Each Man, His time
The book, Each Man, His Time, subtitled, The Biography of an Era; is the story of Auchi Kingdom in Edo State, Nigeria. It is written by Prince Tony Momoh, the Yerima of Auchi and a prince of the realm.
This book affects its reader on three levels. First is the appreciation of how Momoh the First created a dynasty between 1919 and 1944.
Secondly, how Momoh transformed the culture of the Auchi people from the traditional polytheism in religion: totem control and idol and ancestor worship to the worship of the Only one God, the Creator of the World as revealed by the Quran.
And thirdly, the documentation of traditional beliefs and the powers of transmigration and soul manipulation: all of which belonged to an era that saw them as authentic faith.
Thus, Each Man, His Time is the chronicle of the life and times of Momoh the First of Auchi Kingdom. The book is a record of an environment that had no cars, no electricity, no link roads but bush paths and the new experience of colonialism.
The book is a reprint of an earlier edition first published in February 1995. This new edition includes an introduction and epilogue from Professor Zakariyau Oseni, the director, Centre for Ilorin Studies, University of Ilorin, Kwara State.
This Biography of an Era is paperback, has 378 pages, 39 pages of pictures; 10 pages of index and five chapters. Apart from the epilogue to the first edition, there is an epilogue to the second edition, which highlighted Momoh’s legacy.
At December 7, 2015, he had gone for 71 years. There were many people before him, and many people have come after him. But no single individual has affected the lives of the people of Auchi and its environs than Momoh Oshiogbele Idoah. So profound was his influence that he had become an ogre with the stories built around him.
The commemoration of Momoh’s passing on December 7, 1994, marking the 50th anniversary was the publication of Each Man, His Time by Prince Tony Momoh, one of his sons.
As Minister of Information between 1986 and 1990, Tony had come upon mountains of information on Auchi Kingdom. He found a great deal to say about each of the 450 cultural groups in Nigeria. He was horrified by the huge amount of information our old men were willing to record for future purposes and the young men who should ask but are harbouring an orientation that encourages them to forget this most important area of our history.
Etsako clan is a sub-group of the Edo people of Nigeria. The story of Auchi, therefore, is the story of Benin up to the beginning of the 19th century. It was at that time that the Nupe, the Hausa and the Fulani influence started to manifest with the installation of Ikelebe as the first Otaru of Auchi. But Auchi life took a dramatic turn when Momoh Idaoh came on, especially after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914; when Tony’s materials first started to be recorded.
Etsako was first known as Kukuruku Division; later it was called Afenmai Division. This book treats the appointment of Momoh as district head of Auchi and the crisis that followed. The second part consists of reports on Chief Momoh. The third part deals with the transfer of divisional headquarters from Fugar to Auchi between 1919 and 1921. The final part is a collection of historical sketches written by district officers in 1914, 1919 and 1939.
Those reports constituted the preliminary chapters of this book. Encouraged by the huge volume of materials for the book, Tony thereafter filled in the gaps with researches conducted by Messrs M.S. Ezolome and N.I. Oshiotare. Their findings were illuminating.
They researched into the reign of Otaru Momoh who emerged as the pivot around whom Auchi revolves till today. The research included visits to Udo, the place in Benin from where the people of Auchi were supposed to come from.
Each Man, His Time is a celebration of the liberation of the people from decadent beliefs. Momoh the First ruled Auchi from 1919 to 1944. While Momoh the First sat on a mud throne, his successor, Aliru Momoh his 90th child restructured Auchi profoundly. M.J. Momoh sat on the throne from 1945 and 1955. Another son, A.K. Momoh mounted the throne between 1955 and 1970, yet another A.G. Momoh sat there from 1973 to 1996. Again another son of his A.H. Momoh started the transformation of all the institutions of Momoh the Great. Sitting in a new palace, he did not continue to administer the kingdom with five Daudus. The profound changes he brought to the governance of his dynasty inspired the writing of this work.
The book in review is a reprint. The need to reprint arose from the book being out of print and the need to remind people of the many unbelievable issues raised in the book.
The author of the book, Prince Tony Momoh, is a distinguished journalist and lawyer. He is a descendant of the royal family of the Otarus of Auchi, Edo State. He entered journalism as a sub-editor on the Daily Times of Nigeria. He rose to be Editor of Daily Times; General Manager, Times Publication Division and Minister of Information and Culture, Federal Republic of Nigeria. As an active publicist, Tony Momoh was appointed chairman, Nigeria Airways; Chairman, Accreditation Board of the Nigeria Union of Journalism and Chairman, Nigerian Media Merit Awards. The author of many books on media practice and law, Tony Momoh was the chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, one of the parties that merged to become the current ruling party, the All Progressives Congress. He is the Yerima of Auchi Kingdom.