Many do not know that a massacre once occurred under the British government of Lord Frederick Lugard in Egbaland. Many were not informed that Egba, which is now the Ogun Central Senatorial District under Ogun State, was once an independent nation on its own. It was also strange to a larger percentage of people that the massacre that occurred under Lugard was the reason why Egba lost its independence and became part of the then Western region. This was how it happened:
When the colonial masters arrived at Egbaland, they met an organised existing system of government. They observed the Egbas were a distinguished set of people. That was one of the reasons why the British government was able to grant independence to Egba.
In 1893, Governor Carter signed a treaty with the Egba people, an agreement that was considerably different from the protectorate agreements with the other Yoruba rulers of the West. In return for promises of good behaviour and cooperation, Britain had recognized the independence of the Egba Nation. During the following twenty years, the Egbas constructed a national government that attempted to blend British practices with Egba traditions.
As time went by, Egba governmental system was functioning well than other states under the British government. Nonetheless, British economic interest in Egba continued to mount and the Lagos government became particularly concerned over the security of the main railway line that ran through Egba territory.
By the time Lord Frederick Lugard assumed duty as the Governor-General of Nigeria, the independence of Egba had been further strengthened by other treaties with Britain. Lugard was not pleased with this independence; he saw it as a threat to his vision of a united Nigeria under British control. He looked for ways of annulling the Egba independence but none was available.
Unfortunately, there existed a minor conflict between sections of Egba at Abeokuta. Lugard, having seen this, intervened and aggravated the conflict and made the then Alake to seek British assistance.
On August 8, 1914, the British government called for a peace talk with the people of Ijemo. Ijemo people, who were peace lovers, gathered at a square to meet with the British officials. They were defenceless for they did not foresee any impending danger. The British officials sent troops from Lagos to Abeokuta; no sooner had they got to Ijemo than they started shooting at Ijemo chiefs and their subjects. They invaded the town, killed and injured many Ijemo indigenes. They killed the then Oluwo and six of his retainers.
Using this affair as an excuse, Lugard then abrogated the 1893 treaty and declared Egbaland to be part of the protectorate of Nigeria. What a loss to Egba nation!
It is unspeakable that since the massacre of the innocent Ijemo people in 1914, the British Government has never deemed it fit to heal the wounds of the families of the victims. You may be taken aback to know that the report of the official investigation of the massacre which was made in 1915 was never allowed to see the light of the day; simply because it indicted the British government. How I wish the British Government could be sincere enough to make public, the report of the investigation. How I wish the British government could write its name in gold by apologizing and paying compensations to the people of Ijemo who are still recounting the injuries caused them over a century ago.
I was at Ijemo during the Centenary of Ijemo Massacre in 2014. I could see the community is now a shadow of its old self; houses were in shambles. Those who would have developed the community have been killed in the massacre while many displaced persons deserted the community and never returned.
Without being economical with the truth, Ijemo would have become one of the greatest town in Egbaland, if not Ogun State; but the pains it suffered in the hands of our colonial masters have truncated its chances of attaining the desired height as at when due. In case you don’t know, the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, has made it categorically clear that “Ijemo owns Abeokuta”, being the first settlers in the ancient town. This assertion is still being contested though.
As a matter of fact, the British government should sympathise with Ijemo and Egba as awhole. It should see the need to develop Ijemo and the people therein. This would bring succour to them and give them a sigh of relief.
Let us get it right, no amount of money could bring back the murdered souls and there is no any form of compensation that would be enough, considering the damages and injuries suffered by Ijemo. But it would be fair and humane enough if Britain could admit that it had inflicted injuries on Ijemo. This should be followed by reasonable compensations.
Let’s go down memory lane, on January 30, 1972 in Londonderry, soldiers opened fire on a Catholic crowd demonstrating against Britain’s detention without trial of Irish Republican Army suspects. 13 people were killed and 14 wounded.
As a result of their protests against the unjust killings, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, had in 2011 apologised to those concerned. A 12-year investigation found that the soldiers were not under attack and fired without justification on unarmed civilians.
I think people can now see why it becomes imperative for the British government to make the reports of the investigation of Ijemo Massacre public and do the needful.
Similarly, Malawians have also sought compensation from the British Government over the Nyasaland Massacre of 1959. During a protest led by Hastings Kamuza Banda against the detention of freedom fighters agitating for self rule, on a passenger ship moored on an anchor, 33 unarmed persons, including three pregnant women were gunned down and buried in a mass grave at the beach at Nkhata Bay.
Also, in June 2013, a foreign newspaper report has it that: “5,228 Kenyans tortured by British colonial forces during the Mau Mau uprising in the early 1950s will receive compensation totalling £20 million, or $30.5 million, British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced to the British parliament. The compensation amounts to £3,000 per victim and only applies to living survivors.
“The British government recognizes that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration,” Hague told Parliament. Hague also announced plans to support construction of a permanent memorial to the victims in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
“This is the first historical claim for compensation that the British government has accepted, as it has never before admitted to the torture committed by the former British Empire.”
In Ijemo, more than 43 persons were killed with an unconfirmed number of persons sustaining various degrees of injuries. Who says they do not deserve compensation and apology from the British government?
Note that the fact that Ijemo people have not pressed charges against the British government does not mean they are weak or docile; it does not mean that they do not have the wherewithal to do so and it does not mean they may not do that in the nearest future. What that portrays is the peace loving attribute of the Ijemos.
However, before it gets to that level, I wish the good government of Britain could do the needful by identifying with the sons and daughters of Ijemo; apologising to them and compensating them for crimes committed against their humanity.
Let it be on record that August 8, 1914 was the day when the good people of Ijemo were massacred; an incident that led to the abrogation of Egba’s independence.