LAGOS IN YORUBA HISTORY
BY: DR. HABEEB SANNI
LAGOS STATE UNIVERSITY, OJO.
The history of Lagos linked to the Oba Of Lagos deserves some important observations and comments.
The Lagos monarch is a man who had devoted so much of resources to searching for historical documents and equally committed to learning from those documents to enrich his knowledge of history. In view of this seeming commitment, the inacuracies contained in the purported history of Lagos credited to him especially on dates created a lacuna that such documents may not emanate from him.
It could as well be a misrepresantion of his position shared with who ever was responsible for disseminating the information on his behalf. Having said that, we need to look at some postulations concerning the history of Lagos and it’s relation with the hinterland people who later became known as Yoruba from the mid nineteenth century when Rev. Koelle first referred to the people of modern south-west of Nigeria as Yoruba.
Prior to that time, the various inhabitants of the area were known individually by the dialects of similar language spoken by them. Thus we had Ife, Egba, Owu, Ekiti, Ondo, Owoh, Akoko, Oyo, (which was the most popular and perhaps powerful of the hinterland Yoruba Kingdoms up till the mid 18th century ) when it began to disintegrate due to many internal and external factors too numerous to mention here.
It is imperative to point out that the Orirun of the people occupying the modern south-west of Nigeria is believed to be Ife, while Oduduwa was considered to be the progenitor of the people. Our elementary history teaches us this. But a more insight into the history of the people of the hinterland of Lagos, popularly known today as Yoruba indicates that prior to Oduduwa, there were more than 70 kings in Ife. This could be gleaned from Ikedu tradition, an oral form of history of the people who later became known as Yoruba.
Furthermore, the various inhabitants who now considered themselves to be Omo Oodua seemed to have associated themselves with the hero civilizatoire , who could be seen more as adopted father than being the biological father of the numerous kingdoms now associated with him.
For emphasis, the Awujale of Ijebuland is not one of the Oodua grandsons through Okanbi and is not mentioned as one of the Kingdoms founded by successors of Oodua. The same theory applies to the Awori people of Lagos State most of who claim to be children of Olofin. Prior to the movement of these Awori people to Isheri, enroute to Ebute Metta, and some other parts of Lagos, some other settlements had existed, especially in the vicinity of Ebute Metta. Such people as Olopon, Omuwe, Abore, Alase and Tomuse were older aborigines of Ebute Metta before the Awori people who became known as Omo Olofin and later became Aladejo.
Like the Oduduwa episode in Ife history, these aborigines, who seemed to have lived like a stateless society, succumbed later to a more powerful Awori migrants and gradually went into extinction over time. The British intervention in Lagos politics and later introduction infrastructure and appurtenances of development, especially the railways wiped out the landmark of these aborigines settlements in the Ebute Metta area.
If popular history agree that Lagos was founded by Awori, the same could be said of the coming of Benin, whose Kings were known to be warrior Kings.
The Benin perception of Lagos history is that Lagos was founded by Oba Orohgbua, though this had been disputed. What is however incontrovertible is that Lagos Obaship was modelled after Benin and not Ife or any other so called Yoruba Kingdom, who at the zenith of their power did not reckon with Kingdom of Lagos until the mid 18th century (1750s) when Akinsemoyin transformed Lagos Kingdom from hitherto unknown Lagoon community to an important slave emporium.
From then onward, Lagos society that seemed to have began as a stateless society under the earliest aborigines of Olopon, Omuwe, Alase, Abore, Tomuse and of course Opeluwa, witnessed the emergence of the Awori, who occupied various settlements in modern Lagos State, but were drawn into Lagos Kingdom following the establishment of Benin style of monarchy in the area.
It was also the Benin that brought into the Lagos Kingdom the Mahin people who probably might have established contact before then, In view of their proximity on the lagoon and perhaps as a result of their fishing activities to which the people of Lagos were also proficient. It could be said that after the aboriginal group were the Awori, the Benin, Mahin or Ilaje, the Ijebu and later others.
There are adequate archival evidence to buttress the claim of Lagos Kingdom that Lagos was not part of the so called Kingdoms of the Yoruba under the suzerainty of Oyo Empire, which incidentally had Ife as sub Kingdom, but respected by all as Orirun.
In a secret letter to the Secretary of States for the Colony, Oba Adeniji Adele stressed that Lagos Kingdom was not part of Yoruba Kingdoms when Chief Awolowo and his Action Group was fighting to bring Lagos under the Western Region in 1953.
I may want to stop by saying that all the people who occupied various settlements in modern South West of Nigeria are not Yoruba, but rather Ife, Oyo, Ijebu, Mahin, Awori, Benin, Ogu etc. The stool of Lagos is of Benin origin and so are those of many South-West coastal settlements as well as many others in Owoh, and Akokolands in modern Ondo State.
While one may not like to join the fray on the Ooni-Eleko imbroglio, I respectfully appeal to all condemning the action of the Eleko to sheath their swords and allow for peace to reign. After all, these people will still meet to resolve their differences.