Every man has a history so does a place. Which state in Nigeria has a better history than Lagos? Which place in the most populous black nation in the world enjoys such fame and adulation as the city of excellence wields. In this article, we celebrate #LagosAt50 in our best way possible, and how best can we do that than to go down memory lane.
Lasgidi -city of hustlers, where everyone seems to be sprinting on an imaginary track yet there are no spectators or even track officials. In Lagos, it is the survival of the fittest, if you don’t fit in, you will end up in a fix. And that is why the city only attracts the best Nigerians and those with a penchant for success. Little wonder it is called the city of excellence
With a population of about 21 million people and an amazing growth rate of 77 people per hour, the fastest growing city in Africa, yet it will amaze you that Lagos happens to be the smallest state in Nigeria with a land mass of 3,345 square kilometers and ironically it is one of the most populated cities in Nigeria. People from all other places in the country migrate into a place that has been described by some sections of the country as “no man’s land”.
In Lasgidi every manner of humans can be found; the good, the bad and the ugly not forgetting the strong, the weak, the rich, the poor and the oppressed. There is even a section of the city where only spirits thrive, especially the areas that are bereft of land; usually under the auspices of marine powers. Albeit as tiny as Lagos appears in terms of landmass, it has remained the most promising habitation and business hub for many Nigerians of diverse tongues.
Strong economic growth, led by an oil boom, has driven the rural poor towards the city, and the population surge is also being driven by high birth rates and the return of Nigerians living abroad.
However, what is originally known as Lagos Island today started out as the main Lagos; a port city originating on a collection of Islands, which are contained in the present day Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Lagos Island, Eti-Osa, Amuwo-Odofin and Apapa. Albeit with rapid urbanization, Lagos has spread beyond the creeks to the west of the Lagoon, creating two distinct areas; Lagos Island and Lagos Mainland. That is the Lagos we now know, the Lagos fate ceded to us.
Lagos was officially made a state in 1967 following the split up of the old western region, although the city has been the capital of Nigeria since it’s amalgamation in 1914. That was before Abuja was made the capital of Africa’s most populous nation in 1991.
There have been various claims by some notable tribes as to “who really owns Lagos”, especially during the run-up to the last elections. Albeit if the history I learnt is serving me well, then suffice to say here that Lagos was never no man’s land from the moment the Awori people settled in the part that wasn’t entirely water.
The dispute that arose between the Binis and the Aworis in Lagos in the early days of the city’s history was not even land related, it had to do with trade and subsequently the Aworis who were known to be peace loving people submitted to the sovereignty of the Oba of Benin. I could recall Ola Rotimi’s ‘The Gods are not to blame’ where Odewale – an Ijekun man was made King of Kutuje because he came to the rescue of the inhabitants of Kutuje who had been in bondage and without a King for a while though there was an unfortunate twist to that tale. So it was with the Aworis – supposed original owners of Lagos who surrendered to the Kingship of the Oba of Benin though they were not at war.
It’s even unfair to equate the incident at Kutuje with that at ‘EKO’ the name given to Lagos by the Binis which means ‘war camp’. In Kutuje, they had somewhat genuine reasons to make Odewale King, after all it was later learnt that he was not only a son of the soil but was also original heir to the throne. The Aworis on the other hand could not hold forte in their own domain to the point that the first King of Lagos, Oba Ado was actually from Benin.
Taking a long trip down memory lane, the first settler in Lagos was said to be a fisherman called Aromire. He was one of the sons of a Yoruba ruler who moved his people to the protection of the island of Iddo. There they lived by trading and fishing, the lagoon providing an excellent environment for both activities.
According to legend, Aromire swarm across from Iddo to Lagos(hmm…No wonder its called a legend), settled there and began growing peppers on what is today the site of the Oba’s palace. The legend is an explanation of a gradual process which took place around the late 1600’s. Fishermen from Iddo began visiting Lagos as they extended their fishing grounds and as the need for more farmland grew, their temporary dwellings were replaced by more substantial thatched huts and the patches of dry land that existed on the swampy island were turned over to farming.
To a European eye, the prospect was uninviting: an earlier visitor, the Portuguese explorer Sequiera, described it in 1472 as “an island partly submerged in water and surrounded by a fringe of mangrove”. But it apparently suited Aromire who occupied it and divided the land up with his nine brothers. He and his brothers are regarded as the ancestors of the Idejo, the white cap chiefs, who traditionally own all the land in Lagos. Quite separate from the Idejo chiefs, and established some time after them was the office of Oba (king). Hence, as history has it, Lagos is the homeland of ethnic Aworis and others, and proudly part of Yoruba land; the old western region.
That notwithstanding, any tribe dominates in Lagos; it doesn’t really matter where you are from and that is why the likes of Aliko Dangote – Africa’s richest man, attained success in the city even though he’s originally from Northern Nigeria, Kano state to be precise.
Invariably, in Lagos you simply reap the fruits of your labour; good or bad. It is hard to tell in present day Lagos who the original Lagosians are. In fact, anyone that was born and bred in Lagos has equal rights as it were with the original sons and daughters of Eko. Lagos is therefore home to all and an Igbo man, Hausa man or Ijaw man who knows his onions can be a tenant as well as a landlord in this modern Lagos.
Though Lagos stopped been capital of Nigeria in 1991 due to a grand plan by the then head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, the city has remained the most consequential of the lot in the country with the highest population of blacks. Having lost her economic license and pompousness, the new city that was built from scratch to specifically be a capital still can’t equal the excellence and arrogance Lagos rides on and exudes with no holds barred. Abuja can never be Lagos even till thy Kingdom comes (no be swear)
Despite our history, Lagos may as well be better viewed as home to all by default. History won’t stop the city of excellence to continue to be referred to by a section of its populace as, ‘No man’s land’, while others we call it, “LASGIDI – CITY OF HUSTLERS”
All Hail Lagos as it celebrates 50 years of excellence!
Eko oni baje o!