30 Igbo Pioneers In History


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A summary of lecture delivered by Ed Emeka Keazor at the School of Oriental and African Studies: World Igbo Conference. May 2014. Spanning over 1000 years of History and celebrating pioneers such as the 9th Century Priest King, through the first Igbo Legislators of the 1920's, on to the modern day Renaissance stars of global Arts.

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30 Igbo Pioneers In History

  2. 2. HOW AND WHY?!?
  4. 4. IGBO?!?
  6. 6. THE LIST
  8. 8. • Priest King of the ancient Nri kingdom of Igboland, said to be the cradle Of Igbo civilisation c.1000 AD • A highly intelligent, scholarly King, who is said to have traded with the Kingdoms Of the Middle-East and Asia. The source of his power being benevolence, knowledge and religious knowledge; • Grave was believed to have been unearthed by Archaeologist Thurston Shaw, who discovered a burial Chamber with remains adorned in robes, bronze crown, sceptre, staff and breast-Plates adorned with glass beads, which are said to have been obtainable at the time from Egypt. • The Igbo-Ukwu bronzes and the Nsude Pyramids are said by Historians to be Religious artefacts and symbols of the Nri Kingdom. • He instituted the Igbo Market days and introduced Yam as staple crop of the Igbo’s.
  10. 10. • Horton was born in Sierra Leone of Igbo parentage. He and Broughton Davies were selected by the Army, for Medical training, qualifying from Kings College and Edinburgh in 1858/1859. Enlisted as an Assistant-Surgeon in 1859. • He practised in Ghana and then Sierra Leone, promoted Surgeon- Major in 1875 and retired in 1881. He and Davies were the 1st Nigerian Doctors and the 1st African Army Officers. • He wrote one of the first African nationalist texts- “In defence of the African”. • He established and managed a Bank in Sierra Leone after his retirement.
  12. 12. • Born c 1815 in Sierra Leone of Igbo repatriate parents. He trained as a School-teacher at the Fourah Bay College and taught for 16 years. • He was ordained a Priest on 8 June 1856, alongside seven other Cathechists by Bishop Weeks.He was taken by Bishop Crowther to Igbo-land in 1857, to set up a permanent Mission at Onitsha. • He was hugely influential in winning converts, by his pragmatic, compassionate Ministry. • He translated Hymns and Prayer into Igbo, before returning to Sierra Leone in 1868. • The next Igbo-man to be ordained was Reverend George Anyaegbunam on February 13 1898
  13. 13. ISAAC MBA
  14. 14. ISAAC MBA Born in 1860 at Onitsha he was admitted to Fourah Bay College, Freetown Sierra Leone, In 1880 (alongside Ephraim Agha) graduating in 1882- the first Igbo’s to achieve this. He joined the CMS Mission and assisted Archdeacon Johnson, in translating two of the four gospels into Igbo language in 1889. (Mbajekwe). An early Nationalist –he stood up against the CMS Church – his first employers for its treatment of African clergymen, including Crowther, for which he was dismissed by the CMS Church in 1890. He joined the Niger Coast Protectorate in 1893 and rose to become Deputy Chief Clerk of the PWD in 1898. He retired in 1910 and became extremely wealthy from trading in produce And Licensed Money-Lending and was bestowed with the title Owelle of Onitsha He was one of the members of the Legislative Council 1922- the first Elected Legislature and the joint-first Igbo Legislator, alongside S.C.Obianwu, Serving till his death in 1930
  15. 15. S.C.OBIANWU
  16. 16. • He was born at Onitsha in 1861 and attended the Kippo Hill School Lokoja, (alongside George Anyaegbunam 2nd Igbo Clergyman) between 1883-1887. • He worked for the CMS Mission, as well as acting as an Agent for European Traders on the Niger Coast. • He amassed a small fortune, becoming one of the wealthiest traders in the area. • He (alongside Isaac Mba) was one of the members of the first elected Nigerian Parliament in 1922, nominated to represent the Niger Traders. • His activism and contributions on the floor of the House were powerful and cogent e.g The provision of utilities to African residents of Port Harcourt And most importantly- the demand for a second enquiry into the Aba Women’s War
  17. 17. OMU NWAGBOKA
  18. 18. • The Ikporo Onitsha was the ancient powerful female political Institution of Onitsha, of which the Omu or Queen Headed. The Omu title was common to the people of Anioma. The Omu was a powerful spiritual and political position. • Nwagboka was a wealthy trader, who amassed such wealth and influence, her selection for assumption of the office was unsurprising. • She was a substantial influence on the Obi and was one of the signatories to the 1884 RNC Treaty. A Christian convert, she would close the Market on Sundays. • She was engaged in a dispute with Obi Anazonwu, which saw her ordering the women to boycott their husbands. Upon her death in 1888, no other Omu had been appointed till date.
  20. 20. • Born in 1879, he was an early Christian convert in The Lower Niger area and received a secondary school education. • He was one of the first Nigerian Civil Engineering contractors and built the massive Iweka Road at Onitsha, amongst others. • He wrote the first History of the Igbo people, both in English and Igbo in 1922. • He became a Warrant Chief of Obosi, his hometown in 1932.
  21. 21. J.C.ULASI
  22. 22. J.C.Ulasi was born at Nnewi c.1890, born to a modest Christian Family, but schooled in the determined competitive and mercantile traditions of his people. He is said to have travelled on foot from Nnewi to Aba in the mid-1920’s, in search of fortune (“Oji ukwu ejeAba”). At Aba he traded in textiles and produce, slowly and painstakingly building a solid asset base By setting up roadside stalls along the Aba Road. He would recruit apprentices from Nnewi At one stage, up to seventy. By 1933, he had built up a fleet of six lorries, which he deployed into a road haulage business Which earned him a Mail delivery contract for the Eastern Provinces. He later built up this fleet To 10 lorries. He became a Warrant Chief at Aba and died in 1944. His kinsman Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu Was to succeed him as the King of the road haulage business by the formation of his legendary Ojukwu Transport Company in 1937.
  24. 24. Nwanyereuwa was a widow in the village of Oloko, on the Outskirts of Aba, who was approached by an agent of the Warrant Chief Okugo ostensibly on a tax assessment, upon which a scuffle ensued, • She rallied women to her aid in the traditional method, by sending Palm fronds to her fellow women, who came out in their 1000’s, mobilised largely by Ikonna Enyia, a formidable women leader in the area. Her ethos being peaceful but robust protest both against the tax and the Warrant Chief system. • This set in motion the most violent protest of the early Colonial era, in which several persons were killed by the Colonial authorities, leading to two panels of enquiry. The first being a whitewash by the Colonial authorities and the second constituting of two Nigerians, which recommended a review of colonial administrative practices. The representations from the women at the second panel were written by a young teacher- Mary Okezie, which were instrumental in stating their side. • Ikonna Enyia was to continue her activism, later protesting against unfair taxes by the Eastern Region Government of Dr Azikiwe. • The riots became a rallying call of protest, for women not just in Nigeria but all over the world.
  25. 25. 18. SIR LOUIS MBANEFO
  26. 26. Born at Onitsha in 1911 and called to the Bar in 1935, making himthe first Igbo Lawyer He practised for 15 years, before election to the Eastern Region House of Assembly in 1950. He was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court in 1952- the first Igbo Judge. He was appointed the first Chief Justice of the Eastern Region, in 1961. The first Nigerian to be appointed to the International Court of Justice in 1962- as an ad-hoc Judge, sitting on the South-Western Africa cases of 1962 – 1966. He was Knighted by the Queen in 1961 He was appointed Chief Justice of Biafra, on declaration in 1967. He also led the Biafran Delegation to the various peace talks and played an active part in the surrender of 1970. He declined a return to the Nigerian Bench after the war and died in 1977,
  28. 28. F.G.Onyiuke was born at Nimo, Anambra State c.1903 and attended the Catholic Primary School at Nimo, before gaining admission into Kings College Lagos in 1922, said to be the first Igbo-man to achieve this. He joined the Colonial Civil Service and progressed his career, before joining the Police Cadet Officer Training programme in 1929. He was appointed a full Inspector of Police On 1 October 1930, the joint-first Igbo-man to achieve this. Eugene was born at Obosi in 1907 and attended Obosi Community Primary School and was a foundation student of Dennis Memorial Grammar School in 1925. He joined the Nigeria Police Officer Cadet training programme, after which He was appointed a Police Inspector- on 30 October 2014, the joint first Igbo-man To achieve this. He retired as a Police Commissioner in 1964.
  29. 29. DR SIMON ONWU
  30. 30. Born in 1908 in Affa – Udi, Enugu State. He was the beneficiary of The vision of the legendary Chief Onyeama Onwusi of Eke, who saw Education as the path of progress for his people. He trained at the University of Edinburgh, qualifying in 1932, making him the second Igbo Medical Doctor, but the first to practice in Nigeria. He practiced In the Government Medical Service in Port Harcourt, before embarking on a Successful private career. His achievement opened the door for several generations after him, such as Akanu Ibiam, Walter Amobi, Jonas Iweka etc
  31. 31. BEN ENWONWU
  32. 32. Born at Onitsha, he studied Fine Art and became the first Nigerian Artist to have his works exhibited in the United Kingdom. He was the first African Artist to have the Queen sit for him- Sculpture in 1959. He was awarded the OBE by the Queen for his contributions to the arts. His works are exhibited all over the world and in particular adorn some of Nigeria’s iconic buildings
  34. 34. Born in 1911.Isaac Iweka was the eldest son of Igwe Israel Eloebo Iweka, (described above) He attended Saint Andrews Primary School Obosi. The Hope Waddell Training Institution, Calabar and Dennis Memorial Grammar School where he was as a foundation student. He worked with the United African Company (U.A.C.), after leaving school. He joined the service of PWD, from whom he obtained a University scholarship and attended Imperial College, London, graduating in 1939 with a Degree in Civil Engineering. The first Igbo-man to achieve This. He returned to the PWD and worked as a Chief Engineer, retiring in 1956. He worked briefly as MD of Union Construction Company and his own company Isajohn, till he was installed the Igwe of Obosi in 1974. He passed away in 1996.
  36. 36. Born Mary Nwametu Onumonu on October 16, 1898, in Oguta. She attended Sacred Heart School in Oguta and a Convent , briefly, from where she married politician Richard Nzimiro in 1920. She started her trading business in Port Harcourt in 1921, selling produce. She expanded Rapidly, till she became the UAC’s biggest agent in Port Harcourt. At the peak of her Business in the 1940’s, her annual turnover was in excess of £150,000 per annum She organised co-operatives for women, giving them assistance in setting up their own Businesses. She was a politician and activist, famously bank-rolling her husband’s successful Mayoral bid In Port Harcourt in 1951. She is said to have been one of the first Igbo female Millionaires. She passed away in 1993.
  38. 38. He was born at Atani in Ogbaru, present day Anambra State, and Initially trained as a teacher. •He received emergency commission into the Army on 28th August 1948, becoming the first Nigerian born Officer. •He is said to have been instrumental to the award of Commissions, to other Nigerians. •He relinquished his commission in April 1953 and went back to teaching- at Zixton Grammar School Ozubulu. He passed away In 2002, after proving his primacy in the officer corps.
  40. 40. Ada Priscilla Nzimiro was born at Port Harcourt, in 1923, to Richard and Mary Nzimiro She realised her parents dreams by admission to the University of Glasgow in 1945, to study Medicine. She graduated in 1950,becoming the first Igbo woman to qualify as a Doctor. She returned to Nigeria, in 1950, but died suddenly in 1951.
  42. 42. Born at Onitsha in 1932, he attended DMGS Onitsha, and was subsequently Admitted to the University College Ibadan, to study Science. Whilst at UCI, he was selected for the Nigerian Athletics team, competingAt the Empire Games and Commonwealth Games, Vancouver Canada in 1954. He won the Gold Medal in the High Jump, with a leap of 2.03m, which was also a new Commonwealth Record. He became the first Nigerian to win a Gold Medal in International Sporting Competition.
  44. 44. • Dan Anyiam was born in 1929 at Owerri and made history by his Part as one of the first set of Igbo’s to play for National Team- the UK Tourists- 1949; the first Igbo to captain the National team and Significantly as The first Nigerian to obtain an FA Coaching certificate and the first Nigerian Indigenous coach in 1954 • Titus Okere also part of the UK Tourists team of 1949, and made history by becoming the first Nigerian to sign a Professional Football Contract with Swindon Town in 1953.
  46. 46. Janet Mokelu was born at Oraifite In Anambra State. She was an Active member of the National Council for Nigerian Citizens and headed its womens wing. She made history alongside Margaret Ekpo by becoming two of the First women in Nigeria to be elected into a Regional Parliament, The Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly, in 1961. She also served as Regional Minister for Works in the Eastern Region, during the First Republic.
  48. 48. Theo Nzegwu was born in 1928 and attended the Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, Faraday College, London, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, where he qualified as an Engineer. He joined the RAF in 1959, as a Flying Officer in the Education Corps, making him the first Igbo Airforce Officer. He joined the Nigerian Airforce in 1964, as a Squadron Leader (Major) and Instructor. He was killed in the pogrom of July 1966- alongside his contemporary Squadron Leader Obi Robert Ngbaronye was born in 1921 and attended the Yaba Higher College, before stowing Away and joining the RAF in 1943. After initial training, he became an Airforce Pilot, The first Igbo-man to achieve this. However he reached the Rank of Flight Sergeant and did not receive an Officers Commission. After WW2 he qualified as a Doctor and Practised Medicine till his decease.
  50. 50. She born in 1931 at Oguta and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree From the University College, Ibadan in 1957. After a career in education at the Ministry of education Calabar and Queens School, Enugu, she made history by becoming the first Nigerian woman to Publish a novel in English- “Efuru” in 1966 She made history once more by her appointment as a Commissioner in East Central State in 1970. She passed away in 1993
  52. 52. • Born at Owerri, to famous educationist Nathaniel Ejiogu. She attended Queens College Lagos and was admitted to Mills College, California in 1959- all on a full scholarship. The first African woman to obtain a Post-graduate degree in Information Technology and Library Science -from UCLA(as well as the first to play drums In a rock band!!) • One of the spokesperson’s for the Black Power Movement- she was interviewed on American network television in 1962 .She and her husband – Ukpabi Asika, spent time embedded with the ANC liberation fighters. • She founded Otu Olu Obodo, in the old ECS. The largest non-Governmental Women’s co-operative in Nigerian history (1 Million+ women) and was the first person to hold a Woman focused appointment in Government- 1983. • She was until recently the Director-General of NEPAD
  54. 54. Born at Amaigbo, in 1929. After early life on his fathers farm he worked as A trader, before starting a local Boxing career. As his career progressed he moved to the UK and then to the US, where he eventually made history in 1962, by winning the World Middleweight tile, Beating American Gene Fullmer. He became the first Igbo man to win a World Boxing title. He defended his title successfully in the first World Title fight to be held in Nigeria at Ibadan in 1963. He famously declared his support for Biafra during the Civil War. He died in 1970 of Liver Cancer.
  56. 56. • Felicia Ayalogu studied Law at the University of London and was called To the Bar in 1961. This distinction made her the first Igbo woman, to qualify As a Lawyer. • She returned to Nigeria and commenced Legal practice, setting up her iconic Firm, after a period of Pupillage. • She was the second Igbo woman to own and drive a car- the first being Janet Agwuegbo (Nee Iwenofu) of Obosi.
  58. 58. • Josephine Tolefe was born in 1931 at Ogwashi-Uku in present day Delta State • She studied Nursing and after qualification, she was commissioned into the Nigerian Army Medical Corps, on 7 February 1961 becoming the first woman to be commissioned into the Nigerian Army. • On 1 June 1963, she was promoted to the rank of Captain- equally the first Nigerian woman to achieve this. • She left the Nigerian Army in 1967, as a result of the political crises of 1966-1967.
  60. 60. Born at Obosi in 1915, she got married to Pharmacist Frank Eneli in 1937. She started a career as a trader in the 1930’s, selling general goods, until The advent of Nigeria Breweries in 1949, when she then specialised in Beverages. She slowly grew to become one of NBL’s biggest distributors and Shareholders. This relationship was rewarded in 1975, when she was appointed to the Board of NBL, as a Non-Executive Director- the first Nigerian woman to be appointed to The Board of a listed company. She passed away in 1994 and has a street named after her in Lagos.
  62. 62. Born in 1932, and from Ilah, after her secondary school education, she was Admitted to study Architecture at the Birmingham School of Architecture. She qualified as an Architect in 1960, becoming the first Nigerian female Architect. She practised for several years as Government Architect- Chief Architect Of the Midwest State till her retirement
  64. 64. A Physicist, he attended St Thomas School Oba, Dennis Memorial Grammar School, The University CollegeIbadan, Cambridge University, getting a PhD in Physics. He Taught at Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania and MIT. He returned to Nigeria in 1976, becoming a Professor of Physics at UNN. He formulated a theory of High Temperature Super-conductivity, based on the novelty of pairing mechanism- which was called “Animalu’s Isosuperconductivity”) This led to his nomination for the Nobel Prize for Physics, three times. He was also honoured with the Nigerian National Merit Award, amongst others for his work.
  66. 66. Justice Victoria Onejeme was called to the Bar in 1965 and in 1976, achieved the Distinction of becoming the first Nigerian and indeed the first Igbo female Attorney-General, in the old Anambra State, subsequently transferring to the Bench as a Judge of the FCT High Court. Justice Roseline Ukeje, also made history by becoming the first Nigerian and Igbo woman to be appointed the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court in 2001
  68. 68. Born in Lagos, she attended the Anglican Girl School and enrolled In the National College of Aviation Technology Zaria in 1978. She qualified as a Private and Commercial Pilot in 1981, becoming the first Nigerian woman to achieve this feat. She was also the first woman ti suit as Rector of the Nigerian Civil Aviation And Training School Zaria- till recently.
  70. 70. Chi-chi Nwanoku was born in London of Igbo (Eziama) and Irish parents. Her prodigious musical talent discovered early and she was eventually admitted into the Royal Academy of Music, to study Classical Bass. She graduated with distinction and Progressed a career, that saw her rise to break several glass ceilings and is today Rated as one of the world’s greatest Classical Bassists. She was awarded an MBE By the Queen and is a Professor at the Royal Academy of Music. Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy, was born in Ondo, with parents from Awka. She moved to the UK In 1975 and has practised as a Painter since 1988. Her works have been exhibited all over the world and she was commissioned for a portrait of the Queen. She was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2009, for her work. Chimamanda Adichie was born at Nsukka to parents from Abba in Anambra State. She obtained Degrees from Drexel, Eastern, Jhns Hopkins and Yale Universities, before embarking on a career as a Novelist. Her books “The Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah won her th epresitigious Commonwealth Writers, Orange, National Book Critics Awards amongst others. She also won the Readers Digest Author of the Year Award, International Nonino Prize amongst many others. Whilst clearly a global personalisty, she represents the modern face of a strong tradition of socially conscious, culturally aware and politically articulate writers of Igbo extraction. Chiwetel Ejiofor was born in 1977 to Igbo parents from Enugu State and lived in London. He studied at the London Academy of Drama and Music, from where he got his first big screen role. His career progressed he was to star in numerous films and the culmination of his work being nomination for an Academy award in 2014 for “12 years a Slave”, having won a BAFTA and other awards. He was awarded an OBE by the Queen in 2008.
  71. 71. FIN