5 Notable Historical Figures In The Herbert Macaulay Affair
After weeks of anticipation, The Herbert Macaulay Affair finally debuted in cinemas across Nigeria last week.
Helmed by Children of Mud director, Imoh Umoren, the film explores certain periods in the life of Herbert Macaulay, a man regarded as the founder of Nigerian nationalism.
The events of the film take place between 1893 when Macaulay returned from England, and the early 1920s when he was embroiled in land rights issues with the colonial government of the time.
The film explores his relationships with allies and foes, and below is a list of some of the very real people who featured in The Herbert Macaulay Affair.
1. Herbert Macaulay
Well, it's his film so, of course, he's in it.
Macaulay is perhaps best known simply as the man whose face adorns the one naira note that's quietly slipped out of spending circulation, but he was so much more.
Grandson of the famous Bishop Ajayi Crowther, Macaulay (played by William Benson in the film), was a constant thorn in the flesh of the colonial government of his time. He spoke up against many policies he believed didn't benefit the masses.
His employment in the colonial service as a surveyor of Crown Lands was short-lived after he grew disenchanted with segregation in service.
He soon started leading protests against the government and writing articles that were highly critical of colonial policies in newspapers.
He acquired something of an influential profile on the Lagos scene and embarrassed the colonial government when he challenged its acquisition of some lands in Lagos. He won before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), the highest court of appeal in the British Empire at the time. That whole episode is famously known as the Oluwa Land Case.
Macaulay was a controversial figure and was at one point sentenced to prison for two years. He was convicted of misappropriation of funds in his private practice as a surveyor and architect, and was also later convicted for sedition.
These convictions ruined his chances of ever running for political office, but he founded the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), Nigeria's first political party, in 1923. The Herbert Macaulay Affair ends before this happens.
The influence of the NNDP waned after 10 years of political dominance, prompting Macaulay to found the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) together with Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1944. Nnamdi Azikiwe became its first president.
He died two years later in May 1946, aged 81, and was buried at the Ikoyi Cemetery in Lagos.
2. Alimotu Pelewura
Alimotu Pelewura was one of Herbert Macaulay's most famous allies. The real Pelewura was the leader of the Lagos Market Women's Association (LMWA), one of the most influential women's organisations in colonial Nigeria
In The Herbert Macaulay Affair, Pelewura (played by Mary Kowo) first meets Macaulay after he starts working as a surveyor for the colonial government, requesting for a land expansion for market women.
In real life, as depicted in the film, the two then went on to become strong allies who stood together through many struggles against the colonial government.
Pelewura was a fish trader and leader of the Ereko market, before she founded the LMWA in the 1920s with a few other market leaders, becoming its first president.
She led market women in several protests against the direct taxation of women by the colonial government, price controls of produce, the relocation of the Ereko market, and many other issues.
In 1932, Pelewura was appointed as a women's representative in the Ilu Committee, an advisory group organised by the Oba of Lagos.
She was also deeply involved with Macaulay's NNDP, even at a time when women were disenfranchised, and was also briefly a member of the Nigerian Women's Party, an organisation that sought equal rights for women.
Pelewura died in 1951, aged 86. The Pelewura Market in Lagos is named after her.
3. Oba Eshugbayi Eleko (Eleko of Eko)
Oba Eshugbayi Eleko was another one of Macaulay's close allies, an alliance that got him in trouble with the colonial government.
Eleko (played by Saidi Balogun) first meets Macaulay in The Herbert Macaulay Affair, in 1908, when the latter sought the king's support against the proposed installation of the Iju Waterworks in Lagos - a pipe-borne water project that would lead to taxation of Lagosians.
The real Eleko, who ascended the throne in 1901, kicked against the scheme, noting that Lagosians could live off well water, and that only Europeans should pay for the pipe-borne water project since they were the ones that needed it.
The Oba is said to have instigated a protest involving thousands of Lagosians at the Lagos Government House, leading to riots that led to the looting of European-owned shops in Lagos. Macaulay was arrested in the film as one of the leaders of the protest.
In later years, when Macaulay embarrassed the colonial government before the JCPC regarding the aforementioned Oluwa Land Case, he did it based on Eleko's authority.
After failing to get Eleko to unequivocally rebut Macaulay's statements in England, the colonial government retaliated with the suspension of his stipend and official withdrawal of government recognition.
He was then deposed and removed as the Oba of Lagos, arrested and exiled to Oyo in 1925. In the subsequent years, Oba Ibikunle Akitoye ruled Lagos from 1925 to 1928, and Oba Sanusi Olusi ruled from 1928 to 1931.
Olusi was removed in 1931 for Eleko to make a triumphant return to Lagos. However, he died just a year later in 1932.
4. Chief Amodu Tijani
Amodu Tijani, the Chief Oluwa of Lagos, was at the centre of the Oluwa Land Case that resulted in a high profile conflict against the colonial government, a conflict that also involved Macaulay and Oba Eleko.
The colonial government had acquired 255 acres of land in Apapa that belonged to Tijani's family, and offered to pay compensation that he believed was unfair.
After losing at the Supreme Court in Nigeria, Tijani (played by Sunday Afolabi), with Macaulay as his interpreter and private secretary, filed a petition with the JCPC and both travelled to Britain to present their case, and eventually won.
The JCPC ruled that communal land ownership was legally recognised and ordered due compensation be paid. Tijani's victory was widely celebrated across West Africa at the time and raised his profile.
Tijani was an Idejo chief whose influence extended to several villages and towns in the Lagos area. He was a nationalist, and pushed for inclusive participation of Africans in African affairs.
5. Henry Carr
Henry Carr (played by Owen Nediegwu) only makes a cameo appearance in The Herbert Macaulay Affair, but he was an influential figure in the circles of Lagos elite at the time.
In the one scene where he appears, he stands firmly with the colonial government, and against Macaulay's group, on the pipe-borne water tax issue.
During showdown talks with Macaulay's group in the movie, Carr said the installation of pipe-borne water would usher Lagos into the 20th century.
The real Carr was an educator, administrator and member of the legislative council in Lagos from 1918 to 1924.
He was the first black man to be appointed the inspector of schools, and was also an assistant colonial secretary for native affairs in 1900.
Carr had a well-publicised feud with Macaulay, accusing his political foe of being a "crooked mind and dangerous fool".
Carr is also known to have played an instrumental role in the creation of King's College, Lagos. He died in 1945, aged 82.