Western Education in Nigeria – British Conquest

Western Education in Nigeria – British Conquest

British Conquest and Resistance of Izzi People.

Western Education in Nigeria – In 1900, the British government proclaimed the protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria and the colony and protectorate of Lagos, today known as the federation of Nigeria. This declaration was easier made than enforced. The attempt to enforce the declaration culminated in a series of conflicts between the colonial government and the various peoples of Nigeria.

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The various peoples of Nigeria challenged the British incursion.

This was how the different people of Abakaliki of which Izzi clan is a part found themselves dragged into the wars of resistence against British rule. As the people remained hostile to foreign domination, the British colonial government embarked on the piecemeal conquest of different villages and groups in Abakaliki area.

However, the Izzi first came into contact with the British government in 1903 when the District it officer, Obubra, Mr. C.W Partridge was invited by the Anmachi community to protect them against the Igbeagu who were attacking them. This request by the Anmachi community was honored by the British officials who settled the dispute. The main British encounter with the people of Izzi, Ezza, Ikwo and Ishielu clans and other North-eastern Igbo occurred in 1905. It was from Afikpo, Ediba (Itigidi), and Obubra areas of Cross River basin that the pressure on these clans to surrender their sovereignty was mounted.

Meanwhile, the British sought their way to more friendly Izzi clan. According to Van Steensel, there was not much resistence from the Izzi clan. It seen that some Izzi elements even requested for their coming and expected some help from them against the expansion drift of the Ezza. They came and made their camp at the hill of Abakaliki. It was this base camp that became the British headquarters in the Abakaliki areas. The headquarters became known as Abakaliki, a name derived from a combination of the villages of Abakaliki and Nkaleke, on whose land the base camp was established. And the first District Commissioner for Abakaliki in 1905 was Mr. A.C Douglas.

Indeed, the colonial government chose Abakaliki as their permanent headquarters because it was a place with good water supply and a dominating hill useful for a defensive post. Voluntary and forced labour of the Izzi and other conquered clans were used to erect building for administrative headquarter. After Ishielu was conquered in 1907, 700 Ishielu were working daily for the erection of structures4.  Some civil servants working here were mostly Igbo from outside Abakaliki areas and, there were also some Yoruba who served as clerks, interpreters, massagers etc.

Until the early 1920’s the major activities of the colonial officials were the establishment of British presence in the interior parts of Abakaliki District and trying, often without success, to curtail the movements of expanding clans in the area. They also made efforts to restore normal peaceful situations by the delineation of permanent boundaries to prevent constant reoccurrence of conflicts. They demarcated the boundaries in conflict between Ebyia and Ezza; between Ida and Oshopo; between Igbeagu and Okum; between Enyigba and Ikwo; between Iseke and Effium; between Iseke and Okwogu, Iseks and Echara and Nkaleke communities5.

Appointment of Warrant Chiefs.

After the British conquest of various people of Abakaliki, they discovered that, as in most part of Igboland, there were no centralized authorities to work with. Consequently, the colonial government decided to appoint warrant chiefs6. This was an attempt at ruling indirectly through indigenous institutions and personnels. It was also an attempt to reduce the cost of administration and ensure the maintenance of law and order among the people.

The British overlord appointed indigenous an chiefs over the conquered clans and sub-clans. They gave them special written warrants as rulers. In Izzi chief Igboji Ola of Igbeagu was one of the early warrant chief in the area.7 Another of these early warrant chiefs in Izzi was Chita Alidor who was appointed between 1910 and 1915.

Chita Alidor of Izzi clan was made a warrant chief   between 1910 and 1915 because he constituted a problem for the British officials in Abakaliki. He was a renounced soldier and a magician who made sporadic attacks on the camps of the colonial troops. He was appointed a warrant chief in order to distract him from using age grade and league of medicine man against the colonial administration. Thus, only few of these warrant chief appointed during this period in Izzi were traditional priest (Uke) who would traditionally have been the right people for these posts9.

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Establishment of Native Courts.

Native courts as instrument of British colonialism began to flourish in Abakaliki Division in 1908 when the first one was established in Abakaliki Divisional headquarters10. It was also on record that the first recorded judgment in the Abakaliki Divisional court was made on November 19,1908, by then British political officer in charge11.

However, with the establishment of the Native courts, the frame work for the colonial government and subsequent native authority was laid in Abakaliki. From this focal point, the British officials moved into the interior parts of the various clan in the areas to appoint warrant chiefs and to establish Native courts. In 1923, a Native court was built near Nkwagu market in Izzi clan for the surrounding area of Izzi. And by the late 1920’s a sub-clan court was established at Iboko Izzi12. In these Native courts, the warrant chiefs administered Justice on behalf of the British colonial rulers.

The Beginning of Western Education.

According to S.O Osoba and A Fajana “this foreign variety of education has co-existed ever since with different forms of indigenous education, but has progressively gained importance during the 20th century when the three British interests Christian Missions, commerce and formal colonization because firmly entrenched13.

The fortunes and significance of western type education were affected by a Welter of objective social, cultural, economic and political factors operating in the various Nigeria societies, just as the entire Nigerian society was itself significantly influenced and altered by the impact of this imported brand of education.

According to Crowder, though western education was to improve in its impacts the most radical of all the innovations introduced by the colonial powers, education as such was not foreign to African society 15. Thus, it is obvious that traditional system of education was already existing in various parts of Africa before the coming of western education.

However, the introduction of western education in Nigeria could be dated to the 1840’s when the European Christian missions made their first successful and enduring incursions into the territories bordering the Atlantic Ocean 16. Christian missions as the pioneer of western education in Nigeria recognized on their arrival that the task of converting the adults to Christianity would be a Herculean one, and so, turned their attention to the children whom they hoped to catch through school education. It was therefore, a familiar strategy that when a mission established a new post any where in this area, one of the first facilities it endeavoured to provide was a school.

Therefore, various Christian missions operating in Abakaliki deemed it necessary to educate the people through western education because, without such education the people particularly the Izzi would not be able to read and understand the Bible.

The Growth of Western Education in Izzi Clan

The growth under colonial rule.

Unlike some areas of Nigeria, especially the coastal and riverine areas of south eastern Nigeria and Yoruba land, the advent of Christian missions into Abakaliki was delayed by two main factors. These factors were the geographical position of the area and the hostility of the people towards the white man. Abakaliki district is not connected to the coast by a major river which could have facilitate transportation and communication. Abakaliki is more or less land locked with the exception of some Ikwo villages. The people were also very suspicious of the Europeans whom they feared would tamper with their lands.

The Christian missions, however, made some early efforts to establish their presence in Abakaliki district after the colonial conquest of the area. For instance, the first attempt by catholic missionaries to penetrate areas of Afikpo and Abakaliki dated back to 1914. The efforts made by father Francis Howel were thwarted by the refusal of the local leaders who argued that such a religion interfered with their religion and customs2.

Another proneering effort was made from Udi between 1916 and 1920, catholic missionaries from Eke parish in Udi made attempts to establish in Abakaliki town. Reverend Father Davey of Eke parish used to visit Abakaliki on Sundays on a motorcycle for his third mass3. Abakaliki was then an out station of the parish at Eke in Udi. During this period, the congregation of the catholic church was formed in the area mainly from among the non-Abakaliki Igbo in the town. Despite these early efforts however, Christianity could not take strong roots in Abakaliki due among other things to the deep roots of traditional way of worshipping gods in the area. The strong adherence of the people to the traditional and ancestral ways of worship militated against the spread of Christianity in parts of the former Abakaliki division.

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By the 1920’s however, missionary activities began to make some progress among the indigenous citizens of Abakaliki clans. As we are already aware, the Christian missions were responsible for the introduction of western education in Abakaliki district and Izzi local government in particular. The Christian missions could not carry out effectively the business of teaching the people the gospel of Christ without first of all teaching them how to read and write. The Roman catholic mission started this work in Abakaliki district with the establishment of the Iboko in Izzi), Ajaga, Amagu (Ezza), Ibudu (Ikwo) and Akataka mission school in the year 1922, under Evang. Groetz who was the manager of the Roman catholic mission schools, Ogoja4.

According to Nwede Leonard, the Methodist church established their first school and church at Nkalagu road junction in the year 1926. However, Mr. J. Brayne reported that the Methodist mission was maintaining vernacular schools at Ezillo and Nkalagu in the same area of Igbo Asaa of Ishieke in the 1920’s 5.

Another missionary group which made an impression on the people of Abakaliki area in the 1920’s was the Presbyterian mission (the church of Scotland mission). The mission with its base at Calabar expanded its activities in the first two decades of the twenteeth century to Ohafia, Abiriba, Arochukwu, and the North eastern Igbo group-Afikpo (Uburu and Uwana) and Abakaliki division6. According to C.A Obi, et al, the Presbyterian mission was first established at Kpirikpiri side of the divisional headquarters in the 1920’s. The mission established a school in the same premise with the church in the early 1930’s at Kpirikpiri area. It was from here that this church of Scotland missions made several in roads into the Ikwo, Ezza and part of Izzi while the Methodist mission tried to dominate Ishielu as the center of its activities. The early evangelization efforts of the Presbyterian church in Afikpo and Abakaliki was told by Reverend J.M Mac-Gregor.

Indeed, both the Methodist and the church of Scotland missions made only little progress in the work of evangelization before the 1920’s. This was also true of the Roman catholic mission because from 1921, Father James Mellot and Davey built Christian centers to promote the spreading of the catholic faith throughout Ogoja and parts of Abakaliki division7. these efforts were not sufficiently rewarding. Illustrating the situation before 1920’s as regards missionary impacts, Mr. G.B. G. Chapman, stated that the missions have always failed in the area in the 1920’s and there was for instance neither a Christian nor an education element in Ezza up to 19208. Thus, from the 1920’s, the missionary groups began to make more impact in evangelization and the building of churches and schools in Abakaliki area.

In Izzi local government in particular, the first school was established by the Roman catholic missions at Iboko (Now Inyimegu central school) in the year 1922. This school was established following the request made by chief Ogai to the manager of the Roman catholic mission schools Ogoja, Evang. Groetz. This school was closed at the end of 1925 on account of failing to pay school fees but was opend in 19279 (see appendix 2 for the photography).

However, another school was opened by the Roman catholic missions at Ndubia Igbeagu Izzi in 1938. A dispensary was also built at the Inyimagu-Agboja road about twenty –one miles from Abakaliki in the same year. Other schools established in this area by the Roman catholic in 1938 are Ominyi and Echiudu community schools.

It should be noted that government involvement in the development of western education in the whole of Nigeria during the colonial rule was indeed very low. According to Toyin Palola, “Until the 1950’s when the eastern and western regional government (under the indigenous leaders) embarked on massive educational development, the number of Nigerians who received western education as well as the institution remained very low”. He continued by saying that, “the consequence of government education policy was that the Christian missions in collaboration with the communities played a leading role in the development of education in Nigeria”. This was the case in Izzi local government area. Many schools were established by the missions in collaboration with Izzi communities. They includes: Ojiegbe community (1945), Agbaja community school Nwofe and Ndiogbaga Obashi community school 1947; Ofia-onwe community school 1948; Igbagu community school and Ndiebor – Ishiagu community school (1949).

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As from 1950, many schools were establishes in various parts of Izzi local government area. For instance, Ekemgbo community primary school, Iziogo central school and Opherekpe Igbeagu community school were established in 1950; Ndingele and Otam community schools were established in 1951; in 1952, Mkpuma Akpatakpa, Onuenyim and Mkpuma Ekwoku community schools were established; in 1953, Oyege, Izhaleme and Waka community, primary schools were established; in 1954, Okuerike, Ezza Inyimegu community school, Ezza ofu and Okpoduma community schools were established; in 1956, Amechara Agbaja and Ndinkwuda community school were established; in 1957, Akparata Ibina, Isophummi Agbaja, Ophereke Agbaja, Ezzainyimegu, Ndiechi Onuebonyi, Ochaptu, practicing school Igbeagu, onwuonwiya, Osebi, and Ekebeligwe community schools were established and in 1958, Ndiezoke, Igweledeoha, Odariko and Amoda community primary schools were established12.

As the number of schools grew in the various parts of Izzi local government, the first products of these schools became the first indigenous teachers, catechist and civil servants. The first indigenous teacher was Mr. Jonas A. Anigor from Igbeagu who was already an assistant teacher at St. Benedict’s school Ogoja in the year 1944 13. Other elites includes Mr. Amagu Michael (who become a teacher in 1959 at Agbaja community primary school Nwofe),  later Francis Okemini; Thomas Egbarada, Chief Christopher Nwankwo, Nathaniel Nwoga, Mathew Oyo, Ochi-eji Opoke and Mr. Tiger Leonard Nwede among others 14.

However, when the Izzi district council was built at Onuebonyi, they succeeded in establishing the first post primary institution in Izzi: Izzi High school at Ishieke in the year 1958. A dispensary was built at Iboko. They gave several scholarships, one of them to Christopher Nwankwo from Ezza Ofu Inyimegu 15.

 The Growth of Western Education in Izzi Since 1960.

In spite of the limited objectives of the pioneers of western education in Nigeria and their reluctance to embark on a programme of mass education, colonial rule itself and the accompanying colonial economy were already bringing in some changes into the Nigerian society – changes which in turn created a growing, almost unquenchable thirst for western literary education among many sections of the Nigerian education. This was the case in Izzi local government after 1960. This period was accompanied by the establishment of more schools in various parts of Izzi. To meet the high demand for western education in Izzi, a private secondary school known as co-operative commercial college Iboko was established in the 1970’s…….

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