top of page
< Back
9.1c Campbell, Robert. A Pilgrimage to My Motherland: An Account of a Journey among the Egbas and Yorubas of Central Africa, in 1859‒60. New York: Thomas Hamilton, 1861. Transcript includes information on two elite emir’s slaves in Ilorin; also slave markets there, especially the Gambari market.

Transcriber’s Notes:

(1)On the author: Robert Campbell, a Jamaican-born journalist, was a member of the Niger Valley Exploring Party of 1859-60, which was organised by free Africans in the Americas to look at the possibility of settling black immigrants in West Africa. After visiting Ilorin and other areas, he settled with his family on the West African coast in what was then the British colony of Lagos, on the coast of Nigeria. He established the Anglo-African newspaper there and became a prominent resident of the Colony.

(2)On “Nasamo” (Nasama, Nasamu) and “Dangarri” (Sarkin Dongari, Dogari, Dungari): these were two major figures in Ilorin in the middle of the nineteenth century. Both were elite slaves of the emir.

(3)Campbell visited Ilorin after Bowen and Clarke did so. Both Bowen and Clarke met Nasamo’s wife; by the time Campbell met Nasamo he was a widower.

Chapter VI, “Miscellaneous”

61. Slaves are often found filling the most exalted positions: thus at Abbeokuta, all the king’s chief officers are his slaves, and they are among his most confidential advisers. On certain state occasions, one or other of these slaves is often permitted to assume in public the position of the king, and command and receive in his own person the homage and respect due to his master. So in Ilorin, Dungari, the prime minister of the king, daily sits in the market-place to receive the homage of the populace intended for the king, and yet Dungari, really the most important personage of the kingdom, and in rank even above the king’s own sons, is a slave. Instances of this kind might be afforded almost indefinitely.

Slaves are procured chiefly by conquest, sometimes in warfare as justifiable and even more so than the wars waged among civilized nations; at other times predatory, and undertaken solely for their capture. Not a few incur slavery as a penalty for crime. Some are sold to defray either their own debts, or it may be the debts of others for which they have become liable; and frequently children are kidnapped and sold away into distant parts./

62.  Although but a few years since every heathen town in this region abounded with slave-markets, there is now, doubtless through the influence of Christian civilization, nothing of the kind seen; and although it would be unsafe to say that slaves are not sometimes sold, yet if so, it is done secretly. The first and only marts we met for “this description of property,” were at Ilorin, a Mohammedan kingdom. There was there, besides several numbers exposed in different places throughout the town, a large market, the Gambari, almost exclusively devoted to their sale, and in which there were certainly not less than from five to six hundred. Christian America and Mohammedan Ilorin do with complacency what the heathens of Yoruba and Egba feel it a disgrace to practise.

At Ilorin we sojourned with Nasamo, the king’s sheriff, in whose company only we were permitted to walk about the city. On arriving at the Gambari market in one of our excursions, he pointed to the slaves and jocularly asked whether I wished to purchase. I embraced the opportunity to show him the wrong of making slaves of our fellows, and the great injury which it inflicted not only upon those who suffer, but also on those who practise it. Nasamo fills a high position in the state, and is the master of a large number of slaves; nevertheless he is himself a/

63. slave, and doubtless thought of his youthful home and dear parents from whom he was stolen. He admitted all I said, and observed that he wished there was no such thing; but while it existed it was better that they be exposed in the markets than that they should be sold privately, “for then bad men would seize the defenseless and our children, and we would not know where to find them.”

The Mohammedans do not sell their co-religionists into slavery: they sometimes hold them as slaves, but only when they were bought as heathens and converted after coming into their possession; but these are never after sold.

Chapter IX, “Ilorin”

101. [on arrival at Ilorin] We . . . hastened to the house of Nasamo, the sheriff or public executioner, to which we were directed by the advice of the Rev. Mr. Reid, who had not long before visited Ilorin . . . Nasamo, though evidently not less than seventy or eighty years old, is yet vigorous both in mind and physical constitution. He was the first important personage we met without a single wife: he had one who made him the father of three or four daughters, but since her death he has lived a widower. One of his daughters attends to his domestic affairs.

Early the following day we sent our interpreter to salute the king . . . The interpreter was conducted to Dungari, the king’s prime-minister, who received, and conveyed the message to his master./

102. Shortly after [this] we received a return salutation from his majesty, together with a large vessel of well-prepared native food, sufficient to feed both ourselves, and attendants for the day, also a similar present from Dungari. These presents were continued for the whole time we remained in the town . . .

Every day we were requested to prepare to visit the king, but were continually put off . . . till the fourth day, when we were led into his presence. This . . . occasioned us considerable inconvenience, for we were in the mean time virtually prisoners, not being permitted to go out of our uncomfortable quarters until we had first seen his majesty, and obtained his gracious consent to see the town; and even after this consent was obtained, we were only permitted to go out accompanied by Nasamo . . .

. . . .

104. We were placed about four yards in front of [the king], to the right of the company, except Dungari, who with our interpreter was on the right of us. Although the king understands Aku [Yoruba] well, and therefore could converse directly with our interpreter, yet the customs of his court require, that all that is said be communicated to him in Fulanee by Dungari, who as before remarked . . . is, except the king, the most important personage of Ilorin. He is by birth a Fulanee, but of the blackest type of Negroes . . .

. . . .

105. Accompanied by our soi-disantjailer, we made several excursions through the town . . ./

. . . .

106. To the Gambari market, allusion has already been made as the greatest depot for the sale of slaves, besides which, there were exposed for sale fine horses, donkeys, mules, horse-trappings, swords, leather work, silk clothing, tobes, antimony, salt, cola nuts, stationery, etc. etc. . . .

The day before we departed we received a special invitation to exhibit our curiosities—my watch, fowling-piece, etc. —to the king, which . . . induced the remark from Dungari: “Verily,/

107. if I had not a strong mind, I would embrace the customs and religion of such a people.”

bottom of page