|Urhobo Historical Society|
A RESPONSE FROM AGBARHA-URHOBO COMMUNITY, AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF WARRI, TO J. O. S. AYOMIKE’S CRITIQUE OF BRITISH TREATIES OF PROTECTION WITH URHOBO COMMUNITIES IN WARRI
CHIEF J. O. S. AYOMIKE: SAINT OR SINNER?
A RESPONSE TO J. O. S. Ayomike’s CRITIQUE Part II
By D. A. Obiomah
Note: In this critique the name Big Warri will be used for Ode-Itsekiri to ensure that reference to it, if any, is clear. Warri will be used for New Warri which is today’s Warri of the land leases. For the earlier points made on this matter by the author, see http://waado.org/UrhoboHistory/NigerDelta/ColonialTreaties/Treaties-Interpretation/DanielObiomah/ObiomahAnalysisofWarri.html
In his Part II Critique, Ayomike goes beyond the pale of discourse on facts to ethics. Here, he is both the accuser and the judge. It is tempting to want to pick up the gauntlet. But I shall desist, impute no motives but only note language that I consider to be offensive, so that he does not think that his diatribe is lost on us. I say us because I am involved both as an Urhobo man and also as an Agbarha, one of the people who claim ownership of Warri of the leases.
In passing, let me point out how Ayomike’s style bears the burden of prejudice. With the hell he raised in part one of his critique about Prof. Ekeh ‘doctoring,’ deliberately leaving out “Jekri Country” from the treaty with the Chiefs of Benin River, compare this from him: “Prof. Obaro Ikime calls it (my emphasis) Itsekiriland while Prof. Ekeh misleadingly uses Benin River.” Ikime is clearly not tied to Ayomike’s niggling exactitude!
I have from Public Record Office, London, a certified true copy of Agbarha Treaty of Protection of 1893 with Great Britain. It is one of the seven Treaties of Protection which Ayomike proclaims are forgeries and fake.
Alexander Pope tells us that “ A little learning is a dangerous thing.” Governor Festus told Apostle Paul: “Paul thou art beside thyself. Much learning doth make thee mad”. It is a quizzical life. With Ayomike, is it too little or too much?
Ayomike makes three points. First, he claims that the Urhobo Treaties were not signed by Urhobo Chiefs, one party to the Treaties. Second, he alleges that the treaties were not signed by the appropriate British officials. Third, he says that Ralph Moore had in a telegram warned the Foreign Office in London that Royal Niger Company’s representatives were falsely representing themselves as Government officials and signing treaties with native chiefs. Such treaties should therefore be cancelled. Ayomike also claims that the Urhobo treaties must be fake because of “the inexplicable delay of about 2 years before the documents were apparently dispatched to London” the day Nana’s trial began i.e. on 30/11/1894.
Apparently, apparently, purportedly, apparently. Is Ayomike sure of anything? What worthwhile history can be made out of page after page of Ayomike’s apparently and purportedly treated as Gospel?
Be that as it may, Ayomike has anchored his argument on Ralph Moore and Claude Maxwell Macdonald. Surely, if the representatives of the Royal Nigeria Company who were contesting territory with the Government were deceitful they would make treaties in the name of the Company, not the Government. But these treaties were generally witnessed by Vice Consul Hewett and interpreted by R. A. Alder, Government interpreter after whom Alder’s Town, in Warri, is named.
I contend that Ayomike picks up an idea and flies off at a tangent, an attitude which cannot produce reliable history. The treaties denounced by Ayomike were each initialled at the top of the page by H. L. Gallwey, Dep. Commissioner or Vice Consul. What does this mean? He was taking cognizance of the treaties. Who forwarded the treaties to the Hon Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, London as dispatch No 46 of 30th November 1894 about two years after the signing as queried by Ayomike?
It was Claude Maxwell Macdonald himself in his capacity as Her Britannic Majesty’s (H B M’s) Commissioner and Consul General. He did not say that the treaties were forged or made by Flint and Mc Taggart of the Royal Niger Company. Ayomike’s claim is desperate guesswork. The dispatch No 46 reference F02/168 in two pages with lines well spaced out is reproduced below:
H.B.M’s Consulate General
November 30th 1894
I have the honour to
forward herewith the originals of
Treaties made at various times
with certain tribes of the
The Hon Secretary of state
for Foreign Affairs
I have the honour to be
Your most Obedient
Commissioner and Consul General.
Were the treaties fake or genuine originals? Was Macdonald not in a position to know? The above, I dare say, closes the debate. The purpose of the treaties was to aggregate colonial territory. Agbarha did have territory which Britain contracted to protect but instead sequestered it as Crown Land handed to Itsekiris as heirs to Chief Dore. Or, is the dispatch a forgery, too? Ayomike would not have mentioned it to support his case of two years delay in forwarding the treaties if he thought it a forgery.
If it is not superfluous already to discuss “non-existent Forcados Vice Consulate,” Forcados was one of the six River Districts administered by consular officers including Claude Macdonald. Forcados was later replaced by Warri. Ayomike may want to read Nigeria Hand-Book 1910, pages 62, 63 and 106-107.
Ayomike should now be convinced and I presume that he is. Among other highly objectionable statements in part 2 of his CRITIQUE is this one on Prof. Ekeh:
“How can one so highly qualified allow oneself to be so blinded, and yet goaded, by subjective ethnic irredentism to rely on such irregular papers to want to promote divisive ideas that could incite people to worthless ends? To me that is not the object of higher learning.”
He then calls on Prof. Ekeh to withdraw “his” treaties from circulation without challenging Public Record Office, London, to close shop. He asks Prof. Ekeh to apologise. Will he now be gracious and be the pious St. Johnson Ayomike that he has been playing? Repent.
All eyes will now be on him. All who have followed this debate, including Itsekiris, will be waiting for Ayomike.
I, too, will be meekly waiting to know whether it is “the Professor Ekehs of this world,” as Ayomike puts it, who would not “allow the Urhobo nation,” that is, including Agbarha, to live and be independent of patronizing over-lordship of Ode-Ugborodo and Ode-Itsekiri, Batere and Jakpa in Benin river, the home of Chief Dore, Ologbotsere-Olu, Chief Political Agent. This is not an eschatological matter. It is here and now. So let Ayomike not promise the sky to us as the limit of the Urhobo nation if we bow our heads and fall down and worship him as god.
Warri is Urhobo.
D. A. Obiomah
Warri, Delta State
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