Thoughts Lead To Appreciation
ATTITUDE | African Slavemasters, African Slaves – Slavery In Nigeria Series: Slideshow
White Slavers Versus Black Culture
If African slaves were provided an option of enslavement within Nigeria and slavery under Europeans, what choice lay before such slaves?
Imported slaves were of lesser status than slaves born of slave parents were. Yes, slaves who served under African slaveholders were expected to fulfil joyously the wishes of the master.
Yet, the prospect of suicide, self-impalation, being burned alive, buried alive or beheaded to honour tradition, to bury the Oba or to ward off pestilence or an overwhelmingly relentless foe is hardly appetising.
That was not much of a choice for slaves in the Empires of Oyo and Benin in Southern regions of Nigeria.
Nevertheless, all was not gloom for every slave, for some rose to powerful position in the government.
Slaves had the right to privacy and to family life.
Slaves were accorded own sleeping and dining arrangements, for themselves and their family.
A trip northwards presented the slave with an improved status. Slaves enjoyed much of the same rights as non-slaves.
Oluda Ikwuano, Latin: Olaudah Equiano;  an Igbo of Isieke near Abakaliki was stolen along with his younger sister when he was 12 years-old by a robbery gang of two men and a woman. About a decade later, he bought his freedom.
With us they do no more work than other members of the community, even their masters. Their food, clothing and lodging were nearly the same as theirs (except they were not permitted to eat with those who were freeborn), and there was scarce any other difference between them than a superior degree of importance which the head of a family possesses in our state, and that authority which, he exercises over every part of his household. Some slaves have even slaves under them as their own property, and for their own use.
~>Oluda Ikwuano, 1789 ~The Igbo former slave describing the rights of a slave in his homeland in South-Eastern Nigeria
There is no compulsory labour, the owner and the slave work together, eat the like food, wear the like clothing and sleep in the same huts. Some slaves have more wives than their masters. It gives protection to the slaves and everything necessary for their subsistence- food and clothing. A free man is worse off than a slave; he cannot claim his food from anyone.
~>T. Valentine Robins, 1866 ~On slaves in Lokoja, Kogi State North-Central Nigeria
Cultural Check On Slave Trade
The culture of the Bini ranks atop the others on resistance to participation in slave trade.
Such was the observation of the culture of abolition of slave trade in the Benin Empire that not only the Oba, but also his close aides vehemently refused to sell slaves to Europeans.
Despite the threat of force by Europeans, the Edo equally declined to expel runaway slaves, purchased by white slave merchants, who sought refuge in their individual property.
This positive pride in own African traditional human rights of the slave protected slaves from financial exploitation and greed of their master.
That, for no level of capitalism justified the sale of slaves by the King, and in extension all of Bini, Esan, Isoko and others. The Edo specifically proscribed the retail of male slaves.
The Kingdom Of Benin were the pioneer and consistent Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade abolitionists.
While the Edo, identified by a scar evocative of that incurred by Oba Ehengbuda [1578-1604], served as slaves with the Kingdom, none were to be sold to the whites. This custom covered non-Edos slaves under Edo masters.
The scant trade in slaves that occurred in the territory might be attributed to the actions of non-Edo slave-owners, perhaps resident at some distance from immediate scrutiny of the King.
The Edo did purchase persons from Portuguese and Dutch.
Another dignified cultural influence on the opposition to slave trade was the impact of Islamic culture.
Observant Muslims are barred from enslaving other Muslims.
That ruled out the indiscriminate capture of local residents.
While slavery is permissible in the Religion of Islam, financial greed is not.
The inordinate enslavement of a people solely for supply to the European and American markets was, therefore, a contemptuous presentation.
Slaves were to be visited with little stress, educated and freed, or given the opportunity to purchase own freedom.
In fact, a number of Islamic redemption processes explicitly involve freeing slaves, as the first or second condition of atonement.
Moreover, certain Islamic rules govern the sale of slaves. For instance, siblings are to be sold together, to enable them retain emotional satisfaction.
A slave that has given birth to her master’s child may not be sold.
The child of the sexual relationship between master and slave mother is a free citizen.
Now, the pious Muslim knew better than to sell his slave pregnant with his child.
The few Muslim participants in economic slavery were likely bandits.
Notable Nigerian Abolitionists
The award goes to Oba Eresoyen of Benin [1735-1750] who survived an assassination attempt at the hands of a Dutch slave trader.
The Oba’s aide took the bullet and died in protection of his Monarch. Willem Hogg, the murderer, was shortly executed.
Oba Esigie, 1522, declined slave trade with the Portuguese.
The Ezomo, 1778, rejected slave trade with French.
Ezomo Odia, and several Edo Chiefs, refused to expel slaves, who fled Dutch slave camp, hiding on his farm.
Sarkin Gandu Usmanu ~Uthman, c. 1824, who led slaves in an armed revolt at Wase. He was killed in combat.
John Christopher Taylor
The above three were Igbo recaptives resettled in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Motives For Slavery
African arguments for slavery cut across a composite of factors, from conquest to personal grievances to customary observations.
A Muslim teenager from Borno was sold after accompanying a Ghanaian merchant. The teenager became James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw.
Seriki Faremi Williams Abass began his life as a slave and ended as a trafficker in humans. –The mother of ironies!
What might have influenced that transformation? One would think that his experiences in his days as a slave will dissuade him from subjecting his fellow Africans to the horrors of enslavement and the inhumane slave trade.
Did he relish his experiences at the hands of his owners, the gawky eyes of slave buyers and the torment of long treks to the Slave Coast exacted by kidnappers?
Was he so embittered as to project his grievances on innocent Africans unconnected with his capture and bondage?
Remind Mr Henry De Mane of his own feelings under the horrors of slavery.
~>Granville Sharp, 1789
Enslaved persons responded to their condition variously. Several rebelled by talking back at their possessors. Of course, the consequences of rebellion were stiff, often flogging, castration, branding and hanging.
Slave revolts, individual and consolidated, were frequent.
Several others were executed, flogged or deported to Nigeria.
Ten ~10 slaves drowned, others were pulled from the water.
That was the grande finale of the 1803 takeover of a slaveship by 75 Igbo slaves.
Purchased for $100, the slaves drowned the captain and crew and ran the ship aground.
The slaves en masse walked into Dunbar Creek chanting: The Water Spirit brought us; the Water Spirit will take us home.
As the Jarawa are vastly Muslims, this was a blatant case of Muslims enslavement, and by the protagonists of the so-called Jihad for that matter.
ATTITUDE | African Slavemasters, African Slaves – Slavery In Nigeria Series:
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