1927 Aboh Women’s Riot, Mother of All Riots

The British seemed to have forgotten during the slave trade when captured Igbos rose up, spoke among themselves, took control of the ship after it reached the port and committed suicide amidst being surrounded by other ships and imperialists rather than be made slaves, they drowned themselves at Dunbar Creek, Glynn Haven, St. Simons Island, Georgia, U.S.A in May 1803. History captures this as the ‘Igbo Landing’ or ‘The Black Past’ and the place is known today as River Ebo (Igbo), this was also stated in the movie, ‘Black Panther’.

All over the Americas, Haiti, Cuba, Igbo slaves were documented to be stirring up and leading rebellions against the British colonies. Slave owners dreaded buying Igbo slaves for fear of refusing servitude and took extra precautions to restrain them more than the normal restraints used for other slaves.

But the British seemed to forget when they intended to settle and rule over their colonies in present-day Nigeria. They forgot about the Igbos they termed the Hebrews of West Africa, who do not bow or have a king.

In the year 1927, after their men rejected foreign rule and were defeated by the British with superior weaponry, the Igbo women championed the struggle to question every exploitative imposition by the British.

One of the ways they achieved this was by demonstrations. This gave birth to the first ever women’s riot in 1927 by Igbo women from Aboh, Ndokwa clan (Ndemilli and Ukwuani) in present day Delta State. The women mobilized and took to the streets to protest the unwarranted and exploitative direct tax system by the British Government.

Popularly called the Anti-Tax Riots, it took place between 1927 to 1928, and was so fierce that many women lost their lives as a result of the British brutality and exploitation.

The direct tax system was introduced to other parts of Nigeria without objections, probably out of fear of the repercussions. The British have a precedence for using brutality to exploit the indigenes of their properties and justifying it as legal will vilifying the indigenes who fought for the rights.

Unaccustomed to the tradition of regular tribute to foreign authorities for their own land and properties, the Igbo women of Aboh, refused vehemently to accept the Warrant Chiefs, direct tax system and thronged the streets rioting and expressing their displeasure.

This did not come as a total surprise to the British as they faced several oppositions from the Igbo men as well in their many attempts to effeminate the Igbo nation who were not used to foreign control or any control outside the family and village structure. The British referred to them as Republicans, probably one of the earliest republicans in the world.

The Lugardian System of Administration (Indirect Rule) worked well in the Yoruba, Fulani and the Benin Kingdoms perfectly well as these kingdoms had monarchical structures and control, so the British felt the Igbo nation would follow suit when they create Native Administration.

All the nations that accepted direct rule also accepted the direct tax, the British argued that since these nations were used to paying tribute to a central body, either as monarchs, emirs, sultans, chiefs, the Igbos would be given a central body and be forced to practice the system.

What the British failed to understand is that the Igbos were Republicans not based on their structure but by having a Republican heart and spirit.

No normal Igbo person would willingly bow to another man or authority be it British or any other race because of that republican spirit. The British felt they should extend this rule to the Igbo nation as have been done in other parts of the country without any pushback by the other tribes despite resistance by the Igbos. Aside from Jaja of Opopo, who also had a riverine Igbo father and mother, the Benin Kingdom also fought against this British exploitation.

Aboh Igbo women (Ndokwa) riots inspired many other riots in the region and neighbouring regions. One of the most popular riots is the Aba Women Riot which took place in 1929, two years after the first staged women riots by Aboh Women in present day Delta State.

Aba women riot of November 2019, became so popular that many mistook it to be the first women riot when in actual fact it wasn’t. Aba women riot gained more popularity because more women were killed by the British but the record of which came first is sacrosanct as the date of occurrence cannot be changed.

The Aboh Igbo women of present-day Delta State inspired so many riots by women in Nigeria, sacrificing their lives as they sought for justice for their people even when brave men have been defeated by the invaders who came but to steal, kill and destroy every good thing they built and lived for.

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