THE FIRST KING OF OKRIKA TO ACCEPT THE EUROPEANS
This is a brief analysis of the dynamics of historical events pertaining to Late King Ibanichuka and the British Colonial Masters during his reign as King of Okrika Kingdom, one of the foremost City-States of West Africa between 1876 and 1896.
King Ibanichuka, Addo V1, was the Amanyanabo of Okrika, a great hero of Okrika Kingdom and one of the foremost African Nationalists and founding fathers of resource control in Niger Delta. He was deported in 1896 by Sir Ralph Moor, the then Consul General of Niger Coast Protectorate mainly because he refused to open up the trade route and allow free trade for colonialists incursion in to the hinterland. Then it was quarrel about commerce involving oil palm produce and trade routes; but today, the contention is all about crude oil and gas, flow lines/pipelines and right of ways. His reign was remarkable and should be remembered for in his dealings with the colonial masters particularly bordering on politics, economic and commercial empowerment, education, social welfare, religion, peaceful coexistence and territorial protection as summarized below:
With regard to politics, he was among his contemporaries such as Nana of Itsekiri, Kosoko of Lagos, Ovornranwen of Benin and Jaja of Opobo to mention a few, who fought for the political independence of their city states by resisting colonialist’s incursion, though their attempts were unsuccessful.
King Ibanichuka was among others, such as King Pepple of Bonny, King Amachree of Kalabari. The Obong of Calabar and the Oba of Benin as the valiant African monarchs that were invited in December 1, 1887 on board the HMS Royalist and informed of the incident that Opobo was then to be governed by a council.
King Ibanichuka, as a lover of peace, participated in the arbitration of external disputes. For example, he was appointed by the Queen along with King Jaja of Opobo and Amanyanabo of Bonny to arbitrate between King Abbi Amachree and Chief Igbanibo Will-Braide and BarBoy house.
As an avid lover of peace, he demonstrated his passion for peace when he told the visiting Bishop Crowther on 21 September 1881 that he wanted peace, prosperity in trade and commerce.
He further exhibited his love for peace in 1883 when Bonny, Kalabari and Consul Hewett jointly wanted to go into war with Okrika, King Ibanichuka, as great strategist and tactician, used his diplomatic skills to avert the coalition of nations war against Okrika.
King Ibanichuka though a traditional religionist, advocated for religious tolerance and freedom of worship. He did not, therefore, do anything to jeopardize the traditional religion but told visiting Archdeacon Crowther on 14 August 1881 that “every one is at liberty to embrace what ever religion he likes”. This he followed up by including a clause of freedom of worship in 1888 Treaty of Protection he signed.
King Ibanichuka, in granting permission to Chiefs’ Ogan and Atorudibo for the establishment of Christianity in Okrika, led his Kirike and Ogoloma Chiefs on May 23, 1881 to sign the agreement with Bishop Crowther for the putting up of Christian church building at Okrika, though a believer in traditional religion. He further encouraged the development of the Christian religion by requesting visiting Archdeacon Crowther in August 1879 to permit regular missionary visits to Okrika and promised to contribute to the expenses of the mission and indeed contributed #400 (in two installments) to the cost of the mission in so doing.
King Ibanichuka was a visionary and had insight as to the crucial role of education in nation building, enhancing knowledge through elimination of ignorance and inculcation of positive societal values that encourage peaceful coexistence among city dwellers. Thus on 15 August 1881 he readily released 50 boys for schooling at Bonny to visiting Archdeacon Crowther.
In 1884, during a Consular visit by Hewett to Okrika, King Ibanichuka expressed his desire for the Christian Missionaries to assist in educating his people.
During His reign, one of the earliest primary schools was established at Okrika in 1880. Also, in 1890, the Ogugumanga School was established as a joint venture between the colonial Government, commercial firms, Bonny, Kalabari and Okrika.
On 19 November 1879, during his reign the treaty of peace between King and Chiefs of New Calabar and the King and chiefs of Bonny, the Kirike people’s right to fish without molestation was recognized and entrenched in article V of that Treaty.
King Ibanichuka encouraged direct trade between Okrika people and white traders, thereby stopping Okrika people from passing through middlemen to transact business, thus enhancing their profit value and boosting their economic adventure.
In furtherance of his desire to enhance economic empowerment of his people, he signed an agreement on 31 January 1891 ceding land to African Association Limited, Liverpool represented by Stanley Regerson Esquire of Liverpool, England. He thus laid the foundation for establishment of factories in Okrika territory.
The anchoring of ships within Okrika territorial waters today was the outcome of the agreement of 31 January 1891 entrenched in article 2 consummated during his reign.
The political independence and territorial integrity of Okrika were jealously guarded by King Ibanichuka. Thus in 1884, between June and September, he and his chiefs refused to sign the Treaty of Protection of territory with representatives of Britannic majesty. Okrika was the only City State of West Africa in the Oil River Protectorate for three years without signing formal cession of territory. This was however rectified on 17 May 1888 but with the territorial boundary of Okrika clearly defined in the Treaty before signature by King Ibanichuka.
King Ibanichuka loved his people and the people loved him. Consequently, in June 1896, in other to avoid Consular Ralph Moor carrying out the threat to destroy the town Okrika and scatter the people, for her failure to open up the route to the hinterlands and for free trade, which was for the protection of the economic interests of Okrika people, the King being a great Nationalist, a man with patriotic zeal and attribute of selfless service to his people, did not pass an order of armed resistance against the White colonialists led by Ralph Moor, although 1400 young men in 23 war canoes had mobilized to perish with the King rather than allow him to be taken by the colonial masters. The Amanyanabo made the supreme sacrifice on behalf of Okrika and accepted to be deported to save the Island Okrika and its people. He was deported on June 4 1896 by Ralph Moor in the company of 105 officers and rank in yatch “IVY” accompanied by vice consul captain H. H. Gallway and district commissioner Mr. A. B. Harcourt. It is noteworthy however; that the Okrika people surrendered their King for deportation only after they had successfully negotiated for (1) the King to be confined at Degema instead of Bonny so that he can easily be visited. (2) Secured a pledge to return him after a period of time (3) Signed a new treaty of friendship which Ralph Moor immediately implemented by taking two Okrika boys for schooling at Calabar.