On Fernando Po, it was a dispersed set of touts that laterally relayed the worker's dash, constructing but also cracking open the edifice of imperial bondage on the final African shores of the Spanish empire.
9) On Fernando Po, the dash--the cash that employers intended to advance as a debt trap--left colonial capital in retreat, trying to fend off escalations on a front line populated by reenganchas--the 're-hooked' labourers signing on to a further contract.
Peonaje on Fernando Po was akin to Igbo precolonial 'debt-slavery' (Uchendu 1979: 128) in that the Spanish promised an in-built but ill-defined expiry date to a form of contractual bondage partly held together by a debt relation.
Three broad figures populated the ranks of first-time labourers in early Francoist Fernando Po.
Archibong, a political activist in Calabar, sums up the mood among these braceros, once they realized what type of exchange had just taken place: 'every thinking man can prove beyond doubt how these victims felt when they were landed at Fernando Po, their wages [meaning their own promised dash] having been paid to the middle-men'.
The 'odd thing', says a surprised British Consul General in 1953, 'is that although men who are sent to Fernando Po by illegal means, such as trickery or kidnapping, tend to be resentful at first, many of them give in'--and, indeed, 'stay on there for years'.
A former Hausa bracero--who, in the 1950s, turned himself into a prosperous smuggler of canes and batons--remembers the Fernando Po of the booming post-war heyday as 'a place of many profits', 'money everywhere': 'if something was a luxury in Nigeria, here it was in abundance'.
In Calabar he caught a glimpse of the 'great sea canoes filled with Africans being taken to Fernando Po for illicit engagement'.
For half a century, every few years, and sometimes daily for months, a Nigerian press storm laden with scandal and outrage formed over Fernando Po (Akinyemi 1970: 243; Ejituwu 1995: 45; Obadare 2001: 85; Falola and Fleming 2005: 152).
62) Those with the intrepidness to stay on the island for several contracts, says Israel, a former treaty-bracero, were given the nickname 'griho\ derived from the Spanish word for the nocturnal and noisy cricket: 'this simply means that those people were carried away by the high life in Fernando Po that existed in the form of women and alcohol' (Oham 2006: 71).
Sundiata's desire to provide his readers with a comprehensive history of Fernando Po between 1827 and 1930 is commendable, while his willingness to examine local developments in light of developments elsewhere in the Bight of Biafra and beyond is especially gratifying.
For example, it is unclear whether, in an era when hundreds of thousands of slaves were exported from the Bight of Biafra and adjacent areas to other parts of the Spanish empire, slavery was ever an institution of any consequence on Fernando Po itself.