In The Guardian newspaper publications of Jan. 15 1897 of an Interview with Sir A. Jephson regarding the Benin Massacre, he had said : ‘.. if Major Gallwey had been on the spot instead of being engaged in an expedition I am sure that he would have used all his influence to prevent an unarmed expedition starting out for Benin city. If it was necessary for anyone to go there, Major Gallwey should have gone himself, he being the only Protectorate officer who has ever seen the king.’ This surely shows great confidence in Major Gallwey’s integrity and honesty back home in Britain.To put things in real perspective, Mr J.H Swainson based in Benin at that time and an agent of Mr. James Pinnock of Liverpool told Reuter’s Liverpool representative on Jan 13th 1897 that before the treaty of 1892 was signed, the king had kept himself and the then Captain Gallwey waiting for two days whilst he deliberated and made enquiries about their intention and appropriate response to this. Mr Swainson then went to say that the king had sent for him as he was known to His Majesty to ask him all about Captain Gallwey, and whether he should see him. His Majesty trusting Mr Swainson’s word, saw the Captain the very next day signing the treaty in front of hundreds of people who knew and trusted the same Mr Swainson on account of he lived amongst them and so could be regarded as a brother.
Unbeknown to His Majesty and the Benin people, Mr Swainson had all along been spreading falsehood about them and their city, calling this ‘the City of Blood.’ Furthermore, after signing the treaty which they believed was extension of friendship and favourable trading terms, Mr Swainson and Captain Gallwey had made up stories about the King asking them to witness human sacrifices, which they claimed His Majesty had just ordered as result of signing the treaty. Moreover, when they had been allowed to walk through the town they had seen dead bodies, body parts, corpses some headless or armless or otherwise mutilated which the king had been sacrificing.These stories they related back home to the press and peoples of Great Britain who did not know that the King never orders human sacrifices as he was not the high priest; that human sacrifices was a big deal that could not be taken lightly, that no one in their right mind would boast about such a thing to foreigners, that leaving dead bodies about the town would have scared the living daylights out of the citizens who would have rebelled against the King and his high priest.
Fact: Sacrifices if they took place were carried out by the high priest in the alter of deity shrines; animals such as chickens, goats or dogs were mostly used, humans lives were very costly; so must have been very rare.Fact: the Benin people are a very clean race, they would not have stood for dead bodies littering their city. They also had sophisticated science knowledge of disease and how these spread.
Fact: Mr Swainson was trusted and welcomed by the Benin people into their city; even His Majesty sought his opinion on how he should receive other white people. This was obviously a misguided trust.Captain Gallwey became Major Gallwey after signing the treaty that never was. From the confidence expressed about his trustworthiness above by Sir Jephson, it looks like he did succeed in taking both the Benin and the British people for a ride, how very clever; promotion and all!
Oba ghato; Okpere!
Long live the king!