The return of Europeans back to Europe: Part Two …coming of Europeans to Nigeria and their departure

0
1447

IN 1485, the Portuguese were the first European travellers to arrive in Benin. As a result, a strong trading port developed in ivory, peppers and palm oil in exchange for guns and oil.
As early as the 16th century, the king of Portugal sent Christian missionaries to Benin City and the Oba of Benin sent an ambassador to Lisbon.
After the Portuguese, then came the English in 1553.
This led to more trading between England and Benin based on the export of ivory, palm oil and pepper.
The English visitors in the 16th and 17th centuries brought back to Europe many tales of an empire they referred to as the ‘Great Benin’ which was, “a fabulous city of noble buildings, ruled over by a powerful king.”
A 17th century Dutch engraving written by Olfert Dapper’s Nauwkeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaansche Gewesten, published in Amsterdam in 1668 wrote:
“The king’s palace or court is a square, and is as large as the town of Haarlem and entirely surrounded by a special wall, like that which encircles the town.
“It is divided into many magnificent palaces, houses, and apartments of the courtiers, and comprises beautiful and long square galleries, about as large as the Exchange at Amsterdam, but one larger than another, resting on wooden pillars, from top to bottom covered with cast copper, on which are engraved the pictures of their war exploits and battles.”
In 1699, these words were echoed by another Dutch traveller David van Nyendael who in 1699 gave a first-hand observation of the Legions of Benin. Van Nyendael described the kingdom of Benin as very well-organised and sophisticated with a military operation and a monarch.
The Queen Mother of Benin had her own army.
There were many disciplined metropolitan and royal regiments in and around the whole empire.
The Yoruba and Igbo kingdoms controlled the west and east banks of the Niger River and allowed the founding of European trading ports along the coast as early as the 16th century.
They traded with the Spanish, Portuguese, and many other European states and private companies along the coast for goods manufactured in Europe.
After 1700, the city and empire of Benin began to decline as a result of rapid European penetration and activity from the Trans-Atlantic slave-trade.
The slaves came mainly from Benin, Gold Coast and Togo as well as other parts of Nigeria.
Slaves were transported to Europe, South America and the Caribbean. 
The slave trade became the major source of income for the Europeans in Benin.
But from that period onwards, the Oba of Benin did not trust the British’s intention to just trade.
He knew about other British Empires in India.
He therefore stopped trading with them until another Oba resumed trade during the British expedition of 1896 to 1897, at a time when the First Chimurenga was being fought in Zimbabwe.
The British then asked for a protectorate treaty with Benin through most of the 1880s and 1890s.
It soon became clear that Britain’s hidden agenda was to colonise Benin.
l To page 12
The British sent an envoy of eight men who were killed by the Benin army.
In a book titled Contesting the History of Benin Kingdom, Peter P. Ekeh, notes that in retaliation, the British launched the Punitive Expedition in 1897 under the command of Admiral Sir Harry Rawson who, “razed and burned the city, destroying much of the country’s treasured art and dispersing nearly all that remained.
“The stolen portrait figures, busts, and groups created in iron, carved ivory, and especially in brass, conventionally called the Benin Bronzes now displayed in museums around the world.”
From that time onwards, the British divided Nigeria into three parts.
There was the region that which was predominantly Muslim, the western region that was dominated by the Yoruba people and the eastern region where the Igbo were the predominant group.
In 1914, Lord Fredrick Lugard combined the northern and southern parts into the unified colony and protectorate of Nigeria.
In a book titled, Our White Fathers: Patriarchy and Shifting Gender Roles in Colonial Nigeria, 1900-1961 by Dr Li in 2014, notes the following:
“European imperialism, and especially British competition with France over access to new land and resources, led to an influx of European immigration to Nigeria.
“This British incursion, though it is common in our modern perception of European imperialism in Africa and the Americas, should not be seen as a ‘conquest’, but more as deluge.
“Through a flood of treaties and ‘pacts of friendship’ with the kingdoms and principalities of
the Niger Delta, the British came to overwhelm the region with new forms of economy, products to buy and sell, new methods of governance, cultural habits, and a new religion.”
Many Europeans made Nigeria their home.
However, the growing professional elite educated by the British became more and more conscious of the rights of Africans to rule Africa.
Faced with increasing resistance, the British were forced to accept that Africans were not to be ruled and dominated forever in Nigeria.
After the Second World War, there was more increasing resistance to colonial rule and Nigerian nationalism began to take control of the country.
Inspired by a new wave of African nationalism, both men and women of Nigeria fought back.
As Dr Li has noted, “Nigerian women turned increasingly to political activity, staging boycotts, strikes, sit-ins, and the like.
“The push for Nigerian self-governance was paralleled by the ‘Women’s Wars’ of the 1920s—1950s which, indeed, was responsible for much of the growth of Nigerian national consciousness.
“The 1925 Nwaobiala Movement, 1929 Water Rate Demonstrations, the 1929 ‘Women’s War’, 1930 Anti-Tax Demonstrations, and the Pioneer Oil Mill Demonstrations of the 1940s—1950s, to name only a few, added to the surge in nationalistic pride and solidarity within urban and rural Nigeria.”
The National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), led by Nnamdi Azikiwe became very powerful and it won many seats in the National Congress of Nigeria. Initially, Azikiwe became Governor-General and he was triumphantly elected as the President of Nigeria in 1961.
Although the British settler community in Nigeria was not as large as that of other colonised countries in East and Southern Africa, the Europeans began their migration back to Europe after Nigerian independence.
Today, we speak more of Nigerians resident in London instead of the British who have settled in Nigeria.

The British sent an envoy of eight men who were killed by the Benin army.
In a book titled Contesting the History of Benin Kingdom, Peter P. Ekeh, notes that in retaliation, the British launched the Punitive Expedition in 1897 under the command of Admiral Sir Harry Rawson who, “razed and burned the city, destroying much of the country’s treasured art and dispersing nearly all that remained.
“The stolen portrait figures, busts, and groups created in iron, carved ivory, and especially in brass, conventionally called the Benin Bronzes now displayed in museums around the world.”
From that time onwards, the British divided Nigeria into three parts.
There was the region that which was predominantly Muslim, the western region that was dominated by the Yoruba people and the eastern region where the Igbo were the predominant group.
In 1914, Lord Fredrick Lugard combined the northern and southern parts into the unified colony and protectorate of Nigeria.
In a book titled, Our White Fathers: Patriarchy and Shifting Gender Roles in Colonial Nigeria, 1900-1961 by Dr Li in 2014, notes the following:
“European imperialism, and especially British competition with France over access to new land and resources, led to an influx of European immigration to Nigeria.
“This British incursion, though it is common in our modern perception of European imperialism in Africa and the Americas, should not be seen as a ‘conquest’, but more as deluge.
“Through a flood of treaties and ‘pacts of friendship’ with the kingdoms and principalities of
the Niger Delta, the British came to overwhelm the region with new forms of economy, products to buy and sell, new methods of governance, cultural habits, and a new religion.”
Many Europeans made Nigeria their home.
However, the growing professional elite educated by the British became more and more conscious of the rights of Africans to rule Africa.
Faced with increasing resistance, the British were forced to accept that Africans were not to be ruled and dominated forever in Nigeria.
After the Second World War, there was more increasing resistance to colonial rule and Nigerian nationalism began to take control of the country.
Inspired by a new wave of African nationalism, both men and women of Nigeria fought back. As Dr Li has noted, “Nigerian women turned increasingly to political activity, staging boycotts, strikes, sit-ins, and the like.
“The push for Nigerian self-governance was paralleled by the ‘Women’s Wars’ of the 1920s—1950s which, indeed, was responsible for much of the growth of Nigerian national consciousness.
“The 1925 Nwaobiala Movement, 1929 Water Rate Demonstrations, the 1929 ‘Women’s War’, 1930 Anti-Tax Demonstrations, and the Pioneer Oil Mill Demonstrations of the 1940s—1950s, to name only a few, added to the surge in nationalistic pride and solidarity within urban and rural Nigeria.”
The National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), led by Nnamdi Azikiwe became very powerful and it won many seats in the National Congress of Nigeria. Initially, Azikiwe became Governor-General and he was triumphantly elected as the President of Nigeria in 1961.
Although the British settler community in Nigeria was not as large as that of other colonised countries in East and Southern Africa, the Europeans began their migration back to Europe after Nigerian independence.
Today, we speak more of Nigerians resident in London instead of the British who have settled in Nigeria.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here