Lagos History Lecture and no man’s land exponents
For me, one of the major highlights of events lined up to mark the Golden Jubilee celebration of Lagos State was the Lagos History Lecture with the theme: “Lagos: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. The lecture which took place At Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos had in attendance Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule, Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu, former governors of the state, former deputy governors of the state, eminent statesmen, traditional rulers, university dons among others.
A major issue that was roundly dealt with at the lecture is the subject of Lagos being a no man’s land. Before now, a few individuals and groups have claimed that Lagos doesn’t belong to any particular people or group of people. Those who hold this view, perhaps, based their judgment on the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos which makes it a melting point of people from all across the country and, indeed, the world. Lagos is often referred to as a microscopy of Nigeria as almost every tribe and ethnic group in the country is represented in Lagos. In view of this, some mistakenly suppose that Lagos doesn’t have indigenous people.
The Lagos History Lecture, however, afforded those who know better the opportunity to finally put pay to the ‘no man’s land’ argument. Legal icon and elder statesman, Alhaji Femi Okunnu, SAN, who was among discussants at the Lagos History Lecture, was the first to really address the subject. According to Okunnu, those behind the claim that Lagos was no man’s land were ignorant, as they did not know the real history of the state. He revealed that Lagos has its indigenous people who were early settlers in the land. Those who belong to this category are the Idejos Chiefs who are land owners, Aworis who are original inhabitants of Eko (Lagos Island), Eguns who reside in Badagry, Ibinis who invaded Lagos and settled in Iga Idungaran, Idun Itafa, Idumota, Idumagbo etc, Nupes/Tapas who settled in Lagos Island, returnees who settled at the Brazilian Quarters, Ijebus who settled in Epe and Ikorodu axis, Egbas who settled in Abule Egba, Agodo Egba etc and Ekitis and Ijeshas who settled in a part of the Mainland.
In his contribution at the event, Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu said it was wrong for anyone to refer to Lagos as a no man’s land as there were settlers in Lagos before others came. “Lagos should not be referred to as no man’s land because our forefathers were the founding fathers of the State. And it was after several years that the Europeans and others came in to settle in the land” he said. According to the royal father, he and some eminent Lagosians are in custody of relevant colonial documents and facts that show that Lagos had early settlers before the advent of colonial masters. He argued that a traditional monarchical system of administration was already in place in Lagos years before the advent of Europeans.
In his discourse at the event, elder statesman and first Town Clerk of the Lagos City Council, 98-year-old Senator Habib Fasinro also laid to rest the controversial issue of Lagos being a no man’s land. He said Lagos has an indigenous population and that their hospitable disposition must not be taken for granted.
Fasinro said such claim that Lagos was no man’s land was not only misleading but confrontational, as it abuses the history of the indigenous people of Lagos such as the Aworis, Egbas, Binis, Ijeshas, Nupes, Brazilian returnees, among others. He posits that indigenous Lagosians must not be made to be endangered species in their own state. He affirmed that in spite of the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos opportunities that are meant for indigenous Lagosians shouldn’t be made to elude them. He claimed that there are places in the country where non-indigenes are not allowed to buy or own land.
Also, speaking at the Lecture, former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba disputed the claim that Lagos was no man’s land as being championed in some quarters.“We need to understand that there were early settlers in Lagos. So whenever some people say that Lagos is no man’s land, I laughed because I know that there were true land owners in Lagos,” he said.
In his keynote lecture, Guest Speaker, Professor Hakeem Danmole argued that the first settlers in the state were the Aworis, the Eguns and others. Professor Danmole, who is the Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, said Lagos Island to the indigenous population was called Eko, a name whose origin was told in two well known traditional but controversial accounts.
“Nevertheless, it is important to note that one version of the name relates to the advent of Aworis, while the other is connected to Benin adventures in Lagos.” Despite this controversy, Danmole maintained that what was fairly certain was that the Awori settlement in Lagos was earlier than that of the Benin, which eventually subjugated the emergent settlement.
“Written records insist that Olofin, the leader of the Awori at Iddo divided Lagos among his children. Although many versions exist with regards to the number of children of Olofin. These children established various settlements within the Island and beyond,” he said.
Danmole further affirms that Aromire, as a son of Olofin left Iddo for Isale Eko, while his brothers settled in other areas of Lagos Island while the sons of Olofin, who settled in different parts of Lagos, became the class of chiefs known till this day as Idejo.
According to Danmole, unlike, the Awori, the accounts of Benin relations with Lagos were fundamental to the evolution and eventual administration of the emergent settlement. A perusal of the various accounts suggests what could be described as hostility and accommodation. After several failed attacks on the Island and later conquest, the Benin first encamped at Enu Owa but eventually moved to Idungaran, not far from their original settlement.
Danmole further posited that the Benin/Edo connection with Lagos had indelible implications for the governance of the emergent city-state. He claimed that Benin undoubtedly established a monarchical system which borrowed considerably from the Yoruba system of kingship. Thus, the Obaship in Lagos became a centralised one akin to the system in Benin and Idungaran as the seat of government.
On the whole, it is important to appreciate the essence of the Lagos History Lecture and the opportunity it afforded to really set the record straight in respect of the evolution of Lagos, thereby finally debunking the erroneous claim that Lagos is a no man’s land. The truth of the matter is that in-spite of being a cosmopolitan city; Lagos has its indigenous population. Every cosmopolitan city in the world has its indigenous people and Lagos cannot be an exemption.
Like the revered Senator Fasinro had said, the hospitable nature of indigenous Lagosians should not be taken for granted. Lagos belongs to some people and that fact must be acknowledged and respected.
Njoku is Editor, Newsburnerng.com