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ATTITUDE | African Slavemasters, African Slaves – Slavery In Nigeria: Series 4

ATTITUDE | African Slavemasters, African Slaves – Slavery In Nigeria Series: Slideshow

Slaves Of The North

Slave raiding is commonly stated in descriptions of Northern Emirates. As has been elucidated thus far, ravaging a town for her people occurred in the South. However, who were exporting the Middle Belt peoples?

Because the ethnicities of the North and Middle Belt ended in Brasil, a popular destination for exported slaves from Lagos ports, one can surmise that:

  • The Yoruba raided the communities.
  • Yoruba and affiliates abducted the free-born;
  • Persons were purchased from slave markets in the North;
  • Of course, there is the possibility the slave were shipped through the slave routes employed by the Aro Confederates of Efik and Igbo of Arochukwu.

Among the slaves found in North Africa were the Kanuri and other peoples of Borno, collectively called Barnawi. Granted, some might belong to the Kanuri of the Republic Of Niger and Chad, respectively.

Others were sold to Arabs, by the Kanembu [read Kanuri], inhabitants of the Sultanate Of Kanem.

Still some might have been the captives from Arab slave raiders, which prompted the letter of disapproval in 1391 from Mai Uthman to Barquq, the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt.

Likewise, in Sierra Leone among repatriated slaves were speakers of Hausa, Fulfulde, and numerous languages of the Plateau and the Middle Belt.

Nupe slaves, and associated ethnicities, were found both in slave markets of the North and in human cargo of the South.

The sources of slaves extended to tributes from conquered establishments required to offer royalty in slaves.

Slave trading communities involved the Irigwe who were active at the vibrant slave market in Tyap land [Zango Kataf, a rendering of Zango Katab].

Aside from raids, the Hausa-Fulani purchased slaves from surrounding ethnicities. The Ngas and the Zaar ~Sayawa sold daughters into slavery. The Pyem abducted children for sale and the Berom of Jos-Plateau traded persons convicted of crime.

The Yergam stole children for sale, including the offspring of vulnerable Jarawa slave refugees, who fled Wase, sheltering in Yergam territory.

Slaves were not necessarily the objectives behind the incessant combats.

In the invasion of Birnin N’guru by Emir Of Kano Muhammad Kisoki [1509-1565], the latter proscribed the taking of slaves.

Similarly, King Kwassau [1897-1903] did not take prisoners in his invasion of Tyap.

A curious occurrence was the castration of male slaves. Most probably, this was to prevent a sexual liaison between male slaves and women of the household.

However, what became of the simple solution of purchasing female slaves and assigning them to housekeeping and attending the wives and daughters of the patron?

That reminds, such women slaves were for the exclusive satisfaction of the sexual pleasures of the owner.

Assigning only females to the man’s harem must have been too much of an expectation.

Oh yes! We are a people vehemently opposed to simple solutions.

Considering castration was seen more among Muslim communities, when did castration become legally tenable?

Castration of anyone freeborn or slave is flatly prohibited in Islam.

Castration was also practised among traditionalists, including the Kingdom Of Benin.

Returning to slavery proper, one finds markets in Zuruland ~A’lela where a slave ~k’coko was transferred to another buyer.

Isgogo Slave Market and Koko Slave Market are two of note for the sale of captive Zugarnu [singular Zugru ~Zuru] by the Hausa-Fulani and captive Hausa-Fulani by the Zugru.

The Hausa-Fulani raided the Kanuri. The Kanuri invaded the Hausa-Fulani. Both Kanuri and Hausa-Fulani attacked traditional communities. Traditional ethnicities ravaged the Kanuri and the Hausa-Fulani.

Interestingly, traditionalists among the Hausa, the Maguzawa, settled – and still reside – in Northern Kaduna among Muslim Hausa.

The corresponding Woɗaaɓe [also Wodaabe, Wodhaabhe] ~Bororo, of the Fulani are traditionalists.

The caste system of the Fulani determines the Baleebe [Hausa = Buzu; Bouzou, francophone spelling] as slaves and descendants of slaves.

Enter the Jukun ~Kwararafa, who conquered both the Kanuri and the Hausa-Fulani, plus the Igala, Nupe, Yoruba, and just about every ethnicity within range. It was a merry-go-round of slave raids.

The nature of ethnic relations was not always one of warfare or one-sided domination.

Prior to their conquests by the Hausa-Fulani, several traditional holdings imposed on the Muslim residents stringent cultural habits, including forced marriage.

An instance was the conflict between the Bata of Adamawa and the Hausa-Fulani in 1803 was over a female, whose hand in marriage the Bata Chief mandated. For that, Ardo Jobdi murdered his daughter and the Bata Chief.

Besides military conquests, other means of domination included:

  • Persuasion;
  • Nuptial ties;
  • Truce.

On numerous occasions, traditionalists were the aggressors and raided Muslim centres.

Kontagora and Maradi captured many Hausa-Fulani in the invasion of the outskirts of Zaria.

Besides Muslim-Muslim wars by the North-West against leaders declared “not good Muslims”, the North-East were embroiled in identical intra-religious conflicts.

In the case of 1823, the Emir Of Mandara was the aggressor along with his Kanuri and Arab allies.

Their targets were the Hausa-Fulani of Masfel in Adamawa – Adama’s people, for Modibbo Adama who led the Jihad in the region, and the counter-offensive against the enemies of the Hausa-Fulani.

Trauma Of Slave Trade

Africans suffered a combination or all of these abuses, at the hands of African slavemasters.

Psychological Abuses:

Terrorism, in fear of abduction or military invasion;

Deprivation of identity;

Verbal abuses;

Dispossession of social life;

Truncation of freedoms;

Invasion of privacy;

Loss of dignity;

Denial of family life

Physical Abuses:

Restriction of movement;


Exposure to noxious substances;

Forced feeding;

Forced intoxication;

Unlawful imprisonment;






Who Knew Of The Brutality Of Slavery?

The cruel treatment of slaves trapped internally and in the Atlantic Slave Trade was not a secret to participant African slave merchants.

For a start, slaves en route the coast were bound in chains, mouth gags, and hand cuffs within the hinterland.

Children were not spared the human abuse, for they too were chained.

Second, traditional rulers, court officials and Black slave traders were in close contact with the cultural practices within their domain.

Third, they kept abreast of movements through their territory, from interrogation of visitors.

Fourth, chiefs who travelled abroad or whose offspring went on overseas training, journeyed on slave ships, obviously with associated pomp.

Fifth, traditional rulers journeyed to slave centres, such as Brazil.

Sixth, slave traders boarded slave ships of business partners for commercial and social interactions.

Seventh, in Lagos, Abeokuta, Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Lokoja, hundreds of returnee slaves from Sierra Leone lived among slave traders and narrated their ordeal. This is critical in understanding the psyche of unrepentant trans-Atlantic slave traders.

Of utmost essence is slave traders operated baracoons and warehouses and saw to the savage mistreatment of captives.

Slave drivers personally exacted brutality on their hostages.

Are the same cruel merchants in human dignity expected to be champions of the rights of slaves at the hands of white slavers?

The Middle Passage across the Atlantic saw the ramming of Africans in the tiny space on the ship’s middle deck.

That minute hole of three feet ten inches reduced to two feet after 1807, to hide slaves, who were compelled to lie on top of each other.

African captive ate and defecated in the same space, where they remained throughout the loading period while the ship was docked at port and during sailing. Millions perished under such atrocious conditions.

Moreover, the use of slaves in human sacrifice in numerous slave cultures was common.

For the satisfaction for petty items, alcohol consumption and bloodshed, Africans embarked on trade in other Africans. The elite approved, to the nod of the population.

Slaves In Human Sacrifice

Suicide of nobles is deemed meritorious in some cultures, for the greater good of the entire society. Insightful Muslim natives censured the tradition of human sacrifice.

In Oyo Empire of Yorubaland, the King might be encouraged to commit suicide or to instruct his wives to strangle him; both a form of abdication from the throne.

The Queen might take own life as a sacrifice to preserve the reign of her King, the Oba of Benin.

As that was the fate of the higher echelon of societies, one is scarcely surprised that the lowest members of the society, slaves, were routinely purchased for human sacrifice.

Among the Igbo, Ibibio, and Efik, slaves were buried alive along with the corpse of an elder.

The elite in Onitsha were interred with the beheading of slaves.

Traditional religion stipulated the sacrifice of a human, and in some cases, several persons, to:

  • Ogun for war success,
  • Ifa for ceremonies and wise counsel,
  • Eshu ~Elegba for sexual prowess or violence,
  • Ala to maintain normalcy
  • Ibini Ukpabi, the Oracle of God, which orders the killing of twins.

For the pleasure of Ogun and Eshu, the slave was beheaded, disembowelled, and the body hung on a tree, for Olokun and Olosa, the body was discarded in the sea and lagoon, respectively.

Worshippers were permitted to contract this duty of human sacrifice to another town.

The Aro, unlike various other Igbo believe God Himself can be housed in a shrine on earth – the Ibinukpabi shrine

The Igbo and Efik took human sacrifice several steps further to cannibalism and infanticide, the murder of own twins to appease Ukpabi. Captives were killed, cooked and consumed by several ethnicities of the South of Nigeria – Kalabari, Bini, Ijaw, Itsekiri, et cetera.

Ndi Ejiri Goro Ihe, along with the Ohu, were slaves used for human sacrifice to the Gods.

Among the Middle Belt and Northern ethnicities, the killing of humans, slaves not exempted, on the pedestal of custom was known in communities, irrespective of religion, with strong ties to traditional culture.

In addition to specific human sacrifices, traditionalists – and yes Muslims who hold tight to superstitions and Bori traditional religion – conduct hunts, not for animals, but for humans, for consumption, rituals and frequently just for sport – that is right, just as a demonstration of strength.

In such cultures, from Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, to micro minorities: the Tyap ~Katab, Ikulu, Bajju ~Kaje, Kamantan, Aten, Irigwe, Atsam ~Chawai, Oegworok ~Kagoro, Ataka, Moroa, and probably Ham ~Jaba, as far as Nassarawa, humans were the game. In some cases, the murder of a son of the soil was prohibited.

Children were not safe in what was to become Nigeria either, for yearly, young girls were sacrificed for expiation of the town’s sins. The throat of a child just a few days old was severed in the presence of the mother for ritual purposes.

The day before the slave is to be immolated, the victim is led with great ceremony through the principal thoroughfares, and paraded in the market, where he is allowed to say or do anything he pleases (short of escaping his impending fate), may gratify his desire with any woman who takes his fancy. The reason of his being honoured before being sacrificed, is that it is believed he will be born again and become a king. After the head has been struck off, the corpse is treated with the greatest respect by all.

~>Alfred Burdon Ellis, 1894 ~Describing Yoruba human sacrifice and the belief behind it

Blood was everywhere; smeared over bronzes, ivory, and even the walls. [I saw] a crucifixion tree with a double crucifixion on it, the two poor wretches stretched out facing the west, with their arms bound together in the middle. The construction of this tree was peculiar, being absolutely built for the purpose of crucifixion. At the base were skulls and bones, literally strewn about; the debris of former sacrifices … and down every main road were two or more human sacrifices.

~>R.H. Bacon, 1897 ~On human sacrifice in the Kingdom Of Benin


ATTITUDE | African Slavemasters, African Slaves – Slavery In Nigeria Series:

[Series 1] [Series 2] [Series 3] [Series 4] [Series 5] [Series 6] [Series 7]


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6 comments on “ATTITUDE | African Slavemasters, African Slaves – Slavery In Nigeria: Series 4

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This entry was posted on September 10, 2016 by in Attitude, E-Learning Expert, Education For All and tagged , , .


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