Flora Louise Shaw Lugard.

A tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria online

. (page 34 of 41)
Online LibraryFlora Louise Shaw LugardA tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria → online text (page 34 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

liable to be reduced by illness and leave. The Ashantee
War, which had broken out in another portion of West
Africa, shortly claimed all the troops of the West African
Frontier Force that could be spared, and the South
African War drawing to itself all the best military acti-
vity of the nation, rendered it difficult to obtain efficient
officers for the remainder of the regiment. Almost single-
handed in every administrative department, the little group
who formed the government at Lokoja felt that they had
every reason during the first year of the administration
to wish for their own sakes to "go slow."

There was the machinery of administration to estab-
lish, of which the seat was temporarily fixed at Jebba,
where the military headquarters had been formed. There


was the transfer from the Royal Niger Company, the
taking over of their assets, and the work of assigning
to them their trading stations, to be attended to. There
was the neighbouring country to survey, in the hopes of
finding, within friendly territory, a more suitable and
central position in which the permanent seat of govern-
ment could be established, under healthier conditions
than those offered by either Lokoja or Jebba, in the
malarial valley of the Niger, and there were relations
to establish with such chiefs as might prove friendly in
the neighbourhood. While the High Commissioner and
the civil staff undertook the formation of Administra-
tive Departments, the duty of surveying the country
was committed to military expeditions, which, moving in
strength sufficient to protect themselves against disaster,
were strictly enjoined to avoid all occasion of conflict
with the natives, to endeavour as far as possible to win
the confidence of the people, and to submit reports on
the economic and geographical conditions of the country.
Three such parties were sent out to examine the country
lying to the north of the confluence of the Niger and
the Benue between the river Kaduna and the eastern
highlands of Bautchi.

Though Fulani emirs were at the time slave-raiding
in these districts, it was believed from information received
that the native tribes were friendly and would be willing
to welcome Europeans, and here it was thought likely
that a permanent administrative centre might be formed
in the southern part of the province of Zaria, bordering
upon the Kaduna river. In the absence of railroads,
necessities of transport rendered it impossible for any
position to be taken far from a navigable river. Some
little opposition was met by two of the survey parties,
who were obliged to reduce some intractable pagan tribes,
but no serious fighting occurred ; and from the geographical
and topographical reports of the surveys, it was, after
some discussion, decided that the site for the new seat
of government would be most favourably placed in the
neighbourhood of the native town of Wushishi, on the


river Kaduna. This river, often mentioned in the ancient
geography of the country, is one of the important rivers
of the Protectorate, and drains the south-western water-
shed to the Niger. It is navigable for a large portion
of the year by steamers, and during the dry season by
steel canoes. A small garrison was accordingly left at
Wushishi, and relations were in the meantime cultivated
with the southern states. The disturbed condition of
the country was such that, pending the establishment of
the new headquarters, no attempt was made to open
relations with the Fulani emirates of the north, otherwise
than by the despatch of conciliatory letters informing the
Sultans of Gando and Sokoto of the assumption of ad-
ministration by the British Government, and of the desire
of Great Britain to maintain friendly relations.

The southern provinces of Northern Nigeria, as they
spread on the south bank of the rivers from west to east,
are Ilorin, Kabba, Bassa, part of Muri, and part of Yola.
Imrnediately to the north of these, and with the exception
of Borgu, all on the northern side of the rivers, are —
taking them again from west to east — Borgu, Kontagora,
Southern Zaria, Nupe, Nassarawa, Bautchi, and the
northern half of Muri and Yola ; in all, eleven provinces
out of the seventeen of which Northern Nigeria is com-
posed. Of these provinces three only, Borgu, Ilorin, and
Kabba, were, in the first instance, effectively occupied by
the British. Jebba, situated on an island in the Niger
between the mainland of Ilorin and Kontagora, com-
manded the southern province.

On the northern banks the pagan populations welcomed
the advent of the British, but the Fulani emirs of Konta-
gora and Nupe soon removed all doubt as to their hostile
attitude. The British occupation was scarcely effected
before they were openly slave-raiding to the banks of
the river. Their combined armies laid waste their own
country from the Niger banks on the west and south to
the eastern highlands, and to the north as far as the
frontiers of Sokoto and Zaria. The Emir of Zaria, in
whose territory the site chosen for the future seat of


British government, near Wushishi, was situated, was
nominally friendly to Great Britain, but in the beginning
of July 1900 information reached the High Commissioner
at Jebba that Kontagora and Nupe had planned a com-
bined attack upon the little British garrison at Wushishi,
and he hurried there in person with reinforcements under
Major O'Neill. The situation became so acute that the
population began to desert Wushishi, and in order to
obtain supplies for the British troops and to protect the
villages which had been friendly, it became necessary to
erect some small forts in the neighbourhood, and to order
Major O'Neill to patrol the country. This task being
admirably performed, and the cavalry of Nupe and Konta-
gora defeated in a series of brilliant skirmishes, the country
was occupied by British troops for some twenty miles
south and east of Wushishi. Great loss was inflicted on
the slave-raiders in the encounters by which the occupa-
tion was effected, and the people, siding as always with
the party of success, crowded in thousands to the protected
villages for safety. A situation was created in which the
British Government already represented in the eyes of
the natives a power strong enough to protect them against
the scourge of the slave-raider.

But, as a matter of fact, with the body of the troops
still absent in Ashantee, the local administration did not
feel itself to be in a position to sustain suspended hos-
tilities. A British Resident had been placed at the friendly
court of Ilorin, where, while he worked hard at the intro-
duction of domestic reforms, he was made aware that
emissaries from Nupe and Kontagora were endeavouring
to induce the Emir of Ilorin to join with them in an
attempt to overpower the British and drive the white
anti-slaver out of the country. The position was dan-
gerous as well as delicate, and while the small force of
soldiers at Wushishi held their own, and even on one
occasion, somewhat rashly, drove the enemy before
them to the walls of the Nupe capital at Bida, the desire
of the High Commissioner was to avoid all but strictly
necessary fighting. The Resident at Ilorin, Mr. Carnegie,


by whose subsequent death the administniticjii lost a most
valuable officer, exerted all the tact and the pluck at his
command to keep things quiet in Ilorin.

During these months the High Commissioner at head-
quarters was pressing forward the organisation of the
administrative departments, creating a system for dealing
with the freed slaves, especially the slave children who
were liberated in the encounters with the slave-raiders,
endeavouring to get into touch with other provinces who
gave friendly indications along the river banks, and
evolving the first framework of local legislation.

The creation of a judicial system was among the
early necessities of the administration, and in these first
few turbulent months the seeds of future order were
sown. By legislative proclamation, British Supreme and
Provincial Courts were established, and the jurisdiction
of each defined. Two Cantonment or Magistrates' Courts
were also established in Lokoja and Jebba, and by a
Native Courts' proclamation the establishment of Native
Courts by British warrant was provided for in all pro-
vinces under British jurisdiction. This measure, necessary
for the province of Ilorin, was as yet hardly applicable
to pagan provinces, where native institutions had not
attained to the level of a judicial organisation. A slavery
proclamation forbade the enslaving of any person within
the Protectorate, and without directly touching the institu-
tion of domestic slavery, reaffirmed, under the new ad-
ministration, the abolition of the legal status of slavery,
which had been proclaimed by the Niger Company after
their Bida campaign. All children born within the Pro-
tectorate after April i, 1901, were declared free. Laws were
also issued against the importation of liquor and firearms.

The busy days as they passed pressed their own
conclusions upon the minds of the High Commissioner
and his staff, and the theory of a future policy was
formed under the light of daily practice. The High
Commissioner had the advantage of including in his
staff one or two of the servants of the Niger Com-
pany, whose knowledge of local conditions was in-


valuable. The Accounting Department, which he had
used in connection with the organisation of the West
African Frontier Force, became, with a little reorgani-
sation, the Treasury of the new administration. The
vessels which formed the material of a Marine Depart-
ment were taken over from the Niger Company. The
staff included the necessary doctors and legal officers
for the formation of Medical and Legal Departments.
The Public Works Department, after an unfortunate pre-
liminary delay, during which the European staff was left
almost without houses, was formed, under the direction
of Mr. Eaglesome, an engineer of Indian experience,
into a body of which the efficiency and economy soon
became a subject of considerable local pride. The rest
of the staff, loyally supported by a few white non-
commissioned officers and civil subordinates, was chiefly
composed of that fine type of young Englishmen who,
whether as soldiers or civilians, have it in their minds
to serve their country, to the best of their ability, in
some adventurous capacity which will take them out of
the common round of comfortable life. Their experi-
ence of Africa was mostly nil, but they had the training
of the public school, the army, and the university, which
fits men equally for the assumption of responsibility and
for loyal subordination to authority. They were ready
to go anywhere and to do anything, and with the few
inevitable exceptions, who were rapidly weeded out, repre-
sented, in the eyes of the High Commissioner, the very
best stuff of which the English nation is made.

He had in them the instruments that he wanted, and
he worked them without mercy, as hard as he worked him-
self. The staff was short-handed. There was three men's
work for every man to do, and during the initial stage
of the establishment of British authority in the country,
it is not too much to say that the whole of the staff,
civil as well as military, gave themselves with entire
devotion to their task. There was little of alleviation
or of pleasure in the early conditions. Miserable houses,
bad food, a malarial climate, and ceaseless responsibility.


formed the accompaniment of their daily existence. With
the inveterate determination of Englishmen to have
some form of sport, a polo ground was among the ear-
liest of the public institutions established by the soldiers
at headquarters. But it was the work itself which fur-
nished the real attraction of the life, and had the small
body of Europeans who formed the first British staff
been polled for their opinions, there would not probably
have been found one who wished to turn back from the
task which grew day by day under their hands.

In view of the pessimism which appears in some
quarters to be gaining ground with regard to the capacities
of the English race, I may perhaps without indiscretion
quote a passage from one of the latest of my husband's
despatches, which shows at least how in his opinion the
staff working under him have sustained the promise of the
first year's performance. " There are no words of praise,"
he writes under date of August 1905, "that I can find too
strong to describe the indefatigable efforts and the enthu-
siasm for their task which has been shown by the Political
Staff By their ceaseless devotion to duty they have not
only increased the revenue in the way that I have shown,
but have brought order, peace, and security out of chaos,
have established an effective judicial system, and have
substituted progress and development for misrule and
stagnation." This is satisfactory reading for those who
doubt whether the Englishmen of to-day are capable of
the same achievements as their fathers, and it must be
counted as not the least among the advantages of the
colonial development of the Empire that by its very
roughness it gives opportunity for the exercise in indi-
viduals of qualities which under less stimulating circum-
stances might perhaps lie dormant through the whole
course of a too easy life. The names, alas, of more than
one of the first small Nigerian group are engraved now
upon tombstones on that border of the Empire which
they helped to make. They live in the memory of good
service done, and their work accomplished is, as they
would have wished it to be, their monument.




At the end of December 1900 the return of the troops
from Ashantee reheved the position of some of its

The first thing- to be done was evidently to bring
hostiHties with Kontagora and Nupe to an end. An
expedition in force was immediately organised, which
marched against the combined armies of the emirs, and
was entirely successful. The town of Kontagora was
captured, and the emir barely effected his escape, flying
with a few followers to the north. It was observed
that on their march to Kontagora the troops passed
through an absolutely depopulated country. The Emir
of Kontagora was one of the worst examples of Fulani
chiefs who raided the peasantry of their own provinces
for slaves. This emir, at a later period, was captured
by the British, and when remonstrated with by the
High Commissioner, and urged to abjure slave-raiding
and to accept British protection, he replied with graphic
force: "Can you stop a cat from mousing? When I
die I shall be found with a slave in my mouth." His
downfall was received by the population of the province
with great joy, and the event was made the occasion of
a public conciliatory move towards the Emir of Sokoto,
who, as suzerain of Kontagora, was invited by the High
Commissioner to nominate a successor to the deposed
Ibrahim. Sokoto did not respond, and for some time
the throne of Kontagora remained empty.

In Nupe, where the result of British victories was

equally complete, the High Commissioner took his stand



upon the condition of affairs created by the prcvi<jus
victory of the Company. The emir driven out by them
had returned, as has been already mentioned, and ousting
the heir placed upon the throne by the Company, had
ever since maintained a condition of hostility to the
British. This emir, Abu Bekri, now fled, like his col-
league of Kontagora, to the north. The Hi_L;h Com-
missioner did not call upon Gando, to whom Nupe was
tributary, to nominate his successor, but himself took
the initiative and reinstated the emir selected by the
Company upon the throne.

But if the High Commissioner was desirous that the
lesson of the previous war should not be lost upon the
native dynasty of Nupe, he drew also his own moral
from the experience. On this occasion there was to
be no more of conquest without permanent assertion of
British influence.

The reinstatement of the ousted Emir of Nupe was
made the opportunity of a preliminary declaration of
British policy. It was pointed out to the people of
Nupe and Kontagora that two of the most powerful
Fulani emirs had been deposed, because, after repeated
warnings, they would not desist from laying waste the
whole country and carrying off the people as slaves. At
the same time no looting and no destruction of the
country had been permitted by British troops. Both the
cities which were the Fulani capitals had been preserved,
and the loss of life had been confined entirely to the
Fulani cavalry employed as slave-raiders. The peaceful
populations had in no case suffered from British arms.
Nevertheless, though individual emirs had been deposed,
it was not the intention of the Government to overthrow
Fulani rule as such, and to substitute rulers of another
race. On the contrary, it was the intention of the British
Government to maintain existing institutions, including
the rule of the Fulani, established now for a hundred
years, but to insist on such reforms as should restore
the administration of the country to its ancient purity.


and bring its customs into conformity with the principles
of justice and humanity.

The emir-elect of Nupe, upon the suitability of whose
appointment the opinion of the native council was pre-
viously taken, having accepted British conditions, was for-
mally installed at Bida, before a full parade of British troops
and a great assemblage of his own people, in February
of 1 90 1. He has since — under the guidance at first of
Major Burdon, one of the officers transferred from the
service of the Niger Company, and specially selected
for the duties of first Resident of Nupe, because of his
known sympathies with the Fulani people — acted with
the utmost loyalty towards the British Government.
Nupe has prospered exceedingly under the new system,
and the emir's sons are now being educated at a school
established in Bida by the Church Missionary Society,
where they are learning, at their father's keenly expressed
desire, to speak English.

As a result of the subjugation of Kontagora and Bida
their great organised slave-raids were brought to an end,
the friendship of Zaria was confirmed, and there was
a pacification of the neighbouring pagan tribes. Other
provinces along the river bank indicated their readiness
to open trade routes, and to accept British Residents,
with the garrison which the presence of a Resident im-
plied ; and though the limited numbers of the British
staff rendered it impossible immediately to take full
advantage of these favourable dispositions, the High
Commissioner was able to report by the end of the
financial year 1 900-1 901 that the British Government
was in effective possession of the eight provinces of Borgu,
Ilorin, Kabba, Kontagora, Nupe, Zaria, Nassarawa, and

Throughout these provinces the Government endeav-
oured as far as possible to bring into operation the policy
which it had declared of utilising and working through
the native chiefs, while it insisted upon their observance
of the fundamental laws of humanity and justice. Resi-


dents were appointed whose primary duty it was to
promote this poHcy by the estabhshment of native courts
administering restored native laws, but in which bribery
and extortion and inhuman punishment were to be
abolished. Provincial courts, in which the British Resi-
dent acted as magistrate, were instituted in each province
to deal with non-natives and to enforce the laws of the
Protectorate, especially those dealing with slave-raiding,
slave-trading, importation of liquor and firearms, and ex-
tortion from the people by terrorism and a false use of
the name of the Government, which was among natives
one of the most frequent and at the same time mis-
chievous offences with which the British administration
had to deal. The authority of the emir was supported
by an insistence on the part of the British administration
that lawful tribute, with the exception of that taken in
slaves, should be paid.

Thus, by the beginning of 1901, the south-western
portion of the Protectorate had frankly accepted British
rule. The turbulent Fulani emirates, which had been
disposed to challenge it in that district, had been con-
quered, and while the sovereign rights of Great Britain
had in this way been placed on a basis which every
native could understand, the occasion had been made to
serve as a great public illustration of the intended policy
of the British Government to disturb as little as possible
the existing institutions of the country. The pacification
of the belt of country between the Niger and the eastern
highlands had been effected, and the only difference which
had become markedly apparent to native eyes from the
change of administration, was that henceforward pagans
as well as Mohammedans were to live in the enjoyment
of human rights. As a sign of this, slave-raiding had
already been brought to an end in the territory under
British rule.

Correspondingly with the cessation of slave-raiding
trade routes had begun to open themselves through
the country. While the operations of the slave-raiding


Emirs of Kontagora and Nupe remained unrestricted,
trade was of course impossible in the districts over which
their armies ranged, for it was the practice of the pagans
to retahate upon the slave-raiders by attacking all small
caravans. After the emirs had been brought into
obedience and slave-raiding stopped, it became the duty
of the British administration to put down with an equally
firm hand the habits of brigandage of the pagan tribes.
For this purpose it was occasionally necessary to apply
force, but even in the early stages of the administration
it was found that capable officers did more towards effect-
ing the pacification of the country by getting into touch
with the people, than could be effected by many punitive
expeditions, and the High Commissioner looked forward
to superseding military occupation at an early date by
an efficient system of civil police. Not only had the
trade routes to the south from Kano and Zaria been
rendered unsafe by the slave- raiding of Nupe and Kon-
tagora and the retaliation of the pagan tribes ; it was
also found that the caravan tolls extorted by the southern
emirs had been of the most excessive and onerous de-
scription. By stopping the slave-raiding of the Fulani,
keeping the pagans in order, and lessening the tolls, the
roads on the western side of the Protectorate were ren-
dered safer and more attractive, and trade began to im-
prove. New stations for European trade were opened
by the Niger Company on the Kaduna, and from Borgu
to Bautchi the increase in local trade was even in the
first year remarkable.

But while this condition of things in the eight pro-
vinces which had been occupied was satisfactory, the
inadequacy of the numbers of the British staff to deal
with the rising tide of work thrown upon the adminis-
tration became ever more apparent. With the removal in
some districts of Fulani rule each petty village began to
claim its ancient land, and to show disposition to raid its
neighbours in support of its claim. The need of a survey
and land settlement was urgent. More Residents were


wanted to maintain the moral influence acquired in the
provinces. Police and revenue officers were also needed.
The housing of Europeans and the erection of public
offices in the new settlement, of which the site was
selected at a spot called Zungeru, within ten miles of
Wushishi, on open ground rising from the Kaduna, had
become a matter of some importance, and for the opening
year of 1901-1902 the necessity of some increase in the
estimates to provide for these pressing requirements was

The continuance of the South African War still gave
no relief to the exchequer at home. The inclination of
the public was still such as could only be interpreted by
the Government as a desire to "go slow" in West Africa,
and still affairs upon the spot continued to urge the
necessity for the assertion of British rule.

Five more provinces were in a condition in which
the danger of abstaining from interference was greater
than the inconvenience of interferincr.

Online LibraryFlora Louise Shaw LugardA tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria → online text (page 34 of 41)