I just finished reading this long (but totally worth it) piece by Dàmọ́lá Awóyọkùn, on the life of some of Nigeria’s founding fathers. Correctly, the piece begins by dismantling the myth that the triad of Awólọ́wọ̀, Azikiwe and Bello were the founding fathers of modern Nigeria, giving credit to where it is due to those who fought and survived slavery in order to birth a new country “bound in freedom.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Meanwhile as Crowther spoke about the horrors of slavery, a lady minimally dressed and too unassuming to deserve interruption of the narration came in and she listened to him with breathless attention. There was no voice speaking for the slaves in West Africa until the British rescued Crowther, gave him dignity, gave him culture and education and he became a voice, the voice. And when the Prince spread the map on the table wider to see Lagos, it blew out the candle light. As Crowther wrote in his autobiography, the Prince then said, “Will your Majesty kindly bring us a candle from the mantelpiece?” Then  it dawned on Crowther the unassuming woman who had joined them earlier on was Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom and Empress of India.
Wrote Crowther: “On hearing this, I became aware of the person before whom I was all of the time. I trembled from head to foot, and could not open my mouth to answer the questions that followed. Lord Russell and the Prince told me not to be frightened, and the smiles on the face of the good Queen assured me that she was not angry at the liberty I took in speaking so freely before her, and so my fears subsided.”   After bringing the candles, the Queen then asked about what she can do about the slave situation in Lagos, Ajayi Crowther said seize Lagos by fire by force.  Captain Labulo Davies, the second of the founding fathers, was a lieutenant on HMS Bloodhound the flagship of the fleet that bombed Lagos.

There are many stories of this nature that need to be told and told again of people whose efforts gave (and continues to give) us the freedom we currently enjoy, linking the colours of the present to the struggles and sweat of the past. Why is Ajàyí Crowther not on the Nigerian currency again?

Read the full report here.

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