THAT LAGOS STATE IS A NO MAN’S LAND HAVE CONTINUED TO CAUSE CONTROVERSIES. IN THIS INTERVIEW, THE
IBILE – EKO FORUM REACTS THROUGH BARR. FELIX ODUSANYA TO THE CLAIMS “THAT THERE IS NOTHING LIKE THE AWORIS IN YORUBA LAND”
The Aworis are a Major Yoruba Tribe, the First Settlers and Original Land Owners of all the Major Lands that forms Modern Lagos, a Yoruba Settlement.
Putting the Record Straight on An Attempt by Prince Tajudeen Olusi to distort history.* _Frantz Fanon said and I quote “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it”,
Prince Tajudeen Olusi goofed when he submitted in an interview he granted recently when the interviewer asked him a simple question
“So, how about claims that Aworis are the aborigines of Lagos?” his response was a great insult to a distinct Yoruba race, the Aworis, a tribe well known to the source of the Yoruba, Ile-Ife and an aberration of the highest order when he posited that,
“I want to tell you that there are no Aworis in Yorubaland. We don’t have a tribe called Awori at all. These are just other people who came to Lagos through another route from the hinterland, like Ile-Ife. Awori is just a description of how they got to where they settled. They left Ile Ife over a dispute and consulted the oracle as was the practice of our forefathers whenever they are migrating. They were told to put a plate (awo) on the river and follow it until it sinks. They were advices to settle anywhere the plate sinks. ‘Ibi awo ri’. That is how they came about the term Awori, not that Awori is a tribe in Yorubaland, not to talk of being a tribe in Lagos. It was at Isheri the plate sank and that was where they settled. That is the story of how they migrated from Ife into Lagos”.
In his attempt to mislead the innocent public, a lot of lies were found in his submission above and that made him and his opinion on the matter unpopular. To say “We don’t have a tribe called Awori at all” is to say we don’t have tribes like Ijebu, Egba, Ekiti, Oyo among others. It will amount to a reckless statement from a drained brain to indirect claim that there is nothing like the Aworis in Lagos. It appears to me that Prince Olusi needs tutelage on the Yoruba history and that of Lagos in particular. On this I quote a popular and uncontroverted submission of renowned historian and great scholar of his generation; a former Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Professor Olakunle Lawal of blessed memory. A renowned illustrious Lagos Islander, and a respected son of Ijebu-Epe and Awori. To his name and credit, he has at least four published works on aspect of the historical development of Lagos, Lot of Essays on the same subject-matter in reputable local and international journals. Even at death, he remains the first university teacher to design and teach “Lagos” as an academic subject from first year of registration up till the final year of the degree programme, a feat which remains unparalleled in any institution till this moment. In capturing the Awori as a tribe in Yoruba land he submitted that; “The Awori-speaking peoples trace their origins to Ile-Ife where a prince, Ogunfunminire led a migrating party to the plains of Isheri where they formed a sedentary settlement. Isheri seemed to have offered the Awori central point human and material development. For one thing, the ready availability of Ogun River provided this incoming group with an opportunity to engage in sea-based activities such as fishing. Certainly, the Ogun River acted as a bridge rather than a barrier to the exchange of goods and ideas. In no time, the Isheri settlement began to assume the picture and dimension of a big settlement which, sooner or later would become incapable of satisfying the needs and aspiration of its inhabitants. This was the genesis of the movement of people from the nuclear settlement of Isheri which available evidence shows, was the center of dispersal of the Awori to different direction. The reasons for movement vary from one group to the other. Many moved to established new settlements for economic reasons i.e. to seek new opportunities for self-fulfillment, while some moved to actualized political desire for independence. In some other cases, movement was engendered as a result of one’s desire for pure adventure. In all cases, it would appear that increase in population (or more appropriately over-population or explosion) was the most immediate reason and axis around which the aforementioned factors revolved”.
However, if the submission of Prince Olusi was an attempt to deny the Aworis their rightful place in the history of Lagos, he fails woefully. Prof. Lawal submitted further that “Available evidence convincingly shows that the Awori, the Ogu and some some particular Ijebu-speaking peoples are the autochthonous settlers in the area of modern Lagos State for well over five hundred years”; before the arrival of other groups who came at a later century such as The Binis, Nupe, Tapa, the slave returnees such as the Saro, Brazillian, Cuba; all these now forms part of the indigenes of Lagos State but non of them should make the mistake of claiming to be the original land owner in any form because the Awori solely enjoys this right by virtue of their earliest settlements. There is no doubt Modern Lagos State is made up of people of diverse cultural background coming from different part of the country and world. Hence such a contemporary heterogeneous or multilateral picture is often misleading, encouraging some to assume that Lagos State is “a no-man’s land” or a state which every Tom, Dick and Harry can claim, is far from the truth as available historical evidences that I will further reveal proves contrary. In a clear term, all sincere historical facts save for that of mischief makers, shows that the Aworis are the first settlers and original land owners of all the major lands that forms modern Lagos State. Nonetheless, the purpose of this work is not to x-ray the history of the entire Lagos state but that of Lagos Island which illusion the basis of many arguments lately.
Kunle Lawal in one of his works further said, The question of who the first settlers in Lagos were has always attracted the interest of many people because of the existence of two versions of the settlement story. There are Benin and the Awori-Yoruba versions. In a nutshell, the Edo/Benin version claims that Edo were the first settlers in Lagos by virtue of a war camp which Benin forces established at the Enu Owa area of Lagos Island during the reign of Oba Orhoghua. The Edo claimed that the phrase “Eko Akete” was an Edo one meaning “war camp” on an Island. This version concludes that, Orhogbua left Lagos for Benin and asked his grandson, “Eskipa” to assume the leadership of the emergent Benin colony in the Lagos area. *The simple question to ask those with this doctored version of the history of Lagos is that on the arrival of the Binis on Lagos Island were there no people in that area or with which people did they fight the war before setting up their war camp at the place known as “Enu Owa” area of Lagos Island.*
According to Kunle Lawal, The Awori-Yoruba however, does not dispute the existence of Benin connection with early Lagos. What the Awori find unacceptable is the claim that the Edo were the original or first settlers in Lagos. The Awori acknowledge the relevance of Benin connection but reminds that it came about as a result of conquest. In a nutshell, the Awori claim that they were the original settlers who are brought under Benin sway as a result of the latter’s possession of superior weapons. History has it that some centuries after Aworis have settled in Lagos, there was the invasion by the Binis, the Edo-speaking people, who invaded Lagos and set up their own institutions.
Here I wish to reechoes the submission of another senior scholar and a giant in the legal profession. A much respected son of the soil who also has a Bini connection, Alhaji Olufemi Okunnu (SAN). A former Federal Commissioner for Works, a legal luminary and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria of high integrity. He said during an interview published in the Punch News on the 20th November, 2017 and I quote “There is no place called ‘No Man’s Land’ in the world. Every parcel of land has its own history. Lagos has its own history and the original inhabitants of Lagos – the Aworis – settled over 500 years ago. I have said it many times recently that Lagos has its own indigenes. The Aworis were the first group of settlers who inhabited Lagos city and suburbs. Maybe some centuries after, there was the invasion by the Binis, the Edo-speaking people, who invaded Lagos and set up their own institutions. In fact, the obaship of Lagos has a lot to do with the Benin Kingdom. So, the Binis also invaded and settled in Lagos. Oba of Lagos is of Edo or Bini origin, not Yoruba, and all the other chiefs, who came with the first oba, that is, Ado — I am talking of a group of white-cap chiefs called Akarigbere — also are of Bini origin”. Logically, how can a group which established itself at a place as a result of conquest claim to be older than the people they met or admit to be the original owner of the land or an attempt by one of them to deny the existence of Awori as a race?
All true and undiluted histories keeps pointing to the fact that original settlers of Lagos were Awori, a sub-group of the Yoruba who migrated to the modern Lagos area from Ile-Ife, the legendary home of the Yoruba. The Awori of Lagos Division were an offshoot of the group that originally settled at Isheri from Ife who dispersed in various directions to found settlements. Facts has it that one of the group proceeded southwards to Ebute-Metta where as a result of serious inter-tribal wars in the interior known as Ogun Ajakaiye, the people moved further south to establish Ile Olofin. A leader seemed to have emerged among them who took the Olofin title. It was under this leader that the settlement that fathered the new emergent kingdom of Lagos developed.
Lagos sources reveals that the people who settled at Ile-Olofin were mainly fishermen who later took the name Aledejo or Idejo (a fisherman co-operative society). The Idejo, the renowned land Owner-Class of Lagos under the Olofin grew and the expansion to further settlements were encouraged. One other settlements that was founded by one of the Olofin known as Aromire was the Island of Lagos. According to the oral account, Aromire visited the land across the lagoon often and with time established a farm in which pepper and vegetables were planted. Indeed, the site of Aromire’s pepper farm became the nucleus of the site of government of the kingdom of Lagos known as Iga Idunganran meaning Pepper Place. Historically speaking, it would appear that Aromire, rather than being an individual was infact representing a group of people that first migrated across the lagoon to the Island of Lagos. Oral accounts credit him with the fact that he subsequently invited his brothers (Co-Idejos) such as Onitana and Onitolo to take charge of Idumota and Itolo wharves respectively.
It is wrong to assume that all the component parts that made up Lagos before the Europeans began to visit it were founded at the same time. There is no evidence for this. What is plausible is the fact that with the encampment of Aromire and his team on the Island of Lagos, the vast opportunities which the new Island offered became obvious and opened other adventurers. Thus, Ikoyi, Iru (Modern Victoria Island), Ikate, Ajiran, Ajah, Ijora etc. were developed by Awori descendants who moved away from Lagos in search of new challenges.
Femi Okunnu (SAN) further expatiated in the said interview when he was asked by the interviewer the question “So, who owns Lagos?”, his popular response was *“The Idejo class of chiefs in Lagos are of Awori origin. They are the land-owning class of chiefs. They owned Olumegbon (the whole of Ajah belonged to the Olumegbon chieftaincy family); Oniru (the whole of Victoria Island); Ojomu, next door to Ajah (there is Oba Ojomu now); Elegushi (the land being at Ikate); the Onisemo. The whole of Apapa Peninsula used to belong to the Oluwa family. The British compulsorily acquired the whole of Apapa and paid compensation to them. The Ojora of Lagos (that is Ijora) were the original settlers. Apart from the Aworis and the Binis, you have another wave of immigrants to Lagos.*
The modern Eti-Osa area essentially Awori in origin and development. The principal settlements were Iru, Ikate and Ajiran. They, however, had many villages and hamlets under them which they used as farms. For instance, Ajiran had controlling authorities over such villages as Ikota, Okun-Ibeju, Agungi, Asapa, Idado, Igbo Efon among others. For Elegushi, while Ikate was the capital he had considerable authority over the area between Onikoyi’s land and Ajiran up to the fringes of Moba.
Unfortunately, a number of the settlements founded by or encouraged to be established by the original Awori settlers of the Lagos area are now either extinct or their original names lost to history. Some of these are listed below for those who are interested. The villages on the Iddo Island before now are Iddo, Oto, Somore, Ilogbo, Idunbore, Ilu-Egun and Ijora. The villages on the mainland (Ebutte-Meta) before now “Abule Seriki, Okuta, Apalehin, Iwaya, Oke Eleye, Abule Nla, Akoka, Oke Ogbe, Elediye, Igbari, Abule Bajulaiye, Abule Bashua, Abule Modele, Ojuelegba, Abule Bariga, Abule Ojo Oniyun, Agege, Omi, Pedro Oke, Abule Oja, Omole, Ojuwoye, Onigbongbo, Mushin, Oko Baba, Abule Gbarako, Itire, Ijeshatedo, Ikate (Surulere), Abule Shogunro, Abule Akinwunmi, Abule-Okoya, Abule Gbotifa, Abule Alagbede, Alaka, Abule Akangba.
It is quite reckless a statement for someone to claim Isolo, one of the prominent Awori community is not an Awori town or that the people of Isolo are not Awori; Isolo a major Awori town which was founded by a group of Awori people led by one Akibayi, and other towns and villages that forms the major part of Ikeja Division of Lagos State are mainly Awori establishment. Of important is the attempt by Prince Olusi to twist the history of Akesan when he claimed the Late King of Akesan land, HRM Oba Fagbohun said there is Akesan in Oyo and with that Olusi concluded Akesan is not Awori. While time and space may not permit me now to ponder on the full historical development of the Awori land and its people, laziness has not permitted you to find out the connection of the said Akesan in Oyo and the Akesan in Lagos state. Note the king never said Akesan is not Awori rather he said there is another Akesan in Oyo. Here someone needs lecture about Olofin Ogunfunminire, the progenitor of the Awori and his wives. That is for another day. The emphasis of Prince Olusi on Oyo as the original place of Isolo and Akesan has neglected the fact that every Yoruba including the people of Oyo has claim to Ile-Ife as the source.
Generally speaking, the Aworis of Lagos State constitutes the largest single ethnic sub-group in Lagos State, constituting as it is, about 75% of its indigenous population of the state. The Aworis are found in all the local government areas of the state. Out of the old 20 local governments in Lagos State the Aworis conveniently forms the indigenous population of 17 local government namely Lagos Island, Ojo, Badagry, Amuwo-Odofin, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Apapa, Oshodi-Isolo, Mushin, Agege, Ikeja, Alimosho, Kosofe, Eti-Osa, Lagos Mainland, Surulere, Shomolu and Ifako-Ijaye, while it has a recognisable percentage of indigenous population in Ibeju-Lekki local government, the Awori people are predominant people around Majidun and Ajegunle areas of modern Ikorodu local government.
ODUSANYA, Felix Olasunkanmi Esq.
For: Ibile-Eko Forum, Badagry Division