemies they could hardly see. The colonial invaders terrorized the traditional rulers and unarmed populace; destroyed their homes, farmlands and storehouses. It was a full-scale war, which the British paradoxically described in their official records as a ‘pacification campaign’. Hundreds of prisoners died in British detention, at Calabar Prisons, but the fallen heroes remain a symbol of the resilience of the Anioma people. Anioma heroes of that period included Obi Egbune [Commander-in-Chief of Ekwunokwu], Dunkwu Isusu, Ochei Nwayaeze, Monye Ukpe, Die Nwaobodo, Egbuneuza, Gbandi, Adirne, Iwegbu, Elumelu, Obiora, Idegwu, Chiejina, Elikwu, Ofogu, Umejei, Uwechue, Awuno Ugbo, Nkwo, Modi, Onwuadiaju, Uwagwu Osuma, Onyekeonwea Awolo, Agbambu Oshene, Obi Nzekwue and Nwabuzo

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