Badagry is a town with rich cultural dynasty. It was built on the solid foundations of heritage and continues to boast its exciting history till this day but some do not realise that Badagry has given birth to so many astounding things. Badagry is the cradle of Christianity in Nigeria. It is the gateway to education and civilization. Badagry is the only town easy to boast of having the first ever storey building built in Nigeria but before exploring these issues let’s see how Badagry came into existence.
The Ogu People
The Ogu people of Badagry Local Government Area in the Lagos Southwest area of Nigeria are part of the Yoruba/Popo Sub-group who migrated from the ancient Ketu kingdom, which was in the Dahomey Empire now the present day Benin Republic.
According to historical accounts the Ogus moved first from Ile-Ife in the mid 13th century into the then Dahomey Empire which subjugated Ketu Kingdom and from there broke into two waves.
One band of the Ogus moved westwards into Accra and Lome to form the Ga and Ewe tribes in the present day Ghana. The second group led by Akran Gbafoe moved Eastwards along the Port-Novo and Yewa Creeks (Later Badagry) creeks) settling along the Kweme coast line and Ologe lagoon to form the chain of Ogu Communities with Badagry as the epicentre in the 15th century.
The boundary of this fledging Ogu State was defined by a British Declaration contained in the Treaty of Cession of July 7th 1863 and re-affirmed on May 5th 1886 and pronounced as follows:
“To the Northward or inland and inclusive thereof Ragbo (Ilogbo) Ikoga-Ile and a line through them to the Ologe waters, to the west, the Iddo continued to the sea by a line passing through and inclusive of Quarmeh (Kweme) to the Eastward, Ologe waters and a line thence to Ilogbo, across the Lagoon to the sea, to the southward by the Sea.”
Consequently, the ancient Ogu term of Badagry encompasses the island and mainland communities of Kweme, Wesere, Kworo, Ajido, Topo, Ale, Aradagun, Akarakumoh, Ibereko, Itoga, Agbalata, Seme, Kankon and Ajara etc.
Recently, some of these communities have developed into full blown settlements with their populations on increase on a daily basis due to a regular inflow of settlers to Lagos and other parts of the country. Today, the Aworis and Egun are mainly the people who reside in the town of Badagry as well as in Ogun State in Nigeria and in the neighbouring Republic of Benin.
Like other Yoruba city-states, Badagry had established the institution of divine kingship (De Wheno Aholu). De Wheno Aholu Menu Toyi I (OFR), Akran of Badagry is the paramount ruler of Oguland and the permanent vice-chairman of the Lagos State Council of Obas and Chiefs which has over 40 recognized Obas and chiefs.
The council comprises of the following individuals:
The Permanent Chairman:
Oba Riliwan Babatunde Osuolale Akiolu I, CFR (The Oba of Lagos).
The Permanent Vice-Chairmen:
Oba Salaudeen A. A. Oyefusi (Oguntade II) (The Ayangburen of Ikorodu).
Oba Akeem Okunola Adesanya (JP) (Alara of Ilaara)
De Wheno Aholu Menu-Toyi I, OFR (The Akran of Badagry Kingdom)
Oba Rauf Adeniyi Matemi Amore (Amore I) (Olu of Ikejaland)
Members, Lagos Division:
Oba Yekinni Adeniyi Elegushi (Kusenla II) (Elegushi of Ikateland)
Oba Tijani Adetunji Akinloye, OON (Sateru II) (Ojomu of Ajiranland)
Oba Abiodun Idowu Oniru (Oniru of Iruland)
Oba Yunusa Akanni Ayeni (Onisiwo of Tomoro & Abagbo Land)
Oba Ganiyu Odewale Okeyide Odesanya (Oloto of Otto, Iddo and Mainland)
Oba Patrick Ibikunle Fafunwa-Onikoyi (Onikoyi of Ikoyi and Imoba)
Chief T. I. Jinadu-Eko (Olorogun-Adodo of Lagos)
Chief Fatai Olumegbon (Olumegbon of Lagos)
Vacant- (Aromire Onile of Lagos)
Chief Tajudeen Gbadesere Eletu (Eletu-Odibo of Lagos)
Members, Ikeja Division:
Oba Lateef Atanda Adeyemi Adams (Akinsosonyin I) (The Olu of Agege Kingdom)
Oba Lasisi Gbadebo Gbadamisi (Oro-Otan III) (Onigando of Igando)
Oba Maroof Adekunle Ojoola (Ojon of Ejigbo)
Oba Fatai Ayinla Aileru (JP) (Olu of Mushin)
Oba H.O.A Kassim-Bashua (Odu I) (Oba of Somolu)
Oba Samson Alade Balogun (Elegbeda of Egbeda Kingdom)
Oba Wahab Ayinde Balogun (Olofin IV) (Oba of Isheri-Olofin)
Oba Bashiru Oloruntoyin Saliu (Oba of Oworonsoki)
Oba Abdul Fatai Adisa Irawo-Ogunsi (JP) (Oba of Odi-Olowo)
Members, Epe Division:
Oba Kamorudeen Animashaun (Oloja of Epe)
Oba Olawale Olagoke Ogunsanya (The Aladegunshenbi of Odoragunshen)
Oba Raufu Ishola Balogun (The Elejinrin of Ejinrinland)
Oba Adegboyega Ayodele Adefowora (Alaketu of Ketu)
Oba Rafiu Olusegun Bamidele Salami (Ogunbamise I) (The Onibejuof Ibeju Land)
Oba Babatunde Olaogun Ogunlaja (JP) (The Aladeshonyin of Odo-Noforija Kingdom)
Oba Ganiyu Adebowale Adegbesan (Onise of Ise Land)
Oba Michael Gbadebo Onakoya (The Orijeru of Ifgbooye Land)
Vacant- (Olu of Epe)
Members, Badagry Division:
Oba Babatunde Lawal (Onigbanko of Igbankoland)
Oba Simeon Padonu Idowu (Aholu Gbedite Ayaton II) (The Aholu of Ajido)
Vacant- (Olojo of Ojo)
Oba N. A. Akinyemi (Alabirun of Ikaare)
Oba Mobadenle O. Oyekan (Onilado of Ilado and Inogbe Island)
Oba Momodu Afolabi Ashafa, JP, MFR (Onijanikin of Ijanikin)
Vacant- (Ofori of Ibeshe)
Oba Israel Aadewale Okoya (Okiki Ola I) (Onibereko of Ibereko)
Oba Abideen Adekanbi Durosinmi (Osolu of Irewe)
Members, Ikorodu Division:
Oba Johnlson Olatunji Fatola (Adeboruwa of Igbogbo)
Oba F.A. Oresanya (Alajede of Ijede)
Oba ajiboide Bakare-Agoro (Olufoworesete II) (Ranodu of Imota)
Vacant- (Oba of Ipokodo)
Vacant- (Oba of Egbin)
Oba Richard Abayomi Ogunsanya (Bisoro I) (Olubeshe of Ibeshe)
Vacant- (Oba of Isiu)
Chief K. H. A Oshisanya (Ara of Ikorodu)
Chief Williams Adebisi Adejo (Olisa of Imota)
The traditional administration of Badagry and its environs is vested in the Royal council of the Akran of Badagry which is made up of De Wheno Aholu and its high titled chiefs as well as district heads (Totagan). The town is divided into eight quarters with seven white cap chiefs administering seven out of the quarters while the eighth quarter from where the De Wheno Aholu comes from, is being administered directly by the crown. The other adjoining mainland districts are administered by their respective traditional rulers of which some of have the ‘Obaship’ status i.e Alapa of Apa, Onilogbo of Ilogbo – Eremi, Aholu Gbedite, Ayaton of Ajido, Onoworo of Iworo and Oba of Ibereko.
Other communities such as Topa, Iyafin, Mowo, Igborosun, Ajara, Gberefu and Ikoga, Topo, Akarakumoh and so on have Baales.
Badagry gained prominence during the Slavery era as it became an ancient major Slave port and market and at the abolition of this evil, inhuman, nefarious and obnoxious trade, it became the entry port for the Missionaries who brought Christianity, Western education and civilization.
In the same way, the Fon, whose ancestors were subjects of Dahomey Kingdom, one of the epicenters of the slave trade in West Africa, are associated with dishonesty. On the other hand, the Goun from Porto Novo (also located in Benin) whose ancestors were subjects of the Kingdom of Porto Novo, are perceived as honest and trustworthy.
These differences are intriguing since both Dahomey and Porto Novo were created late 17th Century by two brothers who immigrated from Tado (in Western Togo), and the two kingdoms had almost identical political and economic institutions. A possible solution to this puzzle could be that Dahomey was much more heavily involved in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade than Porto Novo (Cornevin, 1962). In fact, oral tradition from Benin describes parts of the Porto Novo as safe havens for those trying to escape slave raiders (Simpson, 2004).
In the early 1500's, slaves were transported from West Africa to America through Badagry. It is reported that Badagry exported no fewer than 550,000 African slaves to America during the period of the American Independence in l787.
In addition, slaves were transported to Europe, South America and the Caribbean. The slaves came mainly from West Africa and the neighbouring countries of Benin and Togo as well as others parts of Nigeria. The slave trade became the major source of income for the Europeans in Badagry.
Slaves were brought from all nooks and crannies of Nigeria mostly from raided villages. War captives were also brought to Badagry for auctioning.
The role model of Badagry as a quiet, tranquil and peaceful haven can not be over emphasized and this was evidenced by the number of European officers, traders and missionaries who lived and died in Badagry. Also two monarchs from Lagos Island, Oba Adele and Oba Akintoye, exiled themselves to Badagry when they had problems with their people.
The hospitable nature of the Ogu people which could be traced to their founding father-Agbada still waxes strong amongst the people. They are warmly disposed to visitors and receptive to the pattern of group of group behavior.
Trading Stations in Africa
There were over 490 documented uprisings; an example is the “La Amistad”. Black captives rebelled and tried to overthrow their slaveholders on the ships transporting them from Africa. The situation was devastating and the slave ship sailed into New York harbour but was captured. There was a trial, the trial gained international attention, ending in freedom and passage to Sierra Leone for the African mutineers.
Slavery in the USA- on the eve of the American Civil War about 4 million enslaved African Americans lived in the south. Most of them worked as slaves, in plantations. They were used in the production of tobacco cotton, sugar and rice. A few of them who were enslaved certain individuals were African born.
Importation of enslaved Africans to the United States officially ended in 1808 but thousands are still smuggled illegally despite the stoppage. These enslaved people were the descendants of 12 to 13 million African forbearers forcibly transported to the Americas in a massive slave trade dating from the 1400s. This suggests that there is still an internal slave trade (trading people within). The statistics on slavery in the United States in an 1860 census showed that the number of slaves in the Lower South was 2,312,352. This was 47% of the total population. In the Upper South, the number of slaves was 1,208,758. This was 29% of the total population. At the Border States, the number of slaves was 432,586. This was 13% of the total population.
Slaves were negotiated before purchase, they were put into deplorable conditions and were being squeezed into ships. Many died before reaching their unintended destinations. In some cases, slaves tried to escape and a case led to a total rebellion which led to their freedom. In the United States, importation and enslavement of Africans, officially ended in 1808 but there were still trading within illegally. In conclusion, 2.7 million people throughout the world, mostly children are living in conditions of slavery. Are the slaves really free? 27 million people are still in slavery today, this is an alarming figure in world history (British Anti-Slavery Society, 2003).
The slave market house was a shrine called Vlekete and here some of the Europeans were tried after the abolition of trade. About 18 million people were sold from this market for the 400 years that slavery lasted.
The point of no return was so called because of a particular well situated along the slave route- The slave’s spirits attenuation well. Inside this well, the African middlemen in collaboration with the European merchants prepared a charm to be given to any slaves plying the slave route to the Atlantic Ocean, this was said to make the slaves loose the memories of their homeland, less aggressive and finally become submissive to the instructions of the European merchants. The well is half way down the Atlantic ocean, after this drink was given to them they would walk down the route to the Atlantic ocean to join the ship and sail through the high seas to the new world.
The journey to the new world usually lasted for 8 to 12 weeks depending on their destinations. Slaves were jam-packed at the lower deck of the slave ship, head facing upward, chained from head to heads just to make sure all spaces were filled up, they urinated and defecated at the lower deck of and were subjected to all kinds of torture.
The merchants would be at the upper deck winning and dinning, while slaves were given two slices of bread to eat each day on board and the maximum amount of work was required of them when they arrived at their destinations. The cruellest aspect of the expedition is that if the ship was sinking during the course of their expedition, the slaves would be thrown overboard to make life continue for the merchants and the lucky ones among the slaves who had not been given to the sharks for breakfast. For every slave that survived the expedition 4 people lost their lives, for that one slave- one out of every five slaves rarely survived this journey. It was believed that no matter how many slaves the merchants were going to loose during their journey back home, a lot of profit was still going to be realized because a slave was resold at almost a thousand percent of what they were exchanged for in Africa.
For instance slaves auctioned by the Brazilians from the Vlekete slave market in Badagry were marched to the Brazilian slave baracoon which now happens to be the only existing slave cell out of the cells built by foreign slave merchants. Here they were kept for 3 months and after this they were branded by using a very hot iron in writing the slave owner’s name at the back of the slaves he purchases and after this they were marched down to the slave route port. The Brazilian slave baracoon has about 40 cells in all.
The Trans-Atlantic slave trade would not have come into existence without the cooperation and involvement of some Africans who were blindfolded and used against their folks. Though slavery has been a culture practiced amongst blacks before the discovery of the West African coast by the Europeans, therefore it wasn’t new to them if their fellow black brothers and sisters were sold form one plantation to another like cattle. The trade seemed more lucrative to the African middlemen that acted as the middlemen when foreign goods were used to barter for slaves and were so blindfolded that they couldn’t see the evils of the trade till it became a Heritage acquired from several predecessors to successors.
At every market day all the interested chiefs or their representatives visit the slave market to negotiate business with Europeans, mainly the auctioning of human beings.
The Europeans with vested interest were encouraging this trade with all their efforts, importation of destructive materials, weapons, and intoxicating spirits were not left out. 65 percent of those people sold into slavery were war captives, the Europeans were instigating war among the Africans by importing weapons like gun, cannons, knifes etc to support raids and war in order to get more people sold to them, even with the consent of the African middlemen, they couldn’t reject this because of their selfish interest of enriching their pockets.
West African Slave Trade and Its Tricks
Slaves bought by the Europeans from Africa were perceived as curiosities and as a proof of affluence. In turn, at the arrival of the Portuguese in West Africa, they found a thriving economy which had already developed its own bustling trading centres. Therefore, it was easy for them to penetrate the system, a new channel emerged, and they opened up a dynamic trade between the Portuguese and the West Africans. Examples are the GUNS for SLAVES. This was a dilemma for African rulers because tricks were at play, making the rulers believe that lives were at stake with the next community, on the other hand, the rulers found themselves trapped and any ruler who did not trade slaves for guns could not have guns. He could not be able to defend himself and his people. If the ruler refused, the game was played vice-versa towards another ruler, in this sense, the other ruler is made to believe that his next tribal neighbour was a threat and without guns, he would have difficulty in protecting himself and his people. The consequence was that, any ruler or people who could not provide adequate self-defence would be captured and sold into slavery.
At the start, African slaves were transported to Portugal and other parts of Europe to be used as exotic domestic servants; on the other hand, they were also used as farm labourers. In brief, some areas of Portugal were in desperate need of farm labourers, and Africans were used to fill the gaps. This was the case and in general, Europe had many labourers that covered a variety of functions. The Slave trade was seen as a profitable business in The New World, in fact, when the Spaniards began to use slaves in their American colonies, the Dutch, French, and British were only too eager to enable the transportation, although, they too had colonies and slaves of their own.
In summary, many slaves were transported from West Africa, slavery practices were identified when the Europeans arrived in Africa. The European used the platform as an opportunity, tricking the African rulers with the aim to meet their demands as the slave trade was perceived as a money making business. In conclusion, riches were gained by Europeans through the channel of the slave trade, the wealth was reinvested in the developing industrial revolution but who were the Slaves? Prisoners of war, political enemies, criminals and subsequently, war emerged and increased drastically as the result of a high demand in the slave trade. Has slavery been totally abolished? Slavery has not been abolished completely; at least 26 million people are still slaves, for example in: Nigeria, Indonesia, and Brazil. In fact over 12 million slaves were taken from Africa through the trans-Atlantic slave trade that ended in the 19th century.
As fishermen, the Ogu people worship Olokun – a water deity, while other shrines of other deities dotted the landscape of the Ogu land.
The traditional religion continues to rekindle through the celebration of traditional festivals and dances such as Avohunwe, Zangbeto, Hungan, Kuvito, Oro, Igunnuko and others.
Christianity had its route into Nigeria through Badagry in 1842 when Thomas Birch Freeman of the Missionary Society first preached the Gospel to the inhabitants under the historic Agia Tree. This led to the creation of the first storey building in Nigeria.
Islam had also got to Badagry through Oyo Traders and today the landscape is dotted with churches and Mosques.
In the ancient times, a clan in Badagry was ravaged by an ailment that killed both the old and the young ones within the clan. This epidemic led some elders to finding the source of the ailment from the village oracle.
The oracle revealed that the source of the ailment came from a tree called 'AJOROHUNTIN' which possessed the evil spirit called 'OTHAN' which is responsible for the epidemic befalling the clan. The oracle further revealed that for the epidemic to be wiped off the clan, the Ajorohuntin tree be fell and cut into two timbers which will be used to carve a drum that had never been seen or heard before.
The oracle assured that the sound of the drum will chase away the evil spirit (Othan) and restore peace and health to the clan. From that time till now the SATO drum which got its name from the emotional expression of fear and protest against death during the ritual performance has been part of the culture of Badagry.
Reflecting from the rich history above, it becomes paramount that the five first historical sites in Nigeria (situated in Badagry) are preserved. Why? It is because rich cultural history requires attention. These historical monuments are tourist attractions which Badagrians and well wishers deserve to have. We need to join hands to make sure the Badagry Firsts' are given proper place – the First Storey Building in Nigeria, First Primary School in Nigeria - St. Thomas's School rotting away in obscurity but still going. First Gospel Preached in Nigeria under the fallen Agia Tree. First Church Building - Methodist Church which the local government brought down in their quest to have a cathedral.
Our history is a ubiquitous part of our every day lives; it cannot be eradicated from us. We have to ensure that our history is preserved, our community strength is built and our love for Badagry is ever growing. It is only then can we be proud of our heritage, of our culture and most importantly of our history!
Simpson, Alaba, “Oral Tradition Relating to Slavery and Slave Trade in Nigeria, Ghana and Benin,” Unesco publications (2004).
Cornevin, Robert, Histoire du Dahomey (Berger-Levrault, Paris, 1962).
Nunn, Nathan and Wantchekon, Leonard (2009). The Slave Trade and Origins of Mistrust in Africa (Harvard University and New York University).
For those interested in academic research, the presiding sites give an informed discussion of the causes of the American Civil War and illustrates the role that slavery played.
The Slave Trade and Slavery in North America. http://www.slaveryinamerica.org/
Underpinning useful resources. Many information and first-hand accounts. http://www.afbis.com/analysis/slave.htm
Slave trade: a root of contemporary African Crisis By Tunde Obadina: http://www.afbis.com/analysis/slave.htm
Discussion about economics of slavery and the long-term impact the slave trade had on Africa. http://www.swcivilwar.com/cw_causes.html
Understanding Slavery and Rome, you will get a clear picture of slavery:
Stierlin, H. (1996). The Roman Empire. London: Taschen.
Finley, M. (1968). Slavery in classical Antiquity: Views and controversies. Cambridge: Heffer
Looking for key issues surrounding slavery in the Roman Empire.: http://www.beloit.edu/~hist190/slavelaw.htm
Useful internet sites which deal with Roman Slavery. http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~thurley/project.html
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Published by United Voice of Badagry People Intiative (UVOBPI), 10 March 2012.