When Badagry earns a mention during social conversations, it is not unusual for it to attract admiration for its tranquil waters and palms that spread beautifully across its mass area.
A cosmetic description of its richness as one of Nigeria’s most historical places is oftentimes based on its inimitable coconut plantation.
But before Badagry shot up in ratings as a town with numerous tourist attraction centres, its calm waters were being troubled by the shipping of able-bodied men, women and children as slaves across the Atlantic.
Historians record the dark period of slavery in Badagry to be in the 16th century. The town mainly served as a stop for slaves who were being taken from other neighbouring towns.
The peak period of the slave trade in the city state was between 1736 and 1789.
The Chiefs’ Involvement
Olusegun Mobee, a descendant of white cap Chief ‘Inagije’ Mobee who is profiled to have welcomed the European traders with open arms and kolanut, says the trading of slaves in Badagry by wealthy local chiefs was an afterthought.
“Slaves were never captured in Badagry…As a matter of fact, then, slavery was a recognized institution all over the world. Slaves were employed by Kings, Chiefs, and wealthy people in their houses as domestic servants. A man’s economic and social status were assessed by the number of slaves he possessed. This type of slavery was known as domestic slavery. Usually, many of these slaves were captives of war,” writes Mobee in his book, ‘History of the Mobee Family of Badagry and Their Involvement in the Slave Trade’.
The local chiefs soon started to trade their slaves to foreigners who were mainly of Portuguese and Brazilian nationalities, exchanging them with items like mirror, gunpowder, whiskey, umbrella and many more.
“It was confessed that the prospects of Trans Atlantic Slave Trade fueled into tribal wars in Yorubaland as the kings and slaves who had taken part of the European slave merchants’ offer, went all out to wage war on the other towns and villages with the sole aim of getting slaves to be exchanged for wine and guns,” Mobee writes.
Point of No Return
Once captured, the slaves are heavily shackled with thick and sharp rods. Their lips are pierced and padlocked with hot iron, and their legs are shackled to enable them walk in lines as they’re thrown deep into sugarcane plantations to work.
After the day’s work, the slaves are only able to bend over like animals to drink from a large drum of water, with their hands shackled behind their backs.
And when the foreign traders showed up, the prices for the slaves are negotiated before they are eventually sold and taken to the historic Point of No Return. Historians say the slaves are made to drink water from a well on their way to the Point of No Return in a bid to make them lose their memories and prevent them from revolting against their buyers.
It was believed that no slave could return home once taken to the Point of No Return.
According to historians, as many as 300 slaves are sold in a single day, and as high as 17,000 in a single year. About 500,000 people are estimated to have been shipped from Badagry to Europe as slaves in the 300-400 years the trade lasted.
Also, as many as 10 slaves are exchanged for a single bottle of gin.
Those who are ‘lucky’ to remain as domestic slaves are brutally castrated in order to prevent them from sleeping with their masters’ wives.
Slave trade in Badagry lasted for 300-400 years before is was abolished in 1886 during the reign of Chief Sunbu Mobee, a white cap Chief of Boekoh and descendant of Chief ‘Inagije’ Mobee who had welcomed the European traders. Chief Sunbu Mobee died seven years after the abolishment, in October 1893.
Today, Badagry is noted to be a well preserved colonial town, with relics, buildings and sites that existed during the slave trade still in existence. It has become a destination for tourists who want a slice of its well-preserved ties to the transatlantic slave trade.
Many of such historical places that still exist within the town include the Mobee Family Slave Relics Museum, the Slave Port, the Point of No Return, the Spirit Attenuation Well, the Slave Market, the holding cells and boats.
Other places of interest include the Badagry Heritage Museum, the Seriki Faremi Slave Museum and the First Missionary Building.
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