Dave Partner
4 min readSep 20, 2019


The British-Aro War: the invasion that brought and enforced Christianity to Igbo land

In 1901, the British assembled a large army of about 2,000 men and charged the powerful Aro kingdom.
The Aro kingdom was just recovering from a war in which they lost 400 men but still won and sacked Obegu kingdom which was an ally of the British.
The Aro men fought valiantly not knowing what surrender was, they all fought till the last man.
Their greatest undoing was the superiority of the British weaponry.

After the mighty Aro capital city fell on the 4th day, the British marched to the center of the city and seized the head of the mighty deity called Ibini Ukpabi.
That was the original aim of the invasion as detailed by the invading British General Sir Ralph Moore. He wanted to grab the deity so that the kingdom would fall and he can introduce Christianity and the British way of life that the Aro had always resisted.

The Aro kingdom spanned across almost the whole of Igbo land.
It is known that the British don’t destroy the deity when they capture it, they simply send it to the British museum or sell it in the black market.
Till today, nobody knows where Ibini Ukpabi is.

But one thing is sure, the god is still somewhere in captivity to this day.

Okoro Toti the leader of the Aro army, Eze Kanu Okoro, the King of the Aro kingdom and some other leaders were arrested, tried, and executed by hanging. They wouldn’t give up on colonial rule.

Even though the deity, the king, and the Aro General had fallen in the British Aro war in 1902, other parts of the kingdom would not surrender.
So in the following weeks, the British fought in Onitsha, Afikpo, Ezza, Unwana, Oguta, and other parts of the Aro kingdom. So many men fell that there was a massive shortage of men in Igbo land.

The British installed puppet servant chiefs and gave them a template to control the kingdom.
The template was misogynistic. It took away the power and equality women once held in Igbo land.
In Igbo land, women could marry men, women could marry multiple women too. It was a warrior driven mentality. If you feel you can do something, irrespective of your gender, go and do it.
In certain parts of Igbo land, the woman was the head of the family, the farmer and the hunter.
Since there were no much men left, the women in Igbo land got into a fighting formation and went on an offensive. This time, it was against all the puppet chiefs and their courts of ‘justice’ .

The fighting force consisted of about 700 women from different parts of Igbo land. They burnt down as many puppet structures and about 16 courts. That war was documented as “the Aba women’s riot”.
You need to understand the enormity of the challenge of putting together 700 women across Igbo land to fight in one day. There were no phones, social media, emails, messengers, vehicles, and so on like we have today.
It was called a ‘riot’ because of misogyny. No one wants to document that a fighting force consisting of only women fought a war and won.
The British forced many of the puppet chiefs to resign immediately.

[Follow me on medium “THE FALL OF IBINI UKPABI” by Dave Partner https://link.medium.com/LsDENgQk8Z]

Since after the fall of Ibini Ukpabi, the deity worship was made illegal and the kingdom became Christian till today. Its citizens are now religiously following the new British religion, preaching and defending it.
The British introduced western education but banned the teaching of history in schools. Till today, history is a relegated or absent subject in schools.

That once powerful empire has now been reduced to a subsection of a larger country called Nigeria. The empire tried to rise again in 1967, this time under the leadership of another general called Ojukwu. It lost the war again along with about 3 million of its men, women, and children. Even though the weapons of war had changed to the use of machine guns, fighter jets, and bombs, the same old plague of inferior weaponry brought the fallen empire to its knees a second time.

We are still in the early part of this century, but we all know that the empire has started beating its war drums again. The chief drum-beater in this century appears to be a man who bears the same name as the last king of the Aro country, Kanu.
The weapons of war have changed again to the use of social media, will the empire be undone again due to inferior weaponry?
If what the British believed 100 years ago is right, then the kingdom will not be able to rise until they find Ibini Ukpabi and mount it again in its ancient royal shrine.

[Follow me on medium “THE FALL OF IBINI UKPABI” by Dave Partner https://link.medium.com/LsDENgQk8Z]