How Ojukwu Slapped A British Teacher That Got Him Arrested In March 1944 At Age 11

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Bianca’s husband and hero, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, at the same time 78 years ago, slapped a British teacher for ‘behaving badly.

The media is awash with a blend of serious and comic analyses of Bianca Ojukwu’s violent encounter with former Governor Willie Obiano’s wife, Ebelechukwu, and what led to it in Awka, Anambra State during the handover of power to Governor Chukwuma Soludo.

The summary of the analyses in the past few days depicts the fact that, like her husband Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Bianca has a very low tolerance threshold for insults and bad behaviour.

Prime Business Africa reports that the March 17, 2022, unfortunate episode involving Bianca Ojukwu, former beauty queen and daughter of another tough man and governor of the old Anambra State, Chief C.C Onoh, occurred (almost) exactly 78 years (March 15, 1944) after her husband had a similar encounter as a student of the King’s College, Lagos.

A look at a historic event in the life of the late Biafran leader that led to his expulsion from Kings’ College at age 11 implies a similitude of tolerance levels to certain forms of behaviour.

Ojukwu’s father, Chief Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, had to send him to Epsom College, England to finish his High School before proceeding to Oxford University and subsequently joining the Nigerian Army.

Also trending in the social media space is Ojukwu’s alleged encounter with the late Umaru Dikko during the Constitutional Conference of 1995 after the latter made some disparaging remarks when Ojukwu was speaking at the plenary.

Ojukwu was said to have waited for the unsuspecting Dikko to move towards the toilet before walking up to give him a slap. Bianca Ojukwu has always relived fond memories of her late husband and how he taught her to be strong in character.

Could having low-threshold tolerance for insults be one of those lessons?

No doubt, accounts of Dim Ojukwu’s childhood experiences showed he had been a fighter, a revolutionist, with very little patience for bad conduct, no matter who got involved.

Slap that got Ojukwu arrested

In 1944, Emeka Ojukwu was reported to have slapped a British member of King’s College teaching staff during a students’ protest for crossing the barricade and taunting.

He and a few others were expelled after 100 students were arrested and tried.

King’s College Strike of 1944 led by Ovie Whiskey

King’s College boarding house students had written a petition letter to Principal Allan Clift but he dismissed their concerns on grounds he would not tolerate student petitions.

Led by Senior Boy Victor Ovie Wiskey, the boarding house students, therefore, consulted prominent and knowledgeable personalities within and outside the school and decided to launch a sit-in protest on Monday March 15, 1944.

The protesting students barricaded the boardinghouse gates and defended their strongholds with cutlasses.

Although the students, who would not dare to attack their teachers with weapons, little Emeka Ojukwu (aged 11), who was a junior boy at the time, and who was tasked with delivering water to the senior boys, could not tolerate Mr Slee’s violation of their stronghold.

Here’s Emeka Ojukwu’s recollection in a 2003 interview

“…I was the person carrying the water to the guards at the front of the boarding school. The man guarding the gate at the time everything took a different shape was the great (Victor) Ovie-Whiskey.

“There he was, formidably attired in his shorts and wrapped around his waist.

His job was to frighten anybody that was coming.

“We the small ones had the job of carrying water to them whenever it was needed.

It was then I noticed my Nature Studies master, Mr Sleigh (sic), striding towards Bonanza Gate from the police station.

“Clearly, he was coming to disperse the whole notion of the strike.

I don’t know what got into my head. I dropped the bucket of water and ran as fast as I could towards Mr Sleigh, got to him, leapt up in the air and gave him the biggest slap I could muster…and that sealed my fate”.

Mr Slee was said to have reported the 11-year-old Emeka Ojukwu’s assault to Principal Allan Clift.

Considering Principal Clift’s earlier intolerant attitude to the student petition, it is no surprise that Clift escalated the situation:

later that day, Clift and Slee arrived with the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) MacNamara, many policemen and a fire brigade officer from the Tinubu Fire Station who cut open the locks of the boarding house building.

Approximately 100 students were arrested and detained at Tinubu Police Station. Bailouts and Court Trials Sir Adeyemo Alakija and Samuel Akintola, then Daily Service newspaper Editor, had to bail out in the evening of their arrest.

75 senior students were then charged to court at the Santa Anna Court, Tinubu. Emeka Ojukwu was specifically charged to court for assault.

The students were defended by Eusebius James Alexander Taylor and L.J. Dosunmu while the prosecution was headed by James Egbuson.

The trial, which was published in the dailies and closely observed by the public, fortunately, saw the boys acquitted and discharged.

World War II ArmyThe court’s acquittal of the King’s College boys, however, was not the end of the story:

Within hours of the court judgment, the British Colonial Government and Principal Clift struck back with World War II conscription and expulsions.

Eight students were conscripted into the World War II-bound Army with very little information on what was the rationale behind the conscription.

Principal Clift expelled 11-year-old Emeka Ojukwu.Sir Louis Ojukwu (Emeka’s father) then sent him to Epsom College in England to continue his education.

The boys conscripted into the Second World War were: Ayoola Gladstone, Yon Dakolo, Adedapo Aderemi (eldest son of former Ooni of Ife), Adesoji Aderemi, Victor Ologundudu, Valentine Osula, Akanni Pratt, Yinka Akpata and Okparaocha (who reportedly died in service at Burma).

Principal Allan Clift, according to Femi Okunnu, sent away some boys from King’s College to other schools within Lagos such as CMS Grammar School, Methodist Boys High School, Baptist Academy and St Gregory’s.

Those sent away from King’s College were:

  • 1. Charles O. Idowu
  • 2. E.E. Idehen
  • 3. R.S. Kokori
  • 4. C. K.Ikemefuna
  • 5. Adenekan Ademola
  • 6. Tira Bello-Osagie
  • 7.Victor Ovie-Whiskey (Chairman of Nigeria’s electoral body FEDECO, 1979- 1983)
  • 8. C.H.Oyewo
  • 9. S.A. Fakoya
  • 10. O. Awani
  • 11. S.S. Young-Harry
  • 12. Thaddeus Eziashi
  • 13. M.Agidee.

Of course, the National Union of Students (NUS) and the Lagos intelligentsia at the time were displeased by World War II conscription and expulsions and lobbied to reverse them.

Their efforts were, however, unsuccessful.

The NUS reportedly reached out to leaders like Herbert Macaulay, who, at 80-year-old at the time had become the ‘grand old man of Lagos politics’;

Comet Newspaper owner and publisher, Duse Mohammed Ali, and rising politician, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, for support.

The NUS, on June 10, 1944, convened a gathering at the Glover Memorial Hall in Lagos to discuss nationalism and the King’s College strike.

Herbert Macaulay presided over the meeting (with Ali and Azikiwe in attendance) where a Resolution to form the NCNC, comprising representatives from political parties, trade unions, literary associations, professional associations, religious groups, social clubs, and women’s organisations, was passed.

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