The Ancient Arochukwu Kingdom has been unduly variously vilified. It is essential that the real facts of Aro excellence be now made manifest.
APOLOGIA PRO VITA NOSTRA?: by: - Prof. Chris Aniche Okorafor Preamble: The 2000 Easter Edition of Aro News hailed the kick-off of the Centenary Celebration with the launching of the logo by no less a personality than the Nigerian Senate President in the very presence of our illustrious Eze1 Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro CFN in its front page. This incidence had earlier been given greater publicity in the national print and electronic media. Since then, questions have been asked by a few Aro, and very many non-Aro, as to why one should mark with pomp and pageantry the demise of his self-rule. Why?, they demand, should the Aro celebrate the one hundred years of the disruption of its budding civilization by the British invasion and subsequent enthronement of colonial rule? There has not been a prior history of a nation celebrating or commemorating the fall of its empire. This is not therefore an idle question. It rather calls for some considerable philosophizing or serious soul searching. History is replete with such questions as to how and why certain events took place. There are well satisfying how and why the Roman empire fell. The defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in his Russian campaign, the collapse of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe etc. Many more events in history, have all been traced to acceptable causes. Several authors on Nigerian history, have proffered various reasons for the invasion and fall of Aro hegemony. The general trend in the presentations have been grossly biased and tended to run along the lines of the main frame concepts propagated by the colonial historians. Some of the authors being non-Aro, have relied also on the interpretation of interpretations of their forefathers who in some instances were claimed by the colonial historians as liberated in consequence of the British invasion of Aro. We shall later revert to this class of liberated natives of the territories under Aro hegemony prior to 1902. Suffice it to indicate at this point, that in dealing with the past or history of a people, one is invariably confronted with interpretation of events which took place in the past, from the standpoint of circumstances and environments that are no longer the same. It therefore follows that one is constrained to as it were, rationalize the thinking of the people who lived at those past times most of whom are dead. If they kept any records, one cannot measure the degree of subjectivity in those records. It therefore calls for a certain measure of charity in attempting to pass judgment on a generation with which one has no contact, and in a situation where circumstances have so changed that such situational criteria of morality, justice and fairness are not precisely the same as in the present environment.
Anthropologists now know that in prehistoric times, all races of humans practiced human sacrifice and slavery. Some even indulged in cannibalism a practice that was and is still taboo among the Aro. The Aro recognized that some slaves were honorable and honest men of rank and affluence in their respective places of birth. They became slaves as a result of probably losing a battle or some such other circumstance of un-avoidable misfortune or calamity. This accounts for the Aro practice of absorbing such slaves into their patriarchal system and granting them all other human rights excluding those related to headship of an ezi2, ogo, or mgbala within traditional Aro society. This practice was common in only a few such other known ancient human societies such as the Romans. Among the Jews it prevailed only during the jubilee year, when they granted freedom to their slaves. Sociologists have demonstrated from recent studies that have been collaborated by very recent events, that humans of all races, surviving but marooned after a ship wreck, plane crash, earthquake, flood or other natural disaster, resort to deviant behaviors that are not apparent in their normal societies. These include such practices as cheating on other victims and even cannibalism. Contemporary history nevertheless, points out the falsifications that are deliberately imported into the interpretation of events in history. No one reading the history book on Nigeria covering the period 1959 to 1970 particularly, will fail to observe the biases and contradictions among the authors. Most often the interpretation the author proffers is predetermined by whether he has sympathies for Hausa, Yoruba or the Igbo tribe. The same sort of doctoring has been very obvious in the accounts of colonial and non-Aro historians with respect to Aro history. The colonialists had hidden their drive for territorial control behind the smoke screen of pacifying the natives and abolishing the inhuman slave traffic. Before, during and after the invasion of Aro, they propagated this humanitarian and altruistic doctrine to the trading partners Aro had garnered right from the period of its founding as a nation state. Their main objective was the disruption of all ties (trade, political and social) between these territories and Aro and the acceptance of the British authorities as godly and benevolent whose only intention was the abolition of evil and enthronement of Christian principles. Some of the people living at that time with the Aro in Diaspora (Aro Uzo) and in metropolitan Aro (Aro Ulo), were persons or descendants of those who were retained there by some system of trade, security for loan or, a form of exile and sequestration from their native land for crimes they had committed. On the fall of Aro, and with the spate of propaganda directed at painting Aro hegemony as evil, these persons were naturally disposed to swallow hook line and sinker, the doctored version dispensed by the colonial authorities. To a large extent, the greatest part of the smear publicity that was given to Aro, arose from this class of individuals who were absorbed by the British Administrators into the schools, clerical2
extended family group; village or temple of the Ekpe secret society,
etc systems. This same class consistently harped on this distorted fact and transmitted same to their children and childrens children. Aro has lived through this lie. Later in this article, we shall affirm that Aro was not the initiator of the slave trade. Aro was not the sustaining factor of the trade. Aro was equally not the last to switch over to legally acceptable trade after the abolition of slave trade by the worlds major powers that influenced and propelled the trade while it lasted. Aro only diverted to slave trade when it became more profitable than its previous engagement and reverted back to normal trade on the abolition of slave trade. It took Britain 35 years in 1807 to pass the Act of Parliament that was first propelled by Lord Mansfield in 1772 for the abolition of slave trade. It took United States of America an extra 108 years in 1880 to legislate its abolition even after that, the Afro-American is still today to shed off that stigma within the United States white-dominated society. The paradox of the leopard and the lamb: Jungle justice is typified in the story of the leopard and the lamb. The British invasion of Aro was induced by purely commercial motivations arising from the need to colonize and control trade in the region. There has been antecedents to this in the history of British colonialism. The early European settlers in America, the Pilgrim Fathers who left Plymouth in 1620 on the Mayflower suffered about the same economic-induced persecution from the British authorities. After about 130 years of their settlement in America, the thirteen English colonies, under the king of England and, administered by royal governors, demanded self government. The French had established colonies in Canada, trading lucratively about the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes and, the Mississippi. The British, as they later did along the Gulf of Guinea down to the Bight of Biafra, wanted to monopolize the rich fur trade within these north American regions. After a ten years war, the French ceded the territory to the British. Thereafter, King George III imposed a tax on all commodities the colonies bought and positioned warships empowered with Writs of Assistance to stop, search and cease smuggled goods. As with the Niger Delta and the Bight of Biafra with respect to the Royal Niger Company, the monopoly for trade in America was created for the British East India Company. The last straw was the passage of the Tea Act in 1772 which was directed at further increasing the trade monopoly and the commercial interest of England. The consequent Boston Wharf Riot, popularly known as the Boston Tea Party, and subsequent dramatic events, later culminated in the American war of independence. Unlike the Aro, the American states had the fire and man power to determine, establish and sustain their independence. Why the Fanfare: Along the Gulf of Guinea and the Bight of Biafra, the British successfully entrenched the United Africa Company and the Royal Niger Company before
consolidating their economic and political interests in the region now known as Nigeria. On Africa, a group of American historians aptly and succinctly stated in the Columbia History of the World, that after Columbus and Cortes had awakened the people of Western Europe to the possibilities, their appetite for converts, profits, and fame was thoroughly aroused and Western civilization was introduced, mainly by force, over nearly all the globe. Equipped with an unappeasable urge to expand and with superior weapons, conquerors made the rest of the world into an unwilling appendage of the great European powers. The peoples of these continents were in short, the victims of a ruthless, unrelenting exploitation. (The underlining are for emphasis). In some of these continents (the America, Australia and Asia), some dominant races, tribes or groups of people were totally eliminated in the bid b