Igbo Dibias Surprised a British explorer at Brass River in 1900

The smallpox virus in the past had a devastating effect on people around the world. About 3 out of 10 people who contracted this disease died. The death rate is even higher in children. African populations did not have the vaccine yet. In 1900, the smallpox epidemic destroyed the Ijaw population in Brass, affecting palm oil production, an important export.
They called on the Aro Dibias, who came to the rescue, cleansed the land, and cured the entire population. The whole Ijaw people celebrated and feasted over what the aro Dibia did for them. The celebration affected the production of palm oil in that area. The British soldier and researcher, Major ARTHUR GLYN LEONARD, who was surprised by the success of the Aro Dibias who did not use western medicine, did not believe it was possible at first; he had to ask around to confirm.
He described the event as follows:
“Early in the year 1900 I happened to be paying a visit to the Brass river, and among other topics was discussing trade prospects with some of the chiefs. These, according to James Spiff, a well-informed and intelligent man, did not promise to be favourable, because, he informed me, the producers —in this case Ijo—instead of cutting down the nuts from the oil palms, as they ought long since to have done, were busy all over the country making great plays and feasts in honour of the Long Ju-Ju (the Aro Chuku, or god of the Aro) for having prevailed over the smallpox.
On proceeding up the Niger river a few days afterwards I made further inquiry into the matter among the Ijo them[1]selves, and found his statement to be perfectly correct. Some sporadic, or, what is more likely, suspicious cases of smallpox having occurred in certain localities, and the popular faith in local medicines having evidently been shaken through previous experience, the aid of the celebrated divining god had been invoked, with such excellent effect that the smallpox fiend had been driven headlong out of the field. To show how ingrained is the naturism of these natives, and further, how ineradicable it is, on another occasion, many years ago now, I believe, an epidemic of smallpox swept through the Brass country, causing great havoc and consternation among the people.”
Imagine how far we would have positively developed our local medicine if we had developed it further like the Chinese and Europeans instead of abandoning it? Maybe we could have taken the positive aspects and rejected the negative aspects of our local medicine. Perhaps we would have provided the cure for Covid-19 by now.
Glyn L., A. (1906). Lower Niger and its tribes. London, Macmillan.
Original article contributed to the Facebook group, Igbo History (Igbos Since 3000 BC) by Emmanuel Eke

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