Selected Correspondence: The Royal Niger Company
GEORGE TAUBMAN GOLDIE AND FREDERICK LUGARD
Issued to the Hausas who were quite contented, and chaff and laughter prevailed, not a trace of sulkiness. Then the Yorubas were called, and told that the cloth was for 5 days-they had lost yesterday’s ration by refusing. They replied that they wanted a regular fixed ration to last for so many days-a head of cowries per week per man for instance. What was the buying price was nor my business. I told them that it was my business to provide against starvation, to give the men the food necessary and no more.
They could take the cloth or leave it as they preferred. They got up and went away in a body. I told the Headman to let it be known that any single individual could have his cloth if he came for it-there is apparently no response.
What these 167 men intend to do I have not an idea. I wish that sufficient goods had been sent that I might not have to cut corners so fine. M’last issue was a piece of Baft at 3/3 (14yards of the cheapest possible cloth) for a man for
48 days (Viz. 8 men for 6 days). This issue is at the rate of a piece for 40 days
And it really is barely sufficient. Yet even thus we consume a bale a day and more. As it is 167 men out of 281 are in a state of mutiny.
I sent Joseph at daybreak today to the Liman, to ask about the ‘King’s water’ viz. his present of welcome, which was to have come yesterday and didn’t. Here are 3 or 4 days gone and nothing done, and I am very worried about it. He returned to say that the King had been very vexed that his order of yesterday had not been carried out, and that assuredly the present would come today. If the people did not bring it quickly he would send to their fields and seize it. He had heard of the man complaining to me about theft from his fields, and how I had given him a bit of doth, and how the Crier had cried round my camp, and how I had caught a man and flogged him, and he was astonished and said that it was indeed true that Europeans were quite different in their methods from other people, and i t was wrong of him to [keep] such people waiting. Joseph also added that these princes and people who have been to see us with presents are the very people who opposed our coming! This is all very satisfactory talk-Inshallah the event will prove equally so.
Later. The ‘King’s water’ has at last arrived-viz. a wretched-looking sheep and 35 very medium yams-a very different present from Kaiama’s! He sent me a very large cow, 4 goats, corn, yams (daily) &c. and lastly a horse. However, I replied that I was very pleased indeed, and now the King had sent the ‘water’ I knew I was welcome to the country. It was the custom of every country that, after the guest had received his welcome, he went to pay a formal visit, and to render his thanks &c. But I had heard that the King feared to see me personally therefore his messengers must return my thanks for me, and ask him to appoint someone to whom I might speak of the matters which had brought me here-either the Liman alone, or better still the Liman and some other chiefs.
At the same time I sent to tell the Liman, and to say that as his interview with me was secret 1 had not divulged its purport, but had given this reply and now he had better get the King to appoint him as his representative. I also asked him to come and see me openly as the King’s present had now come.1t appears there was much discussion around the King; some wanted the Liman alone to deal with me, others desired several chiefs should come. As the argument was protracted the Liman could not come to see me.
The Nupes and Yorubas have caved in and taken their rations, but 1 am vexed to hear that the Hausas too-those from Lokoja- are clamouring for advances from their pay, or a higher ration. I am more bothered about them than about these cackling Nupes. If l say the cloth is only to last 4 days instead of 5 it means a whole bale expenditure. Then these return presents to ‘Princes’ and ‘Princesses’, leading councillors, Magajis &c. &c. run away with so much. In this country it is the custom (a custom the Niger Company have created and fostered on the Niger I am told) that if a man brings a present he expects double its value-if he be a ‘Prince’ he probably expects 6 times the value.
I have cut this down to the narrowest possible limits, but when a big chief (as here) sends a fowl and a dozen yams one can’t give him less than a ‘piece’ of the commonest doth-viz. the value of 40 men’s rations!
So again in the matter of the C.S.T. They are entitled to 6 oz. of meat a
Day = 17 1/2 lbs. of meat-a goat or sheep of the country is barely the ration of clear meat, and that would cost 5 or 6 heads. That is to say that I should have to give each man of the C.S.T. the value of 3 rations a day!-1have declined this in toto.
I give them the sheep and goats and oxen which we receive as presents, keeping only the very small ones (sucking kids &c.) and the fowls for ourselves. Thus the whole expedition is on the very minimum of ration which is adequate and just, the presents are cut down to the very least 1can possibly give. We practically spend nothing on the cookhouse, except to buy occasionally a little country grain for our bread or a bunch of bananas; I am positive in my mind that no such economy has been practised before.
I use every possible expedient to reduce the number of loads, and have employed women and temporary carriers from village to village &c.at the cost of a very great deal of extra work and anxiety, and have sent back all the spare men-yet our expenditure to date is 34 loads of cloth and this in spite of the enormous reduction in the ration scale which I made since leaving Kaiama-a reduction which I have already had to alter back partly, and which will vanish and more than vanish as we go south and come upon Lagos goods, or West towards Salaga. Besides cloth must be issued in small quantities for clothing.
It is a bale a day roughly (for the expedition was rationed for 7 days at starting) and we had 145 bales to start with, including the expensive cloths which will not realise their value in food purchase. AU this I have written about and asked for a caravan of cloth to be sent to meet me at Kwampanissa. If it does not come the expedition cannot last more than 5 months or so, I fear.1fit does come we can go on for the 10 months arranged. This matter worries me considerably.
The crux of the whole difficulty about food &c. seems to me to arise from the following circumstances. The men composing this expedition are mostly men engaged at Lokoja. These are not regular porters-(eithe Hausas, Yorubas or Nupes) they are all discontented and mutinous because
(1) I will not make them a fixed allowance for food regardless of how cheap or expensive it may be where we are. If l acceded it would of course mean that so long as food was cheap the men would get double or treble rations, and if there was a dearth of food they would come crying to me for more. Such a system is impossible, and the regular travelling porters engaged at Jebba know that, and say not a word and give no trouble.
(2) Because I will not give them a portion of their pay here on the march in cloth. If l did that of course the expedition would collapse for want of goods to buy food. The reason that these men were engaged appears to be that there was a general strike among the regular men, consequent on some extreme bitterness at Mr. Wallace’s settlement after the Sokoto expedition. I found this to be the case when I sent Omoro and Derrie to Langwa to enlist some.
They said, I am told, that they would never serve the Company again. I thought of sending back every spare man I could from here, under charge of the returning envoys from Kaiama. I might have got rid of some 24 porters, and 6 donkey and horse-men, say 30 in all-but I do not think shall attempt it now.
It would probably lead to trouble, and as the men are at the moment discontented, many would be clamouring to go back, or if they are contented those selected to go and their friends would be a trouble as they considered they are engaged for the whole expedition. I should have to give these men at least 10 or 12 days ration to reach Jebba, and probably by that time we should be in Kwampanissa. However I shall see how things go.