By Emeka Obasi
It all began with George Taubman Goldie, the imperialist who deceived his home government by gaining a dubious charter that guaranteed him right to loot territories, from the Coast to Savannah. The Royal Niger Company (RNC) began the plunder of what later became Nigeria.
There was also Captain James Robert Phillips. Acting for Ralph Moore as Vice Consul of the Oil Rivers Protectorate, he embarked on a mission to diminish Oba Ovonramwen and the Bini Kingdom in January 1897. Defiance led to ambush which cost five British lives.
What was planted by rogue elements from the British Empire in the 19th Century has not left us. Two centuries later, a nationwide banditry has engulfed the contraption called Nigeria. What began as organised protest against police brutality ended up raping compatriots of peace and means of livelihood.
In 1897, the Bini stood up against looters. The army, commanded by Ologbosere confronted a division of troops led by Admiral Harry Rawson. The invaders were on punitive mission to avenge the death of Phillips and his men.
With maxim guns, the imperialists subdued Ovonramwen and Bini. What followed was grand armed robbery. Works of art, not seen anywhere else in the world, were stolen by the officers and taken back to Britain. Captain Herbert Walker kept his loot at home while others sent theirs to the museum.
What we saw recently in Lagos, Benin, Owerri, Jos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, did not start today. Looting is a colonial legacy. Sane African societies abhored looting of the commonwealth.
The height of it all came shortly after independence. And it happened in a town renamed after a criminal. Plunderer Frederick Dealtry Lugard, the man who created Nigeria in 1914 changed Igweocha to Port Harcourt as thank you gift to Colonial Secretary, Viscount Lewis Harcourt.
In 1967, war broke out in Nigeria. Port Harcourt fell to Federal troops in 1968. As part of the Eastern Region,it was known as Garden City because of the beautiful flowers planted by Premier, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. The first Mayor of the town was Richard Okwuosha Nzimiro.
Nzimiro emerged in 1956. His wife, Mary Nwametu, was one of the richest women in Africa. She traded with the British and used her wealth to add to the beauty of the town. Life was good and the place got a funky name, Pitakwa. After Nzimiro came Francis Ihekwoaba.
At the end of the war, all that glittered in Port Harcourt was stolen. To punish Gen. Emeka Ojukwu and Biafra, Gen.Yakubu Gowon had balkanised the East in May 1967. He created Rivers, South Eastern and East Central States. Those who found themselves in Port Harcourt, capital of the new Rivers State criminally took possession of all that belonged to compatriots from East Central State.
All the big houses built by Chief Louis Ojukwu, Nzimiro, Ihekwoaba and smaller mansions put up by those from Enugu, Owerri, Umuahia, Awka and Abakaliki were stolen and declared Abandoned Property. This did not happen in any other part of Nigeria.
Singer, actress and broadcaster, Onyeka Onwenu, is still calling for justice. So are millions of others. Mazi Dike Onwenu was principal of Enitonna High School, Port Harcourt. In 1955, he won election to represent Port Harcourt in the House of Representatives in Lagos.
Dike was Onyeka’s father. He died in a car crash in 1956. His wife developed property they bought before his death. A street was also named after Dike Onwenu. When the war ended in 1970, Mrs Onwenu went to take possession of the family house in Pitakwa.
The widow was almost murdered for daring to visit her house. It has remained in the hands of looters till today. Dike Onwenu street was renamed Harold Wilson street. And the looting has not stopped.
The sequence is clear. From the fake treaties obtained by Goldie whose other name was Dashwood, the cycle continues. In 1897, Benin was looted. We should not be surprised then that in 2020, the Correctional Centre there was also looted.
Since 1967, looters have remained in Port Harcourt. It is remarkable that Viscount Harcourt died a criminal facing shame as a rapist and paedophile. They are still raping and killing in Igweocha today.
Looters burnt Zik’s statue in Onitsha. They defaced Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s statue in the West. Those who benefitted from Azikiwe and Awo do not care about History which has been removed as a subject in our schools. Those who do not know History, are forever condemned to repeat it.
There are looters all over Nigeria. You find them in Abuja. They are legion in the states. Many of them occupy local government offices. What we have is a looting bazaar. It really soundd bizarre and we should treat them as the Hausa treat banza.
President Muhammadu Buhari should wake up. We must begin to punish looters. Those who ended SARS with looting are not worse than those who have been stealing our oil money. I do not know what comrades mean by ‘aluta continua’. It is not my language. Let us not allow it to read: The Looting continues.