The setting was in Badagry, a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) designated Slave Trade Route and widely noted as a key port in the export of slaves to the Americas. A walk through the semi-urban historic town revealed a vivid reflections of the place the town occupies in the tragic history of Slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Interestingly, the community boasts of several slave trade museums, most of which are private, established by families whose forefathers were direct victims of slavery or collaborators of slave traders.
Badagry was, no doubt, a perfect location to commemorate the International Day of remembrance of victims of slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade commemorated every 25 March. The United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos, in partnership with African Rennaisance Foundation, organised series of activities to mark the day. These included Arts Exhibition on the 2015 theme: ‘Women and Slavery’; screening of ‘They are we’ film; students’ briefing; awareness rally; slave dance/cultural display and visits to two Slave Trade Museums and the Slave Port.
“This year’s Day of Remembrance, according to the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, “pays particular tribute to the many women who suffered and died during the slave trade. … Women slaves played a key role in maintaining the dignity of their communities. Too often their leadership and brave resistance have been underestimated or forgotten.”
Students, youths and women clad in UNIC- ‘Remember Slavery’ branded T-shirts and Headbands/Bandana, had gathered at the Badagry Town Hall as early as 8.30 in the morning ready to storm the streets of the ancient town to sensitise the inhabitants about the gory history of slavery and the need to avoid modern slavery. Singing anti-slavery songs, the crowd snaked through the streets and made the first stop at Mobee Slave Trade museum rich in relics of slavery such as the ankles and neck shackles; the mouth locks; the Canons; etc. A student of Methodist Grammar School, Badagry who attempted to carry the neck shackles screamed on realising the weight which the curator said to be about 100kg. The students were shocked about the fact that it was meant to be put on a human’s neck.
The next stop was at Seriki Faremi Williams Abass Slave Museum where the students and other participants inspected the slave cells, and had the ankle shackles demonstrated. Recounting his experience after volunteering to be ankle-locked with the Executive Director of African Rennaisance Foundation Hon. Babatunde Mesewaku, the National Information Officer of UNIC, Oluseyi Soremekun, said it was physically painful and mentally disturbing as there was no freedom of movement, no freedom from violence and very traumatic. When the ankle locks were removed few minutes after, it left a ‘Bangle mark’ on the ankles.
At the briefing and discussion session attended by the paramount ruler of Badagry, His Majesty, De Wheno Aholu Menu-Toyi I (OFR,LL.D, D.Litt, JP), The Akran of Badagry Kingdom who was represented by His Honour, High Chief (Dr) Owheton Ahumbe II, the Agoloto of Badagry, the message of the UN Secretary General (SG) was delivered in English and Yoruba Languages by UNIC Lagos National Information Officer.
In his message, Ki-moon noted that ‘tragically, slavery has still not ended’ as it ‘stubbornly persists in many parts of the world, in the form of forced labour, trafficking, sexual exploitation or captivity in slavery-like conditions.’ He observed that those despicable practices could not exist without deep-seated racism; and underscored the importance of educateing people about the Transatlantic slave trade and how intolerance could easily shift from an attitude into acts of hatred and violence.
The SG therefore, called for ‘a renewal of our commitment to end modern slavery, so our children will live in a world free of racism and prejudice with equal opportunity and rights for all.’
Speaking, the Executive Director of African Rennaisance Foundation, Hon. Babatunde Mesewaku, provided a historical insight into Slave Trade in Badagry and urged the students and other participants to remember slavery and shun all acts capable of bringing back the sad memory of the slave trade era.
In his address to the audience, His Majesty, De Wheno Aholu Menu-Toyi I, The Akran of Badagry Kingdom, urged parents who were in the habit of giving out their children to other people to raise because of poverty should desist from such act as those children ended up being subjected to slavery-like conditions.
De Wheno Aholu Menu-Toyi I, The Akran of Badagry Kingdom, urged parents who were in the habit of giving out their children to other people to raise because of poverty should desist from such act as those children ended up being subjected to slavery-like conditions.