The reminiscent about the fun I had the previous day at the first storey building, coupled with the fantasy I was about having at the Brazilian Barracoon and the point of no return kept my lips slightly spread as I smiled. The only thing which reminded me we were still inside our rickety red beast was its incessant jerking- it continued with this habit as a way of staging its own protest, so we needed to fuel it before jetting out.
It was 1pm and the sun refused to tune down the volume of its swag. On getting to the ₦500 mark, the nozzle refused to go further as expected. The attendant hung it in its rightful place before we drove out and headed straight to the legendary Chief Seriki Williams Abass slave Barracoon.
Everything happened like a dream as we each paid ₦200 while Femi- the Barracoon guide, was already on standby to unearth intriguing facts and figures for us.
The look on his face gave me that impression and I was glad as I beamed with smiles.
Without wasting much of our time, he welcomed us to the Chief Seriki Williams Abass Slave Museum.
While he spoke, I wrote.
Who was Chief Seriki Williams Abass?
Unlike the legendary Bishop Ajayi Crowther who was captured at age 12, Chief Serilki Abass Faremi was captured when he was 4 years younger, at a tender age of 8. He hailed from a popular village in Ogun state known as Aiyetoro.
After being captured by the Brazilians, he was sold to Mr. Williams – a slave trader who operated in Dahomeh (the present day Benin Republic). Abass had to work as a domestic slave for many years, and after observing his diligence and loyalty, his master gave him two options as this was a common practice at the time. The options were:
- He should continue working as a slave till he could buy his freedom.
- Join him in the slave business and gain freedom.
Like every other right thinking slave, he had to go for the second option. I myself would have vexed for him if he went for the first. My ordeal at the Mobee Slave Museum and the Badagry Heritage Museum informed my present state of thinking.
Being a slave wasn’t a funny Sh*t at all.
To cut short the missive, Seriki Abass Williams joined the slave business and soon became a beast- that which everyone respected. How? What made him so strong and influential? The answers were simple:
Since he was captured at a very tender age, he could read and write very well. In addition to this, he was multilingual as well. He could speak English, French, Spanish, Brazilian and Yoruba fluently.
Soon afterwards, Seriki Abass Williams became so wealthy that the more slaves he sold, the more materials he got from whites.
We were shown the items He got in return for slaves. They include ceramic plates, lanterns, cameras, kettles, gunpowder and so on. What caught my attention amongst all these was a giant umbrella which we were told was so precious that it was exchanged with 40 slaves.
I moved closer to have a feel of what the useless umbrella looked like, but on getting close, I was surprised as I found it almost impossible to lift the damn thing. If I describe it as gigantic, it would be as a result of not having the right word to use. This umbrella was really huge and heavy.
“He loved this umbrella so much”, continued Femi. “He loved it so much that he went out with it every time he wanted to go out for any function”.
“A slave was usually appointed to carry this umbrella for him”. I pitied the kind of slave that was saddled with such a responsibility because we were told such slave had to carry that umbrella until whatever time Chief Seriki would be done with whatever he was doing.
We were later shown different chains (including the waist chain – which was as heavy as a 5 year old) and other instruments (such as an iron drilling bite which was used to crest the name of the owner of the slave on the slave’s body just like a receipt).
Just when I thought I had heard enough, we were told that 40 slaves were kept in each cell room for 3 months before being shipped out to different parts of the world through the point of no return.
I started wondering what happened when the ladies started their menstruation, considering the smallness of those cells, but Femi smiled and told me the ladies had no option aside remaining inside the stuffy compartment. I shook my head when I couldn’t bear it any longer.
Note: In that compound there were formerly lots of such cells littered everywhere but only two (2) were left behind for reference sake.
Femi announced that was all we had to know about Chief Seriki Williams Abass and so I talked him into going with us to the point of no return which he agreed to after faking a hesitation.
He finally showed us the tomb of Chief Seriki Williams Abass who died on the 11th of June 1919. And just right beside his tomb was that of his last child.
I actually thought he must have something in common with the legendary king Solomon when we were told he had 128wives and 144 children.
*Super Striker Seriki* – Triple S… Lol
On our way out of the monument, a woman whom Femi explained was one of the numerous descendants of Chief Seriki Williams Abass passed by. According to Femi, she occupies one of the numerous cells within the large compound just like many others too.
I fastened my seat belt as Peter restored life back to the red beast. Segun and Femi were seated at the back seat as we all headed straight for the jetty by the lagoon to await a speed boat which would take us to Gberefu Island – the island where the point of no return is located.
THE POINT OF NO RETURN
While on board, we paid #150 each for the fare from Badagry to Gberefu Island.
On alighting, Femi explained that Gberefu Island is predominantly occupied by three (3) tribes: Egun, Ilaje and Agoyin.
Femi explained that the same way we used the boat was the same way the slaves also did. The big difference is that unlike us, they had chains on their hands, legs and of course necks. That’s not all, while we cruised using a speed boat (even when the one we used was already in its obsolete state), the slaves paddled their way down to the Island.
On hearing this, I seized the moment to thank God that I didn’t compete with other sperm cells for a chance to embrace any egg during the slave era.
While Femi narrated, we continued under the angry sun a journey which according to him will last close to 30 minutes.
Femi continued by telling us that any slave who died along the way was quickly thrown into the forest to be eaten by wild animals.
The sun wasn’t helping matters and when I complained, he called my attention to what I could have done if I had chains made of iron round my naked body, emphasizing that the more the sun beams, the hotter the iron gets. That got me mute straightaway.
The journey continued amidst discussions and laughter till we got to a place called ‘The Spirit Attenuation Well’.
The spirit attenuation well
“Directly opposite this well is a shed where the slaves would be made to rest,” Femi said before even telling us about the well. “Considering how far they would have journeyed, they had no option than to take the much needed rest”.
These slaves will then be made to drink from this well which unknown to them had already been poisoned with a memory loss charm which will affect them for the minimum of 3 months when they’d be on their voyage to different parts of the world.
Try watching this film titled ‘Kinte’. You’d understand me better.
Why the well was poisoned
I asked out of curiosity why the water had to be poisoned and Femi told me that initially, the water was normal but there came a time when slaves, in spite of the fact that they were being chained, would revolt against the ship officials since on every ship, there were usually only 15 of them to take care of over 3,000 slaves. The slaves saw this as an opportunity to escape.
So the whites complained to the Chiefs who usually sold to them and the Chiefs in turn decided to do something about it. Apparently, that something was the poisoning of the well. *fear black power
Curious again, I asked why the slaves couldn’t have revolted before drinking the water since they would still have been in their right senses before then, but he reminded me quickly how weak they must have been. He even said they will always want to drink from it considering the distance.
While he explained, I wondered what will happen to me should I drink from the well and like he heard me, he said he didn’t know if the poison is still potent but its better we moved ahead as the journey ahead was still a bit far.
On hearing this, I pitied the slaves once again, but what could a negro do to salvage the lives of slaves who had died many years before he was born aside renaming himself a Negro?
We finally got to the point of no return – a point where the slaves will be put into small boats which would then take them to awaiting ships very close to the shore. These ships will then take them to different destinations of the world.
Any slave who made it to this point never stepped his/her toes back to Africa. This is why it is being referred to as the point of no return.
“The whites stopped slavery many years ago, but it’s so disheartening that slavery still persists in Africa and amongst Africans. The only difference is just that this time around it’s the Blacks against themselves. Yes! Or how do we explain a situation where thousands of Africans die in the Mediterranean Sea yearly, just to voluntarily submit to slavery? Or a situation where an African sells all he/she has just because of greener pasture?”
Think about it.