By Emeka Obasi

It all started with George Taubman Goldie, the imperialist who deceived his original government by obtaining a dubious charter which guaranteed him the right to plunder territories, from the coast to the savannah. The Royal Niger Company (RNC) began plundering what would later become 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 Kingdom of Bini in January 1897. Mistrust led to an ambush that claimed his life to five Britons.

What was planted by rogue elements of the British Empire in the 19th century has not left us. Two centuries later, a national banditry engulfed the device called Nigeria. What started as an organized protest against police brutality ended up violating compatriots for peace and livelihood.

In 1897, the Bini stand up against the looters. The army, commanded by Ologbosere, faced a division of troops led by Admiral Harry Rawson. The invaders were on a punitive mission to avenge the deaths of Phillips and his men.

With maximum rifles, the imperialists subdued Ovonramwen and Bini. What followed was a great armed robbery. Works of art, not seen anywhere else in the world, were stolen by officers and brought back to Britain. Captain Herbert Walker kept his loot at home while others sent theirs to the museum.

What we have seen recently in Lagos, Benin, Owerri, Jos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, has not started today. Looting is a colonial legacy. Healthy African societies abhorred Commonwealth plunder.

The peak of it all came shortly after independence. And it happened in a city renamed after a criminal. Pillager Frederick Dealtry Lugard, the man who created Nigeria in 1914 changed Igweocha to Port Harcourt as a thank you to Colonial Secretary Viscount Lewis Harcourt.

In 1967, war broke out in Nigeria. Port Harcourt fell to federal troops in 1968. Part of the Eastern region, it was known as Garden City because of the beautiful flowers planted by the Prime Minister, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. The city’s first mayor 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 city. Life was good and the place got a great name, Pitakwa. After Nzimiro came Francis Ihekwoaba.

At the end of the war, everything that glittered in Port Harcourt was stolen. To punish General Emeka Ojukwu and Biafra, General Yakubu Gowon had balkanized the East in May 1967. He created Rivers, the South-East and Center-East States. Those who ended up in Port Harcourt, the capital of the new Rivers State, took possession of all that belonged to the compatriots of the Central East State.

All the large houses built by Chief Louis Ojukwu, Nzimiro, Ihekwoaba and the small houses built by those of Enugu, Owerri, Umuahia, Awka and Abakaliki were stolen and declared Well Abandoned. This has not happened in any other part of Nigeria.

Singer, actress and presenter Onyeka Onwenu still calls for justice. Millions more too. Mazi Dike Onwenu was principal of Enitonna High School in Port Harcourt. In 1955, he won the elections to represent Port Harcourt in the House of Representatives in Lagos.

Dike was Onyeka’s father. He died in a car accident in 1956. His wife developed a property which they bought before his death. A street was also named after Dike Onwenu. At the end of the war in 1970, Mrs. Onwenu went to take possession of the family home in Pitakwa.

The widow was almost murdered for daring to visit her house. It has remained in the hands of looters until today. Dike Onwenu Street was renamed Harold Wilson Street. And the looting has not stopped.

The sequence is clear. From the false treaties obtained by Goldie whose other name was Dashwood, the cycle continues. In 1897, Benin was pillaged. It should come as no surprise that in 2020, the Correctional Center was also looted there.

Since 1967, looters have remained in Port Harcourt. It is remarkable that Viscount Harcourt died as a shameful criminal as a rapist and pedophile. Today, they rape and still kill in Igweocha.

Looters burned Zik’s statue in Onitsha. They disfigured the statue of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the West. Those who have benefited from Azikiwe and Awo do not care about History which has been suppressed as a subject in our schools. Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it forever.

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 mess. It looked really weird and we should treat them like Hausa treats.

President Muhammadu Buhari should wake up. We need to start punishing the looters. Those who put an end to SARS through looting are no worse than those who stole our oil money. I do not know what the comrades mean by “aluta continua”. It’s not my language. Don’t let her read: The plunder continues.

AVANT-GARDE


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