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Nana Olomu (also spelled Olumu) (1852–1916) was an Itsekiri chief and merchant from the Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria. He was the fourth Itsekiri chief to hold the position of Governor of Benin River.
The Itsekiri (also called the Isekiri, iJekri, Itsekri, Ishekiri, or Itsekhiri) are an ethnic group of Nigeria’s Niger Delta area, Delta State.The Itsekiris are closely related to the Yoruba of South Western Nigeria and more widely to the Urhobo and Edo peoples.
The Itsekiris traditionally refer to their land as the Kingdom of Warri or ‘Iwerre’ as its proper name – which is geographically contiguous to the area covered by the three Warri local government districts. The area is a key centre of Nigeria’s crude oil and natural gas production and petroleum refining and the main town Warri (a multi-ethnic metropolis) forms the industrial and commercial nucleus of the Delta State region.
Photo: Hotels.ng/ Nana Olumu’s Palace
In 1851 the British Consul for the Bights of Benin and Biafra, John Beecroft (1790 – 10 June 1854) (was an explorer, governor of Fernando Po and British Consul of the Bight of Benin and Biafra) established the post of Governor of Benin River and gave it to an Itsekiri chief, Idiare. The governorship was intended to pass back and forth between two prominent Itsekiri families, the Emaye and the Ologbotsere. However, upon the death of his father, an Ologbotsere, the governorship was passed directly to Nana Olomu, instead of one of the Emaye.
In 1884 Nana Olomu, the fourth Governor of Benin River, signed a treaty on behalf of the Itsekiri, granting the British further rights in Itsekiriland. The relations between the two were peaceful until the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 and the ensuing Scramble for Africa, which led the British to try to bypass the Itsekiri middlemen so as to trade directly with the Urhobo people. A further complication was that because of technical improvements in shipping, European traders could travel further into the interior than previously, ending their former reliance on the coastal chieftains as middlemen.
Following this development the relations between the Itsekiri, led by Olomu, and the British began to decline. In 1892 and 1893 direct treaties between the British and the Urhobo further angered Olomu. In retaliation for the perceived bypassing of the Itsekiri, Olomu’s men attacked some of the nearby Urhobo villages which had been exchanging goods with the British. This led to the Urhobo halting their trading, and the British responded by cracking down on the Itsekiri. In 1894 several other Itsekiri chiefs signed a new treaty with the British, and soon after Olomu surrendered in Lagos. Following his arrest he was deported to the Gold Coast (Ghana.)
In Britain in 1899 the Aborigines’ Protection Society ( The Aborigines’ Protection Society (APS) was an international human rights organisation, founded in 1837 ,to ensure the health and well-being and the sovereign, legal and religious rights of the indigenous peoples while also promoting the civilization of the indigenous people who were subjected under colonial powers) complained to the Foreign Office about “the arbitrary treatment” to which the chief had been subjected, the government’s failure to carry out “the searching investigation of his case which he had always sought”, and appealed for him to be given liberty to conduct his commercial affairs freely even if, for political reasons, he could not be restored to his old position. A letter from Olomu was also enclosed complaining his maintenance was inadequate for him to support himself and five other persons. In his reply the then Prime Minister the Marquis of Salisbury promised to look into the conditions of the chief’s maintenance, but ruled out the possibility of a return to his homeland. A month later the question of his treatment was raised in parliament and the government again stated it would be unsafe to allow his return.
Olomu’s palace has been converted into a museum, the Nana Living History Museum, which chronicles his interactions with the British. It is located in Koko, Delta State.