Our route lay across a piece of territory which was in a very disturbed condition — how disturbed we did not know at the time, or we should never have attempted to cross it.
About a third of our line of march lay through a province under the rule of the governor of a town called Gwari.
This potentate was in his turn subsidiary to Abder-Rahman, Emir of Kwantagora, who was the so-called King of the Sudan, and son of the Emperor of Sokoto — the supreme Sultan of the country.
Now, it appears that for some time neither Abder-Rahman nor his Imperial father had been pleased with the behaviour of their subordinate, the Governor of Gwari.
They considered he had been taking liberties with life and property on a scale that could only be tolerated in more powerful persons than he — themselves, for example — and so he must be punished.
The governor of a province such as that of Gwari has much latitude, and unless he grows rich he will probably be left untouched whatever he may do. But if he should accumulate wealth he is not safe unless strong enough to defend himself.
I got the story of the Gwari business from Abder-Rahman’s secretary, one Adama, an Arab of Jiddeh. He said that the Governor of Gwari had long been in the habit of raiding caravans trading between Bida and Kano, a process known as eating the road.
That the Sultan of Sokoto had stood it as long as he could, but, being enraged at last by an attack upon a merchant who was conveying goods consigned to himself, he had sent a message to his son, Abder-Rahman, the erring Governor’s immediate superior, enjoing him, as an act of retribution to “eat” Gwarri.
And Gwari was eaten.
Our “May Meeting” and What Came Of It by Dr. T. J. Tonkin, of Bedford
The Wide World Magazine
May to October, 1900