IGBO LANDING: A HISTORIC RESISTANCE TO SLAVERY BY IGBO SLAVE CAPTIVES AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE TO THE EMERGENCE OF BIAFRA

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June 30 2020 | The Biafra Restoration Voice

Of all the resistance channelled towards colonial domination and supremacy in Africa, those from the Igbo race have always remained significant and redefining to the world and especially to the person and the character of the Igbo people. Although history was intentionally denied to the young crops of Igbo generation through Nigeria's horrible educational system, but the ancient character and the resilience of the Igbo race was never, and would never be lost on the successive Igbo generations. Because it is this noble character and resilience of the Igbo race, which is, of course, a direct gift from God himself, that made it possible for us to still stand till today as a race.

We had the Ekumeku Movement which consisted of a series of uprisings against the Royal Niger Company of the British Empire between 1883 to 1914. It was a series of wars at different locations and times that lasted for 31 years. In Arochukwu, the war was fought between 1901- 1902. In Anioma, the war was fought and it was the toughest and longest lasting war that the British encountered with local territories. In Ogwashi-Ukwu, the war was fought in 1909. In Ndoni, the war was fought in 1870. In Onicha-Ado, the war was fought in 1897; and in other places including Akwa-Ibom. The Ekumeku warriors were well organized and their leaders were joined in a secret oath to defend their land, and they were able to use guerrilla tactics to fight the British, leaving them with so much casualties.  Unfortunately, those who told us that we have no history never, in all sense of truth, honesty and boldness, told the world what they encountered with the Igbo Biafrans. But with conscientious historians within that period, we are able to have some accounts of what happened with verifiable evidences.

We also had the Aba Women's Riot of November 1929, otherwise known as Women's War. It has been proven by recent researches that democracy started from Igboland; and that the first democracy to accommodate and encompass women's rights and participation was found and practiced by the Igbo race. Perhaps, this Aba Women's Riot is yet another strong narrative to justify that.

The Aba Women's Riot broke out when thousands of Igbo women from the Bende District, Umuahia and other places in eastern Nigeria travelled to the town of Oloko to protest against the Warrant Chiefs, whom they accused of restricting the role of women in the government. The Aba Women's Riots of 1929, as it was named in British colonial records, is more aptly considered a strategically executed anti-colonial revolt organized by women to redress social, political and economic grievances. The protest encompassed women from six ethnic groups, namely Ibibio, Andoni, Ogoni, Bonny, Opobo, and Igbo. And It was organised and led by the rural women of Owerri and Calabar provinces. And in the course of the event, many Warrant Chiefs were forced to resign and 16 Native Courts were attacked, most of which were destroyed. It was the first major anti-colonial revolt by women in West Africa as recorded. And In 1930, the colonial government abolished the system of warrant chieftains, and appointed women to the Native Court system.

I would have loved to name some notable figures and characters that made the Aba Women's Riot very successful, but that would be a great digression to the focus of this piece, Igbo Landing. And I believe that by now, you would have agreed with my opening statement that the resistance the British received from the Igbo race was quite unique, strong and redefining. Now let’s delve into the substance of this piece.

The first time I heard about the Igbo Landing on Radio Biafra from Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, it didn't invoke a deep meaning to me until I heard it repeatedly from him and other sources, then I decided to research on it. After my research, not only that I was emotionally agog about it, I was confronted with a careful sense of pride, because I realized, even more, who we are and why we do what we do the way we do it. And for those hearing about the Igbo Landing for the very first time through this piece, I will quickly run a brief narrative of the event before looking at its significance to the emergence of Biafra.

In May 1803, a shipload of captive West Africans, having survived the middle passage, were landed by captors of the United States in Savannah by slave ship, and to be auctioned off at one of the local slave markets. The ship's enslaved passengers included a number of Igbo people numbering about 75 captives, bought by agents of John Couper and Thomas Spalding for forced labour on their plantations in St. Simons Island for $100 each.

The chained enslaved people were packed under the deck of a small vessel named The Schooner York to be shipped to the Island. During this voyage the Igbo slaves rose up in rebellion, taking control of the ship and drowning their captors. And after securing their freedom in what I call 'pyrrhic victory,' they realized that they were not actually free because they could not go back to their homeland and they could be possibly captured back as slaves. So, they decided to walk into the Dunbar Creek to drown themselves than to become slaves.

This event, to some people, is more or less a folklore because of its incredulity and the implications it harbours for human civilization, but different accounts and researches have proven beyond every conceivable doubt that Igbo Landing is a true-life story. A 19th century account of the event identifies Patterson Roswell King, as the person who recovered the bodies of the drowned; and a letter from a Savannah slave dealer, William Mein, describing the event, states that the Igbo captives walked into the marsh, where 10 to 12 drowned, while some were salvaged by bounty hunters who received $10 a head from Spalding and Couper.

Many people around the world, especially artists and authors have been inspired by this event as the account has now become part of curriculum for coastal Georgia schools in the United States. This story formed the basis of Noble laureate Toni Morrison's book, Songs Of Solomon; and Writer Alex Harley recounts it in his highly acclaimed book, Roots. Visual artists have also paid tribute to the Igbos who endured this event. A Jamaican artist, Donovan Nelson, did a very beautiful artistic illustrations on the event which are on display at the Valentine Museum of Art. Beyoncé has also depicted and paid homage to the Igbo Landing in her music video, Love Drought. The wildly acclaimed Marvel comic film, Black Panther, Killmonger, played by actor Michael B Jordan referred to this event, saying, "bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, because they knew that death was better than bondage."

Now, talking about the significance of this event to the coming of Biafra having highlighted how much impacts it has made to a wide range of figures from different walks of life, we must recognize that this event is regarded as the first freedom match in the whole of America. Therefore, we can say very confidently that the quest for freedom is coterminous with an average Igbo man. Because we understand that with total and complete freedom, the room for total and complete self-realization and accomplishment is made available. It is this room that Biafra seeks to provide for all today.

Biafra will be significantly conscious of the event of Igbo Landing, for unlike those who regard the story as a mere folklore, it captures both spiritual and physical implications for us. A lot of people are wondering what is the metaphysical force that is driving the Biafra restoration movement by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB. The answer is not far-fetched: the spirits of those who rejected bondage to freedom even unto death in Georgia, coupled with the spirits of over five million Biafrans killed during the war are relentlessly restive. They are the metaphysical force behind our March, and of course, Elohim himself is piloting our affairs. The immortality of these brave heroes and heroines will only be complete with Biafra restoration. With that, they can find peace in the great beyond as they watch the kingdom of God on earth.

Let me close this piece by making this recommendation. I hereby boldly recommend that Biafra Government, when restored, should build eternal magnificent monument that will forever remind humanity the sacrifices and the price that those brave Igbo slave captives paid for our freedom, so that "Our Very Long March To Freedom" will forever remain invaluable.

Written by:
Chukwuezugo J. Uduorji
For: The Biafra Restoration Voice - TBRV

Published by:
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: The Biafra Restoration Voice - TBRV

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