Why was the history of Bonny Manipulated and Rewritten?
During and after the civil war, vigorous efforts were made to rewrite the history of many groups in the then Eastern region. One of the important and strategic towns where a fierce battle occurred was Bonny Island. It was not enough to conquer a territory; it was also crucial to conquer the people's minds through propaganda and the rewriting of history.
During and after the war, the book "A Chronicle of Grand Bonny" was written by Alagoa and then published by the University of Ibadan in 1972. Deliberate efforts were made through this book to remove any Igbo links to Bonny to weaken their Igbo identity.
The British scholar Latham noticed the manipulations of history in the book and the efforts made by Alagoa to change the identity of the Bonny people, and he immediately notified Cambridge university. Cambridge University Press published this notice and issue to the academic community in 1975. The contents of the issue were as follows:
"This is a very disappointing little book. On picking it up I thought that Ibadan University Press had taken the enterprising step of publishing a history of one of the most important Niger delta towns, written by a local historian who had not been trained at a University. I hoped and assumed that Dr Alagoa's contribution would be restricted to scholarly annotation, and perhaps a separate comment. But instead, Mr Fombo's manuscript, originally acquired by Professor Anene in I963 and now in the Africana Collection of the University of Ibadan, has been completely submerged by Dr Alagoa's new text. What is worse is that the new text is neither very scholarly nor very interesting. As the title suggests, it is a chronicle, and a bare one. There is virtually no attempt at interpretation at all, just a sequence of kings and events. The references which are made are mostly to secondary sources, and almost completely ignore the main source for the Niger coast, F.O. 84 (Slave Trade). There are no references given for the photographs, a characteristic regrettably common in Nigerian histories. Thus this book does little but reveal the need for a proper history of Bonny, a worth- while project for which there is abundant material. In it, this chronicle will deserve a footnote. In the meantime, Ibadan University Press could consider giving us Mr Fombo's original text. Then perhaps they could follow it up with the work of other local historians such as E. N. Amaku of Calabar. But let us have the original script intact, before the scholars bowdlerize it out of recognition."
University College of Swansea A. J. H. LATHAM
Unfortunately, this book is still referenced today, and indigenous Igbo scholars have made little or no effort to correct it.