LAGOS @ 50: One state built by many

Lagos State, the “Centre of Excellence” and one that is generally referred to as the pacesetter in all areas of national development, has been said not to have these sobriquets thrust on it, but rather that it earned it though “addiction to age long values of hard work, commitment to duty, focus, visioning and working tenaciously to actualise such dreams and aspirations.”

As such, Lagos, whose economy was recently unveiled as the fifth largest in Africa, has significantly moved from the Lagos of yesterday, where crude and overloaded giant buses popularly known as bolekajas were used to ferry people from one point to the other across the city’s tarred and dusty roads, to the time when modern BRT buses now ply the city’s landscape.

Successive governments in the state have at some point nurtured the state’s future dreams, as evident in projects such as the multi-billion dollar Eko Atlantic project, the light rails, the Badagry-Mile 2 multi-lane Expressway, and the somewhat elusive Fourth Mainland Bridge.

All these represent the Lagos of yesterday, today and the future, which was exactly the topic of a lecture organised as part of events to mark the 50thanniversary of the creation of Lagos State.

The lecture which was held on Wednesday 24, May 2017, at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, and which brought together past administrators and leaders of the state, went a long way in unravelling notable incidents that marked the creation of Lagos State, while also mapping the way for the future.

However, despite its current developmental and infrastructural projects, which are quite laudable, and which are meant to cater for the needs of the city’s ever rising population, which is currently estimated at 24million, Lagos was revealed as a state that owes its history, origin and cradle to groups of individuals, tribes and communities, whose activities in the past are believed to have played a key role in the creation of the state, even if it started initially as a “relatively small community.”

“Builders of this relatively small community now developed to a state were men and women who believed in toiling hard than taking shortcuts to achieve successes,” said a report made available by the Lagos State government, which was done to, among other things, recognise the role played by groups and individuals in the creation of Lagos State.

Therefore, at the event, historians and other prominent Lagos indigenes and perennial residents of the states who had converged on the venue of the lecture were quick and unanimous in their decision to recognise the role played by the ancient natives of portions of the old Lagos land and water spaces in the creation of what is now regarded as the modern Lagos.

Thus, much honour and “deference” was given to the Aworis and Tappas, whose activities especially in the areas of fishing and commerce were said to have played a key role in attracting other settlers into Lagos.

Also recognised was the input of the ancient Bini, whose coming was said to have helped in the evolution of the Eko royalty.

Also of notable mention were individual characters whose poise, elegance, wealth or sheer bravery and courage also helped in making Lagos retain its “independence” and identity, even when other regions fell to colonial overlords like a pack of dominos.

First, Madame Efunroye Tinubu who was said to have fought men, believed in herself and her dreams and as such crafted her name in the sands of time. There was also a certain Prince Kosoko, who with a small army of dedicated men, fought to safeguard the Lagos coasts from foreign invasions. “He took on the British invaders and fought gallantly even though they fell to superior fire power,” the report by the Lagos State government disclosed.

Foremost nationalist and scholar, Herbert Macaulay, was said to have put together men and women of like minds, who had a common heritage and believed in self determination in their future and posterity,and who maintained high values their community was reputed for and did not compromise, in tackling the colonial masters in their quest for independence.

In his comments, the Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, declared that indeed Lagos was the home for all, as its doors were never closed to people from the east, west, north and south of the country, and even from outside the country. He however clearly pointed out that it was wrong for the state to be referred to as a “no man’s land,” even if everyone was welcome into its shores.

The governor, attributed the greatness of the state to its ability to be the melting pot for all cultures, just as he said that the people of the state over the years had distinguished themselves in making others feel home away from home.

Going down memory lane, Governor Ambode said it was important to recall that the journey of how the Aworis played an important role in the evolution of what was referred to as Lagos today.

“The same applies to the evolution of the Eko Royalty with the coming of the Bini from present day Edo State and even the momentous role played by the Tappa in the making of our dear State,” he said.

“Lagos is not just national in outlook. It is international. The Americans are here; the British are here; South Africans are in their thousands; the Chinese are not in short supply; and the Indians even have a community in Lagos,” Ambode added.

Similarly, in his remarks, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, also corroborated Ambode’s views, saying the hospitality, open mindedness and spirit of camaraderie that Lagos was known for should not be taken for granted or abused, which he insisted that statements describing Lagos as a “no man’s land” was capable of achieving.

In his lecture entitled: “Lagos: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” which was structured to revisit some of the key incidents in history that were symbolic to the existence of Lagos, Professor Hakeem Danmole, also traced the history of Lagos to the Aworis, who he said mainly thrived on fishing.

He also recognised the role played by other nations, especially Portugal, Brazil and the Great Britain in the constitution, naming and structure of Lagos.

However, Danmole was quick to add that necessary strength must be drawn from the Lagos of the past and present so as to make a way for the Lagos of the future.

He noted that since inception, it was commendable that the state’s legacy and achievements had been sustained by successive governments in the state.

Danmole, who is the Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, further said the state must strictly adhere to rules and regulations, adding that for Lagos to reach greater heights, developmental plan must be followed.

“If Lagos belongs to all, why demolish fishing communities?”

However, as the event unfolded and more historical facts about Lagos were churned out, especially the city’s ties with ancient fishing communities of the Aworis, Nigerian Tribune couldn’t help but notice a question that was on the lips of a number of participants at the event. “If Lagos indeed owes part of its ancestry to ancient fishing communities, why has the state’s successive governments, including the current administration of Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, embarked on the demolition of its current fishing communities?” was the question mumbled by a number of participants.

It will be recalled that Ambode’s government has been fingered in a number of demolition cases, including the controversial demolition of Otodo-Gbame, a large fishing community comprising various tribes, including the Aworis.

Although, the question failed to make it to the appropriate quarters for possible answers at the event centre, let alone being answered appropriately, some form of answer could be found in the speech of a former justice of the Supreme Court, Mr George Oguntade, who briefly critiqued land acquisition process in Lagos.

Addressing participants at the event, Mr Oguntade said it was okay for the government to acquire lands from original land owners, especially if it is for overriding public interest, but that it was wrong for such acquired lands, to be “warehoused” for “future” use.

He stressed that such acquisition of lands for future use would merely deny its old or original owners of possible economic benefits they could derive from using such lands in the present.

“If land must be acquired, it must be used gainfully immediately, while adequate compensations paid promptly,” he said.

Nevertheless, the Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, maintained that the strength of the city lied in it’s ability to open its doors to various cultures and heritages of other tribes and clans, whose peoples had in return helped to grow the state’s economy.

“Our greatness is in our ability to be the melting pot for all cultures and as at today, there is no tribe in Nigeria that is not represented in Lagos. From the Hausa/Fulani to the Igbo to the Kanuri to the Ibibio, the Nupe, the Berom, the Igala and so on and so forth all have spaces to live and live well in our dear state,” he said.

Ambode’s remarks seemed to corroborate an earlier statement made by the State Government which noted that “the Dangotes, Dantatas from the north, Nnamdi Azikiwes, Mbanefos, Okadigbos from the east and other people from same Yoruba stock in the west, did not deem it fit to return home because Lagosians had taught then that home is not necessarily where you were born or where your fore bears originated, but where Providence places you at any point in time, and where one is able to fulfill one’s dreams and aspirations and in turn handover to the younger generations to continue the same race you ran successfully.”

Therefore, though it might be wrong to refer to Lagos as a “no man’s land,” perhaps it might be more appropriate to call it “every man’s land.”

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