The Creation of Kukuruku Division – Aha Idokpesi Okhaishe N’ Avhianwu

The Creation of Kukuruku Division – Aha Idokpesi Okhaishe N’ Avhianwu

(a) Fugar is made the Headquarters of Kukuruku Division

Until 1904, when, in order to bring the judicial arm of the British colonial government closer to the people under the Northern Provinces, a Native Court was established at Fugar, the Avhianwu Clan Area was administered from Idah, the then Avhianwu Clan Heads, who, prior to 1904 and up to 1914, had to go to Idah or send representatives for political, judicial and administrative matters, were successively Aduku Gbagba, Aduku Keku and Agabi. The Avhianwu Clan leaders and many other Clan rulers had to go to Idah to have a taste of and to demonstrate their loyalty to the British Rule. Further developments soon followed.

In 1914, following the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria by Lord Frederick Lugard, Idah was transferred to the Northern Provinces; and the southern portion of the Etsako (including Avhianwu Clan) was administered from Ubiaja.

Kukuruku at that time was an area comprising Okpe, Ibilo, Otuo, Igarra, Usomorika, Imeri, Sabongida-Ora, Warrake, Sebe, Agbede, Ughiagbede, Alegbette, Ewa, Weppa-Wano, all Ekperis, all Ibies, all Inemes, Auchi, Uzairue, Ukpilla, Avhianwu and so on. No doubt, for purpose of effective administration and to bring the government closer to the people, the British Government, in 1918, created the Kukuruku Division with its Headquarters at Fugar. The Divisional Headquarters was thus transferred from Ubiaja (Ishan) to Fugar. Also transferred to Fugar, consequent upon the new development, was the administrative and military headquarters at Iddo (Ukpilla). Thus, the Etsakos and the rest became united in a division with J. C. Walker, Esq. as the first District Officer for the Division.

The creation of Kukuruku Division in 1918 had coincided with the end of (lie First World War. The celebrations marking the end of the war were held at Fugar by the whole Kukuruku Division. The people of Kukuruku fought on the side of the British in that war so they celebrated the end of the war with them.

In 1919 Avhianwu was placed under the control of the District Head at Auchi who with six other District heads formed a Council, gazetted, the Native Authority for the Kukuruku Division.

At the inception of the Headquarters at Fugar, all the associated establishments and infrastructure were located at Ukphabobe. There were the Police Station, Court House, Medical Units, the Prisons and so on. A Government Rest House had been previously built on a landscape overlooking the dale bordering the village stream, Obe, and in the same vicinity with the government quarters then springing up.

Monumental to the establishment of the Kukuruku divisional Headquarters at Fugar was the name given to the age-group of 1917, the age-group that immediately preceded and saw the preparations for the takeoff of the autonomous Administrative Area operated from Fugar. The age-group which was fathered by Itsede who hailed from Ulumhoghie in Ivhiunone was called Umoraboghimhe meaning ‘The whole world has come to me’; a strong indication that the Avhianwu community had rejoiced at what was on the way to Avhianwu.

(b) Fugar is unmade the Headquarters of Kukuruku Division

The joy that greeted the arrival of the headquarters at Fugar soon turned sour. It was short-lived. For the Avhianwu community, the demise of the Headquarters at Fugar was premature. Its short span of life had made it look as it had existed merely in the imagination; it had been a fantasy, an illusion. Though, all along, the mood of the people had been that of euphoria in unhappiness, yet they had not wished its removal. But it was removed. For no apparent reason.

At the inception of the Headquarters of Kukuruku division at Fugar, the number of strangers in the midst of the people of Avhianwu had risen.  The influx of strangers led to the multiplication of social ills and actions incompatible with the local tradition.

All along and following the establishment of a Native Court at Fugar, the natives – mostly the market women – would not accept the British coins as they appeared to them as pieces of broken earthenware. They preferred and wanted cowries (ikpeghotso – real money) which they had known from the beginning. The government personnel would not see with their illiterate hosts but rather forced them against their desires. They would drop on the ground before the poor market women whatever they fell like paying for goods and not what the women had asked for. In most cases they would not pay at all. And Avhianwu, at the time, being a community not given to sexual promiscuity, was not the right place for strangers inclined to amorous pursuits. There were neither free women in Avhianwu nor were the girls ready to marry strangers. To nullify the ban thus placed on indiscreet sex and marriage, the government personnel not only forced sex out of the girls but also abducted them. The Avhianwu traditional rulers could not talk the

 

District Officers into preventing their men from committing acts of aggression, extortion, sexual abuses, and abductions against the people of Avhianwu.

After genuine consultations and consolidations have failed, the people of Avhianwu accepted their plight with resignation thus shunning confrontations. Let it be known here that the people of Avhianwu liked the Divisional Headquarters at Fugar but never the very government personnel who caused them physical, mental, emotional and psychological pains.

Although there were such internal frictions between the government and the governed, there was no threat however to the administration in any form. Both parties had lived and learnt to accommodate each other. Born detractors and armchair critics of Avhianwu, who probably have been what they are from ignorance of the facts, had attributed the removal of the Headquarters from Fugar to Auchi in 1920 to the intransigence of the Avhianwu community. This cannot be true. How could that have happened when no major clash, if any at all, that could have culminated in dissensions between the two parties, the government and the governed, was recorded. There is no gainsaying the fact however that there were incidents and accidents that could constitute remote causes but such were not born of intrigues occasioned by the instrumentality of the Avhianwu community. A look at some remote episodes may throw in some light.

There was the chieftaincy tussle at Alegbette. Ugbodaga and Eramhe were great rivals in that royal war. The District Officer (D.O.) of Kukuruku Division, J. C. Walker, Esquire, then resident at Fugar, the Divisional Headquarters of Kukuruku Division, had supported Eramhe against Ugbodaga. Ugbodaga was said to have hated the District Officer, J. C. Walker, Esq., for being on the side of Eramhe, his (Ugbodaga’s) arch-rival.

As fate would have it the District Officer, J. C. Walker, Esquire, had died while Eramhe and Ugbodaga lasted out their chieftaincy conflict. J. C. Walker, Esq., died at Lokoja in 1919. He was alleged to have been poisoned by his cook, one Braimah, who coincidentally, hailed from Alegbette.

Ugbodaga, as a matter of course, was suspected to have masterminded the plot in which the District Officer, J. C. Walker, Esq., had been eliminated. That had been a serious allegation. But the mere fact that it was never substantiated in any court of law and no one had been proved guilty of, nor had anyone confessed to the crime, the Avhianwu community would not be exonerated from the guilt. Although there were no accusing fingers directed then to the Avhianwu community, suspicions were carried in the minds of antagonists and detractors alike who would, with time, exploit the incident against Avhianwu when occasion called for it.

An occasion did indeed call for it. And it was indeed used against Avhianwu,

There was a replacement. The new, and incidentally the last, District Officer at Fugar, C M Dunn, Esquire, came to Fugar on transfer from the northern part of Nigeria. On his assumption of the reins of government of

Kukuruku Division, C. M. Dunn, Esq., inherited the chieftaincy struggle at

Alegbette. For reasons best known to him, C. M. Dunn, Esq., reversed

government’s stand on the issue and favoured Ugbodaga in his trial of

strength against Eramhe.

In the administration of C. M. Dunn, Esq., Messrs. Agbegbe, Harrison

and Martin were respectively the keeper of Prisons, District Clerk and

interpreter.

Martin, the interpreter, had set his eyes on one Oyagha Enamhomhe

and was determined to take her for a wife by hook or by crook. It happened

that before Martin’s appearance on the nuptial scene, Oyagha was duly

affianced to Inino, the son of Opiebe. Oyagha’s family had acted wisely and

swiftly too when, it called the family of Inino to settle the bride price and take

Oyagha for lnino’s lawful wife. The move had been timely as Martin was

set to abduct Oyagha. Thus sidetracked, Martin vowed vengeance upon the

Avhianwu community. He was said to have openly boasted that he would

be instrumental to the removal of the Headquarters of Kukuruku Division

from Fugar.

When Martin petitioned the District Officer to redress his grievances

against Fugar, he was said to have alleged besides that Fugar was unsafe for

District Officers as the first District Officer at Fugar was poisoned and killed. Subsequent events showed that the District Officer, C. M. Dunn, Esq., had acted on Martin’s petition.

Meanwhile, in 1919, ‘District Headships’ were created. Ukpilla and

the North Ibies were placed under a District Head from Ukpilla; Auchi,

Avhianwu, Uzairue and South Ibies were placed under a District Head from

Auchi; while Weppa-Wano and Ekperi were placed under the Oliola of

Ineme. The seats of other District Heads had been Agbede, Igarra, Imeri and

Okpe.

In other development, the resident District Officer at Fugar, C. M.

Dunn, Esq., was a personal friend of Momoh the District Head from Auchi.

Their friendship was further cemented by the fact that C. M. Dunn, Esq.,

spoke and understood the Hausa language and could discuss freely with

Momoh without an interpreter. So, when Momoh asked that, being the

District Head, the Divisional Headquarters at Fugar be brought to Auchi –

the seat of the District Headship, the District Officer, C. M. Dunn, Esq., had

no cause to deny his friend’s request.

Moreover, the District Officer’s interpreter, Martin, had marked down

the Avhianwu community as number one suspect of the alleged murders of

  1. C. Walker, Esq., the first District Officer at Fugar. C. M. Dunn, Esq., did

not see any guarantee for his personal safety. He had found a friend in

Momoh, the District Head of Auchi. He would not lose anything by making

Auchi the Headquarters of Kukuruku Division. What was more, with a

Stroke of the pen, the District officer of the Kukuruku Division, C. M. Dunn, Esq. in 1920, wrote off Fugar as the Headquarters of Kukuruku Division. Auchi became the Headquarters in its place.

(c) Reaction and protest against the removal of the Divisional Headquarters from Fugar

The removal was taken with mixed feelings: the immediate reaction was that the departure of the Divisional Headquarters and the corporate personnel from Fugar was a good riddance, but it was a loss which was forever mourned.

There had been no immediate protests about the regrettable loss of Fugar Headquartership. It was only several years later that some illustrious and well-informed sons of Avhianwu, who realized the damage done to the political, economic and social status of Fugar, in particular and Avhianwu in general, by the loss, made several but futile attempts to restore Fugar to its old glory by retransferring the Divisional Headquarters back to Fugar. One of the notable groups who fought in the cause of redress was the Fugar Boys’ Society (F.B.S) based in Ibadan. The Fugar Boys’ Society in its petition letter dated 14/2/38 under the heading ‘Demanding our reproach be removed. Prayer for reinstatement to former power-Headquartership’ and addressed to the Chief Commissioner, Enugu, through the Acting District Officer (A.D.O), Kukuruku Division, Auchi, and the resident Benin Province, requested that Fugar be reinstated as the Headquarters of Kukuruku Division.

Although the petition of the Fugar Boys’ Society did not yield the desired results it however provoked an explanation. For the first time in seventeen years, a high-ranking Government Official took the lid off his mouth as he explained, to the content and joy of the beneficiaries and to the displeasure, disappointment and sorrow of the deprived, why Fugar was written off as the Headquarters of Kukuruku Division and why a reinstatement would be a dream shattered on fantasies.

  1. C. B. Denton, Esquire, the then Acting District Officer of Kukuruku Division, in his explanation to the Resident, Benin Province, said, in his own words, ‘I recently visited Fugar. There I was told by the Avhianwu Clan Council that they had sponsored the petition (of the Fugar Boys’ Society) and wished it to go forward.’

‘To anyone knowing Fugar, a re-transfer there of the Divisional Headquarters would seem absurd. It is not as central as Auchi; the road to it is bad; the old site of the District Officer’s house is not as healthy as the present site at Auchi (The first District Officer (reference to J. C. Walker, Esquire) there died, I am told, within two months of arrival.) Finally, the cost would be prohibitive. “And on a consolatory note” H.C.B. Denton, Esq.,

 

added, “It may console the Fugar Boys’ Union that £150 (N600 before SFEM) is provided in the current Native Administration Estimates for the construction of a Court building at Fugar, in which will probably be incorporated a Treasury and a Dressing Station.”

In reply, a letter, ref. No. W.P. 14011/65, issued from the Secretary’s Office, Southern Province, Enugu dated 20/8/38 and signed by A. R. A. Dickens for the Acting Secretary, Southern Province, was sent to Messrs. Nelson Ogboalo and others of the Fugar Boys’ Union, Ibadan. It read: ‘I am directed by the Acting Chief Commissioner to refer to your petition dated the 14th of February, 1938, and to inform you that the establishment of the Headquarters of Kukuruku division at Auchi was undertaken after due consideration, and that no change is contemplated.’

That reply, given with an air of finality, was a death knell to future protests against the removal and pleas for reinstatement of the Divisional Headquarters at Fugar.



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