SLAVERY: Africa Needs To Apologise To Africa

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has triggered scintillating conversations and the prevalent dudgeons some Africans have about and towards the British Monarch and the white race. But is this vexation justified, or are we all trying not to be accountable for the actions of our great grandfathers? Why does it seem that there is a deliberate attempt to exculpate Africa from the past anguish of Africa?

First, let me make it clear. Slavery is as old as humanity. It is evil and shouldn’t have happened at all. According to Britannica Encyclopedia, “Slavery is known to have existed as early as the Shang dynasty (18th–12th century BCE) in China. It has been studied thoroughly in ancient Han China (206 BCE–25 CE), where perhaps 5 per cent of the population was enslaved. Slavery continued to be a feature of Chinese society down to the 20th century.”

The way we all feign oblivion of how some of our so-called ancestors, kings, and chiefs are beneficiaries of slavery is phoney. If we want to open up the wounds, we should at least be truthful. Or, is it because history isn’t been taught in schools with sincerity? Whenever we tell our children about slavery, we seem to remove some details to suit our bias. Whenever we want to tell the story of modern slavery in Africa, we must mention how Africans were the exporters of slaves.

For example, Efunroye Tinubu (c. 1810 – 1887) had more than 360 personal slaves and sold slaves to European merchants. She was a very powerful and persuasive figure in Lagos of her time. She was married to an Ọbá and used her clout to establish ties through which she traded many slaves and other goods.

Efunroye Tinubu Square in Abeokuta

The landmark Tinubu Square in Lagos, Nigeria is named after her with her statue on it. She has a statue in Abeokuta, Nigeria. Should blacks go about destroying statues of ruthless slave traders? The statue of Efunroye has to go down too and the square was renamed to something else. I am not advocating for this, I am only saying that what is good for the black slave traders is good for the white slave traders.

Tinubu Square Lagos, named after Efunroye Tinubu

Efunroye Tinubu told Domingo Martinez, a Brazillian slave trader, that “she would rather drown 20 slaves than sell them at a discount”. She is African, She is Yoruba. She is not a white woman.

Another instance is the Aro Confederacy, a large slave trading network made up of Aro Igbos, Ibibios, Ijaws and other minorities in what was later known as the Eastern region. Many Nigerians today herald the valour of the Aro Confederacy without even realizing what this confederacy stood for. This large slave trading network was distributed across parts of Niger Delta, Eastern Region, Southern Igala, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.

Art by Ikechi1

The confederacy was responsible for the exportation of slaves in their hundreds of thousands and probably millions. The Aros didn’t only deal in slavery, they did it in very deadly ways that included going fetish about it. One of the ways they got people into slavery was by posing as bandits and chasing victims into the shrine where the victims may begin asking the gods for help to save them from the bandits. The victims would automatically be considered Osu and very fit to be sold into slavery.

You can learn more about the Aro Confederacy and its slave trades by reading Transafrican Journal of History, Vol. 16 (1987), pp. 151-166 (16 pages).

Africans have always wanted to exonerate themselves from being involved in slave trading when of course, they were the ones selling people to the Whites. You cannot on one hand hate the white people who sold African slaves without hating your African ancestors who sold your kinsmen to the whites. It is like the Biblical Joseph seeking justice from the Ishmaelites who sold him to the Egyptians when it was his brothers who sold him to the Ishmaelites. We need to start asking ourselves who sold who?

We must begin to debunk the lies and put the records straight so that Africans can become accountable. We were bitten by local dogs before foreign dogs came to lick the wound. Africans were sold by Africans. Some Africans didn’t only sell other ethnic groups, they even sold their kinsmen. 

The role Africans played in the slave trade was very direct. They stole children, kidnapped adults, and sold even their relatives who they don’t like. Didn’t the Arochukwus sell their fellow Igbos and Ibibios to slavery as we saw? Didn’t the Benin and Yoruba Monarchy involved and benefitted greatly from the West African slave trades? Didn’t they capture children, men, and women, torture them, and sold them to European and American buyers?

Should we talk about Dahomey? Is this not an African country? A country that is still divided between the actual slaves and those who benefitted from Slavery. The Benin Republic seems to be the only African country that has publicly acknowledged its role in slavery and apologized for it.

The way Africans exonerate themselves from Slavery tells a lot! That is why a British Monarch was wished excruciating de*th by a Professor in the US of Nigerian Origin. Yet, African Monarchs whose kingdoms benefitted from the slave trade are also considered victims.

Na! I am not defending colonialism and slavery at all BUT Africans must STOP apportioning blames and start taking responsibility for their shortcomings. Would I say shortcomings, ignorance, or what was obtainable at that time for their survival? We should also give credit to Britain for enforcing the abolition of the slave trade in Nigeria.

– Africans killed Africans. 

– Africans kidnapped Africans.

– Africans tortured Africans.

– Africans had wicked, selfish, and evil monarchies who wanted to profit from the impoverishment of their people!

The West only saw an opportunity created by Africans! This is why officials of the Republic of Benin, in an event in the United States of America, apologized to the black communities for the role they played in the slave trade.

“We cry for forgiveness and reconciliation,” said Luc Gnacadja, minister of environment and housing for Benin. “The slave trade is a shame, and we do repent for it.” It was said that Dahomey (now the Benin Republic) rounded up more than three million slaves and sold them to the Europeans. 

A leader of the Yoruba Nation Self-determination struggle, Prof. Banji Akintoye also gave a similar apology. He described it as overdue. He apologized to the victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade which was carried out between the Yorubas and the Portuguese and Dutch businessmen in the 18th century.

If there is a need for an apology, Africa should begin by apologizing to Africa. Africans failed Africa and to date, Africans keep failing Africa by not taking responsibility for the part they played. I think that all black communities outside Africa and those in Africa who were victims of slavery have to hold African empires and their ancestors accountable for failing them before even considering the Western world.

Let’s debunk some of the myths about slavery. The whites were not originators of slavery, slavery was not a result of Western civilization. A global end to slavery was a result of Western Civilization. Slavery before colonialism was brutal which included torture and sexual abuses of all kinds. The Europeans didn’t raid West Africa to find slaves, Africans raided their communities and sold slaves to the Europeans. War was also the most source of enslavements.

If we think the Whites impoverished Africa by slave trades, the blacks did even worse! The blacks are responsible for it! It’s time to hold ourselves accountable for the deeds of our fathers and monarchs. Healing starts from there.

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