Nigeria and Jamaica A Short Essay
The story of Nigeria and Jamaica as shown by the slave trade.
1. Nigeria and its character in the African Comity
I take the view Nigeria is the lead African Country – why?
- Its size, population and natural resources including her oil fields.
- Its history as a British Colony under the Nigerian political service – Independence in the 1960’s and relatively secure constitution presently.
- Its experience of civil war and reconciliation since the Biafra conflict in the late 1960’s.
- Finally its balance of Islamic influence in the North (the Hausas) and the non-Islamic and Christian people to the South (Yoruba and Ibos)
Nigeria can therefore command its own political power and pan-African appeal. The Republic of South Africa has lost its way a little since Mandela retired. It may return to the forefront. Egypt and Libya have been racked by civil unrest. Sudan an enormous country is still recovering from civil war. East Africa has potential but currently has no lead nation. Congo has unrest for some time. Angola and Mozambique have been quiet for a period. Zimbabwe has to find a more bi-partisan regime and leader to come forward as a country. The Western Saharan nations (French colonies) do not have the populations and economic might to challenge this lead role in the Organisation of African States. The countries of Ethiopia, Somaliland and Eritrea have undergone severe turmoil over the past decades. Nigeria is reluctant to stake its claim to lead Africa but without doubt when given the opportunity it will do so. The recent outbreak of fanatical violence in the Western Sahara would have been best dealt with by Nigerian Armed Forces who were in the region. The intervention of French and British troops gave the wrong message – it was an African matter for Africa to resolve through the OAS and Nigerian military clout. Nigeria’s military are well officered and have been since Independence.
2. Jamaica and its history
Across the Atlantic and far smaller in population and territory: Jamaica may trace its origins to Nigeria and the slave trade of the 17th Century to the 19th Century. Proud of its cricket and athletes Jamaica has a history going back to Cromwellian puritanism in the 17th Century. The abhorred trade was not abolished until the first half of the 19th Century. The Jamaicans are easy going and relaxed – they can take the rough with the smooth as their forbears did in the height of slave labour.
3. The History of Slavery – How do we draw these strands together?
The Nigerian Africans were in all probability not sold into slavery but press ganged into it. Either way they had no choice as the British Ship Captains were going to enforce their capture and shipment to the West Indies. The Chieftains had no soldiers or armies to oppose the enslavement of their peoples whether they wanted to challenge it or not. It is likely at very least they were blackmailed to accept transportation of their tribe’s people. More likely these Africans were press ganged and the Chiefs were powerless to oppose. We know the British Sea captains called the Africans savages, which strongly suggests these slaves were ill-treated and forced into slavery against the wishes of the Chiefs as the very words presuppose. There are historical records which corroborate this interpretation. The Sea captains had no respect for the savages as they named them. Once the surviving slaves got to Jamaica life did not improve until the late 19th Century and then even more with independence from Britain in the mid-20th Century. Jamaica is still a somewhat tumultuous country and has been since Independence.
4. Conclusion (the Jamaicans in England)
This is in the extraordinary fortitude and long suffering on the faces of the Jamaicans today. They had to put up with racial prejudice in the UK in the 1960’s and 1970’s and Enoch Powell’s vitriol in the late 1960’s. They would not be beaten or bowed and never retaliated against the British Caucasian race. Their extraordinary dignity and patience in the face of such hostility is exemplary to all. We are truly privileged they have made their homes in our midst. Thankfully our law makers made such racial offensiveness illegal and actionable by the Race Relations Commission now the Equality Commission. These extraordinary Christian qualities of self-control and the great generous contribution of the Jamaicans to our national life, our professions and the NHS are outstanding. I argue they would have had just cause to be antagonistic to the British because of the trade in slaves – and then racial antipathy amongst the British to them. On the contrary the experience of slavery and modern day racial slights aimed at Jamaicans they turned into the charity that bears all things. Nigeria was the beginning and the place from where the slaves went across the seas, Jamaica was the staying post and unlike the old slave trade when the sea captains brought back the rum, treacle and molasses to England’s ports, now the passenger ships in the late 1950’s and 1960’s brought the far greater riches of the Jamaicans themselves. We are a thousand times richer for their arrival on our shores and they are of Nigerian stock in centuries gone by. I reiterate the Jamaicans and Nigerians have truly enriched our nation. Nigeria and Jamaica will always be one and now Britain joins them – the inseparable triumvirate – “History is now and England” (T.S. Elliot). Our nation may breathe again I exclaim thanks to Jamaica and Nigeria.