Your Brief Bio:
Izu is a passionate youth worker. His major dream is to raise youths that will transform Africa. He is movie script writer, motivational speaker and event planner. Currently he is running "InspireNetwork" an avenue to inspire young people . He studied Accountancy. His major writing interest include - motivational, love and historical books.
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They were molested, assaulted and killed because they were blacks . Blacks wanted freedom. Bloody Iva valley tells the story o the cradle of labour freedom Nigeria.
The sun is already setting towards the west and darkness fast dawning, it was an “eke” day, one of the four markets in the eastern part of Nigeria. As usual, the elders have converged at the “obu”; the name used for the village square. The market was surrounded with big trees and “ani ukwu” shrine. During winter, bats often make their abode on the trees which provides business opportunities for the youths who spent day and night hunting the bats while the women goes out in the night to search for snails. It was on note that women doesn’t enter the shrine, so for that reason, they avoids going close to the shrine while hunting for snail. In order not to make mistakes, they go with their “uri ogili” a local candle made from palm oil. The petty traders have already finished displaying their wares which was predominantly proceeds from their substantive farming among which are: vegetables, corn, ji oku (yellow yam), groundnut, abacha and cash crops. Buyers were busy negotiating and buying up according to their demands.
Usually, Obu anukwu, the popular village market is always busy with people coming from the neighbouring villages to buy food stuffs. Elders of different villages usually made their way to the square waiting for Melenge the popular and most reputable palm wine tapped. They usually discuss and take their “utaba” the traditional African tobacco while watching the activities in the market.
“Gboghen! Gboghen!! Gboghen!!!” the sound from the muddy hill of Iva Valley echoes so loud in the market. This sound tells that coal miners are mining coal. It echoes so loud that even the deaf could hear it especially whenever the dynamite is detonated in the mining site.
A story was told of one Nwakaego from Ohafia who came for her daughter’s first child’s “omugwo”. All her life, she has spent it in Ohafia if not for the “omugbo” nothing would have made her enter ‘kwonkworo” from Abia state to Enugu. Of course, she has vehemently kicked against her daughter Oby marrying the ‘wawa’ man she fell in love with. Nwakaego a widow and mother of five, two boys and three girls, agitated against the marriage but her daughter remained defiant about it. She went to the point of reporting her to the counsel of “umunna”. They summoned Obiageli the full meaning of Oby, she honoured their invitation and made them see reason for her to be allowed to marry Okwudili her husband. It took the intervention of Mazi kalu to convince the elders to endorse the marriage which left her mother so disappointed and emotionally devastated.
Oby having giving birth to a boy sent for the mother to come for her “Omugwo” as the custom of the people required. It was the “omugwo” that lifted Nwakaego from Ohafia to Enugu after her initial refusal.
On her first night, after their dinner, Nwakaego had finished bathing her grandson and was robbing him “enu aki” that’s palm kernel pomade when she heard the sound of the dynamite. Immediately, Nwakaego fainted allowing the little boy fell off her hands. When the daughter came, seeing her seemingly lifeless mother and her son on the floor of their mud house; shouted and cried. Her cry attracted the neighbours that came and eventually helped took them to the local herbal who revived them but not without serious injuries. Upon waking up Nwakaego packed all her belongings and insisted she was going. All effort to convince her that it was sound of dynamite proofed abortive. She kept on shout “ijem mbiara na wawa egbulam oo”. Her son in-law had no option than to take her back home the following day.
So, that evening, Okugba a causal worker at the coal mining had rode his bicycle to “Obu anukwu” to take a cup or more of palm wine and enough “utaba” while waiting for his colleagues.
“Ogenyi” he greeted the elders and made his way to find a seat at a wooden constructed seat.
“Ogenyi nwa” the elders almost responded in unison.
He ordered for a cup of palm wine which was immediately served to him.
“Ndi ihi” take your own portion. He pours some on the ground for the ancestors before taking the remaining and gulped it down almost at once.
“Nmaya nkea kara aka” as he ordered for more.
Who doesn’t know that Melenge is the king of palm wine in this location said Mazi Ude, that is the very reason people like Onoh and I will walk miles every day to have taste of it.
Okugba has not finished taking the second cup when his colleagues, Okolo and Ani rode in. They parked and headed to greet the elders.
“Ogenyi” Okolo and Ani greeted the elders simultaneously
Sit down and take a cup Mazi Ude offered them.
“Ogenyi” they greeted and gulped a cup before setting off to walk together with Okugba.
“yagbo nu oo” the elders waving at them.
“Echi ka aka nma” responded Okugba, Okolo and Ani.
“You black monkeys, I have said it time without number and I won’t tolerate it any longer, this culture of discussing while on duty is now proscribed…next time, I won’t hesitate to start deducting it from your salaries” the voice of Mr. White sounded from behind as he furiously made his way to the bunker.
“Nobody, I mean nobody disobeys me, and in the case you tries that, I will skin you alive” he continued as he light his cigarette. Mr. White is the supervisor of the casual workers in the coal cooperation and also a Major in the British army. He has this signature dress of short khaki knickers and shirt with a crossing belt. He doesn’t forget to wear his black barret which he sometimes replaces with a white cowboy. Looking down his legs are his long white stockings and white sneakers. These his signature dress made the workers to name him “Nwa Solider Okotuma”. The name they calls him each time he abused his powers.
This evening, nobody could tell what really annoyed Mr. White that morning. “O siri gini?” Nwangwu politely asked Enyi their interpreter to interpret what Mr. White has just said.
“Hey Mr Ehenyi” that was how Mr. White used to pronounce his name, which oftentimes irritates him but he couldn’t do anything knowing too well whom Mr. White was and what he could do. Enyi learnt English at Merchant of Light Oba when his late father was a teacher of standard three. He couldn’t continue his education because of the sudden death of his father who met his death on his way house from CMS teachers meeting at Oba, that evening, the rain was threatening with terrific thunder and lighting. Enyi’s father quickly rode his way home when a branch of iroko tree fell on him and he died at the spot. The incident led to Enyi’s dropping out of his school because his mother couldn’t continue in the training. Luckily for him, he got the job of interpreter at the coal cooperation.
Sir…he quickly turned his attention to Mr. White. “He was only asking for the interpretation of what you said” Enyi explained.
“Is he the only one in the bunker? There are things about this Nwangwu that doesn’t quite go down well with me. He is really a typical African man displaying their terrible “what to know all” attitude…call him” he ordered Enyi.
White goose pimple ran through Nwangwu on siting the countenance of Mr. White, he already knew that serious problem lurks around for him. He was wondering if the punishment could be a deduction on his salary, suspension or extension of his work time. These were thoughts running through his mind as he made his way to answer him.
Mr. White treats African workers as nobody, disdains and casts aspersions on them at wills. The painful parts of his ill treatments is the owing of salaries, salary deductions, lack of promotion and salary increment. The workers has once lodged their grievances, but he strictly warned them never to raise the issue again or they will risk their job. He didn’t end there, he still went ahead to deduct two pounds from their salaries as punishment. Since then, no worker had raised the issue again. In fact, the mere sight of Mr. White scares them like the “Ijele” masquerade.
“You are mad” shouted Mr White
“Yes sir” replied Nwangwu bowing his head.
“I said you are mad, in fact stupid, very, very stupid” reiterated Mr. White
“Yes sir” again replied Nwangwu still bowing his head. Nwangwu knew that he dare not raise his head to answer him. Over time, during their parades, he has sternly warned them to always respond with “Yes sir” each and anytime he was taking to them and none should dare look at him eyeball to eyeball.
“You will work over the night…that will be your punishment” ordered Mr. White.
“Oga please my wife just gave birth and I really had to go to Nkwo Ezeagu this eveing to buy food for her and the baby” pleaded.
“Now leave my sight…get out and get lost” he furiously ordered Nwangwu and continued his smoking.
Okugba and Okoro arrived to the bunker, parked their bicycle and immediately headed to mark attendance before resuming their night duty. They, getting there greeted their colleagues on morning duty who were signing out. Okugba noticed Nwangwu was very moody sitting under the cashew tree placing his two hands under his jaws. Already he had sensed that something was wrong but couldn’t figure it out. He knew Nnenna Nwangwu’s wife recently gave birth and Nwangwu has been the one taking care of her because he doesn’t have enough money to bring his mother in law for the “omugwo”. For Nwangwu to be seated alone under the cashew tree signalled that all was not well with him.
“What could have been the problem?” Okugba interrogated his mind as he approach Nwangwu.
“Nwoke miri oku” Okugba teased Nwangwu. Is a norm to always tease men or women who recently gave birth as people who drinks hot water, it is in regard to the hot water given to the baby and the watery soup of “uda” giving to the maternity mothers that it was churned out from.
Nwangwu shook his head with deep seated grieve, adjusted his seating position as a sign of silent protest of heavy grievance.
“I know it must be Mr White, please what have you done?” asked Okugba
“Nothing, absolutely nothing…he just felt to punish me” replied Nwangwu
“I don’t understand what you mean by nothing. I know Mr White is very mean and wicked but there must be a pointer to the action?” queried Okugba
“I merely asked Enyi a question and that was all, he extended my time. I don’t know how my wife and baby will be feeling now, they are my majot concern though I sent her message through Mbonu, at least she will not be thinking that something had happened to me” explained.
“Amadioha will surely strike that man. Please lets go to the bunker before he comes and start speaking “firifiri” Okugba obliged Nwangwu.
Okoro later joined them to the bunker. That night wasn’t a pleasant one for the coal cooperation workers. The hostile attitude of Mr White has triggered serious disharmony between him and the workers. There was no good lapour as to be expected of “Boss and workers”. It was from one grumping to the other. All effort from Enyi to explain to Mr. White about the plight and pains of the workers met a rocky end. In fact, Enyi nearly lost his job on the process. Since then, he resolved never to advocate for the workers in order to save his job. The worst is the continuous harassment of workers by the British army. They unnecessary intimidation made many of them even question the salary they collect whether is measureable to the kind of inhuman treatment they gets from the British led army.
There was a time the British army had to ask some workers to do frog jump for about 30minutes as a punishment for coming to work late, yet at the end of the month, their salaries were not paid, most often deducted. When they complained to the authority, the British authority responded by offering them sack letters without any pay. It was on record, that very many of them died of Hypertension and other heart related sickness.
That incident, made worker to become afraid never to challenge nor question the authority of the management of the coal cooperation.
The cock has just crowed signifying the breaking of the day. The night workers began to organise and finalise their worker waiting for those for the morning duty to take over immediately their signed in and signed out. Nwangwu was already in a hurry to go and meet his wife. At about 6 am, the morning workers has started arriving and this gave Nwangwu a glare of hope of seeing his family soon. After their signing out, Okugba, Okoro, Ude and Nwangwu zoomed off home in their bicycles through their usual path of “haste mile” to “Agu Umuaka”. When they got to place called “agba ngwu oji”, a huge tree that had stood for decades providing shades which has the feature of the modern day tent, they decided to rest and equally took the time to fetch firewood and the process pluck “akwukwo ucha kiri” a vegetable usually used to prepare porridge yam. They gathered the wood and tired it to their bicycle before going down to “akparata” stream to bathe and drink.
As they walked down the stream they observed a movement by the bush side, luckily for them it was a squirrel. They pursued and killed it. Great joy filled the air as they celebrated the meat which according to them, will make the family happy. They squirrel was later shared among the three. They walked down took their bathe, drank, walked to their bicycle and rode home.
Since the coal mining in Enugu started in 1916, the British authority has consistently subjected the coal miners into untold force labour with little to show for their labour. They made sure the workers are coerced into the mining, railway construction and agriculture. These acts wasn’t getting down well with the workers. The Britain on arrival experienced stiffed opposition, in order for them to full annex the land, established warrant chiefs. Through these warrant chiefs, they persuaded them to sign a grant bequeathing their land to British for a terrible sum of 73 British pounds. The warrants chiefs didn’t hesitate to concede to the bidding of the colonial masters as against the general interest of the citizens. That single action made the indigenes lose control of their ancestral land. The influence of the warrant chiefs increased, they became recruiters to the mining jobs for those that digs the coal from the tunnel and other jobs. The British used them against their own people.
It made it so difficult for them to report any form of harassment and intimidation melted on them by the British army. It became a case of “monkey dey work, baboon dey chop”. Mining workers were forced to carry coals from the site to about 500miles on their heads with head pan to the railway construction sites, while the miners dig the coal with diggers. It was more like a force labour. Most times, workers were relieved of their job mid-way into the month and their salary not paid. Sick miners were denied of sick leave, instead sack letter will be issued to them. These led to some sick workers pretending for them not to lose their work in that process some died. When in 1918, influenza epidemics arrived, it killed lots of miners, while the British authority and the warrant chiefs turned blind, deaf and dumb over the pitiable plights of the miners. What seems to be more painful, was that the warrant chiefs exploits their people and earns in tune of 400 to 500 pounds yearly while workers were paid peanuts and in some instance nothing was paid.
These wounds the miners has been nursing but yet to find an avenue to express their grievance. Each time as they go home from work, they discuss in sorrow their pathetic experiences.
The trees were shading out their branches in readiness for the winter, the grass shredding and withering in protest to lack of water and essential nutrients. The winter bliss controls the atmosphere. This is a season everyone anticipates…the usual Christmas season. This time, it wasn’t just about Christmas but the famous Nkwa festival in Nsude. This is a festival every Nsude man and woman anticipates. Is a biennial festival usually to celebrate the heroism of Uto a warrior. The story was told how Uto fought to liberate the people of Nsude from the oppressions of their neighbours. Uto whose birth was shredded in deep misery rose to defeat all oppressors of the community. He later died after contracting chicken box a chronic disease. For Nsude people to honour him, they slated a week-long festival where they displays ancient war weapons with different war regalia and songs. In preparation for the festival, men get their local gun ready with gun powder, prior to the festival, sounds of guns goes on as men test their local gun in readiness for the D-day.
A week to the festival, Umuaka people usually fetch “kwueta” firewood to Uto shrine. Okugba had to fetch “kwueta” on his way back from work. It is regarded as a sacred firewood which is so idolised. It must not touch each other in the process of taking it to the shrine, if done, whether mistakenly or deliberate, the firewood stands condemned. Okugba on getting home, went straight to his hut to keep his own to avoid anyone touching. In fact, women are not allowed to use it to cook at home because of its sacredness. Okugba sternly warned that nobody should touch the firewood.
The town was in high spirit in expectation of the Nkwa festival, they were busy inviting friends from different communities to join them in the celebration of the war hero. Women were not left out of the preparation as they were busy carving and designing a wooden look-a-like gun.
For the coal miners, their greatest joy is that they expects their “ugwo overlead” by the first week of November and of course the Nkwa festival holds on the last Sunday of November. This afforded them the opportunity to invite as many as they could.
It was the last Sunday of October 1949, the elders, youths and children were all gathered at the “obu”, everyone servicing his local gun chanting the usual Nkwa song in their dialect.
Onye na eweghi egbe, re nne ye gote
Hey eh, hey eh n’eke uto
“He who doesn’t have gun should sell his mother to buy his
Hey eh, hey eh in Eke uto”
While some were chanting
“igbo gbana kwa n’ekwu dikwa
Gbanakwa n’egwu dikwa”
“Igbo should clear, there’s trouble”
These and more war and Nkwa festival songs were being sang with sounds of gun filling the whole atmosphere with deep cheers. The pre-nkwa celebration went on until everyone got tired and retired to rest.
Very early in the morning, Okugba, Okoro, Ude and Nwangwu had prepared to work, wearing a “carbald” on their forehead to provide illumination and equally scare ghosts away from their paths. They believe that the smell of “carbald” scares away ghosts and prevents them from attacking the living.
On getting to the mining site, they met others from different paths of Agbaja who had converged to receive their salaries. It was about 6:30pm in the money, they waited until it was 10am before the arrival of Mr White. Sighting him greeted excitements on the countenance of the workers. Who wouldn’t be happy to receive salary?
Mr White wasted no time, he immediately commenced the salary payment with Enyi directing them. Nothing could have been so disappointing to see that salaries were paid half while some never received at all instead a dismissal letter were issued to them among whom was Nwangwu without any explanation from Mr White nor an apology. They wept and protested but Mr White ordered the British army to drive them away.
It was a dark day for them, none could talk to each other. It were as if a super glue was used to glue their mouths. Such an inhuman treatment from Mr. White. The only crime they committed was just because they were blacks. Was it their fault that God created them blacks? How could strangers annex and take over their lands and make them slaves in their own ancestral land? Could it be termed a sign of weakling on their own side if they allow such disdainful attitude to continue without confronting it? Wouldn’t their ancestors be ashamed of them? For them, it was better to die fighting for freedom than to live as slaves in their ancestral home. As a matter of fact, there was no sign of it ending in view. Wouldn’t it be a white goose chase, fighting someone with gun with bare hands? It will be an utter act of foolishness. But indeed what’s foolishness? Could foolishness mean to cowardly surrounding ones freedom because of fear? Could foolishness mean to fight the enemy with the all available weapon at ones disposal? These and more were rhetoric questions going on in their minds as their roll their bicycle home. Yes, they rolled their bicycle because they have suddenly lost the strength and appetite to ride on it.
Nwangwu was terribly hit by the wind of Mr White’s wicked and callous acts. Before him was a great mountain of family problems. He had an accident which injured his right eyes and led to it partial blindness which Mr. White was visibly aware. Getting a new job will definitely be a herculean task. He was so devastated.
Everyone kept on illuminating on their different challenges and possibly means of surmounting them. This time so helplessly watch a man younger than most of them robbed them the dividend of their hard labour with its attendant insults and disdain.
“How do I repay the loans I took for the Nkwa celebration, what about the people I invited? Okugba asked himself.
“I have boasted on how to finance my group activities that day. This money won’t be enough to offset my last month’s debts not to talk of this month. This ‘ndida ocha’ has finished me. May Amadioha strike him dead before cock crow tomorrow” he painful concluded with curses.
It was on the 6th of November 1949, Enyi had called a meeting of the staff at Eke odudo by 7am. Before 6:30am all the coal miners have converged at the square to listen to what Enyi had to say. Maybe, finally God has touched the heart of the unrepentant White to pay them their remaining money. The call for meeting was quite unprecedented. Why Enyi? Why Eke Odudo instead of the bunker? Asked Okolo.
“This same question is what had been running my mind, but since we aren’t the only people here, let’s wait and see what he has for us” replied Ude
“All am interested to hear is the completion of my salary” said Okugba
“What if is serve us with his usual sack latter?” asked Ude
“Chukwu aju, God forbid. Please don’t even think towards that direction” prayed Okugba.
“This injustice must stop. We can’t continue this way” the raging voice of Enyi interrupted their discussion. Everyone moved closer to hear what Enyi was saying.
“Nobody, I mean nobody is happy with the way things are been done in the mining site. What have we done to deserve this kind of ill treatment? We work like elephant and eat less than an ant. We can’t keep mum in the face this grave injustice. We must speak up” Enyi gingered
The crowd responded “Yes we must speak up”
There was great murmuring from the crowd. Everyone looking visibly angry with the working situation. But confronting that monster called Mr. White and his army is still a hard nut to crack.
“I am happy we are all in unison on this cause, we must not relent until justice, equity and fairness is achieved and entrenched. Tomorrow, we shall march to the office of Mr. White and register our grievance. One, we must request for an explanation why our salaries are not fully paid. Two, we shall appeal that any worker who falls sick should be given sick leave not dismissal letter. Three, we shall request that any worker who is been sacked should be given part payment of the job done. Finally, we shall request that anyone due for promotion should be promptly promoted. Am I speaking your minds? Enyi concluded by asking.
“Yes” the workers again answered affirmatively, some hitting their walking stick on the ground while others kept on nodding their heads.
“Now, you can now go and return tomorrow morning, every one of you. Nobody should be absent. We must appeal that our working condition should be addressed and plead our case appropriately.” He finalised and bid them goodbye.
The murmuring in among the crowd became so intensed. The visibility of their anger was evidently written on their countenance and reactions. They all left hoping by tomorrow all these grievances will be addressed.
Iwe iwe iwe
Iwe iwe iwe
Iwe ona ewe unu
Eh iwe n-ewe anyi
The workers had gathered in the morning the following day, carrying green leaves singing protest songs in their great number as they marched to the office of Mr. White.
Mr White had just woken up from sleep, was brushing his teeth when he heard the voices approaching the quarters. His official office was within their quarters. He became apprehensive and ordered the army guard to check what the noise was all about.
“Sir” answered a Sargent. “The workers are protecting”
This sounded so strange to Mr. White. Workers protesting? Who taught them that they should protest?
“This is an embarrassment to the British government. We must not condone rascalities. We must not allow these disgruntled element of African monkeys’ soil our dignity and respect. This is a total affront to British authority. They have actually crossed the red line, get all the men lets go and meet them”
The workers on seating him with the armies stopped their songs and was expecting Enyi to register their protest.
“Shoot them” Mr. White ordered the army.
There was sporadic shooting over the place. Everyone running helter-skelter scrambling for safety. The young, the elders, everyone on his heels. Some fell, while others marched on them as they were running for their lives.
At the end of the shooting, about 21 miners were shot dead while 57 orders were terribly injured from the bullet wounds. It was a dark day on the hills of Iva Valley. Blood was following like river. Everything seemed to be calm. The trees stopped moving, the fowls were quite, and the beds were observing the event except for “igene oma” the bird reputed to announcing of any death. Mr. White on seeing the number of causalities. Immediately boarded a train to Calabar for asylum in order to avoid being lynched by the angry indigenes who has trooping in mass with massive protests on hearing the incident.
Okugba’s wife was busy preparing “abacha” for his husband when Nwangwu rushed to inform her of the tragic event and how her husband and Okolo was shot dead in the protest.
She screamed and attracted the villagers. It was a dark “Nkwa” festival in Nsude, it was a bloody day in Iva Valley.
These gallant miners were remembered for their heroism, that singular action gifted the nation the labour union, which now formed the voice of the workers against some government policies.
Abacha - African salad made from cassava
Eke – One of the four market days in Igbo land
Ani Ukwu – Village shrine
Obu - village square
Uri ogili - Local candle made from palm oil
Ji oku – Yellow yam
Obu Anukwu – The home of Anukwu shrine
Utaba – tobacco snuff
Gboghen - Sound of metal
Omugwo – A visit of a woman’s mother who just gave birth
Kwonkworo – Ridiculous name for 911 lorry
Wawa – Name given to Enugu people of Agbaja extraction
Umunna – Kindred
Enu Aki – Local pomade made from cooked palm nut
Ijem mbiara na-wawa egbulam – My sojourn to wawa land has killed me
Ogenyi – Greeting to the elder
Ndi Ihi – The ancestors
Nmaya nkea kara-aka – The palm wine is original
Yagbo nnu – Bye bye
Echi ga-aka nma – Tomorrow shall be better
Nwa solider Okotouma – Ridiculous name for British siliders.
Osiri gini – What did he say?
Ijele – Solider ants
Oga – Boss
Nwoke miri oku – Name used to tease a man whose wife gave birth newly
Uda – Soup meant for nursing mothers
Firifiri – a ridiculous description of British intonation
Agu Umuaka – Umuaka forest
Agba Ngwu oji – An iroko owned by Ngwu Oji
Akwukwo Uchakiri – Uchakiri leave
Kwueta – Firewood
Ugwo Overlead- The name given to the salary coal miners receives
Ndida Ocha – White ant
Amadioha – Name of god
Chukwu Aju – God forbid
Iwe, Iwe, Iwe – Song used to express annoyance
Igene oma - Parrot