By MOE Ene (Kwenu.com)
Exactly 67 years ago today, on Sunday November 20, 1949, Nigerians in the Coal City of Enugu, did the unthinkable: They boycotted churches, cinemas, and shops for one week. An abject absurdity of the previous Friday, November 18, triggered the extraordinary action: “The Iva Valley Shooting.” Twenty-one miners were killed in cold blood and 51 wounded for demanding a better condition of service!
The cold and callous massacre by colonial police infuriated Nigerians across ethnoreligious gaps. They agonized, but they organized. In Enugu, a national service for the dead miners held. Demonstrations followed. In Lagos, prominent personalities formed the National Emergency Committee in the house of Dr. Akinola Maja and sent delegates to Enugu by air to support Okwudili Ojiyi and other local nationalists, and on the road to form chapters in major cities across Nigeria. They included Mbonu Ojike, K. O. Mbadiwe, Bode Thomas, M. A. O. Imoudu, S. Gbadamosi, Dr. Maja, and Adio-Moses. From Aba axis came Mrs. Margaret Ekpo and Aja Nwachukwu, whose actions were so popular the colonists restricted their movements by fiat!
Dr. Nnamdi (Zik) Azikiwe, who was attending a conference in London with Mallam Za’ad Zungur, did not stop at sending a “cable of condolence,” he galvanized public opinions in Europe and America (where he had a healthy contact of friends). The pressure on British colonists was immense. Long story short, the colliery massacre was so shocking it galvanized Nigerians to end colonialism. Independence did not come on a platter of platinum; it came with the supreme sacrifice of Enugu coal miners. May their souls continue to rest. We remember.
LESSON: When Nigerians unite and ignore the superficial differences of race, region, and religion, they move mountains. The reigning vagabonds in powers are not immune. Evil is evil…. black, brown, white, or yellow. In military uniform or in flowing gowns and suits, in 50 short years hence, those who desecrate the sacrifices of these men shall be consigned to the silos of stories and forgotten in footnotes of years that the locusts ate! Long live the heroes of Enugu colliery massacre.