Dealing with cannibals in Africa

The Daily Telegraph has an obituary of David Muffett, who spent 16 years in Nigeria during the colonial era,Muffett
that doesn’t put Africa in the best light.

David Muffett, who has died aged 88, applied the skills he had honed
when dealing with cannibals in colonial Africa to battling education
ministers and teaching unions in his role as chairman of Hereford and
Worcester County Council education committee. [Link]

Cannibals? You don’t say? Pray, tell me more.

In 1960 he apprehended the Tigwe of Vwuip, a northern Nigerian tribal
chief who had eaten the local tax collector. The Tigwe had apparently
been so impressed by the man’s ability to acquire money on demand that
he had — understandably — decided to try to assimilate his powers.

It was not so much this particular misdemeanour that bothered Muffett;
what really worried him was the fact that a UN delegation was due to
visit the area, and "I wasn’t about to have one of them eaten. I
considered that it would be a highly retrogressive step."[Link]

Yes, indeed. It’s never a good idea to have a visiting UN official eaten.

The Tigwe, who was surprised to learn that the colonial authorities
disapproved of his eating habits, was duly sent to jail — but only
"until the delegation had departed beyond the reach of his culinary
aspirations." [Link]

The Tigwe couldn’t get his hands on the UN delegation, but you have to wonder what happened to the next tax collector.

Muffett often seemed to have magical powers of his
own. He was once shot at with poisoned arrows, all of which
miraculously missed his bulky frame, though one lodged in the pommel of
his saddle. [Link]

Bulky frame? If not for those magical powers, the Tigwe could have had a big meal.

On another occasion a witch doctor
who had pronounced a curse upon him fell down dead the next day, an
event which, Muffett recalled, greatly enhanced his standing among the
local population. [Link]

He just fell down dead? Did anyone call CSI?

Muffett was proud of the achievements of empire but contemptuous of
British government policy towards Africa in the 1950s and 1960s,
maintaining that "all the Foreign Office cared about were the white
settlers. They never gave a damn for the indigenous population." He was
deeply hostile to apartheid. [Link]

Sounds like a good guy for the most part. I’m kind of glad he wasn’t eaten.

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If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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