By Ayo Akinfe
(1) We have just finished celebrating Black History Month in the UK. Having been invited to be a speaker at several events, I delved into the history of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and from the records it is crystal clear that without Nigeria there simply would have been no global trade in human cargo
(2) By my estimation, about one quarter of all the slaves in the New World came from Nigeria. It is no accident that our shores were called Slave Coast and the word Nigger became a generic term for referring to all negroes
(3) While every other country along the African Atlantic coast had one slave exporting port, we had three in Badagry, Lagos and Calabar. Also, most other countries only had one slave route but we had two. Yoruba slaves captured in the aftermath of the collapse of the Oyo Empire were marched to Badagry and Lagos, while Igbo slaves rounded up by the Arochukwu Confraternity were marched to Calabar
(4) By the 18th century, most ships that transported slaves from Calabar were English, with around 85% of these ships being owned by Bristol and Liverpool merchants. In Badagry, the peak period of the slave trade was between 1736 and 1789. As many as 10,000 slaves were believed to have been shipped to the Americas between 1518 and 1880 from Gberefu Island off the coast of Badagry
(5) In Lagos, the slave trade was largely a Portuguese affair. Do you know that after Brazilian independence in 1822, many Portuguese merchants returned home bringing with them their slaves who upon arrival should have been set free but the king allowed their owners special privileges to keep them. Many of these slaves later made their way to Lagos after the abolition of slavery, hence why we still have that Brazilian connection in Lagos today
(6) A certain lady known as Madame Tinubu was arguably the biggest slave trader in Lagos. According to an extract from her biography, referring to a slave trading deal gone sour in 1853, Madam Tinubu tells another slave trader Domingo Martinez that she would rather drown the slaves
(20 of them) than sell them at a discount. Just bear this in mind when you see some of these rich Awori families from Lagos Island. They made their money from the slave trade. Under normal circumstances we should make them pay reparations
(7) Now, how come we were exporting record numbers of slaves, ships were always anchored on our shores, we had three shipping ports and the British Navy was always on our coast but alas, we never became a maritime power. We also exported more palm than any other nation on earth but never thought about building an infrastructure around this trade? This is blatant stupidity. For starters, why did those Lagos families like the Tinubu’s, Dosunmus, Kosokos, Gbadamosis, Agoros, Fernandez’s etc not invest the millions they made from the slave trade in ship building?
(8) I find it perplexing that Nigeria does not have one shipyard today. Our coastline should be like the northeast of England where cities like Newcastle, Middlesboro and Sunderland grew on the back of shipbuilding on the country’s maritime prowess. We also saw this in cities like Liverpool and Bristol. Why Badagry and Calabar are not similar marine cities is beyond me. How come nobody has thought of this since 1960?
(9) Given the growth of piracy along the African coastline, Nigeria should be the continent’s naval policeman with locally manufactured military gunboats patrolling the entire continent. We should be selling vessels to the navies of other African nations too
(10) Just imagine how we would quadruple the size of the Nigerian economy within five years if we were manufacturing say 10 merchant ships a year at Badagry and Calabar and had say five shipping lines trading across our continent? With a little bit of imagination we can make this nation wealthy overnight