The Aba women’s riot did not happen spontaneously, but had months of tension leading to it. Here is the real story behind the rebellion and the people that died.
Power in Igboland had very large disparity between ruling in other parts of Nigeria. Igbos did not have a unified political institution as in the North and South hence it was harder to enforce the indirect system of ruling, instituted by Lord Lugard in 1914, in Igboland.
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.
The indirect rule system in Igboland involved the appointment of ‘warrant chiefs.’ These warrant chiefs, who weren’t necessarily people that were respected by the communities, became the enforced symbol of power. And as result of the vested power, the warrant chiefs became increasingly oppressive within few years.
Direct taxation on men was introduced in 1928 without major incidents, thanks to the careful propaganda during the preceding twelve months. In September 1929, Captain J. Cook, an assistant District Officer, was sent to take over the Bende division temporarily from the serving district officer.
Upon taking over, Cook found the slated nominal rolls for tax inadequate because they did not include details of the number of wives, children, and livestock in each household. He decided to revise the nominal roll to include these.