Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed satisfaction with the current level of relationship between Nigeria and the United States. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement emphasised that, Buhari said this when he received a telephone call from the United States Secretary of State,…
“On the grant of the Charter to the Royal Niger Company July 10, 1886, the man to whom Goldie turned to as the Chief Justice of the new Administration was Sir James Marshall. The headquarters was at Asaba.”
Oluwole T.S. Elias, Makers of Nigerian Law, Lagos 1963.
Three landmark events as a result of their overwhelming impact and consequences to the history of Asaba will continue to define and shape the civilisation of its people.
In the ancient cartography of Mungo Park’s Travel map also cited in the W.B. Baikie, the 1854 Asaba Report, it was recorded that Asaba was a “surprise,” and according to those early colonial adventurers “a town so clean so rich….well laid out by such unprepossessing race.” In their own 1830 Report, Richard and John Lander recorded that “Asaba with so handsome a race of females….” provided the first eyewitness description by a European, of a thriving city on the Niger. Elsewhere, J.B. Whiting 1881, described Asaba as a “fine hilly country, providing a thirty feet wide road from the waterside to the hills, through shaded lanes.”
On his own part, Asaba roads in H.H. Robinson 1891 Report, “extended over a thousand acres, clean and orderly…. were the famous Asaba Niger farms….a sight truly worth seeing.”
See Last Dance on the Niger, Gomslam Books, page 87.
Before the Amalgamation, Asaba was the civil headquarters of the Royal Niger Company, a British chartered company, which ruled and traded in the area. Lokoja, a town north of Asaba which stands at the confluence of the river Niger and its principal tributary, the river Benue, was the military headquarters. That was why, when the British crown took over control of the territory from the Royal Niger Company on January 1, 1990, the Jus Pax flag of the Royal Niger Company was lowered and the British Union Jack hoisted in its place at both Asaba and Lokoja.
From 1886 to 1904, Asaba town was the provincial headquarters of the Royal Niger Company and for all those years, its political and commercial importance was at its zenith. The first attempt to plant Christianity in Asaba was by the Church Missionary Society, (CMS). The Niger Mission landed in Asaba in 1875 and the Anglican missionaries spread from there to the hinterland towns of Osomala and Oko, as intensified missionary operations followed in Aniocha and other Ika areas down to Ogwashi-Ukwu, Ubulu-Ukwu, Akwu-Ukwu, Onicha Olona, Ezi, Idumuje, Ugboko, etc.
As the first capital, Asaba blossomed in education, and in 1917, Jacob Onyemem was recorded as the first African Linguist who spoke French, English, and Italian and wrote Latin. Asaba’s early investment in education enabled her sons and daughters dominate the Nigerian civil service with Justice Chike Idigbe leading others in the country’s Judiciary, and Dennis Osadebay was the Nigeria Acting Governor General, President to the Senate, and the first and the last Premier of the Midwestern State. J.I.G. Onyia, Nduka Eze, Leo Okogwu, Okafor Edozein, Okei Achamba were the visible leaders in the Nigeria’s struggle for Independence and were spearheads in the nation’s trade union movement.
At this time Michael Ugo, was registered as the wealthiest Blackman in the world, he was the first African to engage in the import and export business. Violet Odogwu and Sydney Asiodu made the Nigerian Olympic team after Independence. Professor Chike Edozien was the Dean of Faculty of Medicine, University of Ibadan.
Progressively, after Independence, Asaba produced the Senate President, Acting Governor General, the Premier of the Midwest, its Chief Justice, and out of the eight Doctors in the Benin hospital, Asaba had Doctors, Patrick Ofili, J.B. Azinge, Nicholas Azinge, Mathias Obiaya, Francis Ogeah, Eugene Akwule and Ngozi Allanah. Dr. Nkeaka was from Ibusa.
Asaba’s Pensioner’s Union with its cosmopolitan President, D.N. Mordi had grown and toppled the numbers recorded by the Abeokuta Pensioner’s Union and by early ‘60s Asaba serene picturesque environ overlooking the paradise of Akwa Ose gardens, sprouting its cherished blue and lavender colored berries had attracted the United Nations and Asaba was going to be named a UN city to be preserved as a world cultural center!
That civilisation was cut down and like Carthage; Asaba was put to the sword and destroyed on the memorable day of October 7, 1967.
Suddenly we have only one month to go as the community prepares to mark the Jubilee date of that blight to humanity.
The people of Ode in Bayelsa State who suffered the same trauma and the people of Zaki Biam in Benue State who also were victims of army genocide have been compensated. Ode was awarded N36 billion by a Port Harcourt High Court and negotiated for N15 billion few days as Doctor Ngozi Iweala was exiting office. Zaki Biam’s N41.8 billion compensation has already been approved by the Federal Government.
All the same, the Federal Government had by 1972 announced its decision to pay “exgratia compensation for losses and damages arising from the last civil war. An announcement from the Cabinet office stated that exgratia payment will be made only to civilians who were impressed into the Nigerian Armed forces during the war to carry out specific military duties and who in the process of executing those assignments lost their lives or suffered personal injuries or loss of property.”
The main theatres of war, the Statement explained, are the three eastern States and the Midwest. The decision was based on the Report of a Committee established by the Federal Government early in 1970 to consider the possibility of meeting compensation claims for losses and damages arising from the war. (see Sunday Times, December 10, 1972, Government to Pay War-Damage Compensation.)
The Final Red Card to Gabuu
He was the incredible star of his generation, a terror to many football defenders. The small sized holding midfielder can with his brand of football touches, and gifted with an unbelievable dribbling ingenuity was able to detangle block defense lines. While the modern magicians; Christiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi may not be hundred per cent sure on the Spot Kick, Christian Madu in his prime would close his eyes, hit it pass the goalkeeper to any of the far corners. (see Rangers International FC…. History of a People, Star Parade, Gom Slam 2017.)
As the number one star of Ghana’s Great Olympics FC, Christian Madu would be ushered into the stadium behind a mini festival of dancing masquerades, stage actors and the Christian Madu’s cheering parade…. Before coming over to join the Rangers in Nigeria, he was a deity and in the Accra stadium he was more popular than the Ghanaian Presidents.
Few days ago, after a long period of diabetic spell, Christian Madu, the footballer we may not see his like again, finally gave up as he collected his last red card from heaven.