By fredrick Okopie
Marina Road in the historical town of Badagry on January 1, 2014 was a beehive to tourists and fun seekers who thronged slave cells to feed their eyes with slave relics and hear stories of how trans-Atlantic slave trade occurred in the 17th century.
The illicit trade was abolished in a treaty signed by England and Badagry chiefs in March 1852, but Brazilians remained in the trade till 1888, three years after the Berlin Conference in Germany. The final transaction took place that year as the Brazillians left with their last ship, while Badagry and other West African countries bade farewell to slavery and slave trade.
The slave market
Slaves from hinterlands, as far as Umuahia, in present day Abia State, were brought to the popular Vlekete slave market, Badagry. Close by were the cells. The market was established in 1502. According to a narrator, the slave market was the biggest and the most known, and served as a meeting flyspeck for Europeans merchants and African agents to transact business every two days, that is, to auction about 1,000 slaves in exchange for umbrellas, cannons, dry gin, mirror, gunpowder, ceramic dishes, and whiskey among others.
As the narrator told the tourists how the exchange was carried out, tempers rose. He said, “A big cannon exchanged for 1 00 slaves; while for a small cannon, it was 40 slaves. But for dry gin and whiskey, there was no specific number of slaves, it depends on trader’s bargaining power, the least you could get for spirit was two slaves.
“At the end of the auction, slaves were chained both hands and legs, transported to the various cells owned by the slaves owners, with heavy security to protect them from escaping or mixing up with other slaves they were related to but belonged to other owners”.
BRAZILLIAN BARACOON (CELL)
Mr. Taiwo Abass, the great grandson of the late Seriki Faremi Williams Abass, took tourists into the vast compound that housed 40 cells, a well built in 1847, the late Abass and his last son’s graves, a collapsed storey building which he ‘claimed was. the second in Nigeria and his great grandfather’s court now used as family mosque. The family members of Seriki Faremi Williams Abass still live in the compound. .
However, Seriki Faremi Willaims Abass, was slave boy took captive by slave master, at the age of 9. He was trained by the Brazilians and was given the franchise before the abolished trade was full signed.
At the left corner of the compound were two rooms separated by a door each measuring 8ft by 9ft and poorly ventilated with a pigeon hole type of opening to allow “fresh air” to come in. In these small rooms, 40 slaves bought from the Viekete market were kept for a maximum of 90 days before they would be ferried to a ship waiting on the high seas. The slaves would eat, urinate and defecate inside the cells before the time of their shipment, Young Abass said.
Most of the hand ch ins for adults and kids, nfanacles, drilling irons and heavy metal load used to punish tubborn slaves were sti intact. The clothes, umbrella, pots, breakable dishes of the late Williams Abass were all on display in one of the cells.
Emotion flowed among the tourists when Mr. Abass explained that male and female slaves were hung on a tree. He said, If any slave was caught having sexual intercourse, the punishment was death penalty by hanging. And to identify their slaves, names of the owners were written on the back of these slaves with a drilling iron rod made hot by fire.”
POINT OF NO RETURN
Abass narrated how slaves were taken to various parts of the world, especially Brazil. “These slaves would be chained in their hands and manacled on their legs and another circle metal around their necks linked with chains to hook up with another slave behind. They formed a single file into a boat which took them to a shore. From there, their journey to the unknown destination began,” he said.
It took tourists 28 to 30 minutes to walk on foot to the Atlantic which today is known as the POINT OF NO RETURN,. Any slave that got there would never return u to Badagry.
An old well made of bricks was along the foot path leading to the Point Of No Return, It is called the ATTENUATION WELL. Slaves were forced to drink water from the well, after which they became less aggressive and lost their memory before boarding the ship that would take them to their masters destinations.
Three categories of fees are paid to access the Br ilian Baracoon. The first is to the Abass family for the sustenance of the museum (#500 per person), the second to the boatman who carries tourist there (#1,000 per person) and the third to the tourist guide.
There was no presence of government (federal or state) or the tourism board at the site.