Community Development In Ebiraland
The concept of a community development project in Ebiraland dated back to 1918 right after Ibrahim Onoruoiza installation when he called on the Ebira to embark on the opening—up of Okene—Lokoja road by direct-laboour. And according to my grandfather, Onuku Atiye, who participated in this project, the Ebira opened up the road up to our boundary with Lokoja defined by the river Imeme. And by 1922, the entire road works of about 40 miles were completed.
In a similar manner, the Okene-Ajaokuta road was completed. But today, the results speak for themselves! All along the young and dynamic Sole Native Authority was guided by the principle entrenched in the following excerpt: –
“One thing we must put into consideration is that it is what we do today that is the history of tomorrow. Those people of tomorrow will be in a better position to judge the wisdom or otherwise of our decision. Let us, therefore, look ahead and work not for today but tomorrow as well”.The above quotation is part of a speech delivered in the Northern Nigeria House of Chiefs by no less a person than the Late Alhaji Ibrahim Onoruoiza Atta in 1950.
And as we of the present generation can now attest, the Period 1917 — 1954, amidst stiff opposition, from the natives themselves gave birth to the actual foundations of community development projects in Ebiraland. And today, Okene is described as LONDON of Kogi State In this regard the following project mostly executed by direct labour, quickly come to mind viz:
|Date||Projects Executed during the reign of Attah Ibrahim|
|1918-22||Okene-Lokoja Road: Okene-Ajaokuta Road|
|1926-36||Establishment of N.A Primary Schools in almost all Districts of Ebiraland|
|1926||Okene Central Office|
|1927||Building of Okene Prisons|
|1930-31||Constructions of Judicial Courts in Ebiraland|
|1933||Okene Central Mosque|
|1933||Establishment of Okene middle school later P.S.S. (Provincial Secondary School). G.S.S. (Government Secondary School) e.t.c|
|1934-37||Okene Water Works: Okene Cemetry|
|1944||Establishment of Okene Teachers College|
- The roads helped increase the volume of trade and commerce; opened up new and virgin lands for agricultural purposes and led to the founding of new settlements along these roads.
- His pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in 1029/30 brought about Arabian and modern architecture into Ebiraland, as evidenced by the palace, mosque, and court building. By 1937, Okene water works became operational and places like Okene, and a section o f Kuroko had already been connected by water pipes and were already enjoying water.
From the foregoing, today’s community development programmes in Ebiraland are more or fewer expansion programmes on foundations already laid by Atta Ibrahim.
THE EBIRA REVOLUTION
The Oivo Arimo Crises and the Obangede Riots of 1922—26 culminated in the Native Court Reforms of 1939—40; designed to resolve major issues related to the Crises. it was also resolved as follows: That the Court in each of the Districts is manned by a Traditional Chief who would still be a political appointee of the Atta. And the result so obtained gave rise to the following appointments which generated a lot of fuss.
- Umoru Ireyi for Eika District; a younger brother of Onukaba Arigi wh01)1 his people acquiesced but the ‘Ohireba’ refused to release the staff of office to him. However, Umoru Ireyi turned out to be a great Chief of his time; who operated above board with a clear sense of justice and integrity and abhorred bribery and corruption in all ramifications.
- Mayaki, the Asema Iriku forAdavi District; rise to opposition from both the Asema Upopuvete and Asema of Uka clan who accused the Atta of nepotism. More serious was the reaction of the deposed agent and member of the Atta’s Court, Audu Osuwa of Ipaku. Who brewed trouble for Atta up till his death in 1940.
- Even after his death his children continued and carried this bitterness to a logical conclusion with the help of the ITU (Igbirra Tribal Union) through the period 1940–54.
The most progressive works, carried out by the Atta even brought to him problems. Such was the case of Okene Water Works:
- Its construction involved the use of forced labor by all the Ebiras but on completion, only a certain favoured section of Ebiraland benefitted from the scheme Okene, Ogaminana, and Kuroko.
- To the then primitive Ebira, no scientific explanation would satisfy the Okengwe, Ihima, and Eika group to justify why they should not enjoy the facility they all toiled for.
- And to worsen the situation, the sanitary’ considerations that brought along the construction and establishment of the use of a public cemetery, ‘Oganya’ brought more problems than anticipated particularly when it came to the enforcement of its use; most especially when some class of people was exempted from the rules and regulations guiding its use.
Even the Atta’s educational policies were criticized, The RCM, in particular, remained bitter that the product of the Native Authority Schools ( mostly Muslims) was favoured in the appointments to posts in the Native Authority Services, This bitterness is traceable to the deportation of Father Cermenati in 1926.
When in 1 939, the 2nd World War broke out many of the products of the Missionary Schools rushed to join the Army; returned emboldened to liken the Atta to Hitler whom1 they went to fight against. In the same vein, they vehemently opposed Atta’s policies. They even accused him of discouraging others from enrolling their children in schools while he (Atta) sent all his children to the best schools.
Under various guises arch-rivals like Opata, the Obobanyi Ovapara (Ihima), Ozigizigi of Obehira, the supporters of Ohindase Arudi Adano, and traditionalists like the famous Ichimiri. The custodian of Ogugureba left no stones unturned in bringing all the ills of the Atta to the limelight.
Another enlightened Ebira resident in or outside Ebiraland, who as individuals had one trouble or another with the Atta strongly supported the Opposition Group. In 1923, Lokoja was merged with Igbira Division.
The Wakili and Alkali of the town were sad about this development. And from the moment Atta’s administration extended to Lokoja, the Lokoja intelligentsia started with the slogan “Lokoja for the Lokojans”. The attendant problems associated with this development became another thorn in Atta’s flesh.
The Lokojans even made several attempts to unseat the Atta in order to win back the independence of their town. The Atta hoped to solve the problems in Lokoja by posting his brother, Yakubu, to Lokoja as the Wakili. The problem persisted and he was finally compelled to remove him and Subsequently posted him to Ajaokuta.
This action again brought him a family feud. The Ogori/Magongo group on their part continued to petition against the Atta and even agitated for a merger With Western Nigeria. Not realizing that they were mere settlers (of Yoruba stock) in Ebiraland turned down.
The third and last phase of Atta Ibrahim’s reign saw him very actively involved in national politics. This period started in the 1940s when nationalist struggle seemed to have heated up in the country. The colonial master had fallen out with him because the progressive Atta did not accept some of the details of their policy on education and the delay in self—government.
The Atta, who believed that there should be no limit to the education of the children, encouraged other Northern Chiefs (Emirs) to send their children to acquire the maximum amount of education They ‘were capable of. He was an open advocate for early self—government, as contained in the excerpt below:
“There is much to be gained by the East, West, and North functioning as one unit. There are many problems for us to solve”
The above is an excerpt culled out of Atta Ibrahim’s speech in 1950, whereby he was virtually advocating for the independence of one united Nigeria and not just the individual regions. He was thereby accused of going the southern way and so he clashed with Mr. Sharwood Smith, the governor in Kaduna, who through the Atta’s opponents was instrumental to his final downfall. The cumulative effect of all the above factors ended in the form of a revolution in 1951, referred to as Ebira Revolution.