Before Nigeria got her independence in 1960, she saw the good and the bad times, but still stood firm and undivided. One of such bad times in the history of our beloved country was the “women’s war,” also known as Aba women’s Riots. The Aba women’s Riot is a 2-month riot waged by women from six ethnic groups; Orgoni, Bonny, Igbo, Opobo, Andoni, and Ibibio.
The women displayed strength, courage, character, and unity in their worth as they locked horns against an oppressive colonial administration which was trying to demote them to the back seat of the society, and on top of that, charge them equally with taxes. This incident happened to be one of the first revolt made in quest of freedom from the hand of colonial masters and warrant chief headed by Sir Fredrick Lugard.
The riot erupted from the quiet town of Oloko, where Chief Okeugo, who was the then warrant leader sent his representative Mark Emereuwa on a cold morning on the 18th day of November 1929, to carry out the census for tax. Emereuwa visited the compound of a woman named Nwanyeruwaw. Upon arrival, Emeruwa saw her extracting palm oil, but in a stern voice, he instructed Madam Nwanyeruwaw to count the people living with her as well as the life stock.
Traditionally, women were not supposed to pay tax, and this made Nwayereuwa boiled with anger because she will be taxed heavily based on the number of domestic animals, children, and relatives living with her. Tempers flared, and Emeruwa even went to the extent of grabbing Nwanyeru by the throat After the heated argument and exchange of threats, Nwayereuwa marched to the town square in search of other women who were in the same predicament with her. Getting there, she saw hundreds of women wearing sad faces deliberating on the tax issue. This women then came together and decided to hold a protest.
On the fateful day of the protest, 10,000 women from all areas of the Bendel district assembled in the village square and from there marched towards the government house in one voice-the warrant chief must step down. This peaceful protest did not turn out calm as it was supposed to be, the fighting, looting, and bloodshed erupted, but at the end, the power of the warrant chiefs was limited, and the plan to impose a tax on women was buried. The rest they say is history.
Here are some facts from the Aba ówomen riot of 1929:
IT WAS THE FIRST WOMAN RIGHT MOVEMENT N NIGERIA
In Nigeria today, we have seen many women coming out to protest against all sorts of discrimination and impartiality among the female gender. The Aba women riot served as a source of strength for these women, as they hope one-day sanity will prevail.
IT WAS BLOODY
The Aba women led to the death of Fifty-two people in total. One man and Fifty-one women.
MARGARET EKPO WAS NOT THE LEADER
Many people believe that Margaret Ekpo led the Aba women riot, but that is not true. Margaret Ekpo was born in 1914 and was just 15 years during the time of the riot in 1929.
IT BROUGHT WOMEN INTO POWER
The result of the riot uplifted women into positions like warrant chiefs and native court chiefs during that time.
IT TOOK PLACE IN ABIA STATE
The riot which inspired other uprisings like the oil mill protest of 1940 and Tax protests of 1938, began in Oloko the present day Abia state.