THE ONLY FORCE AGAINST THE CREATION OF NIGERIA
It is easy to talk about a country and its history but much harder to talk about how it was created, the people now called the Great Benins where a nation of their own recognized in the affairs of the world. We were simply a nation established by a very complex definition of modern organized society presided by the Oba of Benin, as a government with so much emblem of advancement, the Europeans envied our unrivalled civilization. During the Berlin conference of 1886 Africa as a continent was shared as piece of meats amongst the Europeans but the share the British got was the territory owned by the Great Oba of Benin, they only had one true resistance which were the Benins, we were impenetrable, the British devised a means by first cutting off our vassal States held in trustee by those chosen by the Oba of Benin like Oba of Lagos, Nana of Itsekiri, Awujale of Ijebu, and Jaja of Opobo. When they succeeded in capturing these resistance they had one more king to capture the real deal, this was not like his vassal States but the central government that controls all other governments, unlike others we didn’t wait for the British to bring the war to us first, we already knew a war certainly will come that led to the massacre of the British at Ugbineh.
The british Expeditionary Force was large and modern, a measure of the respect that London had for the Benins. The force had been assembled from all parts of the Atlantic Sea-board, and also from the Mediterranean Sea, the West Indies, and from many areas of Britain herself.
From the South Atlantic Naval Station in Simonstown, South Africa, seven warships were mobilized for the Expedition. The warships were:
The St. GEORGE, named after the Patron – Saint of England. The Warship served as the Command Headquarters of the Expedition, being the Flagship of Rear-Admiral Harry Holdsworth Rawson, the Commander-in-Chief of the Expedition.
The other six warships from South Africa were:
The Barrosa was at the Island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic – the Island where Napoloen Bonaparte, the defeated French emperor, had be exiled to by Britain, and had died, nearly a Century earlier. Maintaining maximum speed continuously on her journey back home to Africa, she was able to re-join her sister-warships for the attack of Benin.
From the British Meditarranean Fleet at anchor in Valleta, Malta, two warships, the THESEUS and the FORTE were ordered to the Benin River, with their full complement of the fighting sailors, the Blue jackets.
From Military barracks in the cities of Portsmouth, Plymouth, and the Chatham in Britain herself, Marines were mobilized for the Benin Expedition.
In West Africa troops of the Niger Coast protectorate Force, based in Calabar, the capital of the protectorate, were mobilized for the Expedition. They consisted mainly of Hausa and Yoruba troops, commanded by white officers, including one black officer, a Lieutenant Daniels. Then Force was taken to the Benin river from Calabar by the Steamers ILORIN, EKO, ELOBI and the LAGOON.
From Lagos Colony a contingent of Military Scouts, made up of Hausas and Yorubas of Lagos Colony Constabulary, were ordered to the Benin river. (in 1897 Lagos colony was a separate country from the Niger Coast protectorate of the Niger Delta Basin.)
A trading ship, the liner, MALACA belonging to the P & O (Pacific and Orient) Steam-ship Company, the equivalent of the Elder Dempster Lines of fifty years later, was commandeered in London and fitted out as a Hospital ship for the Benin Expedition. It was fitted out with Operating Theatres, one hundred beds for In-patients, and an adequate number of Naval Doctors and Nurses. It was sent to the Beninriver in support of the Expeditionary Force.
Troops from the West Indies, who were ordered to Akassa in the Niger Delta to replace the Niger Coast Protectorate troops who had been garrisoning that district, so that the N.C.P.F. troops could join their colleagues in the attack on Benin.
It is pertinent to know that in spite of the odds that was against us as a people we fought gallantly for about two weeks before Benin City was captured on Thursday, 18th February, 1897. They were still ongoing guerilla wars in the outskirt of Benin led by General Ologbose that war persisted for about 2 years until Chief Ologbose was captured in the year 1899, judgement was passed on him that same day and was also executed.
One notable warrior that was captured by the british was General Ebeikinmwin who had commanded the benin army at the Ughoton Front. Soon after the conquest of Benin the subsequent British Patrols had apprehended Commander Ebeikinmwin in the Okokhuo districts, near Ekiadolor village. He was condemned to death in Benin City, and tied to the stakes. As the shots of the firing squad rang out, Ebeikinmwin was heard to laugh with a loud guffaw, as he shouted at his executioners.
“The pleasure will be mine again, during my next incarnation, to inflict on you the defeat you deserve!”
Then he gave up the ghost
He was referring to his initial successful defence of the Ughoton Front against the British Expeditionary Force during the war. The British Navy, under Captain O’Callaghan, invaded Ughoton twice. In their first attempt they were driven out by the Benin troops under Ebeikinmwin. Six days later, and reinforced with troops from two other warships O’Callaghan re-attacked and re-occupied Ughoton, and then systematically leveled the village to the ground with artillery, leaving Ughoton the little village that it has remained to this day.
The British wanted to annihilate us because we resisted them from creating a country of their colony, Great Benin was the only opposition they ever had and when we were conquered a country called Nigeria was born, no wonder the British hated us so much and subjected us to those ordinarily that were slaves to us. We will tell our story to our children and the world of the great injustice done to us as a people and we must begin to revive the gallantry of our ancestors warriors we were, warriors we shall by the time we are ready to take the world by storm again they all shall know our DNA is laden with victory. The British Expedition that we survived for about 2 weeks, Nigeria as a modern day country would not survive it in one week.
God bless all our commanders and Generals who fought gallantly during that war and some day we will find a day to celebrate you all for defending your land and dying for the course of patriotism.