It was on a trip to Edo State I meet and initiated a conversation with a seemly reserved young fair lady sitting beside me in a white luxurious 14 sitters bus. We chit-chatted on different topics extensively, and judging from our conversation, one will perceive a fume of intelligence by the way she contributed to the discussions.
As we got talking for a while, the abrupt pause that ensued after our long dialogue instigated what I call a “what-else-discussion.” I didn’t know what to say again, and I don’t want to come across to her as a “cheyker” (toaster) like some of my friends will call it, but I had to formally introduce myself, which she gladly reciprocated. I asked for her state of origin, she replied Edo State. She then asked for mine, and I told her I am a Lagosian. Her next question brought about the reason I arranged this words to beam more light on some ancient misconceptions or age-long fallacies about Lagos. She said: “how can your state origin be Lagos ? Lagos is a no man’s land naw !”. Meaning Lagos belongs to no particular ethnic group.
At that point in time, the first thought that flashed across my mind was a quote by Marcus Garvey, which says: “a people without the knowledge of their past history,origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”…and as a Lagosian by origin and birth, I immediately cleared my throat to highlight to her the background history that supports my argument that Lagos actually belongs to an ethnic group before it became a metropolitan city.
It has become a common utterance- mostly by Lagos State occupants, especially the non-indigenes with no solid historic background of the state- to always claim ‘Lagos is a no man’s land.’ The contradictory statement is perceived as an expression emitted by people that are masked with plain ignorance of the state’s history, or people who are faultfinding or envious of the success Lagos has attained in terms of social and economical development, compared to other states of the country. For these set of people, they wish their state is as successful, thus wanting to forcibly be identified as a Lagosian- by consciously disregarding the state’s history.
Common sense suggests that no state or country fell from the sky, some set of people must have been its first occupant….and according to basic history, we are all migrants, but every state or country has it progenitor; people who were believed to be the first occupant of a land.
The history of Lagos State as publish in a book by the late renowned professor A.B Aderibigbe of the History department in the Lagos State University- is as far back as the 1300-1400CE. It was believed that the Awori’s were the first settlers of “EKO”, current day Lagos. It was believed that the Awori’s were from Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba land, and not until the invasion of the Benins, Lagos geographical boundary was Lagos Mainland and Lagos Island.
The above historic snapshot; is a sufficient evident that the first occupants of Lagos State were the Yorubas, the same way the first occupants of Abuja were the Gbayis, and the same way the first occupants of the current day United States of America were the Indians, even though the latter is now a freer country. The ethnic group that becomes the Oba of Lagos is another quintessential example that Lagos States is a yoruba land.
The exploration of the world by the British, in search of raw materials and foreign market to boast their economy in the 18th century instigated their contact with Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. The proximity of Lagos to the Atlantic Ocean also made the British choose Lagos as one of their colony to facilitate the import and export of their materials, and to enhance the transportation of slave trade to their country. Lagos rapidly advanced into a large market where various businesses thrive as a result of the Britons businesses established in Lagos, while engineering the development of Lagos into a busy cosmopolitan port, with an architecture that is at par with the Victorian and Brazilian style. It also made Lagos more developed socially and economically than other part of the country, making it a land of vast opportunities, where hundreds of Nigerians and non-Nigerians migrate into daily in search of greener pastures, as it gradually grew to be the most populous city in Nigeria and the fastest growing city in Africa and seventh in the world.
For other ethnic groups who thinks Lagos belong to no race, harmed with such mentality, has abused the “free-to-do-less-concerned” privilege” Lagos State offers by going as far as wanting to install their mornachial head in Lagos. I’m not sure the reality is better captured other than the former Governor of Lagos State and the current Federal Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola,SAN- who says: “This is a mini-Nigeria. Everyone is in Lagos, every ethnic group. But we have to use the power of that migrant culture to strengthen our position as the original owner of Lagos.” Although, something almost similar has happened in the past in a particular part of the country, but such a gut can never be tolerated again in any part of the country, putting into consideration the polity and complex structure of the country.
The peaceful and the accommodating nature of most Yoruba’s- who are the original indigene of Lagos set the pace for the influx of numerous tribes and foreigners into Lagos, which contributed to making it a metropolitan state. As a result, Lagos was made the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria in the year 1975, which was eventually moved to Abuja in the year 1991. Most people saying ‘Lagos is a no man’s land’- when asked at how they arrive at their conclusion, are quick to say ‘Lagos was a former FCT’, forgotten that Calabar was also once a formal FCT, yet not labelled ‘a no man’s land.’
It is odd to pretend that Lagos is like any other city in Nigeria. It is not. The political history of Lagos and its development as the first national capital set it apart. Lagos is Nigeria’s metropolis. According to the Lagos State Government, the population is about 22million, made up of 13.5% indigenous Lagosians, 26.4% non-Lagos Yorubas’ and 60.1% non yorubas’:, this might also birth the ‘no man’s land’ statement.
Finitione, Lagos belongs to all her inhabitant because section 25(1) of the 1999 constitution promises a single citizenship, while section 42 expressly forbids the discrimination against other Nigerians, no matter the circumstances surrounding their birth. Therefore, we are all one Nigeria. If we should take non-yorubas and their investments out of Lagos then it is as good as Maiduguri, Oyo and Owerri. The united development has made Lagos a land for all. The development of Lagos was not made possible by the Yorubas alone but all Nigerians and her inhabitant. Hence, Lagos is for all Nigerians, but the Yorubas are the legitimate and traditional indegenes of Lagos.