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Friday, 01 December 2023 07:02

Who owns Lagos? Awori people settled here first, Isheri monarch counters Oba of Benin

FOLLOWING the dust raised by the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Oba Ewuare II, over the founders and settlers of Lagos, the Olofin of Isheri and Adimula of Awori Kingdom, Oba Sulaimon Bamgbade, yesterday, insisted that the Awori people were the first settlers in Lagos.

 

But the Erelu Kuti of Lagos, Abiola Dosunmu, said that the controversy over ownership of Lagos will soon be put to rest.

Oba Ewuare II recently caused a stir during a visit to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State when he said the Binis founded Lagos.

The Benin monarch had said: “It is in the history books that the Binis founded Lagos. When some people will hear it now, they will go haywire; what is the Oba saying there again? But it is true. Go and check the records. Maybe not all over Lagos as we know it now but certain areas in Lagos, maybe the nucleus of Lagos, were founded by my ancestors. The Oba of Lagos will say so.”

Lagos was founded by Olofin Ogunfuminire

But countering Oba Ewuare’s claim, the Isheri Olofin monarch, in a statement, said Lagos was founded by Olofin Ogunfuminire, the progenitor of the Awori people.

In an attempt to set the records straight, Oba Bamgbade said: “Olofin Ogunfuminire left Ile-Ife to settle at Isheri before migrating with his wife, Ajaiye, to present-day Iddo in the heart of Lagos. It was at Iddo that Ajaiye was blessed with the fruits of the womb. Her offspring are the Idejo who are the actual traditional landowners of Lagos.

“The spatial region of the land owned by the Idejo spans from Lagos Mainland (Iddo) to Lagos Island and up to Eti-Osa which he allocated absolutely to his children and other descendants.

“In this regard, he assigned Iru to the Oniru, Ikate to the Elegushi, Lagos Island to Aromire, Iganmu to Ojora, Otto, and mainland to the Oloto (up to Odo–Iya Alaro). Isheri was the dispersal point where other Olofin Ogunfunminire descendants left to found other Awori towns. For instance, Akeredun left Isheri to establish Igbesa, Odoyi left Isheri to find Agboyi, and Osolo and Eleidi Atalabi left Isheri to find Ota.

 

“These facts are firmly established and supported by extant literature written by foreign authors and researchers such as Kristin Mann who in his book titled ‘Slavery and Birth of an African City: Lagos 1760- 1900,” wrote and I quote: ‘Migrant fishing people first settled in Lagos and from the beginning water and canoes had a prominent role in the lives of its inhabitants. Before the 16th century, Aworis, the southernmost of the Yoruba-speaking people, dispersed from Isheri, a village 12 miles up the Ogun River. 

“A group of them settled at what is now Ebute Metta, on the mainland until the need for greater security drove the community to a smaller island in the lagoon opposite Lagos Island. There, they established two settlements, Otto and Iddo, and soon attracted fresh immigrants. In time, people from Iddo moved to the northwestern corner of the larger Island opposite, which eventually became known as Lagos, looking for land to farm.

“The settlers recognised the paramount ruler called the Olofin, based in the more populous community of Iddo but tracing mythical descent from Isheri and via the founder of that village to Ile-ife, the cradle of Yoruba civilisation.”

Benin came to Lagos as mere traders

“The Benin, who later came to Lagos as mere traders, met Olofin and his descendants on the island of Iddo and its neighbourhood where they (Benin) settled down and were well received and hosted by the community. As time went by, a feud broke out between the Benin and their hosts. Facing imminent defeat, they called for reinforcements and assistance from the Oba of Benin.

“Olofin Ogunfunminire and his mentees vehemently and successfully repelled these attacks. As a compromise, and as part of the tolerant disposition which is the character of the typical Awori, the Benins were eventually relocated to live with Aromire on his pepper farm on Lagos Island at Iga Idungaran (Idungaran in Awori means pepper farm) where they after a while and probably due to the indifference of the original land owner, introduced a more structured organisation.

 

“The first settlers in present Lagos are Aworis and the dispersal point of Aworis is Isheri. As the Olofin of Isheri and Adimula of Awori Kingdoms, I implore The Oba of Benin to retrace the origin of the Benin Kingdom to Ile Ife, as the Aworis have always done”, Olofin stated.

Controversy‘ll soon be put to rest— Erelu Dosumu

Also speaking, the Erelu Kuti of Lagos, Abiola Dosunmu, yesterday, said that the controversy over ownership of Lagos will soon be put to rest.

Dosumu, who is also the Erelu Yeye Oodua, stated this while briefing the press on the forthcoming inauguration of the Erelu Yeye Oodua Cultural Renaissance Centre which will be held on December 3, 2023, in Lagos.

Speaking on the controversy trailing the history of Lagos’ original settlers, she said one of the reasons her foundation instituted the new centre was to address such controversy relating to history, culture, art, lifestyle and other issues about Africans.

People refuse to use common sense

Erelu Dosumu said: “First, I have spoken about this issue several times. And you see, if people refuse to use common sense and do research and use relics for their argument, why do you waste your time?

“All these things that have been said have the evidence, relics and proofs for a whole lot of these for you to be able to bring the story to the right perspective.

“Everybody is talking from different corners of their mouths especially those who don’t even know anything about it.

“How old are they, how many of them who are kings today grew up within an environment where they could be impacted by the authentic history of their people?

“I became Erelu in my early 20s, and I was sitting with 80 and 90-year-old men, and those men had at least another 90 years of experience and narrated verbatim before I started getting it from them. 

“So, already 200 years of verbatim story I got it from the source. I am almost 80 and I have acquired another century of information by myself.

“If I say anything, I am saying it from at least 300 years of verbatim fact.

“So, some people talk from here, another one from there, who are they? What was the point of their entry? Some of them may be, they started imbibing the culture and traditions five years ago and they make themselves authority.

“Hopefully that’s one of the things we will be unveiling here at the centre.”

Speaking further, she said it is important for government and critical stakeholders to collaborate towards rekindling the interest and increasing consciousness of people to promote the potential of their culture to the world.

[Vanguard]

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