The Aba Women riots, led by women in the Calabar and Owerri provinces of southeastern Nigeria in November and December of 1929 against the oppressive colonial power is known as the Aba Riots of 1929 (in British colonial history and Aba Women’s War in Igbo history) (1).
The immediate cause of the revolts was the resentment of the people towards the imposition of obnoxious taxes on the people by the British colonial officials during the colonial era.
“The Aba Women’s Riot featured women rebelling against economic and socio-political oppressions in Bende, Umuahia, and other regions of Igboland. Over 10,000 women came out to protest from majorly six ethnic groups: Ibibio, Andoni, Orgoni, Bonny, Opobo, and Igbo.”
Women who were thousands in numbers organized revolts against the British rule, due to the latter’s satanic colonial policies. “The protests broke out when thousands of Igbo women from the Bende District, Umuahia and other places in eastern Nigeria traveled to the town of Oloko to protest against the Warrant Chiefs, whom they accused of restricting the role of women in the government”
Notably, the colonial era itself has more evil than goods in Nigeria, as the indigenous peopling of Nigeria were economically exploited, socio-culturally infiltrated, politically shattered, and religiously deorgansised.
These collective riots took months before their total suppression which was not without destruction of lives and properties.
Causes of the Riots
The first and most notable cause of the war was the oppressive nature of the Indirect Rule, the colonial system used by the British colonial officials, which was championed by Lord Lugard. The colonial system entirely did not recognize the indigenous system of administration. All that was done was an ‘imposition’ of all facets of governance.
Also, the despotic nature of the warrant chiefs was a factor responsible for the great riots that would break out in 1929. Just as in Yoruba communities, like Akoko land under colonial rule, the indigenous system favored the political heads before the coming of the British, therefore, these people were used to colonize their subjects having direct responsibility to the imperial power of England.
This revolt has been under review over the last few years, and some scholars have agreed that it was a rebellion rather than revolt (2). This act perhaps is a means to justify the happenings surrounding this event. Basically, it was an organized massive ‘protest’ by women against the British official in 1929 in the southeastern part of Nigeria.
The plans reached by the colonial government to impose heavy taxation on the people’s commercial dealings led these women (who feared being eliminated from the market’s sphere) to the war.
The culminating effect of these causes was the surface of massive revolts by thousands of congregated women at the administrative centers of Calabar and Owerri and other places to wage a collective protest against the excesses of the British colonial officials, and their own unfortunate warrant chiefs.
During the two months war, at least 25,000 Igbo women were involved in protests against British officials (3). Attacks were made on not only the European-owned stores but also on the warrant chiefs. In a serious manner, it was often said that these women protested in nudity. “The Aba Women’s Riot resulted in the death of 51 women and 1 man”.
All sorts of colonization found themselves at the receiving ends that some of the British colonial elements like the police stations, native courts, were attacked and destroyed.
Unfortunately for the people, just like the Benin Massacre of 1897, the British force fired the gathered women, killing tens of people and many were brutally injured. However, the plan to impose taxes on the people was totally besmirched and became a fleeting illusion.