Covering books and digital resources across all fields of history
Like us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter

ISSN 1749-8155

The Female King of Colonial Nigeria: Ahebi UgbabePrinter-friendly versionPDF version

The Female King of Colonial Nigeria: Ahebi Ugbabe
Nwando Achebe
Bloomington, IN, Indiana University Press, 2011, ISBN: 9780253222480; 322pp.; Price: £20.99
Ogechukwu Ezekwem
University of Texas at Austin
Ogechukwu Ezekwem, review of The Female King of Colonial Nigeria: Ahebi Ugbabe, (review no. 1393)
Date accessed: 23 May, 2024


Biko AgozinoSun, 31/03/2013 - 18:24
Interesting review with detailed summaries. However the reviewer erred by asserting that the use of Igbo phrases in the book with suitable English translations was unnecessary because the English versions sufficed. That is an example of what Achebe's father would call 'colonial mentality' which presupposes the supremacy of English over Igbo expressions especially by even Igbo scholars who are relatively illiterate in Igbo language. Unlike the reviewer, this is one stylistic innovation that I admired in the book - the use of Igbo expressions as part of her sub-headings. Chimamanda Adichie uses this technique effectively in her novels just as is the case with Nollywood movies that have introduced their teaming fans to such Igbo expressions as Tufiakwa (Never), Kedu (Hello), Chineke m o (Oh my God), etc. More importantly, the reviewer missed the point that it was not only men who opposed the female king just for bringing our a masquerade. In the introduction, Achebe shared how she resisted attempts to discourage her from tackling the project by those who told her that she would not be awarded a PhD for writing yet another history of the Women's War but the reviewer missed this important detail that is linked to the demise of the female chief. On pages 184 and 187, Achebe explained that the downfall of the colonial chief was due to the success of Ogu Umu Nwanyi (Women's War) of 1929 which resulted in the abolition of the office of Warrant Chiefs in colonial Igbo land. The female king was not opposed simply for being a woman in authority, she was opposed because the imposition of chiefs was seen by the Igbo, including men and women, as an affront to their radical democratic institutions that proudly proclaims that all heads are equal even today whereas the British assumed that all such 'headless societies' were primitive and in need of being civilized with the imposition of authoritarianism. Any man or woman who goes about seizing other men's wives, as the colonial chief attempted in order to intimidate the people, was bound to face severe opposition in any society from both men and women. Finally, the assertion of the reviewer that the female chief was a former sex worker was only posed by Achebe as an allegation that was not definitely proved.