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Nigeria’s unending tears

By Ganiyu Abdullahi
09 March 2023   |   3:32 am
Precisely, on Januar 1, 1890, the Royal Niger Company, formally transferred (sold) her administrative rights and powers on the “Niger-Area”, which later became known as NIGERIA (as from 8th January, 1897) to the Crown (the British government) for the sum of 865,000 pounds.


Precisely, on Januar 1, 1890, the Royal Niger Company, formally transferred (sold) her administrative rights and powers on the “Niger-Area”, which later became known as NIGERIA (as from 8th January, 1897) to the Crown (the British government) for the sum of 865,000 pounds. Thus, Nigeria became a “product” and “trade commodity.” Moreover, various resourceful kingdoms, emirates and towns in Nigeria were crushed with some of their traditional rulers and people killed, for resisting colonial invasions and enslavement. Approximately 10 million people were believed to have been enslaved from West Africa alone. They were dehumanized and shipped overseas, like cargo. In this vein, Britain, Portugal, Spain, Germany, America and France remained eternally guilty for this monumental crime, which they all committed against humanity.

Those forced into slavery were usually chained, gagged like animals and sold out to European slave merchants on the coast. Whenever ships were not available on the sea, the slaves were kept in some peculiar camps, called “barracoons”, where they were inhumanly confined, before being shipped overseas. The word “barracoon” is a Spanish word for “barracks” or “hut.” These camps usually marked the entry of previously “free Africans” into permanent enslavement. On the other hand, these camps were otherwise referred to as the “point of no return.” Most unfortunately, some people (slaves) were exchanged for mere European goods like textiles, sugar, salt, jewelries, whiskey, tobacco, glassware, matches and firearms. Thus, the first English man to engage in large-scale of human traffic, along the West African coast was Sir John Hawkins.

According to a report, it was documented that in 1781, a British slave ship (“zong”), whilst on the Atlantic Ocean, the chief crew discovered the shortage of drinking water for those on board. So, he decided to throw 132 slaves into the ocean, with the aim of claiming 30 pounds from their insurers, for each slave that was drowned. In his “satanic” calculation, he believed that if the slaves were left to die of thirst, the loss shall fall entirely on their owners, who bought them. Horribly, all the male slaves were usually chained to each other and kept away from the females, who were left unchained. Thus, the female slaves were always subjected to excessive sexual abuse by the crewmen. Babies born from such “unholy” conjugations between Europeans and Africans were usually stigmatized and called “brown babies.” At the peak of their wickedness, a British reporter submitted that “neither in those days did anyone see any inhumanity in slave trade because Africans were looked upon as animals; only better than dogs and monkeys, because they (slaves) can be taught how to work.”

To buttress this point, an elder-statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai (OFR), narrated a shocking experience in his autobiography, when he led a delegation of the Nigerian Youths Congress to the old Soviet Union, few months before Nigeria’s independence. He stated that “the Soviets were touching them in order to confirm if their black skin would rub off on theirs, whilst others among them felt that the Africans were having tails (like animals), concealed under their garments.” They actually believed that Africans are animals. However, it goes without saying that most of the European countries, particularly British and America, owe the foundation of their greatness and prosperity to the Negros (blacks), through whom their arts, literature, music and sports have been greatly enriched.

Among some captured slaves was the famous Samuel Ajayi Crowther, who eventually became the first African bishop. He later accompanied the missionary expedition of 1841 to Nigeria. Another prominent figure was Henry Carr, whose Nigerian father was sold into slavery in Sierra-Leone. He later became the director of education in the then Colony of Lagos. In addition, Nigeria’s first millionaire, Candido Da Rocha was the son of a captured slave, Joan Esan Da Rocha, who was captured as a slave at the age of 10 on his way to school in Ilesa (Osun State).

Following their conquests, traditional rulers were cajoled and coerced to sign some obnoxious treaties, which subjected their territories as well as resources (mineral and agricultural) to imperial control. Some courageous traditional rulers, who blatantly refused to bow to these incursions were dethroned and banished; whilst others were killed in the battlefield

King Akintoye of Lagos, Jaja of Opobo, Nana Olomu of Itsekiri, Koko Mingi of Nembe, Eyo of Calabar, Ovenrammwen of Benin, Attah Ameh of Igala and Attahiru of Sokoto, among others, were brutally crushed. Although, many of the traditional rulers were themselves slave merchants. Some of the territories that were bombarded, when they resisted colonial invasions included Lagos (1861); Akassa Raid (1895); Benin (1897); Satiru Rising/Burmi War, Sokoto (1903); Ijemo Massacre, Abeokuta (1914); Adubi War, Abeokuta (1918); among others.

After their “Scramble for Africa” and going by their joint agreement at the Berlin Conference in 1885, the colonialists firmly established themselves and their system of government; imposed their culture; and introduced Christianity, side by side with Western education. On their arrivals in Nigeria, the Wesleyan Methodists settled in Badagry, Abeokuta and Ibadan; the Church Missionary Society (CMS), the largest mission, had her influence in Abeokuta, Lagos, Ibadan, Ogbomoso, Ilesa and Niger-Delta; the United Presbyterians (from Scotland), concentrated in the old Calabar and Cross-River; the Protestants (from Ireland), established themselves among the Qua-Ibos; the Methodists focused their attention in Oron, among the Ibibios.

Subsequently, seeing themselves as superior and better human beings to the Africans, racial discrimination prevailed in every facets, both formal and informal. For instance, blacks and whites were not allowed to receive medical treatment in the same hospital. There were “European Hospitals” and “African Hospitals.” Examples were the Creek Hospital (now, Military Hospital), along Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which was exclusively designated as an “European Hospital”; and the present General Hospital on Broad Street, Lagos, which was then known as an “African Hospital.” This discriminative trend was the same in other major cities like Port-Harcourt, Kaduna, Enugu, Calabar and Jos. Moreover, Nigerian/African medical doctors, who had the same or equivalent qualifications with their European counterparts, were designated as “Native Medical Officers” whilst the foreigners were addressed as “European Medical Officers.” Furthermore, black medical doctors were never allowed to treat any European in the hospitals. In this regard, William Broughton Davies and James Beale Horton (“Africanus”), were the first Nigerian qualified medical doctors, who were undermined and humiliated by the British.

Moreover, social and recreational facilities were also segregated. Hence, there were “European Clubs” and “African Clubs.” For instance, the present day Ikoyi Club, Lagos (the first/oldest recreational club in Nigeria) was reserved exclusively for only the Europeans

The few Nigerians that were usually found around such clubs were the ball-pickers, gardeners and stewards. Infact, it was an offence for a black man to be seen loitering around the European Reservation Areas, which were re-named as Government Reservation Areas (GRAs). Besides, most of the domestic servants of the colonialists were not allowed to marry in order to prevent them from raising children whom the Europeans arrogantly believed would intermingle/play with their kids. Upon the departure of the ‘enslavers’ from Nigeria, all the European Clubs were re-named as “sports clubs” while all the former African Clubs were designated as “recreational clubs.”

At the peak of this ugly situation of colour and social discriminations, Nigeria’s front-line nationalists, under the umbrella of the United Front Committee, led by Sir Adeyemo Alakija, jointly rose up to fight against colour bar in Nigeria in 1947. It happened that a Sierra-Leonian, Mr. Ivor Cummings, who was an assistant director of the colonial scholarship office in London, had an assignment in Lagos and arrangement was made in advance for him to lodge at the popular Bristol Hotel, along Breadfruit Street, Lagos.

But the hotel turned him down on his arrival, simply because according to the hotel’s policy “blacks are not allowed” to be served or lodged in the hotel. This development led to an uproar. On this ground, the nationalists sent a delegation to meet the colonial governor, to demand for an immediate end to colour bar and the expulsion of the Greek owner of the hotel from Nigeria. Thereafter, the governor promulgated an Order-in-Council, making it a punishable offence for anyone to discriminate in any public or licensed premises. Thus, Nigeria became the first country in the world, under imperial (foreign) power, where colour bar or racial segregation was legally barred.

Today, it is very pathetic that the multitude of Nigeria’s “accidental leaders”, continue to subject the citizens to the same sordid and discriminative encounters, which our first generation nationalists fiercely fought against, until the oppressive and over-zealous colonizers finally left Nigeria. Sadly, our so-called leaders do not make use of any of the shabby facilities, which they exorbitantly provide for the masses, most especially public hospitals and schools, as well as our bad roads, Without doubt, majority of those hanging themselves in leadership positions are deficient in morality, humanity, competence and patriotism, which they always canvass to the masses.

To be continued tomorrow

Comrade Abdullahi is a concerned patriot, activist and author. (08055048925/