Why Lagos Must be Part of Yoruba Nation
By Dr. Adedeji Aganga-Williams (An indigene of Lagos)
We have been reading many articles and opinions lately as to why Lagos should opt out of Oodua nation, under the guise of “Ge degbe L’Eko Wa” and or with other manufactured reasons. Equally, we are witnessing rise in Sponsored, Emergency and or Amorphous Associations springing up lately under different names probably with the backing of some powerful power brokers in the state, canvassing for Lagos to stay out of integration in Oodua nation. One of these associations was quite honest with its objectives and made it public that namely “Lagos is the source of their livelihood and are concerned and wants to Preserve it”. That is an issue on itself. That means they want to continue to appropriate Lagos Commonwealth for themselves and to the benefit of their families only. They are jittery about how the change will affect their fortunes in Lagos and are therefore coming up with different absurd reasons as to why the status quo should remain. Even the Governor ostensibly under pressure, was quoted by the press to be saying that he is worried that the Ijebu’s, Egba’s and Ekiti’s may also likely want to go. Indirectly saying that the people of this area may not want to live together with each other in Oodua nation. This is an exercise in my opinion that is overstretching the truths and facts and is missing the point and intended to create a scenario that is not in contentions and arouses panic and fears among unsuspecting Lagosians .
Frankly speaking Lagosians are proud, unique and very sophisticated people. We are generally not interested in politics and political activities and are happy to leave it to others. Unfortunately these postures have not served us well in the recent past given that most of the policies and actions of the ruling class are detrimental to the welfare and interest of the indigenous Lagosians. Because of the magnitude and the consequence which the decision on the future place of Lagos will have on the people and the state, people like me, have now decided to stand up, raise my voice and make contributions to the on-going discussions. Equally important why I think we should weigh in the discussions, is according to our progenitors, “Eni to ba ma gba Ogun Ologun, a pa Itan kitan” loosely translated as to mean those who seek to exploit or disenfranchise people….seek to impose fraudulent history and manipulate events, hence those who don’t know their history and cultural mores are easily predated upon by interlopers, that is what the indigenes of Lagos must guard against and that is why we have to set the record straight as we know it.
Before I continue with my essay, I want to briefly mention why I think as an indigene, eminently qualified in my right and as a principal stakeholder to make a recommendation that Lagos should be part of Oodua nation.
I am the grandson of Rev. E.E. Williams (grandson of John Nathaniel John, one of the early 18th century and wealthy Lagos traders in West Coast of Africa, at Idumota ). Rev. E.E. Williams was a Methodist Church minister, with family houses at Olowogbowo and Idumota respectively. My maternal side, the Onojobi family who over two centuries migrated as a missionary from Itoku Abeokuta to Lagos and settled at Tokunboh Street, Lagos ever since. My grandfather, probably a history student himself, left behind many historical artefacts, documents and materials. He was one the most educated Lagosians during his time having graduated with a Masters Degree in Theology in England in 1900. He later became the first indigenous superintendent of Olowogbowo Methodist Church Cathedral and also taught at Methodist Boys High School.
Due to my closeness to my uncle Chief E.K.O Aina, the late Baba EKO of Lagos, he introduced me to his cousin Prince Babatunde “Babs” Akitoye, The Olori Omo Oba of Lagos. It was an honour to meet with the late Olori omo Oba of Lagos. An extremely brilliant engineer who during his time in the 1940s, scored the highest mark in Calculus on GCE in the whole British Empire including India. The opportunity to meet with the wise old man was one of the happiest moments of my life. Noticing my interest in the History of Lagos , he introduced me to Alhaji H.A.B. Fasinro. Late Alhaji Fasinro, fondly acclaimed as the encyclopedia of Lagos was very eager to pass on the knowledge of Lagos to the younger generations. He was in my view, the bridge between the modern and contemporary history of Lagos. He ably conceptualize, contextualize and historicize the events of Lagos with the aim of giving me a better understanding of the current trends and future developments. His efforts were credible because he was a living witness to some of those milestone events and also played some vital roles in it. He personally gave me a copy of his book The Political and Cultural Perspective of Lagos. and it is one of the most cherished literature in my library.
As nature will have it, I have the singular privilege to meet with Chief Rafiu Bakare Adeyefa Jafojo. The former deputy governor of Lagos state, Late Chief Rafiu Jafojo is an Awori Prince and foremost Awori leader in Lagos state. Being a Prince from the source Ile Ife, he was well versed in the history of the Aworis and the Yoruba in general. He was very passionate to teach me the spiritual linkage of Awori migration to Lagos and the importance of Lagos to the Aworis. In this aspect, I accompanied him to many visits or I should say pilgrimage to Ile Ife, including meetings with the late Ooni Sijuade and Obalufe of Ile Ife, late Oba Solomon Omisakin a couple of times. I have the privilege of visiting some important historical and archaeological Yoruba sites. For me, the opportunity to have an insider view of the celebrations of Olojo festival and the understanding of the spiritual importance of the Celebrations to the whole Yorubaland is a hallmark. Through Chief Rafiu Jafojo, I am able to learn the Awori side of our heritage and appreciate our uniqueness and rich cultural diversities.
2) History of Lagos
Modern-day Lagos was founded by the Awori in the thirteenth century. It was later called Eko by the Benin Yoruba settlers. The Portuguese explorer Ruy de Sequeira who visited the area in 1472, named the area around the city Lago de Curamo. Legend has it that one of Oduduwa’s sons was divinely led through the river to arrive at Iddo where the “Mud Plate” sank “Awo Ri” .The settlement of the Awori clan is known to have preceded the establishment of Abeokuta as an Egba kingdom in 1832, as Isheri, the foremost Awori town within present day Ogun State, was settled in the 15th century. Traditions are consistent about the presence of a distinct Yoruba sub-group around Lagos by about 1550 when the Benin Empire invaded the region of Lagos. All available data shows that Lagos is inhabited by the Yoruba Awori clan and therefore a Yoruba town.
There are many versions of how the Binis (Benin Yorubas) came to Lagos. However, according to the oral narratives given to me, it was established that some Yoruba people that accompanied Oranmiyan to re-established a new Benin Dynasty stayed back in Benin as ethnic Yoruba community. It was among this group that ventured towards the coast for trade that settled in Iddo between 1300s and 1700s and stayed there, and traded between Iddo and Benin peacefully until trade conflict with the then Onido. According to the folklore account, a wealthy female trader named Aina obtained the secrets of Onido’s supernatural power through his wife (whom she bribed with luxurious Benin beads). The knowledge of the secrets was given to the Bini’s, which enabled them to capture the powerful Onido. He was taken to Benin where he was jailed. While Onido was jailed in Benin, there were nightly unnatural disturbances throughout the kingdom until the oracle revealed that the solution was to free Onido. Onido was therefore set free. Upon his return, Onido beheaded his wife. Folklore has it that the headless body walked into the Lagoon.
According to records, the first Oba of Lagos, was Ashipa (1600–1630) whom all Obas of Lagos trace their lineage to. He was a war captain of the Oba of Benin and was rewarded with the title of Head War Chief/Oloriogun. Some Benin accounts of history have it that the Ashipa was a son or grandson of the Oba of Benin.
His son, Ado (Original Bini name Edo) reigned after Ashipa. Oba Ado who reigned from 1630-1669 was the second Oba of Lagos. He was son of Ashipa, whom the Oba of Benin appointed as the first ruler of Eko. Ado’s son, Gabaro was the third Oba of Lagos.
Over time many settlers came into the island, from the hinterlands mostly the Yoruba, the freed slaves and the European missionaries and traders etc, It is noteworthy to mention that those that came to settle in Lagos were all Yoruba people and part of old Oyo empire, therefore have cultural affinity with the Yoruba people. Even the returning freed European and Brazilian slaves were people from Yoruba descents and or descendants. The point I want to make here is that including the Royal House of Lagos, all the settlers are Yoruba people and have an affinity with Yoruba people language and culture with Oduduwa heritage, hence Lagos is a Yoruba town and state.
3) Appraisal of some points raised by the proponents of “Ge degbe L’Eko Wa”
a) ….The majority of Lagos Representatives voted against the Merger with Western Region at the Constitutional Conference (Macpherson Constitution) in Ibadan 1950…
In order to understand the behavior of the members of the NCNC party, we need to put the events at the conference into proper perspectives. Lagos is the birthplace of African Renaissance. The freed slaves brought with them the philosophy of the Africa Renaissance. The concept is centered towards the African people and nations overcoming the challenges confronting them in the continent through cultural, scientific, and economic renewal. With the level of sophistication and education they have, they began in Ernest to advocate for decolonization and emancipation of the Africans without boundaries. It is against this backdrop that our grandfathers championed this cause across Africa and Pa Herbert Macaulay formed National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) in 1944. Their focus was to fight for independence for the people of this region, namely Western Region, Eastern Region and Western Cameroon British territory.
So at the constitutional conference at Ibadan, when issues that were tabled were reduced to only issues affecting Nigeria alone, without including the British territory in Western Cameroons, they rejected it and voted against the whole proposals. Action Group (AG) which sole focus was centred on emancipation and independence of Western Nigeria Region, voted in favour of the merger.The colonial authorities adopted the minority report because, inclusion of Western Cameroon in the proceedings at Ibadan constitutional conference was not politically feasible, due to the Bilateral agreements that preceded the conference between France and Britain which has already agreed to grant an autonomy to the territory through referendum within Cameroon borders.
b) The Lyttleton Constitution 1954 and Creation of Lagos as a Federal Capital Territory.
Due to the fact that the Macpherson Constitution was too centralized, it was therefore perceived as not suitable for a multi ethnic nationalities like Nigeria. It did not provide for a true political leadership either at the Centre as well as in the Region. For example, there was no provision for the post of the prime minister at the center nor was there any provision for the position of a premier in the regions.The template does not provide for a scenario for a coalition government. Lack of team spirit in the council of ministers complicates the governance further.
As a result there were a series of political crises in the country. The two major political crises were the Eastern Regional Crisis of 1953 and the constitutional crises at the centre, which led to the Kano Riots of 1953. These two political events and similar developments thereafter led to the promulgation of the Lyttleton Constitution in 1954.
The Lyttleton Constitution was therefore enacted as a remedy and created an autonomous region among other things and carved out Lagos from Western Region as a federal capital territory with a special status. However, it is still embedded culturally and economically in the Western Region. That was the constitution that gave Nigeria independence. As a result of the constitutions, regions were given autonomy and Lagos, carved out as federal capital territory. The point I am making is that Lagos was carved as a federal capital territory for administrative reasons and not as inaccurately brandished, that Lagos regained its independence from Western Region.
c) Exclusion from participation from Oodua Investment.
That Lagos state was excluded from the management of Odua investment corporation is non issue. Lagos was administratively not part of the old Western Region and can therefore not sit at the table of the Oodua Corporation. It is however, noteworthy to mention that Lagos state benefited disproportionately financially from the investment corporation given that most of the assets were domiciled in Lagos state and attracted both state and communal tax and levies. We have our own investment vehicle called IBILE. The Ibile Holdings Limited was established by the Lagos State Government in 1989 and used as a vehicle to diversify the economy and deliver both financial returns and socio-economic benefits to the State and its citizenry.
d) Economic Benefits of Lagos Standing Alone
This point in my view is grossly exaggerated and taken out of economic context and driven by sentiments to score cheap political points and whip up sentiments.
Facts are Lagos state with a population over 21.5 mio Population and 3,577 square kilometer has the the 4th largest economy in Africa on a stand alone basis. To put this in proper perspective, we need to compare it with states having similar economic fundamentals and ascertain why are they not striving to stand alone?
California is a state in the Western United States. With over 39.5 million residents across a total area of approximately 163,696 square miles (423,970 km2), it is the most populous and the third-largest U.S. state by area. It is also the most populated sub-national entity in North America and the 34th most populous in the world. Accordingly California landmass is bigger than either Italy or Germany. Its economy is larger apart from Germany than any other European country. With these enviable economics fundamentals and statistics, it will be in order to ask, if Economic Statistics and Potentials are solely the main yardstick and benchmark for agitating for a statehood, why is it that the California leaders are not agitating for independence?? From the foregoing, it is economic illogical and political dishonesty to take economic strength and potentials in isolation to advance a premeditated political agenda.
In summary it is important to emphasize that those who are canvassing for “Ge degbe L’Eko Wa”, are proposing Isolationist alternatives for Lagos State and its future. For general information, Lagos has never played Isolationist card in its history and has always played important roles in the commonwealth of nations and in Yorubaland. A decision about the future role of Lagos should not be based on emotions, sentiments and political interest. In addition, the arguments that have been peddled to make a case for stand alone are factually inaccurate, reflexively, after thoughts and not well thought through.
Furthermore, those who are against Lagos staying in Yorubaland and are still calling themselves progressives politicians, must explain their inconsistency to the Lagosians. They must explain to us why they are now making moves to destroy the legacy of Papa Obafemi Awolowo, whose philosophy of economic, cultural emancipation of Yorubaland was championed through the autonomy of Western Region. The onus of the burden of truth is on them.
They will also have to tell us the honest truth about the consequences their decisions will ultimately have on the lives of Lagosians, including the pains and anguish that awaits them. Their plans will practically lead to family separations. The indigenes living at Ejirin, Agbowa etc will be separated from their families living in Sagamu and environs. Likewise families at Abule Ado, Ojo, Oto Ijanikin, will have to pass through a new border post to be constructed at Agbara to visit their families at Aradagun at Olorunda or at Iworo in Badagry Division. In the same vein their actions will lead to separating the Awori’s from their ancestral headquarters in Otta, thus severing the aged old long cultural ties between the Awori’s in Lagos and Ogun State.
Conclusively, Lagos has always been historically a Yoruba state united with the Western Region under the Oodua cultural heritage. It is the heart of Yorubaland, Economically, Educationally and Politically. The indigenous people that settled in the Island are all Yorubas, Yoruba descents, descendants and or Yoruba affiliated. In order to maximize its potential, it must remain united with the Oodua nation. Lastly, given that Lagos is the heart and any attempt to separate the heart from the body, is an attempt to kill the whole body. That is why the proponents of “Ge degbe L’Eko Wa” must therefore publicly own up what their real motives and political agenda are?? If the pattern of their behaviour is to be deeply analysed, one must come to a conclusion that it is either they are the enemies of the Yoruba people and or their agents of the enemies of the Yoruba people and as such, out to kill the Oodua nation politically. Accordingly, with Lagos fully embedded in Yoruba land, there will be no need to periodically go cap in hand to beg and plead to anyone or any power block in Nigeria for a recognition and to granting Lagos State the well-deserved “Special Status”, because in Oodua nation, Lagos is going to occupy a unique position having being divinely created and positioned as the Centre of Excellence of Oodua nation. It is in the recognition of these historical facts, that I enjoined all Lagosians to come out on Saturday 3rd July 2021 and join the peaceful rally in support of Oodua nation.