Story Two: Chideraa in Colonial Nigeria

Umuagwo community had lot of troubles with the Christian missionaries and had killed a number of them. Their deaths had brought about a number of death sentences to Umuagwo’s chiefs. Eventually, the white men took over the control of Umuagwo and ran her affairs through a District Commissioner, Mr Watson Stratford.

“Chideraa!” His mother called. “You would be late to school”

“Mama I’m coming. I’m looking for my slate.” He replied. The slate was a small wooden board in which school children wrote upon using chalk.  He was twelve years of age and was one of the best pupils in Standard four, then it wasn’t called Basic Four the way it is called now. His teachers loved him because he was an obedient pupil, and was hardworking too. They were privileged to have a Primary school in Umuagwo. The Primary school was set up by the Catholic missionaries when they finally succeeded in breaking into Umuagwo and winning some converts, of which Obierika and Urenma, Chideraa’s parents were one of them. They immediately set up the school to pacify them for the loss of lives they had suffered when they fought against them and incurred the wrath of the District Commissioner. Some children trekked long kilometres to attend classes in their school. However, they were yet to have a secondary school.

“Hope you have done your assignments?” She asked as she watched him run off.

“Yes ma” He replied.

Whenever he came back from school, he helped out at home chores and in the farm work too. At his spare time he practiced reading, reciting English poems and memory verses from the Bible. They learnt and recited memory verses every morning on the assembly ground.

He came back from school one Tuesday and wasn’t too happy. His mother asked him what the problem was and he looked at her “Mama, they taught us in school today that the leader of our country, the Governor General, is a white man, Sir Frederick Lord Lugard.” She only knew the leader was a white man, that was all, she didn’t know his name. She just nodded her head.

“But Mama, can’t we rule ourselves on our own?” His mother had been thinking on what to respond “Is it our people that rule in their country?” He threw the second. She lost hope of ever helping her son. What was she even going to tell him? She wondered why he was in the habit of asking questions his mates never even conceived in their minds. Instead of playing with friends, he preferred to study his books.

Obierika, his father, returned from hunting and was discussing with friends as they took down some palm wine to make their discussion sweet. They discussed about the good old days when they were ruled by the paramount chiefs and had no white District Commissioners to rule over them. “What do they know about our culture?” One of them asked furiously. They couldn’t hide the fact that they were pained by the white man’s rule and the fact that they had to pay taxes made their heads almost explode. Some taxmen were usually beaten and disgraced as they did their job. Chideraa sat on the floor beside his father and listened attentively but said nothing. His father had taught him that he must not speak when elders spoke or discussed serious matters. As soon as his father’s guests left, he asked his father questions that had bothered him as they spoke.

“Papa, are those white people really good people? The same white people kidnapped and bought our people as slaves. Now they rule us in a way we do not like, yet they are the same very good people that come to our villages to tell us about Jesus and show us so much love and even build schools for us?” He asked looking very confused.

His father sighed “Chideraa, not all people with the same colour are the same. Is every boy in your class a good boy, yet almost all of you are from Umuagwo? Do not judge a man by his colour my son. I only know that the missionaries are good people, my son.” He replied.

“But Papa, since we are not happy that the white men are ruling over us, why can’t we ask them to go and let us rule ourselves?” He asked again.

His father rubbed his head “They say we are not educated and so cannot rule ourselves. That is why we are sending our children to school to get educated and then fight for our freedom someday.” Those words shined bright rays of hope in Chideraa’s heart. Someday he will fight for the freedom of not just Umuagwo, but Nigeria. Chideraa went on to join the great Pan-African movement that brought about the independence of many African countries.

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