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Enugu centenary celebrated in 2009 was a blunder, says historian

It is important to put the records correct before people will be misinformed to believe that Enugu was founded in 1909.’  This is the ‘verdict’…

It is important to put the records correct before people will be misinformed to believe that Enugu was founded in 1909.’  This is the ‘verdict’ of a lawyer, researcher and historian, Mr. Anayo Enechukwu, who said he is quite knowledgeable about the history of Enugu State. He is the Chairman of International Trusts Organisation, a non-governmental organization said to have branches all over Africa. And his remark is coming about five years after the centenary celebration organised by the  Enugu state government.
“Many people were in a hurry to celebrate the centenary thinking that the governor would not be there in 2015 based on his health challenges. So, they hurriedly arranged the centenary to be part of history without knowing that they were committing a historical blunder. It was bad advisers that misled the government.
“The centenary celebration was in error. The people that held the ceremony were not well informed. Enugu was founded on January 11, 1915. What they celebrated was the discovery of coal,” Enechukwu in an  an interview said.
The historian also  recalled that way back in 1909, one Alfred E. Kingston, a British geologist and the principal of mineral survey in southern Nigeria, accompanied by E.O. Tiele, was looking for minerals in south-eastern Nigeria and coincidentally, they discovered coal not even in Enugu, but in Ofam
Ozalla. They later traced it to Enugu and gathered some of the materials. After testing it they discovered that it had rich quality.
“If you look at the scenario, you will find out that what the government celebrated was the discovery of coal.”
As an historian, Enechukwu said he must have to correct the wrong impression, if for nothing else, at least for the young ones who might not bother to find out the truth.
He said: “I have to point out here that without the discovery of coal, there would not have been anything like Enugu. But before the discovery of coal, it is on record that coal was imported from Britain. There is an English proverb that ‘you cannot take coal to Newcastle.’ There was an agreement entered by sir Walter Edgerton, a commander and also governor of the colony of southern Nigeria to import coal from Britain. The agreement was entered on December 31, 1909 and it was to be done annually. That was the trend before the discovery of coal here.”
According to him, coal was also discovered in Benin, Agbor, Ukpanam, Ogwashi-uku, Ukpor and Ichi, stressing that  the one in Enugu was of better quality.
He said after the discovery coal, the white men left and nobody thought about doing any other thing. But one engineer G.A. Brown, the district engineer of public works department, PWD at Onitsha, was assigned with further testing of the coal.
“It was given to one Professor Gulsdan for analysis, which was discovered to be rich in quality and quantity. It was at this stage that the First World War started in 1914,” he recalled.
According to the historian, the British were afraid that Adolf Hitler might attack them and possibly block their coal miners and thereby subject them to cold winter. “That was how they agreed to develop and use the Enugu coal as an alternative in case of any eventuality. But there was no way they could have transported coal from Enugu without first constructing a railway, so they did a research from River Niger and the Atlantic Ocean and found out that it was better to build the rail from the heart of  Port Harcourt. That was in 1913, and it was Chief Onyeama and Chief Chukwuani Nwangwu, the two warrant chiefs installed by the British in 1908/1909 that were instrumental to the construction of the railway.”
He recalled that the two chiefs used the local people to do the job, but the rail did not come to Enugu until 1915. The two chiefs supervised the first coal transported from Enugu, he said, pointing out that the  rail did not reach Maiduguri until 1928.
“From this analysis, you will see that railway came to Enugu in 1915, but there was what was known as Udi revolt in 1914.
Ordinarily, it would have been called Awkunanaw or Nkanu revolt, but all these places were under Udi division established in 1909.”
Explaining the cause of the revolt, he said it was carried out by the natives of Awkunanaw due to “their misconception of the white man being a spirit or a ghost.” He recalled that the locals had wanted to chase the white people away, wondering how they could be living with “spirits who ate only eggs and yams, spoke through their noses, and exhibit strange characters.”
However, the British subdued the rebels within seven days, he said. “I am saying all these things so that people will be better informed. When they wanted to establish a colliery in Enugu, the Obi of Onitsha gave them one Alfred Innoma and 19 other miners who later became the first inhabitants of Enugu, especially the area known as Ugwu Alfred. Researchers will agree with me that there has been a lot of distortion in the history of Enugu by uninformed persons,” Enechukwu said point-blank.
 Enechukwu said: “According to engineer William John Lake, the first European that arrived in Enugu also the first colliery manager between 1915 and 1942, Enugu was officially established on January 11, 1915. I stand to be contradicted. This engineer arrived Onitsha from Lagos and proceeded to Udi on January 7, 1915 with 350 human carriers and arrived on January 9. He came to Enugu on January 11 with military escort for fear of another revolt. This is why I still insist that Enugu was founded on January 15, 1915.
“There, they built their quarters and the African market. The market was for miners and other people around, but because of the noise the white men relocated the market to the present Ogbete main market, previously owned by the Catholic Church.”
According to him, the first and second maps of the town were drawn in 1913 and 1917 to erect some structures.

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