Seriki Williams Abass: The Former Slave Who Later Became A Renowned Slave Merchant in Yorubaland

Seriki Williams Abass was a renowned slave merchant during the 19th century and a former paramount ruler of Badagry in present day Nigeria.

Seriki Williams Abass: The Story of a Former Slave Who Later Became A Renowned Slave Merchant in Yorubaland

Seriki Abass, born Ifaremilekun Fagbemi in Joga-Orile, Ilaro, Ogun State, was taken captive as a slave by a Dahomean merchant named Abassa during a conflict with the Egba. He was later sold to a Brazilian merchant named Mr. Williams and taken to Brazil as a domestic servant, where he learned to read and write.

Despite the harsh conditions of slavery, Abbass was able to accumulate some wealth and buy his freedom. After gaining his freedom, Seriki Williams Abass returned to Nigeria on the condition of working with Mr Williams as a slave trade business partner.

When he first arrived in Nigeria, he made his home in Ofin, Isale-Eko in the Lagos Colony before deciding, in the 1830s, to move to Badagry because of the thriving slave trade there and the city’s proximity to Gberefu Island (the point of no return).

Seriki kept in touch with Mr. Williams, his former master in Brazil, who got him started by sending his European slave trading acquaintances to work with him.

In Badagry, through the support of his European former master, Mr. Williams, Seriki Williams Abass also built his first Barracoon (an enclosure in which black slaves were confined for a limited period).

Seriki Williams Abass: The Former Slave Who Later Became A Renowned Slave Merchant in Yorubaland
The Brazilian Barracoon of Seriki Abass. Image credit ©Medium/@ambrune

After his first barracoon was built, Abass became a middleman and facilitator of the slave trade. In keeping with this position, his Barracoon in Badagry was expanded to accommodate 40 slave cells where men and women were kept separately, until they were ready to be shipped to Europe and America through the point of no return on nearby Gberefu Island.

Abbass’ success as a slave trader was due in part to his knowledge of the Yoruba language and culture. He was able to establish trust with Yoruba chiefs and negotiate favorable terms for the purchase of slaves.

When the trade in slaves was abolished, Abass quickly adjusted his interests, and he became a general merchant who traded directly with the Brazilians and German merchants such as G.L. Gaisei, Witt and Busch.

Serik’s wealth brought him respect and made him hold various top political and organizational positions, including Seriki Musulumi of the whole of the western Yorubaland following his induction in 1897 by Chief lmam Yusuf; before he was later appointed as the Paramount Ruler of Badagry and the Western District in 1913 through the Indirect Rule.

Seriki Williams Abass: The Former Slave Who Later Became A Renowned Slave Merchant in Yorubaland
The Final Resting Place of Chief William Abass, The Former Slave Who Later Became A Renowned Slave Merchant in Yorubaland.. Image credit ©Medium/@ambrune

Seriki Williams Abass, died on 11 June 1919 and was buried in his residence known as the Brazilian Barracoon of Seriki Abass.

Mr Madu
Mr Madu
Mr Madu is a freelance writer, a lover of Africa and a frequent hiker who loves long, vigorous walks, usually on hills or mountains.

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