Saturday, 11 April 2020

Origins of the Nigerian Army: Watercolour of a Nigerian Regimental Drummer in 1910

Nigerian Regimental Drummer in 1910. Credit: C.P.P. Lawson

This is a fascinating watercolour painting of a drummer of the early colonial army set up by the British as they consolidated their power and control over lands in what would become the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria.

After the destruction in 1897 of the Kingdom of Benin, the British sought to create a military forces that would not only complete the pacification of the remaining independent kingdoms and acephalous groups around the area, but also to guard areas within British spheres of influence from those controlled by the French. Although a multi-ethnic force, the Nigerian force was largely composed of Hausas from Northern Nigeria, and the Hausa language became the army’s lingua franca.

The body which was created in 1900 was the West African Frontier Force (WAFF). The objective was for the WAFF to garrison the English-speaking lands of Nigeria, Gold Coast and Sierra Leone. The force received royal recognition in 1928, when it became known as the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF).

The regiments created by the WAFF and the succeeding RWAFF would form the basis of the armies of the colonies after they attained independence.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer who is based in London, England.

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