My Nigerian great-grandfather sold slaves

Image copyright
Getty Images

My great-grandfather, Nwaubani Ogogo Oriaku, was what I choose to call a business person, from the Igbo ethnic group of south-eastern Nigeria. He dealt in a variety of goods, including tobacco and palm produce. He likewise sold humans.
” He had agents who captured servants from different places and brought them to him,” my daddy informed me.
Nwaubani Ogogos servants were sold through the ports of Calabar and Bonny in the south of what is today referred to as Nigeria.

People from ethnic groups along the coast, such as the Efik and Ijaw, usually functioned as stevedores for the white merchants and as intermediaries for Igbo traders like my great-grandfather.
They filled and unloaded ships and supplied the immigrants with food and other arrangements. They worked out prices for slaves from the hinterlands, then gathered royalties from both the sellers and purchasers.

Amidst the worldwide debate about race relations, manifest destiny and slavery, a few of the Europeans and Americans who made their fortunes in trading humans have actually seen their legacies reassessed, their statues toppled and their names removed from public structures.
Nigerian journalist and author Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani composes that a person of her ancestors sold servants, but argues that he should not be evaluated by todays worths or requirements.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Numerous European nations had servant substances in what is now Nigeria

About 1.5 million Igbo servants were delivered across the Atlantic Ocean between the 19th and 15th Centuries.
More than 1.5 million Africans were shipped to what was then called the New World – the Americas – through the Calabar port, in the Bight of Bonny, making it one of the largest points of exit throughout the transatlantic trade.

The only life they understood
When the fittest made it through and the bravest stood out, Nwaubani Ogogo lived in a time. The principle of “all men are produced equivalent” was entirely alien to conventional faith and law in his society.

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Evaluating individuals of Africas past by todays standards would compel us to cast the bulk of our heroes as villains”

Slaves buried alive
The most popular story Ive become aware of my great-grandfather was how he successfully challenged authorities of the British colonial government after they took some of his servants.

It would be unjust to judge a 19th Century male by 21st Century concepts.
Evaluating individuals of Africas past by todays requirements would compel us to cast the bulk of our heroes as villains, rejecting us the right to totally commemorate anybody who was not influenced by Western ideology.
Igbo slave traders like my great-grandfather did not suffer any crisis of social approval or legality. They did not require any clinical or spiritual justifications for their actions. They were simply living the life into which they were raised.
That was all they understood.


My great-grandfather obviously did not consider it reasonable that his slaves had actually been taken”

The slaves were being carried by middlemen, together with a consignment of tobacco and palm produce, from Nwaubani Ogogos home town of Umuahia to the coast.
My great-grandfather obviously did rule out it reasonable that his slaves had actually been seized.
Purchasing and selling of people amongst the Igbo had been going on long prior to the Europeans arrived. Individuals became slaves as punishment for crime, payment for financial obligations, or detainees of war.
The successful sale of adults was considered an exploit for which a male was hailed by praise vocalists, akin to exploits in fumbling, war, or in searching animals like the lion.
Igbo slaves served as domestic servants and labourers. They were sometimes also compromised in religious events and buried alive with their masters to take care of them in the next world.
Slavery was so instilled in the culture that a variety of popular Igbo proverbs refer to it:

Anyone who has no slave is his own slave
A servant who looks on while a fellow slave is connected up and thrown into the grave with his master should realise that the very same thing might be done to him at some point
When the child is being given suggestions that the slave discovers, it is

The arrival of European merchants using guns, mirrors, gin, and other unique goods in exchange for humans enormously increased demand, leading people to abduct others and sell them.

How servants were sold Africa

Image copyright
Getty Images

European buyers tended to remain on the coast
African sellers brought slaves from the interior on foot
Journeys might be as long as 485km (300 miles).
Two captives were typically chained together at the ankle.
Columns of hostages were connected together by ropes around their necks.
10% -15% of hostages died on the method.


When the British extended their guideline to south-eastern Nigeria in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, they started to implement abolition through military action.
But by utilizing force instead of persuasion, numerous regional people such as my great-grandfather might not have actually comprehended that abolition had to do with the dignity of mankind and not a mere change in economic policy that affected need and supply.
” We believe this trade must go on,” one regional king in Bonny infamously said in the 19th Century.
” That is the decision of our oracle and our priests. They say that your nation, nevertheless great, can never stop a trade ordained by God.”.


The Missionary Society was formed in London in 1799 by British anti-slavery advocates.

Adaobis father, Chukwuma Hope Nwaubani, survives on land that was owned by Nwaubani Ogogo.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Image caption.

As far as my great-grandfather was concerned, he had an authentic trading licence from the Royal Niger Company, a British business that administered commerce in the region in the last quarter of the 19th Century.
So when his residential or commercial property was taken, an aggrieved Nwaubani Ogogo boldly went to see the colonial officers accountable and presented them with his licence. They launched his products, and his slaves.
” The white people apologised to him,” my dad stated.

Image copyright.
Getty Images.

We think this trade should go on.That is the verdict of our oracle and our priests”.

Image caption.

They needed the slave-trading chiefs for efficient regional governance, and for the growth and growth of genuine trade.
Often, they also disregarded rather than jeopardise a helpful alliance, as seems to have been the case when they returned Nwaubani Ogogos slaves.
That event deified Nwaubani Ogogo amongst his people. Here was a guy who effectively challenged the white powers from abroad. I have heard the story from family members, and have checked out it.
It was also the start of a relationship of mutual regard with the colonialists that resulted in Nwaubani Ogogo being designated a vital chief by the British administration.
He was the federal governments agent to individuals in his region, in a system referred to as indirect rule.

How the UK abolished slavery.

Image caption.

British traders were at the heart of the slave trade, prior to the UK government abolished the trade.

Resisting abolition.
The trade in African individuals continued up until 1888, when Brazil became the last nation in the Western hemisphere to abolish it.

Image copyright.
Getty Images.

Image copyright.
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.

Slave trade in the 20th Century.
Acclaimed Igbo historian Adiele Afigbo described the servant trade in south-eastern Nigeria which lasted up until the late 1940s and early 1950s as one of the best concealed of the British colonial administration.
While the worldwide trade ended, the regional trade continued.
” The government knew the fact that the coastal chiefs and the significant coastal traders had actually continued to buy slaves from the interior,” wrote Afigbo in The Abolition of the Slave Trade in Southern Nigeria: 1885 to 1950.
He included that the British endured the continuous trade on political and economic premises.

1833 Parliament outlawed slavery in many British colonies.
1834 Law worked.
800,000 slaves were released.
₤ 20m allocated to pay for “damages” suffered by owners.
0compensation for freed slaves.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Nwaubani Ogogo donated land to Christian missionaries.

Their records showed that he had supplied an armed escort for the first missionaries in the area.
My great-grandfather was renowned for his organization prowess, exceptional boldness, strong leadership, huge impact, tremendous contributions to society, and improvement of Christianity.
The Igbo do not have a culture of erecting monoliths to their heroes – otherwise one committed to him may have stood somewhere in the Umuahia area today.
” He was respected by everybody around,” my dad said. “Even the white individuals respected him.”.

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.

Dealing with the British.
As a vital chief, Nwaubani Ogogo collected taxes on behalf of the British and earned a commission for himself at the same time.
He presided over cases in native courts. He provided labourers for the building and construction of railway. He likewise voluntarily contributed land for missionaries to build schools and churches.

Records from the UKs National Archives at Kew Gardens demonstrate how frantically the British had a hard time to end the internal sell slaves for almost the entire period of the colonial duration.
They promoted genuine trade, specifically in palm produce. They introduced English currency to change the cumbersome brass rods and cowries that merchants required servants to bring. They prosecuted culprits with jail sentences.
” By the 1930s, the colonial establishment had been used down,” wrote Afigbo.
” As an outcome, they had come to put their expect the extirpation of the trade on the destructive effect in time of education and general civilisation.”.

Image copyright.
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.

My great-grandfather, Nwaubani Ogogo Oriaku, was what I prefer to call an entrepreneur, from the Igbo ethnic group of south-eastern Nigeria. Igbo slave traders like my great-grandfather did not suffer any crisis of social approval or legality. That event deified Nwaubani Ogogo amongst his individuals. They introduced English currency to change the troublesome brass rods and cowries that merchants needed slaves to bring. Nwaubani Ogogo died sometime in the early 20th Century.

Your house where I grew up and where my parents still live rests on a piece of land that has actually been in my family for over a century.
It was as soon as the site of Nwaubani Ogogos visitor home, where he hosted visiting British officials. They sent him envelopes containing snippets of their hair to let him know whenever they was because of get here.
Nwaubani Ogogo died sometime in the early 20th Century. He left dozens of spouses and children. No photographs exist of him but he was said to have been incredibly light-skinned.
In December 2017, a church in Okaiuga in Abia State of south-eastern Nigeria was celebrating its centenary and invited my household to get a posthumous award on his behalf.

My great-grandfather is renowned for his service prowess, strong leadership, enormous contribution to society, and advancement of Christianity”.

Image caption.