Saturday, 27 April 2013

William Balfour Baikie (1825-1864)

Explorers like Ledyard,Lucas, Houghton, Hornman, and Mungo Parks all attempted to decipher  Western Africa but found it was no easy task. Death had other plans.

Africa was a riddle to outsiders and the biggest riddle was the River Niger! Dixon Denham and Hugh Clapperton had tried to cross it but failed. In 1830 the Landers Brothers (Richard and John) had managed to chart the course of the Niger from Bussa to the Delta but this was not enough because too many lives had been lost

In 1854 a noteable journey took place, when Dr William Balfour Baikie commanded an expedition up the Benue for more than three hundred miles without losing a single life; A new drug called Quinine was used for the first time. After this pioneering feat more ships started arriving, trade within the interior was increasing and the first missionaries landed.

In 1859 he set up base in Lokoja, it being the site of the model farm established by the Niger expedition in 1841 and abandoned on the death of most of the white settlers. After Baikie concluded a treaty with the Fula Emir of Nupe, he proceeded to clear ground and pave the way for a future city, which had almost 2000 representatives of the different tribes of West Central Africa trading in the first 3 years. After his death in 1864, Lokoja remained an influential trading post. The British then secured the district through the Niger Company and later became the Capital of the Northern Nigeria Protectorate when the British Government took over.

Interesting to note that in the Igbo language the word for “white man” is “Bekee” a corruption of his name and the name “Ala Bekee” means Britain, “Baikies Country”

Report on the countries in the neighborhood of the Niger 1863

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