Badagry; A Land Losing Its Historical Essence

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I’m a big fan of African history especially Nigeria’s. I love to read about it, hear about it and visit those historical sites whenever I have the chance to. These wonderful stories about my ancestors always want me to hold on to my identity as an African lady and not lose it in the name of “trend”.

It is always an exciting experience for me when I discover something new about the historical background of the giant of Africa, Nigeria. So you can imagine my joy when bae decided to take me to Badagry to visit the slave relics museum, the slave cells and the point of no return. I was so excited about my visit that I woke up too early, made sure he was awake too and dragged him out before noon (as we had initially planned to go in the afternoon). All through the night, I had refreshed my imagination of what the place would be like; big, old and still filled with the pains and misery of the slaves captured. I painted a picture so grand in my head that when got to the slave relics museum, I was arguing with bae that we were in the wrong place.

The museum is a very small building painted reddish brown or something like that and apart from few badly inscribed words on some parts of the wall and the entrance, you would not know the building holds a major part of African history. After doing the necessary things, the museum door was opened for us and boy, was I disappointed! It was even smaller than I imagined. Were there really relics? Not really.

Badagry Black Heritage Museum
Badagry Black Heritage Museum

 

Apart from the heavy chains, mouth padlocks, cannon guns, cowries (very unique ones), the slaves’ drinking bowl (that got me shivering in the hot room), there was really nothing to see. Although the guide made us feel there was really more to the museum as he shared gory stories with us that made me give thanks to God that I was not born in that era.

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Men were castrated so they could work like bulls and not have time for sex, holes drilled in their mouths and heavy padlocks passed through them so the slaves won’t steal the sugarcanes they were harvesting and won’t communicate with other slaves; and all the slaves including children working on the plantation would be tied together by the legs and their heads submerged in a big iron bowl with very sharp edges. One slave was entitled to only one scoop of water per day and if a slave cut his mouth and have blood all over the water, the slaves would still drink from the bloodied water. It was a terrible thing to listen to, talk more of experiencing it.

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From the museum, we went to the slaves cells called the “Baracoon”. From the entrance, I already knew I was in for major disappointment. A man and some ladies were arguing about missing clothes at the entrance of what should be a strictly tourist site. They were not even fazed by the presence of visitors, they just kept shouting. The Baracoon was built by a Williams guy who sold it to Abass Seriki; the wealthiest slave returnee. You would think he would fight for the emancipation of slave trade as he had experienced the wickedness of the white slave masters himself but no, he became a slave trader. The Baracoon has 40 rooms in all with each room having 2 cell rooms making 80 cells in the Baracoon. 40 prisoners were kept in each cell that is almost the size of some people’s bathroom. The slaves were not allowed to leave once they’ve been kept in the cells; they did all their nasty deeds in the same room. When I entered the cell, I could feel the sense of loss, despair and agony hovering about the atmosphere in the room. It was as if the spirits of some of the slaves were still present crying for help and that got me wondering why people would live in such a place.

 

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It would interest you to know that out of the 40 rooms in the Baracoon, 38 have been leased out and only 2 kept (on the order of the Lagos State Government that 2 rooms must be left and used as a tourist site). The condition of the cells were not good. Residents loomed around staring at us as if we were invading their privacy. The compound was not clean and our guide for the slave cells was smelling of smoked fish (the smell was so strong, it was too painful to listen to anything being said) and his English was just as terrible. The court used by Abass Seriki to sentence disobedient and stubborn slaves to gory punishments has been converted into a praying ground and I felt so sad for what the beloved historical site had turned into. I was just so disappointed that I could not talk of anything but how much they’ve allowed the essence of a major history to dwindle. I mean, I watch TV and I see the way other countries take care of their historical sites and you can see the amazement on the faces of the tourists.

Apart from some relics like the umbrella, whiskey bottle, plates, tea cups he collected in exchange of human beings, Abass’ Regalia, his expensive “wooden chair” given to him by the European slave masters, Da Rocha’s (second wealthiest slave returnee) really old pictures, pictures of slaves being tortured and killed that blew my mind off, the State of the museum and cells were not so impressive.

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And when we decided to take a stroll on the beach, I was not happy either. People walked about smoking weed in the open where so many parents had brought their kids to celebrate Easter. There was a particular old man that walked about smoking a large wrap of weed and one time, in the face of a child.

In my opinion, Badagry should be more than that. Too many things happened in the town for it to be just another location on Nigeria’s map. The first storey building (which still stands strong) is in Badagry, the first Bible translated to Yoruba was done in Badagry too by Samuel Ajayi Crowther in the first storey building. Too many things happened in the cells for its essence to be lost for the benefit of money. A tourist site with history as rich as Badagry’s should not be pushed aside. Slave trade, the abolishment of slave trade gave birth to so many major cultural improvements in the country and for this, the history should be preserved.

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Badagry should be more than what it is…

Alice Temitope Dako

Alice Temitope Dako

A passionate reader, a photographer of thoughts and an ardent book collector. A nerd in love with the world built by words... www.theinkheartnlog.com

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