Friday, 30 September 2022 00:21

[OPINION] Lagos and her envious visiting fortune seekers - Jide Oluwajuyitan

What “geographically, historically and ethnically, by custom, tradition and practice, Lagos belongs to the Western Region was settled during the Ibadan 1950 Constitutional Conference” (Lord Milverton.) “Payne, Mabogunje, Forde, Akinsemoyin, the Idejo chiefs etc., according to Dr. P. D. Cole agreed that the Aworis of Isheri were the first inhabitants of Lagos. Olofin, a legendary Yoruba whose descendants are the Idejo landowning white cap chiefs founded Lagos”. Addo, Ashipa’s son from his Benin wife, a good mediator and a peaceful envoy from Benin, was only invited by Olofin, following Ashipa’s death, to fill his father’s position. (P. D. Cole: Modern and Traditional Elites in the Politics of Lagos)


Lagosians like their fellow Yoruba compatriots are social and therefore very receptive to outsiders. This unfortunately has led to serial betrayals by visiting fortune seekers who lust over their land. First it was the British who initially came to trade in pepper and other items. By 1840 they had turned Lagos to a slave port. In 1861, after obtaining a treaty of the cession of Lagos from King Dosunmu under duress in a typical act of banditry, they drove away Kosoko, his successor in order to take possession of Lagos.

Lagos by 1872 had become part of colony of Gold Coast with her resources coming under William Macgregor and Walter Egerton. From a colony in 1886, it became part of the colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria in 1906. It acquired a new status as the capital of Nigeria in 1914 where by 1925 those born within it were no more subjected to the laws of the protectorate.

As prospect of self-rule drew near, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and his Igbo political elite were scheming to become the new colonisers. At a period, C.C. Mojekwu was leading a protest by non-Onitsha Ibos for representation in Onitsha Town Council, Zik, described by Richard Sclar as “persuasive teacher, an effective propagandist, an astute political tactician, a rugged antagonist, was as the adopted son of Herbert Macaulay and leader of NCNC for a decade (1944-1953), winning election all over the west while Mbonu, another Igbo man was a deputy Mayor of Lagos.

What truncated Zik and his group’s plans was the NCNC intra-party crisis which led to the suspension of Dr Olorunnibe who in turn as one of the four elected Lagos NCNC members to the legislative council refused to step down for Zik. The crisis forced Zik to retrace his way back to the east where he replaced Eyo Ita , an Efik minority as premier.


But Zik’s supporters did not forgive Lagos. Dr. Mbadiwe, not long after, moved a motion to turn Lagos to a federal territory, a motion ignored by Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa. Then Zik’s NCNC Igbo supporters taking a cue from Mbadiwe coined a song “Lagos was no man’s land” to which Dr Olorunnibe and Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, NCNC supporters retorted “Oponu alailero to ni gedegbe l’Eko wa” (meaning: unthinking fools who claimed Lagos is floating in the air without a supporting pillar). Zik with the support of Ahmadu Bello finally had his pound of flesh during the 1957 London Conference when Lagos became a federal territory despite protest from Awo and his group.

The selective killing of eight northern senior military officers on January 29, 1966 and the retaliatory July 29, 1966 mindless hunting down of 33 Igbo military officers and the civil war that followed were all for the soul of Lagos. And when the war broke out, Lagos, repeatedly bombed by Biafra forces instead of northern towns where killing of Igbo took place during the pogrom and where the war was coming to the east, underscored the importance of Lagos to Ojukwu.  Because Lagos was Ojukwu’s big prize, he followed his troop’s Benin victory, with a letter to Col Victor Banjo promising to appoint him administrator of Yoruba country after her pacification while he, Ojukwu would decide who would become administrator of Lagos.


And predictably, when Lagos, the coveted prize of the war between two fair-weather friends turned political foes, went to the north, after the war, successive Lagos Affairs ministers and administrators were all of northern extraction. There were Alhaji Ribadu, Mallam Yar’Adua, General Kontagora, Barnabas Gemade, General Adisa, and later Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Brigadier Raji Rasaki and Mike Akhigbe. And their mandate appeared to be the sharing of Lagos’ priceless plots without a thought for those they routinely dismissed as shanty dwellers or squatters.


Lagos got little relief from the exit of their military colonisers who were immediately replaced by a comical group of Igbo young men who after acquiring great fortunes in Lagos set up a Biafra Radio where they issue out infantile tales of how Lagos with a population of about 189,000 when Igbo fortune seekers first came to Lagos from Enugu, Aba and Port Harcourt with population ranging between 3000, and 10,000 was a jungle developed by Igbo. For them, Sir Louis Ojukwu, Emeka Ojukwu’s father who was born in 1909 built Apapa Ports, constructed with taxes from Lagos between 1908 and 1912.  They feed the uninformed listeners of their Radio Biafra with tales of how federal funds built Lagos State, unable to make a distinction between Western Region which extended to Mushin and Oyingbo, limiting the federal territory to Lagos Island, Ikoyi, and Victoria Island. They claim that with the population of Igbo in Lagos and their control of Lagos economy, they should be ready to ensure the next governor of Lagos comes from either Anambra or Delta states.

Sadly, since many of them they don’t read, it is impossible to remind them about how Ahmadu Bello once counselled Zik on the imperative of understanding other people’s cultures. And unfortunately, when Oba Rilwan Akiolu, the Eleko of Eko in the run up to the 2015 election warned the Igbos to respect the sensibilities of their host communities, he was viciously attacked by angry Igbo social media anarchists.

It is hoped the aspiring new colonisers will be humbled enough to learn from our recent history. Yoruba by nature are federalists. For wanting what was good for them for others, especially the northern minorities which constituted about 48% of northern population and the eastern minorities which constituted about 39% of the region, Tafawa Balewa and Dr Azikiwe imprisoned Awolowo, truncated development of the West and created Midwest Region which was less than 24% of the West ignoring violent agitations for self-actualisation in their respective regions.

As it later turned out, those who sowed the wind reaped the whirlwind. It was not the Yoruba that drove the Igbos from Lagos or other parts of Nigeria in 1967. Yoruba only welcomed them back with open hands after war with accumulated rents on their properties even at a period their properties on Ijaw Port Harcourt land were declared abandoned properties.  Similarly, Yoruba did not blame the Igbo leadership for their role in the 1993 election debacle which led to the death of MKO Abiola in prison for winning a pan-Nigeria mandate in spite of Igbo votes. Again, it was not the Yoruba that drove them back to the east in the guise of going for new yam festival. If anything, Yoruba received them back to Lagos with open hands when their fellow Igbo compatriots at home chased them back as a result of scarcity of everything including salt.

Our recent experiences have shown that disrespect for the cultures of host communities by fortune seekers have consequences. If Igbo culture celebrates disloyalty because Igbo ‘do not understand the gods of their host communities’ (Chinua Achebe in No Longer at Ease), Yoruba culture expects a beneficiary to share in the tribulations of his benefactor in the period of adversity.

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