Monday, June 17, 2024

How Nigeria Became Colonized, How Greed And Strife Led Us Into Slavery


The giant of Africa wasn’t always a giant in that sense; the giant today was once a slave that gained freedom over six decades ago. Growing up, we heard a lot of funny stories from our ancient fathers about humans being sold out in exchange for goods and royalties; in this article we’ll be taking a swift ride through the historical lane and how ignorance and strife led us into slavery as a people. Stay glued!!!

Nigeria is located in West Africa, the British ruled Colonial Nigeria before she gained her independence in 1960.  The colonial era began with the slave trade in the 15th century, with the Portuguese paving way for the slave trade and Nigerians being their largest market according to the Commonwealth article “Nigeria: History”. Humans were sold as slaves to obtain spices and weapons, this was a major source of income for many Nigerians then as tensions between different ethnic groups and tribes were constant. 

Moving on to the 18th century, the British replaced the Portuguese as leaders of the slave trade business. Slavery wasn’t an intervention from the Western world, it had been in existence before the western intervention, in Africa and even Nigeria slavery began centuries before the arrival of European countries and is still very much in existence today. 


Sometimes in the 15th century, after the discovery of sugar and cotton as tools for economic growth, the demand for both products was on the increase and constantly experienced a shortage in supply as growing both crops required intensive labor. The Europeans had to source human resources for the job, after considering the Americans, and weighing the pros and cons the Europeans realized the Americans would be no good to them because the Americans had no immunity to European diseases and were also not effective for intensive labor. After much deliberation and thoughts, it was suggested that slaves should be gotten from Africa as Africans were seen as stronger physically and would be effective for intensive labor, had good immunity to diseases, and were less likely to rebel against authorities. This sounded perfect to them as the Europeans set out to get slaves from Africa, coming in contact with some youths from Delta made the job easy for them as the youths agreed to sell them, slaves. As the Europeans could not get to the inland to buy slaves they now thought to make it a legal business and get collaborators who would source them, slaves, making the slave trade a major economic activity in the world. 

John Hawkins modified the slave trade to become a respectable business and a get-rich-quick scheme then. Our early fathers then out of ignorance, greed, and strife were ready to give up anyone for the slave trade, a lot of the collaborators were identified with the Europeans and became a thing of prestige among our fathers. The British government would send ships of guns, mirrors, and alcoholic wine to the then Slave Coast now Niger Delta, which due to ignorance was able to convince our early fathers to sell off neighbors, war captives, and useless relatives as slaves in exchange for the goods sent. The slaves would be taken on a memorable journey across the Atlantic oceans to the New World and further exchanged for the priceless sugar, cotton, and many at times cash, that would return to Europe as profits.


This business did continue until some centuries later when Wilberforce established an anti-slave movement and was successful as the British had the supreme naval power, this didn’t sit well with some African leaders as they wrote to convince the British otherwise. The British traders were temporal leaders until the abolition of the slave trade marking the beginning of British intervention in the region. However the decision of the British to abolish the slave trade was not selfless as it was for their profit, at the time Britain no longer needed slaves as the world was again revolving to industrialization and Britain becoming the first industrialized nation in the world, they were rather now operating as companies and non-governmental organizations (NGO), this did make the Europeans take a break away from the affairs of Africa for some time.


In the 19th century British became interested in the Nigerian region again because they wanted its unique resources like palm oil, palm kernel, tin, cotton, cocoa, groundnuts, and many others to increase their ability to trade, the British also harbored the interest of converting the people in the region to Christianity as the region was majorly dominated by Islam, the colonization of Nigeria majorly resulted from the desire of the British to safeguard their expansion interest. In 1850 the British began to concentrate trading interests in Lagos and the Niger River Delta and formally began administration in 1861. The British although experiencing strong resistance from relatives who were once slaves in Britain, had the opportunity to be educated but conquered all oppositions using the British military, and began formal administration in 1900 after the colony was established at the Berlin Conference that divides Africa by European powers. 

At the time of the return of the Europeans to Nigeria, things had changed which made it easier for them to penetrate inland, they again found collaborators but this time not greedy and selfish ones but those who ensured that other Nigerians kept working for the Europeans and have natives study in Europe.

After this conquest, the British merged Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria to establish Nigerian colonies and protectorates while maintaining some regional autonomy among the three regions, i.e the Northern protectorate, Southern protectorate, and Colony of Lagos. The British became focused on exploiting raw materials, foods, and minerals that were vital to western industrial development. To stimulate the effective export of crops in Nigeria, the Colonies constructed roads rapidly after the  1930s, there was an introduction of the pound sterling as the universal medium of exchange. Britain sustained and maintained its economic hegemony through strategic alliances, military power, and majorly collaboration with indigenous rulers.


After many years of slavery, suffering, and exploitations Nigeria finally gained independence on the 1st of October, 1960 a very memorable day for all Nigerians as the journey to independence was indeed a tough one for our heroes, but attained victory at last.

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