Sir George Goldie
The existence of Nigeria would never have been what it is today but for the role played by a man who historians would later refer to as ‘the father of Nigeria’. The company he founded was instrumental in the formation of colonial Nigeria as it enabled the British Empire to establish control over the lower Niger which later became the southern Protectorate which was later merged with the Northern Protectorate.
Sir George Dashwood Taubman Goldie who descended from an old Scottish family was born on 20 may 1846. He was the son of a Lieut. Col JohnTaubman Goldie,speaker of the House of Keys. After his education at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich he held a commission in the British Royal Engineers for two years.
Goldie in Africa
He who played a major role in the founding of Nigeria. He journeyed the length and breadth of Africa, gaining far-reaching understanding of the continent. His first visit to the country of the Niger was in 1877.
Palm oil was highly profitable and highly sought after in the 19th century. It was used as an industrial lubricant for machinery by industrialized nations in Europe. By 1870, palm oil had replaced slaves as the main commodity of export. Hence there was intense competition among British companies and other European countries for preferential access to control the palm oil trade. This competition will lead to low profit earnings.
Goldie founds United African Company
The arrival George Goldie in 1877 changed the fortune of commercial British entities operating in the region. He pushed and argued for the amalgamation of the British firms into a single charted company. By 1879, the various companies had been merged to form a single entity, United African Company (UAC) with Goldie acting as the firm’s agent within the territory. The company soon took effective control of the lower Niger River and began to trade with African chiefs along the coast and soon after penetrated inland which was contrary to agreements earlier signed with the chiefs.
Royal Niger Company is Granted Charter
An attempt to procure a government charter failed in 1881, reason being that the firm was not adequately capitalized and its inability to oppose international rivalry. In 1882 UAC was bought up by National African Company (NAC), a company which Goldie had interest in. The company grew rapidly and by 1884 had bought up other trading post owned by other companies and thus maintained exclusive commercial access to the Niger-Benue region.
With this overwhelming leverage created by Goldie, Britain was able to resist French and German calls to make commercial access on the Niger River internationalized during negotiations at the 1884-1885 Berlin conference on African Colonization. George Goldie himself attended the meetings and argued for inclusion of regions controlled by NAC in British interest.
It increased its capital base from 125,000 to 1 million pounds to meet the requirements needed to be granted Charter
In July 1886 a charter was granted NAC which later changed its name to The Royal Niger Company (RNC) with Lord Aberdare as Governor and Goldie as Vice-Governor. It had its headquarters at Lokoja, which was the main trading port of the company. After the death of Lord Aberdare in 1895, Goldie assumed control of the company as its Governor. The charter authorized the company to administer the Niger Delta and all lands around the banks of the Benue and Niger rivers. Treaties were signed with more than 300- 400 chiefs of the Lower Niger and Hausa states making the Royal Niger Company the major trading company in the region.
Goldie’s Royal Niger Company faces Opposition
However the Local chiefs who had signed treaties with Royal Niger Company soon discovered the terms were not in their favor for the treaties were written in English. The likes of Jaja of Opobo, King Koko Mingi of Nembe were faced with encroachment inland from RNC. They could not trade with other partners whom they once traded with, except with the British company and at prices set by them. An attempt to resist by King Jaja failed; he was exiled to Saint Vincent. Though he was pardoned in 1891, he was poisoned with a cup of tea on his way back to his land.
King Koko however led an attack on the Royal Niger Company headquarters on 29 January 1895 in Akassa located in present day Bayelsa state. Though he lost 40 men; he captured 60 white men as well as lots of goods and ammunitions. He tried negotiating with the British with the hostages, this failed. He then had 40 of the hostages killed. The British Royal Navy responded by attacking the Brass people, burning the community to the ground. King Koko refused terms of settlement offered him by the British Parliament; rather he fled and was thus declared an outlaw with a bounty of 200 pounds placed on him. In 1898 he committed suicide in exile.
The company also had issues with Fula Princes in the then states of Nupe and Ilorin. Though military measures were taken to quell the disturbances it further created problems for the company.
Royal Niger Company Charter is Revoked
The crisis with locals in the Niger region created a negative report in the British public sphere. Also the company’s inability to compete against the state-supported protectorates of France and German was not favorable to them, so its charter was revoked on 31 December 1899. Thereafter the company sold its charter to the British Government for 865,000 pounds and transferred its territories to the British government on the January 1, 1900. This amount was the price the British paid to buy the territory which today is known as Nigeria.
Haven lost his Charter he travelled to South Africa in 1903-04 at the invitation of the Chartered Company of South Africa. He was among the Royal commissioners who participated in the war against the Rhodesians for self-governance in South Africa.
Sir George Goldie died in 1925 and was buried in London. The company Royal Niger Company became part of United Africa Company which came under control of Unilever in the 1930s.
So many people do not know him due to that odd reason that he personally and consciously made efforts to conceal his life activities. And according to some reports burnt his documents and compelled his family members not to disclose information about himself to anyone.
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