By Stanley Nwanosike
Enugu, Nov. 16, 2019
Enugu Literary Society in collaboration with the Center for Memories and Enugu Sports Club on Saturday commemorated 70 years of Iva Valley coal mine massacre by British colonialists.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that on Nov. 18, 1949, over 21 coal miners were brutally massacred and more than 50 others injured by the British colonialists for daring to protest their poor working/living conditions and racial discrimination.
In a message to the event, Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State noted that the massacre memorial coincided with the birthday of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, First President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria.
Ugwuanyi, who was represented by the Commissioner for Environment, Mr Chijioke Edeoga, said that the massacre must have informed the drive of Azikiwe to start his struggle for independence of the country.
“The event that led to the massacre clearly shows the white colonialists that Nigerians can pull up strong and bloody resistance and the colonialists started taking Nigerians serious,’’ he said.
The governor urged youths to stand out against perceived social injustice ongoing in most places even in their schools in form of sex and money for marks, undue security agencies harassment and outrageous electricity bills.
He said, “The event is symbolic as it shows man’s resistance to injustice as well as man’s courage, boldness and self-sacrifice.
“Even today, we still have circumstances that look like the one the coal miners agitated for but our youths must rise up to challenge these societal ills and evolve a better society for themselves and next generation’’.
The governor thanked the Centre for Memories for organizing the event as well as the Enugu Sports Club for its support to the event.
Speaking, Mr Ike Okere, Zonal Director of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria and founder, Enugu Literary Society, said that the event was significant to showcase the history of the people and also ensure that young people know about it.
“The massacre must have triggered the independence struggle and also shows the level of love the British colonialists had for Nigerians then.
“This history should make the young strong and struggle out of all shackles of bondage holding them today. They should replicate and tell same story to their children and children’s children,’’ Okere said.
The Chairman of Enugu Sports Club, Mr Onyeka Onwe, said that the club would continue to be in the fore-front of education and enlightenment of Nigerians on present and historical developments.
Onwe noted that the Iva Valley Massacre Memorial would remind the present day people not to make same mistakes of old or become complacent to issues affecting them.
Mrs Rina Okonkwo, Historian at the Centre for Memories, noted that it was unfortunate that Nigerians easily forget while most of the historical events were fading away from memories and sight.
“As teaching of history is restored back to schools; the Iva Valley Massacre should be part of the new history curriculum,’’ Okonkwo said.
Miss Onyeka Iwuoha, one of the participants, said that she had learnt a lot about the massacre and other history surrounding the coal mines and Enugu city as of old.
NAN reports that there will be laying of wreaths at Iva Valley on Monday, Nov. 18 in continuation of the remembrance.